Part 3 out of 4
we was sure 'a findin' our reg'ments t'-night. It 's
goin' t' be long huntin'. But I guess we kin
In the search which followed, the man of the
cheery voice seemed to the youth to possess a
wand of a magic kind. He threaded the mazes
of the tangled forest with a strange fortune. In
encounters with guards and patrols he displayed
the keenness of a detective and the valor of a
gamin. Obstacles fell before him and became of
assistance. The youth, with his chin still on his
breast, stood woodenly by while his companion
beat ways and means out of sullen things.
The forest seemed a vast hive of men buzzing
about in frantic circles, but the cheery man con-
ducted the youth without mistakes, until at last
he began to chuckle with glee and self-satisfaction.
"Ah, there yeh are! See that fire?"
The youth nodded stupidly.
"Well, there 's where your reg'ment is. An'
now, good-by, ol' boy, good luck t' yeh."
A warm and strong hand clasped the youth's
languid fingers for an instant, and then he heard
a cheerful and audacious whistling as the man
strode away. As he who had so befriended him
was thus passing out of his life, it suddenly oc-
curred to the youth that he had not once seen his
THE youth went slowly toward the fire in-
dicated by his departed friend. As he reeled, he
bethought him of the welcome his comrades
would give him. He had a conviction that he
would soon feel in his sore heart the barbed
missiles of ridicule. He had no strength to in-
vent a tale; he would be a soft target.
He made vague plans to go off into the deeper
darkness and hide, but they were all destroyed
by the voices of exhaustion and pain from his
body. His ailments, clamoring, forced him to
seek the place of food and rest, at whatever cost.
He swung unsteadily toward the fire. He
could see the forms of men throwing black
shadows in the red light, and as he went nearer
it became known to him in some way that the
ground was strewn with sleeping men.
Of a sudden he confronted a black and
monstrous figure. A rifle barrel caught some
glinting beams. "Halt! halt!" He was dis-
mayed for a moment, but he presently thought
that he recognized the nervous voice. As he
stood tottering before the rifle barrel, he called
out: "Why, hello, Wilson, you--you here?"
The rifle was lowered to a position of caution
and the loud soldier came slowly forward. He
peered into the youth's face. "That you,
"Yes, it's--it's me."
"Well, well, ol' boy," said the other, "by
ginger, I'm glad t' see yeh! I give yeh up
fer a goner. I thought yeh was dead sure
enough." There was husky emotion in his
The youth found that now he could barely
stand upon his feet. There was a sudden sinking
of his forces. He thought he must hasten to pro-
duce his tale to protect him from the missiles
already at the lips of his redoubtable comrades.
So, staggering before the loud soldier, he began:
"Yes, yes. I've--I've had an awful time. I've
been all over. Way over on th' right. Ter'ble
fightin' over there. I had an awful time. I got
separated from th' reg'ment. Over on th' right,
I got shot. In th' head. I never see sech
fightin'. Awful time. I don't see how I could 'a
got separated from th' reg'ment. I got shot,
His friend had stepped forward quickly.
"What? Got shot? Why didn't yeh say so
first? Poor ol' boy, we must--hol' on a minnit;
what am I doin'. I'll call Simpson."
Another figure at that moment loomed in the
gloom. They could see that it was the corporal.
"Who yeh talkin' to, Wilson?" he demanded.
His voice was anger-toned. "Who yeh talkin'
to? Yeh th' derndest sentinel--why--hello,
Henry, you here? Why, I thought you was
dead four hours ago! Great Jerusalem, they
keep turnin' up every ten minutes or so! We
thought we'd lost forty-two men by straight
count, but if they keep on a-comin' this way, we'll
git th' comp'ny all back by mornin' yit. Where
"Over on th' right. I got separated"--began
the youth with considerable glibness.
But his friend had interrupted hastily. "Yes,
an' he got shot in th' head an' he's in a fix, an' we
must see t' him right away." He rested his rifle
in the hollow of his left arm and his right around
the youth's shoulder.
"Gee, it must hurt like thunder!" he said.
The youth leaned heavily upon his friend.
"Yes, it hurts--hurts a good deal," he replied.
There was a faltering in his voice.
"Oh," said the corporal. He linked his arm
in the youth's and drew him forward. "Come
on, Henry. I'll take keer 'a yeh."
As they went on together the loud private
called out after them: "Put 'im t' sleep in my
blanket, Simpson. An'--hol' on a minnit--here's
my canteen. It's full 'a coffee. Look at his head
by th' fire an' see how it looks. Maybe it's a
pretty bad un. When I git relieved in a couple
'a minnits, I'll be over an' see t' him."
The youth's senses were so deadened that his
friend's voice sounded from afar and he could
scarcely feel the pressure of the corporal's arm.
He submitted passively to the latter's directing
strength. His head was in the old manner hang-
ing forward upon his breast. His knees wobbled.
The corporal led him into the glare of the
fire. "Now, Henry," he said, "let's have look at
yer ol' head."
The youth sat down obediently and the cor-
poral, laying aside his rifle, began to fumble in the
bushy hair of his comrade. He was obliged to
turn the other's head so that the full flush of the
fire light would beam upon it. He puckered his
mouth with a critical air. He drew back his lips
and whistled through his teeth when his fingers
came in contact with the splashed blood and the
"Ah, here we are!" he said. He awkwardly
made further investigations. "Jest as I thought,"
he added, presently. "Yeh've been grazed by a
ball. It's raised a queer lump jest as if some
feller had lammed yeh on th' head with a club.
It stopped a-bleedin' long time ago. Th' most
about it is that in th' mornin' yeh'll feel that a
number ten hat wouldn't fit yeh. An' your
head'll be all het up an' feel as dry as burnt pork.
An' yeh may git a lot 'a other sicknesses, too, by
mornin'. Yeh can't never tell. Still, I don't
much think so. It's jest a damn' good belt on th'
head, an' nothin' more. Now, you jest sit here
an' don't move, while I go rout out th' relief.
Then I'll send Wilson t' take keer 'a yeh."
The corporal went away. The youth re-
mained on the ground like a parcel. He stared
with a vacant look into the fire.
After a time he aroused, for some part, and
the things about him began to take form. He
saw that the ground in the deep shadows was
cluttered with men, sprawling in every con-
ceivable posture. Glancing narrowly into the
more distant darkness, he caught occasional
glimpses of visages that loomed pallid and
ghostly, lit with a phosphorescent glow. These
faces expressed in their lines the deep stupor of
the tired soldiers. They made them appear like
men drunk with wine. This bit of forest might
have appeared to an ethereal wanderer as a scene
of the result of some frightful debauch.
On the other side of the fire the youth
observed an officer asleep, seated bolt upright,
with his back against a tree. There was some-
thing perilous in his position. Badgered by
dreams, perhaps, he swayed with little bounces
and starts, like an old toddy-stricken grandfather
in a chimney corner. Dust and stains were upon
his face. His lower jaw hung down as if lacking
strength to assume its normal position. He was
the picture of an exhausted soldier after a feast of
He had evidently gone to sleep with his
sword in his arms. These two had slumbered in
an embrace, but the weapon had been allowed
in time to fall unheeded to the ground. The
brass-mounted hilt lay in contact with some parts
of the fire.
Within the gleam of rose and orange light
from the burning sticks were other soldiers,
snoring and heaving, or lying deathlike in
slumber. A few pairs of legs were stuck forth,
rigid and straight. The shoes displayed the mud
or dust of marches and bits of rounded trousers,
protruding from the blankets, showed rents and
tears from hurried pitchings through the dense
The fire crackled musically. From it swelled
light smoke. Overhead the foliage moved
softly. The leaves, with their faces turned
toward the blaze, were colored shifting hues of
silver, often edged with red. Far off to the right,
through a window in the forest could be seen a
handful of stars lying, like glittering pebbles, on
the black level of the night.
