/ Language: English / Genre:sf_history / Series: Great War

American Front

Harry Turtledove


Harry Turtledove

American Front

Prelude

1862

1 October

Outside Camp Hill, Pennsylvania

The leaves on the trees were beginning to go from green to red, as if swiped by a painter's brush. A lot of the grass near the banks of the Susquehanna, down by New Cumberland, had been painted red, too, red with blood.

A courier came galloping back to Robert E. Lee's headquarters, his face smudged with black-powder smoke but glowing with excitement beneath the minstrel-show markings. "We have 'em, sir!" he cried to Lee as he reined in his blowing horse. "We have 'em! General Jackson says for me to tell you D. H. Hill's division is around McClellan's left and rolling 'em up. 'God has delivered them into our hands,' he says."

"That is very fine," Lee murmured. He peered through the thick smoke, but piercing it was impossible, even with the polished brass spyglass that lay on the folding table in front of him. He had to rely on reports from couriers like this eager young man, but all the reports, from just after the rising of the sun when the battle was joined till now with it sinking in blood- more blood, he thought-behind him, had been what he'd prayed to hear.

Colonel Robert Chilton, his assistant adjutant general, was no more able than the courier to contain his excitement. "Very fine, sir?" he burst out. "It's better than that. With Longstreet holding the Yankees in the center, McLaws outflanking them on the left, and now Stonewall on the right, they're in a sack Napoleon couldn't have got out of. And if there's one soldier in the world who's no Napoleon, it's the 'Young Napoleon' the Federals have."

"General McClellan, whatever his virtues, is not a hasty man," Lee observed, smiling at Chilton's derisive use of the grandiloquent nickname the Northern papers had given the commander of the Army of the Potomac. "Those people"-his own habitual name for the foe-"were also perhaps ill-advised to accept battle in front of a river with only one bridge offering a line of retreat should their plans miscarry."

"I should say they've miscarried," the courier said. "Some of General Jackson's artillery is far enough forward, it's shelling that bridge right now."

"We do have them, sir," Colonel Chilton said. He stiffened to attention and saluted General Lee.

Lee glanced back over his shoulder. "Perhaps an hour's worth of light remaining," he said, then turned to the courier once more. "Tell General Jackson he is to exploit his advantage with all means at his disposal, preventing, as best he can, the enemy's retreat to the eastern bank of the Susquehanna." Better than any other man alive, Jackson knew how to turn a vague order like that into the specific steps needed to destroy the foe before him.

"Yes, sir," the lieutenant said, and repeated the order back to make sure he had it straight. Wheeling his bay gelding, he galloped off towards General Jackson's position.

"The Army of the Potomac cannot hope to resist us, not after this," Colonel Chilton said. " Philadelphia lies open to our men, and Baltimore, and Washington itself."

"I'd not relish attacking the works those people have placed around Washington City," Lee replied, "but you are of course correct, Colonel: that possibility is available to us. Another consideration we cannot dismiss is the probable effect of our victory here upon England and France, both of whom have, President Davis tells me, been debating whether they should extend recognition to our new nation."

"They'll have the devil's own time not doing it now," Chilton declared. "Either we are our own nation or we belong to the United States: those are the only two choices." He laughed and pointed toward the smoke-befogged battlefield. "Abe Lincoln can't say we're under his tyrant's thumb, not after this."

"Diplomacy is too arcane a subject for a poor simple soldier to vex his head over its niceties and peculiarities," Lee said, "but on this occasion, Colonel Chilton, I find it impossible to disagree with you."

4 November

The White House, Washington, D.C

Both horses that brought Lord Lyons' carriage to the White House were black. So was the carriage itself, and the cloth canopy stretched over it to protect the British minister from the rain. All very fitting, Lord Lyons thought, for what is in effect a funeral.

"Whoa!" the driver said quietly, and pulled back on the reins. The horses, well-trained animals both, halted in a couple of short, neat strides just in front of the entrance of the American presidential mansion. The driver handed Lord Lyons an umbrella to protect himself against the rain for the few steps he'd need to get under cover.

"Thank you, Miller," Lord Lyons said, unfurling the umbrella. "I expect they will make you and the animals comfortable, and then bring you back out here to drive me off to the ministry upon the conclusion of my appointment with President Lincoln."

"Yes, sir," the driver said.

Lord Lyons got down from the carriage. His feet splashed in the water on the walkway as he hurried toward the White House entrance. A few raindrops hit him in the face in spite of the umbrella. Miller chirruped to the horses and drove off toward the stable.

In the front hall, a colored servant took Lord Lyons' hat and overcoat and umbrella and hung them up. John Nicolay stood waiting patiently while the servant tended to the British minister. Then Lincoln 's personal secretary- Lincoln 's de facto chief of staff-said, "The president is waiting for you, sir."

"Thank you, Mr. Nicolay." Lord Lyons hesitated, but then, as Nicolay turned away to lead him to Lincoln's office, decided to go on: "I would like the president to understand that what I do today, I do as the servant and representative of Her Majesty's government, and that in my own person I deeply regret the necessity for this meeting."

"I'll tell him that, Your Excellency." Nicolay sounded bitter. He was a young man-he could hardly have had more than thirty years-and had not yet learned altogether to subsume his own feelings in the needs of diplomacy. "When you get right down to it, though, what difference does that make?"

When you got right down to it {American idiom, Lord Lyons thought), it made very little difference. He was silent as he followed Nicolay upstairs. But for the personal secretary and the one servant, he had seen no one in the White House. It was as if the rest of the staff at the presidential mansion feared he bore some deadly, contagious disease. And so, in a way, he did.

John Nicolay seated him in an antechamber outside Lincoln 's office. "Let me announce you, Your Excellency. I'll be back directly." He ducked into the office, closing the door after himself; Lord Lyons hoped he was delivering the personal message with which he had been entrusted. He emerged almost as quickly as he had promised. "President Lincoln will see you now, sir."

"Thank you, Mr. Nicolay," Lord Lyons repeated, striding past the secretary into the office of the president of the United States.

Abraham Lincoln got up from behind his desk and extended his hand. "Good day to you, sir," he said in his rustic accent. Outwardly, he was as calm as if he reckoned the occasion no more than an ordinary social call.

"Good day, Mr. President," Lord Lyons replied, clasping Lincoln 's big hand in his. The American chief executive was so tall and lean and angular that, merely by existing, he reminded Lord Lyons of how short, pudgy, and round-faced he was.

"Sit yourself down, Your Excellency." Lincoln pointed to a chair uphol stered in blue plush. "I know what you're here for. Let's get on with it, shall we? It's like going to the dentist-waiting won't make it any better."

"Er-no," Lord Lyons said. Lincoln had a gift for unexpected, apt, and vivid similes; one of the British minister's molars gave him a twinge at the mere idea of visiting the dentist. "As Mr. Nicolay may have told you-"

"Yes, yes," Lincoln interrupted. "He did tell me. It's not that I'm not grateful, either, but how you feel about it hasn't got anything to do with the price of whiskey." He'd aged ten years in the little more than a year and a half since he'd taken office; harsh lines scored his face into a mask of grief that begged to be carved into eternal marble. "Just say what you've come to say."

"Very well, Mr. President." Lord Lyons took a deep breath. He really didn't want to go on; he loathed slavery and everything it stood for. But his instructions from London were explicit, and admitted of no compromise. "I am directed by Lord Palmerston, prime minister for Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, who is, I am to inform you, operating with the full approbation and concord of the government of His Majesty Napoleon III, Emperor of France, to propose mediation between the governments of the United States and Confederate States, with a view to resolving the differences between those two governments. Earl Russell, our foreign secretary, generously offers himself as mediator between the two sides."

There. It was said. On the surface, it sounded conciliatory enough. Below that surface- Lincoln was astute enough to see what lay below. "I do thank Lord Palmerston for his good offices," he said, "but, as we deny there is any such thing as the government of the Confederate States, Earl Russell can't very well mediate between them and us."

Lord Lyons sighed. "You say this, Mr. President, with the Army of Northern Virginia encamped in Philadelphia?"

"I would say it, sir, if that Army were encamped on the front lawn of the White House," Lincoln replied.

"Mr. President, let me outline the steps Her Majesty's government and the government of France are prepared to take if you decline mediation," Lord Lyons said, again unwillingly-but Lincoln had to know what he was getting into. "First, the governments of Great Britain and France will immediately extend diplomatic recognition to the Confederate States of America."

"You'll do that anyhow." Like John Nicolay, Lincoln was bitter-and with reason.

"We shall do more than that, at need," the British minister said. "We are prepared to use our naval forces to break the blockade you have imposed against the Confederate States and permit unimpeded commerce to resume between those states and the nations of the world."

"That would mean war between England and France on the one hand and the United States on the other," Lincoln warned.

"Indeed it would, Mr. President-and, as the United States have shown themselves unequal to the task of restoring the Confederate States to their allegiance, I must say I find myself surprised to find you willing to engage in simultaneous conflict with those Confederate States and with the two greatest powers in the world today. I admire your spirit, I admire your courage, very much-but can you not see there are times when, for the good of the nation, spirit and courage must yield to common sense?"

"Let's dicker, Lord Lyons," Lincoln said; the British minister needed a moment to understand he meant bargain. Lincoln gave him that moment, reaching into a desk drawer and drawing out a folded sheet of paper that he set on top of the desk. "I have here, sir, a proclamation declaring all Negroes held in bondage in those areas now in rebellion against the lawful government of the United States to be freed as of next January first. I had been saving this proclamation against a Union victory, but, circumstances being as they are-"

Lord Lyons spread his hands with genuine regret. "Had you won such a victory, Mr. President, I should not be visiting you today with the melancholy message I bear from my government. You know, sir, that I personally despise the institution of chattel slavery and everything associated with it." He waited for Lincoln to nod before continuing, "That said, however, I must tell you that an emancipation proclamation issued after the series of defeats Federal forces have suffered would be perceived as a cri de coeur, a call for servile insurrection to aid your flagging cause, and as such would not be favorably received in either London or Paris, to say nothing of its probable effect in Richmond. I am truly sorry, Mr. President, but this is not the way out of your dilemma."

Lincoln unfolded the paper on which he'd written the decree abolishing slavery in the seceding states, put on a pair of spectacles to read it, sighed, folded it again, and returned it to its drawer without offering to show it to Lord Lyons. "If that doesn't help us, sir, I don't know what will," he said. His long, narrow face twisted, as if he were in physical pain. "Of course, what you're telling me is that nothing helps us, nothing at all."

"Accept the good offices of Her Majesty's government in mediating between your government and that of the Confederate States," the British minister urged him. "Truly, I believe that to be your best course, perhaps your only course. As Gladstone said last month, the Confederate States have made an army, a navy, and now a nation for themselves."

With slow, deliberate motions, Lincoln took off his spectacles and put them back in their leather case. His deep-set eyes filled with a bitterness beside which that of John Nicolay seemed merely the petulance of a small boy deprived of a cherished sweet. "Take what England deigns to give us at the conference table, or else end up with less. That's what you mean, in plain talk."

"That is what the situation dictates," Lord Lyons said uncomfortably.

"Yes, the situation dictates," Lincoln said, "and England and France dictate, too." He sighed again. "Very well, sir. Go ahead and inform your prime minister that we accept mediation, having no better choice."

"Truly you will go down in history as a great statesman because of this, Mr. President," Lord Lyons replied, almost limp with relief that Lincoln had chosen to see reason-with Americans, you never could tell ahead of time. "And in time, the United States and the Confederate States, still having between them a common language and much common history, shall take their full and rightful places in the world, a pair of sturdy brothers."

Lincoln shook his head. "Your Excellency, with all due respect to you, I have to doubt that. The citizens of the United States want the Federal Union preserved. No matter what the Rebels did to us, we would fight on against them-if England and France weren't sticking their oar in."

"My government seeks only to bring about a just peace, recognizing the rights of both sides in this dispute," the British minister answered.

"Yes, you would say that, wouldn't you, Lord Lyons?" Lincoln said, freighting the title with a stinging load of contempt. "All the lords and sirs and dukes and earls in London and Paris must be cheering the Rebels on, laughing themselves sick to see our great democracy ground into the dirt."

"That strikes me as unfair, Mr. President," Lord Lyons said, though it wasn't altogether unfair: a large number of British aristocrats were doing exactly as Lincoln had described, seeing in the defeat of the United States a salutary warning to the lower classes in the British Isles. But he put the case as best he could: "The Duke of Argyll, for instance, sir, is among the warmest friends the United States have in England today, and many other leaders by right of birth concur in his opinions."

"Isn't that nice of 'em?" Lincoln said, his back-country accent growing stronger with his agitation. "Fact of the matter is, though, that most of your high and mighty want us cut down to size, and they're glad to see the Rebels do it. They reckon a slaveocracy's better'n no ocracy at all, isn't that right?"

"As I have just stated, sir, no, I do not believe that to be the case," Lord Lyons replied stiffly.

"Oh, yes, you said it. You just didn't make me believe it, is all," Lincoln told him. "Well, you Englishmen and the French on your coattails are guardian angels for the Rebels, are you? What with them and you together, you're too strong for us. You're right about that, I do admit."

"The ability to see what is, sir, is essential for the leader of a great na tion," the British minister said. He wanted to let Lincoln down easy if he could.

"I see what is, all right. I surely do," the president said. "I see that you Eu ropean powers are taking advantage of this rebellion to meddle in America, the way you used to before the Monroe Doctrine warned you to keep your hands off. Napoleon props up a tin-pot emperor in Mexico, and now France and England are in cahoots"-another phrase that briefly baffled Lord Lyons-"to help the Rebels and pull us down. All right, sir." He breathed heavily. "If that's the way the game's going to be played, we aren't strong enough to prevent it now. But I warn you, Mr. Minister, we can play, too."

"You are indeed a free and independent nation. No one disputes that, nor will anyone," Lord Lyons agreed. "You may pursue diplomacy to the full extent of your interests and abilities."

"Mighty generous of you," Lincoln said with cutting irony. "And one fine day, I reckon, we'll have friends in Europe, too, friends who'll help us get back what's rightfully ours and what you've taken away."

"A European power-to help you against England and France?" For the first time, Lord Lyons was undiplomatic enough to laugh. American bluster was bad enough most times, but this lunacy- "Good luck to you, Mr. President. Good luck."

I

1914

George Enos was gutting haddock on the noisome deck of the steam trawler Ripple when Fred Butcher, the first mate, sang out, "Smoke off the starboard bow!" That gave George an excuse to pull the latest fish off the deck, gut it, toss it down into the icy, brine-smelling hold, and then straighten up and see what sort of ship was approaching.

His back made little popping noises as he came out of this stoop. I'm getting too old for this line of work, he thought, though he was only twenty-eight. He rubbed at his brown mustache with a leather-gloved hand. A fish scale scratched his cheek. The sweat running down his face in the late June heat made the little cut sting.

He followed Butcher's pointing finger with his eyes. "A lot of smoke," he said, whistling low. "That's not just another Georges Bank fishing boat, or a tramp freighter, either." His Boston accent swallowed the r's in the final syllables of the last two words. "Liner, I'd guess, or maybe a warship."

"I think you're right," Butcher said. He was little and skinny and quick and clever, his face seamed by wind and sun and spray till he looked to have ten more years than the forty-five or so he really carried. His mustache was salt and pepper, about evenly mixed. Like Enos, he grew it thick and waxed the ends so they pointed toward his eyes. Half the men in the United States who wore mustaches modeled them after the one gracing Kaiser Wilhelm's upper lip.

Captain Patrick O'Donnell came Out of the cabin and pressed a spyglass to his right eye. "Warship, sure enough," he said, his Boston mixed with a trace of a brogue. "Four-stacker-German armored cruiser, unless I'm wrong."

"If you say it, Captain, we'll take it to the bank," Fred Butcher answered. That wasn't apple-polishing. O'Donnell had spent years in the U.S. Navy, rising to chief petty officer, before he retired and went into business for himself. He'd seen German warships at a lot closer than spyglass range; he'd exercised alongside them, out in the middle of the Atlantic, and maybe in the Pacific, too.

"She's going to pass close to us," Enos said. He could see the great gray hull of the ship now, almost bow-on to the Ripple. The plume of black coal smoke trailed away behind.

Captain O'Donnell still had the telescope aimed at the approaching ship. "Imperial German Navy, sure enough," he said. "I can make out the ensign. Now-is that the Roon or the Yorckl" He kept looking, and finally grunted in satisfaction. "The Yorck, and no mistaking her. See how her cranes are pierced? If she were the Roon, they'd be solid."

"If you say so, Captain. You're the one with the spyglass, after all." Enos' chuckle suited his wry sense of humor. He took another naked-eye look at the oncoming Yorck. The cruiser was nearly bow-on. When he spoke again, he sounded anxious: "We see her, Captain, but does she see us?"

The question was anything but idle. As the Yorck drew near, she seemed more and more like an armored cliff bearing down on the steam trawler. The Ripple was 114 feet long and displaced 244 gross tons. That made her one of the bigger fishing boats operating out of Boston harbor. All at once, though, Enos felt as if he were in a rowboat, and a pint-sized rowboat at that.

"How big is she, Captain?" Fred Butcher asked. The huge hull and great gun turrets gave him pause, too.

"At the waterline, 403 feet, 3 inches," O'Donnell answered with the automatic accuracy of the longtime Navy man he was. "She displaces 9,050 tons. Four 8.2-inch guns, ten 6-inchers, crew of 557. Four-inch armor amidships, two-inch belts at the ends. She'll make twenty-one knots in a sprint."

"If she runs us down, she won't even notice, in other words," Enos said.

"That's about right, George," O'Donnell answered easily. He took pride in the strength and speed of naval vessels, as if having served on them somehow magically gave him strength and speed as well. Even so, though, his glance flicked to the American flag rippling atop the foremast. The sight of the thirty-four-star banner rippling in the brisk breeze must have reassured him. "They'll see us just fine. Here, if you're still worried, I'll send up a flare, that I will." He dug a cigar out of his jacket pocket, scraped a match against the sole of his boot, and puffed out a cloud almost as malodorous as the coal smoke issuing from the Yorck's stacks.

As if his cigar had been a message to the German cruiser, signal flags sprouted from her yards. O'Donnell raised the telescope to his eye once more. The cigar in his mouth jerked sharply upward, a sure sign of good humor. "By Jesus, they want to know if we have fish to sell!" he burst out. He turned to Butcher. "Tell 'em yes, and don't waste a second doing it."

The affirmative pennant went up almost as quickly as the order had been given. The Yorck slowed in the water, drifting to a stop about a quarter-mile from the Ripple. Then everyone aboard the steam trawler whooped with delight as the German cruiser let down a boat. "Hot damn!" yelled Lucas Phelps, one of the men minding the trawl the Ripple had been dragging along the shallow bottom of Georges Bank. "The Germans, they'll pay us better'n the Bay State Fishing Company ever would."

"And it all goes into our pockets, too," Fred Butcher said gleefully. On fish that made it back to Boston, the crew and the company that owned the boat split the take down the middle. Butcher went on, "We're light five hundred, a thousand pounds of haddock, that's not ever gonna get noticed."

The happy silence of conspiracy settled over the Ripple. Before long, the eight men in the Yorck's lifeboat came alongside the trawler. "Permission to come aboard?" asked the petty officer who evidently headed up the little crew.

"Permission granted," Patrick O'Donnell answered, as formally as if he were still in the Navy. He turned to Enos. "Let down the rope ladder, George."

"Right." Enos hurried to obey. He liked extra money as well as anybody.

Dapper in their summer whites, alarmingly neat, alarmingly well shaved, the German sailors looked out of place on the untidy deck of the Ripple, where some of the haddock and hake and cusk and lemon sole that George hadn't yet gutted still flopped and writhed and tried to jump back into the ocean. Blood and fish guts threatened the cleanliness of the sailors' trousers.

"I will give you for six hundred kilos of fish forty pfennigs the kilo," the petty officer said to O'Donnell in pretty good English.

O'Donnell scowled in thought, then turned to Butcher. "Would you work that out, Fred? You'll do it faster 'n' straighter than I would."

The first mate got a faraway look in his eyes. His lips moved in silent cal culation before he spoke. "Two hundred forty marks overall? That makes sixty bucks for… thirteen hundred pounds of fish, more or less. Nickel a pound, Captain, a hair under."

"Herr Feldwebel, we'll make that deal," O'Donnell said at once. Every body on board did his best not to light up like candles on a Christmas tree. Back in Boston, they'd get two cents a pound, three if they were lucky. Then O'Donnell looked sly. "Or, since it ain't like it's your money you're playing with, why don't you give me fifty pfennigs a kilo-you can tell your officers what a damn Jew I am-and we'll throw in a bottle of rum for you and your boys." He turned and called into the galley: "Hey, Cookie! Bring out the quart of medicinal rum, will you?"

"I've got it right here, Captain," Charlie White said, coming out of the galley with the jug in his hand. He held it so the German sailors on the Ripple could see it but any officers watching from the Yorck with field glasses couldn't. The smile on his black face was broad and inviting, although George expected the rum to be plenty persuasive all by itself. He was fond of a nip himself every now and then.

The petty officer spoke in German to the seamen with him. The low-voice colloquy went on for a minute or two before he switched back to English: "Most rimes, I would do this thing. Now it is better if I do not. The bargain is as I first said it is."

"Have it your way, Feldwebel," O'Donnell answered. "I said I'd make that deal, and I will." His eyes narrowed. "You mind telling me why it's better if you don't take the rum now? Just askin' out of curiosity, you understand."

"Oh, yes-curiosity," the petty officer said, as if it were a disease he'd heard of but never caught. "You have on this boat, Captain, a wireless telegraph receiver and transmitter?"

"No," O'Donnell told him. "I'd like to, but the owners won't spring for it. One of these days, maybe. How come?"

"I should not anything say," the petty officer answered, and he didn't anything say, either. Instead, he gave O'Donnell the 240 marks he'd agreed to pay. O'Donnell handed the money to Butcher, who stuck it in his pocket.

The captain of the Ripple kept on trying to get more out of the German sailor, but he didn't have any luck. Finally, in frustration, he gave up and told George Enos, "Hell with it. Give 'em their fish and we'll all go on about our business."

"Right," Enos said again. Had he got the extra ten pfennigs a kilo, he would have worked extra hard to make sure the Yorck got the finest fish he had in the hold. Some of the haddock scrod down there, the little fellows just over a pound, would melt in your mouth. When Charlie fried 'em in butter and bread crumbs-he got hungry just thinking about it.

But the young fish would also bring better prices back at the docks. He gave the Germans the bigger haddock and sole the trawl had scooped up from the bottom of the sea. They'd be good enough, and then some.

The Germans didn't raise a fuss. They were sailors, but they weren't fishermen. Their boat rode appreciably lower in the water when they cast off from the Ripple's rail and rowed back to the cruiser from which they'd come. The Yorck's crane lifted them out of the water and back on deck.

More flags broke out on the signal lines as the Yorck began steaming toward Boston once more. "Thank you," Captain O'Donnell read through the spyglass. "Signal 'You're welcome,' Fred."

"Sure will, Captain," the mate said, and did.

George wished he had a good tall tumbler of Cookie's rum. Moving better than half a ton of fish out of the hold was hard work. With that on his mind, he asked Lucas Phelps, "Ever hear of a sailor turning down the jug?"

"Not when you stand to get away with it clean as a whistle, like them squareheads did," Phelps answered. "Wonder what the hell was chewin' on their tails. That's good rum Cookie's got, too."

"How do you know?" Enos asked him. Phelps laid a finger alongside his nose and winked. By the veins in that nose, he knew rum well enough to be a connoisseur. George Enos chuckled. Sure enough, he'd wheedled a shot or two out of Charlie himself. It helped compress the endless monotony of life aboard a fishing boat.

They hauled in the trawl full of flipping, twisting bottom fish. Once the load had gone into the hold, Captain O'Donnell peered down in there to see how high the fish were stacked. They could have piled in another couple of trawlfuls, but O'Donnell said, "I think we're going to head for port. We're up over twenty tons; the owners won't have anything to grouse about. And we'll have some extra money in our pockets once Fred turns those marks into dollars at the bank."

Nobody argued with him. Nobody would have argued with him if he'd decided to stay out another day or two and fill the hold right up to the hatches with haddock. He made his pay by having the answers.

Enos went into the galley for a mug of coffee. He found Fred Butcher in there, killing time with the Cookie. By the rich smell rising from Butcher's mug, he had more than coffee in there. Enos blew on his own mug, sipped, and then said, "Bet we'd be out longer if that petty officer hadn't got the captain nervous."

"Bet you're right," the mate said. "Captain O'Donnell, he doesn't like not knowing what's going on. He doesn't like that even a little bit." Cookie nodded solemnly. So did George. Butcher's comment fit in well with his earlier thought about the captain: if he didn't have the answers, he'd go after them.

The Ripple puffed back toward Boston. At nine knots, she was most of a day away from T Wharf and home. Supper, near sunset, was corned beef and sauerkraut, which made the sailors joke about Charlie White's being a German in disguise. "Hell of a disguise, ain't it?" the cook said, taking the ribbing in good part. He unbuttoned his shirt to show he was dark brown all over.

"You must be from the Black Forest, Charlie, and it rubbed off on you," Captain O'Donnell said, which set off fresh laughter. Enos hadn't heard of the Black Forest till then-he'd gone to work when he was a kid, and had little schooling-but from the way the captain talked about it, he figured it was a real place in Germany somewhere.

They rigged their running lamps and chugged on through the night. The next day, they passed between Deer Island Light and the Long Island Head Light, and then between Governor's Island and Castle Island as they steamed toward T Wharf.

On the north side of the Charles River, over in Charlestown, lay the Boston Navy Yard. Enos looked that way as soon as he got the chance. So did Captain O'Donnell, with the spyglass. "There's the Yorck, all right, along with the rest of the western squadron of the High Seas Fleet," he said. "Doesn't look like anything's wrong aboard 'em, any more than it does on our ships. All quiet, seems like." He sounded annoyed, as if he blamed the Germans and the Americans-easily distinguishable because their hulls were a much lighter gray-for the quiet.

Fred Butcher had his eye on profit and loss: he was looking ahead to T Wharf. "Not many boats tied up," he said. "We ought to get a good price at the Fish Exchange."

They tied up to the wharf and came up onto it to get their land legs back after more than a week at sea. An old, white-bearded man awkwardly pushing a fish cart with one hand and a hook mounted on the stump of his other wrist folded his meat hand into a fist and shook it at Charlie White. "You go to hell, you damn nigger!" he shouted in a hoarse, raspy voice. "Wasn't for your kind, we wouldn't have fought that war and this here'd still be one country."

"You go to hell, Shaw!" Enos shouted back at him. He turned to the Cookie. "Don't pay him any mind, Charlie. Remember, his family were mucky-mucks before the damn Rebels broke loose. They lost everything after the war, and he blames colored folks for it."

"Lots of white folks do that," Charlie said, and then shut up. It was hard for the few Negroes in the United States to get away from the scapegoat role that had dogged them for more than fifty years now. Compared to their colored brethren south of the Mason-Dixon line, they had it easy, but that wasn't saying much. The Rebels didn't have nigger hunts through the streets, either- those were an American invention, like the telegraph and the telephone.

"You're jake with us, Charlie," Lucas Phelps said, and all the fishermen from the Ripple nodded. They'd proved that, in brawls on the wharf and in the saloons just off it. George Enos rubbed a scarred knuckle he'd picked up in one of those brawls.

T Wharf was chaos-horse-drawn wagons and gasoline trucks, pushcarts and cats and dealers and screeching gulls and arguments and, supreme above all else, fish-in the wagons, in the trucks, in the carts, in the air.

Shouting newsboys only added to the racket and confusion. George didn't pay them any mind till he noticed what they were shouting: "Archduke dies in Sarajevo! Bomb blast kills Franz Ferdinand and his wife! Austria threatens war on Serbia! Read all about it!"

He dug in the pocket of the overalls he wore under his oilskins for a couple of pennies and bought a Globe. His crewmen crowded round him to read along. A passage halfway down the column leaped out at the eye. He read it aloud: "President Roosevelt stated in Philadelphia yesterday that the United States, as a member of the Austro-German Alliance, will meet all commitments required by treaty, whatever the consequences, saying, 'A nation at war with one member of the Alliance is at war with every member.' " He whistled softly under his breath.

Lucas Phelps' finger stabbed out toward a paragraph farther down. "In Richmond, Confederate President Wilson spoke in opposition to the oppression of small nations by larger ones, and confirmed that the Confederate States are and shall remain part of the Quadruple Entente." Phelps spoke up on his own hook: " England and France 'll lead 'em by the nose the way they always do, the bastards."

"They'll be sorry if they try anything, by jingo," Enos said. "I did my two years in the Army, and I wouldn't mind putting the old green-gray back on, if that's what it comes down to."

"Same with me," Phelps said.

Everybody else echoed him, sometimes with profane embellishments, except Charlie White. The Negro cook said, "They don't draft colored folks into the Army, but damned if I know why. They gave me a rifle, I'd shoot me a Confederate or three."

"Good old Charlie!" George declared. " 'Course you would." He turned to the rest of the crew. "Let's buy Charlie a beer or two." The motion carried by acclamation.

From the heights of Arlington, Sergeant Jake Featherston peered across the Potomac toward Washington, D.C. As he lowered the field glasses from his eyes, Captain Jeb Stuart III asked him, "See anything interesting over there in Yankeeland?"

"No, sir," Featherston answered. His glance slipped to one of the three-inch howitzers sited in an earthen pit not far away. "Time may come when, if we do see anything interesting, we'll blow it to hell and gone." He paused to shift the chaw of tobacco in his cheek and spit a stream of brown juice onto the red dirt. "I'd like that."

"So would I, Sergeant; so would I," Captain Stuart said. "My father got the chance to hit the damnyankees a good lick thirty years ago, back in the Second Mexican War." He pointed over the river. "They repaired the White House and the Capitol, but we can always hit them again."

He struck a pose intended to show Featherston he was not only a third- generation Confederate officer but also as handsome as either his famous father- hero of the Second Mexican War- or his even more famous grandfather- hero of the War of Secession and martyr during the Second Mexican War. That might even have been true, though the mustache and little tuft of chin beard he wore made him look more like a Frenchman than a dashing cavalry officer of the War of Secession.

Well, Featherston had nothing against handsome, though he didn't incline that way himself. Though he was a first-generation sergeant, he had nothing against third-generation officers… so long as they knew what they were doing. And he certainly had nothing against Frenchmen. The guns in his battery were copies of French 75s.

Pointing over to the one at which he'd looked before, he said, "Sir, all you got to do is tell me which windows you want knocked out of the White House and I'll take care of it for you. You can rely on that."

"Oh, I do, Sergeant, I do," Captain Stuart answered. A horsefly landed on the sleeve of his butternut tunic. The British called the same color khaki, but, being tradition-bound themselves, they didn't try to make the Confederacy change the name it used. Stuart jerked his arm. The fly buzzed away.

"If they'd had guns like this in your grandfather's day, sir, we'd have given Washington hell from the minute Virginia chose freedom," Featherston said. "Not much heavier than an old Napoleon, but four and a half miles' worth of range, and accurate out to the end of it-"

"That would have done the job, sure enough," Stuart agreed. "But God was on our side as things were, and the Yankee tyrants could no more stand against men who wanted to be free than King Canute could hold back the tide." He took off his visored cap-with piping in artillery red-and fanned himself with it. "Hot and sticky," he complained, as if that were surprising in Virginia in July. He raised his voice: "Pompey!" When the servant did not appear at once, he muttered under his breath: "Shiftless, worthless, lazy nigger! Pompeyr

"Here I is, suh!" the Negro said, hurrying up at a trot. Sweat beaded his cheeks and the bald crown of his head.

"Took you long enough," Stuart grumbled. "Fetch me a glass of some thing cold. While you're at it, bring one for the sergeant here, too."

"Somethin' col'. Yes, suh." Pompey hurried off.

Watching him go, Stuart shook his head. "I do wonder if we made a misake, letting our British friends persuade us to manumit the niggers after the Second Mexican War." He sighed. "I don't suppose we had much choice, but even so, we may well have been wrong. They're an inferior race, Sergeant. Now that they are free, we still can't trust them to take a man's place. So what has freedom got them? A little money in their pockets to spend foolishly, not a great deal more."

Featherston had been a boy when the Confederacy amended the Constitution to require manumission. He remembered his father, an overseer, cussing about it fit to turn the air blue.

Captain Stuart sighed again. He might have been thinking along with Featherston, for he said, "The amendment never would have passed if we hadn't admitted Chihuahua and Sonora after we bought them from Maximilian II. They didn't understand things so well down there-they still don't, come to that. But we wouldn't have our own transcontinental railroad without them, so it may have been for the best after all. Better than having to ship through the United States, that's certain."

"Yes, sir," Featherston agreed. "The Yankees thought so, too, or they wouldn't have gone to war to keep us from having 'em."

"And look what it got them," Stuart said. "Their capital bombarded, a blockade on both coasts, all the naval losses they could stand, their cities up on the Great Lakes shelled. Stupid is what they were-no other word for it."

"Yes, sir," the sergeant repeated. Like any good Southerner, he took the stupidity of his benighted distant cousins north of the Potomac as an article of faith. "If Austria does go to war against Serbia — "

It wasn't changing the subject, and Captain Stuart understood as much. He picked up where Featherston left off: "If that happens, France and Russia side with Serbia. You can't blame 'em; the Serbian government didn't do anything wrong, even if it was crazy Serbs who murdered the Austrian crown prince. But then what does Germany do? If Germany goes to war, and especially if England comes in, we're in the scrap, no doubt about it."

"And so are they." Featherston looked across the river again. "And Washington goes up in smoke." His wave encompassed the heights. "Our battery of three-inchers here is a long way from the biggest guns we've got trained on 'em, either."

"Not hardly," Stuart said with a vigorous nod. "You think Cowboy Teddy Roosevelt doesn't know it?" He spoke the U.S. president's name with vast contempt. "Haven't seen him south of Philadelphia since this mess blew up, nor anybody from their Congress, either."

Featherston chuckled. "You don't see anybody much there when it gets hot." He wasn't talking about the weather. "The last thirty years, they find somewheres else to go when it looks like there's liable to be shooting between us and them."

"They were skedaddlers when we broke loose from 'em, and they're still skedaddlers today." Stuart spoke with conviction. Then his arrogant expression softened slightly. "One thing they always did have, though, was a godawful lot of guns."

Now he looked across the Potomac, not at the White House and Capitol so temptingly laid out before him but at the heights back of the low ground by the river on which Washington sat. In those heights were forts with guns manned by soldiers in uniforms not of butternut but of green so pale it was almost gray. The forts had been there to protect Washington since the War of Secession. They'd been earthworks then. Some, those with fieldpieces like the ones Captain Stuart commanded, still were. Those that held big guns, though, were concrete reinforced with steel, again like their Confederate opposite numbers.

"I don't care what they have," Featherston declared. "It won't stop us from blowing that nest of damnyankees right off the map."

"That's so." Captain Stuart's gaze swung from the United States back to his own side of the river and Arlington mansion, the Doric-columned ancestral estate of the Lee family. "That won't survive, either. They'd have wrecked it thirty years ago if their gunnery hadn't been so bad. They aren't as good as we are now"-again, he spoke of that as if it were an article of faith-"but they're better than they used to be, and they're plenty good enough for that."

"'Fraid you're right, sir," Featherston agreed mournfully. "They hate Marse Robert and everything he stood for."

"Which only proves what kind of people they are," Stuart said. He turned his head. "Here's Pompey, back at last. Took you long enough."

"I's right sorry, Marse Jeb," said the Negro; he carried on a tray two sweati ng glasses in which ice cubes tinkled invitingly. "Fs right sorry, yes I is. Here-I was makin' this here nice fresh lemonade fo' you and Marse Jake, is what took me so long. July in Virginia ain't no fun for nobody. Here you go, suh."

Featherston took his glass of lemonade, which was indeed both cold and good. As he drank, though, he narrowly studied Pompey. He didn't think Stuart's servant was one bit sorry. When a Negro apologized too much, when he threw "Marse" around as if he were still a slave, odds were he was shamming and, behind his servile mask, either laughing at or hating the white men he thought he was deceiving. Thanks to what Jake's father had taught him, he knew nigger tricks.

What could you do about that kind of shamming, though? The depressing answer was, not much. If you insisted-rightly, Featherston was convinced- blacks show whites due deference, how could you punish them for showing more deference than was due? You couldn't, not unless they were openly insolent, which Pompey hadn't been.

In fact, his show of exaggerated servility had taken in his master. "Get on back to the tent now, Pompey," Stuart said, setting the empty glass on the Negro's tray. He smacked his lips. "That was mighty tasty, I will tell you."

"Glad you like it, suh," Pompey said. "How's yours, Marse Jake?"

"Fine," Featherston said shortly. He pressed the cold glass to his cheek, sighed with pleasure, and then put the glass beside the one Stuart had set on the tray. With a low bow, Pompey took them away.

"He's all right, even if I do have to get down on him," Stuart said, watching the Negro's retreat. "You just have to know how to handle niggers, is all."

"Yes, sir," Featherston said once more, this time with the toneless voice noncommissioned officers used to agree with their superiors when in fact they weren't agreeing at all. Stuart didn't notice that, any more than he'd noticed Pompey laying the dumb-black act on with a trowel. He was a pretty fair officer, no doubt about it, but he wasn't as smart as he thought he was.

Of course, when you got right down to it, who was?

Cincinnatus stepped on the brake as he pulled the Duryea truck up behind the warehouse near the Covington docks. He muttered a curse when a policeman-worse, by the peacock feather in his cap a Kentucky state trooper- happened to walk past the alleyway and spy him.

The trooper cursed, too, and loudly: he didn't have to hide what he thought. He yanked his hogleg out of its holster and approached the Negro at a swag-bellied trot. Pointing the revolver at Cincinnatus' face, he growled, "You better show me a pass, or you is one dead nigger."

"Got it right here, boss." Cincinnatus showed more respect than he felt. He pulled the precious paper out of his passbook and handed it to the state trooper.

The man's lips moved as he read: "Cincinnatus works for Kennedy Shipping and has my leave to drive the Kennedy Shipping truck in pursuit of his normal business needs. Thomas Kennedy, proprietor." He glowered at Cincinnatus. "I don't much hold with niggers drivin', any more'n I do with women." Then, grudgingly: "But it ain't against the law-if you're really Tom Kennedy's nigger. What do you say if I call him on the tellyphone, hey?"

"Go ahead, boss," Cincinnatus said. He was on safe ground there.

The trooper stuck the pistol back in its holster. "Ahh, the hell with it," he said. "But I tell you somethin', an' you better listen good." He pointed north toward the Ohio River. "Just across there it's the You-nited States, right?" He waited for Cincinnatus to nod before going on, "Any day now, all hell's gonna break loose between us and them. Some people, they see niggers like you down here by the docks or anywhere near, they ain't gonna ask to see your pass. They gonna figger you're a spy an' shoot first, then stop an' ask questions."

"I got you, boss," Cincinnatus assured him. The trooper nodded and went on his way. When his back was turned, Cincinnatus allowed himself the luxury of a long, silent sigh of relief. That hadn't turned out so bad as it might have, not anywhere near. He was resigned to playing the servant to every white man he saw; if you didn't want to end up swinging from a lamppost, you did what you had to do to get by. And the state trooper had even given him what the man meant as good advice. That didn't happen every day.

As far as Cincinnatus was concerned, the fellow was crazy, but that was another matter. Keep all the black folks away from the Covington docks?

"Good luck, Mr. Trooper, sir," Cincinnatus said with a scornful laugh. Every longshoreman and roustabout on the docks was colored. White men dirty their hands with such work? Cincinnatus laughed again.

Then, all at once, he sobered. Maybe the state trooper wasn't so crazy after all. If war came, no riverboats would come down the Ohio from the United States or up it from the Mississippi and the heart of the Confederacy. Both sides had guns up and down the river trained at each other. Without that trade, what would the dockworkers do? For that matter, what would Cincinnatus do?

He looked toward the Ohio himself. One thing he wouldn't do, he figured, was try to run off to the United States, no matter how the trooper worried about that. In the Confederacy, there were more Negroes around than whites wanted (except when dirty work needed doing), so the whites gave them a hard time. In the United States, which had only a relative handful of Negroes, the whites didn't want any more-so they gave them a hard rime.

"Shit, even them big-nosed Jews got it better up there than we-uns do," Cincinnatus muttered. Somebody could doubt whether you were a Jew. Wasn't any doubting about whether he was black.

Wasn't any doubt he'd spent too long daydreaming in the truck, either. A big-bellied white man in overalls and a slouch hat came out of the warehouse office and shouted, "That you out there, Cincinnatus, or did Tom Kennedy get hisself a real for-true dummy for a driver this time?"

"Sorry, Mr. Goebel," Cincinnatus said as he descended. For once, he more or less meant it. He knew he had been sitting when he should have been working.

"Sorry, he says." Goebel mournfully shook his head. He pointed to a hand truck. "Come on, get those typewriters loaded. Last things I got in this warehouse." He sighed. "Liable to be the last Yankee goods we see for a long time. I ain't old enough to remember the War of Secession, but the Second Mexican War, that was just a little feller. This one here, it's liable to be bad."

Cincinnatus didn't remember the Second Mexican War, he was within a year either way of twenty-five. But the newspapers had been screaming war for the past week, troops in butternut had been moving through the streets, politicians were ranting on crates on every corner… "Don't sound good," Cincinnatus allowed.

"If I was you, I'd get out of town," Goebel said. "My cousin Morton, he called me from Lexington yesterday and said, Clem, he said, Clem, you shake your fanny down here where them cannons can't reach, and I reckon I'm gonna take him up on it, yes I do."

White folks take so much for granted, Cincinnatus thought as he stacked crated typewriters on the dolly and wheeled it out toward the Duryea. If Clem Goebel wanted to get out of Covington, he just upped and went. If Cincinnatus wanted to get out of town and take his wife with him, he had to get written permission from the local commissioner of colored affairs, get his passbook stamped, wait till acknowledgment came back from the state capital-which could and usually did take weeks-then actually move, reregister with his new commissioner, and get the passbook stamped again. Any white man could demand to see that book at any time. If it was out of order- well, you didn't want to think what could happen then. Jail, a fine he couldn't afford to pay, anything a judge-bound to be a mean judge-wanted.

The typewriters were heavy. The stout crates in which they came just added to the weight. Cincinnatus wasn't sure he'd be able to fit them all into the bed of the truck, but he managed. By the time he was done, the rear sagged lower on its springs. Sweat soaked through the collarless, unbleached cotton shirt he wore.

Clem Goebel had stood around without lifting a finger to help: he took it for granted that that sort of labor was nigger work. But he wasn't the worst white man around, either. When Cincinnatus was done, he said, "Here, wait a second," and disappeared into his little office. He came back with a bottle of Dr Pepper, dripping water from the bucket that kept it, if not cold, cooler than the air.

"Thank you, sir. That's right kind," Cincinnatus said when Goebel popped off the cap with a church key and handed him the bottle. He tilted back his head and gulped down the sweet, spicy soda water till bubbles went up his nose. When the bottle was empty, he handed it back to Goebel.

"Go on, keep it," the warehouseman said. Cincinnatus stowed it in the truck after thanking him again. For once, he felt only half a hypocrite: he'd gladly pocket the penny deposit. He cranked the engine to start it, got the truck in gear, and headed south down Greenup Street toward Kennedy's storerooms.

A policeman in gray uniform and one of the tall British-style hats that always reminded Cincinnatus of fireplugs held up a hand to stop him at the corner of Fourth and Greenup: a squadron of cavalry, big, well-mounted white men with carbines on their shoulders, revolvers on their hips, and sabers mounted on their saddles, was riding west along Fourth. Probably going to camp in Devon Park, Cincinnatus thought.

People-white people-cheered and waved as the cavalry went by. Some of them waved Maltese-cross battle flags like the one that flapped at the head of the squadron, others Stars and Bars like the sixteen-star banner above the post office across the street from Cincinnatus. The cavalrymen smiled at the pretty girls they saw; a couple of them doffed their plumed hats, which looked much like the one the Kentucky state trooper had worn but were decorated with the yellow cord marking the mounted service.

After the last horse had clopped past, the Covington policeman, reveling in his small authority, graciously allowed north-south traffic to flow once more. Cincinnatus stepped on the gas, hoping his boss wouldn't cuss him for dawdling.

He'd just pulled up in front of Tom Kennedy's establishment when a buzzing in the air made him look up. "God almighty, it's one o' them aeroplanes!" he said, craning his neck to follow it as it flew up toward the Ohio.

"What are you doing lollygagging around like that, goddamn it?" Kennedy shouted at him. But when he pointed up into the sky, his boss stared with him till the aeroplane was out of sight. The head of the shipping company whistled. "I ain't seen but one o' those before in all my born days-that barnstorming feller who came through town a couple years ago. Doesn't hardly seem natural, does it?"

"No, sir," said Cincinnatus, whose acquaintance with flying machines was similarly limited. "That wasn't no barnstormin' aeroplane, though-did y'all see the flag painted on the side of it?"

"Didn't even spy it," Kennedy confessed. "I was too busy just gawpin', and that's a fact." He was a big, heavyset fellow of about fifty, with a walrus mustache and ruddy, tender Irish skin that went into agonies of prickly heat every summer, especially where he shaved. Now he turned a speculative eye toward Cincinnatus. He was a long way from stupid, and noticed others who weren't. "You don't miss much, do you, boy?"

"Try not to, sir," Cincinnatus answered. "Never can tell when somethin' you see, it might come in handy."

"That's a fact," Kennedy said. "You're pretty damn sharp for a nigger, that's another fact. You aren't shiftless, you know what I mean? You act like you want to push yourself up, get things better for your wife, the way a white man would. Don't see that every day."

Cincinnatus just shrugged. Everything Kennedy said about him was true; he wished he hadn't made his ambition so obvious to his boss. It gave Kennedy one more handle by which to yank him, as if being born white weren't enough all by itself. Sometimes he wondered why he bothered with ambitions that would probably end up breaking his heart. Sure, he wanted to push himself up. But how far could you push when white folks held the lid on, right above your head? The wonder wasn't that so many Negroes gave up. The wonder was that a few kept trying.

Seeing he wasn't going to get anything more than that shrug, Kennedy said, "You pick up the whole load of typewriters all right?"

"Sure did, sir. They was the last things left in Goebel's warehouse, though. He ain't gonna be left much longer his own self-says he's headin' down to Lexington with his cousin. This war scare got everybody jumpy."

"Can't say as I blame Clem, neither," Kennedy said. "I may get out of town myself, matter of fact. Haven't made up my mind about that. Wait till it starts, I figure, and then see what the damnyankees do. But you, you got nowhere to run to, huh?"

"No, not hardly." Cincinnatus didn't like thinking about that. Kennedy had more in the way of brains than Clem Goebel. If he didn't think Covington was a safe place to stay, it probably wasn't. He understood Cincinnatus was stuck here, too. Sighing, the laborer said, "Let me unload them typing machines for you, boss."

That kept him busy till dinnertime. He lived down by the Licking River, south of Kennedy's place, close enough to walk back and forth at the noon hour if he gulped down his corn bread or salt pork and greens or whatever Elizabeth had left for him before she went off to clean white folks' houses.

A shape in the river-a cheese box on a raft was what it looked like- caught his eye. He whistled on the same note Tom Kennedy had used when he saw the aeroplane. By treaty, the United States and the Confederate States kept gunboats off the waters of the rivers they shared and the waters of tributaries within three miles of those jointly held rivers. If that gunboat-the Yankees called the type monitors, after their first one, but Southerners didn't and wouldn't-wasn't breaking the treaty, it sure was bending it.

Cincinnatus whistled again, a low, worried note. More people, higher-up people, than Goebel and Kennedy thought war was coming.

"Mobilize!" Flora Hamburger cried in a loud, clear voice. "We must mobilize for the inevitable struggle that lies before us!"

The word was on everyone's lips now, since President Roosevelt had ordered the United States Army to mobilize the day before. Newsboys on the corner of Hester and Chrystie, half a block from the soapbox-actually, it was a beer crate, filched from the Croton Brewery next door-shouted it in headlines from the New York Times and the early edition of the Evening Sun. All those headlines spoke of hundreds of thousands of men in green-gray uniforms filing onto hundreds of trains that would carry them to the threatened frontiers of the United States, to Maryland and Ohio and Indiana, to Kansas and New Mexico, to Maine and Dakota and Washington State.

Just by looking at the crowded streets of the Tenth Ward of New York City, Flora could tell how many men of military age the dragnet had scooped up. The men who hurried along Chrystie were most of them smooth-faced youths or their gray-bearded grandfathers. The newsboys weren't shouting that the reserves, the men of the previous few conscription classes who'd served their time, were being called up with the regulars-they wouldn't reveal the government's plan to the Rebels or to the British-lickspittle Canadians: their terms. But Flora had heard it was so, and she believed it.

The papers told of pretty girls rushing up and kissing soldiers as they boarded their trains, of men who hadn't been summoned to the colors pressing twenty-dollar gold pieces into the hands of those who had, of would-be warriors flocking to recruiting stations in such numbers that some factories had to close down. The Croton Brewery was draped in red-white-and-blue bunting. So was Public School Number Seven, across the street.

The entire country-the entire world-was going mad, Flora Hamburger thought. Up on her soapbox, she waved her arms and tried to bring back sanity.

"We must not allow the capitalist exploiters to make the workers of the world their victims," she declared, trying to fire with her own enthusiasm the small crowd that had gathered to listen to her. "We must continue our ceaseless agitation in the cause of peace, in the cause of workers' solidarity around the world. If we let the upper classes split us and set us one against another, we have but doomed ourselves to more decades of servility."

A cop in a fireplug hat stood at the back of the crowd, listening intently. The First Amendment remained on the books, but he'd run her in if she said anything that came close to being fighting words-or maybe even if she didn't. Hysteria was wild in the United States; if you said the emperor had no clothes, you took the risk of anyone who spoke too clearly.

But the cop didn't need to run her in; the crowd was less friendly than those before which she was used to speaking. Somebody called, "Are you Socialists going to vote for Teddy's war budget?"

"We are going to do everything we can to keep a war budget from becoming necessary," Flora cried. Even three days earlier, that answer to that question had brought a storm of applause. Now some people stood silent, their faces set in disapproving lines. A few booed. One or two hissed. Nobody clapped.

"If war comes," that same fellow called, "will you Socialists vote the money to fight it? You're the second biggest party in Congress; don't you know what you're doing?"

Why weren't you mobilized? Flora thought resentfully. The skinny man was about twenty-five, close to her own age-a good age for cannon fodder in a man. Few to match him were left in the neighborhood. Flora wondered if he was an agent provacateur. Roosevelt's Democrats had done that sort of thing often enough on the East Side, disrupting the meetings not only of Socialists but also of the Republicans who hadn't moved leftward when their party split in the acrimonious aftermath of the Second Mexican War.

But she had to answer him. She paused a moment to adjust her picture hat and pick her phrases, then said, "We will be caucusing in Philadelphia day after tomorrow to discuss that. As the majority votes, the party will act."

She never would have yielded so much a few days before. Here in New York City, sentiment against the war still ran strong-or stronger than most places, anyhow. But many of the Socialists' constituents-the miners of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the farmers of Minnesota and Dakota and Montana-were near one border or another, and were bombarding their representatives with telegrams embracing, not the international brotherhood of labor, but rather the protection of the American frontier.

Almost pleadingly, Flora said, "Can we let the madness of nationalism destroy everything the workers not just here in the United States but also in Germany and Austria and in France and England and even in Canada and the Confederacy? — yes, I dare say that, for it is true," she went on over a chorus of boos, "have struggled shoulder to shoulder to achieve? I say we cannot. I say we must not. If you believe the sacred cause of labor is bound up in the idea of world politics without war, give generously to our cause." She pointed down to a washed-out peach tin, the label still on, that sat in front of her crate. "Give for the workers who harvested that fruit, the miners who by the sweat of their brow dug out the iron and tin from which the can is made, the steelworkers who made it into metal, the laborers in the cannery who packed the peaches, the draymen and drivers who brought them to market. Give now for a better tomorrow."

A few people stepped up and tossed coins into the peach tin. One or two of them tossed in banknotes. Flora had plenty of practice in gauging the take from the racket the money made. She would have done better today working in a sweatshop and donating her wages to the cause.

She thanked the small crowd less sincerely than she would have liked, picked up the can, and started down the street with it toward Socialist Party headquarters. She'd gone only a short way when a beer wagon full of barrels pulled by a team of eight straining horses rattled out of the Croton Brewery and down Chrystie Street. It got more applause than she had-seeing a load of barrels was supposed to be good luck-and would make far more money for its firm than Flora had for the Socialists.

The thought depressed her. The Party had been educating the proletariat all over the world, showing the workers how they could seize control of the means of production from the capitalists who exploited their labor for the sake of profit. They'd made progress, too. No civilized government these days would call out troops to shoot down strikers, as had been commonplace a generation before. Surely the revolution, whether peaceful or otherwise, could not be far away. What sort of weapon could the plutocrats devise to resist the united strength and numbers of the working classes?

Her lips thinned into a bitter line. How simple the answer had proved! Threaten to start a war! All at once, you estranged German workers from French, English from Austrian, American from Confederate (though the Rebels also called themselves Americans). Few Socialists had imagined the proletariat was so easily manipulated.

Tenth Ward party headquarters was on the second story of a brownstone on Centre Market Place, across the street from the raucous market itself. A kosher butcher shop occupied the first story. Flora paused for a moment in front of the butcher's plate-glass window before she went upstairs. Some of her dark, wavy hair had come loose from the bobby pins that were supposed to hold it in place. With quick, practiced motions, she repaired the damage. Inside the shop, the butcher, aptly named Max Fleischmann, waved to her. She nodded in reply.

Fleischmann came out and looked down into the peach tin. He shook his head. "You've made more," he said in Yiddish, then reached into his pocket and tossed a dime into the can.

"You didn't have to do that." Flora felt her face heat. Her eyes flicked to her reflection in the window. She couldn't tell if the flush showed. Probably not, not with her olive skin. "You're not even a Socialist."

"So I voted for Roosevelt? This means my money isn't good enough for you? Feh!" Fleischmann's wry grin showed three gold teeth. "If you people go bankrupt and have to move out from upstairs, who knows what kind of crazy maniacs I get right over my head?"

"When we moved in, you called us crazy maniacs-and worse than that," Flora reminded him. She stared down into the can of peaches. That charity dime made the day's take no less pathetic. Shaking her head, she said, "The whole world is going crazy now, though. We're the ones who are trying to stay sane, to do what needs doing."

"Crazy is right." Fleischmann clenched a work-roughened hand into a fist. "The Confederates, they're moving all sorts of troops to the border, trying to get the jump on us. And the Canadians, their Great Lakes battleships have left port, it says in the papers. What are we supposed to do, what with them provoking us from all sides like this?"

Flora gaped at the butcher in blank dismay. The bacillus of nationalism had infected him, too, and he didn't even notice it. She said, "If all the workers would stand together, there'd be no war, Mr. Fleischmann."

"Oh, yes. If we could trust the Rebels, this would be wonderful," Fleischmann said. "But how can we? We know they want to fight us, because they've fought us twice already. Am I right or am I wrong, Flora? We have to defend ourselves, don't we? Am I right or am I wrong?"

"But don't you see? The Confederate workers are saying the same thing about the United States."

"Fools!" Max Fleischmann snorted. Realizing the argument was hopeless, Flora started upstairs. The butcher's voice pursued her: "Am I right or am I wrong?" When she didn't answer, he snorted again and went back into his shop.

The Socialist Party offices were almost as crowded as the tenements all around: desks and tables and file cabinets jammed into every possible square inch of space, leaving a bare minimum of room for human beings. Two secretaries in smudged white shirtwaists tried without much luck to keep up with an endless stream of calls. They mixed English and Yiddish in every conversation-sometimes, it seemed, in every sentence.

Herman Bruck nodded to her. As usual, he seemed too elegant to make a proper Socialist, what with his two-button jacket of the latest cut and the silk ascot he wore in place of a tie. His straw boater hung on a hat rack near his desk. He looked so natty because he came from a long line of tailors. "How did it go?" he asked her. Though he'd been born in Poland, his English was almost without accent.

"Not so good," Flora answered, setting down the can with a clank. "Do we know what's what with the caucus?"

Bruck's sour expression did not sit well on his handsome features. "A telegram came in not half an hour ago," he answered. "They voted eighty-seven to fourteen to give Roosevelt whatever money he asks for."

"Oy!" Flora exclaimed. "Now the madness is swallowing us, too."

"On theoretical grounds, the vote does make some sense," Bruck said grudgingly. "After all, the Confederacy is still in large measure a feudal economy. Defeating it would advance progressive forces there and might lift the Negroes out of serfdom."

"Would. Might." Flora laced the words with scorn. "And have they declared Canada feudal and reactionary, too?"

"No," Bruck admitted. "They said nothing about Canada — putting the best face on things they could, I suppose."

"Putting the best face on things doesn't make them right," Flora said with the stern rectitude of a temperance crusader smashing a bottle of whiskey against a saloon wall.

Bruck frowned. A moment before, he'd been unhappy with the delegates of his party. Now, because it was his party and he a disciplined member of it, he defended the decision it had made: "Be reasonable, Flora. If they'd voted to oppose the war budget, that would have been the end of the Socialist Party in the United States. Everyone is wild for this war, upper class and lower class alike. We'd have lost half our members to the Republicans, maybe more."

"Whenever you throw away what's right for what's convenient, you end up losing both," Flora Hamburger said stubbornly. "Of course everyone is wild for the war now. The whole country is crazy. Gottenyu, the whole world is crazy. Does that mean we should say yes to the madness? How wild for war will people be when the trains start bringing home the bodies of the laborers and farmers the capitalists have murdered for the sake of greed and markets?"

Bruck raised a placating hand. "You're not on the soapbox now, Flora. Our congressmen, our senators, are going to vote unanimously-even the fourteen said they'd go along with the party. Will you stand alone?"

"No, I suppose not," Flora said with a weary sigh. Discipline told on her, too. "If we don't back the caucus, what kind of party are we? We might as well be Democrats in that case."

"That's right," Bruck said with an emphatic nod. "You're just worn out because you've been on the stump and nobody's listened to you. What do you say we walk across the street and get something to eat?"

"All right," she said. "Why not? It has to be better than this."

Bruck rescued his boater from the hat rack and set it on his head at a jaunty angle. "We'll be back soon," he told the secretaries, who nodded. With a flourish, he held the door open for Flora, saying, "If you will forgive the bourgeois courtesy."

"This once," she said, something more than half seriously. A lot of bourgeois courtesy was a way to sugar-coat oppression. Then, out in the hall, Bruck slipped an arm around her waist. He'd done that once before, and she hadn't liked it. She didn't like it now, either, and twisted away, glaring at him. "Be so kind as to keep your hands to yourself."

"You begrudge bourgeois courtesy, but you're trapped in bourgeois morality," Bruck said, frustration on his face.

"Socialists should be free to show affection where and how they choose," Flora answered. "On the other hand, they should also be free to keep from showing affection where there is none."

"Does that mean what I think it means?"

"It means exactly that," Flora said as they started down the stairs.

They walked across Centre Market Place toward the countless stalls selling food and drink in a silence that would have done for filling an icebox. From behind the butcher-shop counter, Max Fleischmann watched them and shook his head.

All of Richmond streamed toward Capitol Square. Reginald Bartlett was one more drop of water in the stream, one more straw hat and dark sack suit among thousands sweating in the early August sun. He turned to the man momentarily beside him and said, "I should be back behind the drugstore counter."

"Is that a fact?" the other replied, not a bit put out by such familiarity, not today. "I should be adding up great long columns of figures, myself. But how often do we have the chance to see history made?"

"Not very often," Bartlett said. He was a round-faced, smiling, freckled man of twenty-six, the kind of man who wins at poker because you trust him instinctively. "That's why I'm on my way. The pharmacist told me to keep things running while he went to hear President Wilson, but if he's not there, will he know I'm not there?"

"Not a chance of it," the accountant assured him. "Not even the slightest-Oof!" Someone dug an elbow into the pit of his stomach, quite by accident. He stumbled and staggered and almost fell; had he gone down, he probably would have been trampled. As things were, he fell back several yards, and was replaced beside Bartlett by a colored laborer in overalls and a cloth cap. Nobody would be asking the Negro for a pass, not today. If he got fired tomorrow for not being on the job… he took the same chance Bartlett did.

There weren't many Negroes in the crowd, far fewer in proportion to the mass than their numbers in Richmond as a whole. Part of the reason for that, probably, was that they had more trouble getting away from their jobs than white men did. And part of it, too, was that they had more trouble caring about the glorious destiny of the Confederate States than whites did.

The bell in the tower in the southwestern corner of Capitol Square rang the alarm, over and over again. Clang, clang, clang… clang, clang, clang… clang, clang, clang. Most often, those three chimes endlessly repeated meant fire in the city. Today the alarm was for the nation as a whole.

Bartlett nimbly dodged round carriages and automobiles-some Fords imported from Yankee country; a Rolls full of gentlemen in top hats, white tie, and cutaways; and several Manassas machines built in Birmingham — that could make no headway with men on foot packing the streets. Even bicycles were slower than shank's mare in this crush.

He rounded a last corner and caught sight of the great equestrian statue of George Washington in Capitol Square. Washington, in an inspiring gesture, pointed south-toward the state penitentiary, wags said whenever scandal rocked the Confederate Congress.

The bronze Washington also pointed toward an even larger, more imposing statue of Albert Sidney Johnston. He and the bronze warriors in forage caps who stood guard at the base of the pedestal he topped memorialized the brave men, prominent and humble alike, who had fallen for freedom in the War of Secession.

Just to one side of the Johnston Memorial, a team of carpenters had hastily run up a platform to set dignitaries above the level of the common throng. The pine boards of the platform were still bright and yellow and un-weathered. The same could not be said for the men who sat in folding chairs upon it. A lot of the graybeards had seen service not merely in the Second Mexican War but also in the War of Secession. Nor were the beards all that was gray: there side by side sat Patrick Cleburne and Stephen Ramseur wearing identical uniforms of the obsolete color more like what the Yankees wore nowadays than modern Confederate military dress. Aging lions, though, could wear what they pleased.

As everyone else was doing, Bartlett wiggled as close to the platform as he could. If the crush on the street had been bad, that within Capitol Square was appalling. Not twenty feet from him, somebody shouted in outrage: he'd had his pocket picked. Sneak thieves were probably having a field day, for people were packed so tight, they couldn't help bumping up against one another, and accidental contact was hard to tell from that made with larcenous intent.

The few ladies in the crowd were bumped and jostled almost as much as their male counterparts-not intentionally, perhaps, but unavoidably. "Beg your pardon, ma'am," Bartlett said after being squeezed against a pretty young woman more intimately than would have been proper on a dance floor. He couldn't tip his hat; he hadn't room to raise his arm to his head.

She nodded, accepting his apology as she'd probably accepted a dozen others. The remembered feel of her body pressed to his made him smile as the motion of the crowd swept them apart. He'd been polite-that came automatically as breathing to a well-raised young man-but his thoughts were his own, to do with as he would.

By dint of stubbornness worthy of what folks said about New England Yankees, Bartlett slithered and squirmed up to within a few yards of the ring of butternut-clad soldiers who held the crush away from the platform with bayoneted rifles. "Don't you take a step back, Watkins, damn you," the officer in charge of them shouted. "Make them do the moving."

Bartlett wondered if the guards would have to stick someone to make the crowd stand clear. The pressure behind him was so strong, it seemed as if the people could crush everything between themselves and the platform.

A high mucky-muck-not a graybeard but a portly, dapper fellow with a sandy, pointed beard like that of the King of England-leaned down over the railing and spoke to that officer. After a moment, Bartlett recognized him from woodcuts he'd seen: that was Emmanuel Sellars, the secretary of war. Was he giving the command for a demonstration against the crowd? Bartlett couldn't hear his orders. If he was, it would be pandemonium. Bartlett got ready to flee, and hoped the stampede wouldn't run over him.

The officer-a captain by the three bars on either side of his collar- shouted to his men. Bartlett couldn't make out what he said, either, but fear ran through him when some of the guards raised the rifles to their shoulders. But they aimed up into the air, not at the people, and fired a volley. Bartlett hoped they were shooting blanks. If they weren't, the bullets were liable to hurt somebody as they fell.

Into the sudden, startled silence the gunshots brought, a fellow with a great voice shouted, "Hearken now to the words of the President of the Confederate States of America, the honorable Woodrow Wilson."

The president turned this way and that, surveying the great swarm of people all around him in the moment of silence the volley had brought. Then, swinging back to face the statue of George Washington-and, incidentally, Reginald Bartlett-he said, "The father of our country warned us against entangling alliances, a warning that served us well when we were yoked to the North, before its arrogance created in our Confederacy what had never existed before-a national consciousness. That was our salvation and our birth as a free and independent country."

Silence broke then, with a thunderous outpouring of applause. Wilson raised a bony right hand. Slowly, silence, or a semblance of it, returned. The president went on, "But our birth of national consciousness made the United States jealous, and they tried to beat us down. We found loyal friends in England and France. Can we now stand aside when the German tyrant threatens to grind them under his iron heel?"

"No!" Bartlett shouted himself hoarse, along with thousands of his countrymen. Stunned, deafened, he had trouble hearing what Wilson said next:

"Jealous still, the United States in their turn also developed a national consciousness, a dark and bitter one, as any so opposed to ours must be." He spoke not like a politician inflaming a crowd but like a professor setting out arguments-he had taken the one path before choosing the other. "The German spirit of arrogance and militarism has taken hold in the United States; they see only the gun as the proper arbiter between nations, and their president takes Wilhelm as his model. He struts and swaggers and acts the fool in all regards."

Now he sounded like a politician; he despised Theodore Roosevelt, and took pleasure in Roosevelt 's dislike for him. "When war began between England and France on the one hand and the German Empire on the other, we came to our allies' aid, as they had for us in our hour of need. I have, as you know, asked the Congress to declare war upon Germany and Austria-Hungary.

"And now, as a result of our honoring our commitment to our gallant allies, that man Roosevelt has sought from the U.S. Congress a declaration of war not only against England and France but also against the Confederate States of America. His servile lackeys, misnamed Democrats, have given him what he wanted, and the telegraph informs me that fighting has begun along our border and on the high seas.

"Leading our great and peaceful people into war is a fearful thing, not least because, with the great advances of science and industry over the past half-century, this may prove the most disastrous and terrible of all wars, truly a war of the nations: indeed a war of the world. But right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for those things we have always held dear in our hearts: for the rights of the Confederate States and of the white men who live in them; for the liberties of small nations everywhere from outside oppression; for our own freedom and independence from the vicious, bloody regime to our north. To such a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes, everything we are and all that we have, with the pride of those who know the day has come when the Confederacy is privileged to spend her blood and her strength for the principles that gave her birth and led to her present happiness. God helping us, we can do nothing else. Men of the Confederacy, is it your will that a state of war should exist henceforth between us and the United States of America?"

"Yes!" The answer roared from Reginald Bartlett's throat, as from those of the other tens of thousands of people jamming Capitol Square. Someone flung a straw hat in the air. In an instant, hundreds of them, Bartlett 's included, were flying. A great chorus of "Dixie" rang out, loud enough, Bartlett thought, for the damnyankees to hear it in Washington.

Someone tapped him on the shoulder. He whirled around-and stared into the angry face of Milo Axelrod, his boss. "I told you to stay and mind the shop, dammit!" the druggist roared. "You're fired!"

Bartlett snapped his fingers under the older man's nose. "And this here is how much I care," he said. "You can't fire me, on account of I damn well quit. They haven't called up my regiment yet, but I'm joining the Army now, is what I'm doing. Go peddle your pills-us real men will save the country for you. A couple of months from now, after we've licked the Yankees, you can tell me you're sorry."

II

Nellie Semphroch huddled behind the counter in the ruins of her coffeehouse, wondering if she would die in the next instant. She'd been wondering that for hours, ever since the first Confederate shells began falling on Washington, D.C.

Beside her, her daughter Edna wailed, "When will it stop, Mother? Will it ever stop?"

