Page:Yule Logs.djvu/139

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123
THE BADGE OF THE FOURTH FOOT

some soldiers at the Castle. But I never spoke to one before."

"Is your father at home—here in Castle Leslie?" asked Colonel Ossington.

"No," answered Colin; "he's dead. So is my mother. Grandfather and I are quite alone in the world." He hesitated, almost ashamed of having said so much. Presently he looked up once more and added, "Where is your red coat and your sword? I thought soldiers always wore red coats and swords."

"Mine are at home in England," explained the soldier. "I don't wear them now. I have not worn them at all since I came back from America. I am too old."

Colin reflected for some moments, leaning his elbows on the table and his chin in his supporting hands.

"Did you ever kill a man?" he asked abruptly.

"Yes; many men. That is what soldiers are meant to do. But one doesn't like to think of them as men. Somehow it seems different when one calls them simply the enemy."

"Then you've been in a real battle?"

The soldier nodded.

"That must have been very exciting," remarked Colin, with boyish enthusiasm. "I should like to be in a real battle—that is, if it were against Frenchmen, or Spaniards, or blackamoors, or people of that sort. I don't think I'd like it so much if they were Britons."

"I suppose not," agreed Colonel Ossington, with a sigh. "Somehow it does seem to make a difference."

"Once," went on Colin, growing more communicative now that he had discovered a soldier to be very little different in human nature from any other man—"once, there was a battle near here—near this castle, I mean—over on Culloden Moor, where our sheep pastures are. And last spring, when Peter Reid of the Mains of Kilravock was ploughing, he turned up a rusty old claymore. He