Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
By STEPHEN CRANE (1871-1900)
An Episode of the American Civil War
The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs
revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting. As the landscape
changed from brown to green, the army awakened, and began to tremble
with eagerness at the noise of rumors. It cast its eyes upon the
roads, which were growing from long troughs of liquid mud to proper
thoroughfares. A river, amber-tinted in the shadow of its banks,
purled at the army's feet; and at night, when the stream had become of
a sorrowful blackness, one could see across it the red, eyelike gleam
of hostile camp-fires set in the low brows of distant hills.
Once a certain tall soldier developed virtues and went resolutely to
wash a shirt. He came flying back from a brook waving his garment
bannerlike. He was swelled with a tale he had heard from a reliable
friend, who had heard it from a truthful cavalryman, who had heard it
from his trustworthy brother, one of the orderlies at division
headquarters. He adopted the important air of a herald in red and gold.
"We're goin' t' move t'morrah--sure," he said pompously to a group in
the company street. "We're goin' 'way up the river, cut across, an'
come around in behint 'em."
To his attentive audience he drew a loud and elaborate plan of a very
brilliant campaign. When he had finished, the blue-clothed men
scattered into small arguing groups between the rows of squat brown
huts. A negro teamster who had been dancing upon a cracker box with
the hilarious encouragement of twoscore soldiers was deserted. He sat
mournfully down. Smoke drifted lazily from a multitude of quaint
"It's a lie! that's all it is--a thunderin' lie!" said another private
loudly. His smooth face was flushed, and his hands were thrust sulkily
into his trouser's pockets. He took the matter as an affront to him.
"I don't believe the derned old army's ever going to move. We're set.
I've got ready to move eight times in the last two weeks, and we ain't
The tall soldier felt called upon to defend the truth of a rumor he
himself had introduced. He and the loud one came near to fighting over
A corporal began to swear before the assemblage. He had just put a
costly board floor in his house, he said. During the early spring he
had refrained from adding extensively to the comfort of his environment
because he had felt that the army might start on the march at any
moment. Of late, however, he had been impressed that they were in a
sort of eternal camp.
Many of the men engaged in a spirited debate. One outlined in a
peculiarly lucid manner all the plans of the commanding general. He
was opposed by men who advocated that there were other plans of
campaign. They clamored at each other, numbers making futile bids for
the popular attention. Meanwhile, the soldier who had fetched the
rumor bustled about with much importance. He was continually assailed
"What's up, Jim?"
"Th'army's goin' t' move."
"Ah, what yeh talkin' about? How yeh know it is?"
"Well, yeh kin b'lieve me er not, jest as yeh like. I don't care a
There was much food for thought in the manner in which he replied. He
came near to convincing them by disdaining to produce proofs. They
grew much excited over it.
There was a youthful private who listened with eager ears to the words
of the tall soldier and to the varied comments of his comrades. After
receiving a fill of discussions concerning marches and attacks, he went
to his hut and crawled through an intricate hole that served it as a
door. He wished to be alone with some new thoughts that had lately
come to him.
He lay down on a wide bunk that stretched across the end of the room.
In the other end, cracker boxes were made to serve as furniture. They
were grouped about the fireplace. A picture from an illustrated weekly
was upon the log walls, and three rifles were paralleled on pegs.
Equipments hung on handy projections, and some tin dishes lay upon a
small pile of firewood. A folded tent was serving as a roof. The
sunlight, without, beating upon it, made it glow a light yellow shade.
A small window shot an oblique square of whiter light upon the
cluttered floor. The smoke from the fire at times neglected the clay
chimney and wreathed into the room, and this flimsy chimney of clay and
sticks made endless threats to set ablaze the whole establishment.
The youth was in a little trance of astonishment. So they were at last
going to fight. On the morrow, perhaps, there would be a battle, and
he would be in it. For a time he was obliged to labor to make himself
believe. He could not accept with assurance an omen that he was about
to mingle in one of those great affairs of the earth.
He had, of course, dreamed of battles all his life--of vague and bloody
conflicts that had thrilled him with their sweep and fire. In visions
he had seen himself in many struggles. He had imagined peoples secure
in the shadow of his eagle-eyed prowess. But awake he had regarded
battles as crimson blotches on the pages of the past. He had put them
as things of the bygone with his thought-images of heavy crowns and
high castles. There was a portion of the world's history which he had
regarded as the time of wars, but it, he thought, had been long gone
over the horizon and had disappeared forever.
From his home his youthful eyes had looked upon the war in his own
country with distrust. It must be some sort of a play affair. He had
long despaired of witnessing a Greeklike struggle. Such would be no
more, he had said. Men were better, or more timid. Secular and
religious education had effaced the throat-grappling instinct, or else
firm finance held in check the passions.
He had burned several times to enlist. Tales of great movements shook
the land. They might not be distinctly Homeric, but there seemed to be
much glory in them. He had read of marches, sieges, conflicts, and he
had longed to see it all. His busy mind had drawn for him large
pictures extravagant in color, lurid with breathless deeds.
But his mother had discouraged him. She had affected to look with some
contempt upon the quality of his war ardor and patriotism. She could
calmly seat herself and with no apparent difficulty give him many
hundreds of reasons why he was of vastly more importance on the farm
than on the field of battle. She had had certain ways of expression
that told him that her statements on the subject came from a deep
conviction. Moreover, on her side, was his belief that her ethical
motive in the argument was impregnable.
At last, however, he had made firm rebellion against this yellow light
thrown upon the color of his ambitions. The newspapers, the gossip of
the village, his own picturings, had aroused him to an uncheckable
degree. They were in truth fighting finely down there. Almost every
day the newspaper printed accounts of a decisive victory.
One night, as he lay in bed, the winds had carried to him the
clangoring of the church bell as some enthusiast jerked the rope
frantically to tell the twisted news of a great battle. This voice of
the people rejoicing in the night had made him shiver in a prolonged
ecstasy of excitement. Later, he had gone down to his mother's room
and had spoken thus: "Ma, I'm going to enlist."
"Henry, don't you be a fool," his mother had replied. She had then
covered her face with the quilt. There was an end to the matter for
Nevertheless, the next morning he had gone to a town that was near his
mother's farm and had enlisted in a company that was forming there.
When he had returned home his mother was milking the brindle cow. Four
others stood waiting. "Ma, I've enlisted," he had said to her
diffidently. There was a short silence. "The Lord's will be done,
Henry," she had finally replied, and had then continued to milk the
When he had stood in the doorway with his soldier's clothes on his
back, and with the light of excitement and expectancy in his eyes
almost defeating the glow of regret for the home bonds, he had seen two
tears leaving their trails on his mother's scarred cheeks.
Still, she had disappointed him by saying nothing whatever about
returning with his shield or on it. He had privately primed himself
for a beautiful scene. He had prepared certain sentences which he
thought could be used with touching effect. But her words destroyed
his plans. She had doggedly peeled potatoes and addressed him as
follows: "You watch out, Henry, an' take good care of yerself in this
here fighting business--you watch, an' take good care of yerself.
Don't go a-thinkin' you can lick the hull rebel army at the start,
because yeh can't. Yer jest one little feller amongst a hull lot of
others, and yeh've got to keep quiet an' do what they tell yeh. I know
how you are, Henry.
"I've knet yeh eight pair of socks, Henry, and I've put in all yer best
shirts, because I want my boy to be jest as warm and comf'able as
anybody in the army. Whenever they get holes in 'em, I want yeh to
send 'em right-away back to me, so's I kin dern 'em.
"An' allus be careful an' choose yer comp'ny. There's lots of bad men
in the army, Henry. The army makes 'em wild, and they like nothing
better than the job of leading off a young feller like you, as ain't
never been away from home much and has allus had a mother, an'
a-learning 'em to drink and swear. Keep clear of them folks, Henry. I
don't want yeh to ever do anything, Henry, that yeh would be 'shamed to
let me know about. Jest think as if I was a-watchin' yeh. If yeh keep
that in yer mind allus, I guess yeh'll come out about right.
"Yeh must allus remember yer father, too, child, an' remember he never
drunk a drop of licker in his life, and seldom swore a cross oath.
"I don't know what else to tell yeh, Henry, excepting that yeh must
never do no shirking, child, on my account. If so be a time comes when
yeh have to be kilt of do a mean thing, why, Henry, don't think of
anything 'cept what's right, because there's many a woman has to bear
up 'ginst sech things these times, and the Lord 'll take keer of us all.
"Don't forgit about the socks and the shirts, child; and I've put a cup
of blackberry jam with yer bundle, because I know yeh like it above all
things. Good-by, Henry. Watch out, and be a good boy."
He had, of course, been impatient under the ordeal of this speech. It
had not been quite what he expected, and he had borne it with an air of
irritation. He departed feeling vague relief.
Still, when he had looked back from the gate, he had seen his mother
kneeling among the potato parings. Her brown face, upraised, was
stained with tears, and her spare form was quivering. He bowed his
head and went on, feeling suddenly ashamed of his purposes.
From his home he had gone to the seminary to bid adieu to many
schoolmates. They had thronged about him with wonder and admiration.
He had felt the gulf now between them and had swelled with calm pride.
He and some of his fellows who had donned blue were quite overwhelmed
with privileges for all of one afternoon, and it had been a very
delicious thing. They had strutted.
A certain light-haired girl had made vivacious fun at his martial
spirit, but there was another and darker girl whom he had gazed at
steadfastly, and he thought she grew demure and sad at sight of his
blue and brass. As he had walked down the path between the rows of
oaks, he had turned his head and detected her at a window watching his
departure. As he perceived her, she had immediately begun to stare up
through the high tree branches at the sky. He had seen a good deal of
flurry and haste in her movement as she changed her attitude. He often
thought of it.
On the way to Washington his spirit had soared. The regiment was fed
and caressed at station after station until the youth had believed that
he must be a hero. There was a lavish expenditure of bread and cold
meats, coffee, and pickles and cheese. As he basked in the smiles of
the girls and was patted and complimented by the old men, he had felt
growing within him the strength to do mighty deeds of arms.
After complicated journeyings with many pauses, there had come months
of monotonous life in a camp. He had had the belief that real war was
a series of death struggles with small time in between for sleep and
meals; but since his regiment had come to the field the army had done
little but sit still and try to keep warm.
He was brought then gradually back to his old ideas. Greeklike
struggles would be no more. Men were better, or more timid. Secular
and religious education had effaced the throat-grappling instinct, or
else firm finance held in check the passions.
He had grown to regard himself merely as a part of a vast blue
demonstration. His province was to look out, as far as he could, for
his personal comfort. For recreation he could twiddle his thumbs and
speculate on the thoughts which must agitate the minds of the generals.
Also, he was drilled and drilled and reviewed, and drilled and drilled
The only foes he had seen were some pickets along the river bank. They
were a sun-tanned, philosophical lot, who sometimes shot reflectively
at the blue pickets. When reproached for this afterward, they usually
expressed sorrow, and swore by their gods that the guns had exploded
without their permission. The youth, on guard duty one night,
conversed across the stream with one of them. He was a slightly ragged
man, who spat skillfully between his shoes and possessed a great fund
of bland and infantile assurance. The youth liked him personally.
"Yank," the other had informed him, "yer a right dum good feller." This
sentiment, floating to him upon the still air, had made him temporarily
Various veterans had told him tales. Some talked of gray, bewhiskered
hordes who were advancing with relentless curses and chewing tobacco
with unspeakable valor; tremendous bodies of fierce soldiery who were
sweeping along like the Huns. Others spoke of tattered and eternally
hungry men who fired despondent powders. "They'll charge through
hell's fire an' brimstone t' git a holt on a haversack, an' sech
stomachs ain't a'lastin' long," he was told. From the stories, the
youth imagined the red, live bones sticking out through slits in the
Still, he could not put a whole faith in veteran's tales, for recruits
were their prey. They talked much of smoke, fire, and blood, but he
could not tell how much might be lies. They persistently yelled "Fresh
fish!" at him, and were in no wise to be trusted.
However, he perceived now that it did not greatly matter what kind of
soldiers he was going to fight, so long as they fought, which fact no
one disputed. There was a more serious problem. He lay in his bunk
pondering upon it. He tried to mathematically prove to himself that he
would not run from a battle.
Previously he had never felt obliged to wrestle too seriously with this
question. In his life he had taken certain things for granted, never
challenging his belief in ultimate success, and bothering little about
means and roads. But here he was confronted with a thing of moment.
It had suddenly appeared to him that perhaps in a battle he might run.
He was forced to admit that as far as war was concerned he knew nothing
A sufficient time before he would have allowed the problem to kick its
heels at the outer portals of his mind, but now he felt compelled to
give serious attention to it.
A little panic-fear grew in his mind. As his imagination went forward
to a fight, he saw hideous possibilities. He contemplated the lurking
menaces of the future, and failed in an effort to see himself standing
stoutly in the midst of them. He recalled his visions of broken-bladed
glory, but in the shadow of the impending tumult he suspected them to
be impossible pictures.
He sprang from the bunk and began to pace nervously to and fro. "Good
Lord, what's th' matter with me?" he said aloud.
He felt that in this crisis his laws of life were useless. Whatever he
had learned of himself was here of no avail. He was an unknown
quantity. He saw that he would again be obliged to experiment as he
had in early youth. He must accumulate information of himself, and
meanwhile he resolved to remain close upon his guard lest those
qualities of which he knew nothing should everlastingly disgrace him.