"Lord help me, I don't know," the widow Semphroch answered. She had twice her daughter's twenty years; on her, bitter experience seamed the long, oval face they otherwise shared. "I just don't know. It wasn't like this when-"

A shell crashed down nearby. The ground quivered and jerked, as if in pain. Fragments sprayed through the blank square that had been the front window before it shattered early in the bombardment. Edna brushed dark blond curls-a brighter shade than Nellie's, which were streaked with gray- out of her eyes and repeated, despairingly, "Will it ever stop?"

"It wasn't like this when the Southerners shelled us before," Nellie said, at last able to get in another complete sentence. "When I was a girl, they bombarded Washington, yes, but after an hour or so they were done. I was scared then, but only for a little while. That's why we didn't leave when-"

Now, instead of a shell, Edna interrupted her: "We should have, Mama. We should have gotten out while we could, along with everybody else."

"Not everybody left," Nellie said, her daughter's bitterness making her defensive. A great host of people had, though, as crisis in some distant part of Europe became by the magic of far-flung alliances crisis in America, too. While Washington remained the nation's capital, Congress hadn't met there since the Second Mexican War: going about their business under Confederate guns had seemed intolerable. Before war was declared, an endless procession of wagons and buggies and motorcars jammed the roads leading north out of the capital, and every train bringing in soldiers had been full of civilians on its outbound journey.

But Nellie and Edna had sat tight, selling coffee to panicky bureaucrats and swaggering soldiers alike. They'd made a lot of money, and Nellie had been certain that, even if war broke out, the Rebels would not seek to destroy what had once been their capital, too. They hadn't back in 1881.

She'd been wrong. Sweet Jesus Christ, how wrong she'd been! She knew that now, to her everlasting sorrow. The Confederacy's bombardment of Washington a generation before had been more a demonstration that the South could be frightful if it so chose than actual frightfulness in and of itself. Having hit a few targets, the Confederates had gone on to fight the war elsewhere.

This time, they seemed intent on leaving no stone in the capital of the United States standing upon another. Once, just before sunrise, Nellie had gone to a well to draw a bucket of water-shelling had burst the pipes that carried water through the city. The Capitol's dome was smashed, the building itself burning. Not far away, the White House had also become a pile of rubble, and the needle of the Washington Monument no longer reached up to the sky-that despite the Rebels' claims to revere Washington as the father of their country, too.

More guns boomed, these not the Confederate cannon across the Potomac but American guns replying from the high ground north of Washington. Shells made freight-train noises overhead, then thudded to earth with roars like distant thunder.

"Kill all those Rebel bastards!" Edna shouted. "Blow Arlington to hell and gone so we don't have the God-damned Lees looking down on us like lords. Blow their balls off, every fucking one of them!"

Nellie stared at her daughter. "Where ever did you learn such language?" she gasped. Absurdly, at that moment, her first impulse was to wash Edna's mouth out with soap. After a moment's reflection, though, she wished she let the words out more readily herself. She knew them-oh, she knew them. And when hell came up here on earth, what did a few bad words matter?

"I'm sorry, Mama," Edna said, but then her chin came up. "No, I'm not sorry, not a bit of it. I wish I knew worse to call the Confederates. If I did, I would, and that's the truth."

"What you just said is pretty bad." Nellie had not led a sheltered life-far from it-but she'd seldom heard a lady curse as her daughter just had. Then again, she'd never been in a situation where tons of death fell randomly from the sky. As the judge said of the man who knifed a poker partner because he spotted an ace coming out of his sleeve, there were mitigating circumstances.

More freight-train noises filled the air, these from the east and south: Rebel artillery, striking back at U.S. guns. Because the Confederates were trying to hit the cannons, shells stopped falling on Washington itself and began smashing the hills that ringed the city.

Edna stood up. "Maybe we can get out of town now, Mama," she said hopefully.

"Maybe." Nellie rose, too. The air was thick with smoke and dust and a harsh odor she supposed came from explosives. Half the chairs and tables in the coffeehouse lay on their sides or upside down. The fine linen tablecloths that gave the establishment a touch of class-and that Nellie was still paying for-were rags now, torn rags.

A shell fragment had ripped into the fancy brass coffee grinder that gleamed out in front of the counter. Nellie wouldn't be grinding coffee with it again, not any time soon. She shivered and had to grasp the counter for a moment. If a fragment had done that to sturdy, machined brass, what would it have done to flesh? A few feet to one side and she would have found out. No, 1881 hadn't been like this.

She walked toward what had been her front window and was now a square opening with a few jagged shards round the edges. Out in the street- which had suddenly acquired deep pocks, like the face of a man who'd never been vaccinated-a shattered delivery wagon sat on its side, the horses that had drawn it gruesomely dead in the traces. Nellie gulped. She'd killed and plucked and gutted plenty of chickens, and even a few pigs, but artillery was a horrifyingly sloppy butcher. She hadn't imagined horses had that much blood in them, either. A scrawny stray dog came up and sniffed the pool. She shouted at it. It ran away. Behind the wagon, she could just see an outflung arm. No, the driver hadn't been luckier than his animals.

"Can we get out of town, do you think, Ma?" Edna repeated.

Nellie raised her eyes from the street to the high ground. For a moment, she did not understand what she was seeing, and thought a Midwestern dust storm had suddenly been transplanted to those low, rolling hills. Dust there was aplenty, but no wind to raise it. Instead, it came from the carpet of shells the Confederates were laying down. When she looked more closely, she spied the ugly red core of fire in each explosion. She wondered how anything could live under such bombardment, and if anything did.

Her question there was answered a moment later, for not all the flames came from landing shells. Some sprang from the muzzles of U.S. guns hurling death back at the enemy. To her amazement, she discovered she could briefly follow some of the big American shells as they rose into the sky.

She turned her head toward the Potomac. Smoke and buildings obscured most of her view there but, from what she could tell, the Virginia heights were taking as much of a pounding as those around Washington. Good, she thought savagely.

From behind her, Edna said, "Let's go, Ma."

Nellie waved her daughter up alongside her and pointed to the bombardment raining down outside of town. "I don't think we'd better," she said. "Looking at that, we're safer where we're at." Edna bit her lip but nodded.

Across the street, something moved inside a battered cobbler's shop. Nellie's heart jumped into her mouth until she recognized old Mr. Jacobs, who ran the place. He waved to her, calling, "You are still alive, Widow Semphroch?"

"I think so, yes," Nellie answered, which brought a twisted smile to the cobbler's wizened face.

Before she could say anything more, the sound of many booted men running made her turn her head. A stream of green-gray-clad American soldiers in matching forage caps pounded past the wrecked delivery van and dead horses. Sunlight glinted from the bayonets they'd fixed to the ends of their rifles.

"You civilians better get back under cover," one of them shouted. "The damn Rebs-beg your pardon, ma'am-they're liable to try comin' across the river. They do, we're gonna give 'em what for. Ain't that right, boys?"

The soldiers made harsh, eager grunts unlike any Nellie had heard before. Not all of them were fuzz-bearded boys; some had to be close to thirty. Mobilization had scooped up a lot of men who'd done their two years a long time ago, and put them back in the Army.

A couple of the soldiers were trundling a machine gun along on its little wheeled carriage. When they came to shell holes in the street, they either maneuvered it around them or manhandled it over. Its fat brass water jacket must have been newly polished, for it gleamed brighter than the bayonets.

One of the machine-gun handlers stared at Edna and ran his tongue over his lips as if he were a cat that had just finished a saucer of cream. Nellie glanced over to her daughter, who was filthy, bedraggled, exhausted… but young, unmistakably young.

Men, Nellie thought, a one-word indictment of half the human race. Not long ago, or so it seemed, they'd looked at her that way, and she'd looked back. She'd done more than look back, in fact. That was the start of how Edna came to be, and why her name had changed from Houlihan to Semphroch in such a tearing hurry.

She heard a fresh noise in the air, a sharp, quick whizz! A couple of soldiers looked up to see what that was. A couple of others, wiser or more experienced, threw themselves flat on the ground.

Only a couple of seconds after the whizz! first reached her ears, it was followed by a huge bang! at the head of the column. Men reeled away from the explosion, shrieking. There were more whizzes in the air now, too. The Confederates had spotted the moving infantrymen, and decided to open up on them.

Bang! Bang! Bang! Shells struck up and down the length of the battalion. Nellie didn't see all the slaughter they worked. "Get down!" she screamed to Edna, even before the second whizzing shell fell and burst. To make sure Edna listened and didn't stare back at the machine gunner bold in his uniform, she dragged her daughter to the floor.

More fragments whined past overhead. The shells that went whizz-bang weren't very big; the front wall of the coffeehouse stopped most of their fragments, though plenty screamed through what had been the window and scarred the plaster above the counter.

The barrage stopped as suddenly as it had begun. That didn't mean the street was silent; far from it. Cries and screams and moans and wails and sounds of pain for which Nellie had no descriptive words filled the air. She got to her feet and looked out. The street had been a sorry sight before. The slaughter now was worse than anything she'd ever imagined.

Men and pieces of men lay everywhere. The ones who were dead were less appalling than the ones who were wounded. A trooper tried to stuff spilled intestines back into his belly through a neat slit torn in his tunic. Another sat staring foolishly at his right arm, which he'd picked up off the pavement and was holding in his left hand. Quietly, without much fuss, he crumpled over and lay still.

"We have to help them, Ma," Edna said. "We have plenty of rags and things-"

Nellie hadn't noticed her daughter get up beside her. She nodded, though she knew what would happen if more shells caught them out in the open.

Stretcher bearers were taking charge of some of the wounded. They nodded gratefully, though, when they saw Nellie and Edna come out with old clothes in their hands.

The second man Nellie bandaged was the machine gunner who'd leered at Edna. Now his face was waxy pale instead of ruddy and alight with lust. Nellie had to force his hands-protectively cupped too late-away from the wound at the base of his belly before she could try to stanch the bleeding. If he lived, he wouldn't be doing much with the girls, not any more.

Off to the west, rifle fire rang out. You lived in the city, you heard guns every so often; you got to know what they sounded like. But, a moment later, Nellie heard a sound she'd never known before. It was something like gunfire, something like a giant ripping a piece of canvas the size of a football field. It made the hair stand up at the back of her neck.

Mangled and in agony though he was, the machine gunner smiled a little. He knew what the sound was, though Nellie didn't. Seeing his knowledge made her understand, too.

"So that's the noise a machine gun makes," Nellie murmured. The pale-faced soldier nodded, a single short jerk of his head. "Good," Nellie told him. "That means the Rebs are catching it hot." He nodded again.

The wheat was turning golden under the warm August sun. From the front porch of his farmhouse, Arthur McGregor surveyed the crop with dour satisfaction. The quick-ripening hybrid Marquis strain he'd put in the ground these past few years beat the old Red Fife all hollow. Here a quarter of the way from the U.S. border to Winnipeg, every day you could shave off the growing season was a good one, especially since half your ground lay fallow each year.

McGregor-a tall, lean man, his face weathered almost like a sailor's from endless exposure to sun and wind-watched the wheat bow and then straighten, politely acknowledging the breeze. The fields seemed to go on forever. He let out a sour snort. That was partly because he'd had the work of plowing and planting them. But the Manitoba prairie was flat as a sheet of newspaper, flat as if it had been pressed. And so, in a way, it had; from what the geologists said, great sheets of ice had lain here in ancient days, squashing down any irregularities that might once have existed.

For hundreds of miles, the only blemishes on the surface of the land were the belts of wire and the fortifications on either side of the border between the United States and the Dominion of Canada. McGregor sighed, thinking about that long, thin, porous border. Late rains or early frost could blight his crops. So could war.

His wife Maude came out of the house to stand beside him. They'd been married fifteen years, ever since he'd got out of the Army and gone into the militia: almost all his adult life, in other words, and all of hers. If they hadn't thought alike back in the days when they were courting-he wasn't quite sure about that, not after so long-they certainly did now.

And so it was Maude who said, "They've come over the border, eh?"

"They have." Arthur McGregor sighed. "After Winnipeg, I've no doubt." Only a slight difference in accent, an extra tincture of Scots that made the last word sound like "doat," told him from one of the Americans he despised and feared. "They take the town, they cut the country in half, they do."

Maude turned and looked southward, as if in fear of locusts, though soldiers from the United States were liable to prove even more destructive. Under her bonnet, she wore her red hair tightly pinned down against her head, but it was so fine, wisps kept escaping the pins and springing out in front of her face. She brushed them back from her gray eyes with work-roughened hands: like her husband, she'd never known an easy day in her life. "The devil's own lot of them down there," she said, her voice worried.

"Don't I know it? Don't we all know it?" McGregor sighed again. "Sixty, sixty-five million of them, maybe eight million up here." By the way he spoke, he expected everyone in the United States, young or old, man or woman, to parade past the farmhouse in the next few minutes.

"We're not alone, eh?" Maude said; maybe she was seeing sixty or sixty- five million angry Americans in her mind's eye, too. "We've England with us, and the Confederacy, and the Empire of Mexico."

" England 's going to be busy close to home," her husband answered with the ingrained pessimism of a man who'd been wrestling with a stubborn Mother Nature for a living since before he needed to shave. " Mexico 's nothing, maybe less, and the Yanks outweigh the Confederates two to one or more, too. They can fight them and have plenty to spare for us."

Maude peered south again, this time as if looking past the USA to the CSA. "I don't know I much care for having those people on our side, when you get down to it. The way they treat their colored people, they might as well be-"

"Russians?" Arthur McGregor suggested wryly. "The Czar's on our side, too. The Yanks are no bargain, either; we'd never have had conscription up here if they didn't start it first, and these days down there, from what the newspapers say, you fill out a form for this, you fill out a form for that, you fill out a form for the other thing, same as you would if the Kaiser was running things. Only free land on the continent is where we're standing, seems to me."

"Pa! Pa!" His son Alexander came running toward the house, his voice cracking in excitement as any fourteen-year-old's was apt to do. "There's soldiers coming, Pa!" He pointed to the north.

Arthur, his mind focused on the threat from the United States, hadn't looked back toward Winnipeg in a while. Now he did. Sure enough, as his son had said, here came a cavalry troop, small in the distance, down toward the border with Dakota. Alexander jumped up and down, waving frantically at the soldiers. Arthur McGregor waved, too, but in a more measured way. He had a much better idea than his son of what war actually entailed.

The troopers waved back. Then, to McGregor's surprise, one of them peeled off from the rest and guided his chestnut toward the farmhouse at a fast trot. He reined in just in front of the porch: a little sallow fellow with waxed mustache who lifted his cap to Maude before nodding gravely to Arthur and less gravely to Alexander, who was all but hopping out of his overalls.

"Good day, my friends," the cavalryman said with a French accent that explained his swarthiness. "I am Pierre Lapin, lieutenant"-his fingers brushed the single pip on his shoulder board-"of the horse. Is it that my men and I could use your well for the purpose of watering ourselves?"

"Yes, sir, go right ahead, all of you." McGregor had to make a conscious effort not to stiffen to attention. The couple of weeks he spent drilling every year made him give an officer automatic deference.

"You are gracious. Merci," Lapin said, and waved to his men. They all followed the path he had taken.

"Dipper's in the bucket," Maude McGregor said, pointing to the well. Lieutenant Lapin tipped his hat to her again, which made her flush and giggle like a schoolgirl.

Unlike Lapin, who carried a pistol on his officer's Sam Browne belt, his troopers wore carbines slung on their backs and had sabers fixed to the left side of their saddles. They queued up at the well, chattering in the odd mix of English and French McGregor remembered from his own days in the Army. Not so long ago, as such things went, Canadians who used French and those who spoke English had disliked and distrusted one another. But with both groups disliking and distrusting their giant neighbor to the south even more, the older rivalry was less remembered.

McGregor went up to Lapin, who was waiting for his men to finish before he drank himself. Quietly, so Maude wouldn't hear, the farmer asked, "Will they get this far?" "When the cavalry lieutenant didn't answer, he went on, "I've got a rifle in the house-use it for hunting. I'll hunt things in green-gray if I have to."

Lapin's shoulders went up and down in a Gallic shrug. "Whether they will come so far I cannot say with certainty. I will say, though, if they do come so far and you have not been called to the colors to resist them, be cautious with that rifle. The Americans, they take their lessons from the Baches'" — his curled lip said what he thought of that-"and the Boches, in the war with France in the last century, were harsh against francstireurs."

"Thank you, sir. I'll bear that in mind," McGregor said. "But if they invade your country and you're defending your home, shouldn't matter whether you're in uniform or not."

"What should matter and what does matter, monsieur, are not one and the same thing, I regret to say," Lapin answered with another shrug.

A muttering in the distance, almost too deep, almost too soft, almost too far to hear. Thunder, a long ways off, McGregor thought. But it wasn't thunder, not on this fine, bright day-he realized that with the thought hardly formed. "That's artillery," he said, his voice flat and harsh.

"Vous avez raison," Lieutenant Lapin agreed. "I could wish you were wrong, but-" Yet another shrug. "And so perhaps it grows more likely the Americans will reach this place. But if they do, they will have paid a stiff price."

"Good," McGregor said. "What price will you have paid, though?"

"That is of no consequence, not to my country," Lapin replied. His turn at the well came at last. He drained the dipper dry, refilled it, and drained it again. "It is the price I agreed to pay when I joined the Army." He touched the brim of his cap in half a salute. "I thank you for the water, and I wish you the best of fortune in the hard days that surely lie ahead." He swung up onto his horse, calling on his men to hurry and remount. They soon rode away.

More of what wasn't thunder came from the south. It didn't sound closer, but it was louder: more guns in action, or bigger guns. Both, most likely, McGregor judged. Now that the fight had started, the Americans, the Canadians, and the men of the mother country would throw everything they had into it.

With that growing rumble in the background, McGregor's satisfaction in his fields of amber grain evaporated. With his country and the United States harvesting the fruits of longtime enmity, any chance he'd have to bring in his own harvest seemed small and dim.

Instead of watching the waving wheat, he kept gazing southward, after the cavalrymen. Before long, he saw motion on the road coming up from the south. Without turning his head, he said, "Fetch me the rifle, Alexander."

"Yes, Pa," his son answered. The boy thundered up the stairs two at a time and returned a moment later holding the pump-action Winchester with the careful confidence of someone long used to guns. Arthur McGregor checked to make sure he had a cartridge in the chamber, then stood and waited to see what sort of onslaught was coming.

Before he could raise the rifle to his shoulder, he realized he wasn't seeing the imminent arrival of the Americans, only people fleeing from them. Fear had almost made him fire on his own countrymen. Thin across the wheat-fields, their shouts reached him, urging him to join them.

He had a buggy in the barn. If he hitched up the horses to it and loaded Maude and Alexander and his two little daughters into it, he could be on the road to Winnipeg inside an hour, and there the day after tomorrow.

"Will we go, Pa?" Alexander asked. The sight of other folks fleeing seemed to have given him the idea that war was something more than a game. McGregor thanked God something this side of getting shot at-or maybe this side of getting shot-had done that.

He shook his head. "No, we won't go. We'll stick it out a bit longer, see what happens." Alexander looked proud.

More soldiers went down the road, a long column of marching infantry, some Canadian, some British, then trucks painted khaki, then more marching men. A plume of coal smoke rose from the stack of a distant southbound train. McGregor would have bet all the acres he had that every compartment on every car was full to overflowing with men in tunics and puttees. Some of them would be gay, some frightened. That wouldn't matter, and wouldn't say anything about what sort of soldiers they'd make once they got to the fighting.

The rumble of artillery went on and on. He went on, too: on about his chores. When you were forking hay or pulling weeds or shoveling manure, for long stretches of time you could forget about what your ears were telling you. Then, as you paused to wipe your face on your sleeve, you'd notice the noise again: in absurd surprise, almost as if it had snuck up behind you and tapped you on the shoulder to make you jump.

It was getting louder-and, unquestionably, getting closer. He hadn't wanted to believe that at first. When you noticed the thunder only every so often, you didn't think to compare it from then till now, or think your hearing was telling you the enemy was drawing nearer, which meant your own men were falling back.

But that was true. By the time evening came-the sun didn't set quite so late as it had at the height of summer-there could be no doubt left. The family sat down to chicken stew with dumplings and carrots in a grim mood. No one, not even Julia and Mary, who usually prattled on in spite of children should be seen but not heard, said much. The girls helped their mother wash the dishes while Arthur McGregor smoked a pipe. He checked the tin from which he filled it: Virginia tobacco, an import from the Confederate States, not the USA. That made him feel better.

He woke several times in the night, not something he usually did-if God had invented anything more exhausting than farm labor, McGregor hadn't heard of it. But when he sat up in the blackness, he heard the crash of guns, not so steady as they had been during the day, but not stopping, either.

And whenever he sat up, the guns were closer.

He woke for good in the pale gray of false dawn. One arm flopped across the other side of the bed, which was empty. He sniffed, and smelled tea steeping. Maude was up before him, then.

He put on his overalls and boots and went downstairs. A couple of cups of strong tea heavy with milk and sugar gave back some of what he'd lost in sleep. "A lot of work to do today," he said, as if that were the only thing on his mind. Maude nodded, as if she believed him.

He was working when the sun came up, hammering a fresh board onto the side of the chicken coop. Something moving in the fields caught his eye. It was a man: a soldier, he saw after a moment, heading north without the slightest thought for road or anything else, trampling down the nearly ripe wheat and not caring at all.

McGregor opened his mouth for an angry shout. It died unspoken. That first soldier he'd seen was but one of many. Trotting through the wheat, their bodies hidden, only heads and shoulders showing, they looked like nothing so much as shipwreck survivors bobbing in the sea. Here, though, what might have been wrecked was Canada.

Before long, horsemen joined the retreat. They were in better order than the infantry, stopping every so often to fire shots in the direction of an enemy Arthur McGregor could not yet see. A cavalry officer leading a couple of packhorses and a squad of soldiers who seemed to be under his command rode up to McGregor.

"Lieutenant Lapin!" he said in surprise.

"Oui, monsieur, we meet again," the French-Canadian officer answered wearily. If he'd slept at all since riding south the previous day, he didn't show it. But he still had fight in him. Pointing to the packhorses, he went on, "I have here a pair of machine guns, ammunition, and soldiers who know how to use them. I desire to make strongpoints of your house and your barn. We have, as you see, been thrown back. We may yet damage the invader, though."

"Go ahead," McGregor said at once. He knew his permission was irrelevant. Lapin had disguised a firm statement of intent with politeness, but the intent remained. The farmer went on, "Can your men drive the livestock out of the barn first, and give me and mine a chance to get clear of the house?" Strongpoints drew fire; he knew that all too well. I'd better hide the rifle, he thought. Secrecy came easy to him, and fear made it come easier.

"That is but a matter of common decency, though I fear in war decency is anything but common." Lapin gave the orders. More men, seeing him not in headlong retreat, rallied around him. A firing line stretched across the wheatfield.

McGregor got Maude and Alexander, Julia and Mary, and took them off away from the house. They led the family cows and horses. No time to hitch the horses to the buggy, not now. McGregor didn't know where to go with his family and the animals. Toward the road was the only idea he had: to join the stream of refugees trudging toward Winnipeg.

He was about halfway to the dirt track when Alexander exclaimed, "Here come the Americans!"

You could tell them from the Canadian defenders by their green-gray uniforms, by the shouts of "Hurrah!" that burst from their throats every few paces, by the fact that they weren't looking back over their shoulders, and by how many of them there were. They came in a great wave, close together as far as the eye could see. Again McGregor had the horrible mental picture of everybody in the United States grabbing a gun and heading for Winnipeg. Now, though, the soldiers were heading for him.

Then the machine guns began to hammer, back in the buildings the neighbors had helped his father run up. Their hideous racket made his head snap back toward the house and barn. When he looked back in the direction of the American soldiers once more, it was as if his fields had had a thresher go over them: where the soldiers had been wheat, they were mowed into stubble. More of them came forward, and more of them went down as the machine guns spat fire through their ranks. They were too far away for McGregor to see how they died, only that they died. Not all of them died at once, of course; a great chorus of agony rose from the fields, even above the racket of machine guns and rifle.

Julia clamped her hands over her ears. "Make them stop it, Papa!" she screamed. "Make them stop!"

McGregor couldn't make them stop. If he could have, he wouldn't. He exulted to see the Americans fall and writhe and die. What business did they have, invading his country? Like their German allies, they seemed to specialize in attacking small, defenseless nations that had done them no harm. One way or another, he vowed to himself, he would make them pay.

They were paying now, but they were also still moving forward. A bullet kicked up dust, not far from McGregor's feet. He heard more bullets smacking into the timbers of the house and the barn, where Pierre Lapin was holed up. The machine guns kept working a fearful slaughter, but the skirmish line Lapin had set up was thin, and did not, could not, hold. To east and west, Yanks in green-gray bypassed the strongpoint, as if it were high ground still above water in the middle of a flood.

That didn't last long. The Americans swung round behind the buildings. Firing around them-firing inside them-grew to a crescendo before abruptly falling silent.

A couple of soldiers came up to the McGregors. They held their rifles at the ready. By the way they panted, by the way their eyes glittered, they would open fire at any excuse or none. Arthur McGregor was careful to keep his hands in plain sight and to make no sudden moves. He was glad he didn't have the rifle on his shoulder, too.

"That there your house?" asked one of the Yanks, a fellow with corporal's stripes on his sleeves. He and his companion smelled the way McGregor did before Maude heated up water for a Saturday night bath, only more so.

"It's mine," McGregor said shortly.

The American corporal gestured with his rifle. "Go on back to it. Put your critters in the barn again. We cleaned out your soldiers, and we ain't got nothin' against civilians. Go on back." He scratched his cheek. Maybe the upswept wings of the Kaiser Bill mustache tickled.

"Ever think maybe civilians have something against you?" Alexander said, his voice hot.

"You got a mouthy kid," the corporal said to Arthur. "He gets too mouthy, maybe the house and the barn catch on fire-just by accident, understand?"

"I understand," McGregor said. He didn't know whether, in the end, Canada could win the war. He did know he and his family had just lost it.

"Dowling!" The general's voice, cracking and full of phlegm, echoed through the St. Louis headquarters of the U.S. First Army. "God damn it to hell, Dowling, have you gone and died while I wasn't looking? Get yourself in here this instant, or you'll be sorry you were ever born!"

"Yes, sir. Coming, sir." Major Abner Dowling hastily finished buttoning his fly. At the moment, he was sorry he'd ever been born. Of all the men to whom he could have been adjutant "Dowling!" Wheezing thunder-the general hadn't heard him. The general was hard of hearing: not surprising, since he was heading toward seventy-five. Even when he did hear, he was confounded hard of listening.

"Here, sir." Dowling rushed into the office. He wanted to wipe off his face; he was built like a rolltop desk, and moving quickly in hot, muggy weather made sweat pour down his ruddy cheeks. But that would have been a violation of military decorum, and his commander-the First Army's commander-made men pay for such trifling lapses.

"About time, Major," the general grumbled, but let it go at that. Dowling knew some relief; the old fool was just as likely to have kept riding him all day. "Get me a cup of coffee, man, and put something in it to open my eyes up. You know what I mean."

"Yes, sir," Dowling said. The coffeepot sat on top of an alcohol lamp to keep what was inside hot. More alcohol rested in the sideboard drawer- brandy of a finer grade than the Army used for medicinal purposes. The general liked his medicine, though. His adjutant poured a hefty nip into the coffee cup, then handed it to him.

"Thank you very much." Now that he'd got exactly what he wanted, the general was gracious. Absurdly, he preened, as well as a fat old man shoe- horned into a uniform three sizes too small could preen. Peroxided locks spilled out from under the hat he wore indoors and out to hide the bald crown of his head. He'd dyed his drooping mustachios, too- the color of piss, Dowling thought uncharitably. When the general sipped the coffee, his rheumy blue eyes did open wider. "That is the straight goods, Major."

"Glad you like it, General Custer," Dowling said. "With your permission-" He waited for Custer's nod before filling his own cup. Not without regret, he substituted cream and sugar for the commanding general's brandy.

Custer drank his coffee almost as fast as he would have had the cup contained nothing bur firewater. He held it out in an imperious, liver-spotted hand for a refill. Dowling didn't lace it with as much brandy this time: if the commander fell asleep over his maps, the First Army would do even less than it had up till now, and it hadn't done much.

"I'm not satisfied with the reports the cavalry is bringing us from western Kentucky," Custer declared, "not satisfied at all. By God, Major, they call that scouting? They call that gathering intelligence? Why, when I was in a blue uniform instead of this moss-colored monstrosity-"

Dowling inserted a couple of mental earplugs as his commander ranted on. Most of the men who'd fought in the War of Secession were dead, and just about all the ones who weren't dead had long since been put out to pasture. Custer should have been, as far as Dowling was concerned, but he hadn't. He'd flourished, albeit more on account of persistence and luck than any military virtue past blind aggressiveness.

He'd been on the plains when the Second Mexican War broke out, and spent that conflict, the graveyard of so many U.S. military reputations, using Gatling guns on the Kiowas and then on a division of Canadians led over the border by a British general even more blindly aggressive than he was. Having made himself a hero in two wars conspicuously lacking such-and having made sure the newspapers let the world know just what a hero he was-he'd assured his rise to lieutenant general's rank and his tenure in the Army for as long as his bloated body would endure. It hadn't given out yet.

The real problem was that he'd had only a couple of new thoughts since the 1860s, and none since the 1880s. Gently, Dowling tried to bring him up toward modern times: "Much harder for cavalry to move now, sir, than it used to be. Machine guns have been hard on horses, you know. Our aeroplanes have brought back excellent sketches of Confederate defenses, though, and with them-"

"Machine guns are all very well for mowing down savages, but properly trained and disciplined troops shouldn't be so leery of them," Custer said. "Our troops are shying from them like so many virgins at the touch of a man. And as for aeroplanes-" He snapped his fingers. "They're all very fine for impressing yahoos at county fairs, but you can't take them seriously as weapons of war. Mark my words, Major: in five years' time the newfangled contraptions will be as forgotten as Ozymandias."

"Yes, sir," Dowling said, that seeming a safer course than asking who Ozymandias was and having to sit through a lecture that had nothing to do with the war. Still trying valiantly to remind Custer that they had reached the twentieth century, he went on, "The couple of armored automobiles we've been able to deploy have also given good service."

"Newfangled contraptions," Custer repeated, as if scoring a point. "I know what we need to do, Major. I merely need to ensure the Navy's cooperation before we undertake it. If we can throw a strong force of infantry into Kentucky, they'll beat down the Confederates' defenses there, allowing our cavalry to get into the enemy's rear and complete his destruction as he flees. If the sailors can hold off the Rebel river monitors-"

"Yes, sir-if," Dowling said. If, on the other hand, one of those heavily armed, heavily armored craft got loose among the barges and such shipping Americans across the river, the slaughter would be horrendous. And, since the monitors were so heavily armored, holding them away from the landing force would be anything but easy-no wonder the Navy was shilly-shallying about that.

"I shall go to the front," Custer said suddenly, catching Dowling off guard. "Yes, that's what I'll do. My presence there will surely inspire the men to give the utmost effort. And," he added with an angry snort, "I am sick to death of being bombarded with telegrams demanding that I move faster.

Roosevelt delights in having the War Department nag me. He has delighted in making my life difficult for more than thirty years." The general commanding First Army and the president had fought the British together during the Second Mexican War. By all the signs, neither had enjoyed the experience. Custer went on, "We are punching into Canada, I hear-but that is all Roosevelt will let me do: hear about it, I mean."

"Yes, sir," Dowling said in his most placating tones.

That did no good. Custer was off to the races: "Damn it to hell and gone, I should be the one punching into Canada. Roosevelt knows what I owe the goddamn Canucks. They murdered my brother-shot him down like a dog in front of my eyes. I deserve that command, and the chance to take revenge at last. But do I get it? Have I any chance of getting it? No, by jingo! Roosevelt has had it in for me since 1881, and he will not give it to me-not till my dying day, I wager. The one thing I want more than any other in all the world, and I cannot have it. Do you know-have you got any idea-how maddening that is?"

"I'm sure it must be, sir," Dowling said with some sympathy-some, but not much, for he'd been listening to Custer on the same subject for longer than he wanted to. Custer would not let it go. He clung like a bulldog, or, considering the bare natural state of his gums, perhaps more like a leech.

He took a couple of deep breaths, then went on, "We are fighting hard all across the plains. We have invaded western Virginia — so why, the brass hats in Philadelphia demand, don't I move? Idiots! Cretins! Imbeciles! Because Teddy Roosevelt has it in for me, they do, too. To them, Dowling, the Ohio and the Mississippi are little squiggly blue lines on a map, nothing more. I am the one who has to find the way across. Make arrangements at once to transfer headquarters to Vienna, Illinois, as soon as is practicable. Why are you still standing there gaping?"

"I'll attend to it immediately, sir," Dowling promised. Custer had a point-throwing an army into Confederate territory wasn't going to be easy here. But if he thought his presence at the front would help things along, he was probably fooling himself. Whether he understood it or not, war had changed over the past fifty years. Most of the soldiers wouldn't know he arrived, and most of the ones who did know wouldn't care.

"And one more thing," Custer ordered. "Keep it secret. Half these Missourians and more than half the downstate lllinoisans wish they were Rebs. Our scouts may have trouble in Kentucky, but theirs, I have no doubt, enjoy a fine old time here."

"I'll take care of that, too, sir," Dowling said. "If the Germans can keep their plans secret from the damned Frenchmen they rule in Alsace-Lorraine, I expect we can keep the would-be Southerners from getting word of ours."

"We'd better." Custer bared his teeth in what was meant for a fearsome grimace. Since those teeth were far too white and even and perfect to have stayed in his own mouth for three-quarters of a century, the effect was more nearly ludicrous than frightening. Dowling quickly turned his back so the commanding general wouldn't see him giggle, then hurried off to do Custer's bidding.

Baking in the late summer sun, the plains of Kansas didn't look much different from the plains of Sequoyah just to the south. "Hellfire," Corporal Stephen Ramsay said, "once we got past the barbed wire, we ain't had any trouble a-tall."

"Good," Sergeant Bobby Brock answered. "We want to do this quick and get the hell out." He looked around at the two companies of cavalry. "We ain't got the men to stand up to any big bunch o' Yankee soldiers."

Both men-Ramsay little and lithe, Brock taller, thicker through the shoulders, and slower-moving-rode just behind the standard bearer. The Stars and Bars flapped lazily. Pointing to it, Ramsay said, "Maybe the damnyankees up in Kingman'll think that's the United States flag till we're right up on top of 'em. They look enough alike, now don't they?"

"Sure enough do," Brock agreed.

Ramsay liked to talk. "Anything that makes our job easier is all right by me," he said. "I don't expect any trouble here. Not even the Yankees got enough men to cover all the barbed wire on all the frontier. Our boys shoot off some cannon a ways east of us, they all go runnin' over there to find out what we're doin', an' we slip across easy as you please."

"Yeah." Brock let his horse, a big sorrel gelding, trot on for another few paces, then went on, "I wonder how many soldiers the Yanks got into our country the same kind o' way."

"However many there was, only way they'll come out is feet first," Ramsay said confidently. "They're only Yankees, after all. We licked 'em twice running, an' we'll do it again. Hellfire, war'll be over by winter, on account of they'll have done given up."

"That'd be good," Brock said, and let it go, from which Ramsay concluded his sergeant had some doubts. He shrugged. Bobby Brock could be a bit of an old lady sometimes, but you didn't want anybody else along when the fighting got serious.

They rode past a farmhouse. The farmer was out in his fields. He knew right off they were from the Confederate States, and started running like hell back to his farmhouse. "Shall we get rid of him, sir?" Ramsay asked the captain in charge of the raiders.

Captain Hiram Lincoln often made himself out to be the toughest bird around, maybe because he had such an unfortunate last name. But now he shook his head. "Can't waste the time," he said. "Fellow doesn't have any telephone wires goin' into his house, so he's not going to get word to anybody. We keep riding. We'll hit the railroad track pretty soon."

"Remind me again, sir," Ramsay said, bowing to the appeal to military necessity. "We going in west of Kingman or east?"

"West," Captain Lincoln answered. "The blockhouse they built to protect the railroad is on the east side of town. We don't want to tangle with that. Them damn machine guns, they're liable to take all the fun out of war."

The standard-bearer, a kid named Gibbons, pointed ahead to a smudge on the horizon. "Reckon that's Kingman, sir."

"Swing left," Lincoln told him. "We'll want to set ourselves on the track a couple miles away from town."

Up ahead, a church bell began ringing as if announcing the end of the world. A machine gun in the blockhouse began to chatter, but the bullets fell far short of the Confederates. Ramsay nodded to himself. Captain Lincoln had known what he was talking about, all right.

He glanced over to Brock. The sergeant nodded back at him. It was nice to have an officer who knew which end was up.

"There's the track," Lincoln said. "Let's go!"

They knew what to do. Some of them had grandfathers who'd done the same thing in the War of Secession. They had better tools for mischief than their grandfathers had used, though. Under Captain Lincoln's direction, the troopers fanned out to cover the demolition crew. The specialists got to work with their dynamite. One of them hit the plunger on the detonator.

Ramsay's horse shied under him at the flat, harsh bark of the explosion. Clods of dirt came raining down on him and the animal both; he hadn't moved back quite far enough. You could make a hell of a hole with dynamite, a hole that would take a long time to fill by pick-and-shovel work. The explosive also did a good job of twisting rails out of shape. Till the Yanks brought in some fresh iron, they weren't going to be using this line to ship things from one coast to the other.

Dismounting, Ramsay gave the reins to a cavalryman who was already holding two other horses. Then he went over to the pack animals and started pulling crowbars off the panniers they carried to either side. "Come on, boys!" he shouted. "Let's tear up some more track."

The Confederates fell to work with a will, laughing and joking and whooping as they separated the iron rails from the wooden ties that bound them. The demolition men used gasoline to start a fire on the prairie. They didn't worry about its spreading, as they would have back in their own country. If it got out of hand, that was the Yankees' problem.

"Come on!" Ramsay said again. He lugged a cross tie over to the fire and threw it in. The rest of the troopers followed his example. Then, several men to a rail, they hauled the lengths of track over and threw them in, too. They'd slump in the heat and have to be taken to an ironworks to be straightened.

They had one rail left to cast into the fire when gunshots rang out in the east, over toward Kingman: not just rifle shots, but the hard, quick chatter of a machine gun. "Mount and form skirmish line!" Captain Lincoln yelled. "No more horseplay, not a bit-we've got some real work to do now."

Ramsay reclaimed his horse and sprang into the saddle. He checked to make sure he had a round in the chamber of his Tredegar carbine, then made sure his front pockets were full of fresh five-round clips. He had a cavalry saber, a copy of the British pattern of 1908, strapped to the left side of his saddle, but who could guess whether he'd get a chance to use it against a machine gun?

Captain Lincoln was holding a pair of field glasses up to his eyes. "Looks like they've got maybe half a company of horse," he said. "Half a company of horse and-uh-oh. They got one of those newfangled armored automobiles with 'em, too. That's where the machine gun is at." A predatory grin stretched across his face. "Well, let's go see what the contraption is worth. Move 'em out!" His voice rose to a shout again.

Before long, Ramsay could pick out the armored car without any help from field glasses. As it bounced over the prairie, it kicked up more dust than half a dozen horses would have. The Confederate pickets fell back before it; the Yankee horsemen, encouraged by the mechanical monster's presence, pursued a lot more aggressively than they would have otherwise, considering how outnumbered they were.

The armored car didn't move much faster than a trotting horse. The ma chine gun it mounted sat in a steel box on top of the superstructure; the gunner swung it back and forth through a slit in the metal, giving him about a ninety-degree field of fire. Ramsay waved toward the vehicle. "We get around to the side and it can't hurt us," he called to the squadmates who rode with him.

He rapidly discovered that wasn't quite true. Not only did the gun traverse in its mounting, but the driver, by swinging the front end of the armored car this way and that, could bring it to bear on targets it wouldn't have been able to reach otherwise. And the Yankee troopers were doing their best to make sure the Confederates couldn't outflank the ugly, noisy thing, anyhow.

A bullet cracked past Ramsay's head. The noise-and the fright it gave him-made him realize this wasn't practice any more. The U.S. soldiers were doing their damnedest to kill him, and their damnedest, by the way his comrades and their horses were crashing to the ground, was better than he'd expected. He'd never seen combat before, not even fighting Mexican bandits along the frontier with the Empire. His cherry was gone now, by Jesus.

He raised his carbine to his shoulder and fired at a green-gray-clad Yankee. The fellow did not pitch from the saddle, so he had to have missed. He worked the bolt to get rid of the casing and chamber a fresh round, then fired again. Another bullet zipped past him, and another. Now he didn't bother looking after he fired, to see what effect each round had. The more he put in the air, the better his chance of hitting something.

A lot of bullets were hitting the armored car. The sound of them rattling off its side put Ramsay in mind of hail hitting a tin roof. But the car kept on coming, like an ironclad smashing its way through a navy of wooden ships. The comparison was apt, for it was doing more damage to the Confederates all by its lonesome than all the troopers who came with it.

Bobby Brock made a noise somewhere between a groan and a scream. There was a neat hole in the front of his uniform tunic. As he slumped down over his horse's neck, Ramsay got a look at the hole the bullet had made going out through his back. That wasn't neat at all. It looked more as if somebody had set off half a stick of dynamite in his chest.

The trooper right alongside of Brock went down as his horse took three bullets-neck, barrel, and hock-from that damned machine gun in the space of a second and a half. The cavalryman pulled himself free, but he didn't bounce to his feet. Having a horse fall on your leg wasn't the best thing that could ever happen to it.

For a couple of dreadful minutes, Ramsay was afraid the armored car would win the little battle all by its lonesome, even though the Confederate troopers were mopping the floor with the damnyankees whenever they could engage them away from the car with its machine gun. But then the vehicle, all of its tires shot out, slowed to walking pace and, when it went into a hole, couldn't pull itself out no matter how the engine growled and roared and sent up clouds of stinking exhaust.

Ramsay threw back his head and let out the catamount wail of a Rebel yell. "Damn thing is stuck, boys!" he shouted. "Now we can get around behind it and settle the rest of these bastards."

The Confederates went wide to right and left around the bogged-down armored car, getting away from the deadly arc of fire its machine gun could command. Once that gauntlet was run, chasing the Yankee cavalry back toward Kingman proved the work of only a few minutes.

"And now we settle with this goddamn thing," Captain Lincoln said, riding toward the armored car from the rear. The machine gunner proved to have a firing port in the back of the steel box that enclosed him. He banged away with a pistol. The range was still long for a handgun, and he missed. Captain Lincoln yelled, "Parley, dammit!" The U.S. soldier held his fire. Lincoln said, "You come out of that damned iron turtle of yours, or we'll chuck a couple of sticks of dynamite under it and blow y'all to kingdom come."

With a squeal of metal against metal, a hinged roof on top of the armored car and a door in its side came open. The machine gunner stood up with his hands in the air and the driver stepped out. "All right, you've got us," the gunner said with a grin, sounding and looking a lot more jaunty than he should have, considering how much damage he'd done to good Southern men and horses. "Take us and-"

He never got any farther than that. Somebody's carbine barked at almost point-blank range. The back of his head blew off in a spray of blood and brain and bone. He collapsed, dead before he knew what hit him. With a cry of horror, the armored-car driver tried to dive back into his machine. Several more shots stretched him lifeless beside it.

"Chew our people up and make like it's a game you can just walk away from, will you?" Ramsay said. He hadn't fired at the men who'd surrendered, but he didn't miss them a bit, either.

"You want to fight us, get on a horse and fight fair," somebody else added, which made troopers' heads bob up and down in agreement.

Captain Lincoln set his hands on his hips and snarled in exasperation. "God damn it to hell, now we got to blow up that machine," he said. "Otherwise the Yankees'll find the bodies like that and start shootin' our prisoners, too."

The armored car went up in a ball of flame as a stick of dynamite set off the gasoline in the fuel tank. Machine-gun bullets, ignited by the fire, added brisk popping sounds as they cooked off one after another.

"All right, we did what we came to do," Lincoln said, looking from the funeral pyre of the armored car to the wrecked stretch of track. "Let's get back home."

Ramsay was happy to obey. Yes, they'd done what they'd come to do, but the cost- Of every three men who'd left Sequoyah, only two were going back, and one of them was wounded. And all that, or almost all of it, from one armored car that bogged down pretty fast.

He spurred his horse up close to Captain Lincoln's. "Sir, what's cavalry supposed to do when we run into four or five of those machine gun-totin' machines, not just the one like we fought today?"

Lincoln didn't answer for so long, Ramsay started to wonder if he'd heard. The captain looked back over his depleted command. "I don't know, Corporal. I just don't know."

"Come on! Come on! Come on!" Captain Irving Morrell urged his men forward. Dust spurted up under his boots as, with every stride, he penetrated deeper into Confederate Sonora. "The faster we move, the less chance they have of setting up lines against us."

One of his soldiers, sweat soaking through his uniform as he slogged through the desert under the weight of a heavy pack, pointed up into the sky. "They already got their lines set, sir," he said.

Morrell hadn't heard the buzz of a spying Confederate aeroplane, but looked up anyhow. He burst out laughing. No aeroplane up there, just half a dozen vultures, all of them circling hopefully. "They won't get us, Altrock," he said. "They're waiting for us to feed 'em some Rebs."

"That must be how it is, sir," the infantryman agreed. He stepped up his pace to match that of his commander.

"You bet that's how it is," Morrell said, kicking at the light brown sandy dirt. "Didn't we give 'em a blue-plate special when we crossed from Nogales into New Montgomery?"

Several men nodded enthusiastically in response to that. The bombardment of the Confederate town had done everything it was supposed to do, silencing the enemy's guns and sending civilians streaming away in panic- white Confederates, their black servants and laborers, and the brown folk who'd lived there since the days before the Rebels bought Sonora from a Mexico strapped for cash to pay England and France what it owed. The garrison had fought, but they'd been outnumbered as well as outgunned. The way into Sonora, toward Guaymas and the Pacific end of the Confederate railway net, lay open.

Morrell meant to do everything he could to make sure that line got cut. He was a lean man in his mid-twenties, with a long face, light eyes, and sandy hair he wore cropped close to his skull. He gulped a salt tablet and washed it down with a swig of warm water from his canteen. Other than that, he ignored the sweat gushing from every pore. He ignored everything not directly concerned with the mission, and pursued everything that was with a driving energy that brought his men along, too.

"Come on!" he called again, stepping up the pace. "We've cracked the shell. Now we get to suck the meat out."

One of his first lieutenants, a big, gangly fellow named Jake Hoyland, moved up alongside him, map in hand. "Next town ahead is Imuris," he said, pointing. "There's some mines around there, too: copper mines. Cocospera." He read the name off the map with the sublime disregard for Spanish pronunciation growing up in Michigan gave him.

"The division will secure those, and the United States will exploit them," Morrell said. "We have an advantage over our German allies here, Jake."

"Sir?" Hoyland wasn't much given to strategic thought. He'd make captain one day, but he probably wouldn't rise much further than that.

Patiently, Morrell explained: " Germany is attacking France on a narrow front, and the French and the damned English can be strong against them all along it. We have about the population of Germany, and the Confederacy and Canada together close to the population of France, but we have thousands and thousands of miles of frontier with our enemies, not a few hundred. Except in a few places, defense in depth becomes impossible."

"Oh. I see what you mean." Maybe Hoyland even did. He pointed to the map again. "How will we exploit these Cocospera mines?"

"Probably with the niggers the Rebels brought in to work them," Morrell answered, shrugging. "That's not our worry. Our worry is to take them."

"Yes, sir." Now Hoyland wiped his face with his sleeve, leaving a smear of dust on his cheek. "Even hotter here than it was up in the USA, you ask me."

"We've only come twenty miles, for God's sake," Morrell said in some exasperation. "We've got a long haul before we get to Guaymas."

He looked back over his shoulder. Dust clogged the horizon to the north, hiding the men and horses and cannon and horse-drawn wagons and motor trucks that had stirred it up. He knew they were there, though, intent on sealing the western part of the Confederacy from the rest of the country: not only was Guaymas a railhead, it was the only real Pacific port the Rebels had. Shut it down and this part of the South withered on the vine.

The Rebels knew as much, too. Their frontier force had been smashed in the opening U.S. attack, but they were still doing what they could to resist. Off to the northeast of Imuris, the desert rose up into low, rolling hills. They'd mounted some three-inch field guns up on the high ground, and were banging away at the advancing U.S. column.

More dust rising from the U.S. left showed cavalry-or, more likely, mounted infantry-peeling off to deal with the Confederates. Those nuisance field guns had accomplished their objective: to distract some of the American force from its primary mission.

Morrell refused to be distracted. He scrambled between strands of barbed wire that marked the outer bounds of some ranch's property. He could see the ranch house and its outbuildings a couple of miles ahead, shimmering in the heat haze. As on the U.S. side of the border, ranches were big here; because water was scarce and precious and the ground scrubby as a result, you needed a lot of acreage for your stock.

He didn't see any of that stock. The owner, whoever he was {an old-time Mexican or a Southern Johnny-come-lately? Morrell wondered), had run it off to keep the U.S. forces from getting their hands on it. They'd probably run off themselves, too-with luck, so fast they hadn't had a chance to take everything out of the ranch house. Whatever they hadn't taken, the U.S. Army would.

A rifle barked, up ahead. A bullet kicked up dirt, maybe fifty yards from Morrell's feet. As if that first one had been a test, a fusillade of rifle shots rang out. Morrell threw himself flat on his belly. Somewhere behind him, a wounded man let out a breathless, angry curse.

From the volume of fire, the Confederates were there in about platoon strength. Morrell didn't hear the deadly chatter of a machine gun, for which he thanked God. Even after the bombardment of New Montgomery, machine guns in the ruins had chewed holes in the U.S. forces.

"We'll flank 'em out!" he shouted. "Hoyland, your platoon to the left; Koenig, yours to the right. Foulkes, I'll stay with your boys here in the center. We'll advance by squads. Let's go."

The Confederates had had time to dig themselves holes, and their dun-colored uniforms weren't easy to spot against the gray-brown dirt: here, at least, they matched the terrain better than the U.S. troops did. They could not let themselves be taken from the sides, though, and began falling back toward the ranch house and other buildings as their foes moved forward. Here and there, a brave man or two would stay in a hole and die in place, buying his comrades time to retreat.

One of those diehards popped up not ten feet from Morrell. The U.S. captain shot first. With a cry of pain, the Confederate fell back. He wasn't through, though; he tried to bring his rifle to bear once more. Morrell sprang down into the hole and finished him with the bayonet.

He got out and resumed the advance. "We can't let 'em get set," he said. "Press 'em hard, every one of you."

A U.S. soldier was already sprawled behind a woodpile near the house, firing at the Rebels inside. A body sprawled out through a window and poured blood down onto the flowers below.

With better cover, though, the Confederates were taking a heavy toll on the U.S. troopers. Firing came not only from the ranch house but also from the barn, the chicken coop, and what looked like a little separate smithy. Then three of Morrell's men rushed into the smithy. After a sharp, short volley, it became a U.S. strongpoint rather than a Confederate one.

But heavy firing still came from both the ranch house and the barn. Several men in butternut burst out of the barn and ran toward the house, which was closer to the advancing U.S. soldiers.

"Come on!" Morrell shouted to his own men. He burst from the cover of a scraggly bush and sprinted toward the Confederates, firing as he ran. They fired, too; a couple of bullets cracked past him.

He didn't have time to be afraid. He fired again, saw one man fall, worked the bolt on his Springfield, and pulled the trigger. His only reward was a dry click; he'd just spent the last round in the magazine. No chance to fumble for a fresh one. The Rebels couldn't have been more than twenty or thirty feet away. He'd always been pretty good with the bayonet. If he stuck one Confederate, maybe the rest would run. Shouting once more for his men to follow him, he rushed at the enemy.

The bullet caught him in the right thigh. The rifle flew out of his hands and crashed to the ground. So did he. Looking down at himself, he saw in mild surprise that a chunk of meat about the size of a clenched fist was missing from the side of his leg. Blood spilled out onto the hot, dry, thirsty ground.

He didn't hurt-and then he did. His groans were lost in the racket of gunfire. Nobody could come to retrieve him, not when he lay right between the two battling forces. Nobody fired at him to finish him off, either. He was not altogether sure that was a mercy. The fierce sun beat down on him.

Next thing he remembered, the sun was in a different part of the sky. Somebody was rolling him over onto his back. Did they think him dead? The very idea made him indignant. But no-Private Altrock was wrapping something around his leg.

"Get that belt good and tight," Lieutenant Hoyland said. "He's already lost a hell of a lot of blood."

"Yes, sir," Altrock said, and grunted as he pulled the makeshift tourniquet tighter.

"Did we-take the position?" Morrell asked, each word a separate effort.

"Yes, sir," Hoyland told him. "You take it easy now. We'll get you out of here." Off to one side, a couple of men were improvising a stretcher from two poles and a shelter half. When they were done, Altrock and Hoyland got Morrell onto it, lifting him like a sack of grain. He remembered the stretcher coming off the ground, but blacked out again after that.

He woke up out of the direct sun, looking up at green-gray cloth. A hospital tent, he thought dimly. A man in a gauze mask bent over him with an ether-soaked rag. "Wait," Morrell croaked. "If you go into close combat, make sure you've got the last bullet." The rag came down, and with it blackness.

III

The Dakota slowed to a crawl to let the fuel ship Vulcan come alongside. Sailors cursed and grunted as they wrestled with the hose from the Vulcan and started pumping heavy fuel oil into the battleship.

Seaman First Class Sam Carsten looked on the refueling process with something less than approval: he was swabbing the deck nearby, and saw more work piling up for him every moment. "Can't you lugs be careful?" he demanded. "Bunch of filthy slobs, is what you are."

"Sorry, mother dearest," one of the men on the refueling party said in a high, scratchy falsetto. His comrades laughed. So did Carsten, who leaned on his mop to watch the work go on. He laughed easily, even at himself. He was a big, slow-moving blue-eyed blond, his skin ever more sunburned these days.

"Wish we were back in San Francisco," he said wistfully. "It was right nice there-good weather for a paleface like me. Another couple days of this and you can spread me with butter and marmalade, because I'll be a piece of toast."

"It's hot, sure as hell," the other sailor agreed. Black oil stains spotted his dungarees. "It ain't near as hot as we're gonna make it for the goddamn limeys, though."

"That's right," another hose-handler agreed. He eyed Carsten. "You're gonna be toast, are you? Maybe we'll use you for the Sandwich Islands, then." He snickered at his own wit.

"Pretty funny," Carsten said amiably. He swabbed a few strokes to satisfy any watching petty officer, then took it easy again. He'd been in the Navy five years, and was used to its rhythms and routines. Things had sped up on account of the war, sure, but not that much: on a ship you had to do things by the numbers even in peacetime, which wasn't so true in the Army. He paused to roll himself a cigarette, lighted it with a match he scraped to life on the sole of his shoe, and sucked in a breath of smoke before going on, "Any luck at all, we'll cornhole the limeys but good."

"Cornhole 'em, hey?" one of the hose jockeys said. "I like that, damned if I don't. We're sure comin' up at 'em the wrong way."

"Yeah." Carsten plied the mop again. If you looked busy, people would figure you were. If you didn't, they'd find something for you to do, probably something you'd like less than what you were doing now.

As he worked, he thought again about cornholing the Royal Navy. The more he thought about it, the better he liked it. The U.S. Pacific Fleet had put to sea days before war was declared, sailing out of San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles and San Diego. The Seattle squadron was still up there, to face the British and Canadian ships based in Vancouver and Victoria. But the main fleet had swung west and south in a long loop around the western end of the Sandwich Island chain, and now "Wish we'd have beaten the British to annexing those damned islands," said the sailor with the oil-spotted dungarees. "Then we could have sailed from there 'stead of the West Coast, and we'd be steaming for Singapore."

"Or maybe for the Philippines," Carsten said. "The Japs, they're England 's good pals. One of these days, we kick them in the slats, too."

He tried to think like Admiral Dewey. If they could boot the British out of the Sandwich Islands, they booted them all the way across the Pacific, to Singapore and Australia. They'd have only the one chance, though; if things went wrong here, British battleships would be steaming up and down the west coast of the United States for the rest of the war, and there'd be damn all anybody would be able to do about it.

"So-we roll the dice," he muttered. If the Pacific Fleet took the Sandwich Islands away from England, the USA would have an easier time resupplying them than the British did now. They'd run around the chain so the limeys wouldn't spot them on the way in, and now they were picking up fuel for the last run on Pearl Harbor. One good surprise and the islands would be theirs.

One good surprise- Alarms began to ring. "Battle stations! Battle stations!" came the cry. "Aeroplane spotted. Not known whether hostile."

The fleet had launched a pair of aeroplanes a couple of hours before, to scout out what lay ahead. But were these American aeroplanes returning, or British machines doing some scouting of their own? If they were British, the fleet had to knock them out of the sky before they could report back to the Royal Navy and to the land-based guns defending Pearl Harbor.

Carsten's battle station was at the starboard bow, loading five-inch shells into one of the guns of the Dakota's secondary armament. He threw his cigarette over the side as he ran to the sponson. Bringing it in would have been his own funeral, except that the gunner's mate, a bruiser named Hiram Kidde, would have taken care of that for him.

Behind him, the hose went back aboard the Vulcan, as if an elephant had owned a retractable trunk. They had enough fuel on board for the attack, and they could worry about everything else later.

"You ready, Sam?" Kidde asked.

Carsten would have bet any money you cared to name that the gunner's mate would have beaten him there, no matter where he was on the ship when the call for battle stations rang out. He sometimes thought Kidde could just wish himself to the sponson from anywhere on board.

"Aye aye, 'Cap'n,' " Carsten answered, with a salute more extravagant than he would have given Dewey. "Cap'n" Kidde chuckled; he'd had the inevitable nickname for as long as he'd been in the Navy.

The sponson was tiny and cramped, with plenty of sharp metal corners to gouge your legs or your arms if you weren't careful. Bare electric bulbs in wire cages on the ceiling shed a harsh, yellow light. The place stank of paint and brass and nitrocellulose and old sweat, odors no amount of swabbing could ever wash away.

Kidde patted the breech of the gun- affectionately, as if it were a trollop's backside in some Barbary Coast dive in San Francisco. "Wish we had some high-explosive shells for this baby along with armor piercing. She'd make a hell of an antiaircraft gun, wouldn't she?"

"Damned if she wouldn't," Carsten said. "Have to fuse 'em just right, to burst around the aeroplane, but damned if she wouldn't. You ought to talk to somebody about that one, Mate, you really should."

"Ahh, it's just stack gas," Kidde said with a shrug. By then, the other loader and the gun layer were in their places. Luke Hoskins, the number-two shell jerker, was slower than he should have been. Kidde reamed him up one side and down the other with a tongue sharp enough to chip paint.

"Have a heart, 'Cap'n' Kidde," Hoskins said. "First decent shit I've had in three days, and the goddamn battle stations sounds when I got my pants around my ankles in the aft head."

"Tough," Kidde said flatly. "Next time, don't waste time wipin' your ass. It won't matter what you smell like-we get into a real scrap and we'll all be shittin' ourselves any which way."

Carsten laughed till he incautiously jerked around and barked his shin on the edge of an ammunition rack. He swore, but kept on laughing. Part of that was good nature, part of it nerves. He didn't try to figure out which part was which.

A runner came by with word that the aeroplane spotted had been one of the ones they'd launched. "He's floatin' on the water now an' the New York, it's fishin' him out of the drink with a crane," he reported. "Old Man says to stay at battle stations, though." He hurried away.

The gun crew looked at one another. If they were staying at battle stations, that meant they'd be heading toward Pearl Harbor for the attack. And, sure enough, the rumble of the big steam engines got louder as they picked up steam. The Vulcan and the rest of the support ships would be dropping behind now-this was a job for the warships and the transports that carried a regiment of Marines and a whole division of Army men toward Oahu.

Another man stuck his head inside the blazing-hot metal box where Carsten and his comrades waited for orders. Voice cracking with excitement, the sailor said, "Word is, the limeys ain't done much with their fleet, an' a lot of it's still in the harbor. We caught 'em with their pants down."

"You think it's really true?" Hoskins breathed.

"Why not?" Sam Carsten said. " Battle stations got you that way, didn't it?" The other seaman glared at him, but he wasn't easy to get angry at.

"If it's so," Kidde said, "you can serve those Englishmen up with tea and crumpets, because they're dinner. They hit us a low blow back in granddad's day, comin' in on the side of the Rebels. Now we give it back. Sweet suffering Jesus, do we ever! All those ships sittin' inside Pearl Harbor, waiting for us to smash 'em…" His smile was beatific.

Carsten peered through one of the narrow vision slits the sponson afforded. Torpedo-boat destroyers sprinted ahead of the battleships, their creamy wakes vivid against the deep blue of the tropical Pacific. The Dakota and her fellow capital ships were still picking up speed, too; the steel deck hummed and shuddered against his feet as the engines reached full power. They had to be making better than twenty knots. At that rate, it wouldn't be long until "There it is!" he exclaimed excitedly. "Land on the horizon! We'll give 'em what-for any minute now. Well- Holy Jesus!"

"What?" The rest of the gun crew, the ones who weren't looking out themselves, all shouted the question together.

"Harbor defense guns just opened up on us. They may not have known we were here, but they sure as hell do now."

He didn't see the shell splash into the sea. Almost a minute later, though, the sound of the great cannon reached him: a thunder that cut through not only the roar of the Dakota's engines but also the hardened steel armor of the sponson.

And then, bare seconds after that, the battleship's main armament cut loose, the two fourteen-inch guns in the forward superfiring turret and then the three from the A turret just below and ahead of it. He'd heard the noise from the distant British cannon; the roar of the guns from his own ship enveloped him, so that he felt it with his whole body more than with his ears. When the guns went off, the Dakota seemed to buck for a moment before resuming its advance.

Sailors crowded up to see what they could see. The shore and the harbor wouldn't be in range of their secondary armament for some time to come. It was like having a moving picture unreel right before your eyes, Carsten thought, except this had sound-all the sound in the world, not some piano-pounding accompanist-and bright colors.

More thunderclaps came from the guns of the other battleships in the fleet. The shore defenses sent up answering gouts of smoke and flame. This time, Carsten spied the splashes from a couple of shells. If you took a Ford, loaded it with explosives, and dropped it into the sea from a great height, you'd get a plume of water like that. Some of the splashes were close enough to the destroyers for the upthrown seawater to drench the men aboard.

"Christ!" Altogether involuntarily, Carsten turned away from his viewing slit. One shell from the salvo hadn't landed by a destroyer, but on it. The ship might suddenly have rammed headlong into a brick wall. In an instant, it went from a yappy little terrier leading the fleet into action to a pile of floating-or rather, rapidly sinking-wreckage.

"A lot of good men there," Hiram Kidde said, as if carving an epitaph on a headstone. So, in a way, he was.

The Dakota began to zigzag violently at what seemed like random intervals. Armored against such shells, it could take far more punishment than a thin-skinned destroyer. That didn't mean you wanted to be punished- anything but. "Cap'n" Kidde summed that up in one short phrase: "Hate to be zigging when we should have zagged."

"Wish you hadn't said that," Hoskins told him. The grin the gunner's mate gave him in return looked like a death's head.

Sam Carsten made himself look some more. A few men in life jackets bobbed in the water near the stricken destroyer. He hoped they'd get picked up before the sharks found them.

He raised his gaze to Oahu ahead. Shells slammed down around the forts holding the coast-defense guns. Smoke and dust rose in great clouds. But the guns kept pounding back in answer. And more smoke rose from within the sheltered waters of Pearl Harbor, smoke that did not spring from shells. Carsten said, "I think they're gonna come out and fight."

"They're in a bad way," Kidde said, relishing the prospect. "They can't just sit there and take it, but if they come out, we're going to cross the T on 'em."

Sure enough, one of the Dakota's zigs to port became a full turn, so that she presented her whole ten-gun broadside to the emerging British warships, which could reply only with their forward-facing cannon.

"Hit!" everybody screamed at once as gouts of smoke spurted from a stricken British vessel, and then again, a moment later, "Hit!"

The ships of the Royal Navy were firing back; across blue water, orange flame and black smoke belched from the muzzles of their guns. And their gunnery was good. With a noise like a freight train roaring past when you were standing much too close to the tracks, a salvo of three shells smashed into the ocean a couple of hundred yards short of the Dakota. The battleship heeled to port as the captain took evasive action.

"Wish I could see what was happening on the port beam," Carsten said. "Have they bracketed us?"

"Sam, is that somethin' you really want to know?" Kidde asked him. After a moment, Carsten shook his head. If they put one salvo in front of you and one behind, the next one came down right on top of you.

"We in range for our piece yet, 'Cap'n'?" Hoskins asked.

"Not quite, but we're gettin' there," the gunner's mate replied. But then the Dakota turned so the gun didn't bear on the enemy. Carsten pictured the turrets that housed the main armament swinging back into position to carry on the fight. You fought your ship to bring them to bear on the most important targets the enemy had. If a torpedo boat or destroyer made a run at you, the five-inchers like the one Carsten manned were supposed to settle its hash. They were good for giving shore batteries hell, too: batteries that weren't main harbor defenses, anyhow.

Now, though, all Carsten could do was stare out to sea and wait for his turn. It bothered him less than he'd thought it would. Out there were the transports with the soldiers and Marines. If they all landed safely, the Sandwich Islands would fly the Stars and Stripes. The odds looked good.

"Hell of a start," he muttered.

The dandy up from Charleston studied the painting with a curious and critical eye. His pose was so languid and exquisite, Anne Colleton thought, that he should have been wearing knee breeches and frock coat and sneezing after a pinch of snuff, not in a dinner jacket and smoking a fragrant Habana. His Low Country drawl only strengthened the impression of aristocratic effete-ness: "Upon my word, Miss Colleton, we surely have here an extraordinary series of contrasts, do we not?"

She brushed back a lock of pale gold hair that was tickling her cheek. "I can think of several," she said. Starting with, why are you here at Marshlands while both my brothers have gone to serve their country? But to say that out loud would have been impolite and, however often she flouted the code of a Confederate gentlewoman, she still adhered to some of it. And so, not a hint of worry showed in her voice as she went on, "Which ones cross your mind, Mr. Forbes?"

Alfred Forbes pointed to the canvas he had been examining. "First and foremost, hanging that sense-stretching cubist portrait and all these other pieces from Picasso and Duchamp and Gauguin and Braque and the other moderns here in this hall strikes me as making contrast enough all by itself." He examined the painting once more, then grinned impishly. "Are you sure it's right side up?"

"Quite sure," Anne replied, with less frost in her voice than she would have liked. Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase had been upside down for a day before anyone noticed. It hadn't been the fault of her Negro servants, either; a curator who'd accompanied the exhibition from Paris had made the mistake. They couldn't even ship him home in disgrace, not with Yankee and German warships prowling the Atlantic. She went on, "I'll have you know Marshlands was avant-garde in its day, too."

"No doubt, no doubt," Forbes said. Now his smile was somewhere between speculative and predatory. "But even should I have been so ungallant as to doubt, I could point out that yesterday's avant-garde is tomorrow's-" He checked himself.

"Yes?" Anne Colleton said sweetly. "You were about to say?"

"Tomorrow's treasured tradition, I was about to say," he replied. He'd probably been about to say something like tomorrow's crashing bore, but he'd managed to find something better. His blue eyes were so wide and innocent, Anne smiled in spite of herself.

She said, "Supposing that to be a contrast"-it was one that had amused her ever since she'd arranged to bring the sampler of the best of modern painting from Paris to the Confederacy-"what other odd juxtapositions do you find?"

"That you chose to hold the show here, among others," Alfred Forbes answered. "Worthy though St. Matthews is, it hardly ranks with Richmond or Charleston or New Orleans or even Columbia"-that, a Low Country man's dig at the decidedly Up Country capital of South Carolina-"as a center of cultural advancement."

"It does now," Anne said. "These works would never have been seen in the Confederate States if I hadn't made the effort"- and spent the money, she thought, although saying that would have been vulgar-"to bring them here. This is my home, sir. Where would you have me exhibit them? The New York Armory, perhaps?"

Forbes laughed out loud, showing off even white teeth. "Not likely! The next progressive Yankee I know of will be the first. When the USA ships in art from abroad, it's fat German singers in brass unmentionables bellowing about the Rhine while the orchestra does its level best to drown them out- presumably not in the said river."

Anne smiled again. "They deserve each other, the Yankees and the Germans." The smile slipped. "But we don't deserve either of them, and we have the Yankees on our border and the Germans helping to harry the coast."

