Part 4 out of 4
Immediately, as if the uplifting of the smoke
had been prearranged, the discovered troops
burst into a rasping yell, and a hundred flames
jetted toward the retreating band. A rolling
gray cloud again interposed as the regiment dog-
gedly replied. The youth had to depend again
upon his misused ears, which were trembling
and buzzing from the melee of musketry and yells.
The way seemed eternal. In the clouded haze
men became panicstricken with the thought that
the regiment had lost its path, and was proceed-
ing in a perilous direction. Once the men who
headed the wild procession turned and came push-
ing back against their comrades, screaming that
they were being fired upon from points which
they had considered to be toward their own lines.
At this cry a hysterical fear and dismay beset the
troops. A soldier, who heretofore had been am-
bitious to make the regiment into a wise little
band that would proceed calmly amid the huge-
appearing difficulties, suddenly sank down and
buried his face in his arms with an air of bowing
to a doom. From another a shrill lamentation
rang out filled with profane allusions to a general.
Men ran hither and thither, seeking with their
eyes roads of escape. With serene regularity, as
if controlled by a schedule, bullets buffed into
The youth walked stolidly into the midst of
the mob, and with his flag in his hands took a
stand as if he expected an attempt to push him to
the ground. He unconsciously assumed the atti-
tude of the color bearer in the fight of the pre-
ceding day. He passed over his brow a hand
that trembled. His breath did not come freely.
He was choking during this small wait for the
His friend came to him. "Well, Henry, I
guess this is good-by--John."
"Oh, shut up, you damned fool!" replied the
youth, and he would not look at the other.
The officers labored like politicians to beat
the mass into a proper circle to face the men-
aces. The ground was uneven and torn. The
men curled into depressions and fitted them-
selves snugly behind whatever would frustrate
The youth noted with vague surprise that the
lieutenant was standing mutely with his legs far
apart and his sword held in the manner of a cane.
The youth wondered what had happened to his
vocal organs that he no more cursed.
There was something curious in this little in-
tent pause of the lieutenant. He was like a babe
which, having wept its fill, raises its eyes and
fixes upon a distant toy. He was engrossed in
this contemplation, and the soft under lip quivered
from self-whispered words.
Some lazy and ignorant smoke curled slowly.
The men, hiding from the bullets, waited anx-
iously for it to lift and disclose the plight of the
The silent ranks were suddenly thrilled by the
eager voice of the youthful lieutenant bawling
out: "Here they come! Right onto us,
b'Gawd!" His further words were lost in a roar
of wicked thunder from the men's rifles.
The youth's eyes had instantly turned in the
direction indicated by the awakened and agitated
lieutenant, and he had seen the haze of treachery
disclosing a body of soldiers of the enemy. They
were so near that he could see their features.
There was a recognition as he looked at the types
of faces. Also he perceived with dim amazement
that their uniforms were rather gay in effect,
being light gray, accented with a brilliant-hued
facing. Too, the clothes seemed new.
These troops had apparently been going for-
ward with caution, their rifles held in readiness,
when the youthful lieutenant had discovered
them and their movement had been interrupted
by the volley from the blue regiment. From the
moment's glimpse, it was derived that they had
been unaware of the proximity of their dark-
suited foes or had mistaken the direction. Al-
most instantly they were shut utterly from the
youth's sight by the smoke from the energetic
rifles of his companions. He strained his vision
to learn the accomplishment of the volley, but the
smoke hung before him.
The two bodies of troops exchanged blows in
the manner of a pair of boxers. The fast angry
firings went back and forth. The men in blue
were intent with the despair of their circum-
stances and they seized upon the revenge to be
had at close range. Their thunder swelled loud
and valiant. Their curving front bristled with
flashes and the place resounded with the clangor
of their ramrods. The youth ducked and dodged
for a time and achieved a few unsatisfactory
views of the enemy. There appeared to be many
of them and they were replying swiftly. They
seemed moving toward the blue regiment, step
by step. He seated himself gloomily on the
ground with his flag between his knees.
As he noted the vicious, wolflike temper of
his comrades he had a sweet thought that if the
enemy was about to swallow the regimental
broom as a large prisoner, it could at least have
the consolation of going down with bristles for-
But the blows of the antagonist began to
grow more weak. Fewer bullets ripped the air,
and finally, when the men slackened to learn of
the fight, they could see only dark, floating
smoke. The regiment lay still and gazed. Pres-
ently some chance whim came to the pestering
blur, and it began to coil heavily away. The men
saw a ground vacant of fighters. It would have
been an empty stage if it were not for a few
corpses that lay thrown and twisted into fantastic
shapes upon the sward.