"Good Lord!" he repeated in dismay.
After a time the tall soldier slid dexterously through the hole. The
loud private followed. They were wrangling.
"That's all right," said the tall soldier as he entered. He waved his
hand expressively. "You can believe me or not, jest as you like. All
you got to do is sit down and wait as quiet as you can. Then pretty
soon you'll find out I was right."
His comrade grunted stubbornly. For a moment he seemed to be searching
for a formidable reply. Finally he said: "Well, you don't know
everything in the world, do you?"
"Didn't say I knew everything in the world," retorted the other
sharply. He began to stow various articles snugly into his knapsack.
The youth, pausing in his nervous walk, looked down at the busy figure.
"Going to be a battle, sure, is there, Jim?" he asked.
"Of course there is," replied the tall soldier. "Of course there is.
You jest wait 'til to-morrow, and you'll see one of the biggest battles
ever was. You jest wait."
"Thunder!" said the youth.
"Oh, you'll see fighting this time, my boy, what'll be regular
out-and-out fighting," added the tall soldier, with the air of a man
who is about to exhibit a battle for the benefit of his friends.
"Huh!" said the loud one from a corner.
"Well," remarked the youth, "like as not this story'll turn out jest
like them others did."
"Not much it won't," replied the tall soldier, exasperated. "Not much
it won't. Didn't the cavalry all start this morning?" He glared about
him. No one denied his statement. "The cavalry started this morning,"
he continued. "They say there ain't hardly any cavalry left in camp.
They're going to Richmond, or some place, while we fight all the
Johnnies. It's some dodge like that. The regiment's got orders, too.
A feller what seen 'em go to headquarters told me a little while ago.
And they're raising blazes all over camp--anybody can see that."
"Shucks!" said the loud one.
The youth remained silent for a time. At last he spoke to the tall
"How do you think the reg'ment 'll do?"
"Oh, they'll fight all right, I guess, after they once get into it,"
said the other with cold judgment. He made a fine use of the third
person. "There's been heaps of fun poked at 'em because they're new,
of course, and all that; but they'll fight all right, I guess."
"Think any of the boys 'll run?" persisted the youth.
"Oh, there may be a few of 'em run, but there's them kind in every
regiment, 'specially when they first goes under fire," said the other
in a tolerant way. "Of course it might happen that the hull
kit-and-boodle might start and run, if some big fighting came
first-off, and then again they might stay and fight like fun. But you
can't bet on nothing. Of course they ain't never been under fire yet,
and it ain't likely they'll lick the hull rebel army all-to-oncet the
first time; but I think they'll fight better than some, if worse than
others. That's the way I figger. They call the reg'ment 'Fresh fish'
and everything; but the boys come of good stock, and most of 'em 'll
fight like sin after they oncet git shootin'," he added, with a mighty
emphasis on the last four words.
"Oh, you think you know--" began the loud soldier with scorn.
The other turned savagely upon him. They had a rapid altercation, in
which they fastened upon each other various strange epithets.
The youth at last interrupted them. "Did you ever think you might run
yourself, Jim?" he asked. On concluding the sentence he laughed as if
he had meant to aim a joke. The loud soldier also giggled.
The tall private waved his hand. "Well," said he profoundly, "I've
thought it might get too hot for Jim Conklin in some of them
scrimmages, and if a whole lot of boys started and run, why, I s'pose
I'd start and run. And if I once started to run, I'd run like the
devil, and no mistake. But if everybody was a-standing and a-fighting,
why, I'd stand and fight. Be jiminey, I would. I'll bet on it."
"Huh!" said the loud one.
The youth of this tale felt gratitude for these words of his comrade.
He had feared that all of the untried men possessed great and correct
confidence. He now was in a measure reassured.
The next morning the youth discovered that his tall comrade had been
the fast-flying messenger of a mistake. There was much scoffing at the
latter by those who had yesterday been firm adherents of his views, and
there was even a little sneering by men who had never believed the
rumor. The tall one fought with a man from Chatfield Corners and beat
The youth felt, however, that his problem was in no wise lifted from
him. There was, on the contrary, an irritating prolongation. The tale
had created in him a great concern for himself. Now, with the newborn
question in his mind, he was compelled to sink back into his old place
as part of a blue demonstration.
For days he made ceaseless calculations, but they were all wondrously
unsatisfactory. He found that he could establish nothing. He finally
concluded that the only way to prove himself was to go into the blaze,
and then figuratively to watch his legs to discover their merits and
faults. He reluctantly admitted that he could not sit still and with a
mental slate and pencil derive an answer. To gain it, he must have
blaze, blood, and danger, even as a chemist requires this, that, and
the other. So he fretted for an opportunity.
Meanwhile, he continually tried to measure himself by his comrades.
The tall soldier, for one, gave him some assurance. This man's serene
unconcern dealt him a measure of confidence, for he had known him since
childhood, and from his intimate knowledge he did not see how he could
be capable of anything that was beyond him, the youth. Still, he
thought that his comrade might be mistaken about himself. Or, on the
other hand, he might be a man heretofore doomed to peace and obscurity,
but, in reality, made to shine in war.
The youth would have liked to have discovered another who suspected
himself. A sympathetic comparison of mental notes would have been a
joy to him.
He occasionally tried to fathom a comrade with seductive sentences. He
looked about to find men in the proper mood. All attempts failed to
bring forth any statement which looked in any way like a confession to
those doubts which he privately acknowledged in himself. He was afraid
to make an open declaration of his concern, because he dreaded to place
some unscrupulous confidant upon the high plane of the unconfessed from
which elevation he could be derided.
In regard to his companions his mind wavered between two opinions,
according to his mood. Sometimes he inclined to believing them all
heroes. In fact, he usually admired in secret the superior development
of the higher qualities in others. He could conceive of men going very
insignificantly about the world bearing a load of courage unseen, and
although he had known many of his comrades through boyhood, he began to
fear that his judgment of them had been blind. Then, in other moments,
he flouted these theories, and assured him that his fellows were all
privately wondering and quaking.
His emotions made him feel strange in the presence of men who talked
excitedly of a prospective battle as of a drama they were about to
witness, with nothing but eagerness and curiosity apparent in their
faces. It was often that he suspected them to be liars.
He did not pass such thoughts without severe condemnation of himself.
He dinned reproaches at times. He was convicted by himself of many
shameful crimes against the gods of traditions.
In his great anxiety his heart was continually clamoring at what he
considered the intolerable slowness of the generals. They seemed
content to perch tranquilly on the river bank, and leave him bowed down
by the weight of a great problem. He wanted it settled forthwith. He
could not long bear such a load, he said. Sometimes his anger at the
commanders reached an acute stage, and he grumbled about the camp like
One morning, however, he found himself in the ranks of his prepared
regiment. The men were whispering speculations and recounting the old
rumors. In the gloom before the break of the day their uniforms glowed
a deep purple hue. From across the river the red eyes were still
peering. In the eastern sky there was a yellow patch like a rug laid
for the feet of the coming sun; and against it, black and patternlike,
loomed the gigantic figure of the colonel on a gigantic horse.
From off in the darkness came the trampling of feet. The youth could
occasionally see dark shadows that moved like monsters. The regiment
stood at rest for what seemed a long time. The youth grew impatient.
It was unendurable the way these affairs were managed. He wondered how
long they were to be kept waiting.
As he looked all about him and pondered upon the mystic gloom, he began
to believe that at any moment the ominous distance might be aflare, and
the rolling crashes of an engagement come to his ears. Staring once at
the red eyes across the river, he conceived them to be growing larger,
as the orbs of a row of dragons advancing. He turned toward the
colonel and saw him lift his gigantic arm and calmly stroke his
At last he heard from along the road at the foot of the hill the
clatter of a horse's galloping hoofs. It must be the coming of orders.
He bent forward, scarce breathing. The exciting clickety-click, as it
grew louder and louder, seemed to be beating upon his soul. Presently
a horseman with jangling equipment drew rein before the colonel of the
regiment. The two held a short, sharp-worded conversation. The men in
the foremost ranks craned their necks.
As the horseman wheeled his animal and galloped away he turned to shout
over his shoulder, "Don't forget that box of cigars!" The colonel
mumbled in reply. The youth wondered what a box of cigars had to do
A moment later the regiment went swinging off into the darkness. It
was now like one of those moving monsters wending with many feet. The
air was heavy, and cold with dew. A mass of wet grass, marched upon,
rustled like silk.
There was an occasional flash and glimmer of steel from the backs of
all these huge crawling reptiles. From the road came creakings and
grumblings as some surly guns were dragged away.
The men stumbled along still muttering speculations. There was a
subdued debate. Once a man fell down, and as he reached for his rifle
a comrade, unseeing, trod upon his hand. He of the injured fingers
swore bitterly, and aloud. A low, tittering laugh went among his
Presently they passed into a roadway and marched forward with easy
strides. A dark regiment moved before them, and from behind also came
the tinkle of equipments on the bodies of marching men.
The rushing yellow of the developing day went on behind their backs.
When the sunrays at last struck full and mellowingly upon the earth,
the youth saw that the landscape was streaked with two long, thin,
black columns which disappeared on the brow of a hill in front and
rearward vanished in a wood. They were like two serpents crawling from
the cavern of the night.
The river was not in view. The tall soldier burst into praises of what
he thought to be his powers of perception.
Some of the tall one's companions cried with emphasis that they, too,
had evolved the same thing, and they congratulated themselves upon it.
But there were others who said that the tall one's plan was not the
true one at all. They persisted with other theories. There was a
The youth took no part in them. As he walked along in careless line he
was engaged with his own eternal debate. He could not hinder himself
from dwelling upon it. He was despondent and sullen, and threw
shifting glances about him. He looked ahead, often expecting to hear
from the advance the rattle of firing.
But the long serpents crawled slowly from hill to hill without bluster
of smoke. A dun-colored cloud of dust floated away to the right. The
sky overhead was of a fairy blue.
The youth studied the faces of his companions, ever on the watch to
detect kindred emotions. He suffered disappointment. Some ardor of
the air which was causing the veteran commands to move with
glee--almost with song--had infected the new regiment. The men began
to speak of victory as of a thing they knew. Also, the tall soldier
received his vindication. They were certainly going to come around in
behind the enemy. They expressed commiseration for that part of the
army which had been left upon the river bank, felicitating themselves
upon being a part of a blasting host.
The youth, considering himself as separated from the others, was
saddened by the blithe and merry speeches that went from rank to rank.
The company wags all made their best endeavors. The regiment tramped
to the tune of laughter.
The blatant soldier often convulsed whole files by his biting sarcasms
aimed at the tall one.
And it was not long before all the men seemed to forget their mission.
Whole brigades grinned in unison, and regiments laughed.
A rather fat soldier attempted to pilfer a horse from a dooryard. He
planned to load his knapsack upon it. He was escaping with his prize
when a young girl rushed from the house and grabbed the animal's mane.
There followed a wrangle. The young girl, with pink cheeks and shining
eyes, stood like a dauntless statue.
The observant regiment, standing at rest in the roadway, whooped at
once, and entered whole-souled upon the side of the maiden. The men
became so engrossed in this affair that they entirely ceased to
remember their own large war. They jeered the piratical private, and
called attention to various defects in his personal appearance; and
they were wildly enthusiastic in support of the young girl.
To her, from some distance, came bold advice. "Hit him with a stick."
There were crows and catcalls showered upon him when he retreated
without the horse. The regiment rejoiced at his downfall. Loud and
vociferous congratulations were showered upon the maiden, who stood
panting and regarding the troops with defiance.
At nightfall the column broke into regimental pieces, and the fragments
went into the fields to camp. Tents sprang up like strange plants.
Camp fires, like red, peculiar blossoms, dotted the night.
The youth kept from intercourse with his companions as much as
circumstances would allow him. In the evening he wandered a few paces
into the gloom. From this little distance the many fires, with the
black forms of men passing to and fro before the crimson rays, made
weird and satanic effects.
He lay down in the grass. The blades pressed tenderly against his
cheek. The moon had been lighted and was hung in a treetop. The
liquid stillness of the night enveloping him made him feel vast pity
for himself. There was a caress in the soft winds; and the whole mood
of the darkness, he thought, was one of sympathy for himself in his
He wished, without reserve, that he was at home again making the
endless rounds from the house to the barn, from the barn to the fields,
from the fields to the barn, from the barn to the house. He remembered
he had so often cursed the brindle cow and her mates, and had sometimes
flung milking stools. But, from his present point of view, there was a
halo of happiness about each of their heads, and he would have
sacrificed all the brass buttons on the continent to have been enabled
to return to them. He told himself that he was not formed for a
soldier. And he mused seriously upon the radical differences between
himself and those men who were dodging implike around the fires.
As he mused thus he heard the rustle of grass, and, upon turning his
head, discovered the loud soldier. He called out, "Oh, Wilson!"
The latter approached and looked down. "Why, hello, Henry; is it you?
What are you doing here?"
"Oh, thinking," said the youth.
The other sat down and carefully lighted his pipe. "You're getting
blue my boy. You're looking thundering peek-ed. What the dickens is
wrong with you?"
"Oh, nothing," said the youth.
The loud soldier launched then into the subject of the anticipated
fight. "Oh, we've got 'em now!" As he spoke his boyish face was
wreathed in a gleeful smile, and his voice had an exultant ring.