"Which brings me to yet another contrast," Forbes said: "how long the exhibition was supposed to stay on these shores and how long it may actually be here. Wouldn't want these paintings sunk."

"No, though a Yankee ship captain would likely boast of having rid the world of them." Anne Colleton dismissed the USA with that sentence and a curl of her lip. But the USA was not so easily dismissed. "A pity the Royal Navy took such a beating in the Sandwich Islands last week."

"A date which will live in infamy for the British fleet," Forbes agreed sadly.

The butler approached with a silver tray. He wore white tie but, as if his dark brown skin were not enough to mark his status, his vest had stripes and the buttons on his cutaway were shiny brass, just as they would have been in London. "Something to drink, madam, sir?" he asked, his voice the bass pipe of an organ.

"Thank you, Scipio," Anne said, and took a crystal champagne flute.

Forbes took one, too. Scipio headed into the drawing room to serve some of the other art aficionados. "He's well spoken," Forbes remarked. "Can't say that for most of the niggers hereabouts-I can scarcely fathom their jargon."

"We had him specially trained in elocution," Anne said. "A butler, after all, reflects the standards of the house."

"Very true." Alfred Forbes raised his glass. "And here's to culture on the Congaree! Let New York keep the rancid Rhine; the wave of the future is here!"

Anne drank to that, quite happily. Forbes hung around and tried to draw her out, tried to make her interested in his admittedly handsome, well-groomed person. She could all but read his thoughts- a woman who is a patroness of cubist art is surely a woman with other modern ideas, and a woman with modern ideas is surely a loose woman. She pretended not to notice his hints. When he stepped forward to try to set his hand on her arm, she moved to one side: not in any offensive way, for he had not been offensive, but not permitting the contact, either. After a while, he gave up and went off to look at other paintings.

A couple in their fifties came up to scrutinize the Picasso. "Isn't it exciting?" the woman said. "You can see her back and her, er, bosom both together there. It's a whole new way of looking at the world."

"Maybe it takes special eyesight," the man replied with a dubious chuckle. The left sleeve of his jacket hung limp. Anne wondered whether he'd lost the arm during the Second Mexican War or, less romantically, in a railroading accident.

"Oh, Joseph, you are such a philistine," his wife-the wedding band sparkled on her ring finger-said in mock despair. They both laughed, comfortable as old shoes together, and, with a nod to Anne, went on to the next painting.

The salt of the earth, she thought with mingled admiration and scorn. Joseph and his wife, obviously, would never do anything scandalous, but they'd never do anything interesting, either.

Life should be interesting, she thought. If it's not, what point to living it? She felt like Eleanor of Aquitaine, free beyond the common limits of the world in which she lived. Royal birth had given Eleanor that freedom. Modern times were simpler: money did the job for Anne Colleton. The useless swamp along the Congaree aside, most of the land between St. Matthews and Columbia was Colleton cotton country.

She tapped a finger against the gleaming mahogany banister. Brains hadn't hurt Eleanor of Aquitaine, and they didn't hurt her, either. She'd doubled profits from the land in the five years since her father died, and they hadn't been low before. After a couple of protests more for form's sake than because they really wanted the job, her brothers had let her run the plantation as suited her. Why not? She let them have allowance enough to get into all the mischief they liked, and they liked quite a lot.

She'd grown used to patronizing Tom and Jacob in her mind. What they were getting into these days was worse than mischief. The casualty lists in the newspapers were hideously long, and the battles not going so well as everyone had been sure they would. Too many damnyankees, she thought bitterly.

And who would remember the Marshlands Exhibition of Modern Art now, except as the show that was going on when war raced around the world? She knew to the penny what the show had cost to set up and publicize. She'd made that back-she couldn't remember the last investment where she'd failed to turn a profit-and the artists had sold a good many works, but much of the fame that should have come to both the Marshlands mansion and to herself was gone forever now, lost in the cannon's roar. One more reason to hate the United States.

But, even if not quite so notorious as she'd hoped (in this modern age, what difference between notoriety and fame?), she was still free, and still reveling in that freedom. As she sometimes had before, she wondered how best to enjoy it.

Work for the vote for women? That thought had crossed her mind before, too. As she had when it last did, she shook her head. For one thing, advocates of suffrage were earnest to the point of boredom, and she did not want to be bored: life was too short for that. The cause, while worthy, reeked of bourgeois respectability. And, for another, South Carolina had only recently come to grant the vote to all white men, and its districts were so arranged that half of those white men or more might as well not have had it. Making headway against such resolute conservatism struck her as a long, slow job.

What then? She didn't know. She had time to find something. She was only twenty-eight, with the whole world stretched out before her.

That thought had hardly passed her mind when some sort of commotion broke out at the front of the mansion. She hurried forward to see what was going on. Looking out the window, she spied a new automobile near the mansion: a dusty Manassas, probably hired in St. Matthews. But getting out of it was…

She threw open the door and hurried forward, stopping to curtsy as her grandmother might have done before the War of Secession. "Mr. President!" she exclaimed. "I had no idea you would honor me with a visit here." Part of that was, Why didn't you telegraph ahead, dammit? But another part, a gloating part, said, Now people will remember this exhibition, by God!

Woodrow Wilson tipped his hat to her. "This is entirely impromptu, Miss Colleton. I'm due in Charleston tomorrow to christen a new submersible as she goes off the shipway there. When I remembered your showing was on the way down from Richmond, or at least not too far out of the way, I decided to stop and see the paintings that have the world so intrigued." His smile soured. "Frankly, this is more congenial to me than blessing another instrument of war."

"You are very welcome," Anne told him.

"I am glad to hear you say it," Wilson replied. "Your support for the Whig Party has been generous, and I certainly hope it may continue."

"I don't think you need to worry on that score," Anne said with a slow, thoughtful nod. She wondered just how impromptu the president's visit really was. Maybe Wilson himself didn't know. Politicians, in her experience, inevitably and inextricably mixed politics with every other facet of their lives- and her support for the Whigs had always been anything but ungenerous. She went on, "Please come in, Your Excellency. Don't stand there in the sun. If you had a heatstroke, they'd probably shoot me for treason."

Wilson smiled back. From everything she'd heard, he'd never been averse to smiling at a pretty woman. Anne knew her own good looks were about as useful to her as her money. Fanning himself with his straw hat, Wilson said, "I'm delighted to accept that invitation. Your climate here makes Richmond feel temperate by comparison, something many people would reckon impossible."

Servants-all save Scipio, who remained gravely impassive-gaped as the president of the Confederate States came into the Marshlands mansion, Anne Colleton on his arm. He let her guide him through the exhibition. He also let her shield him from people who might have pestered him. This time, she smiled inside, where it didn't show. Wilson knew who was important and who wasn't-and she was.

After gravely studying several of the paintings, the president turned to her and said, "This is why we fight, you know. To me, it is even more important than ties of blood and sentiment. Nothing so… so progressive as these works could possibly come into being in the United States or the German Empire. We truly are preserving civilization."

"Not just preserving it," Anne said. "Helping it grow."

"Of course." He accepted the correction with good grace, accepted it and took it as his own. But then the creases in his long, thin face got deeper. "The price, though, the price is dreadfully high. You have a brother in the service, don't you?"

"Two brothers," she answered proudly. The worry she couldn't help feeling she kept to herself.

"I hope, I pray, they will come through safely," Wilson said. "I do the same for every man in the Army and Navy. Too often-far too often already- my prayers have gone unanswered."

Before Anne could decide how to answer that, Scipio came back with his silver tray. "Would you like a glass of champagne, Your Excellency?" she asked the president.

"Thank you," Wilson said, and took one. So did Anne. He lifted his crystal flute to her. "To civilization, to victory, and to the safe return of your brothers."

"I'll gladly drink to that," Anne said, and did. She turned to Scipio. "You may go."

"Yes, madam." He bowed and went on his way, back straight, wide shoulders braced almost as if he were on parade.

"A fine-looking fellow," Wilson remarked. "Well-mannered, too."

"Yes, I'm lucky to have him here." Anne watched Scipio go. He did make an impressive servant, no two ways about it.

As butler, Scipio was of course a house servant, with quarters within Marsh lands for himself. But, not least because he'd been chief cook before becoming butler, he kept up a closer relation with the outside Negroes than most servants of similar station would have done. He knew how much the larder depended on their ingenuity and goodwill: if they said hunting and fishing weren't going well, how could he prove they were lying? But the outside food bill would go up, and he'd catch the devil for that from the mistress.

Lightning bugs flashed on and off as he made his way out to the rows of Negro cottages behind Marshlands. He had every right to make the trip, but glanced back over his shoulder anyhow. It wasn't the mistress he thought was staring at him: it was Marshlands itself. The three-story Georgian mansion had been sitting here for more than a hundred years, and seemed to have a life of its own, an awareness of what went on inside and around it. The mistress would have called that superstitious nonsense. Scipio didn't care what she called it. He knew what he knew.

Perhaps, today, he also still felt the presence of Woodrow Wilson, though the president had gone back to St. Matthews to reboard his train and continue on down to Charleston. His mistress associated with any number of prominent people-which meant he did, too, not that they paid him much attention. He was, after all, only a Negro.

A groom coming out of the barn stared at him through deepening twilight. "Evenin'," he said, nodding. "Almos' didn't rec'nize you-gettin' dark earlier nowadays."

"I is still me," Scipio answered. Wherever white folks could hear him, he talked like an educated white man. That was what the mistress wanted, and what she wanted, she got. Among his own people, he spoke as he had since the day he first began forming words. He hadn't made a mistake switching back and forth between his two dialects in more than ten years.

Candles and kerosene lamps lighted the Negro cottages. Marshlands had had electric lights for a long time now. The mistress had plenty of money for paintings, but for wires for the help? Scipio shook his head. If he held his breath waiting, he'd be blue under his black.

Some of the little brick cottages were already dark. If you worked in the fields sunup to sundown, you needed all the rest you could get sundown to sunup. But you needed a little time to live, too. From out of open windows and doors flung wide against the muggy heat came snatches of song, cries of joy or dismay as dice went one way or the other, and the racket of children. More children made more racket outside, running after one another and pretending to be soldiers. None of them ever admitted he'd been killed. Scipio shook his head again. Too bad the real war didn't work out that way.

Here and there, a mother or a father taught children to read, mostly from books and magazines and newspapers the white folks had thrown away. Scipio, who'd been in his teens when manumission came, remembered the days when teaching a Negro to read had been against the law. He'd managed to pick up the knowledge anyway, as had a good many of his friends-too many things were being printed to keep them all out of Negroes' hands. Black literacy was legal now, but South Carolina still had no school for Negroes.

Scipio walked past Jonah's cottage, and was surprised to find no light burning in there. Jonah and his woman Letitia were always ones for singing and playing and dancing and carrying on. When he got to Cassius' cabin, though, the door was open and light streamed out into the night.

"Is you in there?" he called: good manners, by the standards of the field hands. The mistress' standards were something else again. Scipio moved between two sets of etiquette as readily as he did between dialects. If he ever thought about how he did what he did, he probably wouldn't be able to do it any more.

"No, ain't nobody to home here," Cassius answered. That drew raucous laughter from whoever else wasn't in there with him.

Snorting, Scipio went inside. If you took Cassius seriously, you were in trouble. He'd pull your leg till it came off in his hands, then walk off and leave you to hop home without it. But he was also the best hunter on the plantation, and that had been so for a long time. If you wanted something special for the larder, as Scipio did tonight, he was the man to talk to, even if you had to take your chances on everything else.

Now Cassius threw a hand up before his eyes. "Lord, Kip, you gwine blind we, the light shinin' off them brass buttons that way." Again, his crew of rascals and easy women laughed with him. The only thing that surprised Scipio about the inside of the cottage was that he didn't see any quart whiskey bottles on the mantel or sitting atop one of the rickety tables-or clamped in somebody's fist.

Cassius and the rest of the male field hands wore unbleached cotton shirts and trousers with no shape to them, nothing like Scipio's fancy suit of clothes-though better suited to this breathless heat. A couple of them had bright bandannas on their heads or wrapped around their necks to give themselves a spot of color. The women, by contrast, were in eye-searing calicoes and plaids and paisleys, with no shade of red too hot, no green too vibrant.

"You done been talking wid de president," Cassius said. "You don' reckon you too good to talk wid de likes of we now?"

"I talks wid de president," Scipio agreed with a weary sigh. "De president, he don't talk wid me. You hear what I say?"

Cassius nodded. That was how things worked for blacks in a white man's world. "So-what kin I do fo' you this day, Kip?" he asked. "You come here, you always want somethin'." It could have been an accusation, but it came out like a good-natured joke, which relieved Scipio, for it happened to be true.

In spite of that invitation, coming straight out with what you wanted was rude. "Where Jonah?" Scipio asked. "I see he cabin dark, an' he usually carry on damn near much as you do."

"Jonah?" Cassius shook his head. "He ain't here no more, not he. He leff this afternoon. Gone fo' good, I reckon."

"He leff. What you mean, Cass, he leff? That nigger pick cotton here since he big enough to do it, an' Letty, too."

"Not no mo'," Cassius said. "He say he light out fo' Columbia, he work in one o' them factories makin' shells and things."

Scipio stared. "They don' let no niggers work in they factories. Those is jobs fo' white folks, nobody else."

"Whole powerful lot o' white folks is gone to be sojers," Cassius pointed out. "But they still got to have they shells to shoot, o' the damnyankees kick they butts. Nigger kin do the job, nigger gonna get the job. They don' pay he like he was white folks, so the factory bosses, they happy, an' Jonah, he happy, too, 'cause they do pay more'n he make here. An' Letty, she gwine try an' fin' work at one of they textile plants takin' care o' the cotton after it picked 'stead o' befo'."

"Mought do that my own self," said one of Cassius' friends, a big man called Island for no reason Scipio had ever been able to learn. "Mo' money fo' less work sound right good."

"Mo' money, yeah," Cassius said. "Less work?" He snorted. "When you ever know white folks give mo' money 'cep' fo' mo' work, an' heaps o' times not then, neither."

Island thought about that, then nodded. But he said, "Hard to think o' anything bein' mo' work'n growin' cotton."

Scipio, who knew how lucky he was to have escaped the fields, also nodded. Plenty of field hands would think the same way; he was sure of that. Jonah and Letitia wouldn't be the only ones to head off the plantation for the factory. He was sure of that, too. And how would the mistress like it? Not much, he figured. Could she do anything about it? He wasn't sure about that. She was a power, but not the only one in the state, not by a long shot.

Marshlands, though, wasn't the state. Here, for those who remained here, her word was still law. Scipio said, "Mistress want a couple gobblers for she dinner party tomorrow night. Kin you get 'em, Cass?"

"Reckon I kin," the hunter answered. His eyes, cool and confident, flicked to the shotgun above the mantel. "Yeah, reckon I kin."

Scipio's eyes also went to the gun and the mantel. On the length of pine wood sat a pamphlet or little book, upside down and open. "What this?" Scipio asked, and reached for it, expecting to find a religious tract. And sure enough, the bright blue paper cover said,

DR.GILRAY'S COLLECRION OF CHRISTIAN HYMNS, PRINTED IN RICHMOND, CSA, IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1912.

Idly, he picked it up, wondering what hymn Cassius, who'd never struck him as pious, was learning. At that same moment, Island slammed the door to the cottage shut. Scipio hardly noticed. He was staring down at the page to which the pamphlet had been opened. The printing was as bad and smudgy as he'd expected. The words were anything but what he'd expected: Of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class. The other classes decay and finally disappear in the…

He noticed how quiet it had grown inside the cottage. He looked up from the page and saw Cassius and Island and the rest of the people who'd been in there with him, and how they were all staring at him. He didn't like what he saw in their eyes. Those intent looks frightened him even more than the book he held in his hands, and that wasn't easy.

"Do Jesus!" he said softly. "The mistress find out you got this, she not gwine whip you. She gwine hang you. Ain't gonna bother with no law, ain't gonna bother with no cou't. Niggers what spread revolutionary propaganda"-he brought out those two words in his educated voice, as he'd never imagined saying them in the dialect he'd been born speaking-"they gots to die."

"We knows," Cassius said, just as softly. "So they kills we fast 'stead of slow. So what? White folks, they in this big war. They ain't got time to pay no attention to we, we who is doin' they work fo' they. One fine day, they ain't 'spectin' it nohow, the revolution come. It a whole new world then."

"Come the revolution," one of the women- Cherry, her name wassaid with a longing croon in her voice, the way a lot of women sounded in the clapboard Baptist church of a Sunday morning, praying for Jesus' second coming. "Come the revolution, this here gwine be a different country, it sho' will."

Something glittered in Island 's hand- a knife. Scipio watched it with horrified fascination. He gathered himself to fight, knowing how bad his chances were. Island glanced over at Cassius. "We got to shut he up. He a house nigger, tell everything he know to the mistress."

Somehow- perhaps by magic- Cassius had produced a knife, too. Al most meditatively, he said, "Kip here, he have the chance to do me wrong plenty times. He never do it oncet, not even. He even take the blame hisself when huntin' go bad. Maybe he keep a secret here, too. Kip, what you think o' that book you holdin'?"

"I think niggers rise up against white folks, we get licked," Scipio answered truthfully. "I think I wish I wasn't so curious." How long had Karl Marx been here at Marshlands? The mistress didn't have the first notion Red revolution was simmering under her nose. Scipio hadn't the first notion, either. What was that white poet's line? Ignorance is bliss, that was it. That white folks had known what he was talking about.

Cassius said, "Mos' times, sho', we get licked. Ain't so many guns away from the border, now. Ain't so many white folks to tote 'em, neither. We rise up, they gonna use they army 'gainst we? Damnyankees tromp they into the mud, they try that." He wasn't arguing; he'd already made up his mind, and might have been a preacher talking about the Gospel. His gaze sharpened. "Now, tell me true, Kip- you gwine say about this to the mistress?"

"Not a word," Scipio declared. He thought about adding some strong oath to that, but in the end held his tongue. It was likelier to make Cassius and the others think he was lying than to make them believe him.

"I still say we stick he," Island said.

But Cassius shook his head. "I don' think he talk. He pay if he do, on account of we ain't the onliest ones here, an' he don' know who all we is. An' mistress, she don' know 'bout, she don' care 'bout no revolution. All she care about them crazy paintings, look like 'splosion in a shingle factory. She don' sniff roun', way some masters do. She start changin' she mind 'bout that, Kip, he tell us. Ain't that so, Kip?"

"That so," Scipio agreed through dry lips. Too much had happened too fast today. Having President Wilson come to Marshlands was a surprise. Knowing Karl Marx had come to Marshlands was a shock. Finding out Marx had come to Marshlands had almost proved deadly.

But he would live. His legs swayed under him in reaction and relief. Then he realized how he would be living from here on out. Playing both ends against the middle didn't begin to describe it. A phrase a preacher had used a few weeks before fit better. Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea: that was how he felt, all right.

Corporal Chester Martin paused behind an oak to spy out the ground ahead. Somewhere not far ahead was the Confederate strongpoint his squad had been sent out to find. In this miserable country, they were liable to find it by blundering onto it, in which case none of them would be able to bring the news back to the artillery so the boys with the red piping on their hats could give it a good walloping.

"I think God had His mind on something else when He was making this part of Virginia," he muttered under his breath.

One of his privates sprawled beneath a bush close enough to let him hear that mutter. Roger Hodges chuckled, almost inaudibly. "You ought to know better'n that," he answered in an upcountry twang that said he'd been born not far away. "God ain't had nothin' to do with it. This here part of the world is the Devil's business, and no mistake."

"Won't get any arguments from me," Martin answered. "Nothin' but up-and-down mountains and trees and brush and little creeks that don't go anywhere. The couple-three farms we found, they look like they're right out of Daniel Boone. And the people talk even funnier than you do, Roger. Hell of a place to try and fight a war, that's all I got to say."

"Captain said do it, so we do it." Hodges sighed.

With a chuckle, Chester slapped him on the back. "You've got the right attitude, that's for damn sure." He wasn't supposed to let a soldier know he liked him- that was bad for discipline. But he had a hard time hiding it when he was around Roger Hodges. The West Virginian took to the business of war the way a duck took to water. He was always ready, always resourceful, and groused as if he'd been in the Army for thirty years: when he complained, it was about things that mattered, not the little stuff that couldn't be helped or didn't count anyhow.

Smiling still, Martin grunted and slid forward another few feet toward the top of Catawba Mountain. He wasn't a mountain man himself-he'd been working in a steel mill in Toledo when his regiment was mobilized-but even these early days of the war had impressed on him the need to be careful with every move you made. The Confederates didn't have anywhere near the numbers of the U.S. force that had entered enemy territory from West Virginia, but the men they did have in the Alleghenies might all have been born there by the way they used the rough country to bushwhack one unit after another, then fell back to the next high ground and did it all over again.

"This here's the last piece of high ground they got to play with for a while, though," he muttered to himself, wiping his face with a sleeve. He wasn't altogether sorry so much of the fighting had been under the trees. He had the pale, freckled skin that went with green eyes and sandy hair, and sunburned easy as you please.

His wasn't the only squad looking for Rebel positions on Catawba Mountain. When the U.S. forces found those positions, they found them all at once. A rifle shot or two rang out, and then the deadly hammering of machine guns. Martin threw himself flat as bullets stitched through the trees, clipping leaves and twigs and men. The smell of mud and mold was thick in his nostrils. Better that, he thought, than the latrine stink of somebody with a belly wound. He'd been watching friends die ever since the Army crossed the border. He didn't want to do it again. He didn't want anybody watching him die, either. He didn't want that at all.

"See any of the bastards?" he called to Hodges.

"Nope," the West Virginian answered. Martin smacked a fist into the ground in frustration. Hodges lived in country like this. If he couldn't tell what was going on, how was a city boy supposed to manage? Hodges went on, "Reckon they dug themselves holes to hide in, make it harder for we-uns to find 'em."

"You're probably right," Martin said, scowling. "They probably had niggers up here, too, diggin' those holes for 'em. Probably took 'em out of the iron mines around Big Lick, brought 'em to work while we were fighting our way up this far, then took 'em back down again."

"I expect that's how it went, all right," Hodges agreed. "They don't give niggers guns, but they're worth almost as much as soldiers, way they free up white men to fight."

Messengers from the squad that had first developed the Confederate position must have got back to the artillery, because shells began whistling down on the enemy line. Some of them fell short; one burst only a dozen yards or so from Martin, showering him with clods of dirt and sending shrapnel balls whistling malignantly above his head.

"Sons of bitches!" Hodges shouted through the din. "They're more dangerous to us than they are to the damned Rebels!"

The barrage went on for half an hour. More shells fell short. Not far away, somebody screamed like a lost soul. You got hurt just as bad if your own side nailed you as you did from an enemy shell.

When the bombardment abruptly ended, whistles blew up and down the American line, piping like insistent sparrows. Martin scrambled to his feet, ignoring the pack that weighed him down like a mule. "Come on, you lugs!" he shouted to his men. "Let's go get 'em!"

Fear made his feet light as he rushed toward the Confederate line. That hadn't been a very long pounding, and the little mountain howitzers that were the only guns able to move up through this god-awful country hardly threw any kind of shell at all. Plenty of Rebels would be left to draw beads on the oncoming men in green-gray. Maybe one of them was drawing a bead on his brisket right now.

Roger Hodges, light on his feet as a gandy dancer, sped past Martin. Then he tripped and staggered and started to fall, but was arrested by something just above waist high. "Wire!" he wailed in despair.

That was the last thing he ever said. As he hung there writhing, trying to twist free of the iron barbs that snagged him, two bullets smacked home in quick succession. They sounded like fists. He still hung after that, but no longer writhed.

Martin cautiously approached the area where his squadmate had found the wire the hard way. The Confederates hadn't made a real belt of it, just two or three strands to slow up their attackers. That had been all they needed to pot poor Roger Hodges.

If you knew the wire was there, a few snips with a cutter and you were through it. Martin ran on. Now he could see the Rebels' firing pits, and the flames that spurted from the muzzles of their rifles whenever they pulled trigger. All those flashes seemed aimed right at him. The Confederates were much more readily visible than his own comrades, who took advantage of every bit of cover they could find.

For the last few yards, there was no cover. Yelling like fiends, U.S. troopers were crossing those yards and routing out the Confederates with rifle fire and with bayonet. Chester Martin yelled, too. It helped, not much but a little. He sprinted toward the nearest hole he saw. He was almost there when a big fellow in butternut popped up in it and started to bring his rifle to his shoulder.

Martin shot from the hip. Drill sergeants said you never hit anything that way. He proved them right, because he missed. But he didn't miss by much, and he did rattle the Rebel enough to make him miss, too. The man never got a chance for a second shot; Martin's bayonet punched into his throat while he was still working the bolt to his rifle.

Blood sprayed into Martin's face. The Confederate made a horrible gobbling noise and clutched both hands to his neck. He swayed, tottered, and fell. In dozens of little fights like that one, the U.S. soldiers cleared the Rebels from their line. The Confederate machine guns fell silent. The men who fought under the Stars and Bars were brave enough and to spare; most of them died rather than retreating. A few plunged back into the trees and made for their next line, up closer to the crest of Catawba Mountain.

Martin looked around for his squad, trying to keep some order as the Americans advanced. Roger Hodges he didn't need to worry about; he already knew that. He was jolted, though, to find he had only five men with him. Another soldier was dead besides Hodges, he heard, and three more wounded.

As they formed up, one of his privates, a tall blond kid named Andersen, said, "If we lose half our guys every time we attack, how long till nobody's left any more?"

He'd probably meant it for a joke, the kind of graveyard humor that came naturally in the middle of a battle. But Chester Martin had the sort of mind that figured things out. Lose half the squad in the next attack and you'd have three left. Do it again and you'd have one and a half-say two, if you were lucky. Do it one more time after that and you'd be down to your last guy. No law said that guy had to be Corporal Martin, either.

By the looks on the soldiers' faces, they were working through the same calculation, and not liking what they came up with any more than he did. He paused to roll himself a cigarette and then, after he'd lighted it, to go through the pockets and pack of the Rebel he'd killed for whatever tobacco he had on him. The little cloth sack in which the fellow had carried his fixings had blood on it, but there was nothing wrong with the fine Virginia weed inside. Martin stuck it in his own pocket.

Handling the enemy's corpse gave him the answer, or part of it. He pointed to the body, and then to all the other sprawled corpses in the defense line the American troops had stormed. "Cost us a good bit to get here, yeah," he said, "but it cost them plenty, too, trying to hold us back. And we did what we were supposed to, and the Rebels didn't. Besides"-he pointed back the way he'd come-"we've got replacements moving up behind us, to help on the next push. Won't be us right on the shit end of the stick all the damn time."

That seemed to satisfy his men. And, sure enough, reinforcements were coming up, soldiers whose green-gray uniforms were less draggled than his own and who stared, mouths and eyes open wide, at bodies and pieces of bodies lying on blood-soaked grass and dirt. The sight of a few glum Confederate prisoners, some of them wounded, being hustled off to the rear did not seem an adequately glorious compensation.

"Come on, you birds," Martin called; the second-line soldiers' sergeants looked to be as stunned as any of the men they were supposed to be leading. "This is what it looks like; this is what they pay us for. Ain't you glad you was drafted?"

"That's telling them, Corporal," said Captain Orville Wyatt, the company commander.

Martin hadn't seen him since the attack started. "Glad you're okay, sir," he said.

"Now that you mention it, so am I," Wyatt said offhandedly. He was about thirty-five, with a little thin mustache instead of the more common Kaiser Bill. It suited his long, thin, pale face better than a Kaiser Bill would have; Martin had to admit as much. He didn't know how the devil the captain would get through the war with a pair of steel-framed spectacles riding his nose, but that was Wyatt's problem, not his. The company commander knew his business, which was what counted most.

Some of the Rebs who'd run off into the woods hadn't run all the way back to their next line after all. Instead, they started sniping at the U.S. troops who'd taken away their firing pits and trenches. A couple of groups of cursing Americans turned the captured machine guns around and fired long bursts at the trees upslope. That reduced the enemy fire but didn't stop it.

Somewhere- probably on the reverse slope of the mountain- the Confederates had a battery of their quick-firing three-inch howitzers. Martin had already come under fire from them, and didn't like them worth a damn. Now shells started landing in and around the captured line- not a lot of shells, and not very accurately delivered, but not the sort of greeting he wanted, either. As with fire from your own guns, you were just as dead from a lucky hit as you were if somebody drew a bead on you and drilled you through the chest.

Captain Wyatt, as if annoyed at untimely rain, remarked, "We're not going back, and I don't much fancy staying here. Only thing left to do is advance."

Martin tossed the tiny butt of his cigarette into the dirt and ground it out with his heel. "You heard the man," he told his squad-or what was left of it. "Into the woods we go, off to Grandmother's house. Keep your eyes open and watch where you set your feet. We already know there's wolves in there."

His men chuckled. If you laughed, you could let on that you weren't scared. Your buddies would believe it, or make like they did. If you got lucky, you might even believe it yourself.

They'd gone a couple of hundred yards farther up the mountain, trading shots with Confederates they couldn't see and who- God willing- had trouble seeing them, too, when they came to a clearing, an oval meadow maybe two hundred yards wide and a hundred across. It would have been the most inviting place in the world, except for the machine gun hammering away from the far side of it.

"Can't just charge that," Martin said, almost as if someone had asked him to do it. "We'd have dead piled up higher out there than they did at Camp Hill." His grandfather had been wounded in that fight. He'd worn a peg leg ever afterwards, and counted himself lucky to come out alive.

"We'll have to flank it out," Captain Wyatt agreed, and the corporal let out a silent sigh of relief. In spite of knowing what he was doing, Wyatt was a West Point man, and sometimes they got funny ideas about being duty-bound to die for their country. Chester Martin was more in favor of living for his country.

Captain Wyatt sent him and his squad around to the left of the clearing and another one off to the right. Martin and his men never made it to the machine gun. A couple of Rebels in the woods held them up and wounded one of them before they finally got flushed out and killed. Private Andersen didn't say anything, but his gloomy features had I told you so written all over them.

A fusillade of rifle fire put an end to the machine gun's deadly chatter. "Wonder what that cost," Andersen said glumly.

"Ahh, shut up, Paul," Martin told him. "If you aren't demoralizing the rest of the guys, you're sure as hell demoralizing me."

They swarmed on up toward the top of Catawba Mountain. The forest was full of men in green-gray now, with just enough Rebels in butternut lurking and shooting from concealment to make everybody jumpy and trigger-happy and to make sure that, every so often, a U.S. soldier got shot by his own buddies instead of the Confederates. Martin would have sworn that a couple of near misses came from behind him, not ahead, but what could you do except hope you didn't draw the short straw?

This time, he and his men found the Confederate barbed wire before it found them. Cutters clicked; the wire went twangg! as the tension on it was released. As before, the Rebs had run up only a couple of strands, not enough to impede troops who were alert for it-and a lot of men who hadn't been alert before were dead now.

Martin crawled and snaked forward till he could see the earth the Confederates-or rather, their Negro laborers- had thrown up in front of their firing pits. More and more U.S. soldiers joined him in the bushes, blazing away at the Southerners in the firing pits. Whistles sounded, up and down the line. Screaming like fiends, Martin and his comrades sprang to their feet and rushed the Confederate position.

As before, the fight was sharp but short; the U.S. forces had brought enough men forward that the advantage fighting from cover gave their foes wasn't enough to check them. "Come on!" Captain Wyatt shouted, even before the last Rebels in the line had been slain. "We're almost at the top of the mountain."

Still yelling, their blood up, the soldiers followed him and other officers on past the wrecked Confederate line. And, sure enough, another couple of hundred yards took them to the crest. Martin looked east toward the Roanoke River, toward the iron town of Big Lick on this side of it, toward the smokes rising from it and from the mines close by, toward the other stream of smoke from the train chugging out of the station: Big Lick was a major railroad junction. Once the U.S. Army fought its way down the mountain and to the river, it would badly hurt the Confederacy here.

A shot rang out, seemingly from nowhere. Not twenty feet from Martin, a private clutched at his throat and fell. "They've got snipers in the trees, the sneaky bastards!" somebody shouted.

"We'll get 'em out," Martin said grimly. Only a few miles separated him from Big Lick. He wondered how long it would take to get there.

Lucien Galtier clucked to his horse and flicked the reins. The horse snorted reproachfully, twitching its ears in annoyance. "I mean it, you old fraud," Galtier told it in his Quebecois French. "Do you want me to get out the whip and show you I mean it?"

The horse snorted again and got the wagon moving a little faster. Galtier chuckled under his breath. He and the horse had been playing this game for the past ten years. He hadn't used the whip since summer before last. He didn't expect to need it for another year or two more. They understood each other, the horse and he.

Drizzle slid down out of a leaden sky. He pulled his hat lower over his face-dark heavy eyebrows, swarthy skin, deep-set brown eyes, a goodly nose above a mouth that was almost a rosebud, dimpled chin in need of shaving- and wished he'd put on oilskins like the sailors wore. His shrug might have come from Paris. Not even a farmer could guess right about the weather all the time. Not even a saint can do that, he thought.

He couldn't see far through the rain. He didn't need to see far, though. He knew where he was-a couple of miles outside Riviere-du-Loup on the St. Lawrence River. The countryside was the same here as everywhere else in the neighborhood-farmland with wooden houses painted white, with the beams of the red-painted roofs projecting forward to create a veranda. Because of the drizzle, he couldn't see the tin spires of the churches in St.-Modeste and St.-Antonin, but he knew they were there. To look at things, all was as it might have been 250 years before.

And then, as he drew nearer to Riviere-du-Loup, things changed. The land grew pocked with shells, and the neat farmhouses and outbuildings were neat no more, but many of them charred ruins. The Canadians and British had made a stand, trying to keep the damned Americans from reaching the St. Lawrence. They'd failed.

"It is a terrible thing, war," Galtier told his horse. He and his ancestors hadn't seen the thing close up in a century and a half, not since the days when the British took Quebec away from France. It was here now, though. His nostrils twitched. Even through the rain, he could smell the sickly sweet odor of dead horses-and maybe dead men, too.

His horse also knew the odor for what it was, and made a nervous, snuffling noise. "Go on," Lucien told it. "Go on, my old. It cannot be helped and must be endured." How many times had his father said that to him and his brothers and sisters? How many times had he said it to his two sons and four daughters?

Boom! With a snort of fright, the horse stopped dead. Galtier wondered if he'd have to use the whip after all. Boom! Boom! Having reached the St. Lawrence, the Americans had put a battery of field guns with their wheels right on the edge of the bank. Now they were shooting at merchant ships on their way down to Montreal, ships whose captains hadn't got the word that the southern bank was in enemy hands. Boom! Boom!

Just when Lucien was reaching for the whip, the horse let out a human-sounding sigh and went on. Before long, the church spires of Riviere-du-Loup loomed out of the mist ahead. The town, which sat on a spur of rock that projected out into the St. Lawrence, was bigger than St.-Modeste and St.-Antonin put together, big enough to boast several churches, not just one. When Father Pascal had had perhaps a glass of wine too many, he talked about Riviere-du-Loup's being a bishopric one day. Like everyone else, Lucien listened and smiled and nodded and didn't hold his breath.

Boom! Boom! Now the sound of the artillery mingled with the plashing roar of the waterfall that plunged off the rock of Riviere-du-Loup and down ninety feet into the great river below. Boom! Like every other man his age, Galtier had done his time in the Army. He'd been an infantryman, like most conscripts, but he knew a little something about artillery. He wondered how the devil the fool of an American could find a target, let alone hit it, in this wretched weather.

Houses grew closer together as he came into town. Artillery had wrecked some of them. Once, a whole block was nothing but burnt-out wreckage. The stench of death lingered here, too. Some of the telegraph poles that had connected Riviere-du-Loup to the outside world were down, some leaning drunkenly, some standing but with the wires tangled at their bases.

Posters, now turning soggy in the drizzle, had been nailed or pasted to a lot of the telegraph poles, FREE AT LAST FROM BRITISH TYRANNY, some of them said in French, and showed Quebec 's fleur-de-lis banner side by side with the Stars and Stripes. "I, for one, did not feel myself tyrannized," Lucien Galtier said-softly, for he was not alone on the road now. He leaned forward and asked his horse, "Did you feel yourself tyrannized?" The horse did not answer, which he took for agreement.

The poles that did not have the FREE AT LAST poster mostly bore another, this one printed in red and in both French and English: CURFEW: 8 P.M. TO 6 A.M. VIOLATORS WILL BE SHOT ON SIGHT. "Ah, this is what freedom means," Galtier murmured. "I am so glad the Americans educate us in it."

A newsboy stood on a corner with a box of papers covered by a paint-smeared chunk of canvas tarpaulin. "Read Ce-Soir he called to Lucien." Hear of the great victories of the Americans over the Confederates and of Germany over Russia and the English."

"No, thank you," Galtier answered, and rode on toward the market. Ce-Soir had experienced a remarkable change in content since the Americans came to Riviere-du-Loup. Before then, it had trumpeted of Confederate, Russian, and French triumphs against the USA, Austria, and Germany.

It all depends on how you look at things, Galtier thought. To hear the newspaper talk now, you would never know that Germany had invaded France, or that the Englishmen there were defending their ally from the Boches. That wasn't bad propaganda, but it would have been better had the townsfolk not enjoyed the memories God gave to normal, intelligent human beings.

FREE AT LAST, another poster shouted. Several American soldiers, bayonets fixed on their Springfields, stood on a street corner keeping an eye on people. They were almost invisible in the mist till Lucien got right up close to them. Their green-gray was even better than khaki at blending into the background here.

But Lucien had known they were there long before he saw them. The harsh sounds of English filled his ears. He'd learned some of the language in the Army, but not used it much since: some fishermen who came into town from the Maritimes spoke it, but he had little to do with them beyond passing the time of day in a tavern. Now, like the Americans, it had invaded Riviere-du-Loup. And they spoke of freeing the area from British tyranny! English-speaking Canadians for the most part had had the courtesy to stay away.

The hens in the back of the wagon clucked. That drew the American soldiers' eyes to Lucien Galtier. "Hey, buddy!" one of them called. "You want to sell me one of them birds?"

"Hell with that, Pete," another soldier said. "Just take one-take a couple- from the damn Frenchy, and if he don't like it, give him some. 30 caliber persuading." The fellow laughed, showing bad teeth.

Galtier licked his lips. If they wanted to rob him, they could. What would he do afterwards? Complain to their officer? He did not think he would get far. He hadn't heard that the Americans were looting. Had he heard that, he would have stayed on his farm instead of venturing into town.

But the soldier who'd spoken first-Pete-shook his head. "Can't get away with that kind of stuff here in town- too many people watching. We'd wind up in Dutch, and I got some money in my pocket." He turned to Lucien. "How much for a chicken, hey? Combien?"

That he'd tried a word of French made Galtier dislike him a little less. He answered with a high price, as he would have in the marketplace, haggling with a housewife. "Fifty cent', monsieur." He knew how rusty his English was, and hoped the American soldier would understand.

To his amazement, the American, instead of offering half that or less, reached into his pocket, pulled out a silver coin, and tossed it to him. It was a half-dollar: a U.S. half-dollar, of course, with President Reed's plump profile on one side and the American eagle in front of crossed swords on the other. But fifty cents was fifty cents; Canada, the USA, and the CSA all coined to the same standard. Carefully keeping his face blank, Galtier stuck the coin in his own trouser pocket and pulled a chicken out of the latticework traveling coop for Pete.

"Obliged," the soldier said, holding the chicken by the feet with its head down toward the ground. He'd come off the farm, then, odds were.

"Here, lemme buy one, too," said the soldier who'd proposed robbing Lucien.

He sold five birds in the space of a couple of minutes, at half a dollar apiece. He was delighted. So were the soldiers. One of them said, "Pal, if you'd been eating hardtack and canned beast ever since the damn war started, you'd know how much we crave real grub for a change."

Was he supposed to sympathize with them? If they hadn't come over the border into his country, they could have been eating whatever they pleased back in New York. His only answer, though, was a shrug. He had his wife to think of, and his children. He could not take chances, not when he was one farmer with nothing more dangerous than a folding knife in his pocket and they soldiers with rifles and bayonets. He reminded himself of that, a couple of times.

When it became clear none of the rest of them wanted more chickens, he went on to the town market square, where he did not get nearly the price the Americans had given him for the birds. Another U.S. soldier walked by, but he was not interested in poultry. He had his arm around the waist of one of the girls who served drinks at the Loup-du-Nord, the best tavern in town- Angelique, her name was. The respectable wives of Riviere-du-Loup saw that, too, and clucked like the chickens Lucien was trying to sell.

And here came Father Pascal, almost as close to a heavyset American ma jor (Galtier knew what the gold oak leaves on the officer's shoulder boards meant) as Angelique was to her soldier. The major was speaking French- clear Parisian French, which stood out almost as much as English did from the Quebecois dialect. English-speaking Canadian soldiers said Quebecois French sounded like ducks making love, a claim always good for starting a fight when you were bored.

Galtier couldn't make out much of what the major was saying. Whatever it was, Father Pascal was listening hard. That worried the farmer a little. Father Pascal was a good man, but ambitious- witness his desire for Riviere-du-Loup's becoming a bishopric. If the Americans fed his ambitions, he was liable to go further with them than he should.

Well, one Lucien Galtier couldn't do much about that. Having sold his chickens- and made more for them than he'd expected, thanks to Americans too stupid to bargain- he got into his wagon and started for home. Boom! Boom! Boom! The American field guns south of town, which had fallen silent, opened up on another ship out in the St. Lawrence. Galtier looked back over his shoulder. Yes, there was a dim shape moving on the river.

And then, to his surprised delight, that dim shape answered with booms of its own, booms attenuated by traveling over some miles of water but plainly of much larger caliber than the three-inch popguns that had fired at them. Explosions followed almost instantly thereafter, in the place from which the field guns had been firing. Some of the housewives jumped up and crossed themselves. Galtier waited to hear if the field guns could reply to what had to be at least a cruiser out there. They remained silent. He drove home, a contented man.

IV

Paul Mantarakis wished he had a chaplain of his own faith with whom he could pray. He'd heard there were a few Orthodox priests in uniform, but he'd never seen one. Protestant ministers, yes. Catholic priests, yes. Rabbis, even- yes. But none of his own.

He fingered his amber worry beads and murmured, " Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison." Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

"Leave off your Latin and your rosary," declared Gordon McSweeney, a dour Scotsman in his platoon. "They are the road to hell."

"It's not Latin," Mantarakis said wearily, for about the hundredth time. McSweeney just glared at him with pale, angry eyes. If you prayed in a language that wasn't English, it was Latin to him. He even thought Jews prayed in Latin. Mantarakis would have liked to give him a good kick, but McSweeney made two of the little Greek, both of the two armored in cement-hard muscle.

"Shut up, both of you," Sergeant Peterquist said. "Come on, get moving onto the damn barge."

Onto the damn barge they moved, each man weighed down with pack and ammunition and rifle. If you went into the Ohio before you made it ashore on the Kentucky side, you'd surely drown. Theouthelontos- God willing- that wouldn't happen.

A couple of shells went by overhead and crashed down behind the small town badly misnamed Metropolis, Illinois. The Rebs were still shooting, but U.S. artillery had beaten down their guns to the point where General Custer thought the invasion of the Confederacy could begin. Mantarakis wasn't nearly sure he agreed with that, but he was just a private, so who cared what he thought?

Metropolis had already given him a taste of the South, with its rolling lawns and its magnolias. The South Philadelphia neighborhood where he'd cooked dolmades and cheese steaks hadn't been anything like this, not even close. But the little town had its own slums, down by the bridge the Rebs had dynamited when the war broke out: Brickbat Ridge, they called it.

"Come on, pack in tight, you birds!" Peterquist yelled in his raspy- foghorn voice. "Come on, come on, come on!" All over the barge, non-coms and officers said the same thing in a lot of different ways.

Mantarakis already felt like one anchovy in a whole tin. Anchovies and sardines, you packed the fish in tight as you could, because the oil that went in with 'em was worth more than they were. Finding out stuff like that was the only bad part of being a cook, as far as he was concerned: sometimes, because you were in the business, you learned things you'd rather not know.

Well, now he was in the business of killing people, and he had the feeling he was going to learn all kinds of things he'd rather not know. At the moment, what he was trying to learn was how to breathe without moving his chest.

"We're tight enough now, don't you think?" Paddy O'Rourke said in his musical brogue. "If I was jammed up against the pretty girls, nowbut faith! It's all you ugly bastards."

The men around him laughed. When everyone exhaled at once, it did seem to give more room. Mantarakis said, "You're pretty ugly your own self, Paddy."

"Ah, but I can't see me," the Irishman answered.

What seemed like all the artillery shells in the world opened up then, on the Illinois side of the river. The roar of the guns, large and small, was music to Mantarakis' ears. The more shells that came down on the Rebels' heads, the fewer of the sons of bitches would be left to try and shoot him. He stood on tiptoe, trying to get a look at just what kind of hell the Kentucky side of the river was catching, but he couldn't see over the shoulders of his bigger comrades.

The steam engine that powered the barge started up, making the timbers tremble under his feet. "Cast off!" somebody yelled; Mantarakis heard the order through the thunder of the artillery. Somebody must have obeyed because, ever so slowly, the barge crawled away from the landing and out into the Ohio.

If he turned his head to one side, Mantarakis could see the river and catch glimpses of other barges wallowing across the current toward Kentucky. Something came down with a splash between his barge and the one closest to it. Cold water fountained up and splashed down on him.

"That came too damn close to hitting us," somebody behind him said. Only then did Paul realize the something had been a Confederate shell. If a shell did hit a barge packed with soldiers- He dug in his pocket and started working the worry beads again. If that happened, it would be like an explosion in a slaughterhouse, with young men playing the role of raw meat.

More shells landed in the river. Mantarakis got splashed again, and then again. Somewhere off to his left, he heard a shell hit a barge, and then heard a clamor of anguish from it. When you headed for battle this way, you were as helpless as a cow being driven along the chute to the fellow with the sledgehammer. You couldn't even fire back, the way you could when you got to solid ground.

How long to cross the river? It seemed like forever, though it couldn't have taken above fifteen minutes, twenty at the most. The soldiers in the front rows, who could see where they were going, passed word back that they were nearing the enemy side of the Ohio. One of them said, "Hope the Rebs don't have no machine guns down by the bank, or we ain't ever gonna make it onto dryland."

"You don't shut up, Smitty," somebody else said fiercely, "I'm gonna shove you in the river and you sure as hell won't make it to dry land."

Paul fingered the worry beads harder than ever. His sympathies were with the soldier who'd threatened to push Smitty overboard. The very idea of machine-gun bullets stitching through men who couldn't even duck was enough to make his testicles try to crawl up into his belly.

A big shell landed in the river, all too close to the barge. Mantarakis, who'd already been wet, was now soaked to the skin. Most of the shell fragments and shrapnel balls, fortunately, went into the water, though a couple of unlucky soldiers howled as they were wounded. The barge itself dipped and then recovered, almost as if it were a buggy jouncing over a pothole in the road.

Mixed in with the racket of artillery came the sharper discharges of rifles and, off in the distance, sure enough, the endless death-rattle bark of machine guns. A couple of men at the front of the barge started shooting, too. Mantarakis didn't know whether he liked that or not. It was liable to draw Confederate fire onto men who couldn't shoot back-him, for instance.

The barge lurched again. Paul didn't hear any explosions especially close by; no more upthrown water drenched him. Before he had time to think about what that might mean, whistles started squealing at the front of the barge and men screamed, "Out, you bastards! Move! Run! We've gone aground!"

All at once, Paul could move. Along with his squadmates, he ran forward and jumped off the bow of the barge. He got splashed then; the water into which he'd leaped came up past his knees. The mud on the bottom of the Ohio tried to pull his boots off his feet.

The water got shallower fast. Ahead of him, soldiers were running up onto dry land and then fanning out as they moved away from the bank. Now he saw what the artillery had done to the local landscape. It had probably been pleasant before the war started. It wasn't pleasant any more. Whatever grass and bushes had grown here were churned out of existence. He could tell that there had been trees down along the riverbank, but they were stumps and toothpicks now.

Beyond the trees-beyond what had been trees-the ground looked as if a chunk of hell had decided to take up residence in the Confederate States. He hadn't imagined anything could be so appalling as that cratered landscape. The U.S. guns had done their work well. Surely nothing could have survived the bombardment they'd laid down.

He made it up to the riverbank himself. His feet squelched dankly in his boots as he pounded inland. He reminded himself to put on dry socks if he ever got the chance. You let your feet stay soaked, all sorts of nasty things happened to them. He had cousins who worked on the wharfs in Philadelphia who'd made that mistake. Demetrios was still trying to get cured.

Up ahead, something moved, or Paul thought it did. Then, for a split second, he thought he'd made a mistake. And then, as flame spat from a rifle muzzle, he realized he hadn't; it was just that the Confederates' uniforms made them almost impossible to spot when they were in the dirt.

The rifle spat fire again. Ten or fifteen feet to Mantarakis' left, a man went down clutching at his leg. Paul went down, too, landing heavily enough to jolt half the wind from him. He brought his Springfield to his shoulder and drew a bead on the shell hole where he'd spotted the Reb. Was that movement? He fired, then crawled away on his belly. His own uniform, especially smeared with mud and dirt, gave pretty good concealment, too.

He found out how good the concealment was a moment later, when an American soldier he hadn't even seen got up, peering into the hole at which he'd shot, and waved everyone on. Paul got up and started to run before realizing he'd just killed a man. I should be feeling something, he thought. The only thing he felt was fear.

He stumbled in a hole in the ground and fell, counting himself lucky he didn't twist an ankle. When he got back to his feet, he looked behind him. He'd intended to see how the men on the barge were doing and whether it was all unloaded, but he kept staring, heedless of the occasional bullets still flying, at the grand spectacle of the Ohio River.

The river was full of barges and ferries of every size and age, with all the vessels laden to the wallowing point, almost to the capsizing point, with men in green-gray. Smoke billowed from scores, hundreds, of stacks, a deep black smoke different from the kind artillery explosions kicked up. Paul cheered like a madman at the display of the might the United States were putting forth. With that great armada, with the stunning artillery the gunners were laying down to ease the way for the Americans, how could the Confederate States hope to resist?

The plain answer, Paul thought, was that they couldn't. He cheered again, seized for a moment by war's grandeur instead of its terror.

And then, without warning, most of the barrage still descending on the Confederates ahead ended. "What the hell?" Paul said when the shelling eased up. He'd been in combat half an hour at most, but he'd already learned a basic rule: if anything strange happens, hit the dirt.

But he kept looking back over his shoulder- and, to his horror, he spotted a gunboat flying the Stars and Bars steaming west toward the lumbering vessels struggling across the Ohio. The engineers were supposed to have put mines in the river to keep Rebel craft away from the defenseless barges, but something had gone wrong somewhere and here this one was, a tiger loose among rabbits.

The river monitor- Mantarakis knew the Rebs didn't call them that, but he did- carried a turret like those aboard armored cruisers out on the ocean. Shooting up barges at point-blank range with six-inch guns was like killing roaches by dropping an anvil on them: much more than the job required. But the job got done, either way.

When a six-inch shell hit a barge, it abruptly ceased to be. You could, if you were so inclined, watch men and pieces of men fly through the air. They flew amazingly high. Then the monitor's turret would revolve a little, pick another target, and blow it out of the water. If that kept on for very long, it wouldn't have any targets left to pick.

Shells rained down around the gunboat, too, and on it- that was why the U.S. artillery had stopped its covering fire for the landing. If the guns didn't knock it out in a tearing hurry, there wouldn't be a landing, or not one with any chance of success. All at once, Paul realized he was in enemy country. Behind him, the Ohio looked uncrossably wide. He wondered if he'd ever see the other side of it again if the gunboat wasn't destroyed. Then he wondered if he'd ever see the other side of it if the gunboat was destroyed.

A shell slammed into the armored turret holding the monitor's big guns- slammed into it and bounced off. Those turrets were armored to keep out projectiles from naval guns; shells from field pieces they hardly noticed. But the rest of the Confederate riverboat was more vulnerable. The stacks were shot away; so was the conning tower. Rifle and machine-gun fire from the shore and from the barges kept the Rebels from putting anyone on deck to make repairs. Then the rudder went. The monitor slewed sideways. At last, a shell penetrated to the boiler. The monitor blew up even more spectacularly than the barges it had wrecked.

The barges it hadn't wrecked kept on coming across the Ohio. More loaded up and left the U.S. side of the river. The United States had a lot more manpower than did the Confederacy. Paul Mantarakis wondered if they had enough manpower to compensate for the mistakes their generals were bound to make.

He rose, grunting under the weight of his pack, and moved forward, deeper into Kentucky. One way or another, he'd find out.

Jefferson Pinkard always got the feeling he'd died and gone to hell on the job. Flame and sparks were everywhere. You couldn't shout over the triphammer din; no point in even trying. If you got accustomed to it, you could hear people talking in their ordinary voices under it. You could even hear a whisper, sometimes.

Steel poured from a crucible into a cast-iron mold. The blast of heat sent Pinkard reeling. "Godalmightydamn," he said in the harsh-soft accent of a man who'd grown up on an Alabama farm, bringing up a gloved hand to shield his face. "I don't care how long you work iron, you don't never get used to that. And doin' it in summertime just makes it worse."

"You think I'm gonna argue with you, Jeff, you're even crazier than I know you are," Bedford Cunningham answered. They'd worked side by side at the Sloss Furnaces for going on ten years now, and were like as two peas in a pod: broad-shouldered, fair-haired men with pale skins that turned red from any sun and even redder from the furnace atmosphere in which they labored.

The big crucible from which the molten metal had come swung away, not so smoothly as Pinkard would have liked. "New kid handlin' that thing don't know what the hell he's doin'," he observed.

Cunningham nodded. "He's gonna kill somebody 'fore they take him off- and it ain't likely it'll be hisself. God don't usually work things out that neat." He spat into the new pig of steel, as if quenching it. His spittle exploded into steam the instant it touched the metal. Meditatively, he added, "Wish ol Herb hadn't got hisself called to the colors."

"Yeah." Pinkard spat, too, in disgust with the world. "How the hell they gonna fight a war, Bedford, if they take all the men who know how to make things and stick 'em in the Army? If they don't turn out guns and shells, what the hell they gonna shoot at the damnyankees?"

"You don't need to go preachin' to the choir," Cunningham said. "I already believe, I surely do. Bunch o' damn fools runnin' things up in Richmond, dogged if they ain't." Then he paused again. He was more given to contemplation than his friend. "'Course, the other thing is, if they ain't got enough soldiers, they can't fight the war, neither."

"They want more soldiers, they should oughta pull 'em off clerkin' jobs and such like that, not the ones we do here," Jefferson Pinkard said stubbornly. "Folks like us, we should be the last ones chose, not the first."

"Reckon there's somethin' to that," Cunningham admitted. "I think maybe-" Jeff never did find out what he thought maybe, because a steam whistle blew then, the shrill screech cutting through even the insensate racket of the foundry. Cunningham grinned. "I think maybe I'm goin' home."

When Pinkard turned around, he found his replacement and Bedford Cunningham's waiting to take over for them. After a couple of minutes of the usual chatter- half Sloss Furnace gossip, half war news- the two men going off work grabbed their dinner pails and let the evening shift have the job. Another steelworker, Sid Williamson, joined them from the next big mold over. He could have been cousin to either one of them, though he was several years younger and hadn't been at the furnace as long. "Tired," he said, and then fell silent. He never could rub more than a couple of words together.

Along with a lot of other tired, dirty, sweaty men in overalls and cloth caps, they all trudged out toward the gate. Some of the workersthe sweepers, the furnace stokers, men with jobs like that- were black. They kept a little bit apart from the white men who did more highly skilled work and made more money.

Coming in with the evening shift was a white-mustached white man who wore a black suit and a plug hat instead of overalls. He dressed like a country preacher, but Jeff Pinkard had never set eyes on any preacher who looked so low-down mean.

He strode up to Pinkard and Cunningham as if he owned the walkway, then stopped right in front of them, so they either had to stop or run into him. "Do somethin' for you?" Pinkard asked, not much deference in his voice: by his clothes and bearing, the stranger had more money than he was ever likely to see, but so what? One white man was as good as another- that was what the Confederate States were all about.

The stranger said, "Where's your hiring office?"

"Back over yonder." Pinkard pointed to a long, low clapboard building that got whitewashed about once a week in a never-ending battle against the soot Sloss Foundry and the rest of the Birmingham steel mills poured into the air. To get a little of his own back for the fellow's arrogant attitude, Pinkard added, "Lookin' for work, are you?"

"You ain't as cute as you think you are." By the way a cigar twitched in the stranger's mouth, he was about ready to bite it in two. "I got me seven prime buck niggers done run off my plantation this past two weeks, lookin' for city jobs, and I aim to get 'em back, every damn one."

"Good luck, friend," Pinkard said as the man stomped past him. He and Bedford Cunningham exchanged glances. As soon as the irascible stranger was out of earshot, Pinkard said, "He ain't ever gonna see them niggers again."

"Bet your ass he ain't," Cunningham agreed. "Hiring office, they don't care what a nigger's passbook says, not these days. They just want to know if he's got the muscle to do the job. If he's a prime cotton-pickin' nigger, strong like that, they'll fix his passbook so it looks the way it ought to."

"Yeah." Pinkard walked on another couple of steps, then said, "That ain't the right way to do things, you know. Not even close."

"I know," Cunningham said. "But what are you gonna do, Jeff? This place has been jumpin' out of its tree ever since it looked like the war was comin'. When we went to three shifts, we had to get the bodies from some-wheres, you know what I mean? Hell, we was runnin' tight for two, way things was. Night shift, I hear tell they got niggers doin' white man's work, on account of they just can't get enough whites."

"I heard that, too," Pinkard said, "an' I seen it when we come on shift in the mornin'. An' that ain't right, neither."

"What are you gonna do?" Cunningham repeated, shrugging. "They don't pay 'em like they was white, but even so, if you're chopping cotton for seventy-five cents a day, a dollar an' a half in the foundry looks like big money."

"Yeah, an' when they get enough niggers trained, you know what's gonna happen next?" Pinkard said. "They're gonna turn around and tell us, 'We'll pay you a dollar an' a half a day, too, an' if you don't like it, Julius Caesar here'll take your job.' Mark my words, that day's comin'."

"It's the damn war," Cunningham said mournfully. "Plant's gotta make the steel, no matter what. You complain about it even a little bit, they say you ain't a patriot and somebody else has your job, even if it ain't a nigger. What the hell can we do? We're stuck, is all."

The conversation had carried them out of the Sloss Furnace grounds and into the company housing that surrounded them. The Negro workers lived to the right of the railroad tracks, in cabins painted oxide red. The paint, like the cabins, was cheap.

Pinkard and Cunningham lived side by side in identical yellow cottages on the white men's side of the tracks. Cunningham's was closer to the foundry. He waved to Pinkard as he went up the walk toward his veranda. "See you in the mornin'," he called.

Nodding, Pinkard headed for his own house. The windows were open and so was the front door, to let some air into the place. A delicious aroma floated out. Pinkard tossed his cap onto a chair and fetched his dinner pail into the kitchen. "Lord, that smells good," he said, slipping an arm around the waist of his wife, Emily.

She turned and kissed him on the tip of the nose. The motion made her blue cotton skirt swirl away from the floor so he got a glimpse of her trim ankles. "Chicken and dumplings and okra," she said. "Cornbread biscuits already baked."

Spit flooded into his mouth. He thumped himself in the belly. "And it wasn't even your cooking I married you for," he exclaimed.

"Oh?" Something that looked like ignorant innocence, but wasn't, sparkled in her blue eyes. "What did you marry me for, then?"

Instead of answering with words, he gave her a long, deep kiss. Even though she wasn't wearing a corset, he could almost have spanned her waist with his two hands. She wore her strawberry-blond hairalmost the color of flames, really- in a braid that hung halfway down her back. She even smelled and tasted sweet to him.

When they broke apart, she said, "You still haven't answered my question."

He poked her in the ribs, which made her squeak. "On account of you were the prettiest gal I ever saw, an' you look better to me now than you did five years ago. How's that?" They didn't have any children yet. He wondered how that was, too. Not from lack of trying, that was for certain.

Emily smiled at him. "You always were a sweet-talkin' man. Probably why I fell for you. Why don't you get a couple of bottles of beer out of the icebox? Supper should be ready in about two shakes."

The beer was homebrew; Alabama had gone dry a couple of years before, which meant they didn't ship Jax up from New Orleans any more. As he yanked the corks out of the bottles, Pinkard supposed going dry was a good thing for a lot of people. But a beer every now and then didn't seem to him like drinking-and it went awful well with chicken and dumplings.

He handed one bottle to Emily, then cautiously swigged from the other. With homebrew, you never could tell what you'd get till you got it. He nodded in satisfaction and took a longer pull. "Old Homer, he did this batch pretty good."

Emily drank, too. "He's done worse, I'll tell you that," she agreed. "Why don't you go sit down, and I'll bring out supper."

The chicken was falling-off-the-bone tender. He used the cornmeal biscuits to sop up the gravy on his plate. As he ate, he told Emily about the planter who'd come to the foundry looking for his field hands. "We got more work to do now than we got people to do it, a lot more," he said, and mentioned how Negroes were doing white men's work on the night shift.

She paused before answering. It wasn't a full-mouth pause; she was thinking something over. At last, she said, "I went into town today to get some groceries- so much cheaper than the company commissary, when we've got the cash money to pay for things right there- and they were talkin' about that same kind of thing, about how there's so much work and not enough hands. It's not just the foundry. It's all over the place. Grocer Edwards, he was grumbling how he'd had to raise his clerk's pay twice since the war started to keep him from goin' off and workin' in one o' them ammunition plants."

"Wish somebody'd go an' raise my pay," Jeff said. "Way things look, they're liable to end up cuttin' it instead." Once more, he summarized part of what he and Bedford Cunningham had said.

"They aren't hiring niggers to work at the ammunition plants here abouts- I know that for a fact," Emily said. She paused again, so long that Jeff wondered if something was really wrong. Then, instead of going on, she got up, carried the plates to the sink, and lighted the kerosene lamp that hung not far from the table. Only after that did she continue, in a rush: "I hear tell they are hiring women, though. Dotty Lanchester- I ran into her at the grocer's- she says she's gonna start next week. She says they really want women: what with sewin' and everything, we're good with little parts an' stuff, an' shells have 'em, I guess, even if you wouldn't think it to look at 'em."

" Milo 's letting Dotty go to work at a factory?" Pinkard said, surprised. If your wife had to work, that meant you couldn't support her the way you should. Shiftless wasn't a name you wanted to wear.

"She said it was her patriotic duty to do it," Emily answered. "She said our boys in butternut need everything we can give 'em to beat the damnyankees, and if she could help 'em, she would."

How were you supposed to argue with that? Jefferson Pinkard turned it over in his mind. Far as he could see, you couldn't argue with it, not very well.

And then, after yet another hesitation, Emily said, "You know, honey, I wouldn't mind goin' to work there my own self. They got lots of ladies, like I said, so it wouldn't be like I was the only one, and with an extra two dollars a day, we could really set some money aside for when we do have young'uns." She looked at him sidelong. "Might be any day. You never can tell."

Two dollars a day was a little more than half what the ammunition factory paid the men who worked there: better than nigger wages, but not a whole lot. That was probably one reason the bosses were hiring women. But women were dexterous, too; Pinkard wouldn't have argued with that. He'd struggled a couple of times to thread a needle with his clumsy, work-roughened hands. Watching Emily do it easy as pie made him swear off trying to sew for good.

But wages weren't what made him hesitate. "Any other time, I'd say no straight out," he said.

"I know you would, honey," Emily answered. "But I'd be able to keep things goin' here, too; I know I would. It ain't like I'm thinkin' about it just on account of gettin' out of housework or that I don't love you or that I don't think you're workin' hard enough to make us all the money we need. It's nothin' like that, I swear to God it's not. You know I'm speakin' the truth, now don't you?"

"Yeah, I do," he admitted. He knew she was wheedling, too, but he didn't know what to do about it. What with the war, all of a sudden nothing was simple.

No sooner had that thought crossed his mind than Emily said, "If the damnyankees lick us, it don't hardly matter that we stuck by what was right and proper beforehand, now does it?"

He threw his hands in the air in defeat. "All right, Emily. That's what you want to do, you go do it. Like you say, the war's makin' everything all topsyturvy. We'll put it back to rights oncet we done licked the United States again. Shouldn't take long, I reckon."

"Thank you, honey!" Emily got up, threw herself down into his lap, and flung her arms around his neck. The dining-room chair creaked; it wasn't used to holding two people's worth of weight. They didn't stay there long, though. Pretty soon, they got up and went into the bedroom.

From a mile in the air, the world looked like a map spread out below you. Not many people had been lucky enough to see the world that way, but Lieutenant Jonathan Moss was one of them.

He had a speck of something on the inside of one lens of his goggles. It wasn't enough to interfere with his vision, but it was annoying. Speck or no speck, though, he knew he could keep a close eye on the U.S. Army troops pushing from New York into Ontario, and on the struggles of the Canadians and British to stop them.

Shells pounded the enemy line south of Hamilton. "That's the way to go, boys!" Moss shouted, slamming a fist down on his thigh. The U.S. eagle and crossed swords were painted big and bold and bright on the fuselage, wings and tail of his Curtiss Super Hudson pusher biplane. He liked the pusher configuration; it gave him a better view of the ground than he could have got from a tractor machine, and also let him mount a machine gun in front of him to shoot at any aeroplanes that rose up to challenge his aircraft. If you mounted a forward-facing machine gun on a tractor aeroplane, you'd chew your own prop to bits when you opened fire.

Somebody ought to do something about that, Moss thought. The idea vanished from his head a moment later, though, for a Canadian battery started returning fire on the advancing-or rather, the stalled-Americans. Scribbling awkwardly in a notebook he held between his knees, Moss noted the position of the guns. When he landed, he'd pass the sketch on to Artillery. The enemy guns would get a wake-up call in short order.

"They've had too damn many wake-up calls already," he muttered. The wind in his face blew the words away.

The words were gone, but not the fact. For all the big talk in the United States about mopping the floor with the Dominion of Canada, reality, as reality has a way of doing, was proving harder. The damned Canucks and limeys had spent years fortifying the Niagara Peninsula, the part that ran west from Niagara Falls; every time they were blasted and bayoneted out of one position, they fell back to the next, just as tough as the one before. Forcing the crossing of the Welland Canal alone had put women by the thousands into mourning black.

But the canal had been crossed. Now the Canadians and British were moving back toward their last line, the one that ran from Hamilton on Lake Ontario through Caledonia to Port Dover on Lake Erie. When the United States broke through there, the country would widen out and numbers would count for more than they had yet.

As yet, the breakthrough hadn't happened. And, indeed, though the enemy had been thrown back on Hamilton in the north, they were still holding part of the line of the Grand River south of Caledonia. Farther west, the assault from Michigan hadn't been the walkover everyone-everyone south of the border, anyhow-had figured it would be. The line centered on London, Ontario, hadn't cracked yet, either, and when it would was anybody's guess.

Moss sighed. "We put too much money into Great Lakes battleships," he told the unheeding sky. He'd told everybody the same, since the day the war started. A fat lot of good it did, too. Great Lakes battleships weren't really battleships to rank with the great vessels in the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets: they were smaller and slower and didn't mount so many guns. In navies like Holland 's or Sweden 's, they would have been called coast-defense battleships.

What people in the USA had called them was victory. Each Great Lake had its own flotilla of them, and the Canadians didn't-couldn't-build ships to match, in quality or numbers. When war came, they'd bombard enemy towns and positions with a weight of metal you couldn't move by land.

The only problem being, it hadn't worked out that way. The first thing the Canadians had done when war broke out was to sow the Great Lakes with mines as thickly as potato soup was sown with potatoes. The Perry and the Farragut, both steaming full tilt toward Toronto, had blown up and sunk within a couple of hours of each other, as had the John Paul Jones over on Lake Huron. Losing millions of dollars' worth of ships and a couple of thousand trained sailors had made the flotillas less intrepid in a hurry.

As if that weren't bad enough, the Canadians had submersibles, too. Nobody-nobody American, anyhow-knew how many, but they'd picked off a Great Lakes battleship and a couple of light cruisers, too, before scuttling back to their home ports. Put it all together and it meant the Army was advancing through the toughest part of the enemy's defenses without a good bit of the fire support it had expected to have. And so the going was tough.