At sight of this tableau, many of the men in
blue sprang from behind their covers and made
an ungainly dance of joy. Their eyes burned
and a hoarse cheer of elation broke from their
It had begun to seem to them that events were
trying to prove that they were impotent. These
little battles had evidently endeavored to demon-
strate that the men could not fight well. When
on the verge of submission to these opinions, the
small duel had showed them that the propor-
tions were not impossible, and by it they had
revenged themselves upon their misgivings and
upon the foe.
The impetus of enthusiasm was theirs again.
They gazed about them with looks of uplifted
pride, feeling new trust in the grim, always
confident weapons in their hands. And they
PRESENTLY they knew that no firing threat-
ened them. All ways seemed once more opened
to them. The dusty blue lines of their friends
were disclosed a short distance away. In the
distance there were many colossal noises, but in
all this part of the field there was a sudden
They perceived that they were free. The
depleted band drew a long breath of relief
and gathered itself into a bunch to complete
In this last length of journey the men began
to show strange emotions. They hurried with
nervous fear. Some who had been dark and un-
faltering in the grimmest moments now could not
conceal an anxiety that made them frantic. It
was perhaps that they dreaded to be killed in
insignificant ways after the times for proper
military deaths had passed. Or, perhaps, they
thought it would be too ironical to get killed at
the portals of safety. With backward looks of
perturbation, they hastened.
As they approached their own lines there was
some sarcasm exhibited on the part of a gaunt
and bronzed regiment that lay resting in the
shade of trees. Questions were wafted to them.
"Where th' hell yeh been?"
"What yeh comin' back fer?"
"Why didn't yeh stay there?"
"Was it warm out there, sonny?"
"Goin' home now, boys?"
One shouted in taunting mimicry: "Oh,
mother, come quick an' look at th' sojers!"
There was no reply from the bruised and bat-
tered regiment, save that one man made broad-
cast challenges to fist fights and the red-bearded
officer walked rather near and glared in great
swashbuckler style at a tall captain in the other
regiment. But the lieutenant suppressed the
man who wished to fist fight, and the tall cap-
tain, flushing at the little fanfare of the red-
bearded one, was obliged to look intently at some
The youth's tender flesh was deeply stung by
these remarks. From under his creased brows
he glowered with hate at the mockers. He
meditated upon a few revenges. Still, many in
the regiment hung their heads in criminal fashion,
so that it came to pass that the men trudged with
sudden heaviness, as if they bore upon their
bended shoulders the coffin of their honor. And
the youthful lieutenant, recollecting himself, be-
gan to mutter softly in black curses.
They turned when they arrived at their old
position to regard the ground over which they
The youth in this contemplation was smitten
with a large astonishment. He discovered that
the distances, as compared with the brilliant
measurings of his mind, were trivial and ridicu-
lous. The stolid trees, where much had taken
place, seemed incredibly near. The time, too,
now that he reflected, he saw to have been short.
He wondered at the number of emotions and
events that had been crowded into such little
spaces. Elfin thoughts must have exaggerated
and enlarged everything, he said.
It seemed, then, that there was bitter justice
in the speeches of the gaunt and bronzed vet-
erans. He veiled a glance of disdain at his fel-
lows who strewed the ground, choking with dust,
red from perspiration, misty-eyed, disheveled.
They were gulping at their canteens, fierce to
wring every mite of water from them, and they
polished at their swollen and watery features
with coat sleeves and bunches of grass.
However, to the youth there was a consider-
able joy in musing upon his performances during
the charge. He had had very little time pre-
viously in which to appreciate himself, so that
there was now much satisfaction in quietly think-
ing of his actions. He recalled bits of color that
in the flurry had stamped themselves unawares
upon his engaged senses.
As the regiment lay heaving from its hot exer-
tions the officer who had named them as mule
drivers came galloping along the line. He had
lost his cap. His tousled hair streamed wildly,
and his face was dark with vexation and wrath.
His temper was displayed with more clearness
by the way in which he managed his horse. He
jerked and wrenched savagely at his bridle, stop-
ping the hard-breathing animal with a furious
pull near the colonel of the regiment. He im-
mediately exploded in reproaches which came
unbidden to the ears of the men. They were
suddenly alert, being always curious about black
words between officers.
"Oh, thunder, MacChesnay, what an awful
bull you made of this thing!" began the officer.
He attempted low tones, but his indignation
caused certain of the men to learn the sense of
his words. "What an awful mess you made!
Good Lord, man, you stopped about a hun-
dred feet this side of a very pretty success! If
your men had gone a hundred feet farther you
would have made a great charge, but as it is
--what a lot of mud diggers you've got any-
The men, listening with bated breath, now
turned their curious eyes upon the colonel.
They had a ragamuffin interest in this affair.
The colonel was seen to straighten his form
and put one hand forth in oratorical fashion.
He wore an injured air; it was as if a deacon
had been accused of stealing. The men were
wiggling in an ecstasy of excitement.
But of a sudden the colonel's manner changed
from that of a deacon to that of a Frenchman.