"We've got 'em now. At last, by the eternal thunders, we'll like 'em
"If the truth was known," he added, more soberly, "they've licked US
about every clip up to now; but this time--this time--we'll lick 'em
"I thought you was objecting to this march a little while ago," said
the youth coldly.
"Oh, it wasn't that," explained the other. "I don't mind marching, if
there's going to be fighting at the end of it. What I hate is this
getting moved here and moved there, with no good coming of it, as far
as I can see, excepting sore feet and damned short rations."
"Well, Jim Conklin says we'll get plenty of fighting this time."
"He's right for once, I guess, though I can't see how it come. This
time we're in for a big battle, and we've got the best end of it,
certain sure. Gee rod! how we will thump 'em!"
He arose and began to pace to and fro excitedly. The thrill of his
enthusiasm made him walk with an elastic step. He was sprightly,
vigorous, fiery in his belief in success. He looked into the future
with clear proud eye, and he swore with the air of an old soldier.
The youth watched him for a moment in silence. When he finally spoke
his voice was as bitter as dregs. "Oh, you're going to do great
things, I s'pose!"
The loud soldier blew a thoughtful cloud of smoke from his pipe. "Oh,
I don't know," he remarked with dignity; "I don't know. I s'pose I'll
do as well as the rest. I'm going to try like thunder." He evidently
complimented himself upon the modesty of this statement.
"How do you know you won't run when the time comes?" asked the youth.
"Run?" said the loud one; "run?--of course not!" He laughed.
"Well," continued the youth, "lots of good-a-'nough men have thought
they was going to do great things before the fight, but when the time
come they skedaddled."
"Oh, that's all true, I s'pose," replied the other; "but I'm not going
to skedaddle. The man that bets on my running will lose his money,
that's all." He nodded confidently.
"Oh, shucks!" said the youth. "You ain't the bravest man in the world,
"No, I ain't," exclaimed the loud soldier indignantly; "and I didn't
say I was the bravest man in the world, neither. I said I was going to
do my share of fighting--that's what I said. And I am, too. Who are
you, anyhow? You talk as if you thought you was Napoleon Bonaparte."
He glared at the youth for a moment, and then strode away.
The youth called in a savage voice after his comrade: "Well, you
needn't git mad about it!" But the other continued on his way and made
He felt alone in space when his injured comrade had disappeared. His
failure to discover any mite of resemblance in their viewpoints made
him more miserable than before. No one seemed to be wrestling with
such a terrific personal problem. He was a mental outcast.
He went slowly to his tent and stretched himself on a blanket by the
side of the snoring tall soldier. In the darkness he saw visions of a
thousand-tongued fear that would babble at his back and cause him to
flee, while others were going coolly about their country's business.
He admitted that he would not be able to cope with this monster. He
felt that every nerve in his body would be an ear to hear the voices,
while other men would remain stolid and deaf.
And as he sweated with the pain of these thoughts, he could hear low,
serene sentences. "I'll bid five." "Make it six." "Seven." "Seven
He stared at the red, shivering reflection of a fire on the white wall
of his tent until, exhausted and ill from the monotony of his
suffering, he fell asleep.
When another night came, the columns, changed to purple streaks, filed
across two pontoon bridges. A glaring fire wine-tinted the waters of
the river. Its rays, shining upon the moving masses of troops, brought
forth here and there sudden gleams of silver or gold. Upon the other
shore a dark and mysterious range of hills was curved against the sky.
The insect voices of the night sang solemnly.
After this crossing the youth assured himself that at any moment they
might be suddenly and fearfully assaulted from the caves of the
lowering woods. He kept his eyes watchfully upon the darkness.
But his regiment went unmolested to a camping place, and its soldiers
slept the brave sleep of wearied men. In the morning they were routed
out with early energy, and hustled along a narrow road that led deep
into the forest.
It was during this rapid march that the regiment lost many of the marks
of a new command.
The men had begun to count the miles upon their fingers, and they grew
tired. "Sore feet an' damned short rations, that's all," said the loud
soldier. There was perspiration and grumblings. After a time they
began to shed their knapsacks. Some tossed them unconcernedly down;
others hid them carefully, asserting their plans to return for them at
some convenient time. Men extricated themselves from thick shirts.
Presently few carried anything but their necessary clothing, blankets,
haversacks, canteens, and arms and ammunition. "You can now eat and
shoot," said the tall soldier to the youth. "That's all you want to
There was sudden change from the ponderous infantry of theory to the
light and speedy infantry of practice. The regiment, relieved of a
burden, received a new impetus. But there was much loss of valuable
knapsacks, and, on the whole, very good shirts.
But the regiment was not yet veteranlike in appearance. Veteran
regiments in the army were likely to be very small aggregations of men.
Once, when the command had first come to the field, some perambulating
veterans, noting the length of their column, had accosted them thus:
"Hey, fellers, what brigade is that?" And when the men had replied that
they formed a regiment and not a brigade, the older soldiers had
laughed, and said, "O Gawd!"
Also, there was too great a similarity in the hats. The hats of a
regiment should properly represent the history of headgear for a period
of years. And, moreover, there were no letters of faded gold speaking
from the colors. They were new and beautiful, and the color bearer
habitually oiled the pole.
Presently the army again sat down to think. The odor of the peaceful
pines was in the men's nostrils. The sound of monotonous axe blows
rang through the forest, and the insects, nodding upon their perches,
crooned like old women. The youth returned to his theory of a blue
One gray dawn, however, he was kicked in the leg by the tall soldier,
and then, before he was entirely awake, he found himself running down a
wood road in the midst of men who were panting from the first effects
of speed. His canteen banged rythmically upon his thigh, and his
haversack bobbed softly. His musket bounced a trifle from his shoulder
at each stride and made his cap feel uncertain upon his head.
He could hear the men whisper jerky sentences: "Say--what's all
this--about?" "What th' thunder--we--skedaddlin' this way fer?"
"Billie--keep off m' feet. Yeh run--like a cow." And the loud
soldier's shrill voice could be heard: "What th'devil they in sich a
The youth thought the damp fog of early morning moved from the rush of
a great body of troops. From the distance came a sudden spatter of
He was bewildered. As he ran with his comrades he strenuously tried to
think, but all he knew was that if he fell down those coming behind
would tread upon him. All his faculties seemed to be needed to guide
him over and past obstructions. He felt carried along by a mob.
The sun spread disclosing rays, and, one by one, regiments burst into
view like armed men just born of the earth. The youth perceived that
the time had come. He was about to be measured. For a moment he felt
in the face of his great trial like a babe, and the flesh over his
heart seemed very thin. He seized time to look about him calculatingly.
But he instantly saw that it would be impossible for him to escape from
the regiment. It inclosed him. And there were iron laws of tradition
and law on four sides. He was in a moving box.
As he perceived this fact it occurred to him that he had never wished
to come to the war. He had not enlisted of his free will. He had been
dragged by the merciless government. And now they were taking him out
to be slaughtered.
The regiment slid down a bank and wallowed across a little stream. The
mournful current moved slowly on, and from the water, shaded black,
some white bubble eyes looked at the men.
As they climbed the hill on the farther side artillery began to boom.
Here the youth forgot many things as he felt a sudden impulse of
curiosity. He scrambled up the bank with a speed that could not be
exceeded by a bloodthirsty man.
He expected a battle scene.
There were some little fields girted and squeezed by a forest. Spread
over the grass and in among the tree trunks, he could see knots and
waving lines of skirmishers who were running hither and thither and
firing at the landscape. A dark battle line lay upon a sunstruck
clearing that gleamed orange color. A flag fluttered.
Other regiments floundered up the bank. The brigade was formed in line
of battle, and after a pause started slowly through the woods in the
rear of the receding skirmishers, who were continually melting into the
scene to appear again farther on. They were always busy as bees,
deeply absorbed in their little combats.
The youth tried to observe everything. He did not use care to avoid
trees and branches, and his forgotten feet were constantly knocking
against stones or getting entangled in briers. He was aware that these
battalions with their commotions were woven red and startling into the
gentle fabric of softened greens and browns. It looked to be a wrong
place for a battle field.
The skirmishers in advance fascinated him. Their shots into thickets
and at distant and prominent trees spoke to him of tragedies--hidden,
Once the line encountered the body of a dead soldier. He lay upon his
back staring at the sky. He was dressed in an awkward suit of
yellowish brown. The youth could see that the soles of his shoes had
been worn to the thinness of writing paper, and from a great rent in
one the dead foot projected piteously. And it was as if fate had
betrayed the soldier. In death it exposed to his enemies that poverty
which in life he had perhaps concealed from his friends.
The ranks opened covertly to avoid the corpse. The invulnerable dead
man forced a way for himself. The youth looked keenly at the ashen
face. The wind raised the tawny beard. It moved as if a hand were
stroking it. He vaguely desired to walk around and around the body and
stare; the impulse of the living to try to read in dead eyes the answer
to the Question.
During the march the ardor which the youth had acquired when out of
view of the field rapidly faded to nothing. His curiosity was quite
easily satisfied. If an intense scene had caught him with its wild
swing as he came to the top of the bank, he might have gone gone
roaring on. This advance upon Nature was too calm. He had opportunity
to reflect. He had time in which to wonder about himself and to
attempt to probe his sensations.
Absurd ideas took hold upon him. He thought that he did not relish the
landscape. It threatened him. A coldness swept over his back, and it
is true that his trousers felt to him that they were no fit for his
legs at all.
A house standing placidly in distant fields had to him an ominous look.
The shadows of the woods were formidable. He was certain that in this
vista there lurked fierce-eyed hosts. The swift thought came to him
that the generals did not know what they were about. It was all a
trap. Suddenly those close forests would bristle with rifle barrels.
Ironlike brigades would appear in the rear. They were all going to be
sacrificed. The generals were stupids. The enemy would presently
swallow the whole command. He glared about him, expecting to see the
stealthy approach of his death.
He thought that he must break from the ranks and harangue his comrades.
They must not all be killed like pigs; and he was sure it would come to
pass unless they were informed of these dangers. The generals were
idiots to send them marching into a regular pen. There was but one
pair of eyes in the corps. He would step forth and make a speech.
Shrill and passionate words came to his lips.
The line, broken into moving fragments by the ground, went calmly on
through fields and woods. The youth looked at the men nearest him, and
saw, for the most part, expressions of deep interest, as if they were
investigating something that had fascinated them. One or two stepped
with overvaliant airs as if they were already plunged into war. Others
walked as upon thin ice. The greater part of the untested men appeared
quiet and absorbed. They were going to look at war, the red
animal--war, the blood-swollen god. And they were deeply engrossed in
As he looked the youth gripped his outcry at his throat. He saw that
even if the men were tottering with fear they would laugh at his
warning. They would jeer him, and, if practicable, pelt him with
missiles. Admitting that he might be wrong, a frenzied declamation of
the kind would turn him into a worm.
He assumed, then, the demeanor of one who knows that he is doomed alone
to unwritten responsibilities. He lagged, with tragic glances at the
He was surprised presently by the young lieutenant of his company, who
began heartily to beat him with a sword, calling out in a loud and
insolent voice: "Come, young man, get up into ranks there. No
skulking 'll do here." He mended his pace with suitable haste. And he
hated the lieutenant, who had no appreciation of fine minds. He was a
After a time the brigade was halted in the cathedral light of a forest.
The busy skirmishers were still popping. Through the aisles of the
wood could be seen the floating smoke from their rifles. Sometimes it
went up in little balls, white and compact.
During this halt many men in the regiment began erecting tiny hills in
front of them. They used stones sticks, earth, and anything they
thought might turn a bullet. Some built comparatively large ones,
while others seems content with little ones.
This procedure caused a discussion among the men. Some wished to fight
like duelists, believing it to be correct to stand erect and be, from
their feet to their foreheads, a mark. They said they scorned the
devices of the cautious. But the others scoffed in reply, and pointed
to the veterans on the flanks who were digging at the ground like
terriers. In a short time there was quite a barricade along the
regimental fronts. Directly, however, they were ordered to withdraw
from that place.
This astounded the youth. He forgot his stewing over the advance
movement. "Well, then, what did they march us out here for?" he
demanded of the tall soldier. The latter with calm faith began a heavy
explanation, although he had been compelled to leave a little
protection of stones and dirt to which he had devoted much care and
When the regiment was aligned in another position each man's regard for
his safety caused another line of small intrenchments. They ate their
noon meal behind a third one. They were moved from this one also.
They were marched from place to place with apparent aimlessness.
The youth had been taught that a man became another thing in battle.
He saw his salvation in such a change. Hence this waiting was an
ordeal to him. He was in a fever of impatience. He considered that
there was denoted a lack of purpose on the part of the generals. He
began to complain to the tall soldier. "I can't stand this much
longer," he cried. "I don't see what good it does to make us wear out
our legs for nothin'." He wished to return to camp, knowing that this
affair was a blue demonstration; or else to go into a battle and
discover that he had been a fool in his doubts, and was, in truth, a
man of traditional courage. The strain of present circumstances he
felt to be intolerable.
The philosophical tall soldier measured a sandwich of cracker and pork
and swallowed it in a nonchalant manner. "Oh, I suppose we must go
reconnoitering around the country jest to keep 'em from getting too
close, or to develop 'em, or something."