Occasionally, in this low-arched hall, a soldier
would arouse and turn his body to a new posi-
tion, the experience of his sleep having taught
him of uneven and objectionable places upon the
ground under him. Or, perhaps, he would lift
himself to a sitting posture, blink at the fire for
an unintelligent moment, throw a swift glance at
his prostrate companion, and then cuddle down
again with a grunt of sleepy content.
The youth sat in a forlorn heap until his
friend the loud young soldier came, swinging two
canteens by their light strings. "Well, now,
Henry, ol' boy," said the latter, "we'll have yeh
fixed up in jest about a minnit."
He had the bustling ways of an amateur
nurse. He fussed around the fire and stirred the
sticks to brilliant exertions. He made his patient
drink largely from the canteen that contained the
coffee. It was to the youth a delicious draught.
He tilted his head afar back and held the canteen
long to his lips. The cool mixture went caress-
ingly down his blistered throat. Having finished,
he sighed with comfortable delight.
The loud young soldier watched his comrade
with an air of satisfaction. He later produced
an extensive handkerchief from his pocket. He
folded it into a manner of bandage and soused
water from the other canteen upon the middle of
it. This crude arrangement he bound over the
youth's head, tying the ends in a queer knot at
the back of the neck.
"There," he said, moving off and surveying
his deed, "yeh look like th' devil, but I bet yeh
The youth contemplated his friend with grate-
ful eyes. Upon his aching and swelling head the
cold cloth was like a tender woman's hand.
"Yeh don't holler ner say nothin'," remarked
his friend approvingly. "I know I'm a black-
smith at takin' keer 'a sick folks, an' yeh never
squeaked. Yer a good un, Henry. Most 'a men
would a' been in th' hospital long ago. A shot in
th' head ain't foolin' business."
The youth made no reply, but began to fumble
with the buttons of his jacket.
"Well, come, now," continued his friend,
"come on. I must put yeh t' bed an' see that yeh
git a good night's rest."
The other got carefully erect, and the loud
young soldier led him among the sleeping forms
lying in groups and rows. Presently he stooped
and picked up his blankets. He spread the rubber
one upon the ground and placed the woolen one
about the youth's shoulders.
"There now," he said, "lie down an' git some
The youth, with his manner of doglike obe-
dience, got carefully down like a crone stoop-
ing. He stretched out with a murmur of relief
and comfort. The ground felt like the softest
But of a sudden he ejaculated: "Hol' on a
minnit! Where you goin' t' sleep?"
His friend waved his hand impatiently.
"Right down there by yeh."
"Well, but hol' on a minnit," continued the
youth. "What yeh goin' t' sleep in? I've got
The loud young soldier snarled: "Shet up
an' go on t' sleep. Don't be makin' a damn' fool
'a yerself," he said severely.
After the reproof the youth said no more.
An exquisite drowsiness had spread through him.
The warm comfort of the blanket enveloped him
and made a gentle languor. His head fell for-
ward on his crooked arm and his weighted lids
went softly down over his eyes. Hearing a
splatter of musketry from the distance, he
wondered indifferently if those men sometimes
slept. He gave a long sigh, snuggled down into
his blanket, and in a moment was like his com-
WHEN the youth awoke it seemed to him that
he had been asleep for a thousand years, and he
felt sure that he opened his eyes upon an unex-
pected world. Gray mists were slowly shifting
before the first efforts of the sun rays. An im-
pending splendor could be seen in the eastern
sky. An icy dew had chilled his face, and im-
mediately upon arousing he curled farther down
into his blanket. He stared for a while at the
leaves overhead, moving in a heraldic wind of
The distance was splintering and blaring with
the noise of fighting. There was in the sound
an expression of a deadly persistency, as if it had
not begun and was not to cease.
About him were the rows and groups of men
that he had dimly seen the previous night. They
were getting a last draught of sleep before the
awakening. The gaunt, careworn features and
dusty figures were made plain by this quaint
light at the dawning, but it dressed the skin of
the men in corpselike hues and made the tangled
limbs appear pulseless and dead. The youth
started up with a little cry when his eyes first
swept over this motionless mass of men, thick-
spread upon the ground, pallid, and in strange
postures. His disordered mind interpreted the
hall of the forest as a charnel place. He believed
for an instant that he was in the house of the
dead, and he did not dare to move lest these
corpses start up, squalling and squawking. In a
second, however, he achieved his proper mind.
He swore a complicated oath at himself. He
saw that this somber picture was not a fact of
the present, but a mere prophecy.
He heard then the noise of a fire crackling
briskly in the cold air, and, turning his head, he
saw his friend pottering busily about a small
blaze. A few other figures moved in the fog, and
he heard the hard cracking of axe blows.
Suddenly there was a hollow rumble of
drums. A distant bugle sang faintly. Similar
sounds, varying in strength, came from near and
far over the forest. The bugles called to each
other like brazen gamecocks. The near thunder
of the regimental drums rolled.
The body of men in the woods rustled. There
was a general uplifting of heads. A murmuring
of voices broke upon the air. In it there was
much bass of grumbling oaths. Strange gods
were addressed in condemnation of the early
hours necessary to correct war. An officer's
peremptory tenor rang out and quickened the
stiffened movement of the men. The tangled
limbs unraveled. The corpse-hued faces were
hidden behind fists that twisted slowly in the eye
The youth sat up and gave vent to an enormous
yawn. "Thunder!" he remarked petulantly.
He rubbed his eyes, and then putting up his hand
felt carefully of the bandage over his wound.
His friend, perceiving him to be awake, came
from the fire. "Well, Henry, ol' man, how do
yeh feel this mornin'?" he demanded.
The youth yawned again. Then he puckered
his mouth to a little pucker. His head, in truth,
felt precisely like a melon, and there was an un-
pleasant sensation at his stomach.
"Oh, Lord, I feel pretty bad," he said.
"Thunder!" exclaimed the other. "I hoped
ye'd feel all right this mornin'. Let's see th'
bandage--I guess it's slipped." He began to
tinker at the wound in rather a clumsy way until
the youth exploded.
"Gosh-dern it!" he said in sharp irritation;
"you're the hangdest man I ever saw! You
wear muffs on your hands. Why in good
thunderation can't you be more easy? I'd rather
you'd stand off an' throw guns at it. Now, go
slow, an' don't act as if you was nailing down
He glared with insolent command at his
friend, but the latter answered soothingly.
"Well, well, come now, an' git some grub," he
said. "Then, maybe, yeh'll feel better."
At the fireside the loud young soldier
watched over his comrade's wants with tender-
ness and care. He was very busy marshaling
the little black vagabonds of tin cups and pour-
ing into them the streaming, iron colored mixture
from a small and sooty tin pail. He had some
fresh meat, which he roasted hurriedly upon a
stick. He sat down then and contemplated the
youth's appetite with glee.
The youth took note of a remarkable change
in his comrade since those days of camp life upon
the river bank. He seemed no more to be con-
tinually regarding the proportions of his personal
prowess. He was not furious at small words that
pricked his conceits. He was no more a loud
young soldier. There was about him now a
fine reliance. He showed a quiet belief in
his purposes and his abilities. And this in-
ward confidence evidently enabled him to be
indifferent to little words of other men aimed
The youth reflected. He had been used to
regarding his comrade as a blatant child with an
audacity grown from his inexperience, thought-
less, headstrong, jealous, and filled with a tinsel
courage. A swaggering babe accustomed to strut
in his own dooryard. The youth wondered
where had been born these new eyes; when his
comrade had made the great discovery that
there were many men who would refuse to be
subjected by him. Apparently, the other had
now climbed a peak of wisdom from which he
could perceive himself as a very wee thing. And
the youth saw that ever after it would be easier
to live in his friend's neighborhood.
