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Who Goes There? by Blackwood Ketcham Benson

Part 6 out of 10

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He will command me. And, in that ease, our relationship would be
weakened unnecessarily; better go willingly than seem to go sullenly.
Yet, with all this, I had resolved that if any escape from this
frightful duty should be presented, if any possible substitute could
occur to the general's mind, or if, by any means, the bitter extreme of
mental suffering, and even--I admitted it to myself--of mental danger,
could be avoided, I should not consent to serve.

To speak of this subject to Dr. Khayme would give me no embarrassment;
I was sure of his full sympathy; but I was hampered by a doubt as to how
much I should tell him of the necessity which prompted the demand for my
work. The three generals had spoken of important matters before me, or
at least hinted at them, and General Morell had been still more
communicative. I made up my mind to say nothing of these matters to
the Doctor.

When I reached the tent I found my old master yet busy at his writing.
As I entered he looked up at me, and immediately rose from his seat.

"You have been tried," said he; "lie down and rest."

He sat by me and felt my pulse. Then he said, "You will do; it is only a
momentary unsteadiness."

Yet, if ever I saw alarm in any one's eyes, that feeling was then in Dr.

I had said nothing; I now started to speak, but the Doctor placed a
finger on my lips, saying, "Not yet; I'll do the talking for both
of us."

He rose and brought me water, and I drank.

Then he sat by me again, and said, "The fight which one must make with
his will against impulse is not easy, especially with some natures; and
a single defeat makes the fight harder. To yield once is to become
weaker, and to make it easy to yield,"

I understood. He could read me. He knew my weakness. How he knew I could
not know; nor did I care. He was a profound soul; he knew the mind if
ever yet mere man knew mind; he could read what was going on in the mind
by the language of the features and the body. Especially did he know me.
But possibly his knowledge was only general; he might infer, from
apparent symptoms, that some mental trouble was now pressing hard upon
me, and, without knowing the special nature of the trouble, might be
prescribing the exercise of the will as a general remedy. Yet it
mattered nothing to me, at the moment, I thought, how he knew.

"You will not yield," said he.

I closed my eyes, and thought of Lydia, and of my father, and of
Willis, and of Jones, and of nothing connectedly.

"Do you remember," he asked, "the first time you came with me to the
little cottage in Charleston?"

I nodded.

"At that time you were passing a crisis. I would not tell you to will.
Do you remember it?"

Again I nodded assent.

"To will at another's dictation is impossible. The will is free. If I
should tell you to will any certain thing, it would do no good. All that
I can do is to say that the will is free."

His finger was yet on my lips. My mind had taken in all that he said,
although my thought was giddy. He was clearly right. If I should
surrender once, it would be hard to recover my former ground. Yet I
doubted my power to will. The doubt brought terror. I wished that he
would speak again.

"The power of habit is not lost in a moment. It may be unobserved, or
dormant even, but it is not destroyed. No man accustomed to keep himself
in subjection can fail to distinguish temptation from surrender."

How well he could read me!

"The desire to will may momentarily fail through bodily weakness, or
through fear--which is the same thing. But he who can will when he
desires to will not, conquers himself doubly."

I put his hand away and rose.

"What time is it, Doctor?" I asked.

"Half-past ten," said he, without looking at his watch.

"I must report to General Morell at eleven," I said.

"We must not waste time, then," he said; "who accompanies you?"

"I go alone."

He looked at me searchingly, then grasped my hand. He understood.

"You have strengthened your will; good. Now I will strengthen your

He went to a small chest, from which he took a flask. He poured a
spoonful of liquid into a glass. I drank.

"It will be slow and last long," said he.

He brought me the gray clothing and helped me to dress; he turned the
pockets of my blue clothes and selected such things as I needed.

"Do you go armed?" he asked.

"Yes; apparently. I shall take the Enfield--unloaded."

He brought the cartridge-box and the canteen; he brought the haversack,
and put food in it.

Said he, "I wish you would humour one of my whims."

"Anything you wish, Doctor."

"Put the palmetto buttons on your coat."

It was soon done. I was passive; he was doing the work.

"Now," he said, "one other thing. Take this pencil, and this book. Turn
to May 23d. I will dictate."

It was a small blank-book, a little soiled, with the pages divided into
sections, which were headed with dates for the year 1862.

"Turn to May 23d," he had said.

"I have it," said I.

"Read the date," said he.

"FRIDAY, May 23, 1862."

"Now write."

The Doctor dictated; I wrote:--

"Arrived after furlough. Drilled A.M. and P.M. Weather clear."

* * * * *

"SATURDAY, May 24, 1862.
"On camp guard. Letters from home. Showers.
Marched at night."

* * * * *

"SUNDAY, May 25, 1862.
"Marched all day. Bivouacked in woods at night."

* * * * *

"MONDAY, May 26, 1862.
"Marched but a few miles. Day very hot. Weather
bad. Heavy rain at night."

* * * * *

"TUESDAY, May 27, 1862. "Rain. Heard a battle ahead. Marched past--"

"What brigade was that you saw at Hanover Court-House?" the Doctor


"Yes, Branch's; write, 'Marched past Branch's brigade, that had been

Then the Doctor said: "Now turn to the fly-leaf of the book and
write"--he paused a moment--"simply write Jones. Here--turn the book
lengthwise, and write Jones."

I wrote Jones--lengthwise the book.

"Wait," said he; "put a capital B."

I put a capital B after Jones.

"Let me see," said he.

I showed him the book.

"No," said he; "erase that B and put another one before Jones."

"Have you an eraser?"

"I'll get one."

The B after Jones was erased, leaving a dark splotch. I wrote B. before

"We must get that dark spot out," said he.

He took the book and very carefully tore out part of the leaf, so that
there remained only B. Jones and the part of the fly-leaf above
the writing.

"Now," said he, "put that in your pocket."

"What is all this for, Doctor?"

"For a purpose. Keep it in your pocket; it may serve to protect you."

"What time is it, Doctor?"

"Ten minutes to eleven."

"I must go."

He said no word; but he put up his hands to my face, and made me bend to
him, and kissed me.

* * * * *

Before midnight one of General Morell's orderlies had passed me through
our cavalry pickets beyond Mechanicsville.

The Doctor's stimulant, or something else, gave me strength, My mind
was clear and my will firm. True, I felt indifferent to life; but the
lesson which the Doctor had given me I had clearly understood, and I had
voluntarily turned the die for duty after it had been cast for ease. All
my hesitation had gone, leaving in its place disgust kept down by
effort, but kept down. I wanted nothing in life. Nothing? Yes, nothing;
I had desire, but knew it unattainable, and renounced its object. I
would not hope for a happiness that might bring ruin on another.

To die in the work begun this night seemed to me appropriate; life at
the present rate was worse than worthless. Yet I had not yielded to this
feeling even; I would be prudent and would accomplish what was hoped
for, if my strength should serve.

In General Morell's tent I had been offered a lieutenant's
commission,--a blank fully signed and ready to fill, but had rejected
it, through vanity perhaps--the vanity that told me to first perform a
duty for which the honour had been soothingly offered.

My plans--I had no plans. I had started.

What was the weather when I started that night? I do not know. I was
making for the swamp; I would go to the swamp; I would look for an
opportunity--that was all.

The swamp was soon around me. I filed right. I found mire and bush, and
many obstacles. The obstacles stirred my reason. To follow every crook
of this winding stream was absurd. I came out of the swamp and began to
skirt its edge. I looked toward my right--the northeast; the sky
reflected a dim glow from many dying camp-fires. I could see how the low
swamp's edge bent in and out, and how I could make a straighter course
than the river. In some places a path was found. Our pickets were
supposed to be on the edge of the hills behind me.