"Huh!" said the loud soldier.
"Well," cried the youth, still fidgeting, "I'd rather do anything 'most
than go tramping 'round the country all day doing no good to nobody and
jest tiring ourselves out."
"So would I," said the loud soldier. "It ain't right. I tell you if
anybody with any sense was a-runnin' this army it--"
"Oh, shut up!" roared the tall private. "You little fool. You little
damn' cuss. You ain't had that there coat and them pants on for six
months, and yet you talk as if--"
"Well, I wanta do some fighting anyway," interrupted the other. "I
didn't come here to walk. I could 'ave walked to home--'round an'
'round the barn, if I jest wanted to walk."
The tall one, red-faced, swallowed another sandwich as if taking poison
But gradually, as he chewed, his face became again quiet and contented.
He could not rage in fierce argument in the presence of such
sandwiches. During his meals he always wore an air of blissful
contemplation of the food he had swallowed. His spirit seemed then to
be communing with the viands.
He accepted new environment and circumstance with great coolness,
eating from his haversack at every opportunity. On the march he went
along with the stride of a hunter, objecting to neither gait nor
distance. And he had not raised his voice when he had been ordered
away from three little protective piles of earth and stone, each of
which had been an engineering feat worthy of being made sacred to the
name of his grandmother.
In the afternoon, the regiment went out over the same ground it had
taken in the morning. The landscape then ceased to threaten the youth.
He had been close to it and become familiar with it.
When, however, they began to pass into a new region, his old fears of
stupidity and incompetence reassailed him, but this time he doggedly
let them babble. He was occupied with his problem, and in his
desperation he concluded that the stupidity did not greatly matter.
Once he thought he had concluded that it would be better to get killed
directly and end his troubles. Regarding death thus out of the corner
of his eye, he conceived it to be nothing but rest, and he was filled
with a momentary astonishment that he should have made an extraordinary
commotion over the mere matter of getting killed. He would die; he
would go to some place where he would be understood. It was useless to
expect appreciation of his profound and fine sense from such men as the
lieutenant. He must look to the grave for comprehension.
The skirmish fire increased to a long clattering sound. With it was
mingled far-away cheering. A battery spoke.
Directly the youth could see the skirmishers running. They were
pursued by the sound of musketry fire. After a time the hot, dangerous
flashes of the rifles were visible. Smoke clouds went slowly and
insolently across the fields like observant phantoms. The din became
crescendo, like the roar of an oncoming train.
A brigade ahead of them and on the right went into action with a
rending roar. It was as if it had exploded. And thereafter it lay
stretched in the distance behind a long gray wall, that one was obliged
to look twice at to make sure that it was smoke.
The youth, forgetting his neat plan of getting killed, gazed spell
bound. His eyes grew wide and busy with the action of the scene. His
mouth was a little ways open.
Of a sudden he felt a heavy and sad hand laid upon his shoulder.
Awakening from his trance of observation he turned and beheld the loud
"It's my first and last battle, old boy," said the latter, with intense
gloom. He was quite pale and his girlish lip was trembling.
"Eh?" murmured the youth in great astonishment.
"It's my first and last battle, old boy," continued the loud soldier.
"Something tells me--"
"I'm a gone coon this first time and--and I w-want you to take these
here things--to--my--folks." He ended in a quavering sob of pity for
himself. He handed the youth a little packet done up in a yellow
"Why, what the devil--" began the youth again.
But the other gave him a glance as from the depths of a tomb, and
raised his limp hand in a prophetic manner and turned away.
The brigade was halted in the fringe of a grove. The men crouched
among the trees and pointed their restless guns out at the fields.
They tried to look beyond the smoke.
Out of this haze they could see running men. Some shouted information
and gestured as the hurried.
The men of the new regiment watched and listened eagerly, while their
tongues ran on in gossip of the battle. They mouthed rumors that had
flown like birds out of the unknown.
"They say Perry has been driven in with big loss."
"Yes, Carrott went t' th' hospital. He said he was sick. That smart
lieutenant is commanding 'G' Company. Th' boys say they won't be under
Carrott no more if they all have t' desert. They allus knew he was a--"
"Hannises' batt'ry is took."
"It ain't either. I saw Hannises' batt'ry off on th' left not more'n
fifteen minutes ago."
"Th' general, he ses he is goin' t' take th' hull command of th' 304th
when we go inteh action, an' then he ses we'll do sech fightin' as
never another one reg'ment done."
"They say we're catchin' it over on th' left. They say th' enemy driv'
our line inteh a devil of a swamp an' took Hannises' batt'ry."
"No sech thing. Hannises' batt'ry was 'long here 'bout a minute ago."
"That young Hasbrouck, he makes a good off'cer. He ain't afraid 'a
"I met one of th' 148th Maine boys an' he ses his brigade fit th' hull
rebel army fer four hours over on th' turnpike road an' killed about
five thousand of 'em. He ses one more sech fight as that an' th' war
'll be over."
"Bill wasn't scared either. No, sir! It wasn't that. Bill ain't
a-gittin' scared easy. He was jest mad, that's what he was. When that
feller trod on his hand, he up an' sed that he was willin' t' give his
hand t' his country, but he be dumbed if he was goin' t' have every
dumb bushwhacker in th' kentry walkin' 'round on it. So he went t' th'
hospital disregardless of th' fight. Three fingers was crunched. Th'
dern doctor wanted t' amputate 'm, an' Bill, he raised a heluva row, I
hear. He's a funny feller."
The din in front swelled to a tremendous chorus. The youth and his
fellows were frozen to silence. They could see a flag that tossed in
the smoke angrily. Near it were the blurred and agitated forms of
troops. There came a turbulent stream of men across the fields. A
battery changing position at a frantic gallop scattered the stragglers
right and left.
A shell screaming like a storm banshee went over the huddled heads of
the reserves. It landed in the grove, and exploding redly flung the
brown earth. There was a little shower of pine needles.
Bullets began to whistle among the branches and nip at the trees.
Twigs and leaves came sailing down. It was as if a thousand axes, wee
and invisible, were being wielded. Many of the men were constantly
dodging and ducking their heads.
The lieutenant of the youth's company was shot in the hand. He began
to swear so wondrously that a nervous laugh went along the regimental
line. The officer's profanity sounded conventional. It relieved the
tightened senses of the new men. It was as if he had hit his fingers
with a tack hammer at home.
He held the wounded member carefully away from his side so that the
blood would not drip upon his trousers.
The captain of the company, tucking his sword under his arm, produced a
handkerchief and began to bind with it the lieutenant's wound. And
they disputed as to how the binding should be done.
The battle flag in the distance jerked about madly. It seemed to be
struggling to free itself from an agony. The billowing smoke was
filled with horizontal flashes.
Men rushing swiftly emerged from it. They grew in numbers until it was
seen that the whole command was fleeing. The flag suddenly sank down
as if dying. Its motion as it fell was a gesture of despair.
Wild yells came from behind the walls of smoke. A sketch in gray and
red dissolved into a moblike body of men who galloped like wild horses.
The veteran regiments on the right and left of the 304th immediately
began to jeer. With the passionate song of the bullets and the banshee
shrieks of shells were mingled loud catcalls and bits of facetious
advice concerning places of safety.
But the new regiment was breathless with horror. "Gawd! Saunders's
got crushed!" whispered the man at the youth's elbow. They shrank back
and crouched as if compelled to await a flood.
The youth shot a swift glance along the blue ranks of the regiment.
The profiles were motionless, carven; and afterward he remembered that
the color sergeant was standing with his legs apart, as if he expected
to be pushed to the ground.
The following throng went whirling around the flank. Here and there
were officers carried along on the stream like exasperated chips. They
were striking about them with their swords and with their left fists,
punching every head they could reach. They cursed like highwaymen.
A mounted officer displayed the furious anger of a spoiled child. He
raged with his head, his arms, and his legs.
Another, the commander of the brigade, was galloping about bawling.
His hat was gone and his clothes were awry. He resembled a man who has
come from bed to go to a fire. The hoofs of his horse often threatened
the heads of the running men, but they scampered with singular fortune.
In this rush they were apparently all deaf and blind. They heeded not
the largest and longest of the oaths that were thrown at them from all
Frequently over this tumult could be heard the grim jokes of the
critical veterans; but the retreating men apparently were not even
conscious of the presence of an audience.
The battle reflection that shone for an instant in the faces on the mad
current made the youth feel that forceful hands from heaven would not
have been able to have held him in place if he could have got
intelligent control of his legs.
There was an appalling imprint upon these faces. The struggle in the
smoke had pictured an exaggeration of itself on the bleached cheeks and
in the eyes wild with one desire.
The sight of this stampede exerted a floodlike force that seemed able
to drag sticks and stones and men from the ground. They of the
reserves had to hold on. They grew pale and firm, and red and quaking.
The youth achieved one little thought in the midst of this chaos. The
composite monster which had caused the other troops to flee had not
then appeared. He resolved to get a view of it, and then, he thought
he might very likely run better than the best of them.
There were moments of waiting. The youth thought of the village street
at home before the arrival of the circus parade on a day in the spring.
He remembered how he had stood, a small, thrillful boy, prepared to
follow the dingy lady upon the white horse, or the band in its faded
chariot. He saw the yellow road, the lines of expectant people, and
the sober houses. He particularly remembered an old fellow who used to
sit upon a cracker box in front of the store and feign to despise such
exhibitions. A thousand details of color and form surged in his mind.
The old fellow upon the cracker box appeared in middle prominence.
Some one cried, "Here they come!"
There was rustling and muttering among the men. They displayed a
feverish desire to have every possible cartridge ready to their hands.
The boxes were pulled around into various positions, and adjusted with
great care. It was as if seven hundred new bonnets were being tried on.
The tall soldier, having prepared his rifle, produced a red
handkerchief of some kind. He was engaged in knotting it about his
throat with exquisite attention to its position, when the cry was
repeated up and down the line in a muffled roar of sound.
"Here they come! Here they come!" Gun locks clicked.
Across the smoke-infested fields came a brown swarm of running men who
were giving shrill yells. They came on, stooping and swinging their
rifles at all angles. A flag, tilted forward, sped near the front.
As he caught sight of them the youth was momentarily startled by a
thought that perhaps his gun was not loaded. He stood trying to rally
his faltering intellect so that he might recollect the moment when he
had loaded, but he could not.
A hatless general pulled his dripping horse to a stand near the colonel
of the 304th. He shook his fist in the other's face. "You've got to
hold 'em back!" he shouted, savagely; "you've got to hold 'em back!"
In his agitation the colonel began to stammer. "A-all r-right,
General, all right, by Gawd! We-we 'll do our--we-we 'll d-d-do-do our
best, General." The general made a passionate gesture and galloped
away. The colonel, perchance to relieve his feelings, began to scold
like a wet parrot. The youth, turning swiftly to make sure that the
rear was unmolested, saw the commander regarding his men in a highly
resentful manner, as if he regretted above everything his association
The man at the youth's elbow was mumbling, as if to himself: "Oh, we
're in for it now! oh, we 're in for it now!"
The captain of the company had been pacing excitedly to and fro in the
rear. He coaxed in schoolmistress fashion, as to a congregation of
boys with primers. His talk was an endless repetition. "Reserve your
fire, boys--don't shoot till I tell you--save your fire--wait till they
get close up--don't be damned fools--"
Perspiration streamed down the youth's face, which was soiled like that
of a weeping urchin. He frequently, with a nervous movement, wiped his
eyes with his coat sleeve. His mouth was still a little ways ope.
He got the one glance at the foe-swarming field in front of him, and
instantly ceased to debate the question of his piece being loaded.
Before he was ready to begin--before he had announced to himself that
he was about to fight--he threw the obedient well-balanced rifle into
position and fired a first wild shot. Directly he was working at his
weapon like an automatic affair.
He suddenly lost concern for himself, and forgot to look at a menacing
fate. He became not a man but a member. He felt that something of
which he was a part--a regiment, an army, a cause, or a country--was in
crisis. He was welded into a common personality which was dominated by
a single desire. For some moments he could not flee no more than a
little finger can commit a revolution from a hand.
If he had thought the regiment was about to be annihilated perhaps he
could have amputated himself from it. But its noise gave him
assurance. The regiment was like a firework that, once ignited,
proceeds superior to circumstances until its blazing vitality fades.
It wheezed and banged with a mighty power. He pictured the ground
before it as strewn with the discomfited.
There was a consciousness always of the presence of his comrades about
him. He felt the subtle battle brotherhood more potent even than the
cause for which they were fighting. It was a mysterious fraternity
born of the smoke and danger of death.
He was at a task. He was like a carpenter who has made many boxes,
making still another box, only there was furious haste in his
movements. He, in his thoughts, was careering off in other places,
even as the carpenter who as he works whistles and thinks of his friend
or his enemy, his home or a saloon. And these jolted dreams were never
perfect to him afterward, but remained a mass of blurred shapes.
Presently he began to feel the effects of the war atmosphere--a
blistering sweat, a sensation that his eyeballs were about to crack
like hot stones. A burning roar filled his ears.
Following this came a red rage. He developed the acute exasperation of
a pestered animal, a well-meaning cow worried by dogs. He had a mad
feeling against his rifle, which could only be used against one life at
a time. He wished to rush forward and strangle with his fingers. He
craved a power that would enable him to make a world-sweeping gesture
and brush all back. His impotency appeared to him, and made his rage
into that of a driven beast.