He shrugged his shoulders. "Oh, well, general,
we went as far as we could," he said calmly.
"As far as you could? Did you, b'Gawd?"
snorted the other. "Well, that wasn't very far,
was it?" he added, with a glance of cold con-
tempt into the other's eyes. "Not very far, I
think. You were intended to make a diversion
in favor of Whiterside. How well you succeeded
your own ears can now tell you." He wheeled
his horse and rode stiffly away.
The colonel, bidden to hear the jarring noises
of an engagement in the woods to the left, broke
out in vague damnations.
The lieutenant, who had listened with an air
of impotent rage to the interview, spoke suddenly
in firm and undaunted tones. "I don't care what
a man is--whether he is a general or what--if
he says th' boys didn't put up a good fight out
there he's a damned fool."
"Lieutenant," began the colonel, severely,
"this is my own affair, and I'll trouble you--"
The lieutenant made an obedient gesture.
"All right, colonel, all right," he said. He sat
down with an air of being content with him-
The news that the regiment had been re-
proached went along the line. For a time the
men were bewildered by it. "Good thunder!"
they ejaculated, staring at the vanishing form of
the general. They conceived it to be a huge
Presently, however, they began to believe that
in truth their efforts had been called light. The
youth could see this conviction weigh upon the
entire regiment until the men were like cuffed
and cursed animals, but withal rebellious.
The friend, with a grievance in his eye,
went to the youth. "I wonder what he does
want," he said. "He must think we went out
there an' played marbles! I never see sech a
The youth developed a tranquil philosophy
for these moments of irritation. "Oh, well," he
rejoined, "he probably didn't see nothing of it at
all and got mad as blazes, and concluded we were
a lot of sheep, just because we didn't do what he
wanted done. It's a pity old Grandpa Hender-
son got killed yestirday--he'd have known that
we did our best and fought good. It's just our
awful luck, that's what."
"I should say so," replied the friend. He
seemed to be deeply wounded at an injustice.
"I should say we did have awful luck! There's
no fun in fightin' fer people when everything
yeh do--no matter what--ain't done right. I
have a notion t' stay behind next time an' let
'em take their ol' charge an' go t' th' devil
The youth spoke soothingly to his comrade.
"Well, we both did good. I'd like to see the
fool what'd say we both didn't do as good as we
"Of course we did," declared the friend
stoutly. "An' I'd break th' feller's neck if he was
as big as a church. But we're all right, anyhow,
for I heard one feller say that we two fit th' best
in th' reg'ment, an' they had a great argument
'bout it. Another feller, 'a course, he had t' up
an' say it was a lie--he seen all what was goin'
on an' he never seen us from th' beginnin' t' th'
end. An' a lot more struck in an' ses it wasn't
a lie--we did fight like thunder, an' they give
us quite a send-off. But this is what I can't
stand--these everlastin' ol' soldiers, titterin' an'
laughin', an' then that general, he's crazy."
The youth exclaimed with sudden exaspera-
tion: "He's a lunkhead! He makes me mad.
I wish he'd come along next time. We'd show
He ceased because several men had come
hurrying up. Their faces expressed a bringing
of great news.
"O Flem, yeh jest oughta heard!" cried one,
"Heard what?" said the youth.
"Yeh jest oughta heard!" repeated the other,
and he arranged himself to tell his tidings. The
others made an excited circle. "Well, sir, th'
colonel met your lieutenant right by us--it was
damnedest thing I ever heard--an' he ses: 'Ahem!
ahem!' he ses. 'Mr. Hasbrouck!' he ses, 'by
th' way, who was that lad what carried th' flag?'
he ses. There, Flemin', what d' yeh think 'a
that? 'Who was th' lad what carried th' flag?'
he ses, an' th' lieutenant, he speaks up right
away: 'That's Flemin', an' he's a jimhickey,' he
ses, right away. What? I say he did. 'A jim-
hickey,' he ses--those 'r his words. He did, too.
I say he did. If you kin tell this story better
than I kin, go ahead an' tell it. Well, then, keep
yer mouth shet. Th' lieutenant, he ses: 'He's a
jimhickey,' an' th' colonel, he ses: 'Ahem! ahem!
he is, indeed, a very good man t' have, ahem! He
kep' th' flag 'way t' th' front. I saw 'im. He's a
good un,' ses th' colonel. 'You bet,' ses th' lieu-
tenant, 'he an' a feller named Wilson was at th'
head 'a th' charge, an' howlin' like Indians all th'
time,' he ses. 'Head 'a th' charge all th' time,'
he ses. 'A feller named Wilson,' he ses. There,
Wilson, m'boy, put that in a letter an' send it
hum t' yer mother, hay? 'A feller named Wil-
son,' he ses. An' th' colonel, he ses: 'Were they,
indeed? Ahem! ahem! My sakes!' he ses. 'At
th' head 'a th' reg'ment?' he ses. 'They were,'
ses th' lieutenant. 'My sakes!' ses th' colonel.