My course was northwestward. I crossed two roads which ran at right
angles to my course and probably entered Richmond. On each of them
successively I advanced until I could see a bridge, upon which I knew it
would not be safe to venture, for it was no doubt held by the
Confederates. I continued up the stream, approaching it at times to see
if it had narrowed.

About two miles, I supposed, from our cavalry vedettes, I crossed a
railroad. On the other side I turned southward. The ground was covered
with dense undergrowth and immense trees, and was soft and slippery from
recent high water. My progress was soon interrupted by a stream, flowing
sluggishly to my left. I sought a crossing. The stream was not deep, but
the slippery banks gave me great difficulty in the darkness. The water
came to my waist; on the further side were hollows filled with standing
water left by the freshet. I had crossed the main branch of the

Within a mile I expected to find Brook Run, behind which it was supposed
the Confederate left extended, and where I must exercise the greatest
care lest I run foul of some vedette. How to avoid stumbling on one of
them in the darkness, was a problem. Very likely they were placed from a
hundred to two hundred yards apart, and near the bank of the stream, if
practicable, especially at night, for the stream itself would not only
be their protection, but also, by its difficulty and its splashing,
would betray any force which should attempt to cross to the south side.

But I found the creek very crooked, and I considered that a line of
vedettes, two hundred yards apart by the course of the stream, would
require probably a man to every fifty yards in a direct line, and such a
line of vedettes could not well be maintained constantly--never is
maintained, I think, unless an enemy's approach is momentarily feared,
in which case you frequently have no vedettes at all. Following up this
thought I concluded that the vedettes were, most likely, watching their
front from the inner bends of the stream, and that, at a bend which had
its convex side toward the north, was my opportunity.

I was not long in finding such a bend. And now my caution became very
great, and my advance very slow. The bank sloped, but was almost
completely hidden in the darkness. I could not see the edge of
the water.

Lying flat, I thrust the butt of my gun ahead of me, and moved it up and
down and right and left, trying the inequalities of the ground. To make
no sound required the very greatest care; a slip of an inch might have
caused a loud splash.

Slowly I gained ground until I reached the water, and stood in it to my
knees. I listened--not a sound. I slowly moved forward, raising my foot
not an inch from the muddy bottom, straining eye and ear to note the
slightest sign of danger. The water deepened to my middle.

I crawled up the further bank. Again I lent ear. Nothing. I crawled
forward for fifty yards or more, hoping, rather than believing, that I
was keeping halfway between the sides of the bend.

I rested a while, for such work is very hard. Before a minute had passed
I heard a noise--and another: one at my right, the other at my left. The
sounds were repeated. I knew what they meant--the vedette on either side
of me was being relieved. My course had been right--I was midway between
two sentinels.

How to get through the picket-line ahead of me? I reasoned that the
pickets were not in the swamp, but on the edge of the hills. Lying there
between the two vedettes I imagined a plan. I knew that a picket-line is
relieved early in the day when troops are in position, as the armies
were now. If I could see the relief coming, I would show myself just at
the time it arrived, hoping that each party would take me to belong to
the other.

But suppose I should not see the relieving company, or suppose any one
of a thousand things should at the last moment make my plan
impracticable, what then?

I saw that I must have some other plan to fall back on; I would make
some other plan as I crawled forward.

At what moment should I strike the line of Confederate pickets? That the
country outside was in their cavalry lines I well knew, and I hoped that
for this reason their infantry would be less watchful; but this thought
did not make me any the less prudent and slow in my advance. I had
easily succeeded in passing the vedettes; to avoid the vedette reliefs
might not be easy.

When I reached the edge of the swamp, daylight was just beginning to
show. Could I hope to remain long between vedettes and pickets?
Impossible. But impossible is a strong word, I thought. Why not climb?
Trees were all around me; I might easily hide in the thick boughs of a
cedar near by. But that would do me no good; at least, it could do no
good unless in case of sudden necessity. I must get through the
picket-line; outside I could do nothing. Once in rear of the Confederate
pickets, I should have little or no trouble in remaining for days in the
camps and in the main lines; getting through was the difficulty.
Daylight was increasing.

Had it taken me two hours to crawl from the line of vedettes to this
edge of the swamp? The question rose in my mind from seeing a relief
come down the hill at my right; two men, supposably a non-commissioned
officer and a private, were going to pass in fifty yards of me. I let
them pass. They went into the swamp. Five minutes later two men returned
by the same route, or almost so, but came a little nearer to me; I saw
them coming and felt for my glass, but did not find it. I supposed that
Dr. Khayme had forgotten to put it in my haversack. Yet the men--no
doubt the same non-commissioned officer, with the private he had just
relieved from duty as a vedette--passed so near me that I could
distinctly see their dress, and could note its worn and bedraggled
appearance. These men had seen hard service, evidently.

Five minutes more passed. The east was aglow with day. Two men at my
left were now coming down the hill. They passed into the swamp. These
men wore uniforms fresh and clean.

The thought came upon me at once that I had passed between two vedettes
belonging to different regiments. I cast about for some way to take
advantage of this circumstance, but racked my brains to no purpose.
Finally, however, an odd idea was born. Could I not go back to the
vedettes, and talk to either the right or the left man of the connecting
line? He would probably think that I belonged to the command joining
his. No doubt I could do this; but what should I gain? I should merely
be losing time.

Then another idea came. Could I not post myself as a Confederate vedette
between the connecting men? But for what? Even if I could do so there
was no profit in this romantic idea. I gave it up.

Yet I must do something. I considered the chances of going forward
boldly, walking straight between two pits, and on up the hill. The
pickets would see that I was a Confederate. If I could strike between
the connecting pits of the two commands, the thing might be done. Yet I
wanted a better way.

Before the second relief had returned I was hidden in the boughs of a
tree. The corporal and a man passed back as they had come. They were
talking, but I could not hear what they said.

I watched them from the tree. A gully was in front of me, a large gully,
only in parts visible from my position; it seemed to be on their route.
The two men became hidden by this gully. I saw them no more. My interest
was excited. Why had the men gone into this gully? There was smoother
ground outside. They had a purpose; I must find it out.

Until the next relief should come I was comparatively safe. I was on
neutral ground, or unobserved ground, for an hour at least. I could not
know whether the reliefs came as ordinarily--once every two hours. There
would probably be nobody passing between vedettes and pickets--unless,
indeed, some officer should go the rounds of the sentinels; that was
something I must risk.

I came down from the tree and cautiously approached the mouth of the
gully. I climbed another tree, from which I had a better view. I could
now see that the gully extended far up the hill, and I suspected that
the picket-line stretched across it; but there was no indication of the
purpose which had caused the men to go into the gully. My position was a
good one, and I waited. I could see a part of the picket-line--that is,
not the men, but the rifle-pits.

Ten minutes went by. Coming down the hill from the right in an oblique
direction toward the gully, I saw an unarmed rebel. He disappeared. He
had gone down into this gully, which, I was now confident, separated by
its width the pickets of different commands. What could this unarmed man
be doing in the gully? Nothing for me to do but to wait; I was hoping
that an opportunity had been found.

Soon I saw another man coming down toward the gully; he was coming from
the other side--the left; he was armed. At nearly the same instant the
unarmed man reappeared; his back was toward me, he held his canteen in
his hand. The situation was clear; there was water in the gully; my
opportunity had come.