Buried in the smoke of many rifles his anger was directed not so much
against the men whom he knew were rushing toward him as against the
swirling battle phantoms which were choking him, stuffing their smoke
robes down his parched throat. He fought frantically for respite for
his senses, for air, as a babe being smothered attacks the deadly
There was a blare of heated rage mingled with a certain expression of
intentness on all faces. Many of the men were making low-toned noises
with their mouths, and these subdued cheers, snarls, imprecations,
prayers, made a wild, barbaric song that went as an undercurrent of
sound, strange and chantlike with the resounding chords of the war
march. The man at the youth's elbow was babbling. In it there was
something soft and tender like the monologue of a babe. The tall
soldier was swearing in a loud voice. From his lips came a black
procession of curious oaths. Of a sudden another broke out in a
querulous way like a man who has mislaid his hat. "Well, why don't they
support us? Why don't they send supports? Do they think--"
The youth in his battle sleep heard this as one who dozes hears.
There was a singular absence of heroic poses. The men bending and
surging in their haste and rage were in every impossible attitude. The
steel ramrods clanked and clanged with incessant din as the men pounded
them furiously into the hot rifle barrels. The flaps of the cartridge
boxes were all unfastened, and bobbed idiotically with each movement.
The rifles, once loaded, were jerked to the shoulder and fired without
apparent aim into the smoke or at one of the blurred and shifting forms
which upon the field before the regiment had been growing larger and
larger like puppets under a magician's hand.
The officers, at their intervals, rearward, neglected to stand in
picturesque attitudes. They were bobbing to and fro roaring directions
and encouragements. The dimensions of their howls were extraordinary.
They expended their lungs with prodigal wills. And often they nearly
stood upon their heads in their anxiety to observe the enemy on the
other side of the tumbling smoke.
The lieutenant of the youth's company had encountered a soldier who had
fled screaming at the first volley of his comrades. Behind the lines
these two were acting a little isolated scene. The man was blubbering
and staring with sheeplike eyes at the lieutenant, who had seized him
by the collar and was pommeling him. He drove him back into the ranks
with many blows. The soldier went mechanically, dully, with his
animal-like eyes upon the officer. Perhaps there was to him a divinity
expressed in the voice of the other--stern, hard, with no reflection of
fear in it. He tried to reload his gun, but his shaking hands
prevented. The lieutenant was obliged to assist him.
The men dropped here and there like bundles. The captain of the
youth's company had been killed in an early part of the action. His
body lay stretched out in the position of a tired man resting, but upon
his face there was an astonished and sorrowful look, as if he thought
some friend had done him an ill turn. The babbling man was grazed by a
shot that made the blood stream widely down his face. He clapped both
hand to his head. "Oh!" he said, and ran. Another grunted suddenly as
if he had been struck by a club in the stomach. He sat down and gazed
ruefully. In his eyes there was mute, indefinite reproach. Farther up
the line a man, standing behind a tree, had had his knee joint
splintered by a ball. Immediately he had dropped his rifle and gripped
the tree with both arms. And there he remained, clinging desperately
and crying for assistance that he might withdraw his hold upon the tree.
At last an exultant yell went along the quivering line. The firing
dwindled from an uproar to a last vindictive popping. As the smoke
slowly eddied away, the youth saw that the charge had been repulsed.
The enemy were scattered into reluctant groups. He saw a man climb to
the top of the fence, straddle the rail, and fire a parting shot. The
waves had receded, leaving bits of dark "debris" upon the ground.
Some in the regiment began to whoop frenziedly. Many were silent.
Apparently they were trying to contemplate themselves.
After the fever had left his veins, the youth thought that at last he
was going to suffocate. He became aware of the foul atmosphere in
which he had been struggling. He was grimy and dripping like a laborer
in a foundry. He grasped his canteen and took a long swallow of the
A sentence with variations went up and down the line. "Well, we 've
helt 'em back. We 've helt 'em back; derned if we haven't." The men
said it blissfully, leering at each other with dirty smiles.
The youth turned to look behind him and off to the right and off to the
left. He experienced the joy of a man who at last finds leisure in
which to look about him.
Under foot there were a few ghastly forms motionless. They lay twisted
in fantastic contortions. Arms were bent and heads were turned in
incredible ways. It seemed that the dead men must have fallen from
some great height to get into such positions. They looked to be dumped
out upon the ground from the sky.
From a position in the rear of the grove a battery was throwing shells
over it. The flash of the guns startled the youth at first. He
thought they were aimed directly at him. Through the trees he watched
the black figures of the gunners as they worked swiftly and intently.
Their labor seemed a complicated thing. He wondered how they could
remember its formula in the midst of confusion.
The guns squatted in a row like savage chiefs. They argued with abrupt
violence. It was a grim pow-wow. Their busy servants ran hither and
A small procession of wounded men were going drearily toward the rear.
It was a flow of blood from the torn body of the brigade.
To the right and to the left were the dark lines of other troops. Far
in front he thought he could see lighter masses protruding in points
from the forest. They were suggestive of unnumbered thousands.
Once he saw a tiny battery go dashing along the line of the horizon.
The tiny riders were beating the tiny horses.
From a sloping hill came the sound of cheerings and clashes. Smoke
welled slowly through the leaves.
Batteries were speaking with thunderous oratorical effort. Here and
there were flags, the red in the stripes dominating. They splashed
bits of warm color upon the dark lines of troops.
The youth felt the old thrill at the sight of the emblems. They were
like beautiful birds strangely undaunted in a storm.
As he listened to the din from the hillside, to a deep pulsating
thunder that came from afar to the left, and to the lesser clamors
which came from many directions, it occurred to him that they were
fighting, too, over there, and over there, and over there. Heretofore
he had supposed that all the battle was directly under his nose.
As he gazed around him the youth felt a flash of astonishment at the
blue, pure sky and the sun gleamings on the trees and fields. It was
surprising that Nature had gone tranquilly on with her golden process
in the midst of so much devilment.
The youth awakened slowly. He came gradually back to a position from
which he could regard himself. For moments he had been scrutinizing
his person in a dazed way as if he had never before seen himself. Then
he picked up his cap from the ground. He wriggled in his jacket to
make a more comfortable fit, and kneeling relaced his shoe. He
thoughtfully mopped his reeking features.
So it was all over at last! The supreme trial had been passed. The
red, formidable difficulties of war had been vanquished.
He went into an ecstasy of self-satisfaction. He had the most
delightful sensations of his life. Standing as if apart from himself,
he viewed that last scene. He perceived that the man who had fought
thus was magnificent.
He felt that he was a fine fellow. He saw himself even with those
ideals which he had considered as far beyond him. He smiled in deep
Upon his fellows he beamed tenderness and good will. "Gee! ain't it
hot, hey?" he said affably to a man who was polishing his streaming
face with his coat sleeves.
"You bet!" said the other, grinning sociably. "I never seen sech dumb
hotness." He sprawled out luxuriously on the ground. "Gee, yes! An'
I hope we don't have no more fightin' till a week from Monday."
There were some handshakings and deep speeches with men whose features
were familiar, but with whom the youth now felt the bonds of tied
hearts. He helped a cursing comrade to bind up a wound of the shin.
But, of a sudden, cries of amazement broke out along the ranks of the
new regiment. "Here they come ag'in! Here they come ag'in!" The man
who had sprawled upon the ground started up and said, "Gosh!"
The youth turned quick eyes upon the field. He discerned forms begin
to swell in masses out of a distant wood. He again saw the tilted flag
The shells, which had ceased to trouble the regiment for a time, came
swirling again, and exploded in the grass or among the leaves of the
trees. They looked to be strange war flowers bursting into fierce
The men groaned. The luster faded from their eyes. Their smudged
countenances now expressed a profound dejection. They moved their
stiffened bodies slowly, and watched in sullen mood the frantic
approach of the enemy. The slaves toiling in the temple of this god
began to feel rebellion at his harsh tasks.
They fretted and complained each to each. "Oh, say, this is too much
of a good thing! Why can't somebody send us supports?"
"We ain't never goin' to stand this second banging. I didn't come here
to fight the hull damn' rebel army."
There was one who raised a doleful cry. "I wish Bill Smithers had trod
on my hand, insteader me treddin' on his'n." The sore joints of the
regiment creaked as it painfully floundered into position to repulse.
The youth stared. Surely, he thought, this impossible thing was not
about to happen. He waited as if he expected the enemy to suddenly
stop, apologize, and retire bowing. It was all a mistake.
But the firing began somewhere on the regimental line and ripped along
in both directions. The level sheets of flame developed great clouds
of smoke that tumbled and tossed in the mild wind near the ground for a
moment, and then rolled through the ranks as through a gate. The
clouds were tinged an earthlike yellow in the sunrays and in the shadow
were a sorry blue. The flag was sometimes eaten and lost in this mass
of vapor, but more often it projected, sun-touched, resplendent.
Into the youth's eyes there came a look that one can see in the orbs of
a jaded horse. His neck was quivering with nervous weakness and the
muscles of his arms felt numb and bloodless. His hands, too, seemed
large and awkward as if he was wearing invisible mittens. And there
was a great uncertainty about his knee joints.
The words that comrades had uttered previous to the firing began to
recur to him. "Oh, say, this is too much of a good thing! What do
they take us for--why don't they send supports? I didn't come here to
fight the hull damned rebel army."
He began to exaggerate the endurance, the skill, and the valor of those
who were coming. Himself reeling from exhaustion, he was astonished
beyond measure at such persistency. They must be machines of steel.
It was very gloomy struggling against such affairs, wound up perhaps to
fight until sundown.
He slowly lifted his rifle and catching a glimpse of the thickspread
field he blazed at a cantering cluster. He stopped then and began to
peer as best as he could through the smoke. He caught changing views
of the ground covered with men who were all running like pursued imps,
To the youth it was an onslaught of redoubtable dragons. He became
like the man who lost his legs at the approach of the red and green
monster. He waited in a sort of a horrified, listening attitude. He
seemed to shut his eyes and wait to be gobbled.
A man near him who up to this time had been working feverishly at his
rifle suddenly stopped and ran with howls. A lad whose face had borne
an expression of exalted courage, the majesty of he who dares give his
life, was, at an instant, smitten abject. He blanched like one who has
come to the edge of a cliff at midnight and is suddenly made aware.
There was a revelation. He, too, threw down his gun and fled. There
was no shame in his face. He ran like a rabbit.
Others began to scamper away through the smoke. The youth turned his
head, shaken from his trance by this movement as if the regiment was
leaving him behind. He saw the few fleeting forms.
He yelled then with fright and swung about. For a moment, in the great
clamor, he was like a proverbial chicken. He lost the direction of
safety. Destruction threatened him from all points.
Directly he began to speed toward the rear in great leaps. His rifle
and cap were gone. His unbuttoned coat bulged in the wind. The flap
of his cartridge box bobbed wildly, and his canteen, by its slender
cord, swung out behind. On his face was all the horror of those things
which he imagined.
The lieutenant sprang forward bawling. The youth saw his features
wrathfully red, and saw him make a dab with his sword. His one thought
of the incident was that the lieutenant was a peculiar creature to feel
interested in such matters upon this occasion.
He ran like a blind man. Two or three times he fell down. Once he
knocked his shoulder so heavily against a tree that he went headlong.
Since he had turned his back upon the fight his fears had been
wondrously magnified. Death about to thrust him between the shoulder
blades was far more dreadful than death about to smite him between the
eyes. When he thought of it later, he conceived the impression that it
is better to view the appalling than to be merely within hearing. The
noises of the battle were like stones; he believed himself liable to be
As he ran on he mingled with others. He dimly saw men on his right and
on his left, and he heard footsteps behind him. He thought that all
the regiment was fleeing, pursued by those ominous crashes.
In his flight the sound of these following footsteps gave him his one
meager relief. He felt vaguely that death must make a first choice of
the men who were nearest; the initial morsels for the dragons would be
then those who were following him. So he displayed the zeal of an
insane sprinter in his purpose to keep them in the rear. There was a
As he, leading, went across a little field, he found himself in a
region of shells. They hurtled over his head with long wild screams.
As he listened he imagined them to have rows of cruel teeth that
grinned at him. Once one lit before him and the livid lightning of the
explosion effectually barred the way in his chosen direction. He
groveled on the ground and then springing up went careering off through
He experienced a thrill of amazement when he came within view of a
battery in action. The men there seemed to be in conventional moods,
altogether unaware of the impending annihilation. The battery was
disputing with a distant antagonist and the gunners were wrapped in
admiration of their shooting. They were continually bending in coaxing
postures over the guns. They seemed to be patting them on the back and
encouraging them with words. The guns, stolid and undaunted, spoke
with dogged valor.
The precise gunners were coolly enthusiastic. They lifted their eyes
every chance to the smoke-wreathed hillock from whence the hostile
battery addressed them. The youth pitied them as he ran. Methodical
idiots! Machine-like fools! The refined joy of planting shells in the
midst of the other battery's formation would appear a little thing when
the infantry came swooping out of the woods.
The face of a youthful rider, who was jerking his frantic horse with an
abandon of temper he might display in a placid barnyard, was impressed
deeply upon his mind. He knew that he looked upon a man who would
presently be dead.