He ses: 'Well, well, well,' he ses, 'those two
babies?' 'They were,' ses th' lieutenant.
'Well, well,' ses th' colonel, 'they deserve t' be
major generals,' he ses. 'They deserve t' be
The youth and his friend had said: "Huh!"
"Yer lyin', Thompson." "Oh, go t' blazes!"
"He never sed it." "Oh, what a lie!" "Huh!"
But despite these youthful scoffings and embar-
rassments, they knew that their faces were deeply
flushing from thrills of pleasure. They ex-
changed a secret glance of joy and congratula-
They speedily forgot many things. The past
held no pictures of error and disappointment.
They were very happy, and their hearts swelled
with grateful affection for the colonel and the
WHEN the woods again began to pour forth
the dark-hued masses of the enemy the youth felt
serene self-confidence. He smiled briefly when
he saw men dodge and duck at the long screech-
ings of shells that were thrown in giant handfuls
over them. He stood, erect and tranquil, watch-
ing the attack begin against a part of the line
that made a blue curve along the side of an adja-
cent hill. His vision being unmolested by smoke
from the rifles of his companions, he had oppor-
tunities to see parts of the hard fight. It was a
relief to perceive at last from whence came some
of these noises which had been roared into his
Off a short way he saw two regiments fight-
ing a little separate battle with two other regi-
ments. It was in a cleared space, wearing a set-
apart look. They were blazing as if upon a
wager, giving and taking tremendous blows.
The firings were incredibly fierce and rapid.
These intent regiments apparently were oblivious
of all larger purposes of war, and were slugging
each other as if at a matched game.
In another direction he saw a magnificent
brigade going with the evident intention of driv-
ing the enemy from a wood. They passed in out
of sight and presently there was a most awe-in-
spiring racket in the wood. The noise was un-
speakable. Having stirred this prodigious up-
roar, and, apparently, finding it too prodigious,
the brigade, after a little time, came marching
airily out again with its fine formation in nowise
disturbed. There were no traces of speed in its
movements. The brigade was jaunty and seemed
to point a proud thumb at the yelling wood.
On a slope to the left there was a long row of
guns, gruff and maddened, denouncing the
enemy, who, down through the woods, were
forming for another attack in the pitiless mo-
notony of conflicts. The round red discharges
from the guns made a crimson flare and a high,
thick smoke. Occasional glimpses could be
caught of groups of the toiling artillerymen. In
the rear of this row of guns stood a house, calm
and white, amid bursting shells. A congregation
of horses, tied to a long railing, were tugging
frenziedly at their bridles. Men were running
hither and thither.
The detached battle between the four regi-
ments lasted for some time. There chanced to
be no interference, and they settled their dispute
by themselves. They struck savagely and pow-
erfully at each other for a period of minutes, and
then the lighter-hued regiments faltered and
drew back, leaving the dark-blue lines shouting.
The youth could see the two flags shaking with
laughter amid the smoke remnants.
Presently there was a stillness, pregnant with
meaning. The blue lines shifted and changed a
trifle and stared expectantly at the silent woods
and fields before them. The hush was solemn
and churchlike, save for a distant battery that,
evidently unable to remain quiet, sent a faint
rolling thunder over the ground. It irritated,
like the noises of unimpressed boys. The men
imagined that it would prevent their perched
ears from hearing the first words of the new
Of a sudden the guns on the slope roared out
a message of warning. A spluttering sound had
begun in the woods. It swelled with amazing
speed to a profound clamor that involved the
earth in noises. The splitting crashes swept
along the lines until an interminable roar was
developed. To those in the midst of it it became
a din fitted to the universe. It was the whirring
and thumping of gigantic machinery, complica-
tions among the smaller stars. The youth's ears
were filled up. They were incapable of hearing
On an incline over which a road wound he
saw wild and desperate rushes of men perpet-
ually backward and forward in riotous surges.
These parts of the opposing armies were two
long waves that pitched upon each other madly
at dictated points. To and fro they swelled.
Sometimes, one side by its yells and cheers would
proclaim decisive blows, but a moment later
the other side would be all yells and cheers.
Once the youth saw a spray of light forms go in
houndlike leaps toward the waving blue lines.
There was much howling, and presently it went
away with a vast mouthful of prisoners. Again,
he saw a blue wave dash with such thunderous
force against a gray obstruction that it seemed to
clear the earth of it and leave nothing but
trampled sod. And always in their swift and
deadly rushes to and fro the men screamed
and yelled like maniacs.
Particular pieces of fence or secure positions
behind collections of trees were wrangled over,
as gold thrones or pearl bedsteads. There were
desperate lunges at these chosen spots seemingly
every instant, and most of them were bandied like
light toys between the contending forces. The
youth could not tell from the battle flags flying
like crimson foam in many directions which color
of cloth was winning.