His comrade balanced his ebony coffee-cup on
his knee. "Well, Henry," he said, "what d'yeh
think th' chances are? D'yeh think we'll wal-
The youth considered for a moment. "Day-
b'fore-yesterday," he finally replied, with boldness,
"you would 'a' bet you'd lick the hull kit-an'-
boodle all by yourself."
His friend looked a trifle amazed. "Would
I?" he asked. He pondered. "Well, perhaps I
would," he decided at last. He stared humbly at
The youth was quite disconcerted at this sur-
prising reception of his remarks. "Oh, no, you
wouldn't either," he said, hastily trying to re-
But the other made a deprecating gesture.
"Oh, yeh needn't mind, Henry," he said. "I be-
lieve I was a pretty big fool in those days." He
spoke as after a lapse of years.
There was a little pause.
"All th' officers say we've got th' rebs in
a pretty tight box," said the friend, clearing
his throat in a commonplace way. "They all
seem t' think we've got 'em jest where we
"I don't know about that," the youth replied.
"What I seen over on th' right makes me think
it was th' other way about. From where I was,
it looked as if we was gettin' a good poundin'
"D'yeh think so?" inquired the friend. "I
thought we handled 'em pretty rough yestir-
"Not a bit," said the youth. "Why, lord,
man, you didn't see nothing of the fight. Why!"
Then a sudden thought came to him. "Oh!
Jim Conklin's dead."
His friend started. "What? Is he? Jim
The youth spoke slowly. "Yes. He's dead.
Shot in th' side."
"Yeh don't say so. Jim Conklin. . . . poor
All about them were other small fires sur-
rounded by men with their little black utensils.
From one of these near came sudden sharp
voices in a row. It appeared that two light-
footed soldiers had been teasing a huge, bearded
man, causing him to spill coffee upon his blue
knees. The man had gone into a rage and had
sworn comprehensively. Stung by his language,
his tormentors had immediately bristled at him
with a great show of resenting unjust oaths.
Possibly there was going to be a fight.
The friend arose and went over to them, mak-
ing pacific motions with his arms. "Oh, here,
now, boys, what's th' use?" he said. "We'll
be at th' rebs in less'n an hour. What's th'
good fightin' 'mong ourselves?"
One of the light-footed soldiers turned upon
him red-faced and violent. "Yeh needn't come
around here with yer preachin'. I s'pose yeh
don't approve 'a fightin' since Charley Morgan
licked yeh; but I don't see what business this
here is 'a yours or anybody else."
"Well, it ain't," said the friend mildly. "Still
I hate t' see--"
There was a tangled argument.
"Well, he--," said the two, indicating their
opponent with accusative forefingers.
The huge soldier was quite purple with rage.
He pointed at the two soldiers with his great
hand, extended clawlike. "Well, they--"
But during this argumentative time the de-
sire to deal blows seemed to pass, although they
said much to each other. Finally the friend re-
turned to his old seat. In a short while the
three antagonists could be seen together in an
"Jimmie Rogers ses I'll have t' fight him
after th' battle t'-day," announced the friend as
he again seated himself. "He ses he don't
allow no interferin' in his business. I hate t' see
th' boys fightin' 'mong themselves."
The youth laughed. "Yer changed a good
bit. Yeh ain't at all like yeh was. I remember
when you an' that Irish feller--" He stopped
and laughed again.
"No, I didn't use t' be that way," said his
friend thoughtfully. "That's true 'nough."
"Well, I didn't mean--" began the youth.
The friend made another deprecatory gesture.
"Oh, yeh needn't mind, Henry."
There was another little pause.
"Th' reg'ment lost over half th' men yestir-
day," remarked the friend eventually. "I thought
a course they was all dead, but, laws, they kep'
a-comin' back last night until it seems, after all,
we didn't lose but a few. They'd been scattered
all over, wanderin' around in th' woods, fightin'
with other reg'ments, an' everything. Jest like
"So?" said the youth.
THE regiment was standing at order arms at
the side of a lane, waiting for the command to
march, when suddenly the youth remembered
the little packet enwrapped in a faded yellow
envelope which the loud young soldier with lugu-
brious words had intrusted to him. It made him
start. He uttered an exclamation and turned
toward his comrade.
His friend, at his side in the ranks, was thought-
fully staring down the road. From some cause
his expression was at that moment very meek.
The youth, regarding him with sidelong glances,
felt impelled to change his purpose. "Oh, noth-
ing," he said.
His friend turned his head in some surprise,
"Why, what was yeh goin' t' say?"
"Oh, nothing," repeated the youth.
He resolved not to deal the little blow. It
was sufficient that the fact made him glad. It
was not necessary to knock his friend on the head
with the misguided packet.
He had been possessed of much fear of his
friend, for he saw how easily questionings could
make holes in his feelings. Lately, he had as-
sured himself that the altered comrade would not
tantalize him with a persistent curiosity, but he
felt certain that during the first period of leisure
his friend would ask him to relate his adventures
of the previous day.
He now rejoiced in the possession of a small
weapon with which he could prostrate his com-
rade at the first signs of a cross-examination. He
was master. It would now be he who could
laugh and shoot the shafts of derision.
The friend had, in a weak hour, spoken with
sobs of his own death. He had delivered a mel-
ancholy oration previous to his funeral, and had
doubtless in the packet of letters, presented vari-
ous keepsakes to relatives. But he had not died,
and thus he had delivered himself into the hands
of the youth.
The latter felt immensely superior to his
friend, but he inclined to condescension. He
adopted toward him an air of patronizing good
His self-pride was now entirely restored. In
the shade of its flourishing growth he stood with
braced and self-confident legs, and since nothing
could now be discovered he did not shrink from
an encounter with the eyes of judges, and allowed
no thoughts of his own to keep him from an
attitude of manfulness. He had performed his
mistakes in the dark, so he was still a man.
Indeed, when he remembered his fortunes of
yesterday, and looked at them from a distance he
began to see something fine there. He had
license to be pompous and veteranlike.
His panting agonies of the past he put out of
In the present, he declared to himself that it
was only the doomed and the damned who roared
with sincerity at circumstance. Few but they
ever did it. A man with a full stomach and the
respect of his fellows had no business to scold
about anything that he might think to be wrong
in the ways of the universe, or even with the
ways of society. Let the unfortunates rail; the
others may play marbles.
He did not give a great deal of thought to
these battles that lay directly before him. It was
not essential that he should plan his ways in
regard to them. He had been taught that many
obligations of a life were easily avoided. The
lessons of yesterday had been that retribution
was a laggard and blind. With these facts before
him he did not deem it necessary that he should
become feverish over the possibilities of the
ensuing twenty-four hours. He could leave
much to chance. Besides, a faith in himself had
secretly blossomed. There was a little flower of
confidence growing within him. He was now a
man of experience. He had been out among the
dragons, he said, and he assured himself that they
were not so hideous as he had imagined them.
Also, they were inaccurate; they did not sting
with precision. A stout heart often defied, and
And, furthermore, how could they kill him
who was the chosen of gods and doomed to
He remembered how some of the men had
run from the battle. As he recalled their terror-
struck faces he felt a scorn for them. They had
surely been more fleet and more wild than was
absolutely necessary. They were weak mortals.
As for himself, he had fled with discretion and
He was aroused from this reverie by his
friend, who, having hitched about nervously and
blinked at the trees for a time, suddenly coughed
in an introductory way, and spoke.
The friend put his hand up to his mouth and
coughed again. He fidgeted in his jacket.
"Well," he gulped, at last, "I guess yeh might
as well give me back them letters." Dark, prick-
ling blood had flushed into his cheeks and brow.
"All right, Wilson," said the youth. He
loosened two buttons of his coat, thrust in his
hand, and brought forth the packet. As he ex-
tended it to his friend the latter's face was turned
He had been slow in the act of producing the
packet because during it he had been trying to
invent a remarkable comment upon the affair.