Too, he felt a pity for the guns, standing, six good comrades, in a
He saw a brigade going to the relief of its pestered fellows. He
scrambled upon a wee hill and watched it sweeping finely, keeping
formation in difficult places. The blue of the line was crusted with
steel color, and the brilliant flags projected. Officers were shouting.
This sight also filled him with wonder. The brigade was hurrying
briskly to be gulped into the infernal mouths of the war god. What
manner of men were they, anyhow? Ah, it was some wondrous breed! Or
else they didn't comprehend--the fools.
A furious order caused commotion in the artillery. An officer on a
bounding horse made maniacal motions with his arms. The teams went
swinging up from the rear, the guns were whirled about, and the battery
scampered away. The cannon with their noses poked slantingly at the
ground grunted and grumbled like stout men, brave but with objections
The youth went on, moderating his pace since he had left the place of
Later he came upon a general of division seated upon a horse that
pricked its ears in an interested way at the battle. There was a great
gleaming of yellow and patent leather about the saddle and bridle. The
quiet man astride looked mouse-colored upon such a splendid charger.
A jingling staff was galloping hither and thither. Sometimes the
general was surrounded by horsemen and at other times he was quite
alone. He looked to be much harassed. He had the appearance of a
business man whose market is swinging up and down.
The youth went slinking around this spot. He went as near as he dared
trying to overhear words. Perhaps the general, unable to comprehend
chaos, might call upon him for information. And he could tell him. He
knew all concerning it. Of a surety the force was in a fix, and any
fool could see that if they did not retreat while they had
He felt that he would like to thrash the general, or at least approach
and tell him in plain words exactly what he thought him to be. It was
criminal to stay calmly in one spot and make no effort to stay
destruction. He loitered in a fever of eagerness for the division
commander to apply to him.
As he warily moved about, he heard the general call out irritably:
"Tompkins, go over an' see Taylor, an' tell him not t' be in such an
all-fired hurry; tell him t' halt his brigade in th' edge of th' woods;
tell him t' detach a reg'ment--say I think th' center 'll break if we
don't help it out some; tell him t' hurry up."
A slim youth on a fine chestnut horse caught these swift words from the
mouth of his superior. He made his horse bound into a gallop almost
from a walk in his haste to go upon his mission. There was a cloud of
A moment later the youth saw the general bounce excitedly in his saddle.
"Yes, by heavens, they have!" The officer leaned forward. His face
was aflame with excitement. "Yes, by heavens, they 've held 'im! They
've held 'im!"
He began to blithely roar at his staff: "We 'll wallop 'im now. We
'll wallop 'im now. We 've got 'em sure." He turned suddenly upon an
aide: "Here--you--Jons--quick--ride after Tompkins--see Taylor--tell
him t' go in--everlastingly--like blazes--anything."
As another officer sped his horse after the first messenger, the
general beamed upon the earth like a sun. In his eyes was a desire to
chant a paean. He kept repeating, "They 've held 'em, by heavens!"
His excitement made his horse plunge, and he merrily kicked and swore
at it. He held a little carnival of joy on horseback.
The youth cringed as if discovered in a crime. By heavens, they had
won after all! The imbecile line had remained and become victors. He
could hear cheering.
He lifted himself upon his toes and looked in the direction of the
fight. A yellow fog lay wallowing on the treetops. From beneath it
came the clatter of musketry. Hoarse cries told of an advance.
He turned away amazed and angry. He felt that he had been wronged.
He had fled, he told himself, because annihilation approached. He had
done a good part in saving himself, who was a little piece of the army.
He had considered the time, he said, to be one in which it was the duty
of every little piece to rescue itself if possible. Later the officers
could fit the little pieces together again, and make a battle front.
If none of the little pieces were wise enough to save themselves from
the flurry of death at such a time, why, then, where would be the army?
It was all plain that he had proceeded according to very correct and
commendable rules. His actions had been sagacious things. They had
been full of strategy. They were the work of a master's legs.
Thoughts of his comrades came to him. The brittle blue line had
withstood the blows and won. He grew bitter over it. It seemed that
the blind ignorance and stupidity of those little pieces had betrayed
him. He had been overturned and crushed by their lack of sense in
holding the position, when intelligent deliberation would have
convinced them that it was impossible. He, the enlightened man who
looks afar in the dark, had fled because of his superior perceptions
and knowledge. He felt a great anger against his comrades. He knew it
could be proved that they had been fools.
He wondered what they would remark when later he appeared in camp. His
mind heard howls of derision. Their density would not enable them to
understand his sharper point of view.
He began to pity himself acutely. He was ill used. He was trodden
beneath the feet of an iron injustice. He had proceeded with wisdom
and from the most righteous motives under heaven's blue only to be
frustrated by hateful circumstances.
A dull, animal-like rebellion against his fellows, war in the abstract,
and fate grew within him. He shambled along with bowed head, his brain
in a tumult of agony and despair. When he looked loweringly up,
quivering at each sound, his eyes had the expression of those of a
criminal who thinks his guilt little and his punishment great, and
knows that he can find no words.
He went from the fields into a thick woods, as if resolved to bury
himself. He wished to get out of hearing of the crackling shots which
were to him like voices.
The ground was cluttered with vines and bushes, and the trees grew
close and spread out like bouquets. He was obliged to force his way
with much noise. The creepers, catching against his legs, cried out
harshly as their sprays were torn from the barks of trees. The
swishing saplings tried to make known his presence to the world. He
could not conciliate the forest. As he made his way, it was always
calling out protestations. When he separated embraces of trees and
vines the disturbed foliages waved their arms and turned their face
leaves toward him. He dreaded lest these noisy motions and cries
should bring men to look at him. So he went far, seeking dark and
After a time the sound of musketry grew faint and the cannon boomed in
the distance. The sun, suddenly apparent, blazed among the trees. The
insects were making rhythmical noises. They seemed to be grinding
their teeth in unison. A woodpecker stuck his impudent head around the
side of a tree. A bird flew on lighthearted wing.
Off was the rumble of death. It seemed now that Nature had no ears.
This landscape gave him assurance. A fair field holding life. It was
the religion of peace. It would die if its timid eyes were compelled
to see blood. He conceived Nature to be a woman with a deep aversion
He threw a pine cone at a jovial squirrel, and he ran with chattering
fear. High in a treetop he stopped, and, poking his head cautiously
from behind a branch, looked down with an air of trepidation.
The youth felt triumphant at this exhibition. There was the law, he
said. Nature had given him a sign. The squirrel, immediately upon
recognizing danger, had taken to his legs without ado. He did not
stand stolidly baring his furry belly to the missile, and die with an
upward glance at the sympathetic heavens. On the contrary, he had fled
as fast as his legs could carry him; and he was but an ordinary
squirrel, too--doubtless no philosopher of his race. The youth wended,
feeling that Nature was of his mind. She re-enforced his argument with
proofs that lived where the sun shone.
Once he found himself almost into a swamp. He was obliged to walk upon
bog tufts and watch his feet to keep from the oily mire. Pausing at
one time to look about him he saw, out at some black water, a small
animal pounce in and emerge directly with a gleaming fish.
The youth went again into the deep thickets. The brushed branches made
a noise that drowned the sounds of cannon. He walked on, going from
obscurity into promises of a greater obscurity.
At length he reached a place where the high, arching boughs made a
chapel. He softly pushed the green doors aside and entered. Pine
needles were a gentle brown carpet. There was a religious half light.
Near the threshold he stopped, horror-stricken at the sight of a thing.
He was being looked at by a dead man who was seated with his back
against a columnlike tree. The corpse was dressed in a uniform that
had once been blue, but was now faded to a melancholy shade of green.
The eyes, staring at the youth, had changed to the dull hue to be seen
on the side of a dead fish. The mouth was open. Its red had changed
to an appalling yellow. Over the gray skin of the face ran little
ants. One was trundling some sort of bundle along the upper lip.
The youth gave a shriek as he confronted the thing. He was for moments
turned to stone before it. He remained staring into the liquid-looking
eyes. The dead man and the living man exchanged a long look. Then the
youth cautiously put one hand behind him and brought it against a tree.
Leaning upon this he retreated, step by step, with his face still
toward the thing. He feared that if he turned his back the body might
spring up and stealthily pursue him.
The branches, pushing against him, threatened to throw him over upon
it. His unguided feet, too, caught aggravatingly in brambles; and with
it all he received a subtle suggestion to touch the corpse. As he
thought of his hand upon it he shuddered profoundly.
At last he burst the bonds which had fastened him to the spot and fled,
unheeding the underbrush. He was pursued by the sight of black ants
swarming greedily upon the gray face and venturing horribly near to the
After a time he paused, and, breathless and panting, listened. He
imagined some strange voice would come from the dead throat and squawk
after him in horrible menaces.
The trees about the portal of the chapel moved soughingly in a soft
wind. A sad silence was upon the little guarding edifice.
The trees began softly to sing a hymn of twilight. The sun sank until
slanted bronze rays struck the forest. There was a lull in the noises
of insects as if they had bowed their beaks and were making a
devotional pause. There was silence save for the chanted chorus of the
Then, upon this stillness, there suddenly broke a tremendous clangor of
sounds. A crimson roar came from the distance.
The youth stopped. He was transfixed by this terrific medley of all
noises. It was as if worlds were being rended. There was the ripping
sound of musketry and the breaking crash of the artillery.
His mind flew in all directions. He conceived the two armies to be at
each other panther fashion. He listened for a time. Then he began to
run in the direction of the battle. He saw that it was an ironical
thing for him to be running thus toward that which he had been at such
pains to avoid. But he said, in substance, to himself that if the
earth and the moon were about to clash, many persons would doubtless
plan to get upon the roofs to witness the collision.
As he ran, he became aware that the forest had stopped its music, as if
at last becoming capable of hearing the foreign sounds. The trees
hushed and stood motionless. Everything seemed to be listening to the
crackle and clatter and earthshaking thunder. The chorus peaked over
the still earth.
It suddenly occurred to the youth that the fight in which he had been
was, after all, but perfunctory popping. In the hearing of this
present din he was doubtful if he had seen real battle scenes. This
uproar explained a celestial battle; it was tumbling hordes a-struggle
in the air.
Reflecting, he saw a sort of a humor in the point of view of himself
and his fellows during the late encounter. They had taken themselves
and the enemy very seriously and had imagined that they were deciding
the war. Individuals must have supposed that they were cutting the
letters of their names deep into everlasting tablets of brass, or
enshrining their reputations forever in the hearts of their countrymen,
while, as to fact, the affair would appear in printed reports under a
meek and immaterial title. But he saw that it was good, else, he said,
in battle every one would surely run save forlorn hopes and their ilk.
He went rapidly on. He wished to come to the edge of the forest that
he might peer out.
As he hastened, there passed through his mind pictures of stupendous
conflicts. His accumulated thought upon such subjects was used to form
scenes. The noise was as the voice of an eloquent being, describing.
Sometimes the brambles formed chains and tried to hold him back.
Trees, confronting him, stretched out their arms and forbade him to
pass. After its previous hostility this new resistance of the forest
filled him with a fine bitterness. It seemed that Nature could not be
quite ready to kill him.
But he obstinately took roundabout ways, and presently he was where he
could see long gray walls of vapor where lay battle lines. The voices
of cannon shook him. The musketry sounded in long irregular surges
that played havoc with his ears. He stood regardant for a moment. His
eyes had an awestruck expression. He gawked in the direction of th
Presently he proceeded again on his forward way. The battle was like
the grinding of an immense and terrible machine to him. Its
complexities and powers, its grim processes, fascinated him. He must
go close and see it produce corpses.
He came to a fence and clambered over it. On the far side, the ground
was littered with clothes and guns. A newspaper, folded up, lay in the
dirt. A dead soldier was stretched with his face hidden in his arm.
Farther off there was a group of four or five corpses keeping mournful
company. A hot sun had blazed upon this spot.
In this place the youth felt that he was an invader. This forgotten
part of the battle ground was owned by the dead men, and he hurried, in
the vague apprehension that one of the swollen forms would rise and
tell him to begone.
He came finally to a road from which he could see in the distance dark
and agitated bodies of troops, smoke-fringed. In the lane was a
blood-stained crowd streaming to the rear. The wounded men were
cursing, groaning, and wailing. In the air, always, was a mighty swell
of sound that it seemed could sway the earth. With the courageous
words of the artillery and the spiteful sentences of the musketry
mingled red cheers. And from this region of noises came the steady
current of the maimed.
One of the wounded men had a shoeful of blood. He hopped like a
schoolboy in a game. He was laughing hysterically.
One was swearing that he had been shot in the arm through the
commanding general's mismanagement of the army. One was marching with
an air imitative of some sublime drum major. Upon his features was an
unholy mixture of merriment and agony. As he marched he sang a bit of
doggerel in a high and quavering voice:
"Sing a song 'a vic'try,
A pocketful 'a bullets,
Five an' twenty dead men
Baked in a--pie."
Parts of the procession limped and staggered to this tune.
Another had the gray seal of death already upon his face. His lips
were curled in hard lines and his teeth were clinched. His hands were
bloody from where he had pressed them upon his wound. He seemed to be
awaiting the moment when he should pitch headlong. He stalked like the
specter of a soldier, his eyes burning with the power of a stare into
There were some who proceeded sullenly, full of anger at their wounds,
and ready to turn upon anything as an obscure cause.