His emaciated regiment bustled forth with
undiminished fierceness when its time came.
When assaulted again by bullets, the men burst
out in a barbaric cry of rage and pain. They
bent their heads in aims of intent hatred
behind the projected hammers of their guns.
Their ramrods clanged loud with fury as their
eager arms pounded the cartridges into the rifle
barrels. The front of the regiment was a smoke-
wall penetrated by the flashing points of yellow
Wallowing in the fight, they were in an
astonishingly short time resmudged. They
surpassed in stain and dirt all their previous ap-
pearances. Moving to and fro with strained
exertion, jabbering the while, they were, with
their swaying bodies, black faces, and glowing
eyes, like strange and ugly friends jigging heavily
in the smoke.
The lieutenant, returning from a tour after a
bandage, produced from a hidden receptacle of
his mind new and portentous oaths suited to the
emergency. Strings of expletives he swung
lashlike over the backs of his men, and it was
evident that his previous efforts had in nowise
impaired his resources.
The youth, still the bearer of the colors, did
not feel his idleness. He was deeply absorbed as
a spectator. The crash and swing of the great
drama made him lean forward, intent-eyed, his
face working in small contortions. Sometimes he
prattled, words coming unconsciously from him
in grotesque exclamations. He did not know
that he breathed; that the flag hung silently over
him, so absorbed was he.
A formidable line of the enemy came within
dangerous range. They could be seen plainly--
tall, gaunt men with excited faces running with
long strides toward a wandering fence.
At sight of this danger the men suddenly
ceased their cursing monotone. There was an
instant of strained silence before they threw up
their rifles and fired a plumping volley at the
foes. There had been no order given; the men,
upon recognizing the menace, had immedi-
ately let drive their flock of bullets without wait-
ing for word of command.
But the enemy were quick to gain the protec-
tion of the wandering line of fence. They slid down
behind it with remarkable celerity, and from this
position they began briskly to slice up the blue men.
These latter braced their energies for a great
struggle. Often, white clinched teeth shone
from the dusky faces. Many heads surged to
and fro, floating upon a pale sea of smoke.
Those behind the fence frequently shouted and
yelped in taunts and gibelike cries, but the regi-
ment maintained a stressed silence. Perhaps, at
this new assault the men recalled the fact that
they had been named mud diggers, and it made
their situation thrice bitter. They were breath-
lessly intent upon keeping the ground and thrust-
ing away the rejoicing body of the enemy. They
fought swiftly and with a despairing savageness
denoted in their expressions.
The youth had resolved not to budge what-
ever should happen. Some arrows of scorn that
had buried themselves in his heart had generated
strange and unspeakable hatred. It was clear
to him that his final and absolute revenge was to
be achieved by his dead body lying, torn and
gluttering, upon the field. This was to be a
poignant retaliation upon the officer who had
said "mule drivers," and later "mud diggers,"
for in all the wild graspings of his mind for a
unit responsible for his sufferings and commo-
tions he always seized upon the man who had
dubbed him wrongly. And it was his idea,
vaguely formulated, that his corpse would be for
those eyes a great and salt reproach.
The regiment bled extravagantly. Grunting
bundles of blue began to drop. The orderly
sergeant of the youth's company was shot through
the cheeks. Its supports being injured, his jaw
hung afar down, disclosing in the wide cavern of
his mouth a pulsing mass of blood and teeth.
And with it all he made attempts to cry out.
In his endeavor there was a dreadful earnestness,
as if he conceived that one great shriek would
make him well.
The youth saw him presently go rearward.
His strength seemed in nowise impaired. He
ran swiftly, casting wild glances for succor.
Others fell down about the feet of their com-
panions. Some of the wounded crawled out and
away, but many lay still, their bodies twisted into
The youth looked once for his friend. He
saw a vehement young man, powder-smeared and
frowzled, whom he knew to be him. The lieu-
tenant, also, was unscathed in his position at the
rear. He had continued to curse, but it was now
with the air of a man who was using his last box
For the fire of the regiment had begun to
wane and drip. The robust voice, that had come
strangely from the thin ranks, was growing
THE colonel came running along back of the
line. There were other officers following him.
"We must charge'm!" they shouted. "We must
charge'm!" they cried with resentful voices, as
if anticipating a rebellion against this plan by the
The youth, upon hearing the shouts, began to
study the distance between him and the enemy.
He made vague calculations. He saw that to be
firm soldiers they must go forward. It would be
death to stay in the present place, and with all
the circumstances to go backward would exalt
too many others. Their hope was to push the
galling foes away from the fence.
He expected that his companions, weary and
stiffened, would have to be driven to this assault,
but as he turned toward them he perceived with
a certain surprise that they were giving quick
and unqualified expressions of assent. There was
an ominous, clanging overture to the charge
when the shafts of the bayonets rattled upon the
rifle barrels. At the yelled words of command
the soldiers sprang forward in eager leaps.