He could conjure nothing of sufficient point. He
was compelled to allow his friend to escape
unmolested with his packet. And for this he
took unto himself considerable credit. It was a
His friend at his side seemed suffering great
shame. As he contemplated him, the youth felt
his heart grow more strong and stout. He had
never been compelled to blush in such manner
for his acts; he was an individual of extraordi-
He reflected, with condescending pity: "Too
bad! Too bad! The poor devil, it makes him
After this incident, and as he reviewed the
battle pictures he had seen, he felt quite com-
petent to return home and make the hearts of
the people glow with stories of war. He could
see himself in a room of warm tints telling tales
to listeners. He could exhibit laurels. They
were insignificant; still, in a district where
laurels were infrequent, they might shine.
He saw his gaping audience picturing him as
the central figure in blazing scenes. And he
imagined the consternation and the ejaculations
of his mother and the young lady at the seminary
as they drank his recitals. Their vague feminine
formula for beloved ones doing brave deeds on
the field of battle without risk of life would be
A SPUTTERING of musketry was always to be
heard. Later, the cannon had entered the dis-
pute. In the fog-filled air their voices made a
thudding sound. The reverberations were con-
tinued. This part of the world led a strange,
The youth's regiment was marched to relieve
a command that had lain long in some damp
trenches. The men took positions behind a curv-
ing line of rifle pits that had been turned up, like
a large furrow, along the line of woods. Before
them was a level stretch, peopled with short,
deformed stumps. From the woods beyond
came the dull popping of the skirmishers and
pickets, firing in the fog. From the right came
the noise of a terrific fracas.
The men cuddled behind the small embank-
ment and sat in easy attitudes awaiting their
turn. Many had their backs to the firing. The
youth's friend lay down, buried his face in his
arms, and almost instantly, it seemed, he was in a
The youth leaned his breast against the
brown dirt and peered over at the woods and up
and down the line. Curtains of trees interfered
with his ways of vision. He could see the low
line of trenches but for a short distance. A few
idle flags were perched on the dirt hills. Behind
them were rows of dark bodies with a few heads
sticking curiously over the top.
Always the noise of skirmishers came from
the woods on the front and left, and the din on
the right had grown to frightful proportions.
The guns were roaring without an instant's pause
for breath. It seemed that the cannon had come
from all parts and were engaged in a stupendous
wrangle. It became impossible to make a sen-
The youth wished to launch a joke--a quota-
tion from newspapers. He desired to say, "All
quiet on the Rappahannock," but the guns refused
to permit even a comment upon their uproar.
He never successfully concluded the sentence.
But at last the guns stopped, and among the
men in the rifle pits rumors again flew, like birds,
but they were now for the most part black
creatures who flapped their wings drearily near
to the ground and refused to rise on any wings of
hope. The men's faces grew doleful from the
interpreting of omens. Tales of hesitation and
uncertainty on the part of those high in place and
responsibility came to their ears. Stories of
disaster were borne into their minds with many
proofs. This din of musketry on the right, grow-
ing like a released genie of sound, expressed and
emphasized the army's plight.
The men were disheartened and began to
mutter. They made gestures expressive of the
sentence: "Ah, what more can we do?" And it
could always be seen that they were bewildered
by the alleged news and could not fully compre-
hend a defeat.
Before the gray mists had been totally ob-
literated by the sun rays, the regiment was march-
ing in a spread column that was retiring carefully
through the woods. The disordered, hurrying
lines of the enemy could sometimes be seen down
through the groves and little fields. They were
yelling, shrill and exultant.
At this sight the youth forgot many personal
matters and became greatly enraged. He ex-
ploded in loud sentences. "B'jiminey, we're
generaled by a lot 'a lunkheads."
"More than one feller has said that t'-day,"
observed a man.
His friend, recently aroused, was still very
drowsy. He looked behind him until his mind
took in the meaning of the movement. Then he
sighed. "Oh, well, I s'pose we got licked," he
The youth had a thought that it would not be
handsome for him to freely condemn other men.
He made an attempt to restrain himself, but the
words upon his tongue were too bitter. He
presently began a long and intricate denunciation
of the commander of the forces.
"Mebbe, it wa'n't all his fault--not all to-
gether. He did th' best he knowed. It's our
luck t' git licked often," said his friend in a weary
tone. He was trudging along with stooped
shoulders and shifting eyes like a man who has
been caned and kicked.
"Well, don't we fight like the devil? Don't
we do all that men can?" demanded the youth
He was secretly dumfounded at this sentiment
when it came from his lips. For a moment his
face lost its valor and he looked guiltily about
him. But no one questioned his right to deal in
such words, and presently he recovered his air
of courage. He went on to repeat a statement
he had heard going from group to group at the
camp that morning. "The brigadier said he
never saw a new reg'ment fight the way we
fought yestirday, didn't he? And we didn't do
better than many another reg'ment, did we?
Well, then, you can't say it's th' army's fault, can
In his reply, the friend's voice was stern. "'A
course not," he said. "No man dare say we
don't fight like th' devil. No man will ever dare
say it. Th' boys fight like hell-roosters. But
still--still, we don't have no luck."
"Well, then, if we fight like the devil an'
don't ever whip, it must be the general's fault,"
said the youth grandly and decisively. "And I
don't see any sense in fighting and fighting and
fighting, yet always losing through some derned
old lunkhead of a general."
A sarcastic man who was tramping at the
youth's side, then spoke lazily. "Mebbe yeh
think yeh fit th' hull battle yestirday, Fleming,"
The speech pierced the youth. Inwardly he
was reduced to an abject pulp by these chance
words. His legs quaked privately. He cast a
frightened glance at the sarcastic man.
"Why, no," he hastened to say in a concili-
ating voice, "I don't think I fought the whole
But the other seemed innocent of any deeper
meaning. Apparently, he had no information.
It was merely his habit. "Oh!" he replied in the
same tone of calm derision.
The youth, nevertheless, felt a threat. His
mind shrank from going near to the danger, and
thereafter he was silent. The significance of the
sarcastic man's words took from him all loud
moods that would make him appear prominent.
He became suddenly a modest person.
There was low-toned talk among the troops.
The officers were impatient and snappy, their
countenances clouded with the tales of misfor-
tune. The troops, sifting through the forest,
were sullen. In the youth's company once a
man's laugh rang out. A dozen soldiers turned
their faces quickly toward him and frowned with
The noise of firing dogged their footsteps.
Sometimes, it seemed to be driven a little way,
but it always returned again with increased
insolence. The men muttered and cursed,
throwing black looks in its direction.
In a clear space the troops were at last halted.
Regiments and brigades, broken and detached
through their encounters with thickets, grew
together again and lines were faced toward the
pursuing bark of the enemy's infantry.
This noise, following like the yellings of eager,
metallic hounds, increased to a loud and joyous
burst, and then, as the sun went serenely up the
sky, throwing illuminating rays into the gloomy
thickets, it broke forth into prolonged pealings.
The woods began to crackle as if afire.
"Whoop-a-dadee," said a man, "here we are!
Everybody fightin'. Blood an' destruction."
"I was willin' t' bet they'd attack as soon as
th' sun got fairly up," savagely asserted the
lieutenant who commanded the youth's company.
He jerked without mercy at his little mustache.
He strode to and fro with dark dignity in the
rear of his men, who were lying down behind
whatever protection they had collected.
A battery had trundled into position in the
rear and was thoughtfully shelling the distance.
The regiment, unmolested as yet, awaited the
moment when the gray shadows of the woods
before them should be slashed by the lines of
flame. There was much growling and swearing.
"Good Gawd," the youth grumbled, "we're
always being chased around like rats! It makes
me sick. Nobody seems to know where we go
or why we go. We just get fired around from
pillar to post and get licked here and get licked
there, and nobody knows what it's done for. It
makes a man feel like a damn' kitten in a bag.