Jonathan Moss peered down at the Canadian and British guns. From a mile in the air, they looked like tiny lead toys, and the bare-chested men who served them like pink ants. He scribbled some more on the makeshift map. The enemy lines really did look like lines from up here: a zigzagging series of entrenchments that cut across the land. Even the entrenchments that ran back from the front-line positions zigzagged, to make a shell landing in one of them do as little damage as possible.

"Those bastards have been thinking about this for a long time," Moss said, penciling squiggles over the page to represent the zigzag entrenchments.

The American positions facing the foe were less neat. For one thing, the U.S. forces had to form their lines in territory they'd taken away from the Canadians, and every inch of that territory had been fought over till it was nothing but a crumpled, battered landscape that reminded Moss of nothing so much as telescopic photographs of the craters of the moon. For another, the Americans hadn't planned to conduct such a grinding campaign of attrition, and hadn't yet worked out the doctrine for fighting in those conditions.

Even getting supplies forward to the troops at the sharp end of the wedge was anywhere from hard to impossible. The railroads had been chewed up along with everything else in the territory over which the Americans had advanced. Food and ammunition had to come forward by wagon or else on people's backs.

By contrast, the rail network the defenders used was all but intact: Moss watched several trains chugging along toward the front, each one full of troops or munitions or food and fodder. He made a sour face. You could move more faster by train than with horses or people. That was what the second half of the nineteenth century had been about, if you looked at it the right way. It gave the defenders what struck him as an unfair advantage.

He was so busy noting the arriving trains, he didn't spot the other aero plane till it started shooting at him. The sound of Lewis-gun bullets drumming through the fabric of his wings-and whipcracking past his head-got his attention in a hurry. He was banking to the left before he even looked up.

The Avro 504 ahead of him tried to turn with him, but his aircraft was more agile than the tractor machine. He swung away from the area the observer in the front cockpit could cover with his machine gun. The pilot in the rear cockpit blazed away at him with a pistol, but only fool luck would let you hit anything with a pistol when both you and your target were moving crazily and at high speed in different directions.

At high speed- The Avro was faster on the level than his Super Hudson, and could climb faster, too. That would nullify his ability to turn inside it if he didn't do something in a hurry. He lined up the nose of his aircraft on the Canadian biplane's tail and squeezed the triggers of his Maxim gun.

Brass cartridge cases streamed out of the breech, glittering in the sun as they fell away. In the Avro, the pilot threw up his hands and slumped forward against the fairing that helped deflect the slipstream. The Canadian aeroplane's nose went down; it began to dive, and then to spin.

Maybe the observer hadn't properly fastened his safety belt; maybe it gave way under the strain. However that was, the luckless fellow was thrown out of the Avro. As he plunged toward the earth, he looked like a man treading water. But the thin, thin air would not bear his weight. He fell, the fringed end of his red wool muffler flapping above him.

"Jesus!" Jonathan Moss shook like a man with the grippe. He'd never fired the Maxim gun in anger before. He'd never expected to have to fire it, despite reports of other aerial combats. He hadn't even wanted it mounted on his aeroplane. But it had just saved his life.

The Avro 504 smashed into the ground and burst into flame a few hundred yards inside the enemy's lines. Dutifully, Moss noted the position on his sketch map. The observer had undoubtedly smashed into the ground, too, but Moss could not see him.

"Jesus!" he said again, and licked his lips. With the wind blasting in his face, they would have been dry anyhow; some pilots smeared petroleum jelly on them before taking off. Moss' lips were drier now. His stomach turned loops that had nothing to do with the acrobatic abilities of the Super Hudson.

He'd thought one of the nice things about being an aerial observer was not having to kill anybody personally. War down on the ground was a filthy, nasty business, filthier and nastier than anyone had expected when it broke out. Watching the slow advance across the Niagara Peninsula had shown Moss that. And he'd seen it from high in the air, as if he were looking down on a chess match where both players could move at the same time. An awful lot of poor damned pawns had been captured and removed from the board.

"I was above all that," he muttered, meaning it both literally and metaphorically. Like a knight, he could jump over intervening space and appear where he was needed on the board. Now, abruptly, he realized that, like a knight, he also faced danger. He too could be sacrificed.

He'd killed, yes, but it was a fair fight. So he told himself, over and over. The fellows in the Avro had had just as much chance to send his aeroplane spinning down in ruins as he'd had to shoot down theirs. He wasn't some conscript rifleman, reduced to a corpse by a machine gunner who wasn't aiming at him or by an artilleryman back of the line who'd never seen him at all, merely pulled a lanyard and hoped for the best. Thousands of randomly killed men lay down there; sometimes the stink of them made him wish the Super Hudson would fly higher, to let him escape it.

A fair fight, single combat… Maybe that did make him a knight, not one from a chess set but a noble warrior from the days of chivalry, going forth into single combat as if into a joust. That was a better way to look at things, he decided: it shielded him from the blunt reality of having killed two men to keep them from killing him.

"A knight," he said, and touched the Maxim gun as if it were the lance a knight in shining armor carried into battle with him. "A knight of the air."

He carefully scanned the sky to make sure the Canadian aeroplane had been as alone up here as his own machine. He spied no other aircraft with red maple leaf inside white circle inside blue. Yes, it had been true single combat. If you were going to fight, that was the way to do it.

He had a sudden mental image of Teddy Roosevelt going into the gladiatorial arena against-would he fight Robert Borden or the Duke of Con-naught, prime minister or governor general? Either way, Moss figured TR would quickly dispose of his foe. Then he could take on Woodrow Wilson. And, after he'd slain both enemy leaders, the United States would be declared winner of the war and could take whatever spoils it wanted from Canada and the Confederacy.

"That would be the easy way, the cheap way, to go about it," he said. It was also a pipe dream, as he knew full well. Statesmen didn't go out to fight for themselves; that had fallen out of fashion after the Crusades, he didn't know exactly when. Statesmen sent young men out to do the killing-and the dying-for them.

"If you have to do it," Moss muttered, feeling on the shaky side still as he turned back toward his aerodrome, "I suppose being a knight of the air is the way to go about it."

The only trouble was, nobody had seen fit to issue him a suit of shining armor.

Jake Featherston yanked the lanyard of his three-inch field gun and hoped for the best. The piece belched flames. The other five men on the gun crew, working like steam-powered machinery even though two of them were raw replacements, reloaded the gun. Five seconds after the first round, another was on its way.

"Hell of a gun!" Featherston shouted appreciatively. "Them Frenchies, they knew what they were do in' when they made the model." He pulled the lanyard yet again. Boom! Another shell went on its way toward the Yankee positions just outside of Glen Rock, Pennsylvania. Thanks to the muzzle brake on the French-designed howitzer, its recoil was a lot less than that of U.S. guns of similar caliber, which meant corrections between rounds were also less, which meant a good gun crew could get off a dozen rounds a minute. Featherston had a damn good gun crew.

A horse-drawn wagon full of wooden crates stenciled with the Confederate battle flag came rattling up. Jake Featherston and his crew let out a cheer. "'Bout time we got more rounds," shouted Jethro Bixler, the loader. "You didn't show up soon, they was gonna give us Tredegars an' stick us in the damn infantry."

"Can't have that," the driver said, his grin exposing a missing front tooth. He glanced over to the colored servants who were standing by the team of horses that would move the field gun ahead as the Confederacy continued its conquest of southeastern Pennsylvania and Maryland. "Git your asses over here, you lazy damnfool niggers. Unload this bastard so's I can go fill 'er up agin."

Nero and Perseus came-at a faster clip than they'd used when the war first broke out. Then, they might have been picking cotton for a plantation owner they despised. They'd come to realize, though, that keeping their crew in shells was liable to mean keeping themselves alive. As with the soldiers they served, survival was a powerful incentive toward good performance.

Each crate held twelve shells. Counting the weight of the wood in the crate itself, the weight the blacks were hauling was up close to a couple of hundred pounds each go. Grunting with effort, they unloaded crates as the driver and the gun crew watched. Then, sweat running down their faces, they went back to the animals they'd been watching.

"Lazy," the driver repeated. He flicked the reins. The horses strained in harness. The driver tipped his hat to the artillerymen and headed southwest down the dirt track called School Road toward the division supply dump.

Jethro Bixler attacked the tops of the ammunition crates with a pry bar. Nails squealed as the tops came up. Bixler flung each aside in turn. He would have made two of either Nero or Perseus: a big blond broad-shouldered fellow with the look of a blacksmith to him. When one of the ammunition crates wasn't close enough to the howitzer to suit him, he picked it up single-handed and set it where he wanted it. Then he struck a circus strongman pose, as if to proclaim to the world that that had been a deliberate demonstration of prowess, not a white man stooping to do nigger work.

Other wagons turned off from School Road for the rest of the guns in the battery. The Negroes attached to the artillery unit stopped what they were doing to unload the shells. Through the roar of guns that kept firing, Featherston listened to the artillerymen screaming at the blacks to hurry.

"Flip those lids over, Jethro," Featherston said when Bixler was through opening up the new crates. "Don't want anybody stepping on a nail. He'd miss all the fun." He let out a wry chuckle.

"Right y'are, Sergeant," Bixler said. "I tell you, I done had just about all the fun I can stand, thank you kindly.' Fore we started, wasn't nobody said it'd be like this here. The damnyankees, they're tougher'n Paw an' Granddad made 'em out to be."

Several of the other men nodded agreement to that, Jake Featherston among them-it was hardly something you could deny. Featherston said, "If everything went the way it was supposed to, we'd be over the Susquehanna by now, drivin' for the Delaware River."

"Yeah." Jethro Bixler slammed a meaty fist into an equally meaty thigh in his enthusiasm. "My family, we had kin in Baltimore, back before the War of Secession. Hellfire, for all I know, we still do, but nobody on our side o' the border's heard from 'em in fifty years. We should have taken Maryland away from the damnyankees after we made peace with 'em the first time."

"And Delaware," added Pete Howard, one of the shell carriers. "All that country is ours by rights, by Jesus."

"Before it's ours, we got to take it," Featherston said, which drew more nods from the rest of the crew. "We ain't even in Baltimore yet."

"Ain't supposed to be in it," answered Bixler, who fancied himself a strategist. "Supposed to wheel around and cut it off so it damn well falls."

"Yeah, but we ain't done that yet, is the problem," Featherston retorted. "The damnyankees still got that railroad goin' through down alongside Chesapeake Bay. We can't wheel round an' cut that line, they're liable to do some cuttin' of their own and leave us stranded up here."

The wheel was supposed to have taken them to the west bank of the Delaware by Wilmington, and to have cut off the area south of the front from any possible support by the United States. It might still do that; Jake hoped to God it would still do that. But every day they fell farther behind their planned advance line, and that was another day the U.S. forces could ship more men and munitions down from Philadelphia. The Confederate army still had to cross the Susquehanna. Lee had done it, after hammering McClellan outside of Camp Hill. But Lee hadn't had to face machine guns that could melt a regiment down to platoon size in a matter of minutes if you tried attacking them head on-and how else were you going to attack them if you were forcing a river line?

Featherston looked back over his shoulder, down School Road. It hadn't been much of a road to begin with. It was even less now, after Yankee artillery had chewed it up-and Confederate artillery, too, before the men in butternut advanced so far. Half a mile back from the battery, mechanics worked on a couple of motor trucks that had broken down trying to bring supplies forward. The front demanded a flood of materiel. Thanks to the miserable roads, it got a trickle.

"No wonder the Yanks are givin' us such a hard time," Jake muttered.

Captain Jeb Stuart III trotted up to Featherston's gun. "Get the team hitched to your piece," the battery commander called. "We're moving forward, maybe a mile." He pointed northeast. "The damnyankees are holed up in a couple of stone farmhouses out that way, and they've got a whole regiment stalled on its track-haven't been able to clear 'em out with rifles and machine guns, so they want us to knock the houses down."

"You hear that, Nero, Perseus?" Featherston called as Stuart went off to give the order to the rest of the battery. The two Negroes nodded and brought the horses over. Hitching the animals to the gun trail was a matter of a few minutes, for they were already in harness. Hitching the other team to the supply wagon that followed the gun was also quickly done. Then, swearing and sweating, Nero and Perseus lifted the crates of shells they'd just unloaded from one wagon up onto another.

"Move 'em out!" Captain Stuart was shouting, and waving his cap in his hand to urge the men on. Pompey brought him a glass of something cool to drink. He upended it, gave it back to the servant, and went on shouting to the gun crew and to the laborers without whom they wouldn't have been nearly so efficient.

It hadn't rained for several days, so the road-or rather, track-to the new position wasn't muddy. When a howitzer bogged down hub-deep in muck, everybody, blacks and whites together, put shoulders to it to keep it moving. Leaves on some of the trees were beginning to go from green to gold and red. They wouldn't have started turning this early in September back in the CSA.

Since the dirt track was dry, they got dust instead of mud. By the time they reached the new position, everyone was the same shade of grayish brown, Featherston no less than Nero. The artillery sergeant peered through the field glasses at the farmhouses Captain Stuart wanted the battery to destroy.

"Range about thirty-five hundred yards, I'd make it," he said, and worked the elevation screw to lower the field gun's barrel to accommodate the shorter range. Stuart had been right; the Confederates had advanced past the farmhouses to either side, but were halted in front of them. Even through field glasses, corpses were tiny at two miles, but Featherston saw a lot of them.

He studied the gunsight again, then traversed the barrel slightly to the left. "Load it and we'll fire for effect," he said.

Jethro Bixler set a shell in the breech, then closed it with a scrape of metal against metal. He bowed to Featherston as if they were a couple of fancy gentlemen-say, Jeb Stuart III and one of the Sloss brothers-at an inaugural ball in Richmond. "Would you care to do the honors?"

"Hell yes," Jake said with a laugh, and pulled the lanyard. The field gun barked. He got the field glasses up to his eyes just as the shell hit three or four seconds later. "Miss," he said, and clucked to himself in annoyance. "Long and still off to the right."

He lowered the barrel a little more and brought it over another few minutes of arc to the left. The second round fired for effect was straight, but still long. The third fell a few yards short. By then, the other guns in the battery had gone into action, too, so he had to hesitate before he could be sure the round he had seen really came from his gun. He turned the elevation screw counterclockwise, about a quarter of a revolution, waited a couple of seconds for a fresh load, and fired again at the farmhouse.

"Hit!" The whole gun crew shouted it together. Smoke and dust shot up from the building; through the field glasses, Featherston saw a hole in the roof.

"Now we give it to 'em!" he said, and shell after shell rained down on and around the farmhouse. Its stone walls might have been thick enough to keep out small-arms fire, but they weren't proof against artillery. The building fell to pieces even faster than it would have under assault from a steam crane and wrecking ball.

He swung his field glasses to the other farmhouse. Half the guns in the battery had chosen that one, and it was in no better shape than the one his howitzer crew had helped to destroy. Confederate troops swarmed up out of the shallow trenches they'd dug to protect themselves from the fire coming out of those two buildings and rushed toward them. To his dismay and anger, he saw the barrage, though it had wrecked the farmhouses, hadn't killed or driven off all the enemy soldiers in them. Men in butternut fell, not quite in the horrific numbers Featherston had seen in some assaults, but far too many all the same.

"We gotta keep hitting 'em!" he shouted to the gun crew. More shells went out, fast as the artillerymen could serve the howitzer.

Featherston kept watching the assault on the farmhouses. The Confederate infantrymen surged toward them, still taking casualties but advancing now. Featherston held fire when they reached the buildings, not wanting to hit the soldiers on his own side. When he saw tiny figures in butternut waving their comrades forward past the farmhouses, he knew the position had been carried.

"Good job, boys," he said. It wasn't every day you could actually see what your firing had accomplished. A lot of the time, your shells were just part of a massive bombardment aimed at targets too far away for you to tell whether you'd done any good against them or not.

Perseus pointed up into the sky. "Lookit that-it's one o' them aeroplane contraptions," the Negro shouted. "Wonder whose side it's on."

"Reckon it's a Yankee machine," Featherston said, also looking up. "If it was one of ours, it wouldn't be hangin' up there over our lines-it'd be spyin' on the enemy instead."

What he wished was that he had a gun able to knock that snooping U.S. aeroplane right out of the sky. Wishing, though, didn't magically provide him with one. As the machine passed nearly overhead, something fell out of it and sped toward the ground. For a moment, Jake hoped that meant the pilot had gone overboard, or whatever the aeronautical equivalent was.

He realized the shape was wrong. He also realized two or three some things were falling, not just one. And, with that, he realized what the somethings were. "He's dropping bombs on us!" he shouted indignantly.

Boom! Boom! Boom! There were three of them. They fell a couple of hundred yards behind the battery of field guns. The noise from the explosions smote Featherston like a thunderclap. Clouds of smoke and dust rose, but the bombs didn't seem to have done any damage.

Jethro Bixler looked back at where they'd blown up, then shook his fist at the aeroplane, which was now flying away toward the Yankee lines. But then he grinned and shrugged. "That wasn't so much of a much," he said. "By the sound of those things, they weren't a whole lot bigger'n what our three-inchers throw. An' we can put 'em just where we want 'em, and put a whole bunch of 'em there, 'stead o' droppin' a couple an' runnin' for home."

"They can put 'em back of our lines farther than artillery can reach," Featherston said, giving such credit as he could: the Confederacy had bombing aeroplanes of its own, after all, and he didn't want to think they were useless. But he also took pride in what he did: "Reckon you're right, though. Set alongside these here guns, I don't figure aerial bombs'll ever amount to much."

As George Enos came into his house, his wife Sylvia greeted him with bad news: "They're going to cut the coal ration this month, and it looks like it's going to stay cut."

"That's not good," he said, an understatement if ever there was one. He took off his cap and set it on the head of four-year-old George, Jr. Naturally, it fell down over his son's eyes. The boy squealed with glee. The fisherman went on, "Hard enough cooking if they cut the ration any further. But winter's coming, and this is Boston. How will we keep warm if we can't get as much coal as we need?"

"Mr. Peterson at the Coal Board office, he didn't say anything about that, and you can bet there were a lot of people asking him, too." Sylvia Enos' thin face was angry and tired and frustrated. She often looked that way when she got home from a couple of hours of fighting Coal Board paperwork, but more so today than usual. "All he said was, the factories have to have coal if they're going to make all the things we need to fight the war, and everybody else gets what's left over. The surtax is going up another penny a hundredweight, too."

"I already knew that much," George Enos said. "Some company bigwig was grousing about it when we coaled up Ripple before we went out last Monday."

"Well, sit down and rest a bit," Sylvia told him. "I haven't seen you since then, you know, and little George and Mary Jane haven't, either. It's hard for them, their father gone days at a time. Supper'll be about twenty minutes more."

"All right," Enos said. The pleasant smells of clam chowder and potatoes fried in lard wafted into the living room from the kitchen.

Sylvia started to head back into the kitchen, then turned with hands on her hips. "I swear to goodness, the forms they give you to fill out before you can even get a speck of coal now are worse than they ever used to be."

"Maybe we should burn all the forms," Enos said. "Then we wouldn't need so much coal."

"You think you're making a joke," Sylvia said. "It's not funny. When Mrs. Coneval's mother came over yesterday, she was complaining about them, too. She remembers back before the Second Mexican War, and she says there didn't hardly used to be any forms like there are now."

"That was a long time ago," George answered, which got him a dirty look from Sylvia. After a moment, he realized he'd pretty much called her friend's mother an old woman. Defensively, he went on, "Well, it was. From what people say, things haven't been the same since."

His wife nodded sadly. "Always the war scares. I don't know how many from then till now, but a lot of them. And all the factories busy all the time, making guns and shells and ships and I don't know what all else to use if the war came. And now it's come. But we'd have had so much more for ourselves if we hadn't been worrying about the war all the time."

"But we'd probably have lost it, too, because the Rebs have been building every bit as hard as we have," he said. "Harder, maybe; if they use their niggers in their factories, they don't have to pay 'em anything to speak of. Same with the Canadians, except they don't have niggers."

Talking about niggers made him think of Charlie White. But the Cookie was somebody he worked with, a friend, who just happened to have dark brown skin and hair that grew in tight curls. It wasn't the same, though he couldn't have put his finger on why it wasn't.

Sylvia said, "The Canadians, they have Frenchies instead of niggers." She sniffed loudly, but not on account of French Canadians. "I have to turn those potatoes, or they'll burn. And I'll start frying the fish with them in a couple of minutes, too."

"All right." George Enos sat down and lighted a cigar. He wondered how long he'd be able to keep doing that. Most tobacco came from the Confederate States, and they weren't going to be shipping any up north, not while they and the United States were shooting at each other.

George, Jr., came over and hugged one of his legs. Seeing that, Mary Jane toddled up and hugged the other one. She tried to imitate everything her older brother did, which often made her the most absurd creature George had ever seen. "Dadadada!" she said enthusiastically. She was a year and a half old now, and sometimes said "Daddy," but when she got excited-as she always did when her father first came home from the sea-she went back to baby talk.

Fresh sizzling noises from the kitchen said the fish had gone into the frying pan. The Enoses, like any other fisher folk, ate a lot of fish: nobody begrudged George's bringing home enough to feed his family. He didn't have to fill out any forms to get it, either. Through the sizzle, Sylvia called, "When do you think you'll be going out again?"

"Don't know exactly," he answered. "Soon as Captain O'Donnell or somebody from the company can lay hold of more coal, I expect. Business is good, prices are up, and so they're sending us out as often as they can. Might be the day after tomorrow, might be-"

Somebody knocked on the front door, hard.

"Might be tomorrow morning," Enos said, heaving himself up out of his chair. In the kitchen, Sylvia groaned, but softly. He understood what she was feeling, because he was feeling all the same things himself. Getting to see his family once in a while mattered a lot. But he'd brought home a lot of money in the weeks since the war started. Prices were up, too, but as long as he stayed busy, he stayed ahead of them.

He opened the door. Sure enough, there stood Fred Butcher. "Hate to do this to you, George," the mate said, "but we've swung a deal for some fuel. We sail at half past five tomorrow morning."

"I'll be there," Enos said-what else could he say?

Butcher nodded. "I know you will. You and Cookie, we can always count on the two of you. Some of the others, I'm going to have to pry 'em out of the saloons and sober 'em up-if I can find 'em." He touched a finger to the bill of his cap. "See you on the wharf. Tell your missus I'm sorry." He hurried off, a busy man with more work ahead of him.

George Enos shut the door. "Supper's on the table," Sylvia called at the same moment. As he walked into the kitchen, she went on, "I can guess what that was all about. Nice I get to give you one meal before Charlie White gets his hands on you again. You eat more of his cooking than you do of mine, seems like."

"Maybe I do," Enos said, "but I like yours better." That made Sylvia smile; for a moment, she didn't look so tired. George wasn't sure he'd told her the truth, but he'd made her happy, which counted, too.

Sylvia cut up bits of fish and potato for the children. George, Jr., handled his fork pretty well; one day soon, he'd start using a knife. With Mary Jane, Sylvia had to make sure she ate more than she threw from the high chair onto the floor. It was about an even-money bet.

"Have to get them to bed early tonight," George remarked. "If we can."

"I don't want to go to bed early," his son declared indignantly. Mary Jane wasn't old enough yet to know what he was talking about.

"You'll do as you're told, though," Enos said.

George, Jr., knew that tone brooked little argument. He changed his tack, asking, "Why do I have to go to bed early? Mama? Daddy? Why?"

"Just because you do," Sylvia answered, glancing at her husband with an expression half amused, half harassed. When you had only occasional nights together, you needed to make the most of them.

And there were reasons sailors coming home from the sea had a salty reputation. "Again, George?" Sylvia whispered in the darkness of their bedroom, feeling him rise against her flank for the fourth time. "You might as well be a bridegroom. Shouldn't you sleep instead?"

"I can sleep on the Ripple," he said as he climbed back on top of her. "I can't do this." She laughed and clasped her arms around his sweaty back.

When the alarm clock jangled at four in the morning, he wished he'd slept more and done other things less. He made the clock shut up, then found a match, scratched it, and used the flame to find and light the gas lamp. Staggering around like a half-dead thing, he fumbled his way into his clothes.

By the time he was dressed, Sylvia, who'd thrown a quilted robe over her white cotton nightdress, pressed a cup of coffee into his hands. He gulped it down, hot and sweet and strong. "You should go back to bed," he told her. She shook her head, as she did whenever he said that in the small hours of the morning. She puckered her lips. He set down the cup and kissed her good-bye.

Some of the streets on the way down to T Wharf had gaslights, some new, brighter electric lamps. The lamps weren't bright enough to keep him from seeing stars in the sky. The air was crisp and cool. Fall wasn't just coming- fall was here. They might get a couple of weeks of Indian summer, and then again they might not.

T Wharf didn't care about day or night; it was busy all the time. And sure enough, there ahead of him strode Charlie White, a knitted wool cap on his head. "Hey, Cookie!" George called. The Negro turned and waved.

For a wonder, the whole crew got to the Ripple on time. "Wouldn't even expect that in the Navy," Patrick O'Donnell said: his highest praise. A few minutes later, coal smoke spurted from the steam trawler's stack. Along with Lucas Phelps, George cast off the mooring lines. The Ripple chugged out toward Georges Bank.

The Cookie served out more coffee, and then more still; a lot of the fisher men were short on sleep. And if any of them were hung over, well, coffee was good for that, too.

The day dawned bright and clear. Gulls screeched overhead. They knew fishing boats were a good place to cadge a meal, but they weren't smart enough to tell outbound boats from inbound. Off in the distance floated a plume of smoke from a warship outbound ahead of the Ripple. Enos liked seeing that; it made trouble from Confederate cruisers and submarines less likely. The warship, intent on its own concerns, soon left the Ripple behind; the smoke vanished over the eastern horizon.

Though the Ripple was a trawler, everyone fished with long lines on the way out to Georges Bank: no point wasting travel time. The cod and mackerel they caught went into the hold. So did a couple of tilefish. "Shallower water'n you'll usually see 'em in," Lucas Phelps remarked, pulling in a flopping three-foot fish. "More of 'em now than there have been, too, since they almost disappeared thirty years back."

"My pa used to talk about that," George Enos said. "Cold currents shifting almost killed 'em off, or something like that." He headed up to the galley for yet another mug of coffee.

When they reached the Georges Bank that night, the trawl splashed into the sea. The Ripple crawled along, dragging it over the ocean bottom. To keep from drawing raiders, Captain O'Donnell left the running lights off; he posted a double watch to listen for approaching vessels and avoid collisions.

But they might have been alone on the ocean. Another clear dawn followed, with water around them stretching, as far as the eye could tell, all the way to the end of the world. No smoke told of other fishing boats or warships anywhere nearby.

Enos was gutting fish when the captain spotted a smoke plume approaching from the east. "Freighter heading in toward Boston," he judged after a spyglass examination. He looked some more. "Carrying something under tarps on the bow, something else at the stern."

The freighter must have spotted the Ripple, too, for she swung toward the trawler. O'Donnell kept watching her every couple of minutes. Enos thought he was worrying too much, but, on the other hand, he got paid to worry.

And then the captain shouted, "Cut the trawl free! We've got to run for it. Those are guns under there!"

Too late. One of the guns roared, a sound harsh even across a couple of miles of water. A shell splashed into the sea a hundred yards in front of the Ripple's bow. Then the other gun, the one at the armed freighter's stern, belched smoke and fire. That shell landed about as far behind the steam trawler.

Signal flags fluttered up the freighter's lines. Captain O'Donnell read them through the telescope. "'Surrender or be sunk,' they tell us," he said. Like the rest of the fishermen, George Enos stood numb, unbelieving. You never thought it could happen to you, not so close to home. But that freighter, while no match for the cruiser that hadn't seen it, could do with the Ripple as it would. One of those shells would have smashed the steam trawler to kindling.

"What do we do, Captain?" Enos asked. O'Donnell was an old Navy man. Surely he'd have a trick to discomfit the approaching ship, which, George could see, now flew the Stars and Bars above the signal flags.

But O'Donnell, after kicking once at the deck, folded the telescope and put it in his pocket. "What can we do?" he said, and then answered his own question by turning to Fred Butcher and saying, "Run up a white flag, Mate. They've got us."

V

R ain With sleet in it blew into Arthur McGregor's face as he rode his wagon into Rosenfeld, the hamlet on the Manitoba prairie nearest his farm. At the edge of town, a sentry in a green-gray U.S. Army rain slicker stepped out into the roadway, his boots making wet sucking noises as they went into and came out of the mud. "Let's see your pass, Canuck," he said in a harsh big-city accent.

Wordlessly, McGregor took it out of an inside pocket and handed it to him. The farmer had wrapped the pass in waxed paper before setting out for Rosenfeld, knowing he'd need it: the Americans were sticklers for every bit of punctilio they'd set up in the territory they occupied, and people who didn't go along disappeared into jail or sometimes just disappeared, period.

After carefully inspecting the document, the sentry handed it back. "Awright, go ahead," he said grudgingly, as if disappointed he didn't have an excuse for giving McGregor more trouble. He gestured with his Springfield. Water beaded on the bayonet; he'd done a good job of greasing it to keep it from rusting.

Rosenfeld's only reason for being was that it lay where an east-west railway line and one that ran north-south merged into a single line heading northeast: in the direction of Winnipeg. Along with the train station, it boasted a general store, a bank, a couple of churches, a livery stable run by the blacksmith (who also did his best to fix motorcars, not that he saw many), a doctor who doubled as a dentist, a weekly newspaper, and a post office. McGregor hitched the horses in front of that last.

"Shut the door behind you," called Wilfred Rokeby, the postmaster, when McGregor came in. The farmer obeyed, not blaming him a bit: the coal stove made the interior of the post office deliciously warm. McGregor stood dripping on the mat just inside the door for a couple of minutes before going on up to the counter.

Rokeby nodded in approval. He was a small, fussy man with a thin mustache and with mouse-brown hair parted precisely in the center and held immovably in place by some cinnamon-scented hair oil that always made McGregor think of baked apples. "And what can I do for you today, Arthur?" he asked, as if certain the farmer had something new and exotic in mind.

McGregor took out another sheet of waxed paper. This one was folded around half a dozen ordinary envelopes. "Want to mail these," he said.

Rokeby looked pained. He always did, but today more than usual. "They're going to destinations in the occupied zone, I hope?"

"Can't send 'em anyplace else from here, now can I?" McGregor answered sourly. "Any mail wagon goes from one side of the line to the other, first the Yanks shoot it up and then we do."

"That is unfortunately correct." The postmaster made it sound as if it were McGregor's fault. He pointed to the envelopes lying on the counter between them. "Those'll have to go through the American military censor before I can send 'em out, you know."

"Yeah, I'd heard about that." McGregor's expression said what he thought of it, too. "It's all right." He spread the envelopes out fan-fashion so Rokeby could read the addresses on them. "Two to my brothers, two to my sisters and brothers-in-law, two to my cousins, just to let 'em know I'm alive and well, and so is the rest of the family. Censors can read 'em till their eyes cross, far as I'm concerned."

"All right, Arthur. Wanted to make sure you remembered, is all." Wilfred Rokeby lowered his voice. "The Yanks have arrested more'n a couple of people on account of they were careless about what they put in the mail. Wouldn't want anything like that to happen to you."

"Thanks," McGregor said gruffly. He dug in his pocket and came out with a handful of change. Setting a dime and two pennies on the counter beside the envelopes, he went on, "Why don't you let me have the stamps for them, then?"

"I'll do that." The postmaster scooped up the coins and dropped them into the cash box. Then he pulled out a sheet of fifty carmine stamps, tore off a strip of six, and handed them to McGregor. "Here you go."

"Thanks. I'll-" McGregor took a closer look at the stamps Rokeby had given him. The color wasn't quite right-that was what had first drawn his eye. When he took that closer look, he saw they didn't bear the familiar portrait of King George V, either. They were U.S. stamps, with a picture of Benjamin Franklin on them. On Franklin 's plump face, the phrase Manitoba mil. dist. was overprinted in black ink. "What the devil are these?"

"The stamps we have to use from now on," Rokeby answered. "Ugly, aren't they? But I don't have a choice about what I sell you: military governor says no mail with the old stamps goes out any more. Penalty for disobeying is… more than you want to think about."

One after another, mechanically, McGregor separated the stamps from the strip the postmaster had given him, licked them, and stuck them on envelopes. Even the glue tasted wrong, or he thought it did-more bitter than that to which he was accustomed. The taste of occupation, he thought. The U.S. stamps, specially made up for the occupied area hereabouts, brought home to him that the Americans expected to be here a long time in a way nothing else, not even the soldier outside of town, had done.

He shoved the letters at Rokeby, then turned on his heels and stomped out of the post office without another word. Suddenly the warmth in there felt treacherous, deceptive, as if by being comfortable Rokeby was somehow collaborating with the United States. He knew the idea was absurd, but it wouldn't go away once it occurred to him. The cold, nasty rain that beat in his face when he went outside was a part of his native land, and so seemed oddly cleansing.

The general store was a couple of doors down. His feet thumped on the boards of the sidewalk. A bell jingled when he went in. Henry Gibbon looked up from a copy of the Rosenfeld Register. He took a pipe out of his mouth, knocked it against an ashtray, and said, "Morning to you, Arthur. Haven't seen you in a while. Everything all right out at your place?"

"Right enough, anyhow," McGregor answered: a measure of life in wartime. "We didn't get hurt, thank God, and we didn't lose our buildings or too much of the livestock. I've heard of plenty of people who came through worse."

"That's a fact," the storekeeper said. Henry Gibbon looked like a store keeper: bald and plump and genial, with a big gray mustache hiding most of his upper lip. He wore a white apron, none too clean, over a collarless shirt, a considerable expanse of belly, and black wool trousers. "You got your family, you got your house, you can go on."

McGregor nodded. He didn't tell Gibbon about how his wife had tried endlessly to get rid of the bloodstains on the floors and walls, or about the chunks of board he'd nailed over dozens of bullet holes to keep out the cold. The farmhouse looked as if it had broken out in pimples.

"So what can I sell you today?" Gibbon asked. Unlike some storekeepers McGregor had known, he made no bones about being in a business where he gave customers goods in exchange for money.

"Thing I need most is ten gallons of kerosene," the farmer answered. "Nights are starting to get longer, and they'll be really long pretty soon. I've got plenty of coal laid in for the winter, but lamp oil, now-" He spread his hands.

Henry Gibbon clicked his tongue between his teeth. "I can give you two gallons, no problem. Anything more than that at one time, or you buyin' more than two gallons a month, and you got to get permission from the Americans in writing." He reached down under the counter and pulled out a set of forms, which he waved in McGregor's face. "I got to account for every drop I sell: when and to who and how much at a time. They're fussy about checkin' on it, too. You don't want to run foul of 'em."

It was warm inside the store, as it had been in the post office. Again, McGregor had the sense of warmth betraying him. "Two gallons a month, that's not much."

"It's what I can sell you," Gibbon said. "Arthur, I'd do more if I could, but I got a family. You get in trouble with the Americans, you get in bad trouble." He waved the copy of the Register, much as he had the U.S. forms. Then he pointed to an item and read aloud: "'The U.S. military governor in the town of Morden announces that ten hostages have been taken because of the shooting death of an American soldier. If the perpetrator of this vile and dastardly act of cowardice does not surrender himself to the duly constituted authorities within seventy-two hours of this announcement, the hostages will be executed by firing squad.' "

"Let me see that!" McGregor said. He'd paid little attention to the town weekly since the American tide rolled over this part of Manitoba. Now he got a good look at how things had changed since the occupation.

Oh, not everything was different from what it had been. Local stores still advertised on the front page of the Register, as they had for as long as Malachi Stubing had been publishing it-and through the tenures of two other publishers before him. He still announced local births and marriages. Farmers still plunked down money to tout the service of their stallions and jackasses, with the invariable ten-dollar fee and the phrase "Colt to stand and walk." If the foal was stillborn, the fee was waived. McGregor had put a good many such notices in the paper over the years.

Some of the death notices were as they'd always been: Mary Lancaster, age 71, beloved mother, grandmother; Georgi Pasternak, age 9 months, at home with the angels. But a good many bore familiar names gone at un expected ages: Burton Wheeler, 19 years old; Paul Fletcher, age 20; Joe Teague, 18. None of those gave the least hint how the young men had died.

Another story listed men known to be prisoners of war, and gave their kin instructions on how to send them packages. "All parcels are subject to search," it warned. "Any found containing contraband of any description will result in the addressee's forfeiting all rights to receive future parcels."

That blunt warning took McGregor to the columns of small print that covered the broader world. And there, most of all, that world might have turned upside down with the arrival of the Americans. Suddenly Germany became the trusted ally, England and France the hated foes. The German failure in front of Paris was glossed over as a small setback, and much made of the victory the Kaiser's forces had won over Russians poking their noses into eastern Prussia.

As far as the Register was concerned, the United States could do no wrong, though each story did bear the disclaimer, furnished by the American Military Information Bureau. If you believed what you read, the Yanks were in Winnipeg, in Toronto, and bombarding Montreal and Quebec City, to say nothing of the triumphs they'd won against the Confederacy and the victories their Atlantic Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet had gained over the Royal Navy and its French and Confederate allies.

McGregor set the Register back on the counter. "What do you think of all this?" he asked Henry Gibbon.

The storekeeper paused before he spoke. "Well, the paper it's on is pretty thin now," he said at last. "That makes it better for wipin' your ass than it used to be."

McGregor stared at him, then chuckled, down deep in his throat. "I don't expect the American Military Information Board'd like that answer, Henry."

"Give me a penny and I'll care a cent's worth," Gibbon answered. This time, both men laughed.

"Come on, you damn nigger, shake a leg!" the lieutenant shouted, a silver bar gleaming on each shoulder strap. "You think we've got all day to unload this stuff? Get your lazy, stinking black ass in gear, or you'll be sorry you were ever born, and you can take that to the bank."

"I'm comin', sir, fast as I can," Cincinnatus answered. He walked onto the barge, threw a hundred-pound sack of corn onto his shoulder, and carried it to the waiting motor truck. The truck rocked on its springs as he tossed the sack on top of the others already in the cargo bed.

"Faster, dammit!" the lieutenant screamed, setting a hand on the grip of his pistol. He clapped the other hand to his forehead, and almost knocked the green-gray cap off his head. "Jesus Christ, no wonder the stinking Rebs go on about niggers the way they do."

Cincinnatus would have liked to see the lieutenant haul as much as he was hauling, or even half as much. The noisy little peckerwood ofay'd fall over dead. But he had the gun, and he had the rest of the U.S. Army behind him, and so Cincinnatus didn't see that he had much choice about doing what he was told.

He had no great love for the whites for whom he'd laboured here in Covington. They'd told the truth about one thing, though: he didn't get better treatment now that the United States was running the town than he had when the Stars and Bars flew here. Some ways, things were worse. The whites who lived in Covington-Tom Kennedy came to mind-dealt with Negroes every day and were used to them. A lot of the soldiers from the United States — this buckra lieutenant surely among them-had never set eyes on a black man before they invaded the Confederacy. They treated Negroes like mules, or maybe like steam engines.

Another grunt, another sack of grain on his shoulder, another walk to the truck. The lieutenant shouted at him every inch of the way. No, you didn't cuss a steam engine the way that fellow cussed Cincinnatus. The Negro couldn't figure out whether the U.S. soldier blamed him for being black or for being the reason the South had broken away from the United States. He didn't think the lieutenant knew, or cared. The man could abuse him with impunity, and he did.

"Once we win here, we'll ship all you nigger bastards back to Africa," he said, sounding ready, willing, and able to pilot the boat himself.

Sensibly, Cincinnatus kept his mouth shut. Even if he hadn't had a lot of schooling, though, he could do arithmetic better than that damnfool lieutenant. There were something like ten million Negroes in the Confederate States. That made for a lot of boat trips back and forth across the ocean. For that matter, the USA hadn't shipped its own Negroes back to Africa. If they weren't there any more, whom would the white folks have left to despise?

At last, the back of the truck was full. Cincinnatus picked up a galvanized bucket, drank some water, and poured the rest over his head. The lieutenant glowered at him, but let him do it. Maybe he'd convinced the fellow he really was working.

A white man, a U.S. soldier, drove away in the truck. "I could do that, suh," Cincinnatus told the lieutenant. "You could use your boys for nothin' but fightin' then."

"No," the lieutenant barked, and Cincinnatus shut up again. If the damnyankee wanted to be stupid, that was his lookout.

But the damnyankees weren't stupid, not in everything, and you were in trouble if you didn't remember that. The railroad bridge and the highway bridge over the Ohio had crashed into the water as soon as the war started, blown up by Confederate sappers to keep U.S. troops from using them. The Yankee bombardment had done a lot of damage to the Covington docks and, when invasion looked imminent, the Confederates had done a lot more, again to keep the United States from gaining a military advantage. When Cincinnatus came out of the storm cellar of his house after the Confederate army retreated southward and the artillery fire tapered off, he was horrified at the devastation all around.

Things still looked like hell. The fires were out, yes, but every third build ing, or so it seemed, was either wrecked or had a hole bitten out of it. You didn't want to walk down the street without shoes; you'd slice your feet to ribbons on the knife-sharp shards of glass that sparkled like diamonds in the sun and were sometimes drifted inches deep.

None of that had kept U.S. forces from exploiting Covington once they'd seized it. Not one but two railroad bridges and one for wagons and trucks came down from Ohio now; they were pontoon bridges that blocked the river to water traffic, but the damnyankees didn't seem to care about that. And the docks had got back in working order faster than Cincinnatus had imagined possible. Barges and ferries-anything that would float-worked alongside the bridges in moving men and materiel down toward the fighting. The U.S. Army engineers knew what they were doing, no two ways about that.

Cincinnatus sighed. If the damnyankees had done as well dealing with the people of Covington as they had with transportation into and out of the place, everybody would have been better off. Nobody, though, had taught them the first thing about how to engineer human beings, and they weren't good at it. This damn lieutenant was a case in point.

He screamed at Cincinnatus and the rest of the Negroes doing stevedore work on the docks from the minute they got there to the minute they left. And he didn't just hate Negroes; whenever he had to deal with the white Southerner, he was every bit as bad.

When the owner of a livery stable complained about having had some horses requisitioned without getting paid for them, the lieutenant told him, "What you need isn't money or horses; it's the horsewhip, nothing else but. You damned traitor, you're dealing with the United States of America now, not your Rebel government. You'd better walk small or you'll be sorry. We're back now, and we're going to stay, and if you don't like it, you can jump in the river for all I care."

The livery stable man walked off. If looks could have killed, the lieutenant would have been the one in the Ohio, floating face down. Cincinnatus whispered to another black man working alongside him: "My mama always did say you catch mo' flies with honey than with vinegar."

"My mama say the same thing," the other Negro answered, also in a low voice. "That buckra there, though, I bet he don't have no mama." He dropped his voice even further. "An' he sure don't know who his papa was."

Cincinnatus laughed at that, loud enough to make the lieutenant glare at him. But he was working, and working hard, so the little man in the green-gray uniform went off to shout at somebody else.

When sunset came, the men on the docks lined up to get their pay. Armed guards stood around the paymaster to make sure nobody tried redistributing the wealth on his own. "Name," said the paymaster, a middle-aged white man with sergeant's stripes on his sleeves.

"Agamemnon," said the Negro in front of Cincinnatus.

The paymaster handed him a green-gray U.S. dollar bill. Covington was a border town, so some of those bills, along with U.S. coins, circulated here all the time. Now, though, the brown Confederate banknotes were no longer legal tender in areas the United States controlled. Till that moment, Cincinnatus hadn't noticed how each side's paper money matched its army uniform.

"Name?" the paymaster asked him.

"Cincinnatus," he answered.

"No." Shaking his head, the paymaster pointed across the Ohio River. " Cincinnati 's over there." He chuckled. Cincinnatus smiled back. It wasn't the worst joke in the world, even if he heard it at least once a week. And the white sergeant didn't seem to have a chip on his shoulder, the way most damnyankees did. The fellow checked his name off on the list in front of him, then handed him a dollar and a fifty-cent piece. "Lieutenant Kennan says you get a hard-work bonus."

"He does?" Cincinnatus said, amazed.

"Believe it or else, buddy," the paymaster said with an eyebrow raised in amusement-maybe he knew about Lieutenant Kennan. Instead of waving Cincinnatus on, he said, "Ask you somethin'?"

"Yes, sir, go ahead," Cincinnatus said. The fellow seemed friendly enough-and having a white man ask him permission for anything before going ahead and doing it was a novelty in and of itself.

"All right." The sergeant leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head, fingers interlaced. "What I want to know is, how come all you niggers down here carry such highfalutin names?"

"Never hardly studied it," Cincinnatus said. He did, for a couple of seconds, then answered, "Reckon it's on account of the law don't allow us no last names-maybe they figure we'd be good as white folks if we had 'em, I don't know. So we only have the one, and we got to make the most of it."

"Makes as much sense as any other guess I've heard," the paymaster allowed. Now he did wave Cincinnatus on, asking the next man in line, "Name?"

"Rehoboam," the stevedore answered. The paymaster chuckled and gave him his money.

With an extra four bits in his pocket, Cincinnatus spent a nickel of it for a ride home on the trolley, which had been running for only a couple of days. He went to the back of the car and stood there, hanging onto a leather strap, as it clattered along. Some seats in the forward, white, section were vacant, but the U.S. officials hadn't changed the rules, and the U.S. soldiers in the forward section were liable to beat up a black man who tried to sit among them. He'd heard that had already happened more than once.

The trolley rolled past the city hall. The Stars and Stripes flew in front of it and on top of its dome. To Cincinnatus, the U.S. flag looked crowded and busy, with too many stars and too many stripes. The Bleeding Zebra, Southerners called it, and he could see why.

Plump, prosperous-looking white gentlemen wearing homburgs and somber suits, carrying fancy leather briefcases, and smoking cigars strode in and out of the city hall, as they had before the United States occupied Coving-ton. Some were U.S. administrators, some Covington politicians licking the Yankees' boots.

And some, maybe, really did want to work with the USA. Kentucky was the only Confederate state that hadn't left the Union at the start of the War of Secession; Braxton Bragg had conquered it for Richmond when Lincoln pulled soldiers eastward to try to repair the disaster at Camp Hill. Up till the time of the Second Mexican War, when U.S. forces wrecked Louisville, a lot of Kentuckians had had sympathy for the United States, and, sympathy or not, Kentucky had always done a hell of a lot of business with the USA.

Along with the prosperous gentlemen, a good many U.S. soldiers held positions around the Covington city hall. Machine guns protected by sandbags stood at either side of the entrance. Not everybody in Covington sympathized with the damnyankees, not by a long shot.

Cincinnatus got out of the trolley not far from Tom Kennedy's warehouse. The lines did not run through the colored section of town. Standing still for the journey let him know how tired he was; he walked south to his house with the stoop-shouldered, stiff-jointed gait of an old man.

Motion by the Licking River caught his eye. A bunch of Yankee sailors in dark blue were swarming over the grounded, burned-out hulk of the river monitor he'd seen on the water that day just before the war broke out. The monitor had taken a licking, all right; Yankee shells had set it ablaze before it could do much damage. Now whatever bits of it that could be salvaged would be used against the Confederacy.

The smell of fried chicken floating out through the windows made Cincinnatus' mouth water and straightened his back. Just thinking about biting into a hot, juicy leg sent spit spurting into his mouth. "That better be done," he called as he walked inside, "'cause I'm gonna eat it whether it is or whether it ain't. Smells as good as my mama makes."

"Be five, ten minutes," his wife Elizabeth answered. She waved to him from the kitchen. Then, to his surprise, his mother did, too. A heavyset woman of about fifty, she beamed at him and Elizabeth both. "My boy Cincinnatus, he has a good nose," she declared.

"That he does, Mother Livia," Elizabeth said. "You were right-he could tell. Must be the spices."

"What are you doin' here, Mama?" Cincinnatus asked. "Not that I ain't glad to see you, but-"

"I came to help my daughter-in-law," his mother said.

Cincinnatus scratched his head. His wife was as capable as she needed to be and then some, and his mother had said as much ever since they were married. Elizabeth had got out of her black-and-white housekeeper's clothes and put on a shirtwaist too old and spotted to wear in public any more and a bright red cotton skirt that set off her light brown skin-she was two, maybe three shades paler than Cincinnatus. "You're home sooner than I reckoned on," she said.

"Took the trolley," he answered. She frowned at the extravagance till he showed her not only the day's usual greenback but the forty-five cents he had left from his bonus. "That damnyankee strawboss lieutenant, he sure hates niggers, but he knows work when he sees it."

"All right," Elizabeth said, more grudgingly than he'd expect. "I wish you'd saved every penny, but-all right."

"What's the matter?" he asked. "We ain't broke." One reason he loved Elizabeth was that she was as dedicated to getting ahead-or as far ahead as Negroes in the Confederate States could get-as he was. Even so, worrying about a nickel's worth of bonus seemed excessive.

Then she set both hands on her belly, about where the shirtwaist tucked into the skirt. "Reckon we gonna have us a little one some time next spring."

"A little one?" Cincinnatus stared. All at once, he understood why his mother had come. He hurried forward to embrace Elizabeth. "That's wonderful!" And it was wonderful, even if the timing could have been better. But now he wished he hadn't spent that nickel.

The troop train rattled through Lynchburg and west toward the Blue Ridge Mountains. "If I'd known they were going to pack us into these cars like canned sardines," Reginald Bartlett said, feeling not just canned but cooked in his uniform and heavy kit, "I never would have volunteered."

"Ahh, quit whinin'," said Robert E. McCorkle. Since McCorkle was a corporal, his opinion carried considerable weight. So did he; his uniform could have held a couple of men of ordinary girth. He went on, "You don't like it, write your congressman."

"I can't," Bartlett said. "Can't raise my arms to write."

That put a smile on McCorkle's face; even noncommissioned officers responded to Bartlett 's charm, a sure proof of its effectiveness. The corporal said, "Well, you ain't as bad as some here, and that's the Gospel truth. Some o' these birds, they even grouse in their sleep."

"Birds? Grouse?" Reggie Bartlett laughed, but McCorkle failed to join him: he didn't notice he'd made a joke. What were you supposed to do with such people? Burying them struck Bartlett as a good idea, but only for a moment. A lot of young men were getting buried, off in the direction they were going.

McCorkle said, "Ahh, what the hell, anyway? You turn out a bunch of soldiers who can't even complain when they feel like it, they might as well come from the United States."

"Or Germany," somebody said from behind the corporal.

"Yeah, or Germany," McCorkle allowed. "But it's different with the Huns. If it's got buttons on its coat, they salute it. The soldiers in the United States, once upon a time they was Americans, same as you an' me. Not any more. It's all the damn foreign riffraff they let in, you ask me."

Ahead, the bulk of the Blue Ridge notched the skyline. The sun was going down in fire above the mountains. The troop train rolled over an iron bridge spanning the Otter River. Less than half an hour later, it went through Bedford Court House; in the twilight, Bartlett saw street lamps going up into the hills at whose feet the town lay.

Night fell. The troop train kept on traveling. Its pace slowed as it climbed. Some of the peaks of the Blue Ridge rose well over four thousand feet: not so much out West in the United States or the CSA, but more than respectable hereabouts. The tracks went through the passes, not over the peaks, of course, but still rose considerably in a short stretch of time.

Reginald Bartlett made himself as comfortable as he could. Considering all the gear with which he was festooned, that wasn't very comfortable, but at least he had a seat on a hard second-class bench. The aisles were full of men who'd been standing since they left Richmond and who were trying to squat or lie down so they could try to get a little sleep.

That didn't come easy, for them or for him. His pack dug into his spine. If he let his head flop backwards, it went over the back of the seat, and made him feel his neck was breaking. If he leaned forward, he hit himself in the forehead with the rifle he held between his knees. The men on either side of him kept poking him with their elbows, and neither of them, by all the evidence, had ever heard of soap and water-or maybe Bartlett was just smelling himself.

"This whole business of war is a lot more entertaining to read about than to be a part of," he complained. "All the writers who go on about the Revolution and the Secession and the Second Mexican War leave out the parts that have no glory in them."

"And when they do talk about glory, they're talking about the fellows who lived," Corporal McCorkle added. "The poor bastards who died, yeah, they wave good-bye to them, you might say, but that's all."

Bartlett didn't want to think about that, and wished he'd kept his mouth shut. The Confederacy was mowing down damnyankees the way a steam-powered threshing machine mowed down wheat at harvest time. All the papers said so, and so did every military briefing Bartlett had heard since he'd showed up at the recruiting office. But the papers also printed hideously long casualty lists every day, and the maps showed that most of the fighting was on Confederate soil. Things weren't so easy as he'd thought they would be when he joined up.

Just when he finally managed to doze off, the troop transport started down the grade on the western slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Couplings bumped and jolted-the weight of the train had shifted from the back end to the front. Bartlett jerked bolt upright. His start woke the soldier next to him, who cursed foully. He'd heard more blasphemy and obscenity in a few weeks of soldiering than he had in all his civilian life-but he remembered that from a few years before, when his birth class had been conscripted.

Iron wheels screamed on iron rails as the train slowed to a stop. "This here must be Vinton," McCorkle said. "This is where we get out."

Bartlett peered through the window. He couldn't see anything. If they were at a station, it was news to him. The doors at either end of the railroad car opened, though, and his companions stumbled out into the night. When his turn came, he went, too.

"This way! This way! This way!" Captain Dudley Wilcox shouted, waving around an electric torch so his men could see which way this way was. Bartlett was glad to be reminded the company commander existed; he'd neither seen nor heard him since the troop train pulled out of Richmond.

Captain Wilcox led them down a path full of pungent horse manure to a field where campfires were already burning. "We'll bivouac here tonight," he declared. "Bedrolls only-no tents. Get what rest you can-tomorrow we go into action."

As Bartlett spread his blanket on the ground and wrapped himself in it, a mutter of distant thunder came from the west. He looked up into the sky. The stars of early autumn twinkled down on him. The trees would be changing color, though he couldn't see that in the darkness. The thunder came again- only it wasn't thunder, it was artillery. Somewhere over there, gunners were launching shells into the dark-and when those shells came down, they probably killed people. That didn't strike Bartlett as glorious. He was too tired to care. He fell asleep almost at once.

Corporal McCorkle woke him with a boot in the seat of the pants. It was still dark. He sat up, stiff from lying on the ground and feeling he needed another two or three or six hours of sleep to turn himself into a properly functioning human being. He rolled up the blanket and put it away. No more sleep today.

"Listen here, you birds!" Captain Wilcox sounded indecently alert and indecently cheerful for whatever the hour was. "The damnyankees want to take Big Lick away from us, take away the mines, take away the railroad junction. There's so damn many of 'em, they've made it over the Alleghenies and they're coming down toward the city. That's why we're here-to keep 'em from taking it. The company-the regiment-the division-we all go across the Roanoke at ten this morning and we drive the Yankees back into the mountains. Sooner or later, we drive 'em out of Virginia. Any questions? I know you'll fight hard. We'll get us some breakfast and then we'll get us some damnyankees."

Negro cooks passed out cornmeal muffins and bacon. Bartlett wolfed his down. He filled the screw-on cup that doubled as a canteen lid with chicory-laced coffee. It made him feel more nearly alive.

He was gulping a second cup when the artillery barrage opened up. The noise was brutal, appalling, overwhelming. He loved every second of it. "More of that racket there is," he shouted to anyone who would listen, "more damnyankees the Devil's dragging down to hell, the fewer of 'em there are left up here to shoot at me."

"Amen to that," said one of his squad mates, a skinny, bespectacled fellow named Clarence Randolph. He'd been a preacher before the war started, and could have joined the Army as a chaplain, but he hadn't wanted to be a non-combatant. If he wasn't the best shot in the company, Bartlett didn't know who was.

Captain Wilcox blew a whistle. Its shrill screech cut through the roar of the barrage and the occasional blasts from shells the U.S. gunners threw back in reply. "Let's go," Wilcox said, waving his arm. Along with the rest of the regiment, along with the rest of the division, the company moved forward.

Under cover of darkness, Confederate engineers and colored laborers had run pontoon bridges across the Roanoke. The planks they'd laid over the pontoons rumbled under Bartlett 's feet. He wanted to get across before day broke enough to give the fellows who manned the Yankees' cannon a good shot at the improvised bridges.

Horses snorted in a field as he marched past. The shadows in that field were centaur like. "We punch the hole in the Yankee lines," Corporal McCorkle said gladly, "then the cavalry rides through, gets into their rear, and chases 'em to hell and gone."

"Good place for 'em," Clarence Randolph said. "I am a man brimming over with Christian charity, but I don't believe in wasting it on damnyankees."

As light gained on darkness, Bartlett saw how barrages by both sides had chewed the land to ruins. The Confederacy still held about half the valley between the Alleghenies and the river; the Stars and Bars floated over Big Lick, a couple of miles to the south, but nobody was working the mines these days.

A shell fell short and landed among a knot of soldiers off to Bartlett 's left. Some of the screams that rose from them were those of injured men, others of sheer fury at wounds inflicted by friend rather than foe.

"Come on up." A corporal in a grimy uniform waved Captain Wilcox's company into the firing pits and connecting trenches that made up the Confederate line. "Come on up, new fish, come on up."

The soldiers already in line greeted the newcomers with nasty grins and even nastier questions: "Does your mother know you're here?" "Ever see guts all over everywhere?" "How loud can you scream, new fish? No, don't bother answerin'-you'll find out."

Their looks shocked Bartlett. It wasn't just that their uniforms and persons were filthy, though that was what he noticed first. The look in their eyes said more. They'd seen things he hadn't. Some of them-the ones who took obvious delight in those questions-knew a malicious glee that he and his comrades were about to see those things, too.

Some gave good advice: "You go forward, stay low. Zigzag a lot-don't let 'em draw a bead on you. Get down on your belly and crawl like a snake."

Bartlett wanted to see what the bombardment was doing to the Yankee lines, but when somebody stuck his head over the front edge of a firing pit, he slumped down dead a moment later, a bullet in his forehead just above the right eye, the back of his head blown out. One of the men who'd been in the line for a while shoved the body out of the path the newcomers were taking, as if it were an inconvenient log. Gulping, Bartlett stepped past the corpse. He decided he wasn't curious any more.

Here and there among the firing pits, steps made of dirt and sandbags led up to the ground ahead. The company halted by some of those steps. "When the barrage stops, we go," Captain Wilcox said.

Maybe the barrage would go on forever. Maybe the artillery would kill all the damnyankees and leave nothing for the infantry to do. Maybe staying behind a pharmacy counter back in Richmond hadn't been such a bad thing. Maybe Bartlett should have waited for his old regiment to be called up instead of volunteering in a new one. Maybe As suddenly as it had begun, the barrage stopped. Captain Wilcox blew that damned whistle again. Bartlett wished he'd lose it or, better yet, swallow it.

Soldiers started surging up over the steps. Somebody gave Bartlett a shove. He stumbled forward. His feet hit the first step and climbed all by themselves, regardless of what his mind was telling them. Then he was up on level if battered ground. He ran toward the even more battered firing pits and trenches ahead.

He could hardly see them because of all the smoke and dust the barrage had kicked up. Men in butternut trotted ahead of him, alongside him, behind him. He was part of the thundering herd. As long as he did what everyone else did, he'd be all right. A little more than a quarter of a mile-surely less than half a mile-and what had been Yankee lines would belong to the Confederacy once more.

Through the smoke of dust- the fog of war, he thought with the small part of his mind that was thinking-evil yellow lights began winking and flashing. The bombardment hadn't killed all the U.S. soldiers, then. Men started falling. Some crawled ahead. Some thrashed and twisted and screamed. Some didn't move.

Bartlett leaned forward, as if into a gale. He wasn't the only one. Lots of the soldiers still on their feet had that forward lean, as if bracing against a bullet's anticipated impact. Then, rifles and machine guns (he turned to tell Clarence Randolph that machine guns were satanic tools, but Clarence wasn't there, wasn't anywhere nearby-had, in fact, taken only a few steps before a bullet tore out his throat, but Bartlett didn't know that) tearing at them, they struggled through the Yankee wire and, screeching, threw themselves at the men in green-gray who had invaded their nation.

There were too many Confederate soldiers and too few Yankees, and those too shaken by the barrage to fight as well as they might have. Bartlett leaped down into a firing pit and pointed his rifle at an enemy. The man dropped his weapon and threw his hands in the air. Bartlett almost shot him anyhow-his blood was up-but checked himself, gesturing brusquely with the bayoneted muzzle of his Tredegar: over that way. The U.S. soldier went, a grin of doglike submission on his face.

"Come on!" Captain Wilcox shouted. "Spread out and move forward. They'll counterattack as soon as they can. We want to take back as much ground as we're able, then hold it against anything they can do to us."

Maybe the damnyankees had had trenches leading up into their forward positions, as had been true in the Confederate lines. If they had, the Confederate bombardment had destroyed them. Going deeper into the U.S.-held territory was a matter of scrambling from one shell hole to the next. Enemy fire picked up all the time.

There next to Bartlett was Corporal McCorkle. Wide as he was, he'd kept up with the assault and hadn't stopped a bullet. Turning to him, Bartlett said, "Aren't you glad we've won this land back for our dear country?" He waved- cautiously, so as not to expose his arm to a bullet-at the shell-pocked desolation all around.

McCorkle stared, then started to laugh.

The postman came to the coffeehouse, delivered a couple of advertising circulars, and went on his way. Nellie Semphroch glanced at the circulars. She didn't throw them away, as she might have before the war. Crumpled up, the papers would make good kindling.

Edna Semphroch came to the doorway to stand beside her mother. She looked after the postman, who was going on down the street whistling some new ragtime tune Nellie didn't recognize. "Doesn't seem right to see old Henry coming around every day, same as he did before the Rebs jumped on us," Edna said.

"Well, he does only come once a day now, instead of twice," Nellie said, "but yes, I know what you mean. He's-normal-and everything else has gone straight to the devil, hasn't it?"

Nellie had only to look at her own shop to see the truth of that. The front window, blown out in the earliest Confederate bombardment of Washington, D.C., was covered over with boards, and she was glad she had those. You couldn't get glass for love nor money: literally. One glazier she'd talked to had said, "I had a lady offer me an indecent proposal if I'd get her windows repaired." The fellow had chuckled. "Had to turn her down-couldn't find the goods for her any which way."

Nellie didn't know whether to believe him or to think he was trying to trick her into making an indecent proposal in exchange for glass. Men were like that. If he was, it hadn't worked. So many places were boarded up these days, Nellie didn't feel either embarrassed or at a competitive disadvantage for being without glass.

She looked up and down the block. Not a shop, far as the eye could see, still kept its original glazing. Some buildings were rubble; they'd taken direct hits from shellfire. Some weren't boarded up, but looked out on the street with empty window frames like the eye sockets of a skull: their owners had fled Washington before the Rebs crossed the Potomac. Bums-and people who wouldn't have been bums had their homes and businesses not been wrecked- sheltered in them, and sometimes came out to beg or steal. Nellie thanked heaven she wasn't living like that.

Rubble had been pounded down into the holes Confederate shells had torn in the street. U.S. prisoners had done that, under the eyes and guns of laughing Rebel guards. It had rained several times since the bombardment, but some of the bloodstains, brown and faded now, were still all too plain to the eye.

"The Rebs are having themselves a fine old time here," Nellie said to Edna in a low voice. You had to use a low voice if you called them Rebs. They'd tolerate Rebels, but preferred Confederates or even-travesty! — Americans.

Her daughter nodded. "Far as they're concerned, it might as well be their capital." She bared her teeth in what someone who didn't know her might have taken for a friendly smile.

From behind the two women, a Southern voice called, "Another cup here, ify'all'dbesokind."

Nellie put a smile on her own face as she walked back into her coffee-house. It was akin but not identical to the grimace Edna had worn a moment before: the smile any business person gives a customer, a smile aimed at the billfold rather than the person who was carrying it. "Yes, sir," she said. "You were drinking the blend from the Dutch East Indies, weren't you?"

"That's right." The Confederate major nodded. He wore the tight, high boots and yellow uniform trim of a cavalry officer. "Mighty fine it is, too, ma'am-smooth as I've ever drunk."

"I'm glad you like it." Nellie refilled the cup from one of the pots behind the counter. Not all the cups matched any more-she'd foraged from here and there and everywhere to replace the ones broken in the fighting. "Enjoy it while you can-when it's gone, heaven knows how I'll be able to get more."

"Life's going to be hard for a while, I reckon," the major agreed. He took the cup, then added cream and sugar and a splash from a little tin flask he wore on his belt. "Right smooth," he said with a smile as he drank. He looked from Nellie to Edna and back again. "Would you let me buy either of you charming ladies, or the two of you together, a cup while you still have it to enjoy?"

Edna looked as if she might have said yes to that. The cavalry major was personable enough: even handsome in a florid way. But Nellie answered before her daughter could: "No, thank you. We'd best save it for the customers: can't afford to drink up our own stock in trade."

"However you like," the officer said with a shrug. There were a lot of Confederate cavalrymen in Washington. When they went closer to the front, they had a way of getting killed in a hurry. Their own comrades in the infantry and artillery ragged them about it; the coffeehouse had seen a couple of fights. Confederate military police swung billy clubs with the same reckless abandon Washington city constables had used.

After draining his augmented cup of coffee, the cavalry major got up, took a wallet out of a hip pocket, and pulled out a dollar of Confederate scrip. "I don't need any change," he said, and walked out the door.

"Of course you don't," Nellie muttered when he was gone. "It's like play money to you." The scrip the Confederates had instituted for Washington and for the chunks of Maryland and Pennsylvania they'd taken from the United States — the dollar note the major had set down bore the picture of John C. Calhoun-was nominally at par with the U.S. and Confederate dollars. But Confederate soldiers could buy occupation scrip for twenty cents of real money on the dollar. They spent freely-who wouldn't, with a deal like that? — which drove down the value of the scrip. Prices were going up, anyway; so much scrip in circulation just made them go up faster.

Nellie walked out to the doorway. Across the street, Mr. Jacobs' cobbler's shop had a sign tacked to the boards covering what had been his window: DISCOUNT FOR SILVER. If the Rebs didn't make him take that sign down, it struck Nellie as a good idea. If you fixed the discount as you should, you'd make money whether you got scrip or cash.

And Jacobs was doing a terrific business. You could get leather locally; it wasn't like coffee. Marching wore down boots, too, so Confederate soldiers were always going into the shop. He'd even had a general make use of his services, said worthy having arrived in a motorcar driven by a colored chauffeur with a face of such perfect insolence, it seemed to be aching for a slap.

Quietly-for there were still a couple of Confederate cavalry lieutenants in the coffeehouse, hashing out on the table the breakthrough that hadn't yet come and, God willing, never would-Edna said, "Ma, I wish there was something we could do to give the Johnny Rebs a hard time."

"I'm not going to put rat poison in the coffee, though I've thought about it a couple of times," Nellie answered.

"Maybe we ought to send them to the sporting house around the corner," Edna said. "If they get a dose of the clap, they can't very well fight, can they?" Her smile was wide and unpleasant.

Nellie's ears got hot. "What is the younger generation coming to?" she exclaimed: the cry of the older generation throughout recorded history. "Radicalism and rebellion and free love-" She'd been seduced at the age of fifteen and knew more than she wanted of sporting houses, but conveniently chose not to remember that.

Smiling still, Edna said, "If they go to the sporting house, Ma, love wouldn't be free. They don't take scrip there, neither, I hear tell."

"Where do you hear tell such things?" Nellie demanded. Edna was with her almost all day almost every day, but you couldn't keep an eye on somebody all the time, not unless you were a jailer, you couldn't.

Before her daughter answered, Mr. Jacobs came out of his shop along with a Confederate soldier carrying a pair of cavalry boots. The cavalryman went on his way. Jacobs called, "Lovely day, isn't it, Widow Semphroch, Miss Semphroch?"

"Yes, it is," Edna said, in lieu of replying to her mother's question.

"No, it isn't," Nellie declared.

The cobbler laughed at their confusion.

"Dowling!" As usual, George Custer made too much noise. The shout would have drawn his adjutant from the next county, not just the next room.

"Coming, sir!" Abner Dowling said, also loudly, the better to overcome the commanding general's deafness-which, of course, the commanding general denied he had.

Custer stabbed a nicotine-stained forefinger down at the map on the table before which he stood. "Major, I am not satisfied with our progress, not satisfied at all."