I came down from the tree. Almost an hour would be mine before the
vedettes were relieved. Cautiously I made my way to the mouth of the
gully. I lay flat and watched. A man was climbing the side of the gully;
he was going to the left; he was armed--doubtless the man I had seen a
moment before. I went into the gully. I must get to that spring or pool,
or whatever it was, before another man should come.

Before the man had reached the picket-line, I was at the spring--and it
was a good one, at least for that swamp. A little hollow had been made
by digging with bayonets, perhaps, or with the hands, on one side of the
gully, just where a huge bulk of unfallen earth would protect the hole
from the midday sun, the only sun which could reach the bottom of this
ravine, defended by its wall on either hand. The hole was so small that
only one canteen could be filled at a time; but the water was good
compared with that of the Chickahominy. Doubtless it was the difficulty
of getting pure water that justified the relaxation of discipline which
permitted the men to have recourse to this spring in rear of their
vedette lines.

Canteen in hand, I sat down by the spring. Fully three minutes I sat and
waited. Seeing how muddy I was, I took out my knife and began scraping
the mud from my shoes and clothing.

I heard a step. I put my canteen into the water and held it down with
one hand, continuing, to scrape mud with the other.

"Fill mine, too," said a voice.

I did not look up.

"Ain't this a swamp to read about? Did you ever see the likes o'

"I couldn't see 'em," said I; "supposing you mean whilst I was on

He laughed. "Bet you had to fight 'em, though. Say--you won't git that
mud off that-away; let it dry."

I did not reply. He was standing almost over me, upon a sort of shelf in
the side of the gully, as there was not room at the water for more
than one man.

"Gimme your canteen," said I.

He handed it to me. It was a bright new tin canteen of the cheap
Confederate make--uncovered. I knew at once that this man belonged to
the fresh regiment. The old Confederates had supplied themselves, from
battlefields and prisoners, and the greater capture of stores, with good
Union canteens. Even while I was thinking this, he said, "What'll you
take to boot 'twixt your canteen and mine?"

"Don't want to swap," said I.

I filled his canteen.

"Now, gimme your hand," said I.

He held out his hand, which I grasped, and he pulled hard; it took two
pulls to bring me to his side. I did not look at him, but knew that he
was a small man.

He turned away. I followed him. I could see that his uniform was new. We
reached the edge of the gully, and stood still.

Now I could see the pits. The gully was deeper up the hill. There was a
pit on either edge of the gully, which was about forty feet wide. Had I
known of the existence of that gully, I could have stolen through the
picket-line in the night--but perhaps they had it guarded at night.

"Say," said my companion, "why didn't you go back on your own side?"

"Ask me no questions, and I'll tell you no lies," said I.

He was two steps ahead of me--a man of small stature. His shoes and his
clothing up to his knees were almost as muddy as mine. He walked slowly
up the hill. In a very few minutes we should be within the picket-line;
it took all my will to preserve composure; I was glad the man was in
front of me. We stepped slowly tip the hill.

I could see nobody at the pits. The pickets were lying down, probably,
half of them asleep, the other half awake but at ease, I was wishing my
leader would speak again. The nervous tension was hard. What should I do
when we reached the line? I had no plan, except to walk on. I wished my
leader would continue to march, and go past the pits--then I could
follow him; the trivial suggestion aroused self-contempt; I was thinking
of straws to catch at. I must strengthen my will.

He had made four steps; he said, "Sun's up."

This was not much of an opening. I managed to respond, "Don't see it,

"Look at that big pine up yonder," said he.

"Be another hot day," said I; "wish I was up there."

"What for?"

"So I could get some sleep."

"You won't git any down here in this old field; that's shore."

"That's what's a-troublin' me," said I; "and I've got to take care of

"Ben sick?"

"No, not down sick; but the hot sun don't do me any good."

"Bilious, I reckon," said he.

"No," said I, "not bilious; it's my head."

"Bet I'd go to the surgeon, then, ef it was me," he said.

"Wish I _could_ see the Doctor," I replied, spelling the word, mentally,
with a capital.

"Well, why don't you tell your captain to let you go back?"

"You don't know my captain," said I.

"Hard on you, is he?"

"Well, hard ain't the word; but I wouldn't risk asking him out here."

"Bet _I'd_ go, anyhow, ef it was me," said he.

"If he should see me going, know what he'd do?"


"Send a man after me."

"Well, you jest come along with, me. Bet _our_ men won't stop you; you
don't belong to _them_."

This was just what I wanted; but I was afraid to show any eagerness. We
were almost at the picket-line, and I had no doubt that my friend was
marching straight toward his own rifle-pit; he was surely on the left of
his company--he was such a small man.

"Stop," said I.

He halted, and turned to me. He was a good-looking young fellow. He had
the palmetto button on his coat. Our eyes met.

"You won't give me away?" I said.

"What do you take me for?" he asked.

"Oh, you're all right; but if you should happen to say anything to
anybody, it might get out. If you won't tell any of your men, I'll go."

"Oh, come along; you needn't be afeared of my tellin' on you. I don't
know your name, and--not to cause hard feelin's--I don't want to know
it; come on."

He stopped at the pit on the edge of the gully. I passed on. I saw men
lying, sitting, and a very few standing down the line at some of the
other pits. I heard no talk. The men at the pit where my friend had
halted did not speak to me. There was nothing to cause them to speak. He
handed his canteen to one of the men; even this man did not speak;
he drank.

I walked up the hill, going straight toward the big pine. The sun itself
could now be seen. What I have narrated had not taken five minutes, for
the pits were not more than a hundred yards from the edge of the swamp.

Now, once out of sight of the picket-line, I should feel safe. How far
in the rear the Confederate fortifications were, I could not yet
tell--but that mattered little; I should have no fears when I
reached them.

As long as I thought it possible that I could be seen from the pits I
went toward the big pine; soon I knew that I was hidden by bushes, and I
went as rapidly as I could walk in a southeast direction for nearly an
hour. I passed in full sight of the picket-line in many places, and
fortifications far to my right could be seen upon the hills. My purpose
was to enter the main Confederate entrenchments as nearly as possible
opposite New Bridge--opposite the position from which, I had started on
the night before.

The sun was an hour high. I had come three miles, I thought; I sat in a
shady place and endeavoured to think what course was best. I believed I
had come far enough. I had nothing to do but go forward. I could see
parts of fortifications. No one would think of hindering my entrance. I
would go into the lines; then I would turn to the right and follow out
my instructions.

Again I started, and reached the brow of the hill; it was entirely bare
of trees. Three or four hundred yards in front were lines of earthworks.
I did not pause; I went straight ahead.

A body of men marched out of the breastworks--about a company, I
thought. They were marching forward; their line of march would bring
them near me. I held my course. I judged that the company was some
regiment's picket for the next twenty-four hours; they were going to
relieve the last night's pickets.

The last man of the company had hardly appeared: suddenly I heard a
cannon roar, apparently from a Federal battery almost directly in my
rear, and at the instant a shell had shrieked far above my head.

At once the Confederates replied. I did not think that I was in any
danger, as the shells went high in the air in order to attain their
object on the other side of the Chickahominy.

The company of infantry had countermarched, and was again behind the
line of earthworks.

I looked around for shelter from the Federal cannon; although the shells
went high, it would be folly for me to go forward into the place of
danger. The hill was bare. There was no depression, no tree, no fence,
nothing but the open wind-swept hill--desolate and bare. I was on this
bare hill.

A man passed me from the rear. He was armed. He, too, like myself, had
no doubt come from the picket-line.

"Better leg it!" he cried--and I legged it with him, making for the

The shells from the rear seemed to fly over at a less height.

One of the shells burst over my head.