Now, I'd like to know what the eternal thunders
we was marched into these woods for anyhow,
THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE 161
unless it was to give the rebs a regular pot shot
at us. We came in here and got our legs all
tangled up in these cussed briers, and then we
begin to fight and the rebs had an easy time of it.
Don't tell me it's just luck! I know better. It's
this derned old--"
The friend seemed jaded, but he interrupted
his comrade with a voice of calm confidence.
"It'll turn out all right in th' end," he said.
"Oh, the devil it will! You always talk like a
dog-hanged parson. Don't tell me! I know--"
At this time there was an interposition by the
savage-minded lieutenant, who was obliged to
vent some of his inward dissatisfaction upon his
men. "You boys shut right up! There no
need 'a your wastin' your breath in long-winded
arguments about this an' that an' th' other.
You've been jawin' like a lot 'a old hens. All
you've got t' do is to fight, an' you'll get plenty 'a
that t' do in about ten minutes. Less talkin' an'
more fightin' is what's best for you boys. I never
saw sech gabbling jackasses."
He paused, ready to pounce upon any man
who might have the temerity to reply. No words
being said, he resumed his dignified pacing.
"There's too much chin music an' too little
fightin' in this war, anyhow," he said to them,
turning his head for a final remark.
The day had grown more white, until the sun
shed his full radiance upon the thronged forest.
A sort of a gust of battle came sweeping toward
that part of the line where lay the youth's regi-
ment. The front shifted a trifle to meet it square-
ly. There was a wait. In this part of the field
there passed slowly the intense moments that pre-
cede the tempest.
A single rifle flashed in a thicket before the
regiment. In an instant it was joined by many
others. There was a mighty song of clashes and
crashes that went sweeping through the woods.
The guns in the rear, aroused and enraged by
shells that had been thrown burlike at them,
suddenly involved themselves in a hideous alter-
cation with another band of guns. The battle
roar settled to a rolling thunder, which was a
single, long explosion.
In the regiment there was a peculiar kind of
hesitation denoted in the attitudes of the men.
They were worn, exhausted, having slept but lit-
tle and labored much. They rolled their eyes
toward the advancing battle as they stood await-
ing the shock. Some shrank and flinched. They
stood as men tied to stakes.
THIS advance of the enemy had seemed to the
youth like a ruthless hunting. He began to fume
with rage and exasperation. He beat his foot
upon the ground, and scowled with hate at the
swirling smoke that was approaching like a phan-
tom flood. There was a maddening quality in
this seeming resolution of the foe to give him no
rest, to give him no time to sit down and think.
Yesterday he had fought and had fled rapidly.
There had been many adventures. For to-day he
felt that he had earned opportunities for contem-
plative repose. He could have enjoyed portraying
to uninitiated listeners various scenes at which he
had been a witness or ably discussing the pro-
cesses of war with other proved men. Too it was
important that he should have time for physical
recuperation. He was sore and stiff from his ex-
periences. He had received his fill of all exer-
tions, and he wished to rest.
But those other men seemed never to grow
weary; they were fighting with their old speed.
He had a wild hate for the relentless foe. Yester-
day, when he had imagined the universe to be
against him, he had hated it, little gods and big
gods; to-day he hated the army of the foe with
the same great hatred. He was not going to be
badgered of his life, like a kitten chased by boys,
he said. It was not well to drive men into final
corners; at those moments they could all develop
teeth and claws.
He leaned and spoke into his friend's ear. He
menaced the woods with a gesture. "If they
keep on chasing us, by Gawd, they'd better watch
out. Can't stand TOO much."
The friend twisted his head and made a calm
reply. "If they keep on a-chasin' us they'll drive
us all inteh th' river."
The youth cried out savagely at this state-
ment. He crouched behind a little tree, with his
eyes burning hatefully and his teeth set in a cur-
like snarl. The awkward bandage was still about
his head, and upon it, over his wound, there was
a spot of dry blood. His hair was wondrously
tousled, and some straggling, moving locks hung
over the cloth of the bandage down toward his
forehead. His jacket and shirt were open at the
throat, and exposed his young bronzed neck.
There could be seen spasmodic gulpings at his
His fingers twined nervously about his rifle.
He wished that it was an engine of annihilating
power. He felt that he and his companions were
being taunted and derided from sincere convic-
tions that they were poor and puny. His knowl-
edge of his inability to take vengeance for it made
his rage into a dark and stormy specter, that pos-
sessed him and made him dream of abominable
cruelties. The tormentors were flies sucking in-
solently at his blood, and he thought that he would
have given his life for a revenge of seeing their
faces in pitiful plights.
The winds of battle had swept all about the
regiment, until the one rifle, instantly followed by
others, flashed in its front. A moment later the
regiment roared forth its sudden and valiant re-
tort. A dense wall of smoke settled slowly down.
It was furiously slit and slashed by the knifelike
fire from the rifles.
To the youth the fighters resembled animals
tossed for a death struggle into a dark pit. There
was a sensation that he and his fellows, at bay,
were pushing back, always pushing fierce on-
slaughts of creatures who were slippery. Their
beams of crimson seemed to get no purchase upon
the bodies of their foes; the latter seemed to evade
them with ease, and come through, between,
around, and about with unopposed skill.
When, in a dream, it occurred to the youth
that his rifle was an impotent stick, he lost sense
of everything but his hate, his desire to smash
into pulp the glittering smile of victory which he
could feel upon the faces of his enemies.
The blue smoke-swallowed line curled and
writhed like a snake stepped upon. It swung its
ends to and fro in an agony of fear and rage.
The youth was not conscious that he was erect
upon his feet. He did not know the direction of
the ground. Indeed, once he even lost the habit
of balance and fell heavily. He was up again
immediately. One thought went through the
chaos of his brain at the time. He wondered if
he had fallen because he had been shot. But the
suspicion flew away at once. He did not think
more of it.
He had taken up a first position behind the lit-
tle tree, with a direct determination to hold it
against the world. He had not deemed it possi-
ble that his army could that day succeed, and
from this he felt the ability to fight harder. But
the throng had surged in all ways, until he lost
directions and locations, save that he knew where
lay the enemy.
The flames bit him, and the hot smoke broiled
his skin. His rifle barrel grew so hot that ordi-
narily he could not have borne it upon his palms;
but he kept on stuffing cartridges into it, and
pounding them with his clanking, bending ram-
rod. If he aimed at some changing form through
the smoke, he pulled his trigger with a fierce
grunt, as if he were dealing a blow of the fist with
all his strength.
When the enemy seemed falling back before
him and his fellows, he went instantly forward,
like a dog who, seeing his foes lagging, turns and
insists upon being pursued. And when he was
compelled to retire again, he did it slowly, sul-
lenly, taking steps of wrathful despair.
Once he, in his intent hate, was almost alone,
and was firing, when all those near him had ceased.
He was so engrossed in his occupation that he
was not aware of a lull.
He was recalled by a hoarse laugh and a sen-
tence that came to his ears in a voice of contempt
and amazement. "Yeh infernal fool, don't yeh
know enough t' quit when there ain't anything t'
shoot at? Good Gawd!"
He turned then and, pausing with his rifle
thrown half into position, looked at the blue line
of his comrades. During this moment of leisure
they seemed all to be engaged in staring with
astonishment at him. They had become specta-
tors. Turning to the front again he saw, under
the lifted smoke, a deserted ground.
He looked bewildered for a moment. Then
there appeared upon the glazed vacancy of his
eyes a diamond point of intelligence. "Oh," he
He returned to his comrades and threw him-
self upon the ground. He sprawled like a man
who had been thrashed. His flesh seemed strange-
ly on fire, and the sounds of the battle continued
in his ears. He groped blindly for his canteen.