An officer was carried along by two privates. He was peevish. "Don't
joggle so, Johnson, yeh fool," he cried. "Think m' leg is made of
iron? If yeh can't carry me decent, put me down an' let some one else
He bellowed at the tottering crowd who blocked the quick march of his
bearers. "Say, make way there, can't yeh? Make way, dickens take it
They sulkily parted and went to the roadsides. As he was carried past
they made pert remarks to him. When he raged in reply and threatened
them, they told him to be damned.
The shoulder of one of the tramping bearers knocked heavily against the
spectral soldier who was staring into the unknown.
The youth joined this crowd and marched along with it. The torn bodies
expressed the awful machinery in which the men had been entangled.
Orderlies and couriers occasionally broke through the throng in the
roadway, scattering wounded men right and left, galloping on followed
by howls. The melancholy march was continually disturbed by the
messengers, and sometimes by bustling batteries that came swinging and
thumping down upon them, the officers shouting orders to clear the way.
There was a tattered man, fouled with dust, blood and powder stain from
hair to shoes, who trudged quietly at the youth's side. He was
listening with eagerness and much humility to the lurid descriptions of
a bearded sergeant. His lean features wore an expression of awe and
admiration. He was like a listener in a country store to wondrous
tales told among the sugar barrels. He eyed the story-teller with
unspeakable wonder. His mouth was agape in yokel fashion.
The sergeant, taking note of this, gave pause to his elaborate history
while he administered a sardonic comment. "Be keerful, honey, you 'll
be a-ketchin' flies," he said.
The tattered man shrank back abashed.
After a time he began to sidle near to the youth, and in a diffident
way try to make him a friend. His voice was gentle as a girl's voice
and his eyes were pleading. The youth saw with surprise that the
soldier had two wounds, one in the head, bound with a blood-soaked rag,
and the other in the arm, making that member dangle like a broken bough.
After they had walked together for some time the tattered man mustered
sufficient courage to speak. "Was pretty good fight, wa'n't it?" he
timidly said. The youth, deep in thought, glanced up at the bloody and
grim figure with its lamblike eyes. "What?"
"Was pretty good fight, wa'n't it?"
"Yes," said the youth shortly. He quickened his pace.
But the other hobbled industriously after him. There was an air of
apology in his manner, but he evidently thought that he needed only to
talk for a time, and the youth would perceive that he was a good fellow.
"Was pretty good fight, wa'n't it?" he began in a small voice, and the
he achieved the fortitude to continue. "Dern me if I ever see fellers
fight so. Laws, how they did fight! I knowed th' boys 'd like it when
they onct got square at it. Th' boys ain't had no fair chanct up t'
now, but this time they showed what they was. I knowed it 'd turn out
this way. Yeh can't lick them boys. No, sir! They 're fighters, they
He breathed a deep breath of humble admiration. He had looked at the
youth for encouragement several times. He received none, but gradually
he seemed to get absorbed in his subject.
"I was talkin' 'cross pickets with a boy from Georgie, onct, an' that
boy, he ses, 'Your fellers 'll all run like hell when they onct hearn a
gun,' he ses. 'Mebbe they will,' I ses, 'but I don't b'lieve none of
it,' I ses; 'an' b'jiminey,' I ses back t' 'um, 'mebbe your fellers 'll
all run like hell when they onct hearn a gun,' I ses. He larfed.
Well, they didn't run t' day, did they, hey? No, sir! They fit, an'
fit, an' fit."
His homely face was suffused with a light of love for the army which
was to him all things beautiful and powerful.
After a time he turned to the youth. "Where yeh hit, ol' boy?" he
asked in a brotherly tone.
The youth felt instant panic at this question, although at first its
full import was not borne in upon him.
"What?" he asked.
"Where yeh hit?" repeated the tattered man.
"Why," began the youth, "I--I--that is--why--I--"
He turned away suddenly and slid through the crowd. His brow was
heavily flushed, and his fingers were picking nervously at one of his
buttons. He bent his head and fastened his eyes studiously upon the
button as if it were a little problem.
The tattered man looked after him in astonishment.
The youth fell back in the procession until the tattered soldier was
not in sight. Then he started to walk on with the others.
But he was amid wounds. The mob of men was bleeding. Because of the
tattered soldier's question he now felt that his shame could be viewed.
He was continually casting sidelong glances to see if the men were
contemplating the letters of guilt he felt burned into his brow.
At times he regarded the wounded soldiers in an envious way. He
conceived persons with torn bodies to be peculiarly happy. He wished
that he, too, had a wound, a red badge of courage.
The spectral soldier was at his side like a stalking reproach. The
man's eyes were still fixed in a stare into the unknown. His gray,
appalling face had attracted attention in the crowd, and men, slowing
to his dreary pace, were walking with him. They were discussing his
plight, questioning him and giving him advice. In a dogged way he
repelled them, signing to them to go on and leave him alone. The
shadows of his face were deepening and his tight lips seemed holding in
check the moan of great despair. There could be seen a certain
stiffness in the movements of his body, as if he were taking infinite
care not to arouse the passion of his wounds. As he went on, he seemed
always looking for a place, like one who goes to choose a grave.
Something in the gesture of the man as he waved the bloody and pitying
soldiers away made the youth start as if bitten. He yelled in horror.
Tottering forward he laid a quivering hand upon the man's arm. As the
latter slowly turned his waxlike features toward him the youth screamed:
"Gawd! Jim Conklin!"
The tall soldier made a little commonplace smile. "Hello, Henry," he
The youth swayed on his legs and glared strangely. He stuttered and
stammered. "Oh, Jim--oh, Jim--oh, Jim--"
The tall soldier held out his gory hand. There was a curious red and
black combination of new blood and old blood upon it. "Where yeh been,
Henry?" he asked. He continued in a monotonous voice, "I thought mebbe
yeh got keeled over. There 's been thunder t' pay t'-day. I was
worryin' about it a good deal."
The youth still lamented. "Oh, Jim--oh, Jim--oh, Jim--"
"Yeh know," said the tall soldier, "I was out there." He made a
careful gesture. "An', Lord, what a circus! An', b'jiminey, I got
shot--I got shot. Yes, b'jiminey, I got shot." He reiterated this
fact in a bewildered way, as if he did not know how it came about.
The youth put forth anxious arms to assist him, but the tall soldier
went firmly as if propelled. Since the youth's arrival as a guardian
for his friend, the other wounded men had ceased to display much
interest. They occupied themselves again in dragging their own
tragedies toward the rear.
Suddenly, as the two friends marched on, the tall soldier seemed to be
overcome by a tremor. His face turned to a semblance of gray paste.
He clutched the youth's arm and looked all about him, as if dreading to
be overheard. Then he began to speak in a shaking whisper:
"I tell yeh what I'm 'fraid of, Henry--I'll tell yeh what I'm 'fraid
of. I 'm 'fraid I 'll fall down--an' them yeh know--them damned
artillery wagons--they like as not 'll run over me. That 's what I 'm
The youth cried out to him hysterically: "I 'll take care of yeh, Jim!
I 'll take care of yeh! I swear t' Gawd I will!"
"Sure--will yeh, Henry?" the tall soldier beseeched.
"Yes--yes--I tell yeh--I'll take care of yeh, Jim!" protested the
youth. He could not speak accurately because of the gulpings in his
But the tall soldier continued to beg in a lowly way. He now hung
babelike to the youth's arm. His eyes rolled in the wildness of his
terror. "I was allus a good friend t' yeh, wa'n't I, Henry? I 've
allus been a pretty good feller, ain't I? An' it ain't much t' ask, is
it? Jest t' pull me along outer th' road? I'd do it fer you, wouldn't
He paused in piteous anxiety to await his friend's reply.
The youth had reached an anguish where the sobs scorched him. He
strove to express his loyalty, but he could only make fantastic
However, the tall soldier seemed suddenly to forget all those fears.
He became again the grim, stalking specter of a soldier. He went
stonily forward. The youth wished his friend to lean upon him, but the
other always shook his head and strangely protested.
"No--no--no--leave me be--leave me be--"
His look was fixed again upon the unknown. He moved with mysterious
purpose, and all of the youth's offers he brushed aside.
"No--no--leave me be--leave me be--"
The youth had to follow.
Presently the latter heard a voice talking softly near his shoulder.
Turning he saw that it belonged to the tattered soldier. "Ye'd better
take 'im outa th' road, pardner. There's a batt'ry comin' helitywhoop
down th' road an' he 'll git runned over. He 's a goner anyhow in
about five minutes--yeh kin see that. Ye 'd better take 'im outa th'
road. Where th' blazes does hi git his stren'th from?"
"Lord knows!" cried the youth. He was shaking his hands helplessly.
He ran forward presently and grasped the tall soldier by the arm.
"Jim! Jim!" he coaxed, "come with me."
The tall soldier weakly tried to wrench himself free. "Huh," he said
vacantly. He stared at the youth for a moment. At last he spoke as if
dimly comprehending. "Oh! Inteh th' fields? Oh!"
He started blindly through the grass.
The youth turned once to look at the lashing riders and jouncing guns
of the battery. He was startled from this view by a shrill outcry from
the tattered man.
"Gawd! He's runnin'!"
Turning his head swiftly, the youth saw his friend running in a
staggering and stumbling way toward a little clump of bushes. His
heart seemed to wrench itself almost free from his body at this sight.
He made a noise of pain. He and the tattered man began a pursuit.
There was a singular race.
When he overtook the tall soldier he began to plead with all the words
he could find. "Jim--Jim--what are you doing--what makes you do this
way--you'll hurt yerself."
The same purpose was in the tall soldier's face. He protested in a
dulled way, keeping his eyes fastened on the mystic place of his
intentions. "No--no--don't tech me--leave me be--leave me be--"
The youth, aghast and filled with wonder at the tall soldier, began
quaveringly to question him. "Where yeh goin', Jim? What you thinking
about? Where you going? Tell me, won't you, Jim?"
The tall soldier faced about as upon relentless pursuers. In his eyes
there was a great appeal. "Leave me be, can't yeh? Leave me be for a
The youth recoiled. "Why, Jim," he said, in a dazed way, "what 's the
matter with you?"
The tall soldier turned and, lurching dangerously, went on. The youth
and the tattered soldier followed, sneaking as if whipped, feeling
unable to face the stricken man if he should again confront them. They
began to have thoughts of a solemn ceremony. There was something
rite-like in these movements of the doomed soldier. And there was a
resemblance in him to a devotee of a mad religion, blood-sucking,
muscle-wrenching, bone-crushing. They were awed and afraid. They hung
back lest he have at command a dreadful weapon.
At last, they saw him stop and stand motionless. Hastening up, they
perceived that his face wore an expression telling that he had at last
found the place for which he had struggled. His spare figure was
erect; his bloody hands were quietly at his side. He was waiting with
patience for something that he had come to meet. He was at the
rendezvous. They paused and stood, expectant.
There was a silence.
Finally, the chest of the doomed soldier began to heave with a strained
motion. It increased in violence until it was as if an animal was
within and was kicking and tumbling furiously to be free.
This spectacle of gradual strangulation made the youth writhe, and once
as his friend rolled his eyes, he saw something in them that made him
sink wailing to the ground. He raised his voice in a last supreme call.
The tall soldier opened his lips and spoke. He made a gesture. "Leave
me be--don't tech me--leave me be--"
There was another silence while he waited.
Suddenly his form stiffened and straightened. Then it was shaken by a
prolonged ague. He stared into space. To the two watchers there was a
curious and profound dignity in the firm lines of his awful face.
He was invaded by a creeping strangeness that slowly enveloped him.
For a moment the tremor of his legs caused him to dance a sort of
hideous hornpipe. His arms beat wildly about his head in expression of
His tall figure stretched itself to its full height. There was a
slight rending sound. Then it began to swing forward, slow and
straight, in the manner of a falling tree. A swift muscular contortion
made the left shoulder strike the ground first.
The body seemed to bounce a little way from the earth. "God!" said the
The youth had watched, spellbound, this ceremony at the place of
meeting. His face had been twisted into an expression of every agony
he had imagined for his friend.
He now sprang to his feet and, going closer, gazed upon the pastelike
face. The mouth was open and the teeth showed in a laugh.
As the flap of the blue jacket fell away from the body, he could see
that the side looked as if it had been chewed by wolves.
The youth turned, with sudden, livid rage, toward the battlefield. He
shook his fist. He seemed about to deliver a philippic.
The red sun was pasted in the sky like a wafer.
The tattered man stood musing.
"Well, he was a reg'lar jim-dandy fer nerve, wa'n't he," said he
finally in a little awestruck voice. "A reg'lar jim-dandy." He
thoughtfully poked one of the docile hands with his foot. "I wonner
where he got 'is stren'th from? I never seen a man do like that
before. It was a funny thing. Well, he was a reg'lar jim-dandy."
The youth desired to screech out his grief. He was stabbed, but his
tongue lay dead in the tomb of his mouth. He threw himself again upon
the ground and began to brood.
The tattered man stood musing.
"Look-a-here, pardner," he said, after a time. He regarded the corpse
as he spoke. "He 's up an' gone, ain't 'e, an' we might as well begin
t' look out fer ol' number one. This here thing is all over. He 's up
an' gone, ain't 'e? An' he 's all right here. Nobody won't bother
'im. An' I must say I ain't enjoying any great health m'self these
The youth, awakened by the tattered soldier's tone, looked quickly up.