Suddenly I saw my companion throw up one hand--his left hand--with great
violence, and fall flat; hardly was I conscious that I saw him fall; at
the instant there was a deafening noise, and I was conscious of nothing.



"I am mainly ignorant
What place this is; and all the skill I have
Remembers not these garments; nor I know not
Where I did lodge last night."--SHAKESPEARE.

"Who is it?"

"Don't know."

My head pained me. I opened my eyes. The blue sky was over me now. A
gently swaying motion lifted and lowered me.

"Hurt bad?"

"Head mashed."

"Anybody else?"

"One more, and _he's gone_!"

I could not see the speakers ... I tried to turn my head, but could not.

I turned my eyes to the right, then to my left; the motion of my eyes
threatened to break something in my head.

I saw nothing but the trees, which seemed to move back slowly, and to
become larger and smaller.

Great thirst consumed me. I tried to speak, but could not.

The swaying motion continued. The trees rose and fell and went by. The
blue sky was over me. I did not stir.

How long this lasted I did not know. I was hardly conscious that I was

I heard a word now and then: "Look out there!" "Hold on!" "Wait a

A moment before, I had walked out of the hotel among the pines ...
these are not pines; they are oaks. A moment before, the night sky had
been overcast with rain-clouds ... now the sky is blue over my head, and
the sun is hot. My head whirs with pain and fear--fear of insanity. I
have been hurt; I have been unconscious ... I cannot recollect what
hurt me....

But no; there was no mental danger, for my senses were returning. I
could feel that I was being borne, in a way unknown to me, by some
unknown men. I could not see the men, but I could hear them
step,--sometimes very clumsily, causing me renewed pain,--and I could
hear them speak, and breathe heavily.

Now I thought I could see tents, and great fear came on me.

We passed between objects like tents, and went on; we were in a field,
or some open space; I could see no trees. Then I heard, or thought I
heard, a voice cry out strange syllables, "Hep! Hep! Hep!"--and again,
"Hep! Hep! Hep!"

Well, well ... this is a dream; I'll soon wake up; but it is vivid while
it lasts.

Yet the strange dream continued. How long had I been dreaming? I dreamed
that the men came to a stop. They lowered me to the ground.

I looked at them. They were looking at me. Their faces were strange.
They were dirty. They were clothed alike. I closed my eyes. I tried
to think.

"There he goes again," said a voice.

I felt a hand on my wrist. I opened my eyes. I saw a face bending over
me. The face rose. It was a good face. This man's head was bare. He had
spectacles. He was not dirty.

"Bring him in," said the man with the good face.

I was lifted again. I was taken into a tent ... certainly a tent. There
were low beds in the tent--pallets on the ground. There were forms
on the beds.

The men laid me on a bed. They straightened my limbs. Then one of them
raised me from behind, and another took off my coat, or I supposed so,
though I did not clearly see. Then they went away.

I was thirsty. I tried to speak, but could not speak. The man with the
spectacles came to me. He said: "I am going to dress your head. You are
not hurt badly."

My head was paining me, then, because I had been hurt? Yes, that must be
true. If this was a dream, this part of it was not unreasonable. The man
went away.

But did I ever have such a nightmare before? I had supposed that people
awoke before they were hurt.

The man came again. He brought a bowl of water and a spoon. He raised my
head, and put a spoonful of water to my lips. I tried to open my mouth,
but could not.

He called, "William!" A negro man came. The negro took my head in his
hands. The man with the spectacles opened my mouth, and put water into
it. I swallowed. Then he put the bowl to my lips and I drank. Both
went away.

The man with the spectacles came again. I could see scissors in his
hand. He turned me so that I lay on my side. He began to hurt me;
I groaned.

"I won't be long about it," he said; "I am only cutting your hair a
little, so that I can get at you."

Then I felt my head getting cold--wet, I thought; then I felt my head
get warm; soon I was turned again, and lay on my back.

"Now," said the man, "I'll give you some more water if you'll promise to
go to sleep."

I could not promise, though I wanted the water, and wanted to go to
sleep so that this strange dream might be ended. Then I laughed inwardly
at the thought of banishing dreams by sleeping.

The man brought a glass, and held it to my lips, and I drank. The water
did not taste so good as the first draught did.

I closed my eyes; again the thought came that the dream would soon be

When I opened my eyes, I knew it was night. A lighted candle was near
me. I was lying on my side. I had turned, or had been turned, while
asleep. Near me was a man on a bed; beyond him was another man on
another bed ... a great fear seized me; drops of cold sweat rolled down
my face.... Where was I? What was I?

My head began to throb. I heard heavy breathing. I tried to remember how
I had been brought to this place. It seemed like the place of ... had I
dreamed? Yes, I had dreamed that I had drunk much water; my throat
was parched.

A face bent over me. It was a man's face. I had seen it in my dream ...
then I was not yet awake? I was still dreaming? Or, if I was awake,
maybe I had not dreamed? Can this man and these men and this tent and
this pain all be real? No; certainly not. When I awake I shall laugh at
this dream; I shall write it out, because it is so complex and strange.

The man, said, "You feel better now, don't you?"

I tried to reply. I could not speak, though my lips moved. The man
brought water, and I drank. He sat by me, and put his fingers on
my wrist.

"You'll be all right in a day or two," he said. I hoped that his words
would come true; then I wondered how, in, a dream, I could hope for a
dream to end. He went away.

I tried hard to think, but the effort increased the pain in my head. I
felt cramped, as though I had lain long in one posture. I tried to turn,
but was able only to stretch my legs and arms.

The man came again. He looked at me; then, he knelt down and raised my
head. I felt better. He pulled something behind me, and then went away,
leaving me propped up.

Daylight was coming. The light of the candle contrasted but feebly
against the new light. I could see the pallets. On each was a man. There
were five. I counted,--one, two, three, four, five; five sick men. I
wondered if they were dreaming also, and if they were all sick in the
head ... no; no; such fantasy shows but more strongly that all this
horrible thing is unreal.

I counted again,--one, two, three, four, five, _six_; how is that?

Oh, I see; I have counted myself, this time.

Myself? What part or lot have I with these others? Who are they? Who am
I? I know nothing--nothing.

The man stood over me. I knew that he was a doctor. He said, "Are you

I could not reply. He went away.

I closed my eyes, and again tried to think; again the effort brought
increased pain. I could hear a whirring noise in my ears. I tried to
sleep. I tried to quit thinking.

When I opened my eyes, the sun was shining. One side of the tent was
very bright.

A negro man came. I remembered that his name was William. He brought a
basin of water and a towel and sponge. He sponged my face and hands, and
dried them with the towel. Then he said, "Can you eat some breakfast?" I
could not reply.

The men on the pallets--five--were awake. They said nothing. The doctor
was kneeling by one of the pallets--the one next to me. The man on the
pallet groaned. The doctor said something to him. I could not tell what
the doctor said. The man groaned.

Another man, propped up on his pallet, was eating. I began to feel

William brought a cup of tea, with a piece of biscuit floating in it.
He raised my head and put the cup to my lips. I drank. William
went away.

The sun was making the tent very warm. Many sounds came from outside.
What caused the sounds I did not know. I was near enough to the railroad
to hear the cars, but I knew the sounds were not from cars. I could hear
shouting, as if of wagoners.

All at once, I heard thunder--no; it could not be thunder; the sun was
shining. Yet, it might be thunder; a storm might be coming.

I wished that I was back in the hotel. I was sick, and it would not do
for me to get wet; this wagoner's tent was not the place for a sick man
in a storm.

But ... was there a hotel? The hotel was a dream--this was the reality.
I know nothing.