"I'm sorry to hear that, General," Dowling said, taking a discreet half step backwards: Custer's breath alone was plenty to get you lit up. "I think we've made excellent progress, sir."

He wasn't lying there, not even a little bit. The crossing of the Ohio had gone better than he'd expected-much better than he'd expected, considering that Custer was in charge of it. Facing simultaneous thrusts aimed at Louisville and Covington, the Confederates hadn't been able to put enough men into Kentucky to defend all of it. That First Army headquarters was in Marion these days proved the point.

"Well, I don't, dammit," Custer bellowed, which made Dowling draw back another half a pace, both from volume and from fumes. "Look at the map, you overfed twit! Second and Third Armies are going to break into the bluegrass country long before we do."

"Our advance has hurt the Rebs a lot already," Dowling said stoutly, refusing to take offense at the general's gibe. "Why, we've deprived them of all the fluorspar mines here around Marion, and-"

"Fluorspar!" Custer sneered. "Fluor-stinking-spar! Teddy Roosevelt will be thrilled to get a telegram telling him we've captured a whole great pile of fluor-goddamn-spar, now won't he? He'll send me to command in Canada because of fluorspar, won't he? Oh, yes, he'll be delighted-no doubt about it." Even by Custer's standards, the sarcasm was venomous. "The greatest horse country in the world just ahead of us, and you're babbling about fluor-fucking-spar? God preserve me from idiots!"

"But-" Dowling gave up. If you were going to make steel by any modern process, you needed fluorspar, and you needed it in multi-ton lots. But Custer had been a cavalry general back in the days when cavalry was good for something more than getting mowed down by machine guns, and so horses were all he thought about. That he's a horse's ass doesn't hurt, either, Dowling thought. He usually tried to keep from thinking disloyal thoughts, but that wasn't easy when Custer rode him on account of his size.

The general said, "I want to put paid to the Confederate cavalry once and for all."

"Yes, sir, I understand that," Dowling said, doing his best to get across the idea that Custer might better use his men in another way without coming right out and screaming in the famous general's wrinkled, sagging face. He also understood that Custer wanted to accomplish something so spectacular, Teddy Roosevelt would have no choice but to give him the command he truly craved. If Custer held his breath waiting for that, he'd be even redder in the face than he was already.

"I should hope you do," Custer declared. "Cavalry's done a lot of good work in this war, especially on the far side of the Mississippi."

"Yes, sir," Dowling said again, now in resignation. Try as you would, sometimes you couldn't win. Custer was going to go after cavalry horses, and that was all there was to it. Never mind that the Rebs west of the Mississippi drew their mounts from local stock. Never mind that the reason cavalry could be dashing and bold out West was that there were miles and miles of miles and miles out there, and not enough soldiers, Yankee or Confederate, to keep raiders from breaking through every so often. Never mind that two other armies were already advancing on the bluegrass country. Never mind any of that. Custer wanted his glory, and by jingo he was going to get it.

He said, "We'll push east past Madisonville and break through there. The Confederates can't keep throwing up lines against us indefinitely. Sooner or later, the losses they're suffering will force them to recognize they've met their match and then some in me." He struck a triumphal pose that put his adjutant in mind of a plaster-of-paris statue made by a bad artist having a worse day.

"Our own losses have also been heavy, sir," said Dowling, whose job, after all, involved keeping some tenuous connection between Custer and military reality. "Defending prepared lines is cheaper than storming them."

That was especially true because Custer didn't-wouldn't-allow enough time for proper artillery bombardment before he sent the poor damned infantry forward. Kentucky wasn't like the country west of the Mississippi. Here, the Confederacy had plenty of Negroes to build works and plenty of white men in butternut to man them. That was one of the reasons cavalry here didn't count for much.

Also- "Sir, if we concentrate our main thrust along an east-west line, we can't take proper precautions against the Confederate buildup we've been watching between Hopkinsville and Cadiz, southeast of here. If they take us in flank, we'll be as embarrassed as our German friends were on the Marne a few weeks ago."

"Fiddlesticks," Custer retorted. "I don't believe the Rebs can muster the sort of force they'd need to shift us, nor anything close to it. They're too heavily committed here and on too many other fronts. We have the initiative, Major, and we shall retain it."

"But, sir-" Dowling had to protest. He went through the papers in Custer's in-basket. Sure enough, there were the reconnaissance reports he'd stamped URGENT in crimson ink, and sure enough, Custer hadn't looked at any of them. "These scouting reports from our aeroplane pilots clearly show-"

"That those pilots are a pack of nervous Nellies," General Custer broke in. He seemed pleased with the phrase, so he repeated it: "A pack of nervous Nellies, yes indeed. You ask me, Major, what they call reconnaissance is greatly overrated anyhow."

"But, sir-" Dowling repeated himself, too, before continuing, "back in St. Louis, you were complaining you weren't getting the reconnaissance you needed from Kentucky."

"'A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,' " Custer quoted grandly. "Now let me tell you what reconnaissance can be worth. Back more than forty years ago now, this damned ragged Indian scout looked at the ground and told me all the Indians in the world-or in Kansas, anyhow- were camped along the Ninnescah, down near the border with Sequoyah: Indian Territory, it was then. Do you know what I ordered, Major? Do you know?"

"The whole country knows, sir," Dowling answered unhappily.

"Yes, but do you?" Custer glowered at him. "I ordered the charge, Major, that's what I did. We sent a raft of redskins to the happy hunting grounds by suppertime, and hardly let a one get back to the Confederate side of the border." He struck his splendid pose once more. "And no one has missed them from that day to this. Now I am going to order the charge again. If the enemy is there, you must strike him."

"The Confederates are better soldiers than those red savages were, I'm afraid, sir," Dowling said.

"They're not good enough to withstand a stroke from the brave soldiers of the United States of America," Custer declared, "and I aim to give them one they'll never forget. Besides which, as I've told you before, aeroplanes are nothing but newfangled claptrap."

Abner Dowling had the feeling he'd wandered into quicksand. The more he tried to flail his way toward common sense, the more deeply he got mired in Custer's prejudices, which were as entrenched as any of the Confederate works against which the general insisted on banging his head. You couldn't just ignore a building flank attack… could you?

Then, without warning, bombs started falling on Marion: four or five sharp explosions. One of them blew in Custer's office window; Dowling yelped when a flying shard cut his hand. He couldn't hear the buzz of the aeroplane that had dropped the bomb. It must have been flying as high as it could.

Outside, soldiers opened up on the aeroplane with their Springfields and with a couple of machine guns. Their chances of bringing it down were about the same as those of taking on the steel trust in court and winning.

"You see?" Custer said triumphantly. "They're only a nuisance, and couldn't hurt a fly."

Clutching his injured hand, Dowling reflected that he was obviously worth less than a fly to his commander. Well, that wasn't anything he hadn't already known. Later, he found out one of the bombs had fallen in the midst of a knot of soldiers, killing five of them (as well as an unfortunate local Negro who was cooking for them) and maiming another three.

But that was later. At the moment, he said, "We do have an urgent request for reinforcements on the southeastern part of our line. Wouldn't it be prudent to-"

"No, and quit pestering me about it!" Custer shouted. His pouchy, sagging features turned quite red. "We didn't start to fight this war to stand on the defensive, Major, God damn it to hell. We came to do to the Rebs what they did to us fifty years ago: to knock 'em down, and to kick 'em in the balls when they are down. We attack!"

"Yes, sir," Dowling said miserably.

Flora Hamburger stepped out onto the fire escape to get away. She wasn't trying to escape the heat trapped inside the flat she shared with her parents, an older sister, a younger sister, and two younger brothers. Escaping the heat was what you did in summer, and here with October heading toward November you were likelier to throw on a sweater or a coat, although she hadn't bothered doing that.

She wasn't going out to escape the noise, either. Her father and mother seldom spoke to each other or to their children at anything less than a shout, and her brothers and sisters weren't the quietest people God ever made. Flora wasn't one of those people, either, and she knew it.

But going out onto the iron floor of the fire escape didn't make the noise disappear. What her family lost in volume, the rest of New York gained. It was getting dark outside, but boys still played and screeched in the street below. "I got you, you lousy Reb!" one of them yelled in Yiddish in a high, piercing voice. "You're dead, so fall over!"

"You missed me by a mile!" another boy called back, this one in English, even more shrilly. "Nyah-nyah-nyah! Couldn't hit a barn." The first boy imitated a machine gun, which set Flora's teeth on edge. However many imaginary bullets he spat, though, he couldn't kill one real child. In the real war, unfortunately, it didn't work like that.

Every day, the front page of the New York Times screamed of battles won and battles lost. Every day, bordered in black, ran long lists of names: men and boys who would never come home because of those battles won and lost. More than anything else, the black-bordered casualty lists were what had driven Flora outside, away from her family.

If the rest of New York cared, it didn't let on. Along with the children playing, babies howled from every second flat. Flora's parents weren't the only ones shouting. Folk of their generation yelled in Yiddish or Russian or Polish or Magyar or Romanian. Folk of Flora's generation answered back, when they answered back, in all those languages, and sometimes in English, too. Sometimes getting an answer in English made parents yell even more, because it seemed to mean their children were slipping away from them, becoming American. And, sure enough, their children were.

When Flora didn't come back into the flat after a few minutes, her older sister, Sophie, stepped out onto the fire escape with her. Sophie was calm and steady and accepting, all the things Flora wasn't. Instead of being a Socialist Party agitator, she sat in front of a sewing machine twelve hours a day six days a week, turning linen and cotton into shirtwaists and, lately, into uniform tunics.

"Come back," she urged now. "You're making Mama upset, you do this so often now. It's not normal."

"I'm upset," Flora said. "Does anyone care about that? Thousands of people are getting blown to bits every day. Does anyone care about that}" She pointed down to the street and across it, to another crowded brownstone just like the one in which she and her family lived. "It doesn't look like it to me."

"People don't want our soldiers to get killed in the war. Nobody wants that," Sophie said reasonably. "But we can't do anything about it. Life has to go on, the way it's supposed to."

"This isn't the way it's supposed to, and it won't be the way it's supposed to until we find a way to make the fighting stop," Flora insisted. "And all the capitalists are making money from the fighting, so it can go on forever as far as they're concerned. If anyone goes against it, it will have to be the members of the working class-like you, for instance." She stared defiantly at Sophie.

Sophie sighed. She was-not surprisingly, given the hours she worked- exhausted when she came home, and every bit of that weariness showed in her voice. "Flora, I don't need you to agitate for me here," she said. Had she been more like her sister, she would have grown furious. "I hear plenty from the Socialist recruiters every day at the shop."

"You hear, but you don't listen," Flora exclaimed.

"However you like," Sophie answered. "But I'll tell you this much: the agitation sounds a lot more foolish than it would if the Socialists hadn't voted for the war credits. It takes a lot of chutzpah" — she had been speaking English, but let the Yiddish word find a place-"to say yes to something out of one side of your mouth and no from the other."

Flora bit her lip. "You're right about that, and I wish we hadn't. But I think all the congressmen thought this would be a sharp, short war. Doesn't look that way any more, does it?" She stamped her foot, as much to listen to and to feel the clatter of the cast iron as for any other reason. "And once we've voted yes once, how can we vote no after that without looking like- without being-even worse hypocrites?"

Before Sophie could reply, her mother stuck her head out onto the fire escape and said, "Yossel is here to see you."

"Oh, good," Sophie said, and, smiling, went back inside.

Sarah Hamburger glanced over to her middle daughter. "Flora, you'll say hello to your sister's fiance, I hope?"

"All right," Flora said resignedly. She did not dislike Yossel Reisen, even if he was a reactionary-or maybe just an anachronism. Here in New York in the twentieth century, as progressive an era and as progressive a city as had existed in the history of the world, he could find nothing better to do with his life than to study Torah and Talmud. He might make a rabbi one day, but even if he did, Sophie would likelier end up supporting him than the other way round. But Sophie was happy, so Flora, for the sake of family peace, kept her opinions there to herself.

When she stepped back into the flat, Sophie and Yossel were sitting side by side on the divan couch against the far wall of the front room. Yossel, a tall, pale, thin fellow whose rusty beard obscured half the high collar on his shirt, was saying, "I have some news I should tell you." He spoke Yiddish with a hissing Litvak accent; every sh sound turned into an s.

"What is it?" Sophie asked, a beat ahead of her younger sister, Esther, and her brothers, David and Isaac. Her mother and father didn't blurt out the question, but they plainly wanted to know, too.

Yossel took a deep breath. His fingers plucked at the green tufted plush upholstery of the divan. He knew such furniture well; he must have slept on a dozen lounges and couches and davenports, boarding now with this family, now with that one, while he pursued his studies. He never had much money to pay anyone, which was why he moved frequently.

He needed a second deep breath before he could come out with his news: "I have volunteered for the Army of the United States. I am going into the service in one week's time."

"Why did you do that?" Sophie exclaimed, her placid face suddenly full of harsh lines of pain. "Why, Yossel, why? When they didn't call you up as soon as the war started, I thought-" She didn't go on. What she meant to say was probably something like, I thought we could be married and go on with our lives as if the world weren't coming to pieces around us. But the world was always there, no matter how much you tried to pretend it wasn't if you didn't look at things from an economic perspective.

"Good luck," said David Hamburger, who was seventeen and was raising a downy mustache that made him look younger rather than older.

"Get lots of Rebs or Canucks-wherever they send you," said Isaac, who was two years younger. Neither of them was yet eligible for conscription. As with a lot of young men, too, they still thought of war as adventure. The black-bordered casualty lists meant nothing to them.

Yossel answered Sophie, not them: "I volunteered to help the United States get back what they lost: what they had taken away from them. I volunteered because the Confederates and the English and the French deserve to be put down for what they have done to us-and because they are all allies of the Russians." No Lithuanian Jew was likely to think kind thoughts of Czar Nicholas and his regime.

"You've fallen victim to the capitalists' propaganda," Flora exclaimed. Everyone turned to look at her. "Don't you see?" she said. "Workers get nothing from this war, nothing but suffering and death. The ones who make the money are the factory owners and the munitions merchants. Don't listen to their lies, Yossel."

"I am in the United States," Yossel said stiffly. "Now I can be of the United States, too. This is my country. I will fight for it. And now, even if I wanted to, I could not withdraw my enlistment. But I do not want to."

Sophie started to cry. So did her mother. After a moment, so did Esther. Isaac and David both shouted angrily at Flora. Her father, Benjamin Hamburger, stood silent, puffing on his pipe. He didn't usually vote Socialist, but he came closer than the rest of the family to sympathizing with the Party's goals.

Yossel went back to explaining why he'd enlisted, but no one, save possibly Flora's father, was listening to him. Flora, desperate to get away, wished she'd stayed out on the fire escape. No one heeded her warnings. No one would-till too late, she feared.

VI

A long with the rest of Captain Lincoln's command, Corporal Stephen Ramsay rode out of Jennings, Sequoyah, on horseback to repel U.S. raiders. "Wouldn't think the damnyankees'd get the idea so quick," he said mournfully. It had rained the night before, and the horses were kicking up a lot of mud. Everybody would be filthy by the time the company got back into Jennings — everybody who was alive.

Lincoln said, "They're money-grubbing bastards, the Yankees. A chance to grab the oil south of the Cimarron 'd look good to 'em. Then they can ship it over to the Huns, to burn Belgian babies with."

"Good luck to anybody shippin' anything on the Atlantic," Ramsay said. "Best I can tell, it's like a cavalry campaign a whole ocean wide."

Lincoln chuckled at that, though Ramsay had meant it seriously. Warships and liners and freighters and submarines from the CSA and the USA and England and France and Germany were scurrying all over the ocean, and shooting at one another whenever they knocked heads.

Ramsay added, "This here is better country for fightin' than the regular prairie or the ocean. If we can't hold the Yanks the far side of the river, we ain't gonna hold 'em anywheres."

"I'm not going to tell you you're wrong, Corporal," Captain Lincoln said. The territory between the Cimarron and the Arkansas, which came together about twenty miles east of Jennings, was rough and rugged: wooded hills and gullies took over for prairie. There were caves in the hills, if you knew where to find them. Outlaws and robbers had infested the area for years, because just about all the people who could find them after they'd fled from their crimes were either friends or relations.

"One other thing," Ramsay said. "They ain't gonna get one o' those armored automobiles through here. You try and run a motorcar in this kind of landscape and it'll fall to pieces before you've gone ten miles."

"Damn good thing, too," the company commander said, to which Ram say could only nod. A lot of the men with them in the company were new recruits. Confederate raids into Kansas hadn't lasted long; the damnyankees had the initiative now, pushing down into Sequoyah and threatening the oil fields that gave the Confederacy so much of its petroleum.

The U.S. troopers were not better soldiers than their Confederate counterparts; anyone who claimed they were would have got himself pounded by any cavalryman in butternut who happened to hear. But what Ramsay and Lincoln had feared from the time of their first encounter was a reality: the U.S. cavalry usually advanced with armored cars bolstering the horsemen. Confederate armored automobiles, by contrast, were often promised, seldom seen. In open country, protected, mobile machine guns were deadly all out of proportion to their numbers.

Ramsay chuckled reminiscently as an exception to that rule came to mind. "Remember when we had that battery of field artillery with us, up near the border with the Yankees? We made 'em pay that day, by Jesus."

"Sure did," Captain Lincoln agreed. "Sure do. Pretty damn fine to have guns to outrange those damn cars-and to blow one of 'em to hell and gone when you hit it."

"Yes, sir," Ramsay said enthusiastically. The quick-firing three-inch field guns had hit two armored cars, setting them ablaze and making their fellows scuttle on back toward Kansas. They'd also started a grass fire that had slowed up the advance of the U.S. horsemen, who weren't nearly so eager to go forward without their mechanical buddies, anyhow.

But there weren't enough batteries of field artillery to go around, and the Yankees kept coming. Even if they weren't very good at what they did, enough mediocre soldiers were eventually liable to wear down a smaller force of good ones. And now parts of Sequoyah lay in U.S. hands.

Ramsay's horse stumbled. What passed for roads here in these badlands were pretty miserable even when they were dry. When they were wet, puddles disguised potholes deep enough to break an animal's leg-sometimes, it seemed, deep enough to drown an animal.

He sharply jerked the horse's head up. The beast let out an indignant squeal of complaint, but it didn't fall. Ramsay knew everything there was to know about complaining-he was a soldier, after all. He'd heard better, from men and horses.

The damp, muddy road wound round the edge of some bare-branched scrub oaks and opened out into a valley wider than most. A couple of farms took up most of the horizontal land and some that wasn't: the sheep grazing on a hillside would have done better if their right legs had been shorter than their left. Smoke curled up from the chimneys of both wooden farmhouses: cabins might have been a better word for them.

A woman wearing a kerchief, a man's flannel shirt, and a long calico dress was tossing corn to some scrawny chickens between one farmhouse and the barn. As the cavalry company drew nearer, Ramsay saw she was a half-breed, or maybe a full-blooded Indian. Sequoyah held more Indians than the rest of the Confederacy put together, and had even elected a couple of Indian congressmen and a senator.

Seeing soldiers approaching, the woman grabbed a shotgun that was leaning up against a stump. It wouldn't have done her much good, not against a cavalry company, but Ramsay admired her spirit. After a moment, the woman lowered the barrel of the shotgun, though she didn't let go of it. "You're Confederates, ain't you?" she said, her words not just uneducated but also flavored with an odd accent: she was Indian, sure enough.

"Yes, we're Confederates," Captain Lincoln answered gravely, brushing the brim of his hat with a forefinger. He pointed to the flag the standard bearer carried. "See for yourself, ma'am."

The woman peered at it, peered at him, and then nodded. She turned the barrel of the shotgun away from the troopers, using it to point north and west. "Yankees in them woods. Leastways, they was there last night. Seen their fires. Don't know how many-less'n you, reckon. Go over there and kill 'em."

Her vehemence made little chills run up Ramsay's back. One thing you could rely on: the Indians in the state of Sequoyah were loyal to Richmond. The government of the United States had made them pack up and leave their original homelands back east for this country. Since the War of Secession, though, the Confederacy had treated them with forbearance, and that was paying off now.

"Whereabouts exactly were they?" Captain Lincoln asked, getting down off his horse and standing beside the woman. A chicken walked over and pecked at the brass buckle of his boot-maybe the stupid bird thought it was a grain of corn.

The woman pointed again. "Halfway up this here side of that hill-you see it? Ain't seen 'em move out since. Maybe they still there."

Ramsay doubted that, but you never could tell. Maybe they'd decided to wait out the bad weather-even though it wasn't raining now-or maybe they were waiting for reinforcements to come up before they started pushing south again. Any which way, the company would have to ride on up there and find out what was going on.

Captain Lincoln touched his hat again. "Thank you, ma'am. Don't want to ride into trouble blind, you know."

"You just keep them damnyankees from tramplin' our garden and stealin' our critters," the woman said, as if such petty thievery were the only reason U.S. soldiers were in Sequoyah now. She probably thought that; Ramsay wondered if she'd been off this farm since she was married.

As if the thought had gone straight from his head to Captain Lincoln's, the company commander's voice suddenly got hard and suspicious as he demanded, "Where's your husband at?"

The farm woman spat, right between his feet. "Where the hell you think he's at?" she snapped. "He got drug into the Army, and I jus' hope to Jesus he come home again."

"Sorry, ma'am," Lincoln said, colour rising in his face. A couple of the troopers snickered. One of them was in Ramsay's squad. He'd rake Parker over the coals later on; couldn't let discipline go to pot. The captain was saying, "Hope he comes home, too. Hope we all do, when this war is over." He swung back up into the saddle and waved to the company. "Let's go find those damnyankees."

They rode in loose order, with plenty of scouts forward and more out on either flank. This whole country was made for bushwhacking. And then, up ahead, they heard a brisk crackle of gunfire. "Somebody else done found 'em for us," Ramsay yelled. "Now we go in there and clean 'em out."

As the Confederates rode toward the shooting, a machine gun started hammering away. "That's Yankees, all right," Lincoln said. "God knows the outlaws have plenty of rifles, but they don't have any of those."

A winding little track led through the scrub oaks toward the fighting. Lincoln dismounted his men and sent them through the woods on foot, using them like dragoons rather than true cavalry. Ramsay heartily approved- galloping up that path was asking to be massacred.

Before long, the dismounted troopers ran into Yankee pickets. Whoever was commanding the U.S. forces was doing the same thing with them as Lincoln was with the Confederates: they might have ridden to get to the fight, but they were making it on foot.

They also seemed to be outnumbered, and had to give ground again and again to keep from being outflanked and cut off. What with the thick undergrowth, you couldn't see much. If anything moved, you took a shot at it. And when you moved, people you couldn't spot shot at you. Getting a taste of what infantry did for a living, Ramsay discovered he didn't much care for it.

Eventually, the crew for the company machine gun managed to lug both it and its mount through the woods and started spraying the Yankee positions with damn near as many bullets as the rest of the company put out all together. Ramsay waited for the U.S. troopers to move their own Maxim gun away from wherever they'd had it before and try to neutralize the Confederate weapon, but they didn't. Instead, here and there among the oaks, white flags started going up.

"Ease off, you Rebs!" somebody yelled. "You got us."

Firing slowly died away. "All right, Yanks, come out," Captain Lincoln called. The U.S. troopers obeyed, hands high over their heads. Nobody shot them down. This wasn't like the skirmish up in Kansas, the one by the railroad track. This one had been fair all the way-no armored automobiles to mess up the odds.

There were, all told, maybe twenty-five U.S. soldiers. Their leader, a fellow with a Kaiser Bill mustache that had lost a good deal of its waxed perfection, wore the single silver bars of a first lieutenant. "We have some wounded back there," he said, pointing in the direction from which he'd come.

"We'll take care of them," Captain Lincoln promised, and told off a detachment to lead the Yankee prisoners back toward the road.

"A good haul," Stephen Ramsay said, standing up and emerging from cover. "We'll pick up that machine gun and as much ammunition as they have left for it, and then somebody'll shoot it back at 'em till all the cartridges are gone."

Captain Lincoln gathered him up by eye. "Come on, Corporal," he said. "Let's go see who we rescued there."

Ramsay followed him through what had been the U.S. position. He was curious about that himself; he hadn't known any other Confederate cavalry was operating in this neck of the woods. He didn't know everything there was to know, though; he would have been the first-well, maybe the second-to admit as much.

From out of some woods that looked impenetrable, a voice called a sharp warning: "Don't come no further! We got you covered six different ways."

Captain Lincoln stopped. So did Ramsay, right behind him. "Who are you?" Lincoln asked; it hadn't sounded like a Yankee holdout.

A hoarse laugh answered him. "Ain't none of your damn business who we are and who we ain't," the unseen man said. "You jus' go on home, Captain; we ain't got a quarrel with you now, even if mebbe we used to."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Ramsay muttered.

He hadn't meant anyone, even Lincoln, to hear him, but his ears were ringing from the fire fight, and he spoke louder than he'd intended. "Means we wouldn't've mixed it up with them damnyankees if we hadn't thought they was you."

"Outlaws!" Captain Lincoln exclaimed.

"Yeah, and now we got a nice new Maxim gun to play with, too, you want to come in after us. You want to fight the USA, fine. Leave us the hell alone."

"What do we do, sir?" Ramsay asked.

"I think we leave them the hell alone, Corporal," Lincoln said loudly. "We're not the police and we're not the sheriffs. We owe these people one, too. They let us know where the Yankees were, and a machine gun's too heavy to lug around to robberies." He turned his back and started away. Nobody shot at him, or at Ramsay.

"Hell of a thing," Ramsay said when they were back among their comrades, and then, "We could take 'em."

"Oh, no doubt," Lincoln agreed. "But that's not our mission. We're having enough trouble with what is." Ramsay thought that over and decided the captain was right.

Sam Carsten wished he were someplace else. He'd had that feeling before, but never so bad. If he got noticed "This is what I get for volunteering," he muttered under his breath as the ugly freighter pulled away from Kapalama Basin, around Sand Island, and west over Keehi Lagoon toward the entrance to Pearl Harbor. "Cap'n" Kidde could have told him as much. Hell, Kidde had told him as much-after it was too late for him to do anything about it. But the gunner's mate hadn't been standing next to him when the captain of the Dakota asked for volunteers for a dangerous mission, and so his hand had shot up along with everybody else's. He hadn't particularly expected to be picked, but here he was.

Off to the west, the sound of big and medium-sized guns never let up. All of Oahu belonged to the United States Navy and Marines-all of it except one lump of rock and cement that made the U.S. hold on everything else a hell of a lot less secure than it should have been.

Smoke wreathed Fort William Rufus, the fort everybody, limey and Yank alike, called the Concrete Battleship. "Why the devil did the damned English have to go and build a fort right there?" Carsten said.

"Drive us crazy?" somebody next to him suggested.

It was as good an answer as any, and better than most. Anybody in his right mind would have thought batteries on the mainland were plenty to keep Pearl Harbor safe. The Royal Navy had to have been hearing voices when it built an artificial island to go with those mainland forts. But, since the mainland forts had fallen to the Marines and the Concrete Battleship was still very much a going concern, maybe the English hadn't been so stupid after all.

The twelve-inch guns in the fort's two turrets had sunk a cruiser and a couple of destroyers, and damaged two battleships to boot. Until it was reduced, the Pacific Fleet couldn't use Pearl Harbor for an anchorage. If the British sortied from Singapore, either alone or with the Japs from Manila, there was liable to be hell to pay.

But how were you supposed to take a fort you couldn't wreck? Pounding by naval guns had chipped and pitted the steel-reinforced concrete that made up so much of the superstructure, but no shells had been lucky enough to land right on top of a turret. Admiral Dewey had offered the fort's garrison full military honors if they surrendered; scuttlebutt was, he'd even offered them safe passage to anywhere they wanted to go in British or Confederate territory. Whatever he'd offered, they'd said no.

And so, brute force and sweet reason having failed, the Navy was trying something new: sneakiness. Carsten didn't know which bright boy in glasses had come up with this scheme. What he did know was that, if it went wrong, nobody would ever find enough pieces of him to bury.

The freighter rounded the headland and sped toward the stern of the Concrete Battleship. The only gun it had ever had that could be brought to bear in that direction was a three-inch antiaircraft cannon, which wasn't turret mounted. The limeys weren't going to use that one now; the bombardment had long since wrecked it.

It was the only one in the plans, anyhow; what was hidden away in the depths of the fort was anybody's guess, and one that made Carsten want to run to the head. But to keep the garrison too busy even to worry about what was sneaking up on them, the Navy was plastering the place again. Shells burst on it, sending up smoke with a core of fire, and all around it, sending up great columns of water. Watching all that made Carsten want to pucker, too. If one of those shells was badly aimed Most of the Navy ships were at extreme long range, for good and cogent reasons. The Concrete Battleship could still return fire-and did, with a salvo from one of its big-gun turrets. The noise of those two twelve-inchers going off was like the end of the world.

Closer and closer the freighter came. Carsten moved up to the bow, with the rest of the Navy files and Marines carrying rifles. At the bow was a boarding tower that looked like something out of Sir Walter Scott or other tales of medieval adventure. But, considering that the roof of Fort William Rufus was forty feet above the waterline, the boarding party was going to need help getting up there.

All at once, the Navy guns fell silent. Carsten approved of that; a couple of shells had come closer to the freighter than to the Concrete Battleship. The ship slid up to the stern or rear or whatever you wanted to call it of the fort, making contact with a decided thump.

"Well, if those bastards didn't know we were here, they do now," somebody close to Carsten said. That was undoubtedly true, and did nothing to make him feel better about the world.

A couple of Marines at the top of the boarding tower secured it to the broken concrete atop the fort. They waved. Sailors and Marines swarmed up the ladder, fast as they could. Sam was somewhere near the middle of the rush. His feet seemed to touch only every third rung. Then he was up on top himself, running through rubble to make sure no limeys came out of their starboard sally port to interfere with what the Americans were doing.

He got down behind a broken chunk of concrete and pointed his Springfield in the direction from which the British would come if they were trying something. He hoped to Jesus they wouldn't-after all, what harm could a few American sailors with rifles do on top of a fortress that had defied every big gun the U.S. Navy owned?

"Here come the guys with the hoses!" a Marine corporal yelled.

And, sure enough, here they came, up over the boarding tower with hoses just like the ones the Vulcan had used to fuel the Dakota. The Concrete Battleship had no fueling ports, of course. But it did have air vents, and the combat engineers knew where they were. They weren't badly covered with broken concrete, either; the Englishmen would have made sure of that.

Somebody fired up through one of the vents. An engineer howled and reeled backwards, clutching his shoulder. Carsten, seeing that plenty of people were covering the sally port, ran over to the vent and shot down into it a couple of times. He didn't know how much good he did; he heard the bullets ricocheting off the metal of the air ducts.

"Hell with that, sailor," an uninjured combat engineer barked at him. "Take Clem's place on the hose and hang on tight."

"All right," Sam said agreeably.

At the rear edge of the Concrete Battleship, somebody yelled "Let 'er rip!" down to the freighter. The hose jerked in Carsten's arms like a live thing. He did have to hang on tight, to keep it from getting away. A stream of thick, black liquid gushed from the nozzle and poured down the vent. Twenty feet away, another hose crew sent more of the stuff into the opening to a second ventilator shaft. Petroleum odors filled the air.

"What the hell is this stuff?" Carsten asked, doing his best to breathe through his mouth.

"Two parts heavy diesel oil, one part gasoline," the combat engineer answered. He let out a wry chuckle. "You don't want to go lookin' for a match for a cigar right about now, do you, buddy?"

"Now that you mention it, no," Sam said.

The engineer laughed again. "Good thinking. Real good thinking. We got ten thousand gallons of this stinking shit on that freighter. Take us maybe ten minutes to pour it all down on the limeys' heads."

"Good pumps," Sam observed. "Damn good pumps."

"It's not like we've got time to waste up here," the combat engineer said. He and Carsten held onto the hose till it suddenly went limp. Then he took a surprisingly small square box out of his pack and set it by the vent. In spite of his warning to Sam, he did light a match and touch it to the fuse. He looked up and grinned. "Now we get the hell out of here, is what we do."

"Yes, sir\" Carsten grabbed his rifle and ran for the boarding tower. Most of the boarding party was already off the Concrete Battleship. A couple of engineers were still busy lighting more demolition charges here and there on the roof.

Sam went down the boarding tower even faster than he'd gone up it. He wanted to get away from Fort William Rufus, far away, as fast as he could. "Everybody off?" somebody yelled. When no one denied it, that same voice shouted, "All astern full!" The freighter backed away from the Concrete Battleship.

"How long a delay did you put on those fuses?" Carsten asked the combat engineer, who'd come down right behind him.

"Ten minutes," the fellow answered cheerfully.

"Jesus!" Carsten said, and wished the freighter would go faster.

When they'd backed a few hundred yards, shore batteries opened up on the Concrete Battleship to discourage the Englishmen from heading up onto the roof. "If one of their shells fouls up our charges, I'll kill those sons of bitches with my own hands," the engineer promised.

Sam wasn't worrying about that. He was still hoping the freighter could make something better than its current slow progress away from the Concrete Battleship. How long had he taken to run across the battered but unpierced concrete roof? How long had he needed to get down the boarding tower? How much time had gone by since then? And what would happen when-?

That last thought had just gone through his mind when it happened. Fort William Rufus went up in a titanic blast of fire and smoke that obscured the whole artificial island. The shock wave from the explosion slapped the freighter like a barmaid's hand across your face when you got fresh and she didn't like it. Heat hit Sam as if he'd stuck his head in front of an oven.

He hardly noticed. He was watching an enormous slab of reinforced concrete fly high, high, high into the air-hundreds of feet up there, flung like the lid of a pot by a playful kid. But this lid weighed tons uncounted.

Beside him, the combat engineer clapped his hands with glee. "We did know where the main powder magazine was," he said happily.

"I guess you did," Carsten agreed. The ruined roof fell into the Pacific with a splash bigger than a hundred twelve-inch shells all hitting the same place at the same time. "I guess you did," Sam repeated. Fresh explosions tore at the Concrete Battleship. "We aren't going to have any trouble getting in and out of Pearl Harbor, not any more we're not."

Lucien Galtier chased bits of rabbit-and-prune stew around his plate with knife and fork. He ate some potato, too, then reached for a little glass of applejack that sat nearby. "Hard times coming," he said in a mournful voice.

"It will be all right," his wife, Marie, said. "Would you like more?" When he nodded, she picked up his plate and handed it to Nicole, their oldest daughter. "Get your father some more stew, please."

"Yes, Mama, certainly," Nicole said, rising from the table and heading back into the kitchen. Lucien smiled to watch her go. She reminded him of Marie when they'd been courting: small and dark and brisk and resolutely cheerful. No wonder half the young men in the neighbourhood would come around on errands that didn't really need doing.

But he would not let Nicole distract him from his worries. "Hard times coming," he said again, and then went on before Marie could answer: "Wives, now, wives, they look at things and they say, 'It will be all right,' no matter what it is, no matter how unlikely things are to be right ever again. We face starvation, nothing less-starvation, I tell you."

"Yes, Lucien, of course," Marie said, full of calm acceptance, as Nicole brought back his plate, piled high with steaming stew and potatoes. The plums that made the prunes had come from his own little orchard. The potatoes were from his farm, too. So were the rabbits, who had paid the penalty for being uninvited guests. He knew how to make applejack, but old Marcel, two farms away, had a still going and did not charge outrageous prices, so what was the point in cooking up his own? He finished the glass, savoring the warmth it put in his middle.

After he'd methodically plowed through the second helping, he said, with the air of a man granting a great concession, "Of course, here on the farm it could be that times are not so hard as they are in the town. I do not say it is, mind you, but it could be."

"This I think is so," Marie replied. "In Riviere-du-Loup, in St. Antonin, in St. Modeste, people cannot get along with what they are able to make so easily as can we, who raise our own food and who can even make our own clothes at need." She glanced from Nicole to her other, younger, daughters, Susanne, Denise, and Jeanne. "In the attic, stored away, are a spinning wheel and the parts for a loom. I have not brought them down and shown you what to do with them because, till now, there has been no need; we have sewn with cloth bought from the store. But my mother taught me, as her mother taught her, and I can teach you if we are able to get no more cloth, as may happen."

The girls, who ranged in age from Jeanne's seven to Nicole's twenty, all clamoured for Marie to bring down the old tools and teach them how to make cloth. Marie sent Lucien an amused glance. He returned it, saying, "See how bravely they take on new work. I remember my mother making cloth, too. I do not recall her being so eager to do it, though." He hid pride in his daughters behind gruffness.

"They want to find out something new, Lucien, or something so old, it seems new to them," Marie said. "That is not bad. When it is no longer new to them, it will no longer be exciting, either; no doubt you are right about that."

Lucien looked at his two sons: Charles, sixteen, compact like Marie, and Georges, a couple of years younger but already bigger than his brother. "Some people," he said pointedly, "have no interest in work even when it is of a new sort."

That was unfair, and he knew it; both boys worked on the farm like draft horses. Predictably, Charles got angry about it. Most times, Lucien would have been glad to see him turn eighteen, for the sake of the discipline with which he would have returned after two years' conscription. Most times, yes. With a war on Even more predictably, Georges turned it into a joke, asking, "Eh bien, Papa-this laziness, do you think we get it from you or from Mama?"

"You get it from the Devil, you little wretch," Lucien exclaimed, but then he had to cough a couple of times in lieu of laughing out loud. The next thing Georges took seriously-save, perhaps, a leather strap well applied to his backside, but he was getting too big for that-would be the first.

Outside, the dogs began to bark. A moment later came the sound of several men approaching the house, some of them mounted, others afoot. The Galtiers exchanged sudden glances of alarm. So many neighbors would never come together, not unannounced. That meant Americans, and Americans meant trouble.

Sure enough, in English rough as sandpaper, one of the men out there said, "Those hounds try and bite, you stick 'em or shoot 'em. The major, he ain't gonna give you no Purple Heart for a dog bite, boys."

Lucien realized he was the only one in the family who understood what the newcomers were saying. His sons would have learned their English in the Army when their time came; his wife and daughters would have had few occasions ever even to hear it.

"Shall we fight, Papa?" Charles demanded. He wanted to. At sixteen, you knew you could do the impossible.

At forty-three, you knew damn well you couldn't. "We have one rifle," Lucien said. "It is better for rabbits than for men. They have many guns out there, and can bring many soldiers here. No, we do not fight. We do as they tell us." When Charles and even Georges looked mutinous, he added, "Then we see what we can do afterwards." To his relief, that satisfied his sons. They were too young to be killed in a hopeless fight. It also had an element of truth that salved his own pride.

One of the Americans rapped on the door. The whole farmhouse shook. He had to be using his rifle butt, not a fist. Galtier opened the door. The American, a sergeant almost a head taller than he was, checked a piece of paper and said, "Galtier, Lucien." It was not a question, though the fellow mangled the pronunciation so badly that Lucien needed a moment to understand his own name.

"Yes, I am Lucien Galtier," he said when he did. He hated standing here with the door open; he could feel cold air sliding past him into the house. It wasn't as cold as it was going to be, but it was a lot colder than it had been, cold enough so you were glad of stove and fireplace.

"Good. You speak English," the U.S. sergeant said. Then his eyes, hard and pale, narrowed. "Round here, that means you been in the Army, ain't that right, Frenchy?"

"I have been in the Army, yes," Galtier said, shrugging. He paused to think of English words. "You find few men as old as I who are not in the Army, if they are not sick or-how do you say?" He mimed limping about.

"Crippled?" the American said. "Yeah, that's so, I guess. All right." He looked down at Lucien's stocking feet. "Get your shoes on, Frenchy. We're gonna have a look round your barn and your storehouses. You don't wanna waste time." He turned to a couple of his men and shouted, "Gosse, Hendrick, you go and start. Frenchy here'll be along."

"What is it you do here?" Galtier asked as he pulled on first one boot, then the other. He was glad they stood by the door, so he did not have to go away and let the sergeant-and maybe his followers-come in. To his family, he called in French, "Stay here. I am attending to this."

The sergeant nodded. "That's smart, pal. Don't want trouble." He under stood French, then, even if he didn't deign to speak it. He went on, in ugly English, "Requisition of supplies, by order of the brigadier general commanding."

"Requisition?" Lucien got on his other boot and stepped out into the night, closing the door after him. "This means what?" He meant the question seriously; he was trying to remember what the word meant. Before the sergeant could answer, he did remember, and stopped in his tracks. "This means-you take?"

"You got it in one, buddy," the U.S. soldier said.

"You do not pay," Galtier went on.

"Well, yes and no," the sergeant said. "You'll see how it goes."

A couple of soldiers-presumably Gosse and Hendrick-were pawing over what Lucien had spent a lifetime maintaining and adding to, the farm having been in his family for generations. One of them said, "Sarge, he's got enough here to keep the battalion in food all winter long."

"Yeah?" the sergeant said. He turned around and shouted toward one of the mounted men who'd come up to the farm. "Blocksage! Ride back and tell the QM to send a truck out here. No, better make it two trucks. Plenty of goodies, yes indeed." The horse went trotting away.

Galtier did not like the sound of any of that. "How is it you have the right to-?" he began.

Before he could finish, the sergeant pointed his rifle at him. "This gives me the right, pal," he said. "We're the ones who won the war, remember? Now, we're supposed to treat you Frenchies nice, so you'll get some compensation, don't you worry about that. But don't you go telling us what we can do and what we can't, either. You'll be real sorry real fast, if you understand what I'm saying. You understand?"

"Oh, yes, monsieur" Galtier said. "I understand."

Wherever the quartermaster had set up his headquarters, it wasn't far away. Within a few minutes, a couple of trucks came wheezing and rattling up the dirt road before turning and approaching the farmhouse. The looting began immediately thereafter.

They left Lucien his horse. They left him a cow and a few sheep and a pig. They left him a handful of hens and his rooster. They left him enough fodder to feed the animals he had left through the winter-if it wasn't too long or too hard and he didn't feed them too much. By the time they were done hauling away glass jars, they left his family in the same shape as the livestock: most of the food Marie had laboriously preserved was gone, along with lovingly smoked hams and flitches of bacon.

As food and fodder moved into the trucks, the sergeant kept meticulous notes on everything that was taken. When the sacking of the farm was complete, he handed Lucien a carbon copy of the list. "You want to take this in to Riviere-du-Loup"-from his mouth, it came out rivy-air-doo-loop — "to the commandant's office. They'll pay you off there."

"They will pay me off," Galtier echoed dully. He wished he had grabbed the little. 22 Charles had wanted to get. That way, he could have died defending what was his instead of having to watch as he went from a prosperous farmer to a poor one in a couple of hours' time. He nodded to the sergeant. "You are sure this generosity will not cause them difficulties?"

He'd intended that for irony. The sergeant took it literally, which would have been funny in an absurd kind of way if he hadn't answered, "Don't worry about that, Frenchy. You ain't gonna get more than twenty cents on the dollar, and you'll have to yell and scream and cuss to get that much."

Galtier didn't yell or scream or swear, no matter how much he wanted to. He stood silent, holding the copy of the list of supplies requisitioned from him, as the big American soldiers finished their job, started the trucks' engines, and left. The infantry and horsemen went on to the next farm down the road. They were noisily arguing about whether it would yield more or less than they'd got from him.

When they were all gone, he went back into the house. His family crowded round him. "Thank God you are well," Marie said, taking his hand in a public display of affection unlike any she'd given him since they were newlyweds. "What have the Boches americains done?"

He told her and the children what they'd done. "Hard times are here, as I told you before," he said. Even in dismay, he recognized that he hadn't intended to be taken seriously before, but now he did.

"Hard times," Marie echoed somberly. He might have been wrong before, he might have been joking before, but no longer.

A string of the curses he hadn't aimed at the U.S. soldiers burst from him: "C'est chrisse, maudit, calisse de tabernac." Like any Quebecois, he cursed by reviling the symbols of his church; English-speakers' ways of blowing off steam by talking about excrement and sex struck him as peculiar.

His family stared at him; he hardly ever said such things where even his sons, let alone his wife and daughters, could hear him. "It's all right," Marie said. "God will surely forgive you, so we must as well."

Lucien nodded gratefully to her. She always found a way to make things right. He said one thing more: "Je me souviens — I will remember."

Without hesitation, everyone nodded.

The train rolled westward toward New Orleans. As far as Anne Colleton could tell, she was the only unattached white female under the age of sixty on the whole train-certainly in her car. Not many women were traveling at all- soldiers in butternut and sailors in white took up most of the seats.

Not all her money, not all her influence, had been able to get her a Pullman berth for herself and her colored maidservant, Julia. When she boarded the train, she found out why: the Pullmans were full of military men, too, some of them with cots adding to their carrying capacity. When set against the needs of war, luxury was no longer practical.

Luxury no longer seemed fashionable, either. That distressed Anne: what point to living if you couldn't live graciously? With a cynicism older than her years but not older than her sex, she suspected the powers that be would soon grow bored with their egalitarian pose. These weren't the United States, after all: class mattered in the Confederacy, especially looking down from the top. Pretending that wasn't so struck at the heart of the nation's raison d'etre.

Not that she wasn't the center of attention all the same. She coolly took that for granted, as much as she did Julia's presence beside her. Had the train been almost all women and only a handful of men instead of the other way round, she would have been as confident of drawing those men to her. Looks told. Even President Wilson responded to her smile. So did breeding. And, she thought, smoothing a pleat on the skirt of the cranberry-red silk dress she was wearing, so did money. She toyed with the lace at her throat, affecting not to notice that she was being watched.

Ordinary soldiers and sailors eyed her without approaching; they knew she was beyond them. Yes, breeding and money told. A couple of soldiers who stank of cheap whiskey tried to approach Julia, looking for nothing more than female flesh with which to slake their lusts. Anne Colleton sent them on their way with a few low-voiced words that left their ears red and tingling.

Officers, though, officers were drawn to Anne as moths were drawn to fires. And, like moths, they drew back with their wings singed. Attracting men was great sport. But most of the officers, especially those from the Navy and the cavalry and artillery, were aristocrats with all the virtues of their class- they were brave and loyal and randy-and also its vices-they were crashing bores, or so Anne found them.

When the porter announced that supper was being served, she and Julia went back to the dining car together. A couple of tables at the rear were reserved for Negroes, commonly servants. Just as Anne had not been able to get a Pullman berth, so she was not able to get a table for herself, either: the train was too full for that. Something like a football scrim developed among the officers in white and butternut to see who would get the other two seats at the corner table where she was sitting.

When the elbowing died away, a couple of Navy officers not far from her own age smiled down at her. "Mind if we join you, ma'am?" one of them asked. He might have been an officer, but he was no aristocrat, not with that rough accent. Anne shrugged and nodded permission.

They sat down. The crowd behind them thinned regretfully. The one who'd asked her leave was a lieutenant, senior grade, with wreathed stars on his shoulder straps and a stripe and a half of gold on each sleeve. He was growing a sandy beard; at the moment, he looked as if he'd forgotten to shave.

His companion, a lieutenant, junior grade, with plain stars and single sleeve stripes, was so blond and perfect, he might have stepped off a recruiting poster. Anne dismissed him at once. The other one, though, backwoods accent or not, was… interesting.

The colored waiter, resplendent in tailcoat livery like that which Scipio usually wore, poised pencil above notepad. "What can I bring you tonight, ma'am, gentlemen?"

"How are the ham and yams?" Anne asked.

"Very fine, ma'am," the waiter assured her.

"I'll have that, then, and a glass of rose to go with it."

Pencil poised again, the waiter looked a question to the two officers. "Steak and potatoes here, and a bottle of bourbon for the two of us," the senior lieutenant said.

"Steak and potatoes for me, too," the junior lieutenant agreed.

"Of course," the waiter said. "How would you care to have those done?"

"Medium," the lieutenant, junior grade, said.

The other officer laughed. "How many times have I got to tell you, Ralph, you want to be able to taste the meat?" He looked up at the waiter. "I want that slab of meat just barely-and I mean just barely-dead. You tell the cook that if it doesn't go 'Ouch!' when I stick a fork in it, I'm going to tell his grandpappy's ghost to haunt him till the end of time." He made a curious gesture with one hand. Had the waiter been white, he would have turned pale. His eyes got big. He nodded and beat a hasty retreat.

"What was that?" the handsome junior lieutenant-Ralph-asked.

Anne surprised herself by speaking: "That was a hex sign. It means-it's supposed to mean, anyhow-your friend really can do things with, or to, the cook's grandfather's ghost."

The lieutenant, senior grade, raised a gingery eyebrow. "You're right, ma'am. Not many white folks-especially not many white women-know that one."

"I make it a point to know what goes on with my Negroes," Anne said. Smugly, she used a different sign. She was surprised again, because both naval officers recognized it, and she'd never yet run across a white man who did. "How did you know what that meant?" she asked quietly.

"We use that one for luck, ma'am, when we fire a torpedo," the senior lieutenant answered. "I didn't know anybody-anybody white, anyhow- outside of submarines knew about it."

"Submarines!" Now Anne looked at both of them with respect. They might not be gentlemen, but they had courage and to spare. You had to have courage-or be a little touched in the head-to go down under the ocean in what was basically a metal cigar.

"Submarines," the senior lieutenant repeated. "I'm Roger Kimball, off the Whelk, and this lug here is Ralph Briggs, off the Scallop. Heading for New Orleans, both of us, for reassignment."

"I'm on my way to New Orleans, too," Anne said, and gave her name.

Neither of them knew who she was. Even so, Ralph Briggs started slavering as if he were a dog and she that steak he'd ordered, not cooked medium but raw. Kimball, on the other hand, just shrugged and nodded.

Their meals did arrive then. If Roger Kimball's steak had been over the flames at all, you could hardly tell by looking. The waiter hovered anxiously all the same. When Kimball cut the meat, he let out a long "Mooo!" without moving his lips, which made the Negro jump. Only after he nodded did the fellow smile in relief and go on about the rest of his business.

Since she'd broken the ice herself, Anne expected the submariners to try whatever approach they thought would work. Briggs started to, a couple of times. But Kimball wanted to talk shop and, being senior to Briggs, got his way. It was almost as if the two men had started speaking some foreign tongue, one where words sounded as if they were English but meant obscure, indecipherable things. Anne listened, fascinated, to grumbles about fish that wouldn't swim straight, twelve-pounder and three-inch bricks, and eggs that would blow you to kingdom come if you couldn't keep away from them.

"We've laid ours, the damnyankees have laid theirs, and by the time both sides are done, won't be any room for boats left in the whole ocean, and I mean our boats and theirs both-ships, too," Kimball said.

"Don't know what to do about it," Briggs said, pouring whiskey from the bottle into his glass. He drank, then laughed, and said, "If we were still in those gasoline-engine boats, I'd be drunker'n this, just off the fumes."

"Diesel's the way to go there," Kimball agreed. "Gas-jag hangover is worse than anything you get from rotgut."

"Amen," Briggs said with what sounded like the voice of experience, though Anne wasn't quite sure what sort of experience. The lieutenant, junior grade, went on, "They're building heads in the new boats, too, thank God."

"Thank God is right," Kimball said, "even if they aren't everything they ought to be. You can't discharge 'em down deeper than about thirty feet, and you don't want to do it where the enemy can spot you."

"And when you do do it, you want to do it right," Briggs said.

"That's a fact." Kimball laughed out loud, a laugh that invited everyone who could to share the joke. "Ensign on my boat opened the wrong valve at the wrong time and got his own back-right between the eyes." He laughed again, and so did Ralph Briggs. Kimball finished, "After that, the poor miserable devil wouldn't even try unless he was crouched down in front of the pan."

When Anne Colleton discussed modern art, she and her fellow cognoscenti used terms that shut the uninitiated out of the conversation. Now she found herself shut out the same way. She didn't care for it. "What are you talking about?" she asked with some asperity.

Briggs and Kimball looked at each other. Briggs turned almost as red as the juice from Kimball's rare steak. Roger Kimball, though, laughed yet again. "What are we talking about?" he said. "You can't just flush the toilet when you're under the water in a submarine. You have to use compressed air and a complicated set of valves and levers. You have to use them in the right order, too, or else what you're trying to get rid of doesn't leave the boat. Instead, it comes back up and hits you in the face."

If Briggs had been red before, he was incandescent now. Kimball leaned back in his chair and waited to see how she'd take his blunt answer. She nodded to him. "Thank you. This happened to someone in your crew?"

"That's right. We were laughing about it for days afterwards," Kimball answered.

"Everyone but him, of course," Anne said.

Kimball shook his head. "Jim, too, after he got hold of a washrag."

Briggs poured his glass of bourbon full and gulped it down, maybe in an effort to drown his own embarrassment. Perhaps not surprisingly, he fell asleep in his chair about ten minutes later.

Kimball leaned him against the wall of the dining car. "There," he said in satisfaction. "Now he won't fall down and hurt himself." He got to his feet. "Thanks for sharing the table with us, Miss Colleton."

Not even A pleasure to have met you or Hope to see you again sometime, Anne noted, more than a little annoyed. She glanced back toward the table where Julia was eating and laughing and joking with other servants and some of the colored train crew. Her maid would be there for a while: she might stay there all night if she got the chance. Anne rose from her seat. "I'm going up to my car, I think."

Kimball made no effort to take up the unspoken invitation to walk with her. He didn't move so fast, though, as to leave her behind. They went through a couple of cars not quite together, not quite apart. Then he stopped in the hallway to a Pullman and said, "This is my compartment. Ralph's, too, matter of fact, but he found himself that berth in the diner. Not the one I'd take, but what can you do?" His eyes twinkled.

When he slid open the compartment door, Anne stepped in after him. She was a modern woman, after all, and did as she pleased in such things.

"What…?" he said, both reddish eyebrows rising. Then she kissed him, and after that matters took their own course. The lower berth was cramped for one, let alone for two, or so Anne found it, but Kimball acted as if it had all the room in the world. Maybe, compared to arrangements aboard a submarine, it did. He didn't bang his head on the bottom of the upper berth or the front wall; he didn't bump his feet against the back wall. What he did do, with precision and dispatch, was satisfy both him and her. He even used his hand to help her along a little when her pace didn't quite match his.

Afterwards, just as efficient, he helped her dress again, those clever hands doing up hooks and buttons with accurate, unhurried haste. He stuck his head out into the hallway to make sure she could leave the compartment unnoticed. Now he did say, with a knowing smile, "A pleasure to have met you." As soon as she was on her way, he shut the door behind her.

She was almost back to her own seat when, ignoring her body's happy glow, she stopped so suddenly that the old man behind her stepped on the heel of her shoe. She listened to his apologies without really hearing them.

"That sneaky devil!" she exclaimed. "He planned the whole thing." And Kimball had done it so smoothly, she hadn't even noticed till now. She didn't know whether to be furious or to salute him. She, who'd manipulated so many people so successfully over the past few years, had been manipulated herself tonight. Then she shook her head. No, she hadn't just been manipulated. She'd been, in the most literal sense of the word, had.

Sergeant Chester Martin looked down at the three stripes on the sleeve of his green-gray tunic. He didn't delude himself that he'd done anything particularly heroic to deserve the promotion. What he'd done, and what a lot of people-an awful lot of people-hadn't, was stay alive.

He looked back toward Catawba Mountain. Coming down it had been almost as bad as righting his way up it. The Rebs moved back from one line to another, and made you pay the butcher's bill every time you attacked.

"Dumb fool luck," he muttered. "That's the only reason I'm here, let alone a three-striper."

"You bet, Sarge," said Paul Andersen, who was using a wire-cutter to snip his way into a can of corned beef that let out an embalmed smell when he got it open. He wore a corporal's chevrons now himself, for the same reason that Chester was a sergeant. "A machine gun, it doesn't care how smart you are or how brave you are. You get in front of it, either you go down or you don't. All depends on how the dice roll."

"Yeah." Martin tore his eyes away from the scarred slopes of Catawba Mountain and looked east, toward the Roanoke River and Big Lick. He didn't stand up for a better look; you were asking for a sniper to blow your lamp out for good if you did anything that stupid. The lines were quiet right this minute, but what did that mean? Only that the Rebel snipers, who were used to shooting for the pot and reckoned men deliciously large targets, had plenty of time to get ready to take advantage of any chance you gave 'em.

He knew what he'd see, anyhow. Big Lick, or what was left of it after end less shelling, still lay in Confederate hands, though a lot of the iron mines nearby had the Stars and Stripes flying over them now. But the last big U.S. push had bogged down right on the outskirts of town, and after that the Rebs had counterattacked and regained a mile or two of ground. One of these days, he expected, the Army would try another push toward the river. He was willing to wait-forever, with luck.

He dug in his own mess kit and chose a hardtack biscuit. Hard was the word for it; it might have been baked during the War of Secession. And at that, troops were better supplied than they had been at the start of the campaign. Railroads were snaking out of West Virginia to the front, to bring in food and ammunition faster and in bigger lots than horses and mules and men could manage.

"Now if we could only put the Rebel trains out of action," he said. That was a big part of the reason the brass had attacked Big Lick in the first place. But the tracks remained in Confederate hands, though repeated bombardment meant the Rebs tried running trains through only at night.

"Good luck, Sarge," Andersen said. Now he pointed east. "'Stead of earthworks, they got their niggers runnin' up new lines out of range of our guns, anyhow. Don't seem fair."

Chester Martin nodded gloomily. Captain Wyatt had been grousing about those lines, too. But the captain's grousing wasn't what worried Martin about the Confederate tracklaying. Sure as hell, the brass would want to push guns up close enough to pound the new lines. And who'd have to do the dirty work to make that happen? Nobody he could see but the infantry.

As if thinking of him had been enough to make him appear, Captain Orville Wyatt stepped into the firing pit Martin and Andersen were sharing. He tossed each of them a chocolate bar. "Courtesy of the cooks," he said. "They had so many, they didn't know what to do with 'em, so 1 liberated as many as I could. They'll probably eat the rest themselves."

"Yeah, who ever saw a skinny cook?" Martin said, peeling silver paper off the bar before he crammed it into his mouth. "Mm-thank you, sir. Beats the hell out of biscuits and corned beef." Wyatt was a damned good officer- he looked out for his men. If your captain took care of things like that, odds were good he'd also be an effective combat leader, and Wyatt was. He was also up for promotion to major, for most of the same reasons Martin and Andersen had seen their ranks go up.

Wyatt dug a much-folded newspaper out of his pocket. "This came up to the front on the last train-only four days old," he said; he believed in keeping minds full along with bellies. He gave the sergeant and corporal the gist of what was in the news: "Big fight out in the Atlantic. We torpedoed a French armored cruiser, and it went down. We sank some Confederate and Argentine freighters heading for England, too."

"Good," Martin said. "Hope the limeys starve."

Wyatt read on: "The Rebs torpedoed one of our cruisers, too, the cowardly sons of bitches, but we rescued almost the whole crew. And TR made a bully speech in New York City."

That got Martin's attention, and Andersen's, too. Nobody could make a speech like Teddy Roosevelt. "What does he say?" Martin asked eagerly.

Captain Wyatt knew nobody could make a speech like TR, too. He skimmed and summarized, saying, "He wants the world to know we're at war to support our allies and to restore what's ours by rights, what the English and the French and the Rebs took away from our grandfathers… Wait. Here's the best bit." He stood very straight and drew back his lips so you could see all his teeth, a pretty good TR imitation. "'A great free people owes to itself and to all mankind not to sink into helplessness before the powers of evil. I ask that this people rise to the greatness of its opportunities. I do not ask that it seek the easiest path.' "

"That is good," Andersen said with a connoisseur's approval.

Chester Martin nodded, too. Roosevelt knew about the harder path. Along with Custer, though on a slightly smaller scale because he'd been just a colonel of volunteers, he'd come out of the Second Mexican War a hero, and his stock had been rising ever since. No nation could have hoped for a better leader in time of war.

All the same, sitting in a firing pit that had started life as a shell hole, surrounded by the stench of death, the rattle of machine guns, the occasional roar of U.S. and Rebel artillery, lice in his hair, Martin couldn't help wondering whether Teddy Roosevelt had ever walked a path as hard as this one.

Scipio bowed and said in tones of grave regret, "I am sorry to have to inform you, sir, that we have no more champagne."

"No more champagne? Merde!" Marcel Duchamp clapped a dramatic hand to his forehead. Everything the modern artist did, as far as Scipio could tell, was deliberately dramatic. Duchamp was tall and thin and pale and in the habit of dressing in black, which made him look like a preacher-until you saw his eyes. He didn't behave like a preacher, either, not if half-not if a quarter-of the stories Scipio heard from the maids and kitchen girls were true. Now he went on, "How shall I endure this rural desolation without champagne to console me?"

Whiskey was the first thought that came to Scipio's mind. If it worked for him, if it worked for the Negroes who picked Marshlands' cotton, it ought to do the job for a dandified Frenchman. But he'd been trained to give the best service he could, and so he said, "The war has made importing difficult, sir, as it has disturbed outbound travel. But perhaps my mistress, Miss Colleton, would be able to procure some champagne in New Orleans and order it sent here for you. If you like, I will send her a telegram with your request."

"Disturbed outbound travel: yes, I should say so," Duchamp replied. "No one will put out to sea from Charleston, it seems, for fear of being torpedoed or cannonaded or otherwise discommoded." He rolled those disconcerting eyes. "Would you not agree, the risk of going to the bottom of the sea is only slightly less than the risk of staying here?"

By now, Scipio knew better than to try to match wits with Duchamp. The artist's conversation was as confusing as his paintings; he used words to reflect back on one another till common sense vanished from them. Stolidly, the butler repeated, "Would you like me to wire my mistress about the champagne, sir?"

"I give you the advice of Rabelais: do as you please," Duchamp said, which helped not at all. The Frenchman cocked his head to one side. "Your mistress, you say. In what sense is she yours?"

"I'm afraid I don't follow you, sir," Scipio said.

Marcel Duchamp stabbed out a long, pale forefinger. "You are her servant. You were, at one time, her slave, is it not so?" He waved a hand to encompass not just the dining room of the Marshlands mansion but the entire estate.

"I was a slave of the Colleton family, yes, sir, although I was manumitted not long before Miss Anne was born," Scipio said, nothing at all in his voice now. He didn't like being reminded of his former status, even if his present one represented no great advance upon it.

Duchamp sensed that. He didn't let it deter him; if anything, it spurred him on. "Very well. You are her servant. She may dismiss you, punish you, give you onerous duties, do as she likes with you. Is it not so?"

"It may be so in theory," Scipio said warily, "but Miss Colleton would never-"

Duchamp waggled that forefinger to interrupt him. "Never mind. It is in this sense of the word that you are her servant. Now, you say she is your mistress. How may you, in your turn, punish her if she fails of the requirements of a mistress?"

"What?" Even Scipio's politeness to a guest at Marshlands, and to a white man at that (not that the Marshlands estate was likely to entertain a colored guest), proved to have limits. "You ought to know I can't do that, sir."

"Oh, I do know it. I know it full well. Many have accused me of being mad, but few of being stupid." The artist winked, as if to say even here he did not expect to be taken altogether seriously. But he was, or at least he sounded, serious as he went on, "So how is the charming and wealthy Miss Colleton yours, eh, Scipio? You cannot punish her, you cannot control her, you cannot possess her, either in economic terms or in the perfumed privacy of her boudoir, you-"

Scipio abruptly turned on his heel and walked out of the dining room, out of the mansion altogether. That Frenchman was crazy, and the people who'd told him so knew what they were talking about. In the Confederate States of America, you had to be crazy if you talked about a Negro servant possessing a white woman in her bedroom-even if you called it a boudoir. Oh, such things happened now and again. Scipio knew that. They always ended badly, too, when they were discovered. He knew that, too. But whether they happened or not, you didn't go around talking about them. You sure as the devil didn't go around suggesting them to a Negro.

"Words," Scipio said in his educated voice. Then he repeated it in the slurred dialect of the Congaree: "Words." Marcel Duchamp played games with them nobody had any business playing.

The hell of it was, this time he did make a corrosive kind of sense. Anne Colleton wasn't his mistress in the same way he was her butler. The two sides of the relationship weren't heads and tails of the same coin, the way they looked to be if you didn't think about them. Few Negroes did think about them, instead taking them for granted… which was precisely what the white aristocracy of the Confederate States wanted them to do.

Scipio looked out toward the cotton fields from which Marshlands drew its wealth-from which Anne Colleton drew her wealth. The Negroes out in those fields were her workers, almost as they had been before manumission. But was she theirs? Hardly. In his own way, Duchamp was an influence as corrupting as The Communist Manifesto.

And Anne Colleton hadn't a clue that was so. There were a lot of things the mistress- his mistress? — he'd have to think about that) didn't have a clue about when it came to what really went on at Marshlands. Scipio hadn't had a clue about them, either, not until he discovered the forbidden book in Cassius' cottage.

He still wished he'd never seen it. But, to protect his own hide, he'd been reading a lot of Marx and Engels and Lincoln, and then talking things over with Cassius. The more you looked at things from an angle that wasn't the one white folks wanted you to use, the uglier the whole structure of the Confederacy looked.

And, as if deliberately sent by a malicious God to make his misgivings worse, here came Cassius, a shotgun over one shoulder, a stick with four possums tied by the tail to it on the other. The possums, presumably, were for his own larder: Scipio tried to imagine what Marcel Duchamp would say if presented with baked possum and greens. He'd learned a little about swearing in French. He figured that would teach him a good deal more.

Cassius couldn't wave, but did nod. "How you is?" he asked.

"I been better," Scipio answered, as usual in the dialect in which he was addressed.

Nobody else was in earshot, and it was normal for the hunter and the butler to stand around talking. With a sly grin on his face, Cassius said, "Come de revolution, all of we be better."

"You gwine get youself killed, is all, you talk like that," Scipio said. "The white folks, they shoot we, they hang we. The poor buckra, they look fo' the chance every day. You want to give it to they?"

"The poor buckra in the Army, fight the rich white folks' war," Cassius said. "Not enough leff to stop we, come de day."

They'd gone round and round on that one, pummeling each other like a couple of prizefighters. Scipio tried a new argument: "Awright. Suppose we beat the white folks, Cass. What happen then? Ain't just we the white folks is fightin', like you say. We rise up, we give the USA the fight. The USA, they don' love niggers hardly no better'n our own white folks."

He'd hoped he would at least rock Cassius back on his mental heels, but the hunter-the revolutionary, the Red-only shook his head and smiled, al most pityingly. "Kip, the revolution ain't jus' here. The USA, they gwine have they own revolution, right along with we."

Scipio stared at Cassius. Whatever else you could say about him, he didn't think small. At last, cautiously, Scipio said, "They ain't got enough niggers in the USA to rise up against they gov'ment."

"They got plenty white folks up no'th what's 'pressed," Cassius answered. "You get worked sunup to sundown, don't matter you is black or you is white. You 'pressed the same, either which way. You rise up the same, either which way. The damnyankees, they shoot they strikers same as they shoot niggers here. When the broom of revolution come out, it gwine sweep away the 'pressors in the USA the same as here."

He sounded like a preacher stirring up the congregation. That was what he was, though he would have been furious had Scipio said so. But a lot of workers on the plantation took The Communist Manifesto as Gospel. Gloomily, Scipio said, "You gwine get a lot o' niggers killed. They rise up in the USA, lots o' they poor buckra get killed. We don' rise up together. They white, we black. Things is like that, an' that's how things is."

"Come the revolution, black an' white be all the same," Cassius said.

For once, Scipio got the last word: "Yeah. All be dead the same."

VII

Captain Irving Morrell lay between starched white sheets in an airy Tucson hospital that smelled of carbolic acid and, below that, of pus. He was sick of hospitals. The words sick to death of hospitals ran through his mind, but he rejected them. He'd come too close to dying to make jokes, or even feeble plays on words, about it.

His leg still throbbed like a rotten tooth, and here it was December when he'd been hit in August. More than once, the sawbones had wanted to take it off at the hip, for fear infection would kill him. He'd managed to talk them out of it every time, and having a toothache down there was heaven compared to what he'd gone through for a while. He could even walk on the leg now, and with aspirin he hardly noticed the pain-on good days.

A doctor with captain's bars on the shoulders of his white coat approached the bed. Morrell had never seen him before. He didn't know whether he'd see him again. The doctors here-the doctors at every military hospital these days- were like factory workers, dealing with wounded men as if they were faulty mechanisms to be reassembled, often moving from one to the next without the slightest acknowledgment of their common humanity. Maybe that kept them from dwelling on what they had to do. Maybe they were just too swamped to invest the time. Maybe both-Morrell had learned things were seldom simple.