There was new and unexpected force in the
movement of the regiment. A knowledge of its
faded and jaded condition made the charge ap-
pear like a paroxysm, a display of the strength
that comes before a final feebleness. The men
scampered in insane fever of haste, racing as if to
achieve a sudden success before an exhilarating
fluid should leave them. It was a blind and de-
spairing rush by the collection of men in dusty
and tattered blue, over a green sward and under
a sapphire sky, toward a fence, dimly outlined in
smoke, from behind which spluttered the fierce
rifles of enemies.
The youth kept the bright colors to the front.
He was waving his free arm in furious circles,
the while shrieking mad calls and appeals, urging
on those that did not need to be urged, for it
seemed that the mob of blue men hurling them-
selves on the dangerous group of rifles were
again grown suddenly wild with an enthusiasm of
unselfishness. From the many firings starting
toward them, it looked as if they would merely
succeed in making a great sprinkling of corpses
on the grass between their former position and
the fence. But they were in a state of frenzy,
perhaps because of forgotten vanities, and it made
an exhibition of sublime recklessness. There was
no obvious questioning, nor figurings, nor dia-
grams. There was, apparently, no considered
loopholes. It appeared that the swift wings of
their desires would have shattered against the
iron gates of the impossible.
He himself felt the daring spirit of a savage
religion mad. He was capable of profound sacri-
fices, a tremendous death. He had no time for
dissections, but he knew that he thought of the
bullets only as things that could prevent him
from reaching the place of his endeavor. There
were subtle flashings of joy within him that thus
should be his mind.
He strained all his strength. His eyesight
was shaken and dazzled by the tension of thought
and muscle. He did not see anything excepting
the mist of smoke gashed by the little knives of
fire, but he knew that in it lay the aged fence of a
vanished farmer protecting the snuggled bodies
of the gray men.
As he ran a thought of the shock of contact
gleamed in his mind. He expected a great con-
cussion when the two bodies of troops crashed
together. This became a part of his wild battle
madness. He could feel the onward swing of the
regiment about him and he conceived of a thun-
derous, crushing blow that would prostrate the
resistance and spread consternation and amaze-
ment for miles. The flying regiment was going
to have a catapultian effect. This dream made
him run faster among his comrades, who were
giving vent to hoarse and frantic cheers.
But presently he could see that many of the
men in gray did not intend to abide the blow.
The smoke, rolling, disclosed men who ran, their
faces still turned. These grew to a crowd, who
retired stubbornly. Individuals wheeled fre-
quently to send a bullet at the blue wave.
But at one part of the line there was a grim
and obdurate group that made no movement.
They were settled firmly down behind posts and
rails. A flag, ruffled and fierce, waved over them
and their rifles dinned fiercely.
The blue whirl of men got very near, until
it seemed that in truth there would be a close
and frightful scuffle. There was an expressed
disdain in the opposition of the little group,
that changed the meaning of the cheers of the
men in blue. They became yells of wrath,
directed, personal. The cries of the two parties
were now in sound an interchange of scathing
They in blue showed their teeth; their eyes
shone all white. They launched themselves as at
the throats of those who stood resisting. The
space between dwindled to an insignificant dis-
The youth had centered the gaze of his soul
upon that other flag. Its possession would be
high pride. It would express bloody minglings,
near blows. He had a gigantic hatred for those
who made great difficulties and complications.
They caused it to be as a craved treasure of my-
thology, hung amid tasks and contrivances of
He plunged like a mad horse at it. He was
resolved it should not escape if wild blows and
darings of blows could seize it. His own em-
blem, quivering and aflare, was winging toward
the other. It seemed there would shortly be
an encounter of strange beaks and claws, as of
The swirling body of blue men came to a
sudden halt at close and disastrous range and
roared a swift volley. The group in gray was
split and broken by this fire, but its riddled body
still fought. The men in blue yelled again and
rushed in upon it.
The youth, in his leapings, saw, as through a
mist, a picture of four or five men stretched upon
the ground or writhing upon their knees with
bowed heads as if they had been stricken by bolts
from the sky. Tottering among them was the
rival color bearer, whom the youth saw had been
bitten vitally by the bullets of the last formidable
volley. He perceived this man fighting a last
struggle, the struggle of one whose legs are
grasped by demons. It was a ghastly battle.
Over his face was the bleach of death, but set
upon it was the dark and hard lines of desperate
purpose. With this terrible grin of resolution he
hugged his precious flag to him and was stum-
bling and staggering in his design to go the way
that led to safety for it.
But his wounds always made it seem that his
feet were retarded, held, and he fought a grim
fight, as with invisible ghouls fastened greedily
upon his limbs. Those in advance of the scam-
pering blue men, howling cheers, leaped at the
fence. The despair of the lost was in his eyes as
he glanced back at them.