The doctor came. He looked at me, and smiled. I tried to smile in
return, for I liked him. "That's right," he said.

The doctor knelt by the pallet next to mine--that of the man who had
groaned. The man was not groaning now.

The doctor rose. I could see the sick mart's face--white. The doctor
drew the sheet over the man's white face. The doctor went out of the
tent. A cold sweat was on me.

Some men came in--four men. Each man took the pallet by a corner. They
took the pallet out of the tent. They did not come back.

Again I heard thunder. The sun was still shining. The heat was
great--great enough, I thought, to bring a storm even in October. I had
never before known it so warm.

Why should so many wagoners be sick at once? And why should I be with
them? I began to fear that I had been sick for a great many days; I
thought that I had been unconscious.

The doctor came in. A man was with him. The man had a book in his
hand--a book and a pencil.

Now I could see some gilt badges on the doctor's collar. On his arms
were some gilt stripes--and gilt stripes on the arms of the other man
also. These men must be officers, I thought, perhaps officers of the
Citadel battalion[5]. I wondered what I should be doing in their world.
Then again came the thought that I had been unconscious, and for how
long I did not know.

[5] "The Citadel" is the Military Academy of South Carolina in
Charleston. [ED.]

But, no; it can be nothing else than a dream!

The man with the book wrote something in it. Then he showed the book to
the doctor, and gave him the pencil. The doctor wrote in the book, and
gave the pencil and the book back to the man. The man with the book went
out of the tent.

The doctor came to me. He raised his right hand as high as his shoulder.
The first finger and the middle finger were stretched out; the other
fingers were closed. He was smiling. I looked at his hand and at his
face, and wondered.

He said, "Look! How many?"

I said, "Two."

He laughed aloud. "I thought so; we're getting on--we're doing

He sat down by me, on some sort of a stool--one of those folding stools.
He began to dress my head.

"Your name is Jones?" he asked.

"Yes," I replied, wondering, yet pleased with the sign of good-will
shown by his calling me by my first name.

"What edge are you?"

I was silent. I did not understand the question.

"What edge are you?" he repeated.

I was not so sure this time that I had heard aright. Possibly he had
used other words, but his speech sounded to me as if he said, "What
edge are you?"

I thought he was meaning to ask my age.

I replied, "Twenty-one." My voice was strange to me.

"You mean the twenty-first?" he asked.

"I am in my twenty-second," I said.

"The twenty-second what?" said he.

"Year," said I, greatly astonished.

He smiled, then suddenly became serious, and went away.

After a while he came back. "Do you know what I asked you?" he inquired.

"No," said I.

"Then why did you say twenty-one and twenty-second?"

"That is my age," said I.

"Oh!" said he; "but I did not ask your age. You did not hear?"

"No," said I.

"What is your reg-i-ment?" he asked very distinctly.

Now it was clear enough that all this thing was a dream. For a man in
real life to ask such a question, it was impossible. I felt relieved of
many fears.

"What are you smiling at?" he asked.

"I've been dreaming," I said.

"And your dream was pleasant?"

"No," said I.

"You smile then at unpleasant things?"

"No," said I.

"I don't understand you," said he.

"Neither do I," said I.

"What is your regiment?" he asked.

"Why do you ask such a question?"

"It is my duty. I have to make a report of your case. Give me an
answer," said he.

"I have no regiment," I said.

"Try to remember. Do you know that you have been unconscious?"


"Well, you are better now; and you will soon be well, and I shall have
to send you back to your regiment."

"What do you mean by a regiment?" I asked.

At this he looked serious, and went away, but soon returned and gave me
a bitter draught.

I went into a doze. My mind wandered over many trifles. I was neither
asleep nor awake. My nose and face itched. But the pain in my head was
less violent.

After a while I was fully awake. The pain had returned. The doctor was
standing by me.

"Where do you live when you are at home?" he asked.

The question came with something like a shock. I did not know how to
reply. And it seemed no less strange to know that thus far I had not
thought of home, than to find that I did not know a home,

"Where is your home?" he repeated.

"I do not remember," I said.

"Where were you yesterday?"

"I was at the hotel on the hill," I said.

He laughed in a peculiar way. Then he said, "You think you are in South

"Yes," I replied.

"Are you not one of Gregg's men?"

"Mo," said I.

"You don't belong to Gregg's regiment?"

"No," said I.

"Nor to Gregg's brigade?"

"Soldiers, you mean?"

"Yes," he replied.

"Are there soldiers camped here?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied.

"I am not one of them," I said.

"Try to remember," he said, and went away.

The more I tried to remember, the more confused I was, and the more did
I suffer pain. I could see now that what I had taken for a wagoners'
camp was a soldiers' camp. But why there should be soldiers here was too
hard for me. This doctor with gilt stripes must be a surgeon.

The doctor came again.

"How are you now, Jones?" he asked.

"Better, I trust," said I.

"You will be fit for duty in less than a week," he said.

"Fit for duty?"


"What duty?"

"Do you mean to insist that you are not a soldier?"

"I am not a soldier," I said.

"Then why do you wear a uniform?"

"I have never been a soldier; I have never worn uniform; you are taking
me for another man."

"You have on the uniform now," said he.

He brought a coat and showed me the brass buttons on it.

"Your buttons are like mine--palmetto buttons."

"Palmetto buttons?" I repeated, wondering.

"Yes; you say you are in South Carolina?"

"Yes," I assented. "Is that my coat?"

"Yes. What district?"

"I don't know--yes, Barnwell."

"Who is your captain?"

"I have never had a captain." Then, by a great effort, I said, "I don't
understand at all this talk about soldiers and captains. Do you belong
to the Citadel battalion?"

"No," he said; "you mean the Charleston Citadel?


"Did you go to the Citadel?"

"No; I think not," said I.

"Why do you refer to the Citadel battalion?"

"They are soldiers," I replied.

"Did you ever hear of President Davis--Jeff Davis?"

"No," said I.

"You know something of Charleston?"

"I've been there, I think."


"Well; not very long ago."

"How long? Try to think."

"I am greatly confused," I said. "I don't know whether I am awake or

"Ask me questions," said the doctor.

"Where am I?"

"In the field hospital."

"What am I here for? What is the field hospital? I did not know there
was a hospital here."

"Where do you think you are?"

"In Aiken," I said.

"Do you live in Aiken?"

"I don't know, Doctor. I suppose you are a doctor?"

"Yes, when I'm at home; here I am a surgeon. Ask me more questions."

"Give me some water," said I.

He brought the water, and I drank.

"Am I not in Aiken?"

"You are not now in Aiken," said the doctor. "Try to remember whether
your home is in Aiken."

"No, I am staying here for a time," said I.

"Where is your home?"

"I do not know anything," said I, gloomily.

"Ask me more questions," said the doctor; "we must try to get you out of

"Out of this what?"

"This condition. You have been hurt, and you cannot put things together
yet. It will come right after a little, if you don't get irritable."

"I hope so," said I.

"Ask more questions," said he.

"How did I get here?"

"You were brought here unconscious, or almost so, by my infirmary men."

"What men?"

"Infirmary men."

"What are they?"

"Well," said he, "they are my helpers."

"I knew something strange had happened. How did I get hurt?"

"Do you know how long you were in Aiken?"

"I came here yesterday, and expected to stay two or three days; but from
what you tell me I suppose I am not here now."

"Where were you before you went to Aiken?"

"I don't know."

"Were you not in Charleston?"

"I was in Charleston, but it might have been after I was in Aiken."

His look became very serious at this--in truth, what I had said was
puzzling to myself.