The doctor pulled back the top sheet. He peered down at the valley in the flesh of Morrell's thigh. "Not too red," he said, scribbling a note. The skin of his hands was red, too, and raw, cracked from the harsh disinfectant in which he scrubbed many times a day.

"It's the best I've ever seen," Morrell agreed. He didn't know whether that was true or not, but he did know how much he wanted to get out of here and return to the war that was passing him by.

The doctor prodded at the wound with a short-nailed forefinger, down at the bottom of the valley where a river would have run had it been a product of geology rather than mere war. "Does that hurt?"

"No." The lie came easily. Morrell's conscience, unlike his leg, hurt not at all. Compared to what he'd been through, the pain the doctor inflicted was nothing, maybe less. I really am healing, he thought in some amazement. For a long time, he'd thought he never would.

Another note, another prod. "How about that?"

"No, sir, not that, either." Another lie. If I can convince everyone else it doesn't hurt, I can convince myself, too. If I can convince the quack, maybe he'll let me out of here. Worth trying for. The judgment was as cool and precise as if Morrell were picking the weak spot in an enemy position. That was how he'd got shot in the first place, but he chose not to dwell on such inconvenient details.

Two orderlies came into the warm, airy room, one pushing a wheeled gurney, the other walking beside it. Bandages covered most of the head of the still figure lying on the gurney. Yellow serum stained the white cotton at a spot behind the left temple. Between them, the orderlies gently transferred what had been a man from the gurney to a bed. The axles creaked slightly as they turned the gurney in a tight circle and rolled it away.

In his time on his back, Morrell had seen a lot of wounds like that. "Poor bastard," he muttered.

The doctor nodded. Next to that breathing husk, Morrell was a human being to him. "The worst of it is," the doctor said, "he's liable to stay alive for a long time. If you put food in his mouth, he'll swallow it. If you give him water, he'll drink. But he'll never get up out of that bed again, and he'll never know he's in it, either."

Morrell shivered. "Better to be shot dead quick and clean. Then it's over. You're not just-lingering."

"That's a good word," the doctor said. "Head wounds are the dreadful ones. Either they do kill the man receiving them-and so many do, far out of proportion to the number received-or they leave him a vegetable, like that unfortunate soldier." He clicked his tongue between his teeth. "It's a problem where I wish we could do more."

"What's to be done?" Morrell said. "A service cap won't stop a bullet, any more than your tunic or your trousers would."

"Of course not," the doctor said. "Some of the elite regiments wear leather helmets like the ones the German army uses, don't they?"

"The Pickelhaube," Morrell agreed. "That might help if you fell off a bicycle, but it won't stop a bullet, either. A steel helmet might, if it wasn't too heavy to wear. You probably couldn't make one that would keep everything out, but-"

He and the doctor looked at each other. Then, at the same moment, their eyes went to the bandaged soldier with half his brains blown out. The doctor said, "That might be an excellent notion, certainly in terms of wound reduction. I may take it up with my superiors and, upon your discharge, I suggest you do the same with yours. Knowing how slowly the Army does everything, we could hardly hope for immediate action even if we get approval, but the sooner we start seeking it-"

"The sooner something will get done," Morrell finished for him. He hated the way Army wheels got mired in bureaucratic mud. Maybe, with the war on, things would move faster. He hadn't had a chance to find out; he'd been flat on his back almost since fighting broke out. But the doctor had spoken a magic word. "Discharge?"

"You're not one hundred per cent sound," the doctor said, glancing down at the notes he'd written. "Odds are, you'll never be a hundred per cent sound, not with that wound. But you have function in the leg, the infection is controlled if not suppressed, and we may hope exercise will improve your overall condition now rather than setting it back. If not, of course, you will return to the hospital wherever you happen to be reassigned."

"Of course," Morrell said piously, not meaning a word of it. Inactivity had been a pain as bad as any from his wound. Once he got back in the field, he wouldn't report himself unfit for duty, not unless he got shot again-and not then, either, if he could get away with it. He'd buy a walking stick, he'd detail a sergeant to haul him around as necessary-but he'd stay in action. There had been times when he thought he'd go crazy, just from being cooped up in one place for weeks at a time.

"I am serious about that," the doctor said; Morrell had had better luck fooling some of the other quacks they'd sicced on him. "If the infection flares up again, or if it should reach the bone, amputation will offer the only hope of saving your life."

"I understand," Morrell said, which didn't mean he took the medical man seriously. If they hadn't chopped the leg off when it was swollen to twice its proper size and leaking pus the way an armored car with a punctured radiator leaked water, they weren't going to haul out the meat axe for it now.

"Very well." The doctor jotted one more note. "My orders are to put any men, especially experienced officers, who are at all capable of serving back on active-duty status as soon as possible. Therapeutically, this is less than ideal, but therapeutic needs must be weighed against those of the nation, and so you will be sent east for reassignment."

"I will be glad to get out of here," Morrell said, "but isn't there any chance of sending me back down to the campaign for Guaymas? Last I heard, we'd bogged down less than a hundred miles from the town."

"That's my understanding, too," the doctor said. "The reassignment center, however, has been established in St. Louis. You'll get your orders there, whatever they turn out to be."

Morrell nodded, accepting his fate. That sounded like the Army: set up one central center somewhere, and process everyone through it. If you went a thousand miles, then came back to somewhere only a hundred miles from where you'd started, that was just your tough luck. You chalked it up to the way the system worked and went on about your assigned business.

And, of course, there were no guarantees he'd get sent back to Sonora. He could as easily end up in Pennsylvania or Kansas or Quebec or British Columbia. War flamed all over the continent.

He started to ask the doctor when he could expect to head out of Tucson, but the fellow had moved on to the next bed and was examining a sergeant who'd taken a shell fragment that had shattered his arm. He had suffered an amputation, and was bitter about it. Now that the doctor was looking at him, Morrell might as well have ceased to exist.

Knowing he would soon be allowed to escape the confines of the military hospital, to see more of Tucson's notched, mountainous skyline than the window showed him, should have given him the patience to bear his remaining time in enforced captivity with good grace. So he told himself. Instead, he felt more trapped in his bed than ever. He fussed and fidgeted and made himself so unpleasant that the nurses, with whom he had for the most part got on well, started snapping back at him.

Three days later, though, an orderly brought him a new captain's uniform to replace the hospital robe he'd worn so long. In size, the new uniform was a perfect match for the blood-drenched, tattered one in which he'd been wounded. It hung on him like a tent. He could have concealed a football under his tunic without unduly stretching it, and he had to use the point of a knife to cut a new hole in his belt so his trousers would stay up. They flapped around his skinny legs like the baggy cotton bloomers women wore when they exercised.

He didn't care. Even with the stick, walking down the corridor to the buggy that would take him to the train station left him dizzy and light-headed. He didn't care about that, either. The driver was a gray-haired civilian who, by his bearing, had spent a good many years in the Army. "Glad to be getting back into it, sir?" he asked as Morrell struggled up into the seat behind him. After he spoke, he coughed several times. Morrell wondered if he'd come here to New Mexico in hopes of healing consumptive lungs.

That was however it was. The question had only one possible answer. "Hell, yes!" Morrell said. The driver chuckled and flicked the reins. The two-horse team started forward. Morrell leaned back in his seat. He could relax now. He was heading back toward the world where he belonged.

By the time Jonathan Moss pulled on woolen long Johns, trousers, boots, tunic, heavy wool sweater, even heavier sheepskin coat, and leather flying helmet and goggles, he felt as if he'd doubled in weight. He'd certainly doubled in width. And, with so many layers of clothing swaddling him, he could hardly move. He waddled through the doorway of the battered barn by the airfield. Forcing each leg forward took a separate and distinct effort.

One of the mechanics looked up from a poker game in the corner and said, "Think you'll be warm enough, Lieutenant?" He laughed and, without waiting for an answer, turned his attention back to the dealer. "Gimme two, Byron, and make 'em good ones for a change, why don't you?"

Nettled, Moss snapped, "It's cold enough down here, Lefty. Go up five thousand feet and it's a hell of a lot colder."

"Yeah, I know, sir," the mechanic said, unabashed. He studied the cards Byron had dealt him. By his revolted expression, they hadn't even come out of the same deck as the other three in his hand. You took that expression seriously at your own peril. If Lefty wasn't a rich man by the time the war ended-if the war ever ended-it would only be because he'd invested his winnings in lousy stocks.

One thing about flying: going up in the air meant Moss wouldn't lose any money to the mechanic for a while. Bad weather had grounded the reconnaissance squadron the past few days. It wasn't exactly choice out there now, but they might be able to get up, look around, and come back in one piece.

Moss chuckled wryly to himself as he walked out into watery sunshine. When the fighting started-which seemed like a devil of a long time ago now- a lot of officers hadn't wanted to pay any attention to the reports the aeroplane pilots brought back. Now people were screaming blue murder because they'd been deprived of those reports for a few days. Go on and fly, the attitude seemed to be. So what if you crash? — as long as we get the information.

"Nice to be wanted," Moss said, and chuckled again. He climbed up into his Super Hudson. The first thing he did was check the action of the machine gun mounted in front of him. The next thing he did was check the belt of ammunition that fed the machine gun. He found a couple of cartridges he didn't like. He took off his mittens, extracted the bad rounds from the belt, and yelled for an armorer. He soon had new cartridges more to his satisfaction. If your machine gun jammed in an aerial duel, all you could do was run away. Since the Avros the Canadians flew were faster than the Curtiss machines, you didn't want to have to try to do that.

One by one, the other pilots of the four-aeroplane flight came out of the barn and got up into their aircraft. Baum and Nelson and McClintock were as heavily wrapped as he was, and distinguishable one from another mostly because McClintock was half a head taller than Nelson, who overtopped Baum by a like amount. They too started checking their machine guns and ammunition.

After what seemed like forever but couldn't have been more than a couple of minutes, the mechanics deigned to put down their cards long enough to help send the airmen on their way. Lefty sauntered out to Moss' aeroplane. He had an unlighted cigar clamped between his teeth; he wouldn't strike a match till he got back to the barn.

Around that cigar, he said, "You come back safe now, sir, you hear? You got money I ain't won yet."

"For which vote of confidence I thank you," Moss said, and Lefty laughed. The mechanic grabbed hold of one blade of the two-bladed wooden prop and spun it, hard. The engine sputtered but didn't catch. Lefty muttered something so hot, it should have lighted the cigar all by itself. He spun the prop again. The engine sputtered, stuttered, and began to roar.

Moss glanced over to his flightmates. Baum's engine was going, and so was McClintock's. Lefty trotted toward Nelson's aeroplane, as did a couple of other mechanics. Nelson spread his hands in frustration. You hated to break down, but what were you supposed to do sometimes?

Moss pounded a fist down onto his leg. He could hardly feel the blow through all the clothes he had on, but that didn't matter. The flight would be short a man, no help for it. If they got jumped, the Canucks and limeys would have an edge.

He shook his head. Lone wolves of the air didn't last long these days. The British and Canadians had started formation flying, and U.S. pilots had to match them or else come out on the short end whenever a single plane met up with a flight. The kind of scout mission he'd flown in September would have been suicidally risky nowadays; the air was a nastier place than it had been.

Down below, a couple of U.S. soldiers took shots at him; he spied the upward-pointing muzzle flashes. "God damn you, stop that!" he shouted- uselessly, of course, for they could not hear him, but he knew he was nowhere near the enemy lines. Only fool luck would let a rifleman down an aeroplane, but the troopers down there were surely fools for shooting at machines on their own side, and they might have got lucky.

He flew as leader, with Baum on his right and McClintock off to his left. He wished Nelson had been able to get his engine to turn over, then shrugged. He'd made a lot of wishes that hadn't come true. What was one more?

The flight buzzed along, inland from the northern shore of Lake Erie. After untold exertions and untold casualties, the U.S. Army had finally dislodged the limeys and Canucks from their grip on Port Dover. It did them a lot less good than it would have a couple of months before. For one thing, the Canadians had had plenty of time to build up new defensive lines behind the one that had fallen-the exhilarating hope of a charge to take the defenses at London in the rear remained just that, a hope.

And for another, the weather made movement so hard that the Canadians and British could probably have pulled half their men out of line without the Army's being able to do much about it. The closest big U.S. town to the fighting was Buffalo, and Buffalo was notorious for frightful winters. Moving up into Canada didn't do a thing to make the wind blow less or the snow not fall.

"The war was supposed to be over by now," Moss muttered. Troops weren't supposed to have to try to advance-hell, aeroplanes weren't sup posed to have to try to fly-in weather like this. Canada was supposed to have fallen like a ripe fruit, at which point the United States could turn the whole weight of their military muscle against the Confederates.

Oh, parts of the plan had gone well. Farther east, the Army hadn't had any great trouble reaching the St. Lawrence. Crossing it, though, was turning out to be another question altogether, and the land on the other side was fortified to a fare-thee-well. They'd come ever so close to Winnipeg, too, though they probably wouldn't get there till spring, which in those parts meant May at the earliest.

But not quite reaching Winnipeg meant trains full of wheat and oats and barley kept heading east from the Canadian prairie-and there was talk that the Canucks, weather be damned, were pushing another railroad line through north of the city. The grain's getting through, in turn, meant the Canadian heartland, the country between Toronto and Quebec City, wouldn't starve. Of course, it hadn't been intended to starve Canada into submission, not at first-out-and-out conquest was the goal. But both the first plan and the alternative had failed, which left-what?

"Which leaves a whole lot of poor bastards down there dead in the mud," Moss said. When things didn't go the way the generals thought they would, soldiers were the ones who had to try to straighten them out-and who paid the price for doing it. The only thanks they got were mentions in TR's speeches. It didn't seem enough.

Clouds floated ahead, dark gray and lumpy. More of them were gathering, back toward the horizon: advance scouts for more bad weather ahead. Moss took his Super Hudson down below the bottom of the nearest clouds, wanting a good look at whatever the enemy had in the area.

His busy pencil traced trench lines, artillery positions, new railroad spurs. Some of the aeroplane squadrons were starting to get cameras, to let photographs take the place of sketches. Moss wasn't enthusiastic about the idea of wrestling with photographic plates in the cockpit of an aeroplane, but if he got orders to do that, he knew he would.

He and his wingmen were only a couple of thousand feet above the ground. The Canucks and Englishmen down there opened up on them with everything they had. Thrum! Thrum! The noise of bullets tearing through tight-stretched fabric was not one Moss wanted to hear. One of those accidental rounds-or maybe not so accidental, not flying this low-could just as easily tear through him.

Climbing a little helped, for it put ragged streamers of clouds between the aeroplanes and the men on the ground. But those ragged streamers also meant Moss couldn't see as much as he liked. After playing hide and seek for a minute or so, he came back down into plain sight so he could do his own job as it needed doing.

By then, he, Baum, and McClintock were past the front line. The fire from the ground was lighter here, and he descended another few hundred feet. Men down there swelled from ants to beetles.

And here came what looked like a procession of toy trucks and wagons, bringing supplies up from the railhead to the front. Jonathan Moss let out a whoop the slipstream blew away. He waved to catch his wingmen's attention, and pointed first down to the supply column and then to the machine gun mounted in front of him. The limeys and Canucks-and even the Americans- had been taking pot-shots at them the whole flight long. Now they could get some of their own back.

He swooped down on the column like a red-tailed hawk on a pullet in a farmyard. Safely back of the lines, the wagons and trucks had no armed escort whatever. He squeezed the triggers to the machine gun and sprayed bullets up and down the length of it. As he pulled up and went around, he yelled with glee at the chaos he, Baum, and McClintock had created. Some horses were down. So were some drivers. Two trucks were burning. Two more had run into each other when their drivers jumped out and dove into a ditch rather than staying to be machine-gunned. A cloud of steam in the chilly air said one of them had a broken radiator.

The three pilots shot up the column twice more, starting fresh fires and knocking over more horses, and then, at Moss' wave, flew eastward again, back toward the aerodrome. When he neared the front line this time, Moss was not ashamed to use the cover of clouds to avert antiaircraft fire. Getting information was important, but so was bringing it back to the people who could use it.

The bottom of the cloud deck was only a few hundred feet off the ground when the three Curtiss Super Hudsons landed. Moss had breathed a long sigh of relief on spotting the aerodrome; he'd worried that the clouds would turn into fog and force his comrades and him to set down wherever they could.

When his biplane bounced to a stop, he jumped out of it, an enormous grin on his face. Baum, a little skinny guy with a black beard, and McClintock, who, for reasons known only to himself, affected the waxed mustache and spikily pointed imperial of a Balkans nobleman, were also all teeth and excitement. "Wasn't that bully!" they shouted. "Wasn't it grand?"

"Just like the ducks in a shooting gallery," Moss agreed, and then, quite suddenly, he sobered. Not long before, he'd been sick because he had to shoot down a Canadian aeroplane to save his own life. Now here he was celebrating the deaths of a whole raft of men who, unlike the aeroplane pilot and observer, hadn't even been able to shoot back.

He'd always been glad he wasn't an infantryman: if you were a mudfoot, war, and the death and maiming that went with war, were random and impersonal. What had he just been doing but dealing out random, impersonal death? He'd thought of himself as a knight in shining armor. What sorts of filthy things had knights done that never got into the pages of Malory and Ivanhoe? He didn't know. He didn't want to find out, not really.

He looked down at himself. His imaginary suit of armor seemed to have a patch or two of rust on it. No matter who you were or what you did, you couldn't stay immaculate, not in this war.

"Close to quitting time," Jefferson Pinkard grunted as he and Bedford Cunningham secured a mold that would shape the steel just poured from the crucible into a metal pig a freight car could carry to whatever factory would turn it into weapons of war.

Before his friend could even begin to agree with him, that granddaddy of a steam whistle proclaimed to the whole Sloss Foundry that he'd been right. "Lived through another Monday," Cunningham said, not altogether facetiously.

Accidents were way up since the start of the war. Everybody was working flat out, with no slack time from the start of a shift to the end. A lot of the men were new because so many had gone into the Army, and the new fellows made more mistakes than the old hands they replaced. And, what with working like dogs every minute of every shift, new hands and old got drunk more often to ease the strain, which didn't help-especially on Mondays.

No sooner had that thought crossed Pinkard's mind than a horrible shriek rang out on the casting floor. "Oh, Christ!" he said, breaking into a run. "That damn fool up there poured when they weren't paying attention- probably talking about going off shift, just like we was."

There by the mold next to his lay Sid Williamson. He wasn't quiet now, as he usually was. He writhed and shrieked. The stink of hot iron was everywhere. So was the stink of burnt meat. Jeff looked at him and turned away, doing his best not to be sick to his stomach. He'd been burned plenty of times himself, but never like this-oh, God, never like this.

He shook his fist up at the kid handling the crucible, who was staring white-faced at what he'd done. Such things happened even with experienced men in that place, but that didn't keep him from blaming the son of a bitch who'd made this one happen. It could've been me, he thought. Jesus God, it could've been me.

"Burn ointment-" Bedford Cunningham began.

Another steelworker was already slathering it on Williamson. It wouldn't do any good. Jeff knew damn well it wouldn't do any good. So did everybody else on the floor, including, no doubt, the burned man. A couple of his pals got a stretcher under him, which brought out fresh cries, and hustled him away. He might live-he was young and strong. Pinkard wouldn't have bet on it, though. He'd never be back at the foundry again. Jeff would have bet anything he owned on that.

He wiped his sweaty, grimy face with a sweaty, grimy forearm. It was chilly and wet outside, but not in here. In here, it was always somewhere between August and hell, not that, in Birmingham, there was a whole lot of difference between one and the other. Even so, some of the sweat on his face was cold.

Still shaking, he and Cunningham turned together to let the fellows on the evening shift take over the work, which had to get done no matter what, no matter who. They both stopped with the turns a little more than half made. Pinkard watched Cunningham's jaw drop. He felt his own doing the same thing. He needed a couple of tries before he could say, "Where's Henry? Where's Silas?"

The two Negroes in collarless shirts looked nervous. They were big, strong bucks-they looked plenty strong enough to be steelworkers. But that didn't have anything to do with anything, and they knew it. So did Pinkard and Cunningham. One of the Negroes said, "They's in the Army, suh. We is their replacements."

"And who the hell are you?" Bedford Cunningham set his hands on his hips. Both black men were bigger than he was, and younger, too, but that didn't have

anything to do with anything, either. A black man who fought back against a white-his goose was cooked, anywhere in the CSA.

"I'm Lorenzo," said the Negro who had answered before.

"My name's Justinian," the other one said.

"I don't care if you're Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost," Jeff Pinkard exploded, which won him a startled chuckle from Cunningham. "What the hell they doin', puttin' Negroes on the evenin' shift? Nights was bad enough, but this here-"

"Suh, we been on nights since they let us," Lorenzo said, which was true; Pinkard had seen him around for a while. "When these white folks you was expectin', when they goed into the Army, the bosses, they look around, but they don't find no other whites kin do the job-no 'sperienced whites, I should oughta say. And so here we is."

"World's goin' to hell in a handbasket, Jeff, no two ways about it," Bed Cunningham said mournfully. "We seen it comin', an' we was right. Next thing you know, a couple of coons'll be doin' our jobs, too."

"Yeah, well, if that's so, it's on account of they put a rifle in my hands in stead," Pinkard answered. "And I'll tell you somethin' else, too: when I get out o' the Army, I'm still gonna have that rifle in my hands. Any nigger who tries to keep my job when I want it back, he's gonna be sorry. And any boss who tries to help him keep it, he's gonna be sorrier yet."

"Amen," Cunningham said, as if he'd been preaching in the Baptist church of a Sunday morning. "We had ourselves two revolutions in this here country to make it like we want it. Reckon we can have us a third one to keep it that way." He spat on the floor. "Shit, how do we even know these boys can do the work? Maybe we better watch and find out." He folded his arms across his chest.

"Ought to find out if they've got the balls to do it, too," Jeff said. He pointed over to the other mold. "You boys know what happened to Sid just now?"

"Yes, suh," Lorenzo answered quietly. "We seen that before, workin' nights. Hope he come through all right."

It was a soft answer, not one Pinkard particularly wanted to hear just then. He was edgy, looking for trouble. Since he couldn't find any, he scowled and said, "All right, get on with it, then." If they couldn't do the job, complaining to the foreman and maybe to the foundry manager would be worthwhile. Pinkard stepped aside. "We're gonna watch you."

And, for the next half hour, he and Cunningham did nothing but watch. To his dismay, the Negroes had no troubles. They weren't so smooth together as the two white men they were replacing, but they hadn't worked together for years, either. They did know enough of what they were doing to do just about all of it right.

At last, Jeff stuck an elbow in Cunningham's ribs. "Let's go home," he said. "Wives'll be worryin', thinkin' we got hurt or somethin'." He shivered. "Wasn't us, but it might have been."

"Yeah," his friend said with a strange kind of sigh: not quite defeat, but a long way from acceptance. As one, they turned their backs on the Negroes and left the Sloss Foundry building.

Walking home felt strange. Because they'd stayed past shift changeover, they were almost alone. A few men coming in late for evening shift rushed past them, worried expressions on their faces. They'd catch hell from the foremen and they'd see their pay docked. Would they get fired? An hour earlier, Pinkard would have thought no-who'd replace them with so many white men in the Army? Now that question had a possible new answer, one he didn't like.

Sure enough, when they got back to their side-by-side yellow cottages-though they looked gray in the fast-fading evening twilight-Emily Pinkard and Fanny Cunningham were standing together on the grass of their front lawns, grass that was going brown from the cold December nights. "Where have you been?" the two women demanded as one.

"Stayed a little late at the foundry, is all," Jefferson Pinkard said.

Emily came up and stood close to him. After a moment, he realized she was smelling his breath to see if he'd been off somewhere drinking up some illegal whiskey. Fanny Cunningham was doing the same thing with Bedford. When Bedford figured out what was going on, he angrily shoved his wife away. Pinkard just shrugged. If he'd been Emily, he would have guessed the same thing.

"What were you doing at the foundry?" Emily asked, evidently satisfied he was telling the truth.

Then the tale came out, Jefferson and Bedford splitting it, their breath steaming as they spoke. Their wives exclaimed in indignation and fear, both because of what had happened to Sid Williamson and because of the news about the black men. Pinkard understood that plenty well. Henry and Silas had been replaced by Negroes after they went into the Army. Would Pinkard and Cunningham be replaced so they could go into the Army? Or would they be replaced for no better reason than that the foundry bosses could save some money?

"Come on inside," Bedford Cunningham said to his wife. "We got some things we better talk about, you an' me."

Pinkard had a pretty good notion what those things might be. Bedford had teased him when he'd let Emily go to work in the munitions factory, but all of a sudden he was pretty damn glad he had. Even if they did throw him out of work, he and Emily wouldn't go hungry. If his friend wasn't thinking about having Fanny look for some kind of work, he would have been surprised.

"I waited supper on you," Emily said. "I put that roast and the potatoes in the covered crock 'fore I left this mornin', and they'll still be fine now."

"All right." Pinkard let her lead him up the walk to their house. He hung his cap on the tree inside the door, right beside the flowered hat Emily had worn to her job today. Now that she was going out in public every day, she'd bought several new hats. Each one cost a day's pay for her, but she'd earned the money herself, so Pinkard didn't see how he had any business complaining.

In spite of her promises, the cottage wasn't so clean and tidy as it had been before Emily went to work. He'd said things once or twice, the first few weeks: after all, she had promised to keep up the housework. Before long, though, he'd stopped complaining. When you got right down to it, what difference did a little dust make? She was helping the CSA win the war. Didn't that count for more?

And supper, as she'd promised, was fine. She made a lot of meals like that these days: things she could fix up in a hurry, put over a low fire before she went out the door, and then just serve as soon as she and Jefferson were both home.

"That's mighty good," he said, patting his belly. "And since I wasn't off gettin' lit up like you thought I was, why don't you get me a bottle of beer?"

Even by the ruddy light of the kerosene lamp, he could see her face go red. "You knew, too?" she said over her shoulder as she went back into the kitchen. "You didn't let on like Bedford did."

"I think Fanny nags Bedford more'n you do me," he answered. "Makes him feel like he got to get his own back every so often. Ah, thanks." He took the illicit bottle she handed him, swigged, and made a sour face. "He's done a lot better'n that-tastes like he had a horse stand over the bottle." He swigged again. "A sick horse, you ask me."

Emily giggled, deliciously scandalized. She also drank. "It's not that bad," she said: faint praise. And, as usual, she was right. The beer was drinkable- or, if it wasn't, Jefferson 's bottle emptied by magic.

He went into the kitchen with her and worked the pump at the sink while she washed the supper dishes. "How'd it go with you today?" he asked. He'd discovered, to his surprise, that he liked sharing work gossip with her. "You already heard my news for the day."

"Mine ain't much better," Emily said, scrubbing a greasy plate with harsh lye soap. "Clara Fuller, she hurt her hand on a drill press. They say she's liable to lose her little finger."

"That's no good," Pinkard said. "Accident like that, the whole shift is looking over its shoulder the next two days." Only after he'd said it did he realize how strange the idea of a woman at a machine would have struck him before the war started. About as strange as the idea of a Negro doing his job on the evening shift, as a matter of fact.

When the dishes were done and dried and put away, they went out to the living room and talked and read for a little while, till they were both yawning more than they were talking. After a few minutes of that, they gave up with sleepy laughs. They went out to the outhouse, first Emily, then Jeff. She was in bed by the time he came back to put on his pajamas. He slid under the cover and blew out the lamp.

Her back was to him. He reached over and closed a hand around her right breast. She didn't stir. She didn't say anything. She was already deep asleep. A moment later, so was he.

Somewhere up ahead along the muddy, miserable road lay the town of Morton 's Gap, Kentucky. Somewhere beyond and maybe a little north of Morton's Gap lay Madisonville. Somewhere beyond Madisonville- in a mythical land far, far away, as best as Paul Mantarakis could telllay the much-promised, seldom-seen glittering thing called Breakthrough.

Just at sunrise, Mantarakis walked slowly down the trench line. You couldn't walk any way but slowly; with every step you took, the mud grabbed your boot and made you fight to pull it out again. If you lay down in the mud, you were liable to drown. He'd heard of its happening, more than once, as the U.S. line congealed in the face of Confederate resistance and winter.

There stood Gordon McSweeney, his canvas shelter half wrapped around his shoulders as a cloak to hold the rain at bay, water dripping off the brim of his green-gray- now green-gray-brown- forage cap. His long, angular face was muddy, too, and set in its usual disapproving lines. McSweeney disapproved of everything on general principles, and of Mantarakis not just on general principles but alsoand particularly-because he wasn't Presbyterian.

And then, to Mantarakis' amazement, those gloomy features rearranged themselves into a smile so bright, it was almost sweet. "Merry Christmas, Paul," McSweeney said. "God bless you on the day."

"Christmas?" Mantarakis stared blankly before nodding and smiling back. "Merry Christmas to you, too, Gordon. Doesn't seem like much of a spot for doing anything about it, though, does it?"

"If Christ is in your heart, where your body rests does not matter," McSweeney said. When he talked like that, he usually sounded angry. Today, though, the words came out as if he meant them, no more. He really must have had the Christmas spirit deep in his heart.

"Merry Christmas," Mantarakis repeated. He kept walking. It was Christmas for McSweeney, it was Christmas for everybody in his unit-and for the Rebs in their wet trenches a couple-three hundred yards away-but it wasn't Christmas for him. It wouldn't be Christmas for him till January 6. The Orthodox Church had never cottoned to the Gregorian calendar. Maybe I should tell McSweeney it's Papist, Mantarakis thought with a wry smile. That would give the Bible-thumper something new to get in a sweat about, not that you could sweat in this miserable weather.

He shook his head. For one thing, having McSweeney act like a human being for a change was too good to fool with. And, for another, he was too used to having the whole world celebrate Christmas almost two weeks ahead of him to try and change anybody's mind about it now.

"Hey, Paul!" Sergeant Peterquist called from a little way down the trench. "We got us a sheep here-Ben brought it up with the regular supplies. Don't know where he came by it, but I'm not asking questions, neither. You wanna see what you can turn it into?"

"Sure will, Sarge," Mantarakis said. He wasn't officially company cook, but he was better at the job than Ben Carlton, who was supposed to have it, and everybody knew as much. And what a Greek couldn't do with mutton couldn't be done. He added, "Merry Christmas," as he came up to the sergeant.

"Same to you, Paul," Dick Peterquist answered. He wasn't much bigger than Mantarakis, but towheaded instead of swarthy. Because he was so fair, he looked younger than the forty years Mantarakis knew he had. He might have carried a few gray hairs, but who could tell, in amongst the gold? He pointed down to the carcass at his feet. "Doesn't that look good?"

Paul whistled softly. It wasn't really a sheep, it was an almost-yearling lamb from this past spring's birth. "Ben outdid himself this time," he said. Carlton might not have been much of a cook, but he was a hell of a scrounger. "You said sheep, Sarge, and I figured something old and tough and gamy. This here, though-" His mouth watered just thinking about it. "Make stew with some and roast the rest, I guess. You can't beat roast lamb."

"You do it up the best way you know how, that's all," Peterquist said. "Make us a hell of a Christmas dinner."

Mantarakis nodded. He figured he'd save the tongue and the brains and the kidneys and sweetbreads for himself; nobody else was likely to want them, anyhow. To most soldiers, they were "guts," and not worth having. He wished he could get his hands on a little wine so he could saute the kidneys in it. Of course, he wished he were back in Philadelphia, too, so what were wishes worth?

He unsheathed the bayonet he wore on his left hip: twenty inches of sharp steel. It wasn't a proper butcher knife, but it would do the job. He'd just squatted down over the lamb when a Southern voice, thin in the distance, called, "Hey, you Yanks! Wave a hankie an' stick a head up! We won't shoot y'all-it's Christmas!"

"What do we do?" Mantarakis asked Peterquist.

"Shit, they ain't gonna lie to us like that," the sergeant answered. He dug in his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief, then gave it a dubious look: it was more nearly brown than white. He waved it anyway, and stuck his head up above the front lip of the trench. Now he whistled. "I'll be damned."

That made Mantarakis look, too. The calls kept coming, from up and down the Confederate line. Some men in butternut were walking about in front of their trench line. Any other day of the year, they would have been asking to be shot dead. On Christmas, no. U.S. troops were coming up out of the trenches, too, and heading on over toward the drifts of barbed wire that separated one line from the other.

Without waiting on anybody's permission, Paul scrambled up onto the ground between the trench lines and headed toward the Confederate positions, too. He waited for Peterquist to yell at him or try to drag him back, but, a moment later, the sergeant was right up there beside him. "I'll be damned," he said again, and Mantarakis nodded.

Realizing he was still holding the bayonet he'd intended to use to cut up the lamb, he stuck it back in its leather sheath. He wasn't going to need it, not today. Rebs and U.S. soldiers were snipping through barbed wire not to kill one another but to get together, say "Merry Christmas," and shake hands. For a day, or at least a moment, fifty years and more of hatred vanished as if they'd never been.

Some of the Confederates had rifles slung on their shoulders, but they, like he, seemed to have forgotten about them. "Hey, you! Yank!" one of them called, and pointed at him. "Want some seegars? Got anything you can swap me for 'em?"

This was tobacco country, but the fields had been fought over, not harvested. And cigars, with any luck, were going to be Habanas, anyhow. Kentucky tobacco couldn't come close to what they grew in Cuba. "I've got some garlic powder and some mint," Mantarakis answered. "Make your stews taste better, if you want 'em."

"Don't like garlic," the Rebel said, and made a face. "Stinks, if'n you ask me. But mint's right nice. What other kind o' tasty things y'all got?"

"Got some cinnamon, a little bit," Paul said. He hid the scorn he held for the Confederate: how could you dislike garlic? But the fellow's eyes lit up when he mentioned cinnamon, so maybe they had some hope of a deal after all. Mantarakis dug in his pack and displayed the little tins of spice, whereupon the Rebel held up four cigars. After some dickering, they settled on six.

By then, a couple of paths through the wire had been cleared. Paul went through one of them, toward the Confederate lines. He had the feeling of being partly in a dream, as if nothing could happen to him no matter what he did. It was the exact opposite of what he usually felt on a battlefield: that he was liable to end up dead or mangled in spite of everything he could do to prevent it.

He handed the tins over to his Confederate counterpart and received the cigars in return. The bands, printed on shiny, metallic paper, bore the picture of a fellow with a bushy gray beard, who, the gold letters underneath his face declared, was Confederate President Longstreet, who'd licked the United States in the Second Mexican War. Maybe the cigars were Habanas, then. He sniffed them. Wherever they came from, they smelled pretty good.

"Merry Christmas, Yankee," the Confederate said. He was a mediumsized, stocky fellow with muttonchops and light brown hair that stuck out from under his cap in all directions. As he stowed away the spices, he laughed a little. "Don't think I hardly ever said nothin' to a damnyankee before, 'cept maybe somethin' like 'Hands up 'fore I shoot you!' "

"Yeah, I'm the same way with you birds, pretty much," Mantarakis said. Oh, maybe a Confederate sailor or two had come into one of the Philadelphia greasy spoons where he'd worked, but taking an order for a sandwich or a steak was damn near as impersonal as talking from one side of a rifle to the other. He gave his name, then said, "Who are you? What do you do?"

"I'm Colby Gilbert, Paul," the Rebel answered. He stuck out his hand. Mantarakis shook it. The Reb grinned. "Right glad to meet you, Paul, long as you don't ask me to say your last name. What do I do? I got me a farm, forty, maybe fifty miles outside o' Little Rock, Arkansas. How about your own self?"

"Cook in Philadelphia," Paul answered.

"No wonder you got them nice spices, then. You got a family?" Gilbert asked. Before Mantarakis could answer, the Reb pulled a photograph out of his breast pocket: himself, a plain blond woman, a little boy, and a baby of indeterminate sex, all in what had to be Sunday best. "This here's me and Betsy and Colby, Jr., and Lucy." The baby was a girl, then.

"I'm not married yet," Mantarakis said. "A couple of my brothers have children, so I'm an uncle." He trotted out a family joke: "One of my sisters is expecting, so I'll be an aunt pretty soon, too."

Colby Gilbert scratched his head, then laughed. "Didn't know you damnyankees could be funny. Never even thought you might. Ain't that queer?"

"Yeah, pretty much." Paul looked ahead to Morton's Gap, or what was left of it. What struck him as funny was being here in a foreign country, talking like an old friend with a real, live enemy.

Somebody, from one trench or another, had thrown out a football. Soldiers from both the USA and the CSA wanted a game, but before they could play, they argued over the rules-the United States ' version let you advance the ball by throwing it forward, if you did it from five yards back of the scrim line, while by the Confederacy's rules no forward passes could be thrown, only laterals. The disagreement stayed good-natured, though, and, when the Rebs whooped and cheered to see how far one of the U.S. soldiers could heave the ball and how nimbly another one ran under it and caught it, they agreed to try the damnyankee style of play themselves.

Men in green-gray and men in butternut stood shoulder to shoulder and cheered the two teams of gladiators wrestling in the mud. Several flasks went through the crowd; Paul had a nip of brandy and another of raw, searing corn liquor. Probably because they understood the passing game better, the U.S. team won, 26–12. Everybody cheered both sides, anyway.

"Shitfire," a loud Southern voice declared, "if I'd knowed damnyankees was people just like us, damn me to hell if Id've been so all-fired eager to grab me a gun an' shoot 'em."

"You Rebels, I think you may be Christians, too." That was Gordon McSweeney, sounding surprised. For once, Paul didn't blame him. If you lived in the USA, you figured everybody in the CSA grew horns and a pointy tail. From the way the Confederates talked, they seemed to think the same thing about Americans.

"What the hell we fightin' for, then?" somebody asked. Mantarakis didn't know whether the question had come from a soldier of the USA or the CSA. He decided it didn't matter, anyhow. And nobody tried to answer it.

The crowd from the football match dispersed slowly, reluctantly. A few U.S. soldiers followed new-made friends into the Confederate lines for supper; a few Rebs, Colby Gilbert among them, came back with the U.S. troops. "I'll show you what garlic is good for," Mantarakis said, going to work on the lamb carcass he'd been about to cut up before the impromptu Christmas truce broke out.

Gilbert showed his family photo again, and admired those of the U.S. soldiers who were married. He traded cigars for this and that, and did admit the meat Paul was cooking smelled mighty good. Mantarakis had just put a big chunk of roast leg on Gilbert's mess tin (shaped a little different from those the U.S. soldiers carried) when Lieutenant Norman Hinshaw, the platoon commander, came up to the fire, no doubt drawn by the rich cooking odors.

Hinshaw stared in dismay at Colby Gilbert. "They're raising hell about this back at regimental headquarters," he said. "If he doesn't get his ass back to his own side, we've got to take him prisoner."

"Aw, have a heart, Lieutenant," Mantarakis said. "At least let him finish eating. It's Christmas, right?" Even if it wasn't Christmas for him, he used the argument without qualm of conscience.

Lieutenant Hinshaw looked at the rest of his men. When he saw all of them, even Sergeant Peterquist, nodding, he threw up his hands. "All right, he can stay," he said. "But tomorrow, if we see him, we kill him."

"Same to you, Lieutenant," Colby Gilbert said. "Nothin' personal, of course."

He ate slowly, enjoying every bit, garlic or no. Mantarakis gave him another chunk of meat to take back to his own lines. A chorus of good-byes followed him when he left the U.S. trenches. As the sun set a couple of hours later, a new chorus rang out: Christmas carols, sung first by the U.S. soldiers, then by the Confederates, and at last by both armies together.

Not a shot disturbed the night. Paul rolled himself in his blanket, confident for once he'd wake up to see the dawn.

And when dawn came, a savage U.S. artillery bombardment tore at the Confederates' front-line positions. Mantarakis huddled in a little ball in the mud, for the Rebs were shelling the U.S. trenches, too. Maybe the brass on both sides was making sure the truce wouldn't last more than a day. If so, they got their wish. Rifles began to bark, and machine guns to hammer. The war had come back, and come back strong. Later that day, it started to snow.

Church bells chimed in 1915 as if the new year were something worth celebrating. Sylvia Enos lay alone in her bed, listening to the bells, to the firecrackers, to the occasional gunshots, to the sound of happy- or at least drunk- people in the streets. Tomorrow was Saturday, a half day of work, and she knew she had to be up before six, but she could not relax her mind enough to sleep.

In the next room, George, Jr., whimpered. Most nights when he did that, Sylvia prayed he'd go right back to sleep. Now she wouldn't have minded his waking… too much.

She whimpered a little herself, and bit her lip to make herself stop. Not knowing was the hardest part. The Ripple hadn't come back from Georges Bank, and hadn't come back, and hadn't come back-and now, two months and more after it put out, no one, not even Sylvia, thought it would come back.

But what had happened to it? The weather had been good-not perfect, but good, so a storm couldn't have sunk the trawler. Had it collided with another vessel? Had a Confederate commerce raider sunk it? And if a raider had sunk it, had the crew had a chance to get off first?

"Please, God, do whatever You want with me, but let George be safe," Sylvia said quietly in the darkness. She hadn't been much given to prayer before the Ripple disappeared, but she'd found it made her feel she was doing something, however small a something, for her husband. Past prayer, she had nothing to do.

At last, she fell asleep, only to be wakened a few minutes later by a drunken brawl out in the hallway in front of her flat. The racket woke Mary Jane, too. She was wet, so Sylvia groggily changed her diaper and put her back to bed. The toddler sighed and went to sleep right away. Sylvia wished she'd be so lucky, but wasn't.

When the alarm clock went off beside her head, she thought at first it was the bells from the midnight just past. The clattering went on and on, though. Under her breath, she muttered something George had brought home from T Wharf. His hair would have curled to hear her say it, but there was no one to hear her say it, and so she did.

She struck a match and lighted the gas lamp by the bed, then quickly put on her corset, shirtwaist, and long, dark blue wool skirt over her winter underwear. She let out a silent thank-you to whatever gods of fashion had decreed bustles no longer mandatory. That saved time.

She stoked up the fire in the stove and set water to boil for oatmeal and for coffee. Breathing a sigh of relief that she'd managed to get through the month with a little coal left in the scuttle, she went into the other bedroom to get the children up and moving.

"I don't want to get up," George, Jr., moaned.

"I don't want to get up, either, but I have to, and so do you," Sylvia said. He grumbled some more, but got out of bed. If he'd dawdled, the flat of her hand on his backside would have got him moving in a hurry, and he knew it. Mary Jane, on the other hand, woke up sweetly, as she did most mornings.

She made the oatmeal, put on butter and salt, and fed alternate mouthfuls to herself and Mary Jane while George, Jr., ate. The children drank water; there had been a tainted milk scare the week before, and she'd been leery of buying it. She wished she had some for her coffee, too, but if her large wishes weren't being granted, she didn't expect to get her small ones.

"Come on- time to go to Mrs. Conevals," she said. "It's Saturday today, so I'll be back in the afternoon, not at nighttime." George, Jr., nodded at that; Mary Jane was still too little to have it mean anything to her.

Brigid Coneval lived down at the end of the hall, near the bathroom. Her husband was off at the front: in New Mexico, if Sylvia's memory was straight. Instead of going off to work in a factory herself, Mrs. Coneval kept body and soul together by using the money he sent home and by caring for the children of other women who had to go out to work and who had no family to mind their own.

Sylvia knocked on her door. She had to knock loudly; the racket inside the flat was already frightful, and, when Brigid Coneval opened the door, Sylvia saw that only about half her usual mob had arrived. "Good mornin' to you, Mrs. Enos," Mrs. Coneval said in a musical brogue. "Have you had any word of that man o' yours, now?"

"No," Sylvia said bleakly. "Just- nothing." She urged her children into the flat, saying, as she did every day, "Do as Mrs. Coneval tells you, and play nicely with the other children." George, Jr., kissed her good-bye; Mary Jane nibbled the end of her nose, which amounted to the same thing.

Inside the flat, somebody sneezed. Sylvia sighed. Cooping her children up with so many others was asking for them to come down with colds or worse; diphtheria and measles, whooping cough and chicken pox (though George, Jr., had already had most of those) ran riot in wintertime, when people stayed tightly packed together so much of the time. But what else could she do? Unlike Brigid Coneval, she had no husband sending home even a little money. For all she knew, she had no husband at all.

Shaking her head, she went downstairs and out into the street. It was still dark outside; the sun wouldn't be up for most of another hour. Breath making a foggy cloud around her, she walked down to the corner and waited for the trolley. Up it came a few minutes later. She climbed in and dropped her nickel in the fare box. A fellow in a rain slicker who looked like a fisherman stood up to give her his seat. She took it with a murmur of thanks.

She changed trolleys, then got off and walked over to the canning plant, a square brick building that looked ancient though it wasn't and that smelled of fish even more powerfully than T Wharf. The workers coming in with her were a mixed lot, some white men who hadn't yet been called into the Army, some colored men who weren't likely to be called into the Army unless things got even worse than they were already, and a lot of women like her who needed to keep body and soul together and families running while their men were gone.

A couple of women were wearing black; they'd lost their husbands in the fighting that sprawled across North America. Sylvia wondered if she should be doing the same. Stubbornly, she refused to give up hope. She wouldn't don widow's weeds till she knew for a fact she was a widow.

Before she'd had to look for work, she'd never operated anything more complicated than a sewing machine. The machine that put labels on cans of mackerel as they came sliding along a conveyor belt wasn't much more complicated. You pulled a lever to shunt the can off the belt, another one to route it through the machine, and a third to send it on its way, now adorned with a fish that looked more like a tuna than a mackerel-but, since the housewife in Ohio or the bachelor in Nebraska had probably never seen either in the flopping flesh, what harm was done?

You did have to watch out that the labelling machine didn't run out of paste, and every once in a while the endless strip of labels would jam. When that happened, you had to shut down the line till you could clear and fix the feed mechanism. Most days, though, it was just pull this one, pull that one, pull the other one, then pull this one again, from the start of the shift right through to the end.

Sometimes time crawled by. Sometimes it sped; Sylvia had found herself almost mesmerized by what she was doing, and had an hour or two slip by al most without conscious thought. You could talk through the clatter of thousands of cans and of the machinery that moved them on their way, but often there wasn't a whole lot to say.

Saturday half-shift often passed more slowly, at least in mental terms, than a full day's work. Sylvia had expected that, especially after being off for the New Year's holiday. But it didn't happen. She came out into the bright winter sun with the feeling that she had a lot of time to do the rest of the day's chores. She went to the grocer's and the butcher's and the yard-goods store for cloth and patterns for the clothes her children would be wearing come spring.

"Good to see you, Mrs. Enos," the clerk there said as he took her money. "Business has been slow. A lot of people are buying ready-to-wear goods these days."

"Making them myself is cheaper-if I can find the time." Sylvia shook her head. She didn't have much money since George had disappeared, but she didn't have much time, either. How could you win?

When she got back to her apartment building, she checked the rank of mailboxes in the front hall. She found a couple of advertising circulars, a Christmas card from her cousin in New York (she muttered rude things about the post office), and an envelope with a stamp she did not recognize and a rubber-stamped notice saying it had been forwarded through the International Society of Red Cross Organizations.

The rubber stamp nearly obscured the address. When she got a look at that, she shivered and felt so light-headed, she had to lean against the iron bank of mailboxes for a moment before she could open the envelope: it was in her husband's handwriting.

Dear Sylvia, the note inside read, I want you to know I am all right and not hurt. The Ripple was caught and sunk by the (here someone had rendered a word or two illegible with black ink). They took us to North Carolina, where I am now. They treat us well. The food is all right. You can write me in care of the Red Cross and it will get to me sooner or later. They may end up letting me go in a while because I wasn't in the Navy and they exchange civilians with the United States. I hope so. I love you. Give my love to the children to. I hope I see you before to long. Love again from your George.

Sylvia leaned against the mailboxes again. Tears ran down her cheeks. "Oh, dear," Henrietta Collingwood, a neighbor, said as she came downstairs. She pointed to the letter Sylvia was still holding. "I hope it is not bad news." By her voice, she sounded certain it was.

But Sylvia shook her head. "No, Henrietta," she said. "The best news of all: he is alive."

"Come on, nigger-lovers, get movin'," the Confederate guard said. He gestured with the bayonet of his rifle as if he would have liked to use it on the crew of the Ripple.

George Enos and the rest of the captured fishermen obediently got up and headed across the barbed-wire enclosure of Fort Johnston for their daily louse inspection. Anybody discovered with the little pests got his hair washed with kerosene and his clothes and bedding baked in an oven. That killed the lice for a while, but in a week or two they'd be back again.

Enos shivered. The wind off the Atlantic here at the outlet of the Cape Fear River was bitingly cold, though he still had on the gear he'd been wearing when the commerce raider Swamp Fox captured the Ripple. "I thought North Carolina was supposed to be hot and sticky all the time," he said.

"Shut up, nigger-lover," the guard said, his voice flat and harsh. Enos would have been surprised if he was eighteen; his face was full of angry red blotches. But he had a gun and he had the rest of the Confederate Army behind him, so Enos shut up. The crew of the Ripple had that unlovely handle hung on them because they'd insisted on treating Charlie White like a human being even after the Swamp Fox plucked them off the steam trawler and then sank it.

Technically, they were detainees, not prisoners of war. U.S. commerce raiders had scooped up Confederate merchant seamen, too. They were being exchanged, one for one, in the order of capture, using the good offices of the Kingdom of Spain, one of the few nations neutral in the fight that roiled across the world. Enos figured he'd probably get back to Boston about a week before the war ended, if it ever did. He hadn't said that in his letter to Sylvia, but it remained at the back of his mind.

No matter what anybody called him, though, George felt like a prisoner of war. The worst of it was, he hadn't even been at war when the Confederates nabbed him. All he'd been doing was trying to make a living. The Rebels didn't give a damn about that. To them, capturing a fishing boat counted as a blow against the United States. It struck him as dreadfully unfair. War was about soldiers and sailors. It wasn't about fishermen, not as far as he was concerned. But nobody cared what he thought. Nobody cared how much he missed his wife, either. That was something else war was about: not caring.

Off to one side, chips flew as Charlie White chopped firewood. The cook worked with grim intensity, slamming the axe down again and again. It was his turn for the job; Enos had done it a couple of days before, and yesterday a sailor off a freighter the Swamp Fox had sent to the bottom. The Rebs didn't work Charlie any differently from the way they worked their other detainees. That would have been against international law, and they would have caught hell for it when word got back to the United States.

But they didn't treat him as they would have treated a white man, either, always jeering at him-and, to a lesser degree, at the crewmen of the Ripple for insisting he was their friend, not a servant or a pet. They had Negro servants here at Fort Johnston, men who acted like dogs around Southern whites. Enos wondered what they used for self-respect.

He didn't have much left himself. The medical orderly-the Rebs didn't waste a doctor on damnyankees, not unless they were dying-snapped, "Bend over, nigger-lover." When Enos obeyed, the fellow ran fingers through his hair, examining the nape of his neck and the short hairs behind his ears. Reluctantly, the orderly said, "All right, you're clean-go on."

Enos went. He suspected the Rebs of claiming the men from the Ripple were lousy even when they weren't, just so they could put them through the process of getting rid of the vermin. Afterwards, your head smelled for days as if you'd been soaking it in the well of a kerosene lantern.

To give him his due, the medical officer did try to keep from spreading lice from one man to another. Between inspections, he dipped his hands into a bowl from which rose the antiseptic smell of dilute carbolic acid, then dried them on a towel. He looked over Patrick O'Donnell, and let the captain of the Ripple pass inspection in the same grudging manner he had Enos.

O'Donnell went over to the barbed wire and stood around looking bored. Enos walked up and stood beside him. "Another exciting day, isn't it, Skipper?" he said.

"You might say that," O'Donnell allowed. Both men laughed. About the only excitement in these parts was finding out whether your day's ration of cornbread had mold or not, and whether the chunk of boiled sowbelly the Rebs gave you with it was all fat or whether it had a tiny bit of real meat attached.

Thinking of that made George Enos laugh again. "Remember that time when Fred got a whole strip of meat in his sowbelly? I bet they fired the cook who gave it to him the day after, because it sure hasn't happened again."

"Bet you're right," the skipper said. "Sure sounded like they were giving somebody holy hell that night, too. Might've been the cook."

Ever so casually, he turned and glanced toward the disappearing turrets that held Fort Johnston 's three twelve-inch guns. Any ships that tried to ascend the Cape Fear River and bombard or mine Wilmington, North Carolina, would have to pass the guns here and in other forts farther up the river. Enos wouldn't have liked to try it. In their endless practices, the Rebs seemed very alert.

He'd never asked O'Donnell why he spent so much time by the wire. It wasn't really his concern, and confirming his suspicions wouldn't have done him or the captain of the Ripple any good. But he was pretty sure that, when they finally did get exchanged, O'Donnell would give the U.S. Navy a set of drawings for the interior grounds of Fort Johnston better than anything they had now.

Enos had other things on his mind. "You think they'll give us our jobs back when we get out of here?" he asked. "God only knows what Sylvia's doing to make ends meet."

"I hope you get your job back, George," O'Donnell answered. "With me, it doesn't matter so much." A skipper who lost his ship, even if it wasn't his fault, had trouble getting another one. But that wasn't what O'Donnell meant. If and when the Confederates shipped him back to the United States, he was going straight into the Navy. They'd be glad to have him again, what with his experience.

They'd probably be glad to have George Enos, too. He'd never served on a warship, but he was a sailor. He'd have an easier time figuring out what was going on than some landlubber from Dakota.

He didn't want to go into the Navy, the way O'Donnell did. Being kept away from Sylvia and his children had forcibly reminded him how much he missed them. You went aboard a cruiser, you were there for months at a time, and even when you got back to port, who could say where that port would be? If you were in San Diego, say, and got forty-eight hours' liberty, so what? You couldn't get back to Boston, let alone make the round trip, in that length of time.

He laughed. "What's funny?" O'Donnell asked.

"Thinking about getting liberty and what I'd do with it if I'm too far from home to go back and if I join the Navy and if I ever get out of here. Too damn many ifs." Enos laughed again. "Hell, liberty from the Navy is one thing. Liberty from here is a whole different one." To that, Patrick O'Donnell could only nod.

And liberty from Fort Johnston was a different thing for the two white men from what it was for Charlie White. A Confederate soldier walked up and stood watching the Ripple's cook chop wood. "Hey, nigger," he said in an assumed tone of casual interest, "you think maybe back 'fore we manumitted you coons, my pa or granddad fucked your mother?"

Charlie stopped chopping. For a horrible second, George was afraid he'd try to use his hatchet against a rifle. But he just paused, then shook his head. "Nah. If that had happened, I'd be a whole lot uglier."

Every detainee who heard the answer howled and jeered at Charlie's comeback. The Reb who'd walked into it turned red as brick. He started to bring his rifle to bear on the cook. Now the detainees yelled even louder for a Confederate officer. Before anybody with bars or stars on his collar got to the barbed-wire enclosure, the soldier lowered the rifle, snarling, "Nigger gets uppity, he gets his sooner or later, wait an' see if he don't."

"You haven't got the balls to do that to anybody who could shoot back," Lucas Phelps told him.

"Fuck you, too, pal-fuck you special," the guard said. Phelps slowly and deliberately turned his back and walked away. The guard raised his voice: "Where you think you're goin', nigger-lover?"

"To the shithouse," the fisherman answered over his shoulder. "I'm gonna pretend the hole is your face."

"Watch it, Lucas," George Enos said softly. Then he and all the other fishermen cried out in alarm and horror, for the guard brought the rifle up to his shoulder, took aim-he could hardly have missed, not from a range of twenty feet at the most-and fired at the back of Lucas Phelps' head. Phelps took another half step and then crumpled, surely dead before he knew what hit him: George got a good look at the blasted ruin the bullet had made of his face as it exited. All the detainees screamed "Murder!" at the top of their lungs.

At the sound of the shot, an officer did come. He led the soldier away. Two days later, the fellow was back at his post, looking meaner than ever. Nobody said a word to him, not if he could help it.

Enos had another reason to hope exchange came soon. It was already too late for his comrade.

VIII

Dashing in spats and a double-breasted herringbone overcoat with a breast pocket slanted at the latest angle-or so he said-Herman Bruck came into the Socialist Party headquarters with a copy of the New York Times in one hand. He quickly hung his homburg on a tree and got out of the overcoat. It was icy outside, but very much the reverse with a couple of coal stoves and a steam radiator heating the office.

He went over to Flora Hamburger and set the newspaper on the desk in front of her. "Bully speech by Senator Debs," he said, pointing. The newsprint had smudged on the gray calfskin of his gloves.

Flora bent over it. "Let me see," she said. Debs had been the first Socialist elected to the Senate, coming out of Indiana when the Republicans broke up in disarray in the aftermath of the Second Mexican War. He'd been there ever since, and twice run unsuccessfully for president.

"'Our losses in a few brief months have exceeded all those in the War of Secession, till now our bloodiest conflict,'" Flora read aloud. " 'Soon they will exceed those in all our previous wars combined. And for what? For what, I ask, Mr. President? When we fought to keep the Confederate States from abandoning our Union, we fought for a principle: that the covenant of the United States, once made, was indissoluble. Here, on what great principle do we stand? That the European alliances with which we have entangled ourselves be honoured when even to be in them is to hold no honour? How splendid! How noble! What a fine principle for which to crucify mankind on a cross of blood and iron!'" She looked up in admiration. Several people who'd been listening to her broke into applause. "That is strong stuff," she said.

Bruck nodded, as proud as if he'd made the speech himself. "When Debs crosses swords with TR, sparks always fly."

Flora nodded. She read on down the column to the reply by Senator Lodge, who often spoke as Roosevelt 's surrogate in the Senate. Halfway through the summary of his remarks, she winced and softly quoted one sentence: "'The distinguished gentleman's remarks on the power of principle would seem more forceful had he not, in this very chamber, recently voted to support and finance the war he now so eloquently professes to despise.'" Her chin went up in defiance. "I knew that was a mistake, and I said so at the time."

"So you did," Bruck admitted. He saw the smudges on his gloves and took them off. His hands were winter pale. He spread them. "But what could we do? If we'd voted against the credits, we wouldn't have had five Socialists left in Congress after the November elections. As things are, we picked up half a dozen seats."

"What good does it do us to pick them up if we don't act like Socialists once we have them?" Flora said.

A secretary, an Italian woman named Maria Tresca, who, along with her sister Angelina, was one of the few gentiles in the Tenth Ward office, quoted from the New Testament: "'What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?'"

It was not language commonly heard in the Socialist Party office, but no less effective for that. Herman Bruck spread his hands again. "We've been talking about that ever since the Party decided to run for office and accept seats if we won. Does working within the government advance the cause of the proletariat or delay the revolution?"

The argument that spawned kept the office lively the rest of the day. While Bruck was putting on his hat and overcoat to leave for the evening, he asked Flora, "Would you like to go to the moving pictures with me? The Orpheum is showing the new play with Sarah Bernhardt in it."

"I can't, Herman," she answered, also buttoning her coat. "We're having cousins over for supper, and I promised my mother I wouldn't be late."

Herman Bruck made a sour face. Maybe he suspected the cousins were fictitious, as in fact they were. That, though, wasn't the sort of thing it was politic to say. "Another time, maybe," he mumbled, and hurried out the door.

Angelina Tresca sent Flora an amused look. She returned one of resolute innocence. The less you admitted to anyone, the less you had to worry about getting to the wrong ears. Flora waited a few moments so she wasn't likely to run into Bruck on the street, then went downstairs and walked home to her flat.

Cooking odors filled the hallway as she came up to her door. When she opened it, more came out. Sweet-and-sour stuffed cabbage tonight, she thought. Along with that savory scent came smoke from her father's pipe. It was harsher than it had been. He'd smoked Mail Pouch for years, but the Virginia and Kentucky tobaccos that went into the blend weren't available any more. Now he fed the pipe with something called Corn Cake, which smelled, as far as Flora was concerned, like burning corn husks. She kept quiet about that, not wanting to hurt his feelings.

Esther was in the kitchen, helping their mother. David and Isaac bent over a chess board at the table from which they would soon be evicted so everyone could eat supper. Flora glanced at the game. Isaac was a couple of pawns up, which was unusual; his brother beat him more often than not. The two mental warriors said hello without looking up from their battlefield.

"And how are things with you today?" Benjamin Hamburger asked.

"All right," Flora answered. "I'm tired." The moment the words were out of her mouth, she felt ashamed of them. Sophie was the one who had the right to complain about being tired: she worked longer hours at a harder job for less pay than her younger sister. Especially since the start of the useless, stupid war, Sophie had been dragging herself home exhausted every night.

As if thinking about her were enough to bring her home, Sophie came in just then, worn out as usual. She sank down onto the divan couch with a soft sigh and a posture so limp, it said she didn't want to have to get up again for anything in the world.

Esther stuck her head out of the kitchen and said, "Oh, good, that was you. I thought I heard the door. Ready in a minute." Sophie nodded wearily. She'd even been too tired to eat lately, which alarmed her mother. Esther's eyes flicked to her brothers. Pointedly, she repeated, "Ready in a minute." When that didn't shift them, she started setting the table. They had to move the chess set in a hurry to keep from having a plate land on top of it.

Supper almost made Flora wish she'd gone out with Herman Bruck. Her family didn't really want to hear about Socialist Party doings, not even her father. All any of them seemed to care about was ways to rise into the bourgeoisie, not how to aid and radicalize the vast masses of the proletariat. She sadly shook her head. Her own flesh and blood, class enemies. They didn't even try to understand the goals toward which she worked.

After supper, she and Esther washed and dried dishes. Esther wanted to talk about how the war was going. Flora didn't. That it was going at all was bitter as wormwood to her.

As soon as she'd put the last fork in its drawer, she got her coat and went out onto the fire escape. Her mother's voice pursued her: "We're not good enough for you?" But that wasn't it, even if her family thought it was. It was just that she didn't fit in among them, and the harder they tried to drive her back into what had been her place, the less it suited her.

It was chilly out there, but not intolerable. The nip of January air on her cheeks made her feel as if she were in a sleigh gliding down some quiet country road, not in the middle of the most crowded part of the biggest city in the United States, though she had to ignore the racket from her building and all the others to make the illusion complete.

A couple of minutes later, Sophie stepped out to join her. "Fresh air," her older sister said gratefully. "It's so stuffy in there."

Flora sent her a sympathetic look. "And you were cooped up in front of your sewing machine all day before that," she said. "No wonder you want to get all the air you can." She wouldn't have called New York City 's air, full of smoke and soot and fumes, fresh, but if her sister wanted to, she wouldn't argue, either.

Sophie stepped down to the edge of the landing and looked over the iron rail. It was dark down there, with nothing worth mentioning to see. Not really to Flora- not really to anyone- Sophie said, "I should throw myself off."

Alarmed, Flora hurried over to her and put an arm around her shoulder, dragging her away from the rail. "What's wrong?" she demanded. "Is it something at work? I know they've been exploiting you without mercy, giving you much too much to try to do. The way you come home every night-"

Sophie shook her head. "It's nothing to do with work," she said, "and they aren't working me any harder than they were before. 'Exploiting'!" She laughed softly, though not in a way that said she thought anything was truly funny. "It's not anything- political."

"Then what is it?" Flora asked. "People don't talk about jumping off a building for nothing, you know."

Her sister's shiver had nothing to do with cold, no more than her laugh had had anything to do with mirth. "What is it, Flora? Do you really want to know?"

"Of course I do," Flora answered, indignant now. "I'm your sister. That counts for more than politics, even if we don't agree all the time."

"Yes, but it was politics you thought of first." Sophie sighed. "I suppose I may as well tell you. I have to tell someone-and if I don't, it'll be plain enough before long, anyway."

"What are you talking about?" Flora said. "Just come out and say it, if you're going to."

"All right, then." But Sophie needed to gather herself before she brought the words out, all in one low-voiced rush: "Flora, I'm going to have a baby."

Her sister stared. She felt as if she'd walked in front of a train without seeing or hearing it coming. "How did it happen?" she whispered.

Dimly lit by the lamps from the front room, Sophie's face twisted. "How did it happen? There's only one way I know of. Yossel was going into the Army, and I didn't know when I'd see him again or if I'd see him again, and I wanted to give him something special before he left. And so I… and so we-" She didn't go on, and then, after a moment, she did: "I gave him something special, didn't I?" All at once, without warning, she started to cry.

"Does mother know you're- expecting?" Flora asked. She put her arm around her sister, who clung to her like a survivor from a torpedoed liner.

Sophie shook her head violently against Flora's shoulder. "I couldn't tell her," she exclaimed. "I told you because-" She gulped and stopped.

Flora didn't have any trouble figuring out what her sister hadn't said. Be cause you're the radical one, the one who believes in socialism and free love- something like that, anyhow. Flora had had men approach her on that basis, some of them men in the Socialist Party. But being free to love didn't mean you had to, and didn't mean loving was free from consequences, either.

Well, Sophie surely knew that now, even if she hadn't thought it through before. And Sophie wasn't some man trying to entice her into something sordid; she was her sister. "You're going to have to tell her sooner or later," Flora said gently, at which Sophie cried harder. Flora found another question: "Does Yossel know?"

Sophie shook her head again. "Every time I write him, I mean to tell him, but I just- can't."

"He's going to be your husband," Flora said. If he lives — she fought that thought down. "That makes it a little better. If he weren't in the Army, I'm sure he'd marry you right now." Sophie nodded. But if Yossel hadn't been going into the Army, Sophie probably wouldn't have given herself to him till they were married, in which case they wouldn't have had this problem.

"What am I going to do?" Sophie wailed- but softly, not wanting anyone inside to hear her.

The obvious answer was, You're going to have this baby. What sprang from that- Flora thought. At last, as if she'd just come up with a good campaign plank for a Congressional candidate, she clapped her hands together, also softly. "We won't tell mother," she said. "Mother is too perfectly conventional for words. All she'll do is throw a fit, and we don't need that, not now."

Sophie nodded again, looking at her with a mixture of hope and dread. "We can't keep from telling her forever, though," she warned. Of itself, one hand went to her belly. "Pretty soon, she'll know regardless of what we say."

"I wasn't finished," Flora said. "She has to know before she finds out that way. No, we won't tell her. We'll tell Papa. He won't get excited, the way Mother would; he has some common sense. And then, after he and we figure out what to say, he can tell Mother for us. He can be a-what's the word I want? — a buffer, that's it."

"I don't know." Again, Sophie's shiver had nothing to do with the cold.

"It has to be done. It will be better afterwards," Flora insisted, as if to someone with a toothache whom she was trying to get to go to the dentist.

Dread drove hope from her sister's face once more. "It won't be better," Sophie said quietly. "It will never be better, not any more."

Flora feared she was right. Even so, she opened the window that gave access to the fire escape and said, "Papa, can you come out here for a moment, please?"

Benjamin Hamburger had been standing over the kitchen table, kibitzing that game of chess-or maybe a new one by now-between David and Isaac. A puff of smoke rose from his pipe when he exhaled in surprise. "All the plots hatched out there, and this is the first time I've been invited," he remarked as he walked over and stepped out onto the landing.

That mild irony encouraged Flora. She closed the window. Isaac, David, Esther, and her mother all peered out toward the fire escape. They were used to her going out there. They were used to Sophie's going out there every so often. But when the two of them invited their father out, that was new, so it had to be suspect. Flora hadn't thought of that. Keeping the secret wouldn't be easy.

But, having started, she couldn't very well draw back. Her father was looking from her to Sophie and back again. If he wasn't the picture of curiosity, he'd do till a better one came along. Flora hoped Sophie would say what needed saying. When she didn't, Flora sighed and said, "Papa, we have to tell you something." Then she stopped. It wasn't easy, not when you got down to it.

Her father looked back and forth again. "What you have to tell me, it isn't good news," he said after a moment.

Flora nodded. That was true. While she was trying to find the best way to break the news, Sophie blurted, "Oh, Papa, I'm going to have a baby!" and burst into tears all over again.

Flora waited for the sky to fall. Sophie looked as if she wanted to sink through the iron floor. Their father stood quiet for a moment. Then, slowly, he said, "I wondered. There's a look women have in that condition, and you have it. And you're tired all the time, the way your mother was when she carried you. So yes, I wondered." He sighed. "I hoped not, but-"

"Will you tell Mother?" Flora asked, breathing more easily on finding his reaction was what she'd hoped it would be.