The lieutenant was crowing. He seemed
drunk with fighting. He called out to the youth:
"By heavens, if I had ten thousand wild cats like
you I could tear th' stomach outa this war in
less'n a week!" He puffed out his chest with
large dignity as he said it.
Some of the men muttered and looked at the
youth in awe-struck ways. It was plain that as
he had gone on loading and firing and cursing
without the proper intermission, they had found
time to regard him. And they now looked upon
him as a war devil.
The friend came staggering to him. There
was some fright and dismay in his voice. "Are yeh
all right, Fleming? Do yeh feel all right? There
ain't nothin' th' matter with yeh, Henry, is there?"
"No," said the youth with difficulty. His
throat seemed full of knobs and burs.
These incidents made the youth ponder. It
was revealed to him that he had been a barbarian,
a beast. He had fought like a pagan who de-
fends his religion. Regarding it, he saw that it
was fine, wild, and, in some ways, easy. He had
been a tremendous figure, no doubt. By this
struggle he had overcome obstacles which he
had admitted to be mountains. They had fallen
like paper peaks, and he was now what he called
a hero. And he had not been aware of the pro-
cess. He had slept and, awakening, found him-
self a knight.
He lay and basked in the occasional stares of
his comrades. Their faces were varied in de-
grees of blackness from the burned powder.
Some were utterly smudged. They were reek-
ing with perspiration, and their breaths came
hard and wheezing. And from these soiled ex-
panses they peered at him.
"Hot work! Hot work!" cried the lieu-
tenant deliriously. He walked up and down,
restless and eager. Sometimes his voice could
be heard in a wild, incomprehensible laugh.
When he had a particularly profound thought
upon the science of war he always unconsciously
addressed himself to the youth.
There was some grim rejoicing by the men.
"By thunder, I bet this army'll never see another
new reg'ment like us!"
"A dog, a woman, an' a walnut tree,
Th' more yeh beat 'em, th' better they be!
That's like us."
"Lost a piler men, they did. If an' ol' woman
swep' up th' woods she'd git a dustpanful."
"Yes, an' if she'll come around ag'in in 'bout
an' hour she'll git a pile more."
The forest still bore its burden of clamor.
From off under the trees came the rolling clatter
of the musketry. Each distant thicket seemed a
strange porcupine with quills of flame. A cloud
of dark smoke, as from smoldering ruins, went
up toward the sun now bright and gay in the
blue, enameled sky.
THE ragged line had respite for some min-
utes, but during its pause the struggle in the
forest became magnified until the trees seemed to
quiver from the firing and the ground to shake
from the rushing of the men. The voices of the
cannon were mingled in a long and interminable
row. It seemed difficult to live in such an atmos-
phere. The chests of the men strained for a bit
of freshness, and their throats craved water.
There was one shot through the body, who
raised a cry of bitter lamentation when came this
lull. Perhaps he had been calling out during
the fighting also, but at that time no one had
heard him. But now the men turned at the woe-
ful complaints of him upon the ground.
"Who is it? Who is it?"
"It's Jimmie Rogers. Jimmie Rogers."
When their eyes first encountered him there
was a sudden halt, as if they feared to go near.
He was thrashing about in the grass, twisting his
shuddering body into many strange postures.
He was screaming loudly. This instant's hesita-
tion seemed to fill him with a tremendous, fantas-
tic contempt, and he damned them in shrieked
The youth's friend had a geographical illusion
concerning a stream, and he obtained permission
to go for some water. Immediately canteens
were showered upon him. "Fill mine, will
yeh?" "Bring me some, too." "And me, too."
He departed, ladened. The youth went with his
friend, feeling a desire to throw his heated body
onto the stream and, soaking there, drink quarts.
They made a hurried search for the supposed
stream, but did not find it. "No water here,"
said the youth. They turned without delay and
began to retrace their steps.
From their position as they again faced to-
ward the place of the fighting, they could of
course comprehend a greater amount of the bat-
tle than when their visions had been blurred by
the hurling smoke of the line. They could see
dark stretches winding along the land, and on
one cleared space there was a row of guns mak-
ing gray clouds, which were filled with large
flashes of orange-colored flame. Over some foli-
age they could see the roof of a house. One win-
dow, glowing a deep murder red, shone squarely
through the leaves. From the edifice a tall lean-
ing tower of smoke went far into the sky.
Looking over their own troops, they saw
mixed masses slowly getting into regular form.
The sunlight made twinkling points of the bright
steel. To the rear there was a glimpse of a dis-
tant roadway as it curved over a slope. It was
crowded with retreating infantry. From all the
interwoven forest arose the smoke and bluster
of the battle. The air was always occupied by
Near where they stood shells were flip-flap-
ping and hooting. Occasional bullets buzzed in
the air and spanged into tree trunks. Wounded
men and other stragglers were slinking through
Looking down an aisle of the grove, the
youth and his companion saw a jangling general
and his staff almost ride upon a wounded man,
who was crawling on his hands and knees. The
general reined strongly at his charger's opened
and foamy mouth and guided it with dexterous
horsemanship past the man. The latter scram-
bled in wild and torturing haste. His strength
evidently failed him as he reached a place of
safety. One of his arms suddenly weakened, and
he fell, sliding over upon his back. He lay
stretched out, breathing gently.
A moment later the small, creaking cavalcade
was directly in front of the two soldiers. An-
other officer, riding with the skillful abandon of a
cowboy, galloped his horse to a position directly
before the general. The two unnoticed foot sol-
diers made a little show of going on, but they
lingered near in the desire to overhear the con-
versation. Perhaps, they thought, some great
inner historical things would be said.
The general, whom the boys knew as the com-
mander of their division, looked at the other
officer and spoke coolly, as if he were criticising
his clothes. "Th' enemy's formin' over there for
another charge," he said. "It'll be directed
against Whiterside, an' I fear they'll break
through there unless we work like thunder t' stop
The other swore at his restive horse, and then
cleared his throat. He made a gesture toward
his cap. "It'll be hell t' pay stoppin' them," he
"I presume so," remarked the general. Then
he began to talk rapidly and in a lower tone. He
frequently illustrated his words with a pointing
finger. The two infantrymen could hear nothing
until finally he asked: "What troops can you
The officer who rode like a cowboy reflected
for an instant. "Well," he said, "I had to order
in th' 12th to help th' 76th, an' I haven't really got
any. But there's th' 304th. They fight like a
lot 'a mule drivers. I can spare them best
The youth and his friend exchanged glances
The general spoke sharply. "Get 'em ready,
then. I'll watch developments from here, an'
send you word when t' start them. It'll happen
in five minutes."
As the other officer tossed his fingers toward
his cap and wheeling his horse, started away, the
general called out to him in a sober voice: "I
don't believe many of your mule drivers will get
The other shouted something in reply. He
With scared faces, the youth and his compan-
ion hurried back to the line.
These happenings had occupied an incredibly
short time, yet the youth felt that in them he had
been made aged. New eyes were given to him.
And the most startling thing was to learn sud-
denly that he was very insignificant. The officer
spoke of the regiment as if he referred to a
broom. Some part of the woods needed sweep-
ing, perhaps, and he merely indicated a broom in
a tone properly indifferent to its fate. It was
war, no doubt, but it appeared strange.
As the two boys approached the line, the lieu-
tenant perceived them and swelled with wrath.
"Fleming--Wilson--how long does it take yeh
to git water, anyhow--where yeh been to."
But his oration ceased as he saw their eyes,
which were large with great tales. "We're goin'
t' charge--we're goin' t' charge!" cried the
youth's friend, hastening with his news.
"Charge?" said the lieutenant. "Charge?
Well, b'Gawd! Now, this is real fightin'." Over
his soiled countenance there went a boastful
smile. "Charge? Well, b'Gawd!"
