THE TALE OF THE LOST LAND
CHAPTER 43: THE BATTLE OF THE SAND BELT
The shout was unanimous and hearty.
"Are you--are you--well, afraid of these thirty thousand knights?"
That joke brought out a good laugh, the boys' troubles vanished
away, and they went gaily to their posts. Ah, they were a darling
fifty-two! As pretty as girls, too.
I was ready for the enemy now. Let the approaching big day come
along--it would find us on deck.
The big day arrived on time. At dawn the sentry on watch in the
corral came into the cave and reported a moving black mass under
the horizon, and a faint sound which he thought to be military
music. Breakfast was just ready; we sat down and ate it.
This over, I made the boys a little speech, and then sent out
a detail to man the battery, with Clarence in command of it.
The sun rose presently and sent its unobstructed splendors over
the land, and we saw a prodigious host moving slowly toward us,
with the steady drift and aligned front of a wave of the sea.
Nearer and nearer it came, and more and more sublimely imposing
became its aspect; yes, all England was there, apparently. Soon
we could see the innumerable banners fluttering, and then the sun
struck the sea of armor and set it all aflash. Yes, it was a fine
sight; I hadn't ever seen anything to beat it.
At last we could make out details. All the front ranks, no telling
how many acres deep, were horsemen--plumed knights in armor.
Suddenly we heard the blare of trumpets; the slow walk burst into
a gallop, and then--well, it was wonderful to see! Down swept
that vast horse-shoe wave--it approached the sand-belt--my breath
stood still; nearer, nearer--the strip of green turf beyond the
yellow belt grew narrow--narrower still--became a mere ribbon in
front of the horses--then disappeared under their hoofs. Great
Scott! Why, the whole front of that host shot into the sky with
a thunder-crash, and became a whirling tempest of rags and fragments;
and along the ground lay a thick wall of smoke that hid what was
left of the multitude from our sight.