much more, in fact, than during active campaigning.
I refer now, especially, to the Pediculus Vestimenti
, as the scientific men call him, but whose picture when it is well taken, and somewhat magnified, bears this familiar outline.
Old soldiers will recognize the picture
if the name
is an odd one to them.
This was the historic “grayback” which went in and out before Union and Confederate soldiers without ceasing.
Like death, it was no respecter of persons.
It preyed alike on the just and the unjust.
It inserted its bill as confidingly into the body of the major-general
as of the lowest private.
I once heard the orderly of a company officer relate that he had picked fifty-two graybacks
from the shirt of his chief at one sitting.
Aristocrat or plebeian it mattered not. Every soldier seemed foreordained to encounter this pest at close quarters.
Eternal vigilance was not
the price of liberty.
That failed the most scrupulously careful veteran in active campaigning.
True, the neatest escaped the longest, but sooner or later the time came when it was simply impossible for
even them not to let the left hand know what the right hand was doing
The secretiveness which a man suddenly developed when he found himself inhabited
for the first time was very entertaining.
He would cuddle all knowledge of it as closely as the old Forty-Niners did the hiding-place of their bag of gold-dust.
Perhaps he would find only one
of the vermin.
This he would secretly murder, keeping all knowledge of it from his tent-mates, while he nourished the hope that it was the Robinson Crusoe
of its race cast away on a strange shore with none of its kind at hand to cheer its loneliness.
Alas, vain delusion!
In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred this solitary pediculus
would prove to be the advance guard of generations yet to come, which, ere its capture, had been stealthily engaged in sowing its seed; and in a space of time all too brief, after the first