"I think you belong to Gregg's brigade, very likely to Gregg's regiment.
I shall be obliged to leave you now, but you need something first."

He gave me another bitter draught of I know not what, and went out of
the tent.

To say what I thought would be impossible. I thought everything and

Again that thunder.

The best I had in this bewilderment was trust in the doctor. I believed
he would clear up this fog in my brain; for that my brain was confused I
could no longer doubt. The doctor was hopeful--that was my comfort. He
had given me medicine every time I felt worse; he was certainly a good
doctor. I felt soothed: perhaps the medicine was helping me.

When I awoke, the sun was low. The doctor was by me.

"You have been talking in your sleep," he said.

"What did I say?" My brain now seemed a little clearer.

"Nothing of consequence. You mentioned the names of several persons--you
said something about Butler, and something also about Brooks
and Sumner."

"Was Brooks from Aiken?"

"What Brooks?"

"I don't remember," I said.

"I was sure that you belong to a South Carolina regiment," he said.

"No, Doctor; I don't belong to any regiment, and I don't understand your
talk about regiments. Why should there be regiments?"

"Do you see these men?" asked the doctor, pointing to the pallets; "they
have been wounded in battle."

I looked at him closely. He seemed sober and sane, although his words
were wild.

"We are at war," he continued. "Tell me," he added suddenly, "tell me
what day of the month this is."

"The nineteenth," said I.

"How do you know?"

"Because I read yesterday the Augusta _Constitutionalist_ of the
eighteenth," said I.

"Now that's the kind of answer I like," said he; "your head is getting
well. Eighteenth of what?"

"October; I think this is very warm weather for October," said I.

"It is indeed," said he.

"I suppose there was a storm somewhere," said I; "I heard thunder."

"I did not hear any thunder," said he.

"Then maybe it was part of my dream," I said.

"What else did you dream?"

"I dreamed that I saw a dead man carried out of the tent."

"Can you trust me?" asked the doctor.


"How old did you say you are?"


"Do you know in what year you were born?"

"Yes; to be sure--thirty-eight."

"Thirty-eight and twenty-one make how much?"

"Fifty-nine," said I.

"I think I'd better give you some medicine," said he.

I took the draught. In a very short time I began to feel strangely
calm--in fact, almost stupid. The doctor sat by my side.

"You can trust me?"


"You belong to a South Carolina regiment," he said.

I looked at him, and said nothing.

"I know just what you are thinking," said he, smiling; "you are thinking
that one of us two is crazy."

"Yes," said I.

"But you are wrong, at least in regard to yourself. You are suffering a
little in the head, but there is no longer any danger to your brain
at all."

"I think I am dreaming," said I.

"Well," said he, "continue to think so; that will do no harm."

He went away, but soon returned--I say soon, but I may be wrong in that.

"How do you get on with that dream of yours?" he asked; "what have you
dreamed while I wan gone?"

"Confusion," said I; "nothing but confusion."

"If a man is dreaming, will a sharp pain awake him?"

"I suppose so."

"Well, let me try it," and he opened his lancet.

I shrank, and he laughed.

"You are beginning to understand that many things have happened since
you were in Aiken?"

I made a motion of my head--moaning half assent.

"You will end by remembering your broken experience," he said, "but it
may take some time. Your case is more stubborn than I thought."

"How did I get hurt?" I asked.

"You were knocked down," said he.

"Who did it?" I asked.

"Don't precisely know," said he; "but it makes no difference which one
did it; we all know that you were in the right."

"There was a quarrel?" I asked.

"A big one," said he; "I think it best to relieve your curiosity at once
by telling you what has happened in the world. If I did not, you would
make yourself worse by fancying too much, and you would become more and
more bewildered. I can put you right. But can you make up your mind to
accept the situation as it is, and bear up in the hope that you will
come right in the end?"

I did not reply. I do not know what feeling was uppermost in my mind. It
was not anxiety, for my interest in others was pure blank. It was not
fear, for he had assured me that my physical condition was more

"Yes," he continued; "it is best to tell you the truth, and the whole
truth, lest your fancy conjure up things that do not exist. After all,
there is nothing in it but what you might have reasonably expected when
you were in Aiken in eighteen fifty-nine."

"How long have I been in this condition?" I asked.

"This condition? Only since yesterday morning."

"Then why do you say eighteen fifty-nine?"

"Your present condition began yesterday; but it is also true--or at
least seems to be true--that you do not remember your experience from
October eighteen fifty-nine until yesterday."

"You mean for me to believe that eighteen fifty-nine has all gone?"

"Yes--all gone--in fact, this is summer weather."

I remembered the heat of the past day, and the thunder. Yet it was hard
for me to believe that I had been unconscious for six months--but, no;
he was not saying I had been unconscious for six months--nobody could
live through such a state--he was telling me that I could not remember
what I had known six months ago.

"What month is this?" I asked.

"June," said he; "June 4th."

"From October to June is a long time," I said.

"Yes, and many things have happened since October eighteen fifty-nine,"
said he.

"Doctor, are you serious?" I asked.

"On my honour," said he.

"And I have lost eight months of my life?"

"Oh, no; only the memory of the past, and that loss is but temporary.
You will get right after a while."

"And what have I been doing for the past eight months?"

"That is what I've been trying to find out," said he; "I am trying now
to find your regiment."

"There you go again about my regiment. Do you expect me to accept that?"

"You said you could trust me," he replied; "why should I deceive you?
Tell me why you think I may be deceiving you."

"Because--" said I.

"Because what?"

"I fear that you are hiding a worse thing in order to do me good."

"But I gave you my word of honour, and I give it again. These hills
around you are covered by an army."

"Where are we?" I asked, in wonder.

"We are near Richmond; within five miles of it."

"What Richmond?"

"In Virginia."

"And what brought _me_ here? Why should I be here?"

"You came here voluntarily, while you were in good health, no doubt, and
while your mind acted perfectly."

"But why should I have come?"

"Because your regiment was ordered to come."

"And why should there be an army?"

"Because your country was invaded. You volunteered to defend your
country, and your regiment was ordered here."

"Country invaded? Volunteered?"


"Then we are at war?"


"With England?"

"No; not with England, with the United States."

I laughed gayly, perhaps hysterically.

"Now I know that this is a dream," said I.


"The idea of the United States being at war with itself!" I laughed

"Take this," said he, and he gave me another potion. He waited a few
minutes for the medicine to affect me. Then he said, "Can you remember
how many states compose the United States?"

"Thirty-three, I believe," said I.

"There were thirty-three, I suppose, in eighteen fifty-nine," said he;
"but now there are not so many. Eleven of the states--the most of the
Southern states--have seceded and have set up a government of their own.
We call ourselves the Confederate States of America. Our capital is
Richmond. The Northern states are at war with us, trying to force us
back into the Union, as they call it. War has been going on for more
than a year."


"Yes," said he; "all these great events required more than eight

"More than a year!" I exclaimed; "what year is this?"

"Here is my record," said he; "here is yesterday's record."

He opened it at a page opposite which was a blank page. The written page
was headed June 3,1862. Below the heading were written some eight or ten
names,--Private Such-a-one, of Company A or B, such a regiment;
Corporal Somebody of another regiment, and so on. Upon one line there
was nothing written except _B. Jones_.

Then the doctor brought me a newspaper, and showed me the date. The
paper was the Richmond _Examiner_; the date, Wednesday, June 4, 1862.

"This is to-day's paper," said the doctor.

I laughed.