He saw that he was swinging uncertainly on his legs and that his face
had turned to a shade of blue.
"Good Lord!" he cried, "you ain't goin' t'--not you, too."
The tattered man waved his hand. "Nary die," he said. "All I want is
some pea soup an' a good bed. Some pea soup," he repeated dreamfully.
The youth arose from the ground. "I wonder where he came from. I left
him over there." He pointed. "And now I find 'im here. And he was
coming from over there, too." He indicated a new direction. They both
turned toward the body as if to ask of it a question.
"Well," at length spoke the tattered man, "there ain't no use in our
stayin' here an' tryin' t' ask him anything."
The youth nodded an assent wearily. They both turned to gaze for a
moment at the corpse.
The youth murmured something.
"Well, he was a jim-dandy, wa'n't 'e?" said the tattered man as if in
They turned their backs upon it and started away. For a time they
stole softly, treading with their toes. It remained laughing there in
"I'm commencin' t' feel pretty bad," said the tattered man, suddenly
breaking one of his little silences. "I'm commencin' t' feel pretty
The youth groaned. "Oh Lord!" He wondered if he was to be the
tortured witness of another grim encounter.
But his companion waved his hand reassuringly. "Oh, I'm not goin' t'
die yit! There too much dependin' on me fer me t' die yit. No, sir!
Nary die! I CAN'T! Ye'd oughta see th' swad a' chil'ren I've got, an'
all like that."
The youth glancing at his companion could see by the shadow of a smile
that he was making some kind of fun.
As the plodded on the tattered soldier continued to talk. "Besides, if
I died, I wouldn't die th' way that feller did. That was th' funniest
thing. I'd jest flop down, I would. I never seen a feller die th' way
that feller did.
"Yeh know Tom Jamison, he lives next door t' me up home. He's a nice
feller, he is, an' we was allus good friends. Smart, too. Smart as a
steel trap. Well, when we was a-fightin' this atternoon,
all-of-a-sudden he begin t' rip up an' cuss an' beller at me. 'Yer
shot, yeh blamed infernal!'--he swear horrible--he ses t' me. I put up
m' hand t' m' head an' when I looked at m' fingers, I seen, sure
'nough, I was shot. I give a holler an' begin t' run, but b'fore I
could git away another one hit me in th' arm an' whirl' me clean
'round. I got skeared when they was all a-shootin' b'hind me an' I run
t' beat all, but I cotch it pretty bad. I've an idee I'd a been
fightin' yit, if t'was n't fer Tom Jamison."
Then he made a calm announcement: "There's two of 'em--little
ones--but they 're beginnin' t' have fun with me now. I don't b'lieve
I kin walk much furder."
They went slowly on in silence. "Yeh look pretty peek'ed yerself,"
said the tattered man at last. "I bet yeh 've got a worser one than
yeh think. Ye'd better take keer of yer hurt. It don't do t' let sech
things go. It might be inside mostly, an' them plays thunder. Where
is it located?" But he continued his harangue without waiting for a
reply. "I see a feller git hit plum in th' head when my reg'ment was
a-standin' at ease onct. An' everybody yelled to 'im: 'Hurt, John?
Are yeh hurt much?' 'No,' ses he. He looked kinder surprised, an' he
went on tellin' 'em how he felt. He sed he didn't feel nothin'. But,
by dad, th' first thing that feller knowed he was dead. Yes, he was
dead--stone dead. So, yeh wanta watch out. Yeh might have some queer
kind 'a hurt yerself. Yeh can't never tell. Where is your'n located?"
The youth had been wriggling since the introduction of this topic. He
now gave a cry of exasperation and made a furious motion with his hand.
"Oh, don't bother me!" he said. He was enraged against the tattered
man, and could have strangled him. His companions seemed ever to play
intolerable parts. They were ever upraising the ghost of shame on the
stick of their curiosity. He turned toward the tattered man as one at
bay. "Now, don't bother me," he repeated with desperate menace.
"Well, Lord knows I don't wanta bother anybody," said the other. There
was a little accent of despair in his voice as he replied, "Lord knows
I 've gota 'nough m' own t' tend to."
The youth, who had been holding a bitter debate with himself and
casting glances of hatred and contempt at the tattered man, here spoke
in a hard voice. "Good-by," he said.
The tattered man looked at him in gaping amazement. "Why--why,
pardner, where yeh goin'?" he asked unsteadily. The youth looking at
him, could see that he, too, like that other one, was beginning to act
dumb and animal-like. His thoughts seemed to be floundering about in
his head. "Now--now--look--a--here, you Tom Jamison--now--I won't have
this--this here won't do. Where--where yeh goin'?"
The youth pointed vaguely. "Over there," he replied.
"Well, now look--a--here--now," said the tattered man, rambling on in
idiot fashion. His head was hanging forward and his words were
slurred. "This thing won't do, now, Tom Jamison. It won't do. I know
yeh, yeh pig-headed devil. Yeh wanta go trompin' off with a bad hurt.
It ain't right--now--Tom Jamison--it ain't. Yeh wanta leave me take
keer of yeh, Tom Jamison. It ain't--right--it ain't--fer yeh t'
go--trompin' off--with a bad hurt--it ain't--ain't--ain't right--it
In reply the youth climbed a fence and started away. He could hear the
tattered man bleating plaintively.
Once he faced about angrily. "What?"
"Look--a--here, now, Tom Jamison--now--it ain't--"
The youth went on. Turning at a distance he saw the tattered man
wandering about helplessly in the field.
He now thought that he wished he was dead. He believed he envied those
men whose bodies lay strewn over the grass of the fields and on the
fallen leaves of the forest.
The simple questions of the tattered man had been knife thrusts to him.
They asserted a society that probes pitilessly at secrets until all is
apparent. His late companion's chance persistency made him feel that
he could not keep his crime concealed in his bosom. It was sure to be
brought plain by one of those arrows which cloud the air and are
constantly pricking, discovering, proclaiming those things which are
willed to be forever hidden. He admitted that he could not defend
himself against this agency. It was not within the power of vigilance.
He became aware that the furnace roar of the battle was growing louder.
Great blown clouds had floated to the still heights of air before him.
The noise, too, was approaching. The woods filtered men and the fields
As he rounded a hillock, he perceived that the roadway was now a crying
mass of wagons, teams, and men. From the heaving tangle issued
exhortations, commands, imprecations. Fear was sweeping it all along.
The cracking whips bit and horses plunged and tugged. The white-topped
wagons strained and stumbled in their exertions like fat sheep.
The youth felt comforted in a measure by this sight. They were all
retreating. Perhaps, then, he was not so bad after all. He seated
himself and watched the terror-stricken wagons. They fled like soft,
ungainly animals. All the roarers and lashers served to help him to
magnify the dangers and horrors of the engagement that he might try to
prove to himself that the thing with which men could charge him was in
truth a symmetrical act. There was an amount of pleasure to him in
watching the wild march of this vindication.
Presently the calm head of a forward-going column of infantry appeared
in the road. It came swiftly on. Avoiding the obstructions gave it
the sinuous movement of a serpent. The men at the head butted mules
with their musket stocks. They prodded teamsters indifferent to all
howls. The men forced their way through parts of the dense mass by
strength. The blunt head of the column pushed. The raving teamsters
swore many strange oaths.
The commands to make way had the ring of a great importance in them.
The men were going forward to the heart of the din. They were to
confront the eager rush of the enemy. They felt the pride of their
onward movement when the remainder of the army seemed trying to dribble
down this road. They tumbled teams about with a fine feeling that it
was no matter so long as their column got to the front in time. This
importance made their faces grave and stern. And the backs of the
officers were very rigid.
As the youth looked at them the black weight of his woe returned to
him. He felt that he was regarding a procession of chosen beings. The
separation was as great to him as if they had marched with weapons of
flame and banners of sunlight. He could never be like them. He could
have wept in his longings.
He searched about in his mind for an adequate malediction for the
indefinite cause, the thing upon which men turn the words of final
blame. It--whatever it was--was responsible for him, he said. There
lay the fault.
The haste of the column to reach the battle seemed to the forlorn young
man to be something much finer than stout fighting. Heroes, he
thought, could find excuses in that long seething lane. They could
retire with perfect self-respect and make excuses to the stars.
He wondered what those men had eaten that they could be in such haste
to force their way to grim chances of death. As he watched his envy
grew until he thought that he wished to change lives with one of them.
He would have liked to have used a tremendous force, he said, throw off
himself and become a better. Swift pictures of himself, apart, yet in
himself, came to him--a blue desperate figure leading lurid charges
with one knee forward and a broken blade high--a blue, determined
figure standing before a crimson and steel assault, getting calmly
killed on a high place before the eyes of all. He thought of the
magnificent pathos of his dead body.
These thoughts uplifted him. He felt the quiver of war desire. In his
ears, he heard the ring of victory. He knew the frenzy of a rapid
successful charge. The music of the trampling feet, the sharp voices,
the clanking arms of the column near him made him soar on the red wings
of war. For a few moments he was sublime.
He thought that he was about to start for the front. Indeed, he saw a
picture of himself, dust-stained, haggard, panting, flying to the front
at the proper moment to seize and throttle the dark, leering witch of
Then the difficulties of the thing began to drag at him. He hesitated,
balancing awkwardly on one foot.
He had no rifle; he could not fight with his hands, said he resentfully
to his plan. Well, rifles could be had for the picking. They were
Also, he continued, it would be a miracle if he found his regiment.
Well, he could fight with any regiment.
He started forward slowly. He stepped as if he expected to tread upon
some explosive thing. Doubts and he were struggling.
He would truly be a worm if any of his comrades should see him
returning thus, the marks of his flight upon him. There was a reply
that the intent fighters did not care for what happened rearward saving
that no hostile bayonets appeared there. In the battle-blur his face
would, in a way, be hidden, like the face of a cowled man.
But then he said that his tireless fate would bring forth, when the
strife lulled for a moment, a man to ask of him an explanation. In
imagination he felt the scrutiny of his companions as he painfully
labored through some lies.
Eventually, his courage expended itself upon these objections. The
debates drained him of his fire.
He was not cast down by this defeat of his plan, for, upon studying the
affair carefully, he could not but admit that the objections were very
Furthermore, various ailments had begun to cry out. In their presence
he could not persist in flying high with the wings of war; they
rendered it almost impossible for him to see himself in a heroic light.
He tumbled headlong.
He discovered that he had a scorching thirst. His face was so dry and
grimy that he thought he could feel his skin crackle. Each bone of his
body had an ache in it, and seemingly threatened to break with each
movement. His feet were like two sores. Also, his body was calling
for food. It was more powerful than a direct hunger. There was a
dull, weight-like feeling in his stomach, and, when he tried to walk,
his head swayed and he tottered. He could not see with distinctness.
Small patches of green mist floated before his vision.
While he had been tossed by many emotions, he had not been aware of
ailments. Now the beset him and made clamor. As he was at last
compelled to pay attention to them, his capacity for self-hate was
multiplied. In despair, he declared that he was not like those others.
He now conceded it to be impossible that he should ever become a hero.
He was a craven loon. Those pictures of glory were piteous things. He
groaned from his heart and went staggering off.
A certain mothlike quality within him kept him in the vicinity of the
battle. He had a great desire to see, and to get news. He wished to
know who was winning.
He told himself that, despite his unprecedented suffering, he had never
lost his greed for a victory, yet, he said, in a half-apologetic manner
to his conscience, he could not but know that a defeat for the army
this time might mean many favorable things for him. The blows of the
enemy would splinter regiments into fragments. Thus, many men of
courage, he considered, would be obliged to desert the colors and
scurry like chickens. He would appear as one of them. They would be
sullen brothers in distress, and he could then easily believe he had
not run any farther or faster than they. And if he himself could
believe in his virtuous perfection, he conceived that there would be
small trouble in convincing all others.
He said, as if in excuse for this hope, that previously the army had
encountered great defeats and in a few months had shaken off all blood
and tradition of them, emerging as bright and valiant as a new one;
thrusting out of sight the memory of disaster, and appearing with the
valor and confidence of unconquered legions. The shrilling voices of
the people at home would pipe dismally for a time, but various general
were usually compelled to listen to these ditties. He of course felt
no compunctions for proposing a general as a sacrifice. He could not
tell who the chosen for the barbs might be, so he could center no
direct sympathy upon him. The people were afar and he did not conceive
public opinion to be accurate at long range. It was quite probable
they would hit the wrong man who, after he had recovered from his
amazement would perhaps spend the rest of his days in writing replies
to the songs of his alleged failure. It would be very unfortunate, no
doubt, but in this case a general was of no consequence to the youth.
In a defeat there would be a roundabout vindication of himself. He
thought it would prove, in a manner, that he had fled early because of
his superior powers of perception. A serious prophet upon predicting a
flood should be the first man to climb a tree. This would demonstrate
that he was indeed a seer.
A moral vindication was regarded by the youth as a very important
thing. Without salve, he could not, he though, were the sore badge of
his dishonor through life. With his heart continually assuring him
that he was despicable, he could not exist without making it, through
his actions, apparent to all men.
If the army had gone gloriously on he would be lost. If the din meant
that now his army's flags were tilted forward he was a condemned
wretch. He would be compelled to doom himself to isolation. If the
men were advancing, their indifferent feet were trampling upon his
chances for a successful life.
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