"She already knows, or wonders, too," her father said, which made Flora and Sophie both stare. He coughed a couple of times before he went on, "Remember, Sophie, she does your laundry, and-" He stopped, most abruptly, and coughed some more. After a moment, Flora understood why. Her face heated. Of all the things her father had never expected to do, discussing intimate bodily functions with his daughters had to rank high on the list.

Again, though, without some other intimate bodily functions, the discussion would not have arisen. And if their mother had known, or at least suspected, and kept quiet about it, that said there was more to her than Flora had suspected.

"What am I going to do?" Sophie wailed. "What are we going to do?"

Benjamin Hamburger stood silent again. "The best we can," he answered. "I don't know what else to say to you right now. The best we can." Flora had been worried a few minutes before, but now she began to hope that best might be good enough.

Abner Dowling escaped First Army headquarters with the air of a man leaving the scene of a crime. That was how he felt. Providence, Kentucky, was less than ten miles away from the front lines; the pounding of U.S. guns- and answering fire from Confederate artillerywas a never-ending rumble from the east, irksome like a low-grade headache.

Dowling pulled his cap lower over his face so the brim would keep the rain and occasional spatters of snow out of his eyes. General Custer liked being up as close to the front as he could get. In the stables, the grooms kept his saddle ready to be slapped onto his horse at a moment's notice, so he could lead the charge that would tear the Rebel position wide open.

"He doesn't understand," Dowling muttered, half to himself, half to the God who had so far paid remarkably little attention to any of his petitions. The major went on, still half prayerfully, "Even a blind man should be able to see that slamming forward in the middle of winter isn't going to get you anywhere."

One of the things serving under Custer had taught him was the difference between should be able to and can. The general kept feeding men and shells into the fight. Every furlong of bloody advance was hailed as the beginning of a breakthrough, every time the Confederates held seen as their last gasp.

"They've had more gasps than a brothel," Dowling said. His belly shook as he laughed at his own wit. Custer didn't laugh at anything. No, that wasn't true. When he heard about a squad of Rebs machine-gunned as they foolishly broke cover, he'd chortled till his upper plate fell out of his mouth.

A train chugged into Providence out of the west: another reason the little town was currently First Army headquarters was that the railroad tracks came under Confederate artillery fire when you got a little closer to the front line. Doors opened. Soldiers in green-gray, their uniforms clean and neat, their faces open and naive, spilled out of the cars and formed up into columns under the profane instructions of their non-coms.

Mud spattered their boots and puttees and breeches. The main streets of Providence had been paved with bricks, but the Confederates had fought for the town before finally retreating from it; the U.S. bombardment and, later, Confederate shellfire from the east had torn great gaps in the paving. The soldiers stared down anxiously at the dirt they were picking up, as if expecting the corporals and sergeants to start screaming about that.

Unblooded troops, Dowling thought with a sigh. They conscientiously marched in step as they tramped toward the front. They wouldn't worry about dirt there, not even a little bit. They'd be blooded, and bloodied, all too soon. "Meat for the meat grinder," Custer's adjutant said sadly.

Another engine got up steam and moved slowly along a side track till it switched onto the one down which the troop train had come. Then it backed up and coupled to the rear of that train. Meanwhile, as soon as the troops the train had disgorged marched off toward the front, other soldiers began refilling the long chain of cars.

They were meat on which the grinder had already done its work. Some of them, the ones with arms in slings or with bandages on their faces, climbed aboard under their own power, and some of those seemed pretty cheerful. Why not? They'd been wounded, yes, but they were probably going to get better, and they were going back to hospitals well away from the front. Nobody would be shooting at them, not for a while.

But after the ambulatory patients came the great many who had to be carried onto the train in litters. Some of them moaned as their bearers moved them. Some didn't, but lay very still. None of themnone of the walking wounded, either- wore fresh uniforms. Theirs were tattered and dirty, and their faces, even those of the men who seemed chipper, were a study in contrast to the way the raw troops looked. They'd seen the elephant, and he'd stepped on them.

Dowling wished Custer would come and take a look at what soldiers who had been through the grinder were like. But that didn't interest the general. He saw the glory he'd win with victory, not the price he was paying for advances that looked not the least bit victorious to anyone but him.

Down the street about a block and a half from First Army headquarters stood a nondescript brick building that hadn't been too badly shelled. Providence was supposed to be a dry town, but if you needed a drink you could find one. Dowling needed one now.

The Negro behind the bar poured whiskey over ice and pushed the glass across to him. "Here y'are, suh," he said.

"Thanks, uh-what's your name, anyhow? Haven't seen you here before."

"No, suh. I'm new hereabouts. Name's Aurelius, suh."

"You could do worse. You're named after a great man," Dowling said. By the bartender's smile, polite but meaningless, he didn't know anything about Marcus Aurelius. Dowling gulped down the whiskey and shoved the glass back for a refill. He didn't know why he'd expected a Southern Negro to know anything about the Roman Empire; from everything he'd seen, the Rebs did everything they could to keep their Negroes ignorant. He asked, "How do you like it in the United States?"

The bartender gave him a hooded look, of the sort he was used to getting from soldiers who'd been caught with dirty rifles. "Don't seem too bad so far, suh," the fellow answered. "Ain't easy nowheres, though, you don't mind me sayin' so."

And that was probably- no, certainly- nothing but the truth. Dowling thanked his rather deaf God he'd been born with a nice, pink skin. Niggers had it tough, USA, CSA, any old place. "Maybe you should go to Haiti," he remarked. "That's nigger heaven if ever there was one."

"No, suh." The bartender sounded very sure of himself. "Only difference 'tween Haiti and anywhere else is, in Haiti it's black folks doin' it to black folks, 'stead o' whites like it is here."

"You may be right," Dowling said, and sipped his drink. What he knew about Haiti was what a soldier of the United States needed to know: that the Confederates hated and despised the place because the Negroes there, no matter what they did to one another, were free and independent, and that Teddy Roosevelt had reaffirmed- loudly reaffirmed- President Reed's pledge to protect that independence.

One of the things he didn't know was how TR would go about making good on that pledge if the Confederates invaded Haiti. With Confederate Cuba so close by, with the long stretch of Southern coastline past which the U.S. Navy would have to steam, it wouldn't be easy. Or had TR intended to invade the CSA if the Rebs attacked Haiti? He shrugged. Trying to read Teddy's mind was always risky. Anyway, the USA had invaded the CSA without a Confederate attack on Haiti.

As he raised the whiskey glass to his lips, the rumble of artillery fire outside got louder. Dowling's head came up like a hunting dog's at a scent. The new roar of the big guns wasn't coming from the east, but from the south.

He slammed the glass down onto the bar. Whiskey sloshed over the side. He slammed down a couple of coins to pay for his drinks, and then, as an afterthought, an extra dime as well. "Here, buy yourself a drink," he told Aurelius. "It's the one I would have had in a minute." He rushed out of the bar and back toward First Army headquarters. The Rebel counterattack, the one between Hopkinsville and Cadiz — and the one Custer had insisted all along was impossible-had finally started. Dowling wondered how far the U.S. forces would have to retreat, and how fast.

A lieutenant clad in butternut spun on his heel and stomped away from the field telephone, muttering unsweet nothings under his breath. That meant it was Jake Featherston's turn to confront the marvel of the electrified age. To the corporal in charge of the care and feeding of the mechanical beast, he said, "Put me through to the main artillery dump, back toward Red Lion."

"I'll give it a shot," the corporal said, showing less than perfect faith in the gadget with which he'd been entrusted. He turned the crank and shouted into the mouthpiece: "Hello, Central?" When nobody shouted back at him, he muttered something that made what the lieutenant had said sound like an endearment. He cranked again. "Hello, Central, goddammit!"

Waiting for the connection-waiting to see if the corporal could make the connection- Featherston wished he'd sent a runner back to Red Lion. It was only a few miles southwest of Martinsville; the runner wouldn't have needed more than two hours- three at the outside- to make it there and back again.

But Captain Stuart was hell-bent for leather about using the very latest thing. Sometimes, Featherston admitted to himself, that was because the very latest thing was better than what had gone before. His battery of French-inspired three-inch guns certainly fell into that class. But sometimes the very latest thing was just newfangled confusion replacing old-fashioned stupidity- or, worse, replacing something that worked well even if it had been around for a long time.

"Hello, Central!" the corporal screamed. Featherston was about to give it up as a bad job and walk off- he could tell the captain he'd tried to use the phone, but it hadn't wanted to work- when the operator said, in reverent tones, "I'll be a son of a bitch." He turned to Jake. "Who'd you say you wanted to talk to again? Been so long, I plumb forgot."

"The main artillery dump," Jake answered, and the corporal relayed his words to the central switchboard. Now, if the wire between there and the ammunition dump wasn't broken, he might be able to save some time after all. But even when, as they sometimes did, Negro labourers buried phone lines as they laid them, shell hits would dig them up and break them. And water soaked through insulation, and…

But, to his amazement, after a couple of minutes, the corporal handed him the earpiece and said, "Go ahead."

"Main ammo dump?" he bawled into the mouthpiece; he'd had botched connections before, too, even when everything was supposed to be working perfectly. Sometimes you were better off sending Morse over the line.

But, now, a thin, scratchy voice sounded in the earpiece: "That's right. Who're you and what d'you need?"

"Jake Featherston, First Richmond Howitzers." Jake didn't say he was just a lowly sergeant. If the fellow on the other end of the line wanted to assume he was the battery commander, that was all right with him. It was better than all right, in fact, because he was more likely to be taken seriously that way. "We're giving the damnyankees on the other side of the Susquehanna tarnation, or we would be, 'cept we're mighty low on shells."

"Whole army's mighty low on shells," that disembodied voice answered. "We can maybe get you a few up there, but not a whole lot. Sorry." The soldier back in safe, comfortable Red Lion didn't sound sorry. As best Jake could make out over this infernal apparatus, he sounded bored. Saying no was a lot easier over a wire than face to face.

"The Yankees get time to consolidate, they're gonna hit us back hard," Featherston said. These past few weeks, every mile forward had been gained only by wading through blood. The Confederates stood on the Susquehanna. Featherston wondered if they'd ever stand on the Delaware.

The telephone reproduced a sigh. "Featherstitch or whatever your name is, I can't give you what I ain't got. Some of the shells we were supposed to be gettin', they went to Kentucky instead, for the big push there."

"We don't got enough to do two things both at once?" Jake demanded. "Jesus Christ, is this an army or a man who's too stupid to fart while he walks?"

That got him a chuckle as tinny as the sigh had been. "Makes you feel any better, First Richmond, the Yanks are as bad off as we 'uns. You can shoot off shells faster'n you can make 'em, and that's a fact."

"Yeah, but if the Yanks are short in Kentucky and full-up here 'stead o' the other way round, that doesn't do us a hell of a lot of good," Featherston said.

"Send you all I can, promise," the fellow back at the dump said.

"You better, you expect us to keep fightin' the war," Featherston told him. He hung the earpiece back on its hook with a crash, muttering, "Son of a bitch acts like they're his goddamn shells." The corporal in charge of the telephone, who'd undoubtedly heard language a lot worse than that, snickered. Still fuming, Jake headed off toward the guns.

If the dump didn't send enough shells forward, as seemed highly likely, Captain Stuart would have to do the calling next time. What was the point of carrying a famous name if you couldn't exploit it every now and then?

When Featherston got back to his battery, he discovered his men gathered around a major he'd never seen before: a major of infantry, for the single stars showing his rank were mounted on blue-faced collar tabs. "What's up?" Jake asked, which really meant, What the devil is the infantry doing sniffing around an artillery unit?

The major turned to him. The fellow wasn't very big and his face wasn't very tough, but Featherston' wouldn't have wanted any damnyankee with those hard, gray eyes staring at him over the sights of a Springfield. Almost without realizing he'd done it, he stiffened to attention and saluted.

Crisply, the major returned the salute. "Clarence Potter, Army of Northern Virginia Intelligence," he said. His voice was harsh and clipped and had a trace of a Yankee accent; Featherston wondered if he'd gone to college in the United States. Potter went on, "I am here to investigate a conspiracy threatening the security not only of this army but of the Confederate States of America."

"Jesus Christ!" Jake exclaimed, and then said, "Excuse me, sir, but I don't know anything about anything like that, and I'd be right surprised-I'd be more than right surprised-if anybody here does."

"That's what we were tellin' him, Sarge," Jethro Bixler said. The loader went on, "All we want to do- all any of us want to do- is tie a can to the damnyankees' tails and then get back to what we was doin' 'fore the damn war started."

"Sergeant, if your men are as good with their gunnery as they are at flapping their gums, the Confederate States are in good hands," Major Potter said. "If you'll listen, I'll tell you exactly why I'm here. What I want to know is, how far do you trust the niggers in this battery?"

"The niggers?" Featherston scratched his head. "Haven't hardly thought about the niggers. They do what we tell 'em, and that's that. You want to know the truth of it, most of the time I worry about the horses more. Something's wrong with a nigger, he can tell you what it is and where it hurts. With horses, you got to guess."

"That's how it is, all right," Bixler said, and the rest of the gun crew nodded agreement. Featherston relaxed. His best guess was that the intelligence unit had too much time on its hands and was running around making work for itself so it would look busy and important.

But Clarence Potter shook his head, as if reading Jake's mind. "That's what they want you to think," he said in a low voice. If he'd had long mustaches and twirled them, he would have looked as well as sounded like a stage villain. He went on, "We've broken up four cells of Red rebellion in the niggers of this army in the past two weeks. One of them was in another artillery battery. I won't name names, but we found out the niggers there were sabotaging shells so they wouldn't go off when they came down on the Yankees' heads."

"I be go to hell," Jake said softly. The rest of his men gaped at the major from Intelligence.

"It is a fact," Potter declared. "We shot four buck niggers yesterday- gave them blindfolds and cigars and tied them to posts and shot them dead. One thing this war has brought out is how deeply the rot has spread through the Confederate States. Half the niggers in government service and half the niggers back home, it seems, have been plotting against the white race and the Confederate government, and likely plotting against them for years. We will crush those plots if it means giving half our niggers blindfolds and cigars-if that is what we require, gentlemen, that is what we shall do, for the sake of our race and for the sake of our country."

"I have trouble imagining anything like that in this battery, sir," Featherston said. By the look in his eye, Major Clarence Potter had no trouble imagining almost any sort of trouble anywhere. Featherston continued, "Haven't had reports from the aeroplane pilots or the ground spotters that we're shootin' too many duds, anything like that. And besides"-he laughed ruefully-"it ain't like we got that many shells any which way, live or dud." He explained where he'd been, and why.

"We're investigating that particular scandal, too," Potter said in a tone of voice that did not bode well for whoever he and his cohorts decided was to blame. Featherston didn't know whether it was a scandal or not. The fellow back at the ammunition dump had a point, though Jake wouldn't have admitted it to him, not in a million years; you could shoot off shells a hell of a lot easier than you could make them.

"Red revolutionaries- in the Army?" Jethro Bixler sounded incredulous. "Those are the crazy people who throw bombs at senators, things like that."

"Not all of them are crazy, not even close," Potter said. "Life would be simpler if they were. A lot of them are as hard to spot as a rattler in dry leaves, and every bit as deadly. So, gentlemen- have you seen any Negroes acting in any way suspicious, any way at all?"

Jake glanced over toward the labourers and teamsters who were standing around watching the artillerymen chew the fat with this stranger. You couldn't tell anything from their faces, but then you never could. Jake's father had taught him that almost before he was out of short pants: overseers' lore, even though there weren't any overseers left, not in the old sense of the word, since manumission went through. He wouldn't have given long odds against the Negroes' knowing who Potter was: jungle telegraph, white men called it. He wondered what the blacks thought.

"Well?" the major snapped.

For close to half a minute, nobody said anything. Featherston understood that: even if the labourers and teamsters were imperfectly loyal, how was the battery supposed to function without them? If Major Potter arrested them, who, if anybody, would replace them? The saying about the devil you knew and the devil you didn't held true here.

Or it mostly held true. Jake said, "Captain Stuart's nigger, Pompey, he's… not uppity, but he thinks a good deal of himself, if you know what I mean."

"I do indeed know exactly what you mean, Sergeant," Potter said, his voice grim and predatory. Jake would not have liked to get in his way. But then even the iron-eyed intelligence officer hesitated. "Captain Stuart, you say? That would be Captain Jeb Stuart III, wouldn't it?"

"Yes, sir, sure would," Featherston agreed.

"Damnation," Major Potter muttered under his breath. "Well, we'll see what we can do about finding out what this buck Pompey knows, if he knows anything." He walked off, looking unhappy.

Jethro Bixler laughed softly. "Every time there's an election, everybody starts brayin' about how one white man, he's just as good as the next. Sounds mighty fine, don't it? Look what it's worth when you bump up against one of the big ones, though."

The crew of Featherston's gun nodded, all together. But then an ammunition wagon came doggedly forward over the muddy road. "This here First Richmond Howitzers?" called the driver, a white man. When the gun crew nodded again, the fellow said, "Why the devil didn't you say this here was Jeb Stuart's battery? Jeb Stuart III needs ammunition, by Jesus he gets it."

Featherston started to laugh. The rest of the gun crew joined in, uproariously. The driver first gaped and then started to get mad. For some reason, that only made Jake laugh harder. Every coin had two sides. If Pompey was plotting revolution, he'd be hard to get rid of, because Captain Stuart liked him and trusted him. But if the battery needed shells, shells the battery would have, because Captain Stuart commanded it.

"With a little luck," Jake said, "the good outweighs the bad."

Winter blew through Manitoba so that, when spring finally came, you wondered to find anything standing. Arthur McGregor thanked God that the Americans didn't come out to any of the farms very often. They were, from everything he'd seen and heard, holed up in towns and along railroad tracks. Not many of them had been ready for a winter like this one. He hoped they were a lot colder and more uncomfortable than he was.

"Serves 'em right," he said over supper one long early February night: salt pork from pigs he'd raised himself and bread baked from his own wheat. "They wanted to come up here and take away what's ours, did they? I wish they'd take our winter and ship it back to the USA with 'em, to some place that could use a hard one: Maryland, maybe, or- what was the name of that state of theirs?" Geography had never been his favourite subject in school, and he hadn't cracked a school book in more than half a lifetime.

His son Alexander was no great scholar, either, but his memory was fresher than Arthur's. " California?" he suggested.

"That's the one I meant," Arthur McGregor agreed.

"They say there are parts of that state where it doesn't snow for years and years at a time," Alexander said. "I can't hardly believe that."

"Well, Alexander, when did they tell you that you knew everything there was to know?" his mother asked, with just enough chuckle in her voice to take away the sting, the way medicine was sweetened to fight its bitter taste.

"Now, Maude," Arthur McGregor said, "I have trouble believing that, too." He'd lived in Manitoba since he was about ten years old, and in Ontario before that. Neither province went without snow for years at a time. From October through April, you counted yourself lucky if you went without snow for a week.

But, from the way the U.S. soldiers had trouble with the cold here, he thought it likely they were used to a much milder climate. If you started thinking the whole world was like the part of it where you lived, you were going to be wrong a lot of the time.

Maude got up and carried dishes to the kitchen. She was coming back for a second load when somebody knocked on the door. Maude froze; Arthur admired her for not dropping any of the dishes. Ice that had nothing to do with the weather ran up his back. The best he could hope for was that it was a neighbor in some kind of trouble. The worst… Sometimes, when the Americans ran short of supplies, they made up the lack by plundering the people whose land they'd invaded.

Alexander McGregor pointed to the cabinet where they'd hidden the rifle. Arthur McGregor shook his head. One gun against however many U.S. soldiers might have been out there wasn't betting odds.

The knock came again, louder, more insistent. Now Arthur thought about getting the gun. None of his neighbors would have knocked like that, which left American troops as the next best bet. But one against however many still looked grim. Slowly, he walked to the door. "Who's there?" he called without putting his hand on the latch.

Two words came through the timbers: "A friend."

McGregor scratched his head. Any neighbor would have said who he was, and probably would have been angry at him for not opening up right away, too. And the Americans would also have said who they were, loudly and rudely. Whom did that leave? Nobody likely to come to his door he could think of. "What kind of friend?" he demanded.

The answer came back at once: "A cold one, dammit."

He scowled, but threw the door wide. When he saw the uniformed rifleman outside in the snow, he thought the fellow was an American. Then he realized the greatcoat wasn't green-gray, but the khaki he'd once worn himself. Along with the greatcoat, the Canadian soldier wore a fur cap on his head and long, narrow boards on his feet. McGregor had snowshoes in his own closet, of course, but he wasn't good on skis. "Come in," he said now. "You're a friend indeed, and among friends."

The soldier bent down and undid the straps holding the skis to his feet. He set down the poles that had helped him travel over the snow and hurried into the house so McGregor could close the door behind him. "Thanks," he said with a theatrical shiver. "Have you got any tea or coffee? I've been going for a long time."

"Maude!" McGregor called. His wife hurried into the kitchen again. Her face bore an expression half proud, half worried. The American authorities had issued regulations against harbouring Canadian or British (all of whom they described as "enemy") soldiers, with draconian punishments for disobedience spelled out in minute, loving detail. The Americans seemed very good at spelling things out in minute detail, without much caring what they were defining.

Alexander McGregor, on the other hand, looked as if he was going to bow down before the scruffy Canadian soldier the way the Israelites bowed down to the Golden Calf. Arthur's son was at the age where he was prone to hero worship, and anyone who could hit back at the United Sates was a hero in his eyes now.

A couple of minutes after the kettle started whistling, Maude came out with a steaming cup of tea. "Obliged, ma'am," the soldier said, and sipped. His eyebrows went up. "You even sugared it for me. I'm in your debt."

Maude glanced toward Arthur. Almost imperceptibly, he nodded back. He would have expected nothing less from her than giving a guest the best they had. Yes, sugar was in short supply in these days of occupation, but they wouldn't waste away and die for want of a couple of teaspoonsful.

The soldier drank the cup down while it was still steaming, the better to get all the warmth he could inside him. When it was empty, he sighed deeply. "God bless you," he said. "I may live. I may even want to. Long, cold trip down here, I tell you that." He blinked; his eyes were a startling blue. "Haven't given you my name, have I? I'm Sergeant Malcolm Lockerby, 90th Rifles."

"The Little Black Devils," Alexander breathed. His father nodded, too. The 90th Battalion had always had a good reputation and a fierce name. Alexander went on, "What are you down here for, sir?"

Arthur McGregor knew better than to call a sergeant sir, but didn't correct his son. Malcolm Lockerby grinned a lopsided grin. "For all the mischief I can bring our American cousins," he answered, shrugging out of his heavy pack and setting it and his rifle on the floor. He said nothing more than that, which made Arthur nod again, this time in somber approval. What you didn't know, American questioners couldn't sweat out of you if something went wrong.

"Can I help, sir?" Alexander exclaimed. Sure enough, if he thought he saw a way to give a yank to the Yank eagle's tail feathers, he'd grab it.

Much to Arthur's relief, Lockerby shook his head. "This operation was set up with one man in mind, and more would only complicate things," he said, letting Alexander down easy.

Maude disappeared into the kitchen yet again and came back with a plate of salt pork and bread and butter. She set it on the table, then said, "Eat," like a field marshal ordering an army corps to go over to the attack.

Lockerby obeyed the command with as much elan as any field marshal could have wanted. McGregor's wife refilled his teacup, and then filled it again. She brought a second helping of pork and more bread. Only when the sergeant leaned back in his chair with a sigh of contentment did she desist.

"Now I don't want to leave," Lockerby remarked, which brought a proud smile to Maude's face. The soldier went on, "But I have to, I know. Now- am I right in thinking the railroad is east of here?"

"No, it's to the west," McGregor said, pointing.

"I'll be-" Lockerby didn't say what he'd be, probably in deference to Maude's presence. He shook his head. "I must have skied right over the tracks without even knowing I'd done it. A lot of snow on the ground right now."

"So there is," McGregor agreed. "Tell us the news, or more of it than we get from the lying papers the Americans make people print. Is Winnipeg still holding out?"

"That it is," Lockerby said, "and likely to keep doing it, too, with the lines we've made south of the city. Nobody's moved much since the snows started, but we've done a lot of digging." His face clouded. "We haven't the men to dig like that along the whole length of railroad, though. When spring comes, we're liable to have the country cut in half."

"Aren't they building a new line north of the one that runs through Winnipeg?" Alexander asked. "Then we could keep shipping things east and west, even if-" He didn't go on. When you were still a youth, looking defeat in the face came hard.

"They're building it," Lockerby agreed. "They can't run it too far north, though, because of the lakes, and even if they did, the Americans might keep on pushing. We'll have to see. Have to see if England can spare us any more troops, too." He looked bleak and tired and older than his years.

After sitting for a few more minutes, he got up, donned pack and rifle once more, and went outside to put on his skis. As far as McGregor was concerned, they were outlandish contraptions, but when Lockerby went on his way, he glided across the surface of the snow amazingly fast, amazingly smooth. The farmer stared after him till he vanished into the night.

McGregor also watched the endless wind blowing away his trail. He looked north. Already, you could not tell Lockerby had come to the farm. That suited McGregor fine-better than fine. If mischief befell the Americans, he didn't want it traced back to him unless he'd had a part in it: no, not even then, he decided. Especially not then.

Lockerby's sudden appearance gave the family something to talk about till they went to bed. When Arthur McGregor got up the next morning, he hurried out to use the outhouse and feed the livestock he had left. The day was bright and clear. He peered west, toward the railroad tracks. He could see a train, and it wasn't moving. Wagons and men were gathered around it; he could make out no more because of the distance.

Whenever he went out for chores, he looked toward the stalledsabotaged? bombed? — train. Toward evening, it got moving again. It went up the track for about half a mile. Then, all at once, it stopped. The engine and several of the cars left the tracks, or so McGregor thought, anyhow: with the sun in his face, it was hard to be sure.

Some seconds after he saw the train stop, a harsh, flat bang! reached his ears-without a doubt, the sound of an explosive going off. He wondered if another of those had come in the night to stop the train the first time. If one had, he'd slept right through it.

"That Lockerby, he did good work there," McGregor said to no one in particular, breathe puffing out of his mouth in a frosty cloud as he spoke. He wondered how many other explosives the sergeant had planted along the track. The Americans would have to be wondering the same thing. How long would the line be out of service while they checked it? How many of them would get frostbite or pneumonia checking it?

Normally dour, he smiled from ear to ear as he went back inside.

Captain Wilcox stabbed a finger out at Reginald Bartlett. "How'd you like to lay some barbed wire tonight?" he said.

"Sir, if it's all the same to you, I'd rather lay one of those pretty little Red Cross nurses back at the aid station," Bartlett answered, deadpan.

The Confederate soldiers who heard him laughed and snorted and cheered. One or two of them sent up Rebel yells to show they agreed with the sentiment expressed. Captain Wilcox grinned. By now, he'd got used to the idea that expecting Bartlett to take anything, war included, seriously was asking too much.

"Only trouble is, Reggie, they wouldn't want to lay you," he said. "Your uniform is filthy, your face is grubby, you've got lice in your hair and nits in every seam of your clothes, and you smell like a polecat would if he didn't take a bath for about a year. Barbed wire, now, barbed wire doesn't care about any of that."

"That's all true, sir," Bartlett agreed, "but barbed wire can't foxtrot, either. Honestly, sir-"

It was a losing fight, and he knew it. It wasn't really even a fight at all, just a way to grumble about orders that was different from the profane complaints most men gave. When evening came, he would crawl out of the trench with a roll of barbed wire on his back, and he knew that, too. So did Captain Wilcox, who waved at him and went along the line to pick some more volunteers.

Down in the trenches, you were fairly safe unless you did something stupid like showing yourself to the damnyankees on the other side of the wire, or unless a shell landed right by you, or unless the U.S. soldiers decided to make another probe toward the Roanoke River and happened to pick your stretch of the line to raid.

Once you came out of the earthworks that protected you, though.. once you came out of them, machine guns weren't nuisances any more. They were menaces only too likely to make your family get a "The government of the Confederate States of America deeply regrets to inform you…" telegram. Rifle bullets ran around loose up there, too.

And you were liable to run into damnyankees out between the lines doing the same sorts of things you were. Sometimes you'd work and they'd work and you'd pretend not to notice one another. And sometimes you'd go after them or they'd go after you with guns and bayonets and the short-handled shovels you used to dig holes in the ground. And then the rifles in both trench lines would open up, and the machine guns would start to hammer, and then oh Lord! how you wished you were back of the lines in bed with a nurse-or even down safe in your trench-instead of where you really were.

Captain Wilcox had called Reggie's face grubby. Before he climbed up out of the trench, he rubbed mud on himself till he looked like the end man in a minstrel show. The blacker you were, the harder it was for the Yankees to spot you.

"We ought to send niggers up to do this for us," he said. "They're already black."

"I hear tell they've tried that in Kentucky," Captain Wilcox said. "Didn't work. The Yankees shot at them like they were us, and they didn't have any guns to shoot back with. The ones who lived, you couldn't make 'em go up again."

"Too bad," Reggie said. "Better them than me. Better them than me for just about any job I don't want to do, matter of fact." But when the captain said go, you went. Bartlett nodded to his companions. "Let's get rolling."

The other half-dozen men nodded. He'd been fighting along the Roanoke longer than any of them, so they took his word as Gospel, even if he had no more rank than they did. He was that mystical, magical thing, a veteran. A lot of the men who'd come to the fight with him were dead now. That he wasn't was partly luck and partly being able to remember what he'd learned in his first few fights well enough not to repeat any of the stupid parts.

"Stay low and go slow," he said now. "The less racket we make spreading the wire, the less chance the damnyankees have of starting to shoot at us."

Some kind and thoughtful soul had made a stairway out of sandbags to help the heavily burdened wire men get out of the trench. Bartlett was grateful and angry at the same time: if he hadn't been able to get up onto the battered ground between the lines, he wouldn't have had to crawl forward toward the wire-and toward the enemy.

It was a dark and cloudy night. For once, Reggie wouldn't have minded rain or even snow: nothing better to keep the U.S. forces from knowing he and his chums were out there. But if a storm hid in those clouds, it refused to come out.

He set down his hands with great care every time he moved forward. Behind him, somebody let out a soft, disgusted oath, probably because he'd crawled over a soft, disgusting corpse or piece of corpse. The line had swung back and forth several times; a lot of the dead from both sides had gone without proper burial. And even those who had been thrown into hasty graves or holes in the ground might well have been disinterred by the endless, senseless plowing of the artillery. The smell was that of a meat market that had been out of ice for a month in the middle of a hot summer.

Up above his head, something went fwoomp! "Freeze!" he hissed frantically as the parachute flare spread harsh white light over the field. If you didn't move, sometimes they wouldn't spot you even when you were out there in plain sight. Some of the men in his company spoke of walking right past deer that had bounded away once they'd gone by.

Bartlett was no deer, but he knew he could be in some hunter's sights right now. His nose itched. His hand itched. His scalp and the hair under his arms always itched. He directed a few unkind thoughts to the cooties he carried around with him. But he didn't scratch. He didn't move. He did his best not to blink.

Some Yankee with a rifle started shooting, somewhere too close for com fort. Bartlett froze even colder. But whatever the U.S. soldier thought he saw, it wasn't the Confederate wiring party. Hissing and sputtering, the parachute flare sank ever so slowly, going from white toward red as it did. At last it died, plunging the debatable ground into darkness once more.

"Come on," Bartlett whispered. "Come on, but come quiet."

Like most things, that was easier said than done. When at last they got to the wire barrier they were to strengthen, the men couldn't just unroll the wire and scoot for home. To make it a proper obstruction, they had to mount it on poles and shove the poles in the ground. In some places, the ground was damp. Things were easy there. In some places, though, the ground was frozen. You had a choice then: either stab the supports into the dirt, knowing they wouldn't stay well, or hammer at them with a shovel or whatever you had, knowing the noise was liable to draw fire. Bartlett opted for quiet. "Hell," he muttered to himself, "it ain't like there's not enough wire out here already."

Somebody, though, somebody had to get intrepid. Tap, tap tap. In the middle of a quiet night, the noise might as well have been a shell going off. Along with everybody else in the wiring party, Bartlett made frantic shushing noises. The damnyankees would start tapping, too, the two-inch tap an experienced machine gunner used on the barrel of his weapon to traverse it through its deadly arc of fire.

And sure enough, the U.S. soldiers did open up, first rifles, then machine guns. When a bullet clipped the barbed wire, it sparked blue. There were a lot of blue sparks, as if lightning bugs had suddenly come to roost between the lines of the two armies.

"Out of here!" Bartlett said urgently. He'd just about finished unreeling his wire; he unhooked the roll from his back and, suddenly lighter, hurried back toward the Confederate front line. Never had a muddy, stinking hole in the ground seemed so welcome, so wonderful.

Bullets zipping all around him, he dove into a shell hole. There was a puddle at the bottom of it. A horrible stink rose when he roiled the water. Something- or more likely someone-had died in this hole, too long ago.

A series of two-inch taps sent the Yankees' stream of machine-gun bullets past him. He thought he could make it to the trench before the stream came back. Leaping up out of the shell hole, he ran for all he was worth. Somebody else, panting like a dog, sprinted stride for stride with him.

Slap! His comrade, whoever he was, went down: even with the machine gun busy elsewhere, plenty of rifle bullets were still in the air. Swearing, Bartlett grabbed the other man, slung him over his back in place of the roll of wire, and stumbled on.

He almost went into the trench headfirst. Soldiers caught him, steadied him. "Who have I got here?" he asked, easing the man on his back to the ground.

Somebody struck a match. "It's Jordan," he said, and then, a moment later, quite unnecessarily, "He's dead."

"Good job you picked him up even so," Captain Wilcox said out of the darkness. "You can't know, not for sure. How did the wiring go?"

Bartlett took a minute or so to stop gasping for breath and to let his heart slow as terror began to recede. "Routine, sir," he answered then. "Just routine."

"Routine," Sam Carsten said. "Just routine."

Hiram Kidde laughed out loud. "Ain't one damn thing about it that's routine," the gunner's mate said. "Wearin' summer whites in February, sweatin' in summer whites in February, bein' in the Sandwich Islands at all…" His grin was broad and delighted. "Still can't believe we caught the limeys with their drawers down."

"Might as well believe it," Carsten answered. "It's true." He waved to show what he meant. The two off-duty sailors strolled along the grounds on the eastern side of the entranceway to Pearl Harbor. When the British ruled the Sandwich Islands, they'd built a parade ground there, so their Marines could get in the drill they needed. The parade ground was somewhat the worse for wear after the American invasion of the islands, but Marines still paraded on it: U.S. Marines in uniforms of forest green, several shades darker than Army men wore.

"Eyes-right!" the Marine drill sergeant shouted, marching along with his men. "Sing out-let me hear it, you birds!"

"One, two, three, four," the men sounded off. "Miss Maggie's why we'll win the war!"

Not even a Marine drill sergeant, as fearsome a creature as any ever born, could make the young men ignore the spectacular woman who came out to the parade grounds several days a week to watch them march-and to be watched. The sergeant, a man of sense, didn't even try. He stared at Maggie Stevenson, too. And so did Sam Carsten and "Cap'n" Kidde.

Maggie Stevenson had been in business for herself when the Union Jack flew over Honolulu, and the recent change of ownership hadn't fazed her a bit. Indeed, because there were more American sailors, soldiers, and Marines here now than there had been Englishmen before, her business was better than ever.

"There's one limey I'd like to catch with her drawers down," Carsten said reverently.

"Limey?" Kidde said. "I hear tell she's from Nebraska."

"'Cap'n,' with Maggie it's not what you hear, it's what you see."

Kidde nodded reverently. There was a lot of Maggie to see. She was within an inch of Carsten's height, and was probably even fairer, but on her it looked good. She shielded her face from the sun with a broad-brimmed straw hat. Like a lot of women in Honolulu, she wore a holoku, a baggy, native-style dress that covered her from neck to ankles. Hers, though, wasn't cotton or linen. It was green silk, somewhere between translucent and transparent. When she stood between men and the sun, as she made a point of doing, you could see there was a hell of a lot of woman under there.

After thorough and judicious study, Hiram Kidde said, "Sam, I don't think she's wearin' drawers." He shook his head. "And you can get right there, too, just for the asking." He sighed. "Amazing."

"Not quite just for the asking," Carsten said. "For the paying. If she's not the richest gal in these islands, it ain't for lack of effort."

"Effort?" Kidde laughed. "There's coal-heavers down in the black gang don't work as hard as she does, I hear tell. You know about the setup dear Maggie's got?"

"Tell me," Carsten said. "Beats hell out of thinking about cleaning out a five-inch gun, that's for damn sure." He winked. "'Course, you only got a five-inch gun, Miss Maggie ain't gonna want anything to do with you."

Kidde had been inhaling to say something, which meant he choked when he started to laugh. Sam Carsten pounded him on the back. "You got to watch that," he wheezed when he could talk again.

"I was watching that," Sam said, watching Maggie Stevenson, who was watching the Marines watch her.

"Shut up," Kidde said. "What the hell was I talkin' about? Oh, yeah- her place. They say she's got this big room with four, maybe five, Pullman-sized compartments in there, nothin' in any of 'em 'cept a red couch and a horny guy on it, and she just goes from couch to couch to couch, long as she can walk."

"No wonder she's rich," Carsten said, with the genuine respect a professional in one field gives a professional in another.

"Yup," Kidde agreed. "And she's got 'em lined up for every damn compartment, too, even if she does charge thirty bucks a throw." His hard, blunt face grew dreamy for a moment. "She must be a piece of ass and a half."

"Yeah, reckon so," Carsten said. "But most of a month's pay- hell, more than a month's pay if you're just an ordinary seaman- for five minutes, ten tops? That's a lot to spend just to get your ashes hauled."

"She's got a lot-" the gunner's mate started.

"Of satisfied customers," Sam said, beating him to the punch line. "Yeah." They both laughed. Carsten scratched the angle of his jaw. "I dunno. You can take yourself to just an ordinary everyday crib and lay one o' them Jap girls or a Filipino for a couple-three bucks. Maggie can't be that much better… can she?" But he was still watching the undisputed queen of Honolulu 's ladies of the evening.

"You can get drunk on that olikau popskull the natives cook up here, too," Hiram Kidde observed. "If gettin' drunk is the only reason you're drinkin', fine. But every now and then, don't you hanker after some real sip-pin' whiskey?"

Carsten scratched his jaw without answering. Whiskers rasped under his fingers. He needed a shave. He had a razor back on the Dakota, but you could give a dime to one of the Chinese barbers in the little shops all around Pearl Harbor, and he'd shave you closer and smoother than you could do it for yourself. He got shaved a lot these days. His meals and his hammock were taken care of, so he didn't have a hell of a lot to spend his money on.

The drill sergeant led the marching Marines back toward the British barracks they were occupying. They were too well disciplined to go with really laggard step, but their footwork showed less mechanical precision than usual. A few sailors weren't enough of an audience for Maggie Stevenson to keep herself on display. She retreated to her carriage. The driver, a little, dark Oriental sweating in top hat and cutaway, flicked the reins. Two perfectly matched black horses bore her away. Carsten and Kidde both watched till the carriage was out of sight.

Sam went and bathed, then headed to one of the barbershops and paid a couple of cents extra for a splash of bay rum. The British had set up an electric trolley between Pearl Harbor and Honolulu, though the motormen who took your nickel were uniformly Japs. Carsten wasn't the only military man who got out at the Kapalama stop, east of downtown. Some of the men in white or green acted as if they knew exactly where they were going. He followed them.

The half-timbered house might have been transplanted from London, though it wouldn't have had palm trees around it there. From what "Cap'n" Kidde had said, Carsten had expected to see a line around the block. He didn't. Then the Oriental driver waved him and the rest of the newcomers around to the back. The line was there. Discreet, he thought.

In the Navy, you got used to lines. What was waiting at the end of this one was better than any of the other things for which he'd lined up. He shot the breeze with some of the other guys there. A couple of them seemed too embarrassed about being where they were to say much. Most, though, like him, took it for granted.

When he got up to the back door, another slanteye in formal wear took his money. The fellow wore a pistol, concealed not quite well enough in a shoulder holster. Carsten didn't blame him, not a bit. If Maggie Stevenson's place didn't keep as much cash around as your average bank, he'd eat his hat.

Still another Oriental, also armed, stood at the doorway to the big room Kidde had talked about. "You go Number Three," he said, pointing. Sure enough, the little compartments had brass numbers on the doors, as if they were hotel rooms. Carsten went into Number 3. Inside were a mirror on one wall, a red couch, a pitcher and basin and a cake of soap on a stool, and some hooks on which to hang his clothes.

Sam used the hooks, then lay back on the couch to wait. The noises coming from one of the other cubicles were highly entertaining. Maggie Stevenson worked her way through the other three-there were four in all, not five-and then opened a door on the far side of his compartment. She came in wearing nothing but a smile and a light sheen of sweat. Carsten stared and stared. "Hell of a woman," he muttered; what you could see through even the most diaphanous holoku barely gave you a clue.

"Hello, sailor," she said, her voice English, sure enough. She lathered up the soap and washed Sam's privates. "All part of the service," she said, smiling. Then she bent down and kissed him there, right on the tip, as if it were the end of his nose. "Now-what would you like?"

"You get on top," he said. "I want to see you, too."

"All right." And she did. Those perfect, pink-tipped breasts hung like ripe fruit, inches from his face. He squeezed them and kissed them and licked them. His hands clenched her meaty backside tight.

He wanted to make it last as long as he could. But he hadn't had any in a while, and Maggie made her money by having lots of customers on any one day, so she tried hard to hurry him along. She knew just what she was doing, too. Try as he would to hold back, he bucked and jerked and came, hard enough to leave him dizzy for a moment.

"Hope I see you again, sailor," Maggie said. She leaned over him for a second, just far enough that her nipples brushed against the hair and skin of his chest. Then she got off him and off the couch and headed for the next little cubicle.

Sam got dressed and left, too. One more Oriental in fancy dress showed him the way out. He was whistling as he walked back to the trolley stop. It had been a hell of a good time. Was it worth thirty bucks, worth coming back again? He didn't think so, not really, but he wasn't sorry he'd done it once.

Three or four guys in uniform were walking up the other side of the street toward Maggie Stevenson's place. One of them, he saw with amusement, was a spruced-up Hiram Kidde. He started to wave, then stopped. Later on, maybe, he'd find out if the "Cap'n" thought he'd got his money's worth.

IX

Cincinnatus and his wife Elizabeth were getting ready for bed when some one knocked on the back door. It wasn't that late, but, ever since Elizabeth had found out she was going to have a baby, she'd been tired a lot of the time, even more tired than her domestic's work usually made her. "Who is that?" she said in some irritation. "I don't want visitors."

"You'd think visitors would come to the front of the house," Cincinnatus said as he headed out of the bedroom toward the kitchen. From the hall, he added over his shoulder, "One thing-it ain't U.S. soldiers. They don't just come to the front of the house, they go and break down the door, you don't let 'em in fast enough."

The knock came again. It wasn't very loud, as if whoever was out there didn't want the neighbors to notice. Cincinnatus frowned, wondering if it was a strong-arm man trying to trick him into opening the door. Crooks were having a field day. The Yankees didn't seem to care what people in Covington did to one another, so long as they left U.S. troops alone.

If it was a strong-arm man, Cincinnatus vowed to give him a hell of a surprise. He plucked a heavy iron spider out of the draining rack by the sink. Clout somebody upside the head with that and he'd forget about everything for a good long while.

Spider in his right hand, he opened the back door with his left. When he did, he almost dropped the frying pan. "Mistuh Kennedy!" he exclaimed. "What the devil you doin' here?"

Even in the dim light of the lamp from the kitchen, Tom Kennedy looked as if the devil had indeed brought him to his present state. He was haggard and skinny and dirty, and his eyes tried to move every which way at once, the way a fox's did when hounds were chasing it. "Can I come in?" Cincinnatus' former boss asked.

"I think maybe you better," Cincinnatus said. "What you doin' out, anyways? Curfew's eight o'clock, and I know it's past that."

"Sure is," Kennedy said, and said no more.

That made Cincinnatus ask the next question: "What are you doin' here, Mr. Kennedy? You don't mind me sayin' so, this ain't your part of town." If that wasn't the understatement of 1915, it would do till a better one came along. Why the devil would a white man come into the colored part of Covington after curfew? The only thing Cincinnatus was sure about was that it wasn't any simple, ordinary, innocent reason.

"Who is it?" Elizabeth called from the bedroom.

"It's Mr. Tom Kennedy, sweetheart," Cincinnatus answered, trying to sound as ordinary and innocent as he could, and knowing he wasn't having much luck.

Kennedy's hunted look got even worse. "Don't say my name so loud," he hissed urgently. "The fewer people who know I'm here, the better off everybody will be."

Elizabeth came into the kitchen. She'd put on a quilted cotton housecoat over her nightgown. Her eyes got wide. "It is Mr. Kennedy," she said, and then, determined to be a good hostess no matter what the irregular circumstances in which she found herself, "Shall I put on some coffee for you?"

Kennedy shook his head, a quick, jerky motion. "No, nothing, thanks. I've been running on nerves for so long, coffee would just make things worse."

"Mr. Kennedy," Cincinnatus said with a mixture of deference and annoyance that struck him odd even at the time, "what are you doing here after curfew?"

"Can you hide me for a couple of days?" Kennedy asked. "I won't tell you any lies-I'm on the dodge from the damnyankees. They catch up with me, it's a rope around my neck or a blindfold and a cigarette-except I don't think they'd bother with the cigarette."

"You're in real trouble," Cincinnatus said quietly. A moment later, he realized that meant he was in real trouble, too. The U.S. authorities didn't take kindly to people who harboured fugitives from what they called justice. Elizabeth 's eyes widened again. She must have figured out the same thing at the same time. Cincinnatus clicked his tongue between his teeth. "Why'd you come here?" he asked, directing the question as much to the world at large as to Tom Kennedy.

"Yes, I'm in real trouble," Kennedy said. "My life is in your hands. You want to holler for the patrols, I'm a goner. They'll put money in your pocket, too. Up to you, Cincinnatus. All depends on how you like living under the USA, because I'm doing everything I can to throw the damnyankees out of Kentucky. That's why they're after me, in case you haven't worked it out."

"Oh, I worked it out, Mr. Kennedy," Cincinnatus said, softly still. "I'm studying' what I should oughta do about it, is all." He had no reason to love the CSA; what black man did? But the men from the United States hadn't shown him his lot was better with them in charge, not even close.

He glanced over to Elizabeth. Her belly hadn't started to swell, certainly not to the point where anyone could notice it when she was wearing clothes. He was acutely aware of her pregnancy all the same. It made him less willing to take chances than he would have been a few months before, and far less willing to take chances than he would have been before he got married.

And so he said, "What did you do, Mr. Kennedy? How come the damnyankees are after you so bad?"

"I don't want to tell you," Kennedy answered. "The more things you know, the more they can squeeze out of you if they ever take a mind to."

That made a certain amount of sense. Most times, Cincinnatus would have accepted it without argument. Now- He felt a curious sense of reversal. For what might well have been the first time in his life, he had the upper hand in a conversation with a white man. Even though he did, he used it cautiously, deferentially: "I don't know why they want you, suh, I don't know whether I should oughta help you or help them get you. You understand what I'm sayin'?"

"You won't buy a pig in a poke, not even from me," Kennedy said. Cincinnatus nodded-that was it, in a nutshell. Tom Kennedy sighed. He recognized the reversal, too. "All right, have it your way. I haven't broken any little old ladies' legs with a crowbar or stolen from the church poor box or anything like that. But I'm in the hauling and moving business, Cincinnatus, right? Some of the things I've hauled into Covington aren't the ones the U.S. Army's real happy to have here."

He meant guns. He had to mean guns, and maybe explosives, too. Under U.S. military law, the penalty, for that kind of thing was death. Soldiers had nailed up placards saying as much, all over Covington. Warnings appeared in the newspapers about twice a week. And if you harboured a gun runner, you got the same thing he did. Those warnings were in the papers, too.

"You don't make it easy, Mr. Kennedy," Cincinnatus said. He came close to hating his former boss for putting him in a spot like this-not just his neck on the line now, but Elizabeth's and the coming baby's, too. If he turned him out into the street without saying anything to the authorities but Kennedy got caught later, he'd be in just as much trouble as if he'd concealed him. The only way not to be in trouble with the U.S. authorities was to hand Kennedy over to them now. He didn't have the stomach for that. As white men went, Kennedy had been pretty decent to him-far better than that screaming U.S. lieutenant who bossed him nowadays.

He had just reached that conclusion when Elizabeth said, "Here, come on with me, Mistuh Kennedy. I got a good place to put you."

That relieved Cincinnatus, because he hadn't come up with any good place to hide Kennedy. He didn't want him under the bed, and the Yankees would be sure to look behind the couch and down in the storm cellar. He'd been wondering if he could take Kennedy over to his mother's or some other relative's, but he wasn't enthusiastic about involving them in the danger the white man had brought to him.

Elizabeth opened the door to the pantry by the stove. It was full of sacks of potatoes and beans and black-eyed peas. Cincinnatus didn't feel the least bit guilty about hoarding. No matter how bad things got, he and his wouldn't starve.

When Elizabeth started taking out the sacks, he quickly moved her aside and did it himself. That wasn't something he wanted his wife doing, not when she was in a family way. The sacks took up a surprising lot of room, all spread out on the kitchen floor.

Once he had them all out, he saw that several boards at the back of the pantry were rotten at the bottom. He hadn't noticed that before, but Elizabeth had. He stepped into the little cramped space and pulled at the boards. They came out with squeaks and squeals of nails, revealing a black opening behind them.

"God bless you both," Tom Kennedy said, and squeezed into the opening. Cincinnatus replaced the boards as well as he could by hand. He hoped Kennedy would be able to breathe with them back. One thing seemed pretty clear, though: if U.S. soldiers caught up with Kennedy, his former boss wouldn't be breathing much longer. Still muttering to himself, Cincinnatus put back the produce sacks; Elizabeth swept up a few beans that had escaped from one of them.

When she was done, she and Cincinnatus looked at each other. They both shook their heads. "Let's go to bed," Cincinnatus said, though he didn't think he was going to sleep much, no matter how tired he'd been.

"All right." By her tone, Elizabeth was thinking the same thing. If they didn't sleep like the dead tonight, they'd shamble like the living dead tomorrow. Nothing to be done about that, not now.

After he'd blown out the lamp in the bedroom, Cincinnatus said, "We can't keep him in there long. He go crazy, cooped up like that. An' we didn't even think to give him a thundermug or nothin'."

"I'll take care of that in the morning," Elizabeth answered around an enormous yawn. Cincinnatus felt himself fading, too. Now that he was horizontal, he suspected sleep might sneak up on him after all.

Sure enough, the wham! wham! wham! in the middle of the night woke him out of deep, sound slumber. At first, groggy and confused, he thought it was hail pounding on the roof. Then he realized that, while it certainly was pounding, it was all coming from one direction: that of the front door.

"Soldiers," he whispered to Elizabeth. She nodded. He felt the motion rather than seeing it. Wham! Wham! Wham! He groped for a match, found the box, struck a light, and lighted the lamp he'd blown out. Carrying it, he went out and opened the front door.

An electric torch blazed into his face, blinding him. "You just saved your door, nigger," a Northern voice said. "We were gonna break it down."

"What you want?" Cincinnatus asked. He didn't have to struggle very hard to sound stupid, not as tired as he was. Fright came easy, too.

The Yankee officer, hard to see past that powerful torch, said, "You know a white man name of Tom Kennedy, boy?"

"Yes, suh," Cincinnatus admitted. If they'd come here, they already knew he knew Kennedy. A lie would have got him in deeper trouble than the truth.

"You seen him any time lately?" the officer demanded.

Cincinnatus shook his head. "No, suh. Sure ain't, not since jus' a little while after de war start. He run out o' town, I hear tell, 'fore you Yankees come." He laid the Negro accent on with a trowel; it would help make the U.S. soldiers think he was stupid. He'd have done that for Confederates, too.

"Wish to Jesus he had," the officer said, so feelingly that Cincinnatus blinked; he hadn't thought any damnyankees took Jesus Christ seriously. The fellow went on, "He's been seen in Covington, and he's been seen not far from right here, so what we're gonna do is, we're gonna search this shack." He waved to the soldiers with him.

In they came. Cincinnatus got out of the way in a hurry. If he hadn't, they would have trampled him, or maybe bayoneted him. The U.S. troops turned his tidy little house-he bristled at hearing it called a shack-upside down and inside out looking for Tom Kennedy. They stabbed those bayonets into the sofa and into his mattress through the sheets. Had Kennedy been in there, he would have regretted it. As things were, Cincinnatus did the regretting, for his bed linen and the upholstery. Elizabeth, watching with round eyes, made distressed noises. The Yankees ignored her.

One of the soldiers got down on hands and knees to peer under the stove, though a midget would have had trouble hiding there. Another one flung open the pantry door. The officer-short, skinny, with gold-rimmed spectacles and a mean look-shone that torch in there. Cincinnatus' heart thumped- had he got those boards back well enough? He did his best not to show what he was thinking.

"Nothin' but a pile of beans," the officer said disgustedly, and slammed the pantry door. He turned to Cincinnatus. "All right, boy, looks like you were tellin' the truth." He dug into his pocket, pulled out a silver dollar, and tossed it to the Negro. "For the damage." He raised his voice. "Come on, men. We got other places to search."

Cincinnatus stared down at the coin he'd automatically caught. It wasn't enough, but it was a dollar more than he'd expected to get. He set it on the counter. When the U.S. soldiers were gone, he opened the pantry door and asked quietly, "You all right, Mr. Kennedy?"

The disembodied voice floated back from behind the wall: "Yes, thanks. God bless you."

"We take better care of you come mornin'," Cincinnatus promised, and went off to see if he could get some rest. He sighed. He wasn't even close to sure he'd done the right thing in hiding Kennedy. But that didn't matter now. Right or wrong, he was committed. He'd have to see what came of that.

Nellie Semphroch sighed wearily as she carried the big cloth grocery bag back toward the coffeehouse. The bag itself was lighter than she'd wished it would be; the grocers had trouble keeping things in stock. But she was tireder than she thought she should have been, and felt old beyond her years. Winter always wore at her, and this year it wasn't just winter, it was Rebel occupation, too.

She slipped, and had to flail her arms wildly to keep from falling: the sidewalk was icy in spots. Across the street, Mr. Jacobs came out of his shop with a Confederate soldier wearing one pair of boots and carrying another. The Reb strutted up the street as if he owned it, which, in effect, he did. As far as he was concerned, Nellie wasn't worth noticing.

Mr. Jacobs, being occupied rather than occupier, could see-and admit seeing-his fellow U.S. citizens. "You are all right, Widow Semphroch?" he called.

"Yes, I think so, thank you," Nellie answered. "One more thing on top of everything else." She bit her lip. What she wanted to say was, I've been through so much. Why can't life be easy for a change? The answer to that one was depressingly obvious, though: her life had never been easy, so why should it start now?

"I hope it will be better soon," the shoemaker said.

"So do I, Mr. Jacobs; so do I," Nellie said. A good Christian, she knew, would not resent another's honestly earned success, but she was jealous of Jacobs. His business flourished, while hers withered on the vine. Why not? Leather was easy to come by, coffee wasn't. The Confederate soldiers in Washington went through a lot of shoes and boots. They'd gone through a lot of coffee, too, but now only a tiny bit was left.

"Widow Semphroch, is there anything I can do to help you?" Mr. Jacobs asked. Nellie shook her head. Things had come to a pretty pass, hadn't they, when even the shoemaker knew she was failing and pitied her? With stubborn pride, she picked up the grocery bag and went into the coffeehouse.

The little bell above the door didn't tinkle as she went in. After surviving the Confederate bombardment at the start of the war, it had fallen off its mounting a few weeks before, and she'd never bothered replacing it. Not much point to that, not when she or Edna was almost always there-and not when customers were few and far between, too.

But Edna wasn't behind the counter now. Frowning, Nellie set down the grocery bag. No customers were being slighted-all the tables in the front part of the shop were empty. But her daughter hadn't told her she was going anywhere-and, if Edna had decided to go out, she should have locked the front door. Nellie started down the hall, turned the corner-and there stood Edna, kissing a cavalryman in butternut, her arms tight around him, his big, hairy hands clutching at her posterior. Nellie gasped-not in dismay, but in fury. "Stop that this instant!" she snapped.

Intent on each other and nothing more, her daughter and the cavalry officer hadn't noticed her till she spoke. When she did, they sprang apart from each other as if they were a couple of the clever magnetic toys that had been all the go a couple of years before.

"Mother, it's all right-" Edna began.

Nellie ignored her. "Young man, what is your name?" she demanded of the Confederate soldier.

"Nicholas Henry Kincaid, ma'am," he answered, polite even though Nellie could still see the bulge in his trousers, the bulge he'd got from rubbing up against Edna.

"Well, Mr. Nicholas Henry Kincaid"-Nellie freighted the name with all the scorn it would bear-"your commanding officer will hear of this-this- this-" She couldn't find the word she wanted. But Edna wouldn't go the way she had gone. Edna wouldn't. Nellie shouted, "Get out!" and pointed to the front door.

Kincaid was more than a head taller than she was. He carried a knife and a large revolver on his belt. None of that mattered. Face red, expression mortified, he retreated: Nellie had accomplished more than the entire U.S. garrison of Washington, D.C. She tried to kick him in the shins as he went, but he was too fast for her, so she missed.

Still steaming, she rounded on Edna. "As for you, young lady-"

"Oh, Ma, leave it alone, will you, please?" her daughter said in a weary voice. "How's a girl supposed to have any fun these days, with the whole town turned into one big morgue?"

"Not like that," Nellie Semphroch said grimly. "Not like that, because-"

"Because you let some boy pull your knickers down a long time ago, and now you've decided I shouldn't." Edna tossed her head in disdain. "I'm grown up now, and you can't keep me from being alive myself, no matter how much you want to."

Nellie stared in dismay. Her cheeks got hot. The worst was, her daughter's shot was an understatement. Edna didn't know that, thank God. As parents will, though, Nellie rallied. "As long as you are living under my roof, you will-"

But Edna interrupted again: "Some roof." She tossed her head once more. "I could do better than this by lifting my little finger."

"By lifting your skirt, you mean," Nellie retorted. "No daughter of mine is going to make her way through the world by selling herself on street corners, I tell you that. I won't just report that cavalryman's name to the Rebel commandant, Edna-I'll give him yours, too."

They glared at each other, two sides of the same coin, though neither realized it. With what looked like a distinct effort, Edna made herself stop snarling. "It's not like that, Ma. I've never once prostituted myself, and I never will, neither. But I'm not going to sit cooped up in this damned shop all day long, either, watching the dust on the counter getting thicker and thicker and thicker. I'm going to be twenty-one in a couple months. Don't I deserve a life?"

"Not that kind," Nellie said, breathing hard. (She wished she could say everything Edna had.) "You want that kind, find yourself a man you're going to marry. Then you can have it." Only after she was done speaking did she realize how little Edna's language, which would have been shocking before the war began, shocked her now. Everything was coarsened, cheapened, turned to trash and vileness.

"And how am I supposed to meet anybody I might want to marry if I stay here all the time?" Edna shot back. "About the only people who come in are Confederate soldiers, and if you don't want me to have anything to do with them-"

"That man was not going to marry you," Nellie said positively. "All he wanted was to have his way with you." Edna did not have a snappy comeback to that, by which Nellie concluded she'd won a point. Trying to sound earnest rather than furious, Nellie went on, "You just can't trust men, Edna. They'll say whatever they have to, to get what they want, and afterwards they'll leave you flat, go off whistling, and never care whether they've left you in a family way-"

"How do you know so much about it?" Edna said.

"Ask any woman. She'll tell you the same if you can get her to let her hair down." Automatically, Nellie's hand straightened the curls on her own head. She felt dizzy with anger at her daughter. Memories that hadn't come back to her in years-memories she'd thought, she'd hoped, long forgotten-came bubbling back up to the surface of her mind, memories of the harsh taste of rotgut whiskey and the deceptively sweet clink of silver dollars and the occasional quarter-eagle on the top of a pine nightstand.

"I'm not going to die an old maid, Ma," Edna insisted.

"I didn't ask you to," Nellie said. "But I-"

"Sure sounded to me like you did," her daughter interrupted. "Don't go out, don't meet nobody; if you do meet somebody, don't have any fun with him, on account of all he wants to do is lay you anyways. You maybe caught me this time, Ma, but you can't watch me every hour of every day. I'm not gonna wear your ball and chain, and you can't make me."

Edna stormed past Nellie and out of the coffeehouse. As Nellie had with Nicholas Kincaid, she tried to kick her daughter. As she had then, she missed. The door slammed. Nellie burst into tears.

At last, she dug in her handbag for a cheap cotton handkerchief. She wiped her eyes and blew her nose. Then, slowly, her steps dragging, she went to the door, too. She opened it, stepped outside, and looked up and down the street. She didn't see Edna. She started to cry again.

A Negro in fancy livery driving a high-ranking Confederate officer with a white mustache came down the street in a gleaming motorcar. Nellie wanted to scream the filthiest things she knew at him. After the automobile-a procession in and of itself-had passed, she crossed the street and went into Mr. Jacobs' cobbler's shop.

The little bell above his door worked. He looked up from the marching boot he was repairing. Behind magnifying lenses, his eyes looked enormous. The wrinkles on his round little face rearranged themselves into an expression of concern. "Widow Semphroch!" he exclaimed. "Whatever can be wrong?"

Nellie found herself telling him what was wrong. Everybody needed someone with whom to talk, and she'd known him for as long as she'd been in business across the street from his shop. He wasn't one to spread gossip around. He wouldn't blab of her troubles with Edna, either, or of how much she hated the Rebel soldiers and officers who kept sniffing round her daughter.

When she was finished, he pulled a handkerchief-a bright green silk- out of his trouser pocket, took off his spectacles, made a production out of polishing the lenses, and then set the glasses on the counter by his last. He studied Nellie for close to a minute without saying anything. Then, in a thoughtful tone of voice, he remarked, "You know, Widow Semphroch, I am sorry for you and for your poor daughter. I wish there were some way you could take revenge on these Confederates who have caused you so much grief."

"Oh, good Lord, so do I!" Nellie said fervently.

The shoemaker continued to study her. "When the Rebs came into your coffeehouse, they must have had all sorts of… interesting stories to tell. Wouldn't you say that's so, Widow Semphroch? It is here, that I can tell you. The ones who come in to get their shoes repaired, they do run on at the mouth. And me, I just listen. 1 listen very carefully. You never can tell what you might hear."

Nellie started to answer Mr. Jacobs, then suddenly stopped before she'd said anything. Now she looked sharply at him. He'd just told her something, without ever once coming right out and saying it. If she hadn't been paying attention, she wouldn't have noticed-which, no doubt, was what he'd intended.

She said, "If I hear anything like that, Mr. Jacobs, maybe you'd like me to let you know about it. If you think that would be interesting, of course."

"It might," he answered. "Yes, it might." They nodded, having made a bargain neither of them had mentioned.

When she was in New Orleans, Anne Colleton had thought she would be glad to get home to South Carolina. Now that she was back in her beloved Marshlands, she often wished she'd stayed in Louisiana.

Even the trend-setting exhibition of modern art she'd arranged, the trend-setting artists who'd crossed the Atlantic to exhibit their works, now seemed more albatross than triumph. She set hands on hips and spoke to Marcel Duchamp in irritable, almost accent-free French: "Monsieur, you are not the only one who regrets that the outbreak of war has left you here rather than in Paris, where you would rather be. I agree: it is a great pity. But it is not something over which I have any say. Do you understand this?"

Before replying, Duchamp took a long drag at the skinny cigarillo in his hand; he used smoking as a sort of punctuation to his speech. He made everything he did, no matter how trivial, as dramatic as he could. Exhaling a long, thin plume of smoke the February sunlight-tolerably warm here- illuminated, he spoke in mournful tones: "I am confined here. Is that what you do not understand, Mademoiselle Colleton? This is the only word I can use- trapped like a beast in jaws of steel. Soon I shall have to gnaw off a limb to escape." He made as if to bite at his own wrist.

I haven't got the time to deal with this now, Anne thought. Aloud, she said, "You did not sound this way when you accepted my invitation-and my money-to come to the Confederate States last summer."

"I had not thought I would be here an eternity!" Duchamp burst out. "What is bearable-forgive me: what is pleasant-for a time in the end becomes unpleasant, imprisoning."

"Ships sail for England and France from Charleston every week, Monsieur Duchamp," Anne said in frigid tones. "You are not held here without bond, as if you were a Negro criminal. You have but to use the return fare I gave you when you came here. I would not have you stay where you feel unwelcome."

Duchamp paced back and forth, so swiftly that he almost appeared to be many places at once, as if he were the inspiration for his own Nude Descending a Staircase. Anne Colleton judged that much of his agitation was real. "Yes," he said. "Ships do sail. You have reason there. But it is also true that they reach their intended ports far less often than a prudent man would wish."

"Even prudence is not always prudent," Anne replied. "What did Danton say before the Legislative Assembly? L'audace, encore I'audace, toujours I'audace. If you wish so much to be gone, you will find the audacity to go."

The artist looked most unhappy. Anne smiled without moving her lips. He hadn't expected her to throw a quotation from the French Revolution in his face. Instead of answering her, he bowed and walked off, thin and dark and straight as his cigarillo.

Anne did smile then, but only for a moment. Duchamp would start being difficult again in another few days-unless, of course, he seduced a new serv ing wench, in which case he would imagine himself in love. But even if he did that, it wouldn't last long, either. The one constant about Marcel Duchamp was mutability.

In the Confederate States of America, mutability was not well thought of. The CSA tried to hold change to a minimum. If you shut your eyes just a little, the thought went, you could believe everything was as it had been before the War of Secession.

"We need to be reminded that isn't so," Anne murmured. "It just isn't." That was one of the reasons she'd arranged her exhibition: to make more peo ple see what the twentieth century really meant. It was also one of the reasons the exhibition had been so deliciously scandalous.

But change had come to Marshlands in other ways, too, ways she didn't like so well. How was she supposed to raise a decent crop of cotton if her col ored hands kept leaving the plantation to work in factories in Columbia and Spartanburg and even down in Charleston? It's the war. She'd heard that ex cuse so many times, she was sick of it.

And not even all her power, all her wealth, all her connections, had let her pull all her hands back to the fields. She'd had to raise what she paid to keep the drain from being worse than it was. That cut into her profits. And pay in the factories was going up, too. She scowled. She wasn't used to being in the position of wanting the good old days back again.

The front door opened and closed. Anne glanced at a clock. Half past eleven: time for the postman to come. She hurried toward the front hallway- and almost bumped into the butler, who was bringing the mail on a silver tray.

"Thank you, Scipio," she said, more warmly than she was in the habit of speaking to servants.

"My pleasure, madam," he replied, deep voice grave as usual.

She took the tray from him. His sober features were as familiar to her as anything else at Marshlands, and more comfortable than a lot of the furniture. She wondered for the briefest moment how she would run the plantation if Scipio took a position elsewhere. But no. It was inconceivable. Born and bred here, a fixture since the days when Negro slavery remained the law of the land, Scipio was as much a part of Marshlands as she was herself. Nice to have something on which I can rely, she thought.

After setting the tray on a stained mahogany table, she sorted rapidly through the mail. She discarded advertising circulars unread, as not deserving anything better. Invoices and correspondence pertaining to the business side of Marshlands she set aside for later consideration. That left half a dozen per sonal letters.

"Do you require anything else of me, madam?" Scipio asked.

He had already started to turn to go when Anne said, "Wait. As a matter of fact, I should like to discuss something with you in a few minutes." Obediently, the butler froze into immobility. He would stay frozen till she let him know he could move, however long that took.

To her disappointment, none of the letters was from her brothers. They were both in combat. Neither, so far, had been hurt, but she knew that was only by the grace of the God in Whom she believed so sporadically. Notes from friends and distant cousins were welcome, but could not take the place of news of her own flesh and blood.

And whom did she know in Guaymas? The grimy port and railroad town wasn't anyplace you'd want to go on holiday, especially not when the United States were still liable to cut the railroad line that linked it to the rest of the Confederacy. Making it back to civilization through the bandit-ridden hinterlands of the Empire of Mexico struck her as adventurous without being enjoyable.