He continued: "Yes, war has been going on for more than a year. The
great effort of the United States army is to take Richmond, and the
Confederates have an army here to defend Richmond. Here," he added, "I
will show you."

He went to the door of the tent and held back the canvas on both sides.


I looked with all my eyes. My vision was limited to a narrow latitude. I
could see tents, their numbers increasing as perspective broadened the
view. I could see many men passing to and fro.

"You see a little of it," said he; "the lines extend for miles."

I did not laugh. My hands for the first time went up to my face; I
wanted to hide my eyes from a mental flash too dazzling and too false;
at once my hands fell back.

I had found a beard on my face, where there had been none before.



"Thy mind and body are alike unfit
To trust each other, for some hours, at least;
When thou art better, I will be thy guide--
But whither?"--BYRON.

I awoke from an uneasy sleep, superinduced, I thought, by the surgeon's
repeated potions. My head was light and giddy, but the pain had almost
gone. My stomach was craving food.

It was night. Candles were burning on a low table in the middle of the
tent. The pallets, other than mine, had disappeared; my dream had
changed; the tent seemed larger.

The doctor and two strange men were sitting by the table. I had heard
them talking before I opened my eyes.

"I should like to have him, Frank."

Then the doctor's voice said: "I have made inquiry of every adjutant in
the brigade, and no such man seems to be missing. But he knows that he
is from South Carolina--in fact, his buttons are sufficient proof of
that. Then the diary found in his pocket shows the movements of no other
brigade than Gregg's. Take him into your company, Captain."

"Can I do that without some authority?"

"You can receive him temporarily; when he is known, he will be called
for, and you can return him to his company."

"What do you think of it, Aleck?"

"I think it would be irregular, or perhaps I should say exceptional,"
said another voice; "the regulations cannot provide for miraculous

"The whole thing's irregular," said the doctor; "it's impossible to
make it regular until his company is found. What else can you suggest?"

"I don't know. Can't we wait?"

"Wait for what?"

"Wait till we find his people."

"He'll be fit for duty in two days. What'll we do with, him then?--turn
him loose? He wouldn't know what to do with himself. I tell you we can't
find his regiment, or, at least, we haven't found it, and that he is fit
for duty, or will be in a few days; he is not a fit subject for the
general hospital, and I wouldn't risk sending him there; Powell would
wonder at me."

"Can't you keep him a while longer?"

"I can keep him a few days only; I tell you there is nothing the matter
with him. If I discharge him, what will he do? He ought to be
attached--he must be attached, else he cannot even get food. It will all
necessarily end in his being forced into the ranks of _some_ company,
and I want to see him placed right."

"I will not object to taking him if I can get him properly."

"Somebody'll get him. Besides, we can't let him leave us before he has a
place to go to. I think I have the right, in this miraculous
contingency, as Aleck calls it, to hand him over to you, at least
temporarily. Of course you can't keep him always. Sooner or later we'll
hear of some regiment that is seeking such a man. His memory will return
to him, so that he'll know where he belongs."

"Yes--I suppose so. I am willing to receive him. When. his company is
found, of course I shall be compelled to let him go."

"If provision is not made for him, he must suffer. I shall fear for him
unless we can settle him in some way such, as I propose. Am I not
right, Aleck?"

"Can't you keep him with you as some sort of help?"

"I would not propose such, a thing to him. There could be nothing here
for him except a servant's place. He is my man, and I'm going to treat
him better than that. By the way, I believe he is awake."

My eyes were wide open. The doctor turned to me and said, "How do you
feel now, Jones?"

"Am I here yet?" I muttered.

"Yes. Did you expect to be in two places at once?"

"Where are the others?"

"What others?"

"The five men."

"What five men?"

"The five men on the pallets."

"Oh!--been sent to the general hospital."

"Yes," said I, mournfully; "everything that comes goes again."

"Sound philosophy," said he; "you are getting strong and well. Don't
bother your head about what happened last century or last year."

He went to the door and called William.

The negro man came. "Some soup," said the doctor.

The soup was good. I felt better--almost strong. The doctor's friends
sat by, saying nothing. The doctor smiled to see me take the soup
somewhat greedily.

"Talk to him, Captain," said the doctor.

"My friend," said one of the men, "allow me to ask if you know where you

"I know what I've been told," said I.

"You must be good enough to believe it," said he; "you believe it or you
doubt it. Do you still doubt it?"

"Yes," I said boldly.

"I can't blame you," said he. His voice was low and firm--a gentleman's
voice; a voice to inspire confidence; a voice which I thought, vaguely,
I had heard before.

"Yet," he continued, "to doubt it you must be making some theory of your
own; what is it, please?"

He spoke with a slight lisp. I noticed it, and felt pleased that I had
got to a stage in which, such a trifle was of any interest.

"The only possible theories are that I am dreaming and--"

"Be good enough to tell me another."

He had not interrupted me; I had hesitated.

"I know!" exclaimed the doctor; "he thinks I am concealing worse by
inventing a war with all its _et ceteras_. His supposition does me
credit in one way, but in another it does me great injury. Although I
have given him my word of honour that I am concealing nothing, he still
hangs to his notion that I am lying to him in order to keep from him a
truth that might be dangerous to his health. I shall be compelled to
call him out when he gets well. Will you act for me, Aleck?"

"With great pleasure," said the man addressed; "but perhaps your friend
will make the _amende_ when he knows the injustice of his suspicions."

"Have I told either of you what I have said to Jones about the war?"
asked the doctor.

"Certainly not; so far as I have the right to speak," said the Captain.
The other man shook his head.

"Then tell Jones the conditions here."

"Oh, Doctor, don't be so hard on me! I accept all you say, although it
is accepting impossibilities."

"Then, about your dream theory," said the Captain; "would you object to
my asking if you have ever had such a dream--so vivid and so long?"

"Not that I know of," said I.

"You think that Dr. Frost and my brother and I are mere creatures of
your fancy?"

The candles did not give a great light. I could not clearly see his
features. He came nearer, moving his stool to my side. My head was below
him, so that I was looking up at his face. He was a young man. His face
was almost a triangle, with its long jaw.

"I believe that dreams are not very well understood, even by the
wisest," he said. "Do me the kindness to confess that your present
experience, if a dream, is more wonderful than any other dream you
have had."

Though my head was dizzy, I thought I could detect a slight tinge of
irony in this excessively polite speech.

"I think it must be," I replied; "although I cannot remember any other

"Then, might not one say that the only dream you are conscious of is not
a dream?"

"That contradicts itself," said I.

"And you find yourself unable to accept the word of three men that you
are not dreaming?"

"Not if they are men of my dream," said I.

"A good retort, sir," he said. "Do me the kindness to tell me your
notion of a dream. Do you think it should be consistent throughout, or
should there be strong intrinsic proof of its own unrealness?"

"Captain," I said, "I cannot tell. I know nothing. I doubt my own

"Pardon me," said he; "you know the test--you think, therefore you
exist. Are you not sure that you think?"

"I think, or I dream that I think."

"Well said, sir; an excellent reasoner while dreaming. But suppose you
dream on; what will be the result?"

"Dream and sleep till I awake," said I.

"May I ask where you will awake?"

"In Aiken."

"I know a little of Aiken," said the Captain; "I was there not a year

Naturally the remark was of interest to me.

"When was it?" I asked.

"It was in August, of last year. You remember, Frank, I was recruiting
for the reorganized First."

"August of what year?" I asked.

"August eighteen sixty-one, very naturally."

"Gentlemen," said I, "bear with me, I beg you. I am not myself. I am
going through deep waters, I know nothing."