A little group of soldiers surrounded the two
youths. "Are we, sure 'nough? Well, I'll be
derned! Charge? What fer? What at? Wil-
son, you're lyin'."
"I hope to die," said the youth, pitching his
tones to the key of angry remonstrance. "Sure
as shooting, I tell you."
And his friend spoke in re-enforcement. "Not
by a blame sight, he ain't lyin'. We heard 'em
They caught sight of two mounted figures a
short distance from them. One was the colonel
of the regiment and the other was the officer who
had received orders from the commander of the
division. They were gesticulating at each other.
The soldier, pointing at them, interpreted the
One man had a final objection: "How could
yeh hear 'em talkin'?" But the men, for a large
part, nodded, admitting that previously the two
friends had spoken truth.
They settled back into reposeful attitudes
with airs of having accepted the matter. And
they mused upon it, with a hundred varieties of
expression. It was an engrossing thing to think
about. Many tightened their belts carefully and
hitched at their trousers.
A moment later the officers began to bustle
among the men, pushing them into a more com-
pact mass and into a better alignment. They
chased those that straggled and fumed at a few
men who seemed to show by their attitudes that
they had decided to remain at that spot. They
were like critical shepherds struggling with sheep.
Presently, the regiment seemed to draw itself
up and heave a deep breath. None of the men's
faces were mirrors of large thoughts. The sol-
diers were bended and stooped like sprinters be-
fore a signal. Many pairs of glinting eyes peered
from the grimy faces toward the curtains of the
deeper woods. They seemed to be engaged in
deep calculations of time and distance.
They were surrounded by the noises of the
monstrous altercation between the two armies.
The world was fully interested in other matters.
Apparently, the regiment had its small affair to
The youth, turning, shot a quick, inquiring
glance at his friend. The latter returned to him
the same manner of look. They were the only
ones who possessed an inner knowledge. "Mule
drivers--hell t' pay--don't believe many will get
back." It was an ironical secret. Still, they saw
no hesitation in each other's faces, and they nod-
ded a mute and unprotesting assent when a shag-
gy man near them said in a meek voice: "We'll
THE youth stared at the land in front of him.
Its foliages now seemed to veil powers and hor-
rors. He was unaware of the machinery of orders
that started the charge, although from the cor-
ners of his eyes he saw an officer, who looked
like a boy a-horseback, come galloping, waving
his hat. Suddenly he felt a straining and heaving
among the men. The line fell slowly forward
like a toppling wall, and, with a convulsive gasp
that was intended for a cheer, the regiment began
its journey. The youth was pushed and jostled
for a moment before he understood the move-
ment at all, but directly he lunged ahead and
began to run.
He fixed his eye upon a distant and promi-
nent clump of trees where he had concluded the
enemy were to be met, and he ran toward it as
toward a goal. He had believed throughout that
it was a mere question of getting over an unpleas-
ant matter as quickly as possible, and he ran
desperately, as if pursued for a murder. His
face was drawn hard and tight with the stress of
his endeavor. His eyes were fixed in a lurid
glare. And with his soiled and disordered dress,
his red and inflamed features surmounted by the
dingy rag with its spot of blood, his wildly
swinging rifle and banging accouterments, he
looked to be an insane soldier.
As the regiment swung from its position out
into a cleared space the woods and thickets be-
fore it awakened. Yellow flames leaped toward
it from many directions. The forest made a tre-
The line lurched straight for a moment. Then
the right wing swung forward; it in turn was
surpassed by the left. Afterward the center
careered to the front until the regiment was a
wedge-shaped mass, but an instant later the
opposition of the bushes, trees, and uneven places
on the ground split the command and scattered
it into detached clusters.
The youth, light-footed, was unconsciously in
advance. His eyes still kept note of the clump of
trees. From all places near it the clannish yell
of the enemy could be heard. The little flames
of rifles leaped from it. The song of the bullets
was in the air and shells snarled among the tree-
tops. One tumbled directly into the middle of a
hurrying group and exploded in crimson fury.
There was an instant's spectacle of a man, almost
over it, throwing up his hands to shield his eyes.
Other men, punched by bullets, fell in gro-
tesque agonies. The regiment left a coherent
trail of bodies.
They had passed into a clearer atmosphere.
There was an effect like a revelation in the new
appearance of the landscape. Some men work-
ing madly at a battery were plain to them, and
the opposing infantry's lines were defined by the
gray walls and fringes of smoke.
It seemed to the youth that he saw every-
thing. Each blade of the green grass was bold
and clear. He thought that he was aware of
every change in the thin, transparent vapor that
floated idly in sheets. The brown or gray trunks
of the trees showed each roughness of their sur-
faces. And the men of the regiment, with their
starting eyes and sweating faces, running madly,
or falling, as if thrown headlong, to queer,
heaped-up corpses--all were comprehended. His
mind took a mechanical but firm impression, so
that afterward everything was pictured and ex-
plained to him, save why he himself was there.
But there was a frenzy made from this furious
rush. The men, pitching forward insanely, had
burst into cheerings, moblike and barbaric, but
tuned in strange keys that can arouse the dullard
and the stoic. It made a mad enthusiasm that, it
seemed, would be incapable of checking itself
before granite and brass. There was the deli-
rium that encounters despair and death, and is
heedless and blind to the odds. It is a temporary
but sublime absence of selfishness. And because
it was of this order was the reason, perhaps, why
the youth wondered, afterward, what reasons he
could have had for being there.
Presently the straining pace ate up the ener-
gies of the men. As if by agreement, the leaders
began to slacken their speed. The volleys di-
rected against them had had a seeming windlike
effect. The regiment snorted and blew. Among
some stolid trees it began to falter and hesitate.
The men, staring intently, began to wait for some
of the distant walls of smoke to move and dis-
close to them the scene. Since much of their
strength and their breath had vanished, they re-
turned to caution. They were become men
The youth had a vague belief that he had run
miles, and he thought, in a way, that he was now
in some new and unknown land.
The moment the regiment ceased its advance
the protesting splutter of musketry became a
steadied roar. Long and accurate fringes of
smoke spread out. From the top of a small hill
came level belchings of yellow flame that caused
an inhuman whistling in the air.
The men, halted, had opportunity to see some
of their comrades dropping with moans and
shrieks. A few lay under foot, still or wailing.
And now for an instant the men stood, their rifles
slack in their hands, and watched the regiment
dwindle. They appeared dazed and stupid. This
spectacle seemed to paralyze them, overcome
them with a fatal fascination. They stared wood-
enly at the sights, and, lowering their eyes, looked
from face to face. It was a strange pause, and a
Then, above the sounds of the outside commo-
tion, arose the roar of the lieutenant. He strode
suddenly forth, his infantile features black with
"Come on, yeh fools!" he bellowed. "Come
on! Yeh can't stay here. Yeh must come on."
He said more, but much of it could not be under-
He started rapidly forward, with his head
turned toward the men. "Come on," he was
shouting. The men stared with blank and yokel-
like eyes at him. He was obliged to halt and
retrace his steps. He stood then with his back
to the enemy and delivered gigantic curses into
the faces of the men. His body vibrated from
the weight and force of his imprecations. And
he could string oaths with the facility of a maiden
who strings beads.
The friend of the youth aroused. Lurching
suddenly forward and dropping to his knees, he
fired an angry shot at the persistent woods. This
action awakened the men. They huddled no
more like sheep. They seemed suddenly to be-
think them of their weapons, and at once com-
menced firing. Belabored by their officers, they
began to move forward. The regiment, involved
like a cart involved in mud and muddle, started
unevenly with many jolts and jerks. The men
stopped now every few paces to fire and load,
and in this manner moved slowly on from trees
The flaming opposition in their front grew
with their advance until it seemed that all for-
ward ways were barred by the thin leaping
tongues, and off to the right an ominous demon-
stration could sometimes be dimly discerned.