Curious, she used a letter opener shaped like a miniature cavalry saber to slit the envelope. The letter inside was in the same firm, clear, unfamiliar hand as the outer address. Dear Anne, it read, / hope this finds you as well as I found you on the train to New Orleans and in the town. As you will see, I remain there no longer, that not being a primary center for one of my training — not enough beasts to hunt. I can't say that here, having shot at several big ones and hit a few. Well, there's hunting and there's hunting, as the saying goes. I find I enjoy both kinds, and hope to pursue the other if I am ever out your way. By contrast with the rest of the letter, the signature below was al most a scrawl: Roger Kimball.

Anne Colleton folded the letter again. The submariner had discretion; she gave him that much. No spy would be able to infer what he did from that let ter. She could see why New Orleans was not a chief submarine base: the Gulf of Mexico being a Confederate lake, enemy ships were probably few and far between. Not so at Guaymas; the USA had a much longer Pacific coastline than the CSA.

No spy would be sure they'd been lovers, either. She worried about that less than most women might have, but it remained in her mind. She wondered whether to answer the letter or pretend she'd never got it. The latter choice was surely safer, but Anne had not got where she was by always playing safe. Either way, she didn't have to decide right now.

And, in fact, she didn't want to decide now. "Scipio," she said, and the butler began to move, seemingly began to breathe, for the first time since she'd started going through her mail. "Scipio," she repeated, gathering her thoughts, and then, "Do you know of anything special that's driving so many niggers out of the fields and into the factories? Besides money, I mean-I know what money does."

"I had not really thought about it, past endeavoring to see that we always have enough hands to perform the required labor," Scipio replied after a momentary hesitation: perhaps for thought, perhaps not.

Could she believe that? She did some fast thinking of her own, and decided she could. Scipio's duties centered on the mansion, and on keeping it and its staff in smooth working order. The field hands weren't his main concern. "Let me ask that another way," she said. "Have you noticed unusual unrest among any of the hands? I'm especially concerned about the new ones, you under stand. I'm sure the bucks and wenches who've grown up on this plantation are contented with their lot: again, except possibly over money."

Scipio's dark, handsome features reflected nothing but meticulous attention to her words. So he had been trained, and no one could deny the training was a success. Not even Anne, who had caused that perfect mask to be made, could hope to lift up one edge, so to speak, and see what lay behind it. And his beautifully modulated voice revealed only a polite lack of curiosity as he replied, "Madam, I assure you I make every effort to weed out any undesir able influences before they find positions here. And, as you say, the loyalty of your long-time staff is of course unquestioning."

"Thank you, Scipio. You do relieve my mind," Anne said. With a gracious nod, she released him to pursue the rest of his duties. He'd told her exactly what she wanted to hear.

The Confederates had the U.S. soldiers exactly where they wanted them, or so they thought. Captain Irving Morrell wondered how — wondered if-he was going to prove them wrong. The war to which he'd returned two and a half months before bore only a faint resemblance to the one from which he'd been carried in Sonora back in August. For that matter, the heavily forested Kentucky hill country in which he was operating now wasn't anything like the dusty desert where he'd been wounded.

His leg throbbed. He ignored it, as he'd been ignoring it ever since he hiked out of Shelbiana. Somewhere ahead, a good many miles ahead, lay Jenkins right by the Virginia border. In between seemed to be nothing but mountains and valleys and tiny coal-mining towns and even tinier farming hamlets and enough Rebels with guns to make advancing slow, hard, pain ful work.

Atop the hill ahead and in the trenches at its base were enough Confederates not just to slow the U.S. advance but to bring it to a halt. With the lieutenants and sergeants under him, Morrell slipped from one tree to another, drawing as close to the Rebel line as he could.

The sergeants would have been doing that job anyhow, but both lieutenants — their names were Craddock and Buhl-looked notably unhappy. "See for yourself," Morrell said as they sheltered behind a gnarled oak. He spoke as if he were in the pulpit expounding on Holy Writ. "See for yourself. Without good reconnaissance, your force is only half as useful as it would be otherwise-sometimes less than half as useful."

They couldn't argue with him-he outranked them. But they didn't look convinced, either. It wasn't that they were cowards; he'd already seen them fighting with all the courage any superior officer could want from his men. What they lacked was imagination. The way the war was chewing up the offi cer corps, they'd make captain if they lived. He supposed they might even end up majors. He was damned, though, if he saw them going any further, not if the war lasted till they were ninety.

Bill Craddock pointed out to the cleared ground in front of the Confeder ate line. "How are we supposed to cross that, sir?" he said, clearly with the expectation that Morrell would have no answer. "Rebel machine guns'll chew us up like termites gnawing on an old house."

"We'll have to bring our own machine guns forward before we move," Morrell said. "We can bring them up within a hundred yards of their trenches, and concentrate our fire on the places where we want to break in. And… Lieutenant, have you ever gone down to the Empire of Mexico and watched a bullfight?"

"Uh — no, sir," Craddock answered. His broad, stolid face showed he hadn't the faintest idea what Morrell was driving at, either.

With a mental sigh, the captain explained: "The fellow in the bull ring has a sword. That doesn't sound like enough against an angry bull with sharp horns, does it? But he also has a cape. The cape can't hurt the bull, not in a million years. But it's bright and it's showy, and so the bull runs right at it- and the bullfighter sticks the sword in before the bull even notices."

Karl Buhl was marginally quicker than Craddock. "You want us to feint from one direction and hit them from the other, is that what you're saying, sir?"

Morrell glanced at his non-coms. They all understood what he was talking about without his having to draw them any pictures. Some of them were liable to end up with higher ranks than either of their present platoon commanders. But Buhl and Craddock were doing their best, so he answered, "That's right. "We'll try going around the right flank, and then, as soon as they're all hot and bothered, the main force will come straight at 'em, with the machine guns de livering suppressive fire. We can assemble back there"-he pointed-"on the little reverse slope they've been kind enough to leave us."

Had he been commanding the Confederate defenders, he would have moved his line east from the base of the hill to the top of that reverse slope, so he'd have had men covering the ground Rebel bullets could not now reach. If the Rebs were going to be generous enough to give him a present like that, though, he wouldn't turn it down.

"Flanking party will attack at 0530 tomorrow morning," he said. "Buhl, you'll lead that one. We'll give you a couple of extra machine guns, too. If things go well, you won't be only a feint: your attack will turn into the real McCoy. You understand what you're to do?"

"Yes, sir," the lieutenant answered crisply. As long as you dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's for him, he did well enough.

"I'll lead the main force myself, starting at 0545," Morrell said. That left Craddock with no job but support. Morrell didn't care. For that matter, sup port mattered here, and could easily turn into something more. Crossing the open space toward the Confederate trenches was liable to get expensive in a hurry, and Craddock, however imperfectly qualified for company command, was liable to have it thrust upon him.

The reconnaissance party slid along the front for a while, then drifted back through the forest to where the rest of the company waited. An over- eager sentry almost took a pot-shot at them before they would call out the password. When the soldier started to apologize, Morrell praised him for his alertness.

After darkness fell, Morrell guided the machine-gun crews forward to the positions he wanted them to take. That was nerve-wracking work; Confeder ate patrols were prowling the woods, too, and he had to freeze in place more than once to keep from giving away his preparations for the assault.

It was well past midnight when everything was arranged to his satisfaction. He returned to his soldiers, huddled without fire on that chilly reverse slope, and wrapped himself in his green wool blanket. Try as he would, sleep refused to come. Moving pictures kept running behind his eyes: all the differ ent ways the attack might go, all the different things that could go wrong.

At 0500, his orderly, a scar-faced laconic fellow named Hanley, came to tap him on the shoulder. "I'm already awake," he whispered, and Hanley nod ded and slipped away.

Just then, somebody fired a shot — a Tredegar by the sound of it, not a U.S. Springfield. The Rebel trenches came alive, with more gunfire ringing out. Morrell tensed, willing his men not to reply. They knew they shouldn't, but- After a couple of minutes, the Confederates stopped shooting. Somebody had seen a shadow he'd misliked, that was all.

Lieutenant Buhl got his half of the attack going at 0530 on the dot. He was, if uninspired, at least reliable. And, with a couple of machine guns yam mering away for fire support, he sounded as if he had a hell of a lot more than a platoon's worth of men with him.

Morrell passed the word to the rest of his company: "All right, we move up now. No shooting unless the Rebs discover us, or until the time, whichever comes first. I'll skin the man who opens up too soon and gives us away."

Morning twilight was just beginning to seep through the branches of the trees. You could see a trunk a couple of paces before you'd walk into it, but not much farther than that.

The flank attack sounded as if it was going well, not only making progress but also, by the counterfire Morrell heard, drawing Rebels to their left, his right. He held his pocket watch up to his face. Another two minutes, another minute… He blew his whistle, a piercing blast easily audible through the racket of rifles and machine guns.

At the signal, the Maxims he'd sneaked up close to the Confederate lines started hammering at them. Morrell wouldn't have cared to be under machine- gun fire at what was as close to point-blank range as made little difference. Screams and cries of dismay said the Rebs didn't care for it, either.

"Narrow arc!" Morrell yelled. "Narrow arc!" The gunners were supposed to know that already; he'd told them their jobs the night before. If they made the Confederates stay under cover in the areas covered by those narrow arcs of fire, his men would have stretches of trench they could storm with minimal risk. If that didn't happen, his men would get slaughtered.

And so would he. He blew the whistle again, this time twice, burst from the cover of the woods, and ran, bad leg aching under him, toward the Confederate trenches. If you led like that, your soldiers had no excuse not to follow. Follow they did, yelling like so many madmen, firing their Springfields from the hip as they came. You weren't likely to hit anybody that way, but you made the fellows on the other team keep their heads down. That meant they couldn't do as much shooting at you.

A few bullets did crack past Morrell. He fired a couple of shots himself, but made sure he kept a round in the chamber for when he'd really need it. Faster than he imagined possible, he jumped down into the enemy trench.

Nobody waited there to bayonet him or fire at him while he was leaping. A Rebel with the top of his head neatly clipped off sprawled dead; another writhed and moaned, clutching a bleeding arm. But the only healthy Confed erates were trying to get away, not fighting back.

One of his men hurled a grenade at the fleeing Rebs: a half-pound block of Triton explosive with sixteen-penny nails taped all around it, and with five seconds' worth of fuse hooked up to a blasting cap. Unlike guns, grenades could be used around corners and without showing yourself, which made them wonderfully handy for fighting in trenches. Talk was, the munitions factories would start making standardized models any day now. Till they did, improvised versions served well enough.

More grenades, more gunfire. A few Confederates kept fighting. More threw down their rifles and threw up their hands. And still more fled through the gulleys that ran east and south from their trench line.

"Shall we pursue, sir?" Lieutenant Craddock asked, panting. He had the look of a man who'd seen a rabbit pulled out of a hat he thought assuredly empty. Sounding happy but dazed, he went on, "We haven't lost but a man or two wounded, I don't think, and nobody killed."

"Good," Morrell said; it was, in fact, far better than he'd dared hope. Af ter thinking for a moment, he shook his head. "No, Lieutenant, no pursuit, not in that terrain. The Rebs would rally and bushwhack us." He pointed ahead. "Where I want to be is the top of that hill. We control that, we control the countryside around it, too, and we can start flushing the Rebels out at our leisure."

Some of his men were already out of the Confederate trench lines and heading up the steep, rocky slopes. Around here, the elevation, which might have reached fifteen hundred feet, was reckoned a mountain; Morrell didn't like dignifying it with a name he didn't think it deserved. Whatever you called it, though, it was the high ground, and he intended to seize it. He scrambled out of the trench himself. He got to the top of the hill bare moments after the sun came out and let him see for miles. He pulled his watch out of his pocket and looked at it in some surprise: a few minutes past six. His part of the fight had taken only a bit more than twenty minutes. He put the watch back. He'd seen a couple of officers carrying pocket watches on leather straps round their wrists. That was more convenient than having to dig it out whenever you wanted to know the time. Maybe he'd do it himself one day soon.

"King of the mountain, sir," one of his soldiers said with a big grin.

"King of the mountain — such as it is," Morrell echoed, liking the sound of it. He would have liked it even better had the elevation been a more important conquest. But every little bit helped. Enough victories and you won the war. He rubbed his chin. "Now that we're up here, let's see what else we can do."

When Jefferson Pinkard and Bedford Cunningham came back to their side-by-side cottages after another day at the foundry, their wives were standing out in front, talking. The grass was still brown, but would be going green soon; spring wasn't that far away. That wasn't so unusual; Fanny and Emily were good friends, if not so tight together as their husbands, and Emily Pinkard had helped Fanny get a job at the munitions plant where she was already working.

What was unusual was the buff-colored envelope Fanny held in her left hand. Only one outfit used paper that color: the Confederate Conscription Bu reau. Jeff recognized the envelope for what it was before his friend did, but kept his mouth shut. You didn't want to be the one who gave your buddy news like that.

Then Bed Cunningham spotted the CCB envelope. He stopped in his tracks. Pinkard walked on a couple of steps before he stopped, too. "Oh, hell," Cunningham said. He shook his head in profound disgust. "They went and called me up, the sons of bitches."

"It'll be me next," Pinkard said, offering what consolation he could.

"It's not that I'm afraid to go or anything like that," Cunningham said. "You know me, Jeff — I ain't yellow." Jefferson Pinkard nodded, for that was true. His friend went on, "Hell and damnation, though, ain't I worth more to the country here in Birmingham than I am somewhere on the front line totin' a rifle? Any damn fool can do that, but how many folks can make steel?"

"Not enough," Pinkard said. Like a lot of men, he'd picked up almost an attorney's knowledge of the way wartime conscription worked. "You could appeal it, Bed. If the local Bureau board won't listen to you, I bet the governor would."

But Cunningham gloomily shook his head. He'd kept his ear to the ground when it came to conscription, too. "Heard tell the other day how often the governor overrules the CCB when it comes to suckin' people into the Army. Three and a half percent of the time, that's it. Hell, three and a half per cent don't even make good beer."

"I missed that one," Jeff Pinkard admitted.

"Three and a half percent," Cunningham repeated with morose satisfac tion. "States' rights ain't like what it was in the War of Secession, when a governor could stand up and spit in Jeff Davis' eye and he'd have to take it. Don't dare do that no more, not with everybody so beholden to Richmond.

Sorry damn world we live in, when a governor ain't any better'n the president's nigger, but that's how it goes."

Slowly, they went on to Cunningham's walk and headed up it together. The expressions on their wives' faces took away any doubt about what might have been in the CCB envelope. Bedford Cunningham took it out of Fanny's hand, removed the paper inside, and read the typewritten note before crumpling it up and throwing it on the ground.

"When do you have to report?" Pinkard asked, that seeming the only question still open.

"Day after tomorrow," Cunningham answered. "They give a man a lot of time to get ready, now don't they?"

"It's not right," Fanny Cunningham said. "It's not fair, not even a little bit."

"Fair is for when you're rich," her husband answered. "All I could do is the best I could. We'll get by all right now that you're workin', honey. I didn't like the notion, I tell you that much, but it's turned out pretty good." He set a hand on Jefferson Pinkard's shoulder. "You're the one I feel sorry for, Jeff."

"Me?" Pinkard scratched his head. "I'm just goin' on doin' what I always did. They ain't messed with me, way they have with you."

"Not yet they ain't, but they're gonna, an' quicker'n you think." Cunningham sounded very certain, and proceeded to explain why: "All right, I take off my overalls an' they deck me out in butternut. Foundry work's got to go on, though — we all know that. Who they gonna get to take my place?"

Emily Pinkard saw what that meant before her husband did. "Oh, lordy," she said softly.

The light went on in Jeff's head a moment later. "They ain't gonna put no nigger on day shift," he exclaimed, but he didn't sound certain, even to himself.

"Hope you're right," Cunningham said. "I won't be around here to see it, one way or the other. You drop me a line, though, once I find out where my mail should head to, and you tell me whether I'm right or whether I'm wrong. Bet you a Stonewall I'm right." The Confederate five-dollar goldpiece bore Jackson 's fierce, bearded image.

They shook hands on the bet, solemnly. Pinkard thought he was likelier to lose it than win, but made it anyhow. Five dollars wouldn't break him, and they'd come in handy to a private bringing in less than a dollar a day.

Muttering under his breath, Cunningham led Fanny into their house. The evening breeze picked up the conscription notice and skirled it away. Emily and Jeff walked across the lawn to their own cottage, up the steps, and inside. They were both very quiet over the chicken stew Emily served up for supper. Afterwards, when Jefferson got a pipe going, Emily said hesitantly, "Jeff, they wouldn't really put a nigger alongside you — would they?"

Pinkard savored a mouthful of honeyed tobacco before he answered, "You ask me that last year, before the war started, I'd've laughed till I ripped a seam in my britches — either that or I'd've grabbed me a shotgun and loaded it with double-aught buck. Nowadays, though, the war goin' like it is, suckin' up white men like a sponge sucks up water, who the devil knows what they'll do?"

"If they do… what'll you do?"

"Gotta make the steel. Gotta win the war," he said after some thought. "Don't win the damn war, nothin' else matters. Nigger don't get uppity, reckon I have to work with him — for now. Come the day the war's over, though, comes the day of payin' back debts. I got me a vote, an' I know what to do with it. Gets bad enough, I got me a gun, too, an' I know what to do with that."

Slowly, Emily nodded. "I like the way you got o' lookin' at things, honey."

"Wish there were some things I didn't have to look at," Pinkard said. "Maybe we're all wrong. Maybe I'll win that Stonewall from Bed after all. Never can tell."

Word of Cunningham's call to the colors spread fast. All the next day, people came by the foundry floor with flasks and bottles and jars of home- cooked whiskey. The foremen looked the other way, except when they swung by to grab a nip themselves. If any of them knew who was going to replace Cunningham, they kept their mouths shut.

The day after that, Pinkard walked to Sloss Foundry by himself, which seemed strange. His head pounded as if someone were pouring molten metal in there, then rolling and trip-hammering it into shape. He'd done more drinking after he and Bed got home. Hangovers made some men mean. He didn't feel mean, just drained, empty, as if part of his world had been taken away.

He got to the foundry on time, hangover or no hangover. There waiting for him stood Agrippa and Vespasian, the two Negroes who were his and Bed ford Cunningham's night-shift counterparts. However wrong having them around had seemed at first, he'd grown used to it. Most days, he'd nod when he came on and even stand around shooting the breeze with them before they went home to get some sleep, almost as if they'd been white men.

He didn't nod this morning. His face went hard and tight, as if he were in a saloon and getting ready for a fight. Three black men stood waiting for him today, not just two. "Mornin", Mistuh Pinkard," Vespasian said. Agrippa echoed him a moment later. They knew what he had to be thinking.

"Mornin'," Pinkard said curtly. The moment had really come. He hadn't believed it. No, he hadn't wanted to believe it. It was here anyhow. What was he supposed to do about it? Before it turned true, telling your wife you'd stay was easy. Now — Should he stand up on his hind legs and go home? If he didn't do that, he'd have to stay here, and if he stayed here, he'd have to work side by side with this Negro.

"Mistuh Pinkard, this here's Pericles," Vespasian said, nodding at the black man Jeff hadn't seen before.

"Mornin', Mistuh Pinkard," Pericles offered. Like all the Negroes Sloss Foundry had hired since the war began, he was a big, strapping buck, with muscles hard and thick from years in the cotton fields. He couldn't have been more than twenty-one or twenty-two; he had open, friendly features and a thin little mustache you could hardly see against his dark skin.

Years in the cotton fields… Pinkard almost demanded to see his pass book. Odds were, Pericles had no legal right to be anywhere but on a plantation. But the same probably held true for Agrippa and Vespasian, and for most of the other newly hired Negroes at the foundry. If the inspectors ever started checking hard, they'd shut the Sloss works down — and the steel had to be made.

"He kin do the work, Mr. Pinkard," Vespasian said. "We been learnin' him on nights, so he be ready if the time come." He hesitated, then added, "He be my wife's cousin. I vouch for him, I surely do."

Fish or cut bait, Jeff thought. Damn it to hell, how could you walk out on your job when your country was in the middle of a war? You had to win first; then you figured out what was supposed to happen next — he'd had that much right, talking with Emily the night before. "Let's get to work," he said.

"Thank you, Mr. Pinkard," Vespasian breathed. Pinkard didn't answer. Vespasian and Agrippa didn't push him. Even if things were changing, they knew better than that. They nodded to Pericles and headed off the floor.

For the first couple of hours after his shift started, Pinkard didn't say word one to Pericles. When he wanted the Negro to go somewhere or do something, he pointed. Pericles did as he was directed, not with any great skill-a few nights' watching and pitching in couldn't give you that-but with willing enthusiasm.

When Pinkard finally did speak, it wasn't aimed at Pericles, but at the world at large, the same useless complaint Fanny Cunningham had made the night before: "It ain't fair."

"Mistuh Pinkard?" Pericles didn't know how to talk under the foundry floor racket; he bellowed to get permission to speak himself. When Jeff nodded, the Negro said, still loudly, "Fair is for when you're white folks. I can only do the best job I know how."

Pinkard chewed on that for a while. It sounded a hell of a lot like what his friend had said a couple of nights before. When you were down, everybody above you looked to have it easy. When you were a Negro, you were always down, and everybody was above you. He'd never really thought of it in those terms before. After a bit, he shoved the idea aside. It made him uncomfortable.

But he did start talking with Pericles after that. Some things you couldn't explain with just your hands, and some things Bedford Cunningham would have done without thinking were just the sort of things Pericles didn't know, any more than any other new hire would have. The Negro caught on fast enough to keep Pinkard from snarling at him.

A couple of times, Pericles tried to talk about things that weren't directly tied to the job. Pinkard stonily ignored those overtures. Answering back, he thought, would have been like a woman cooperating with her ravisher. After a while, Pericles gave up. But then, when the closing whistle blew, he said, "G'night, Mr. Pinkard. See you in the mornin'."

"Yeah," Pinkard said, his mouth out in front of his brain. What the hell? he thought as he walked home alone. Didn't do any real harm. Maybe I'll even say "Mornin' " tomorrow — but nothin' after that, mind.

Chester Martin knew the Roanoke River lay only a few hundred yards ahead, though he also knew better-much better-than to stick his head up and see just how close the river was. The latest U.S. push had moved the battle line in western Virginia forward into the suburbs of Big Lick again. A couple of more pushes and they'd be over the river at last so they could clean out the eastern side of the Roanoke valley.

"That's what Captain Wyatt says, anyhow," Martin remarked to Paul Andersen, summarizing the latest Army bulletins. "You believe it any more than I do?"

"Hell, no, Sarge," the corporal answered. "What's gonna happen next is, the Rebs'll put on a push of their own, knock us halfway back to Catawba Mountain again. You wait and see."

"I'm not gonna argue with you," Martin said. "We push them, they push us, we push them some more… These lines aren't going to move more than a couple of miles either way from now till doomsday, doesn't look like." He wished he hadn't said doomsday. Too many men with whom he'd started the war — too many replacements, too-had already found their doom here.

"I can see it in the fancy history some fool will write after the war," An dersen said: "you know, some educated fool, the kind who wears those spectacles that stick on your nose but don't have any side pieces to hook 'em to your ears. He'll talk about the thirty-seventh battle of the Roanoke, and that'll be us pushin' the Rebs back a ways, and then he'll talk about the thirty-eighth battle of the Roanoke two weeks later, and that'll be the Rebs kickin' us back to where we started from, and maybe another half a mile besides."

"That all sounds pretty likely," Martin agreed. "I just hope to Jesus we ain't any of the ones who get buried before that thirty-eighth battle." Most of the time, you didn't like to think about such things, not when the whole battlefield stank of death to the point where, if you weren't used to it and just fell here from, say, Philadelphia, you'd puke your guts up for a week. It wasn't cold enough to fight the stink, as it had been a few weeks before.

"Heads up." Andersen pointed down the trench. "Visiting fireman com ing this way."

Sure enough, here came Captain Wyatt with a fellow Martin hadn't seen before, an older man wearing a major's uniform cleaner than those of most soldiers who actually made their living in the front lines. Some sort of inspector, snooping around to see what he thinks we've done all wrong, Martin thought. He hated people like that, hated them with the cold contempt a practical man gives a theoretician's high-flown, useless notions.

He started to laugh, and turned his face away so the new major, whoever he was, wouldn't see. The fellow had spectacles just like the ones to which Paul Andersen had slightingly referred, and a sandy mustache heavily streaked with gray, and a mouth full of big, square teeth…

Chester Martin's head whipped around. It couldn't be, but it was. Ander sen was staring and staring. Captain Wyatt said, "Boys, here's the President of the United States, come to see the war for himself."

Martin hadn't come to attention in the front-line trenches in months. Now he stiffened to straightness so suddenly, his backbone cracked like knuckles. Beside him, Andersen also came to a stiff brace. "At ease," Teddy Roosevelt said. "As you were. I came here to see soldiers, not marionettes."

"Yes, sir!" Martin relaxed, though not all the way. If the battlefield stench bothered TR, he didn't let on. He acted like a soldier, though he hadn't led troops into battle in thirty years or so. But he really could have been an elderly major, not just some politician posturing for the newspapers.

As if picking that thought out of Martin's mind, Roosevelt said, "Reporters don't know I'm here. Far as they know — which isn't far, believe me, not with most of them-I'm still in Philadelphia. If the papers don't know, maybe the Rebs don't know. You think they wouldn't like to put one between my eyes?"

"Yes, sir, they sure would," Martin said. If the Confederates did know the president was here, they'd do everything they could to keep him from getting away again.

"This isn't what war was like out on the plains back before you were born," Roosevelt said. "There was glory in that, the sweep of horses rushing forward, movement, adventure. This… The most I can say for this, gentle men, is that it's necessary, and what we gain from it will make certain that the United States of America take their proud and rightful place among the nations of the world once more."

When you listened to the president talking, you forgot the reek of unburied bodies, the mud, the lice, the barbed wire, the machine guns. You saw farther than your length of trench. You got a glimpse of the country that would come out the other side of this war. It was a place where you wanted to be, too.

Yeah, and what are the odds of that? asked the part of Martin that had been under fire for months. Do you really think you're going to come through alive, or with all your arms and legs if you do live?

Captain Wyatt said, "We hope, sir, that the next offensive will bring us up to the river, and from there we'll proceed toward the Blue Ridge Mountains."

"Bully," TR said. "Our German allies have offensives in the works, too. With God's help, they'll strike the French and the English a heavy blow on the continent." He shook his head. "I don't know what we would have done without Germany, boys. With England and France backing up the Rebels, we were fighting out of our weight when we tried to scrap with them. Not now, though, by jingo, not now."

"Yes, sir," Martin said. "We have friends in high places, eh?"

"The All-Highest place," TR answered with his famous chuckle, still boy ish though he was in his mid-fifties. "Kaiser Wilhelm's done everything he could for us, and we've paid him back, thanks to soldiers like you men."

Martin didn't stand straighter now; Roosevelt had ordered him to be at his ease. But he felt tall and proud just the same. Again, TR made him believe the war had a point, a goal, beyond the miseries of the front. He wondered how long he'd go on believing that once the president left.

A few hundred yards off, a couple of U.S. machine guns started hammer ing away at some Confederate target or other. Rifle fire answered from the Rebel lines, and then their machine guns. After a few minutes, U.S. field guns started pounding the enemy's forward trenches.

Captain Wyatt frowned. "They shouldn't be doing that, not now. It's going to bring down — "

"Captain, I didn't come here to watch a Sunday-school debating society," President Roosevelt said. "This is war. I know what war is.I-"

Before he could finish, the Confederates' quick-firing three-inch guns started raining shells down, on and near the U.S. front lines. The Rebs seldom wasted time replying to an artillery bombardment.

Paul Andersen threw himself flat, Captain Wyatt threw himself flat. To Martin's horror, he saw TR start to stand up on a firing step so he could get a better look at what was going on. Without thinking, he knocked the president down with a block from behind that would have been illegal in a football match, then flopped over TR's squirming body. "Stay flat, dammit!" he shouted. He'd never expected to have the president's ear. Now that he did, this was what he got to tell him? It would have been funny if he hadn't worried about getting killed.

Shrapnel balls and jagged bits of shell casing whined through the air. Bigger U.S. guns started firing, trying to silence the Confederate field pieces. Bigger Rebel guns struck back at the bigger U.S. guns. Both sides forgot about the men at the front for a while.

Warily, Chester Martin sat up. That let TR get up, too. Martin gulped, wondering what the penalty was for levelling the president. But all Roosevelt said was, "Thank you, Sergeant. You know conditions here better than I."

"Uh, thank you, sir." Martin looked at Roosevelt, whose green-gray uniform was now as muddy as his own. "You look like a real, modern soldier now, sir." The president of the United States laughed like a man possessed.

X

Lucien Galtier muttered unhappily to himself as he loaded the jug of kerosene into the back of his wagon. The ration the American soldiers allowed people was ridiculously small. Thank God, nights were shorter now than they had been in the middle of winter, but he still had to leave a lot of his lamps dry. The world, he was convinced, held no justice.

"No, it certainly is not fair," he told his horse, which, for once, forbore to argue with him. "When a man comes into a town, he cannot even buy for himself a drink of a sort he cannot get at home."

Strictly speaking, that wasn't true. None of the taverns in Riviere-du-Loup had signs up ordering-or even advising-townsmen and local farmers to stay out. Nor were the taverns out of liquor; a lot of their stock these days was shipped up from the United States, but that did not mean it would not burn in your boiler. Drinks, in fact, were actually cheaper these days than they had been before the war started, because the occupying authority taxed liquor at a lower rate than the provincial government had.

All of which was silver lining on a large, dark cloud. If you went into a tavern, you were almost certain to find it full of American soldiers, which was the reason the occupying authority held down liquor prices. And American soldiers, especially American soldiers with drink in them, did not take kindly to sharing what they thought of as their taverns with the locals.

"Oh, you might go in, have a whiskey, and get out again," Lucien said. His horse's ears twitched, perhaps in sympathy but more likely, knowing the beast, in mockery. "But if there should be a fight, what is one to do? There are always many soldiers, they are always all against you, and, even if your country men come to your aid, it leads merely to riot and then to punishment of the entire unfortunate town. All this for one little drink? It is not worth it!''

The horse snorted. Maybe that meant it agreed Maybe that meant it thought Galtier was complaining too much, too. If it did, too bad. He could complain to the horse without worrying his wife — and without making her angry, too, for she was less than delighted when he went into a tavern even for one whiskey, her fixed view of the matter being that no one ever went into a tavern for only one whiskey.

Galtier was just climbing up into the wagon when, from behind him, a cheery voice said, "God bless you, Lucien."

He turned. "Oh. Good day to you, Father Pascal. Pardon me, if you please. I did not hear you come up. I am desolate."

"There is no need to apologize, my son," Father Pascal said with an ami able wave of his hand. "You are full of your own concerns, as any busy man would of course be." He studied Galtier. His black eyes, though set rather close together, were clever and keen. "I pray your affairs march well?"

"They march well enough, thank you, Father." Lucien would complain to his horse. He would complain to his wife. He would not complain to Father Pascal. These past months, he had even taken to editing his confessions, which he knew imperilled his soul but which helped keep his mortal flesh secure. Fa ther Pascal was too friendly to the Americans to suit him.

"I am glad to hear that." The priest salted his words with the lightest sprinkling of irony. Lucien sometimes thought he talked like a lawyer. Father Pascal went on, "I am glad to see you have survived a winter difficult in so many ways."

"Yes, I have survived," Galtier agreed. I would have done better than that had the Americans whom you love so well not stolen everything that would have let me get through with something more than bare survival.

"And your family, they are all thriving?" Father Pascal asked.

"We are well, thank you, yes." No one had starved, no one had come down with tuberculosis or rheumatic fever. Was that thriving? Lucien didn't know, not for certain. Whatever doubts he had, though, he would not admit to the priest.

Father Pascal raised his hands in a gesture of benediction. His palms were pink and plump and soft, with none of the calluses ridging Galtier's hands. His nails were clean, and not a one of them broken. Truly, he lived a different life from that of a farmer.

"God be praised they are well," he said, turning his clever eyes toward heaven for a moment. "And how do your prospects seem for the coming year?"

"Who can guess?" Lucien said with a shrug. "The course of our health, the course of the weather, the course of the war — all these things are in God's hands, not mine." There. Now I have been pious for him. Maybe he will go away.

But Father Pascal did not go away. "In God's hands. Yes. We are all in God's hands. The course of the war-who can guess the course of the war? But then, who would have guessed a year ago the Americans would be here?"

"You are right in that regard, Father," Galtier said. Some priests might have compared the coming of the Americans to the Ten Plagues God had vis ited upon the Egyptians. Father Pascal didn't. Every line on his chubby, well-fed face said he was content with the military government.

Maybe Lucien let some of that thought show on his own face: a mistake. Father Pascal said, "I am but a humble religious, a priest of God. Who the secular ruler over my parish may be is not my concern."

Father Pascal was a great many things, but humble was none of them. Was he lying, or did he think of himself so? Galtier couldn't tell. "Certainly, Father, I understand," he said, still seeking a polite way out of this meeting.

"I am so glad you do," the priest said heartily, laying one of those smooth, well-manicured hands on Lucien's arm. "For too many people, impartiality is often mistaken for its opposite. Do you believe it, I am often accused of favouring the Americans?"

Yes, I believe that. I have good reason to believe that. "What a pity," Galtier said, but he could not bring himself to shake off Father Pascal's hand, climb into the wagon, and get away as fast as he could. That might arouse sus picion, too.

"If you should hear this vicious lie, I beg of you, give it no credit," Father Pascal said, with such earnestness in his voice that for a moment Lucien won dered whether what everyone said was wrong. But then the priest continued, "Should you hear such calumnies, my son, I would be in your debt if you would be generous enough to inform me who has spoken them, that I may pray for the salvation of his soul."

"Of course, Father," Lucien said. Clocks in the church towers began chiming eleven, which gave him the excuse he needed. "Father, forgive me, but I have a long ride back to my farm, and the hour is later than I thought."

"I would not keep you. Go with God." Smiling, sleek, doing ever so well under the new regime, Father Pascal went on down the street with the determined strides of a man who has important places to go, important things to do. He nodded to two American soldiers and then to an old woman in mourning black.

"Does he think me a simpleton, a cretin?" Lucien asked his horse when they were well out of Riviere-du-Loup and the animal's ears were the only ones that could hear. "Tell me who is saying bad things about me and I will pray for him, he says. He will pray, by God: pray that the Americans catch the poor fellow. And he will tell the American commandant, to help make his prayers come true. What do you think of that, my old?"

The horse did not answer. The Lord had not chosen to do for it as He had once for Balaam's ass.

To Lucien's silent, patient audience of one, he went on, "A simpleton? A cretin? No, he thinks me worse than that. He thinks me a collaborator, as he is himself. And this, this is what I think of him." He leaned over the side of the wagon and spat in the dirt. The very idea offended him. Why would anyone collaborate with the Americans?

Whenever Scipio went to Cassius' cottage, he went with fear and trembling in his heart. The fear was not a simple one, which only made it tougher to deal with. Half the time, he was afraid the mistress had found out what he was doing and that white patrollers — or maybe white soldiers-with rifles and bayonets and dogs with long sharp teeth were on his trail. The other half, he was afraid Cassius and his fellow would-be revolutionaries had somehow divined he was not heart and soul with them in their Red fervour, and that they were going to get rid of him because of that.

Sometimes, too, he carried both fears at once. In odd moments, he tried to figure out which was deeper, more compelling. It was like trying to decide whether you'd rather be hanged or shot — just like that, he thought uncomfortably. When all your choices were bad, did worse matter?

Here was the cottage. He felt conspicuous coming out to the huts in his fancy butler's livery, though he'd been doing it for years. He'd been passing a good deal of time in Cassius' cottage for years, too. He kept telling himself no one should notice anything amiss. Making himself believe it was harder. Never till the previous fall had he done the kinds of things in this cottage he was doing now.

He knocked. "That you, Kip?" came the question from within: Cassius' voice.

"This me," Scipio agreed, swallowing the misery he dared not show.

The door opened. There stood Cassius. "Come in wid we," he said, smiling, slim, strong, dangerous as a water moccasin in the swamps. "Set a spell. We talk about things, you 'n' me."

"We do dat," Scipio said, and stepped into the cabin. He never saw any one there but the people who had been reading The Communist Manifesto together the night he'd found out they weren't just labourers but Reds. That made sense; the less he knew, the less he could betray.

"Wet yo' whistle?" Cassius asked, and pointed to a jug of corn whiskey sitting up on the mantel.

Scipio started to shake his head, but found himself nodding instead. Cassius handed him the jug. He took a long pull. The raw, illegal whiskey ran down his throat like a river of fire and exploded in his belly.

The woman named Cherry said, "You he'p we learn dese prayers, Kip?" She handed him a paperbound book with an orange cover. The printing on that cover did indeed proclaim it a tract, just as the blue-covered book that had got him into this mess had said it was a hymnbook. You couldn't tell a book by its cover, though, not in Cassius' cottage you couldn't.

Island and a couple of other people did start to sing hymns, in case any body was snooping around outside. Under cover of their racket, Cassius sat down by Scipio at the rickety table in his cottage and bent over the book with the orange cover with him. The hunter's finger pointed out a passage. "Read dat," he said.

Obediently, Scipio's eyes went back and forth. Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital, he read. Capital is only the fruit of labour, and could never have existed if labour had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.

"What you think o' that there?" Cassius asked.

"All fit in wid everything else," Scipio answered. "Sound like de trut'." He almost slipped out of the dialect of the Congaree; the words he'd just read did not fit in with that ignorant speech.

Cassius' finger — scarred, callused-found another place. "Now you read dat."

We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing, Scipio read. With some, the word means for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and with the product of his labour. With others, the same word means for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men's labour. The fullness of time, I am convinced, will prove to the world which is the true definition of the word, and my earnest hope remains that the United States of America shall yet lead the way in the proving.

"Who write this?" Scipio asked. A lot of what he'd read here had the taste of being translated from a foreign language. Not this; it was simple and direct and powerful, English as it was meant to be written. One of the things he'd acquired serving Anne Colleton, and which he discovered he could not simply abandon, was a sense of style.

Cassius' eyes gleamed with amusement. "Same fellow write the other."

Scipio gave the hunter a dirty look. Cassius enjoyed leading him around by the nose, the same way he enjoyed all reversals and practical jokes. Cassius also enjoyed having an intellectual advantage on him. Scipio had never be lieved Cassius did much thinking at all. He hadn't even known the hunter could read. He'd turned out to be wrong. Cassius' thought was anything but wide-ranging, but in its track it ran deep.

Patiently, Scipio asked the next question. "And who that is? Not them Marx and Engels fellers, I bet."

Everybody looked at him. When your thought ran in a narrow track, and ran deep in that track, climbing up and peering over the edge became suspicious. These Reds despised the way all the white folks in the Confederate States thought alike. But if any of their own number presumed to deviate from their doctrine, he got in just as much trouble, maybe more.

"Why for you say dat?" Cherry demanded. She looked as if she wanted to drop Scipio in the Congaree swamp right then and there.

He wished he'd kept his mouth shut. He'd wished that a lot of times around these people. But, since he hadn't, he had to answer the question: "It ain't wrote like t'other stuff I read."

Cassius laughed. "Got we a perfesser here. But is he dat smart?" He shook his head. "No, or he know who do dat work." Unlike a lot of jokers, he knew when to cut a joke short, as he did now. "These words wrote by Abraham Lincoln."

" Lincoln? Do Jesus!" Scipio thumped his forehead with the heel of his hand. "Should cipher that out my own self."

"He see the truth early on," Cassius said. "He say that first one while he president of the USA, an' de second one years after, in Montana Territory."

"Do Jesus!" Scipio said again, impressed. Lincoln had served only one term as president of the United States; he'd been unceremoniously booted out of office after the Confederacy broke away from the USA. But he hadn't left politics even then. He'd led most of the Republicans into union with the Socialist Party after the Second Mexican War. "No wonder he sound like one o' we."

Cassius nodded strong agreement. "Dat man be alive today, he wid we. He want ev'body equal. Only way to do dat, make de revolution. Cain't do it no ways else. Git de 'pressors off we, we do swell. Whole country do swell."

He and his revolutionary cohorts all nodded, like the preacher and the congregation in church on Sunday morning. Scipio made sure he nodded, too. If you didn't pay attention to the preacher, he gave you a hard time later. If you didn't pay attention to Cassius, he gave you a funeral.

Now he said, "Miss Anne, she talk wid any new strange white folks? They after our scent like hounds. We got to watch sharp."

"Nobody new I see," Scipio answered truthfully. Then he asked, "How they after we?" From the moment he'd first set eyes on the deadly words of The Communist Manifesto, he'd known what sort of game he was playing and what its likely outcome would be, but he didn't like Cassius reminding him of it.

The hunter — the Red-said, "They done cotched a few o' we: Army niggers get careless, talk too much where de white folks hear. Sometimes you catch one, he know de name o' 'nudder one, and he know two more names-"

That picture was clearer than any Marcel Duchamp had ever painted. Sci pio wanted to get up and run somewhere far away from Marshlands. As Anne Colleton's butler, he had a passbook that gave him more legal freedom of movement than any other Negro on the plantation. He wasn't very much afraid of the patrollers' catching up to him. But if he tried to disappear, it was all too likely Cassius' revolutionaries would hunt him down and dispose of him. He imagined Red cells in every group of blacks in the Confederacy. What one knew, all would know; whom one wanted dead, all would work to kill…

Cassius said, "De day don' wait much longer. De revolution happen, an' de revolution happen soon. We rise up, we get what dey hoi' back from we fo' so long. De white folks want de cotton, let de white folks grow de cotton an' grub it out o' de groun'. Dey don't 'sploit us no mo', never again."

Scipio did keep his mouth shut, though that meant biting down on the inside of his lip till he tasted blood. The white folks weren't going to sit around peaceable and quiet when the rebellion started. He'd tried saying that a few times, but nobody wanted to listen to him.

He wondered if he could get into the Empire of Mexico some kind of way, and never, ever come back.

Marching with a hangover was not Paul Mantarakis' idea of fun. It did, however, beat the stuffing out of going into a front-line trench to be shot at and shelled. He'd be doing that soon enough — much too soon to suit him. Any time between the current moment and forever would have been much too soon to suit him.

A couple of men away from Mantarakis, Gordon McSweeney tramped along singing "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." McSweeney had a big bass voice and couldn't have carried a tune in a washtub. His booming false notes made Mantarakis' headache worse.

You couldn't just tell him to put a sock in it, though, however much you wanted to. If you did, you'd find yourself facing a couple of hundred pounds of angry, fanatical Scotsman. Guile was called for.

Even hung over, guile Mantarakis had. "That was a good leave, wasn't it, Gordon?" he said.

Addressed directly, McSweeney felt obliged to answer, which meant he stopped singing: the point to the exercise in guile. "Indeed, a good leave," he said seriously-he was always serious, except when he was furious. "I prayed harder, I think, than I ever have before."

"Dice weren't going your way, eh?" Mantarakis knew that was a mistake, but couldn't resist. The idea of praying in a town like Dixon, Kentucky, after it had become a U.S. Army leave center tickled his sense of the absurd.

"I do not gamble," McSweeney said indignantly. "I do not poison my body and my spirit with spirituous liquors, and I do not consort with loose, vile, immoral women."

Sergeant Peterquist was marching along a couple of men over on McSweeney's other side. Grinning, he said, "Sort of takes a lot of the point out of going on leave, doesn't it?"

"I will not be mocked," McSweeney said, about as close as he dared come to telling his sergeant to go to hell. He was bigger than Peterquist, and meaner, too, but Mantarakis would have bet on the non-com if they ever tangled. Peterquist was a sneaky bastard. He would have made a pretty fair Greek, Paul thought, meaning it as a compliment.

Ignoring McSweeney, the sergeant asked Mantarakis, "You go to a house with white girls or colored?"

"Colored," Mantarakis answered. "It was cheaper. And you go to any place like that, white or colored, you ain't lookin' for anything special, just to get the lead out of your pencil. Had a little more money to drink with."

McSweeney started singing his hymn again, louder than ever, so he wouldn't have to listen to his comrades' lewd conversation. Peterquist looked at Mantarakis. They both grinned ruefully. Maybe neither of them made a good Greek — they should have been able to figure out what the effect of talking about going to a whorehouse would have on the pious McSweeney. But when you were coming out of Dixon, what was on your mind (unless you were pious) was all the different ways you'd had a good time.

The countryside looked as if hell had been there, but had gone away on vacation. Like every inch of Kentucky in U.S. hands, it had been fought over, but that had been the fall and winter before. New grass was beginning to spring up, hiding the worst scars of the fighting.

Even the town of Beulah, Kentucky, eight or nine miles north of the front, didn't look too bad. It had also been in U.S. hands, and out of Confederate artillery range, most of that time, though the Rebel offensive coming up out of the south meant long-range guns bore on it again. Still, it seemed resigned to the prospect of flying the Stars and Stripes for the first time in a couple of generations, and a good many buildings damaged when it was captured had been repaired since.

South of Beulah, though, you were back in the war, no two ways about it. Mantarakis trudged past wagon parks city blocks on a side, and horse corrals alongside them full of animals chewing on hay and oats. Every so often, his regiment had to get off the dirt road onto the verge to let a convoy of trucks rumble past, carrying supplies up to the line, or to make way for an ambulance, red cross prominently displayed on a white background, transporting wounded men back toward Beulah.

There were munitions dumps scattered here and there across the landscape, too, shells standing on the ground as if they were the dragon's teeth

Cadmus had sown to raise a crop of soldiers. But they didn't raise men; they razed them. When the pun occurred to Mantarakis, he tried to explain it to the men marching with him, and got only blank looks for his trouble.

The Rebel offensive had been halted just south of Dawson Springs. There, hell hadn't gone on vacation. The Confederates might not have managed to take the town, but they'd shelled it into ruin. So many of the buildings were either burnt or wrecked, so many craters pocked the ground, it was hard to tell where exactly the roads had run before Dawson Springs made war's acquaintance.

Just past Dawson Springs, Mantarakis heard a buzzing in the air. His head swivelled rapidly till he spotted the aeroplane coming north. It skimmed along low to the ground, paralleling the road down which he was marching. For a moment, that made him think it was an American aeroplane returning from the front. Then he spied the Confederate battle flags painted on the fabric under each wing.

The pilot must have seen the regiment before Paul noticed him. He brought the aeroplane down even lower, right down to treetop height. That gave the observer a perfect chance to rake the column of U.S. soldiers with his machine gun.

Men screamed and fell and ran every which way. A few, cooler-headed than the rest, stood in place and fired back at the Rebel aeroplane with their Springfields. Mantarakis admired their sangfroid without trying to imitate it. He was utterly unashamed to dive into a muddy ditch by the side of the road. Bullets kicked up dirt not far away.

Ignoring the rifle fire, the aeroplane wheeled through a turn and came back south down the other side of the road, raking the regiment all over again. Then, pilot and observer no doubt laughing to each other about shooting fish in a barrel, it streaked away for home, going flat out now.

Mantarakis got out of the ditch. He was filthy and wet, as if he'd been in the trenches for a month instead of away from them. Muddy water dripped from the brim of his cap, his nose, his chin, his elbows, his belt buckle.

Gordon McSweeney stood like a rock in the middle of the roadway, still firing after the Confederate aeroplane although, by now, his chances of hitting it were slim indeed. Officers and non-coms shouted and blew whistles, trying to get the regiment back into marching order.

A familiar voice was missing. There lay Sergeant Peterquist, not moving. Blood soaked the damp, hard-packed dirt of the roadway. A bullet had torn through his neck and almost torn off his head. "Kyrie eleison," Mantarakis murmured, and made the sign of the cross.

"Popery — damned popery," McSweeney said above him.

"Oh, shut up, Gordon," Mantarakis said, as if to a pushy five-year-old.

The really funny thing was that the Orthodox Church reckoned the pope every bit as much a heretic as any Scotch Presbyterian did.

"You'll do his soul no good with your mummeries," McSweeney insisted.

Paul paid no attention to him. If Peterquist was dead, somebody would have to do his job. Mantarakis looked around for Corporal Stankiewicz, and didn't see him. Maybe he'd been wounded and dragged off, maybe he was still hiding, maybe… Maybe none of that mattered. What did matter was that he wasn't here.

Even if he wasn't, the job, again, needed doing. Mantarakis shouted for his section to form up around him, and then, as an afterthought, to get the dead and wounded off to the side of the road. A lot of people were shouting, but not many of the shouts were as purposeful as his. Because he sounded like someone who knew what he was doing, men listened to him.

Lieutenant Hinshaw had his whole scattered platoon to reassemble. By the time he got around to the section Sergeant Peterquist had led, it was ready to get moving again, which was more than a lot of the column could say.

"Good work," Hinshaw said, looking over the assembled men and the casualties moved out of the line of march (Stankiewicz was among them: shot in the arm on the Rebel aeroplane's second pass). Then he noticed the absence of non-coms. "Who pulled you people together like this?"

Nobody said anything for half a minute or so. Mantarakis shuffled his feet and looked down at the bloodstained dirt; he didn't want to get a name for blowing his own horn. Then Gordon McSweeney said, "It was the little Greek, sir."

"Mantarakis?" Most of the time, Paul was in trouble when the lieutenant called his name. But Hinshaw nodded and said, "If you do the work, you should have the rank to go with it. You're a corporal, starting now."

Mantarakis saluted. "Thank you, sir." That meant more pay, not that you were ever going to get rich, not in this man's Army. It also meant more duties, but that was how things went. You got a little, you gave a little. Or, in the Army, you got a little and, odds were, you gave a lot.

The pillar of black, greasy smoke rose high into the sky northwest of Okmulgee, Sequoyah, maybe higher, for all Stephen Ramsay knew, than an aeroplane could fly.

The fires at the base of that pillar didn't crackle, didn't hiss, didn't roar- they bellowed, like a herd of oxen in eternal agony. Even from miles away, as he was now, it was the biggest noise around. It was the biggest sight around, too: an ugly red carbuncle lighting up a whole corner of the horizon.

Captain Lincoln looked at the vast, leaping, hellish flames with sombre satisfaction. "We've denied that oil field to the enemy," he said.

"Yes, sir," Ramsay said. "Anybody tries to put out those fires, he's gonna be a long time doin' it."

"Less than you'd think, Sergeant, less than you'd think," Lincoln said. "Put a charge of dynamite in the right place and whumpl — out it goes. But even if the damnyankees do that, they won't be drawing any crude oil or gas from those wells for a long time, which was the point of the exercise."

"They sure won't, sir." Ramsay sighed and patted his horse's neck with a gloved hand. "Who would've thought the damnyankees could push us back like this? We don't do some fightin' back, they're gonna run us out of Se quoyah altogether, push us into Texas an' Arkansas."

"Too damn many of 'em." Lincoln spat down into the dirt. "We're liable to have to fall back through Okmulgee, and the chief of the Creek Nation will pitch a fit if we do."

"Yeah, well, if he doesn't like it, he's just going to have to go peddle his papers," Ramsay said. "Either that or pull some men out from under his war bonnet."

Lincoln sighed. The war had worn on him-not just the fighting, but the dickering, too. Ramsay hadn't figured dickering would be a part of war-if you had a gun, you could tell the other guy what to do, couldn't you? — but it was. The captain said, "We aren't like the USA. One of the reasons we fought the War of Secession was to keep the national government from telling the states what they had to do."

"Makes us a hell of a lot freer than the damnyankees," Ramsay said, it being an article of faith in the CSA that living in the USA was at most a short step better than living under the tyranny of the czars. These days, of course, Russia was an ally, so nobody said much about the czars, but the principle remained the same.

"Yeah, it does," Lincoln said with another sigh. "But it means sometimes we have to go through a whole lot of arguing to get through something the Yanks could deal with by giving a couple of orders. And here in Sequoyah, you may have noticed, it's even more complicated than it is anyplace else."

"Nov, that you mention it, sir, I have noticed that," Ramsay admitted, drawing a wan smile from the captain.

Sequoyah, by itself, was a Confederate state. But within its borders lay five separate nations, those of the Creeks, Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles, the Five Civilized Tribes. They kept their local autonomy and guarded it with zeal; the governor of Sequoyah sometimes had more trouble getting their chiefs to cooperate with him than President Wilson did with the governors of the Confederate states. And, since a lot of the state's petroleum and oil lay under land that belonged to the Indian nations, they had enough money on their own to keep the state government coming to them hat in hand.

They were enthusiastic about the government in Richmond, not resigned like most people in the Confederacy. They had reason to be, because it kept the state government off their backs. But they expected the national government — which now meant the Army-to come through for them, too, and justify faith by works.

Lincoln said, "If I have to tell Charlie Fixico I'm pulling out of Okmulgee without even trying to defend the town, you know what he's going to do? He's going to write his congressman, back in Richmond. And since his congress man just happens to be named Ben Fixico, that makes me toast without any marmalade. But what am I supposed to do?"

He wasn't really looking for an answer. Captains didn't get answers from sergeants. Lieutenants frequently did, but not captains. Captains had to come up with their own answers, no matter how unpleasant a prospect that was.

And come up with an answer Lincoln did. He got help from a Yankee field gun, which started landing shells in front of the cavalry company. The foun tains of smoke and dirt were several hundred yards short, but the Confeder ates had no field guns of their own with which to reply. Before long, the U.S. forces would move that gun forward and bring up others alongside it.

"Back to Okmulgee!" Lincoln shouted. At his order, the company bugler sounded the retreat.

With the rest of the company, Ramsay rode southeast toward the capital of the Creek Nation. Okmulgee lay in a low, broad valley, with tree-covered hills on either side. As the Confederates came into the valley, Ramsay saw that the town was seething like an anthill to which somebody had just delivered a good swift kick. A train was pulling out, heading south. It had nothing but freight cars, but Ramsay would have bet those were packed with people; he'd even seen some with signs painted on their sides: 36 MEN OR 8 HORSES. The road south out of Okmulgee was certainly packed, with people, wagons, buggies, barrows, horses, and other livestock. Captain Lincoln might have intended retreating through Okmulgee rather than into it, but getting out the other side wouldn't be easy.

The Creek Nation Council House was a two-story brown stone building in the center of town. With the cupola rising above it, it was easily the most impressive structure in Okmulgee, and would have made a good fort till can non started blowing it to bits. Outside the Council House waited a delegation of red-skinned men in sombre black suits. They had gathered together a bunch of younger Indians who wore much more nondescript clothes-except for red bandannas tied to their left sleeves as armbands-and who carried a motley assortment of weapons: shotguns, squirrel guns, and what looked to be a cou ple of single-shot muzzle-loaders that went all the way back to the days of the War of Secession.

One of the Creek bigshots stepped out into the middle of the road as the cavalry drew near. He held up his right hand. Captain Lincoln had the choice of reining in or pretending he wasn't there. Swearing under his breath, the captain reined in.

"Save our city!" the Indian cried. "Save our nation! Do not abandon us to the merciless United States, whose soldiers we fought a hundred years ago, long before the South saw it had to escape the brutal oppression that came from Washington. As chief of the nation, I beg you. The delegations from the House of Kings and the House of Warriors beg you as well."

Charlie Fixico gestured to the Indians in fancy dress. They added their voices to his. It was, when you got down to it, a hell of an impressive performance.

He moved his hand, and the delegation-local senators and congressmen, Ramsay supposed they were-fell silent so he could talk some more. "We do not ask you to perform any duty we would not share," he said, now pointing to the young Indians with armbands. "We will help you defend our homes and our lands. We will fight whether you stay or go, but we beg you to stand by us now as we stood by you in the War of Secession and the Second Mexican War."

Captain Lincoln looked mad at first, and then helpless. Stephen Ramsay understood that. It was a hell of a speech. He wondered how many times Charlie Fixico had practiced it in front of a mirror so he could bring it out pat like that. If Captain Lincoln led the cavalry out of Okmulgee now, he'd feel like a skunk for the rest of his days-and a lot of the troopers who heard the speech would think he was a skunk, too.

Ramsay glanced over to the young Creek men. Were they really ready to do or die for the Creek Nation? Even if they were, would it make any difference? You ran amateur soldiers up against veterans, odds were the amateurs would come out looking as if they'd just been through a grinding mill.

He was glad the decision was not his to make. Captain Lincoln looked back toward the northwest, toward the burning oil wells his troopers had had to abandon. There were more oil wells in and around Okmulgee, and still more south of town. If he could save any of them for the Confederacy, that would be worth doing. If, on the other hand, he was just throwing his command away…

Charlie Fixico went down on his knees and held his hands up high in the air. At that, so did the men from the House of Kings and the House of Warriors. Ramsay had never seen anybody just get down and beg like that.

"God damn it," Captain Lincoln muttered under his breath, with luck not so loud the Creeks could hear it. Then, realizing he had to give an answer, he raised his voice: "All right, Chief, we'll make a stand in Okmulgee. Let's get some firing pits dug, and we'll see what we can do."

Charlie Fixico scrambled to his feet, spry for a fellow a long way from young. He clutched Lincoln 's hand. "God bless you, Captain. You won't be sorry for this," he exclaimed.

By the look in his eye, Captain Lincoln was sorry already. In town here, the company would have to fight as infantry, sending their horses south with the retreating Creeks. Ramsay took charge of the young men- am I supposed to call 'em braves? he wondered-with armbands on their sleeves. They were ready as all get-out to shoot at the damnyankees, but when he sent them into a hardware store to commandeer shovels-so they could start digging foxholes and trenches, they almost balked.

"Look," he said, more patiently than he'd expected, "the idea is to kill the other guy, not to get killed yourself. Shells start falling here, bullets start flying around, you're going to be damn glad to have a hole in the ground to hide in."

They weren't soldiers. It wasn't so much that they didn't believe him. They didn't have a clue as to what he was talking about. They worked like sulking Negroes till Charlie Fixico yelled something at them in their own language. After that, they sped up-a little.

Captain Lincoln sited one of the company machine guns so it fired up Sixth Street and the other so it fired up Fourth. When the Yankees came into town, those would give them something to think about. "Wait till you have a good target," Ramsay told the crew at Sixth and Morton, in front of the Creek Council House. "We want to make the bastards pay for everything they get."

U.S. troops were not long in coming. Field guns started landing three- inch shells on the town. The red-armbanded Creeks dove for the holes they hadn't wanted to dig. To Ramsay's amazement, one of them shouted an apology to him.

He waved back. He wondered how much ammunition each Indian had for his gun. With all those different calibers, no hope in hell the cavalry could resupply them when they ran dry. He also wondered what the Yankees would do with any Creeks they captured. Was a red armband uniform enough to let them count as prisoners of war? Or would the Yanks call them francstireurs and shoot them out of hand, the way the Huns had done in France and were doing in Belgium? For the Creeks' sake, Ramsay hoped they didn't find out.

He had his own foxhole nicely dug, sited under a tree that would give him cover if and when he had to pull back, as he probably would sooner or later. He peered north up Fifth Street, looking to see how close the Yanks were.

As he'd expected, here they came, green-gray waves of infantry trudging toward Okmulgee, leaning forward a little under the weight of their packs. "Hold fire till they're good and close," Captain Lincoln yelled. "We want the machine guns to be able to chew up a whole bunch of 'em when we open up."

His own men understood the reasoning behind the order. But the Creeks had never been in combat before. As soon as they saw U.S. soldiers, they started shooting at them. Sure as hell, one of them not far from Ramsay did have a rifle musket from his grandfather's day. A great cloud of black-powder smoke rose above the kid's firing pit.

The Yankees went to earth the minute they started taking fire. Ramsay swore under his breath. Now they'd advance in small groups instead of the one great wave the machine guns might have broken.

Well, the game didn't always go the way you wished it would. "Fire at will," Captain Lincoln shouted, sounding as disgusted as Ramsay felt. The machine guns started chattering. U.S. soldiers fell. Ramsay found a target and fired. The Yankee he'd aimed at went down.

But more U.S. soldiers kept coming. The Confederates fired steadily, taking a good toll. And the Creeks surprised Ramsay. They stayed in their places and kept shooting. You couldn't hope for anything more, not from raw troops. They might not have had discipline, but they were brave.

When their entry into Okmulgee stalled, the damnyankees gave the town another, bigger dose of artillery to make the defenders keep their heads down. Under cover of the bombardment, they got men into the northern fringes of the built-up area. The forward most Confederate troopers came running back toward the center of town. Ramsay didn't notice any Creeks coming back. He whistled softly. They were brave.

He felt cramped, fighting in amongst buildings rather than out on the plains. Unhorsed, he felt slow, too. Could he get away, if trouble got bad? He began to think he'd have to find out the hard way.

Then-and he laughed as the comparison occurred to him-like cavalry riding to the rescue, artillery fire began falling on the advancing Yankees just outside of Okmulgee. If that wasn't a whole battery of those quick-firing three-inchers, he'd go off and eat worms. Caught out in the open, the U.S. soldiers toppled as if scythed.

Ramsay whooped like an Indian-just like an Indian, because several Creeks not far away were letting out the same kind of happy yells. They probably figured the fight was as good as won. Ramsay wished he could believe the same thing. Unfortunately, he knew better. Whatever else you said about the Yankees, they were stubborn bastards.

Still, if there was artillery in the neighbourhood, maybe there was infantry around, too. Put a regiment in here instead of a cavalry company and some ragtag civilians, and Okmulgee would hold against damn near anything the USA could throw at it. He looked back over his shoulder, then started laughing all over again.

"Hell of a war," he muttered, "when the cavalry's got to look to the infantry to come to the rescue."

Jonathan Moss looked with something less than joy untrammelled toward the new aeroplanes the squadron was receiving. The Wright 17s, usually nick-named Wilburs, were very different machines from the Curtiss Super Hudsons they were replacing. He'd grown used to the Super Hudsons. He knew everything they could do, and he wasn't so stupid as to try to make them do things they couldn't. That was how you ended up dead.

Captain Elijah Franklin expounded on the Wilbur's virtues: "Now we have aeroplanes than can climb and dive with the Avros the damned Canucks and limeys are flying. We won't have to scurry for home if we get in trouble."

Moss caught Lyman Baum's eye. Both men shook their heads, just a little. They hadn't run for home when they faced Avros-very much the reverse. A Curtiss machine could turn inside the circle of which the British-made aeroplanes were capable, but the Wilbur was a bus as big as a bus itself, and "Sir?" Moss stuck up a hand.

"What is it?" Franklin asked, a bit testy at being interrupted before his spiel was done. He had a pinched, narrow face, and looked as if his stomach pained him all the time. It probably did. That didn't keep him from drinking like a fish when he wasn't flying.

"Sir, one of the biggest advantages we had in the Curtiss was a forward-facing machine gun," Moss said. "This is a tractor machine, with the prop in front. Now we're going to be limited to observer fire, just like the Canucks. If I see a target, I want to be able to aim at it and shoot it straight on, not wiggle around so the observer gets to fire off at an angle."

Everybody in the squadron spoke up, loudly agreeing with him. Franklin stood quiet, perhaps waiting to see if the hubbub would die away. When it didn't, he held up a hand. Little by little, he got quiet. Into it, he said, "They're working on that," and then clammed up again.

The terse announcement produced more hubbub. Through it, Jonathan Moss called, "You mean somebody has finally made a working interrupter gear, sir?"

If you could synchronize the speed at which your machine gun fired with that at which your prop revolved, you could mount a forward-facing gun on a tractor aeroplane and not shoot yourself down faster than the enemy. Moss had heard of a couple of people who'd shod their wooden propellor blades with steel to deflect ill-timed bullets, but sooner or later a ricochet was going to come straight back at you, so that wasn't the ideal solution. An interrupter gear, though Then Captain Franklin said, "No, they don't have one yet," and dashed his hopes. But the squadron commander went on, "They are getting close, though, or at least they think they are. And when they do get one, they promise the front-line squadrons will have it first thing."

"They promise Santa Claus brings you toys, too, and the Easter Bunny hides eggs," Stanley McClintock said. "They promised we'd be in Toronto before the snow fell, and Winnipeg, and Richmond, and Guaymas-though I don't know that it ever snows down there. But I believe that kind of story when it comes true, and not a minute before then."

"If you're a defeatist," Franklin said coldly, "you can take off your wings right now. I'll give you a white feather instead, the way the limey girls do when their boyfriends don't want to go off and fight."

McClintock stomped toward the squadron commander, of whom he made close to two. Franklin moved not an inch. It wasn't his rank armouring him, Jonathan Moss knew, just a stubborn determination not to back down to anybody. McClintock shouted, "God damn it, Captain, you know I'm no coward. But when I switch buses, I want to have a pretty good idea that I'm doing it for a reason, that the new bus"-he jerked a thumb toward a Wilbur-"is likelier to keep me in one piece than the old one was."

"You've flown it," Franklin said. "We've all flown it. It performs a damn sight better than a Curtiss. Is that so, or isn't it?"

"It doesn't turn as well," Moss said.

"That's true," Franklin admitted, "but it climbs better and it dives better and it accelerates better. One of the reasons the Super Hudson turned so tight was that it couldn't go fast enough to take up a lot of space in a turn. Is that so, or isn't it?"

Moss kept quiet. It was so. You didn't want the Canadians or British chasing you, because they'd damn well catch you. But he'd got comfortable with his old machine. It was, he supposed, like a marriage: you knew what your partner was going to do. Now he was going to a partner he didn't know nearly so well.

Franklin said, "Enough of this nonsense. We've got them and we're damn well going to use them till we get something better. They've shipped the Super Hudsons off to… Colorado, I think they said, or maybe Utah. Someplace where they can do reconnaissance and not have to go up against anybody's varsity, anyway. We do. That's another reason we get the Wilburs-you men can do your job as pilots, and the observers you'll have with you can observe. Life's getting too complicated for one man to do both jobs up there at the same time."

But for a sigh, Moss remained quiet. Again, the squadron commander was probably right. Again, Moss found the truth unpalatable.

Lyman Baum said, "Other thing is, sir, I don't like trusting my neck to the observer. I'd rather have my own gun now instead of waiting to get one in the great by-and-by. Observers-"

He let that hang there. Most observers who were just observers and not pilot-observers like the members of the squadron were guys who had been through flight school and hadn't made it as pilots. That made everybody suspect there was something second-rate about them. If you knew darn well you were first-rate and you'd got used to being your own gunner, how were you going to shout "Hurrah!" at the idea of turning over the shooting to somebody you didn't figure could match you?

As if Baum's question had been a cue, a truck chugged up to the aerodrome and started disgorging men in khaki with overladen duffel bags and with flight badges that had only one wing, not a pilot's two. Captain Franklin nodded; he'd expected them. "Gentlemen, your observers," he said while the newcomers were still getting out. "Does anyone care to express any further ill-founded opinions?… No? Good."

Moss kicked at the dirt. The captain had a point. You couldn't condemn out of hand a man you'd never met. But Baum had a point, too. If a fellow was liable to be a lemon, did you really want to meet him?

Whether you did or not, you were going to. From a breast pocket, Franklin pulled out a sheet of stationery folded in quarters. Before he unfolded it, he waved the observers over to him. They came, some with their bags slung over a shoulder, some carrying them in front, some dragging them along the ground. "We have the following pairings," Franklin announced, unfolding the paper: "Pilot Baum and Observer van Zandt; Pilot Henderson and Observer Mattigan…" On and on he went, till he said, "Pilot Moss and Observer Stone."

"Oh, for Christ's sake!" Moss burst out amid laughter. "You did that on purpose, Captain, and don't try to tell me different."

"Well, that tells me who you are," the newly teamed observer said, stepping forward. "I'm Percy Stone." He let his duffel bag fall from his shoulder to the ground and stuck out his right hand.

"Jonathan Moss," Moss said, shaking it, and studied Captain Franklin's idea of a joke. Stone was a couple of years younger than he, he guessed, with a long, ruddy face, a brown Kaiser Bill mustache, and a disarming grin underneath it. He didn't look like a loser or a washout. "What did you do before the war started?" Moss asked him.

"I had a little photography studio in Ohio," Stone answered. "You?"

"I was studying the law," Moss said. He waved that aside, as he would have any question both irrelevant and immaterial, and stared at Percy Stone. Maybe Captain Franklin's idea of a joke had given him something a good deal better than your average One-Wing Wonder. "A photographer, were you? No wonder they turned you into an observer."

"No wonder at all," Stone agreed. "I wanted to be a pilot. They told me if I kept squawking about it they'd stick me in the infantry, and I could see how I liked that. You know what, Lieutenant Moss? I believed 'em."

"Good thing you did," Moss said. "I don't have any doubt the powers that be meant every bit of it." He kicked Stone's duffel bag, then picked it up himself. "Come on; le