The youth's friend went over the obstruction
in a tumbling heap and sprang at the flag as a
panther at prey. He pulled at it and, wrench-
ing it free, swung up its red brilliancy with a
mad cry of exultation even as the color bearer,
gasping, lurched over in a final throe and, stiff-
ening convulsively, turned his dead face to the
ground. There was much blood upon the grass
At the place of success there began more wild
clamorings of cheers. The men gesticulated and
bellowed in an ecstasy. When they spoke it was
as if they considered their listener to be a mile
away. What hats and caps were left to them
they often slung high in the air.
At one part of the line four men had been
swooped upon, and they now sat as prisoners.
Some blue men were about them in an eager and
curious circle. The soldiers had trapped strange
birds, and there was an examination. A flurry of
fast questions was in the air.
One of the prisoners was nursing a superficial
wound in the foot. He cuddled it, baby-wise,
but he looked up from it often to curse with an
astonishing utter abandon straight at the noses of
his captors. He consigned them to red regions;
he called upon the pestilential wrath of strange
gods. And with it all he was singularly free
from recognition of the finer points of the con-
duct of prisoners of war. It was as if a clumsy
clod had trod upon his toe and he conceived it to
be his privilege, his duty, to use deep, resentful
Another, who was a boy in years, took his
plight with great calmness and apparent good
nature. He conversed with the men in blue,
studying their faces with his bright and keen
eyes. They spoke of battles and conditions.
There was an acute interest in all their faces dur-
ing this exchange of view points. It seemed a
great satisfaction to hear voices from where all
had been darkness and speculation.
The third captive sat with a morose counte-
nance. He preserved a stoical and cold attitude.
To all advances he made one reply without varia-
tion, "Ah, go t' hell!"
The last of the four was always silent and,
for the most part, kept his face turned in un-
molested directions. From the views the youth
received he seemed to be in a state of absolute
dejection. Shame was upon him, and with it
profound regret that he was, perhaps, no more
to be counted in the ranks of his fellows. The
youth could detect no expression that would
allow him to believe that the other was giving
a thought to his narrowed future, the pictured
dungeons, perhaps, and starvations and brutali-
ties, liable to the imagination. All to be seen
was shame for captivity and regret for the right
After the men had celebrated sufficiently they
settled down behind the old rail fence, on the
opposite side to the one from which their foes
had been driven. A few shot perfunctorily at
There was some long grass. The youth
nestled in it and rested, making a convenient rail
support the flag. His friend, jubilant and glori-
fied, holding his treasure with vanity, came to
him there. They sat side by side and congratu-
lated each other.
THE roarings that had stretched in a long line
of sound across the face of the forest began to
grow intermittent and weaker. The stentorian
speeches of the artillery continued in some dis-
tant encounter, but the crashes of the musketry
had almost ceased. The youth and his friend of
a sudden looked up, feeling a deadened form of
distress at the waning of these noises, which had
become a part of life. They could see changes
going on among the troops. There were march-
ings this way and that way. A battery wheeled
leisurely. On the crest of a small hill was the
thick gleam of many departing muskets.
The youth arose. "Well, what now, I won-
der?" he said. By his tone he seemed to be
preparing to resent some new monstrosity in
the way of dins and smashes. He shaded his
eyes with his grimy hand and gazed over the
His friend also arose and stared. "I bet
we're goin' t' git along out of this an' back over
th' river," said he.
"Well, I swan!" said the youth.
They waited, watching. Within a little while
the regiment received orders to retrace its way.
The men got up grunting from the grass, regret-
ting the soft repose. They jerked their stiffened
legs, and stretched their arms over their heads.
One man swore as he rubbed his eyes. They all
groaned "O Lord!" They had as many objec-
tions to this change as they would have had to a
proposal for a new battle.
They trampled slowly back over the field
across which they had run in a mad scamper.
The regiment marched until it had joined its
fellows. The reformed brigade, in column, aimed
through a wood at the road. Directly they were
in a mass of dust-covered troops, and were
trudging along in a way parallel to the enemy's
lines as these had been defined by the previous
They passed within view of a stolid white
house, and saw in front of it groups of their com-
rades lying in wait behind a neat breastwork. A
row of guns were booming at a distant enemy.
Shells thrown in reply were raising clouds of
dust and splinters. Horsemen dashed along the
line of intrenchments.
At this point of its march the division curved
away from the field and went winding off in the
direction of the river. When the significance of
this movement had impressed itself upon the
youth he turned his head and looked over his
shoulder toward the trampled and debris-strewed
ground. He breathed a breath of new satisfac-
tion. He finally nudged his friend. "Well, it's
all over," he said to him.
His friend gazed backward. "B'Gawd, it
is," he assented. They mused.