"We know," said the doctor; "and we are going to see you through." Then
he added: "Captain Haskell came from Abbeville. He has men in his
company from several of the districts; possibly some of them would know
you, and you might know them."

I did not want to know them. I said nothing. The doctor's suggestion was
not to my liking. Why should I join these men? What, to me, was this
captain? What was I to him? So far as I know, I had no interest in this
war. So far as I could know myself, my tastes did not seem to set
strongly in the direction of soldiering. Those men could get along
without my help. Why could I not find a different occupation? Anything
would be better than getting killed in a cause I did not understand.
Then, too, I was threatened with the wretched condition of an object of
common curiosity. If I was going to be gazed at by this officer and his
men,--if I was to be regarded as a freak,--my way certainly did not lie
with theirs.

"Frank," said the Captain's brother, "would it hurt Jones to go out of
the tent for a moment?"

"Not at all," said the doctor; "a good suggestion."

"Why should I go out?" I asked.

"Only to look about you," he replied.

The doctor helped me to my feet. I was surprised to find myself so
strong. Dr. Frost took my arm; all of us went out.

I looked around. Near us but little could be seen--only a few fires on
the ground. But far off--a mile or so, I don't know--the whole world was
shining with fires; long lines of them to the right and the left.

We returned into the tent. Not a word had been spoken.

Captain Haskell now said to me: "Pardon me for now leaving you. Command
me, if I can be of any help; I trust you will not think me too bold in
advising you to make no hasty decision which you might regret
afterward; good-by."

"Good-by, Captain," I replied; "I must trust the doctor."

The Captain's brother lingered. Dr. Frost was busy with him for a while,
over some writing; I inferred that the surgeon was making a report. When
this matter was ended the doctor said to me, "This officer also is a
Captain Haskell; he is assistant adjutant-general of Gregg's brigade,
and is a brother of Captain William Haskell."

The adjutant now came nearer and sat by me. "Yes," said he; "but I was
in my brother's company at first. We all shall be glad to help you if
we can."

"Captain," said I, "your goodness touches me keenly. I admire it the
more because I know that I am nothing to you gentlemen."

"Why," said he, "your case is a very interesting one, especially to Dr.
Frost, and we are all good friends; the doctor was in Company H
himself--was its first orderly sergeant. Frank called our attention to
your case in order that we might try to help you, and we should be
glad to help."

"Jones," said Dr. Frost, "it is this way: The army may move any day or
any hour. You cannot be sent to the general hospital, because you are
almost well. Something must be done with you. What would you have
us do?"

"I have no plans," said I; "it would be impossible for me to have any
plan. But I think it would be wrong for me to commit myself to something
I do not understand. You seem to suggest that I enlist as a soldier. I
feel no desire to go to war, or to serve as a soldier in any way.
Possibly I should think differently if I knew anything about the war and
its causes."

"You are already a Confederate soldier," said Dr. Frost. "I think,
Frank," said Adjutant Haskell, "that if the causes of the war were
explained to your friend, he would be better prepared to agree to your
wishes. Suppose you take time to-morrow and give him light; I know he
must be full of curiosity."

"Right!" said the doctor; "I'll do it. Let him know what is going on.
Then he'll see that we are right. He'd have it to do, though, in
the end."

"Yes; but let him understand fully; then he'll be more cheerful; at any
rate, it can do no harm."

"But why should I be compelled to serve?" I asked.

"Jones, my dear fellow, you seem determined not to believe that you are
already a soldier," said the doctor.

"If I am a soldier, I belong somewhere," said I.

"Of course you do," said Adjutant Haskell; "and all that we propose is
to give you a home until you find where you belong; and the place we
propose for you is undoubtedly the best place we know of. Company H is a
fine body of men; since I am no longer in it I may say that they are
picked men; the most of them are gentlemen. Let me mention some good old
Carolina names--you will remember them, I think. Did you never hear the
name of Barnwell?"

"Yes, of course," I said; "I've been to Barnwell Court-House. I believe
this place--I mean Aiken--is in Barnwell district."

"Well, John G. Barnwell is the first lieutenant in Company H. Do you
know of the Rhetts?"

"Yes, the name is familiar as that of a prominent family."

"Grimke Rhett is a lieutenant in Company H. Then there are the Seabrooks
and the Hutsons, and Mackay, and the Bellots[6], and Stewart, and Bee,
and Fraser Miller, and many more who represent good old families. You
would speedily feel at home."

[6] The Bellots were of a French Huguenot family, which settled in
Abbeville, S.C. (in 1765?). The name gradually came to be pronounced
_Bellotte_. [ED.]

"Gentlemen," said I, "how I ever became a soldier I do not know. I am a
soldier in a cause that I do not understand."

"And you have done many other things that you could not now understand
if you were told of them," said the doctor.

"But, Jones," said the adjutant, "a man who has already been wounded in
the service of his country ought to be proud of it!"

"What do you mean, Captain?" I asked.

"Hold on!" said Dr. Frost. "Well, I suppose there is no harm done. Tell
him how he was hurt, Aleck."

"How did you suppose you received your hurt?" asked the adjutant.

"I was told by Dr. Frost that somebody knocked me down," said I, with
nervous curiosity.

"Yes, that's so; somebody did knock you down," said the doctor.

"You were struck senseless by a bursting shell thrown by the enemy's
cannon," said the adjutant, "and yet you refuse to admit that you are
a soldier!"

To say that I was speechless would be weak. I stared back at the two

"You have on the uniform; you are armed; you are in the ranks; you are
under fire from the enemy's batteries, where death may come, and does
come; you are wounded; you are brought to your hospital for treatment.
And yet you doubt that you are a soldier! You must be merely dreaming
that you doubt!"

While speaking Adjutant Haskell had risen, a sign that he was getting
angry, I feared; but no, he was going to leave. "Jones, good-by," he
said; "hold on to that strong will of yours, but don't let it fall into

The doctor came nearer. "You are stronger than you thought," said he.

"Yes, I am. I was surprised."

"You remind me of horses I have seen fall between the shafts; they lie
there and seem to fancy that they have no strength at all. I suppose
they think that they are dreaming."

At this speech. I laughed aloud--why, I hardly know, unless it was that
my own mind recalled one such ludicrous incident; then, too, it was
pleasant to hear the doctor say that I was strong.

"Yes, Jones; all you need is a little more time. Two or three days will
set you up."

"Doctor, I cannot understand it at all; this talk about armies, and war,
and wounds, and adjutants--what does it all mean?"

"You must not try to know everything at once. I think you are now
convinced that there is a war?"


"You will learn all about it very soon, perhaps to-morrow; it ought to
be enough for you to know that your country is in danger. Are you
a patriot?"

"I trust so."

"Well, of course you are. Now you must go to sleep. You have talked long
enough. Good night. I will send William to give you a night-cap."

* * * * *

The next morning Dr. Frost expressed great satisfaction with my
progress, and began, almost as soon as I had eaten, to gratify my

"I believe that you confess to the charge of being a patriot," said he.

"I trust I am," said I.

"We are invaded. Our homes are destroyed. Our women are insulted. Our
men are slain. The enemy is before our capital and hopes to conquer. Can
you hesitate?"

"I should not hesitate if I understood as you understand. But how can
you expect me to kill men when I know nothing of the merits of the cause
for which I am told to fight?"

"Jones, so far as I am concerned, and so far as the government is
concerned, your question is hardly pertinent. You are already a
Confederate soldier by your own free act. Your only chance to keep from
serving is to get yourself killed, or at least disabled; I will not
suggest desertion. For your sake, however, I am ready to answer any
question you may ask about the causes of the war. You ought to have your

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