The smoke lately generated was in confusing
clouds that made it difficult for the regiment to
proceed with intelligence. As he passed through
each curling mass the youth wondered what
would confront him on the farther side.
The command went painfully forward until an
open space interposed between them and the
lurid lines. Here, crouching and cowering be-
hind some trees, the men clung with desperation,
as if threatened by a wave. They looked wild-
eyed, and as if amazed at this furious disturbance
they had stirred. In the storm there was an
ironical expression of their importance. The
faces of the men, too, showed a lack of a certain
feeling of responsibility for being there. It was
as if they had been driven. It was the dominant
animal failing to remember in the supreme mo-
ments the forceful causes of various superficial
qualities. The whole affair seemed incompre-
hensible to many of them.
As they halted thus the lieutenant again be-
gan to bellow profanely. Regardless of the vin-
dictive threats of the bullets, he went about
coaxing, berating, and bedamning. His lips,
that were habitually in a soft and childlike curve,
were now writhed into unholy contortions. He
swore by all possible deities.
Once he grabbed the youth by the arm.
"Come on, yeh lunkhead!" he roared. "Come
on! We'll all git killed if we stay here. We've
on'y got t' go across that lot. An' then"--the
remainder of his idea disappeared in a blue haze
The youth stretched forth his arm. "Cross
there?" His mouth was puckered in doubt and
"Certainly. Jest 'cross th' lot! We can't
stay here," screamed the lieutenant. He poked
his face close to the youth and waved his ban-
daged hand. "Come on!" Presently he grap-
pled with him as if for a wrestling bout. It was
as if he planned to drag the youth by the ear on
to the assault.
The private felt a sudden unspeakable indig-
nation against his officer. He wrenched fiercely
and shook him off.
"Come on herself, then," he yelled. There
was a bitter challenge in his voice.
They galloped together down the regimental
front. The friend scrambled after them. In front
of the colors the three men began to bawl:
"Come on! come on!" They danced and gy-
rated like tortured savages.
The flag, obedient to these appeals, bended its
glittering form and swept toward them. The
men wavered in indecision for a moment, and then
with a long, wailful cry the dilapidated regiment
surged forward and began its new journey.
Over the field went the scurrying mass. It
was a handful of men splattered into the faces of
the enemy. Toward it instantly sprang the yel-
low tongues. A vast quantity of blue smoke
hung before them. A mighty banging made ears
The youth ran like a madman to reach the
woods before a bullet could discover him. He
ducked his head low, like a football player. In
his haste his eyes almost closed, and the scene was
a wild blur. Pulsating saliva stood at the corners
of his mouth.
Within him, as he hurled himself forward, was
born a love, a despairing fondness for this flag
which was near him. It was a creation of beauty
and invulnerability. It was a goddess, radiant,
that bended its form with an imperious gesture to
him. It was a woman, red and white, hating and
loving, that called him with the voice of his
hopes. Because no harm could come to it he en-
dowed it with power. He kept near, as if it
could be a saver of lives, and an imploring cry
went from his mind.
In the mad scramble he was aware that the
color sergeant flinched suddenly, as if struck by a
bludgeon. He faltered, and then became motion-
less, save for his quivering knees.
He made a spring and a clutch at the pole.
At the same instant his friend grabbed it from the
other side. They jerked at it, stout and furious,
but the color sergeant was dead, and the corpse
would not relinquish its trust. For a moment
there was a grim encounter. The dead man,
swinging with bended back, seemed to be obsti-
nately tugging, in ludicrous and awful ways, for
the possession of the flag.
It was past in an instant of time. They
wrenched the flag furiously from the dead man,
and, as they turned again, the corpse swayed for-
ward with bowed head. One arm swung high,
and the curved hand fell with heavy protest on
the friend's unheeding shoulder.
WHEN the two youths turned with the flag
they saw that much of the regiment had crum-
bled away, and the dejected remnant was coming
slowly back. The men, having hurled themselves
in projectile fashion, had presently expended their
forces. They slowly retreated, with their faces
still toward the spluttering woods, and their hot
rifles still replying to the din. Several officers
were giving orders, their voices keyed to screams.
"Where in hell yeh goin'?" the lieutenant was
asking in a sarcastic howl. And a red-bearded
officer, whose voice of triple brass could plainly
be heard, was commanding: "Shoot into 'em!
Shoot into 'em, Gawd damn their souls!" There
was a melee of screeches, in which the men were
ordered to do conflicting and impossible things.
The youth and his friend had a small scuffle
over the flag. "Give it t' me!" "No, let me
keep it!" Each felt satisfied with the other's pos-
session of it, but each felt bound to declare, by
an offer to carry the emblem, his willingness to
further risk himself. The youth roughly pushed
his friend away.
The regiment fell back to the stolid trees.
There it halted for a moment to blaze at some
dark forms that had begun to steal upon its track.
Presently it resumed its march again, curving
among the tree trunks. By the time the depleted
regiment had again reached the first open space
they were receiving a fast and merciless fire.
There seemed to be mobs all about them.
The greater part of the men, discouraged,
their spirits worn by the turmoil, acted as if
stunned. They accepted the pelting of the bul-
lets with bowed and weary heads. It was of no
purpose to strive against walls. It was of no use
to batter themselves against granite. And from
this consciousness that they had attempted to
conquer an unconquerable thing there seemed
to arise a feeling that they had been betrayed.
They glowered with bent brows, but danger-
ously, upon some of the officers, more particu-
larly upon the red-bearded one with the voice of
However, the rear of the regiment was fringed
with men, who continued to shoot irritably at the
advancing foes. They seemed resolved to make
every trouble. The youthful lieutenant was per-
haps the last man in the disordered mass. His
forgotten back was toward the enemy. He had
been shot in the arm. It hung straight and rigid.
Occasionally he would cease to remember it, and
be about to emphasize an oath with a sweeping
gesture. The multiplied pain caused him to
swear with incredible power.
The youth went along with slipping, uncertain
feet. He kept watchful eyes rearward. A scowl
of mortification and rage was upon his face. He
had thought of a fine revenge upon the officer
who had referred to him and his fellows as mule
drivers. But he saw that it could not come to
pass. His dreams had collapsed when the mule
drivers, dwindling rapidly, had wavered and hes-
itated on the little clearing, and then had recoiled.
And now the retreat of the mule drivers was a
march of shame to him.
A dagger-pointed gaze from without his black-
ened face was held toward the enemy, but his
greater hatred was riveted upon the man, who,
not knowing him, had called him a mule driver.
When he knew that he and his comrades had
failed to do anything in successful ways that might
bring the little pangs of a kind of remorse upon
the officer, the youth allowed the rage of the baf-
fled to possess him. This cold officer upon a
monument, who dropped epithets unconcernedly
down, would be finer as a dead man, he thought.
So grievous did he think it that he could
never possess the secret right to taunt truly in
He had pictured red letters of curious revenge.
"We ARE mule drivers, are we?" And now he
was compelled to throw them away.
He presently wrapped his heart in the cloak
of his pride and kept the flag erect. He ha-
rangued his fellows, pushing against their chests
with his free hand. To those he knew well he
made frantic appeals, beseeching them by name.
Between him and the lieutenant, scolding and
near to losing his mind with rage, there was felt a
subtle fellowship and equality. They supported
each other in all manner of hoarse, howling pro-
But the regiment was a machine run down.
The two men babbled at a forceless thing. The
soldiers who had heart to go slowly were con-
tinually shaken in their resolves by a knowledge
that comrades were slipping with speed back to
the lines. It was difficult to think of reputation
when others were thinking of skins. Wounded
men were left crying on this black journey.
The smoke fringes and flames blustered al-
ways. The youth, peering once through a sud-
den rift in a cloud, saw a brown mass of troops,
interwoven and magnified until they appeared to
be thousands. A fierce-hued flag flashed before