For a time the youth was obliged to reflect
in a puzzled and uncertain way. His mind was
undergoing a subtle change. It took moments
for it to cast off its battleful ways and resume
its accustomed course of thought. Gradually his
brain emerged from the clogged clouds, and at
last he was enabled to more closely compre-
hend himself and circumstance.
He understood then that the existence of shot
and counter-shot was in the past. He had dwelt
in a land of strange, squalling upheavals and had
come forth. He had been where there was red
of blood and black of passion, and he was es-
caped. His first thoughts were given to rejoic-
ings at this fact.
Later he began to study his deeds, his fail-
ures, and his achievements. Thus, fresh from
scenes where many of his usual machines of re-
flection had been idle, from where he had pro-
ceeded sheeplike, he struggled to marshal all his
At last they marched before him clearly.
From this present view point he was enabled
to look upon them in spectator fashion and
to criticise them with some correctness, for his
new condition had already defeated certain sym-
Regarding his procession of memory he felt
gleeful and unregretting, for in it his public deeds
were paraded in great and shining prominence.
Those performances which had been witnessed
by his fellows marched now in wide purple and
gold, having various deflections. They went
gayly with music. It was pleasure to watch these
things. He spent delightful minutes viewing the
gilded images of memory.
He saw that he was good. He recalled with
a thrill of joy the respectful comments of his fel-
lows upon his conduct.
Nevertheless, the ghost of his flight from
the first engagement appeared to him and
danced. There were small shoutings in his
brain about these matters. For a moment he
blushed, and the light of his soul flickered with
A specter of reproach came to him. There
loomed the dogging memory of the tattered
soldier--he who, gored by bullets and faint for
blood, had fretted concerning an imagined wound
in another; he who had loaned his last of strength
and intellect for the tall soldier; he who, blind
with weariness and pain, had been deserted in
For an instant a wretched chill of sweat was
upon him at the thought that he might be
detected in the thing. As he stood persistently
before his vision, he gave vent to a cry of sharp
irritation and agony.
His friend turned. "What's the matter,
Henry?" he demanded. The youth's reply was
an outburst of crimson oaths.
As he marched along the little branch-hung
roadway among his prattling companions this
vision of cruelty brooded over him. It clung
near him always and darkened his view of these
deeds in purple and gold. Whichever way his
thoughts turned they were followed by the
somber phantom of the desertion in the fields.
He looked stealthily at his companions, feeling
sure that they must discern in his face evidences
of this pursuit. But they were plodding in
ragged array, discussing with quick tongues the
accomplishments of the late battle.
"Oh, if a man should come up an' ask me, I'd
say we got a dum good lickin'."
"Lickin'--in yer eye! We ain't licked, sonny.
We're goin' down here aways, swing aroun', an'
come in behint 'em."
"Oh, hush, with your comin' in behint 'em.
I've seen all 'a that I wanta. Don't tell me about
comin' in behint--"
"Bill Smithers, he ses he'd rather been in
ten hundred battles than been in that heluva
hospital. He ses they got shootin' in th' night-
time, an' shells dropped plum among 'em in th'
hospital. He ses sech hollerin' he never see."
"Hasbrouck? He's th' best off'cer in this
here reg'ment. He's a whale."
"Didn't I tell yeh we'd come aroun' in behint
'em? Didn't I tell yeh so? We--"
"Oh, shet yeh mouth!"
For a time this pursuing recollection of the
tattered man took all elation from the youth's
veins. He saw his vivid error, and he was afraid
that it would stand before him all his life. He
took no share in the chatter of his comrades, nor
did he look at them or know them, save when he
felt sudden suspicion that they were seeing his
thoughts and scrutinizing each detail of the scene
with the tattered soldier.
Yet gradually he mustered force to put the sin
at a distance. And at last his eyes seemed to
open to some new ways. He found that he could
look back upon the brass and bombast of his
earlier gospels and see them truly. He was
gleeful when he discovered that he now despised
With this conviction came a store of assur-
ance. He felt a quiet manhood, nonassertive but
of sturdy and strong blood. He knew that he
would no more quail before his guides wher-
ever they should point. He had been to touch
the great death, and found that, after all, it was
but the great death. He was a man.
So it came to pass that as he trudged from
the place of blood and wrath his soul changed.
He came from hot plowshares to prospects of
clover tranquilly, and it was as if hot plowshares
were not. Scars faded as flowers.
It rained. The procession of weary soldiers
became a bedraggled train, despondent and
muttering, marching with churning effort in a
trough of liquid brown mud under a low,
wretched sky. Yet the youth smiled, for he saw
that the world was a world for him, though many
discovered it to be made of oaths and walking
sticks. He had rid himself of the red sickness of
battle. The sultry nightmare was in the past.
He had been an animal blistered and sweating in
the heat and pain of war. He turned now with a
lover's thirst to images of tranquil skies, fresh
meadows, cool brooks--an existence of soft and
Over the river a golden ray of sun came
through the hosts of leaden rain clouds.