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The Red Badge of Courage
An Episode of the American Civil War
by Stephen Crane

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THE youth went slowly toward the fire in-

dicated by his departed friend. As he reeled, he

bethought him of the welcome his comrades

would give him. He had a conviction that he

would soon feel in his sore heart the barbed

missiles of ridicule. He had no strength to in-

vent a tale; he would be a soft target.

He made vague plans to go off into the deeper

darkness and hide, but they were all destroyed

by the voices of exhaustion and pain from his

body. His ailments, clamoring, forced him to

seek the place of food and rest, at whatever cost.

He swung unsteadily toward the fire. He

could see the forms of men throwing black

shadows in the red light, and as he went nearer

it became known to him in some way that the

ground was strewn with sleeping men.

Of a sudden he confronted a black and

monstrous figure. A rifle barrel caught some

glinting beams. "Halt! halt!" He was dismayed

for a moment, but he presently thought

that he recognized the nervous voice. As he

stood tottering before the rifle barrel, he called

out: "Why, hello, Wilson, you--you here?"

The rifle was lowered to a position of caution

and the loud soldier came slowly forward. He

peered into the youth's face. "That you, Henry?"

"Yes, it's--it's me."

"Well, well, ol' boy," said the other, "by

ginger, I'm glad t' see yeh! I give yeh up

fer a goner. I thought yeh was dead sure

enough." There was husky emotion in his voice.

The youth found that now he could barely

stand upon his feet. There was a sudden sinking

of his forces. He thought he must hasten to pro-

duce his tale to protect him from the missiles

already at the lips of his redoubtable comrades.

So, staggering before the loud soldier, he began:

"Yes, yes. I've--I've had an awful time. I've

been all over. Way over on th' right. Ter'ble

fightin' over there. I had an awful time. I got

separated from th' reg'ment. Over on th' right,

I got shot. In th' head. I never see sech

fightin'. Awful time. I don't see how I could 'a

got separated from th' reg'ment. I got shot, too."

His friend had stepped forward quickly.

"What? Got shot? Why didn't yeh say so

first? Poor ol' boy, we must--hol' on a minnit;

what am I doin'. I'll call Simpson."

Another figure at that moment loomed in the

gloom. They could see that it was the corporal.

"Who yeh talkin' to, Wilson?" he demanded.

His voice was anger-toned. "Who yeh talkin'

to? Yeh th' derndest sentinel--why--hello,

Henry, you here? Why, I thought you was

dead four hours ago! Great Jerusalem, they

keep turnin' up every ten minutes or so! We

thought we'd lost forty-two men by straight

count, but if they keep on a-comin' this way, we'll

git th' comp'ny all back by mornin' yit. Where was yeh?"

"Over on th' right. I got separated"--began

the youth with considerable glibness.

But his friend had interrupted hastily. "Yes,

an' he got shot in th' head an' he's in a fix, an' we

must see t' him right away." He rested his rifle

in the hollow of his left arm and his right around

the youth's shoulder.

"Gee, it must hurt like thunder!" he said.

The youth leaned heavily upon his friend.

"Yes, it hurts--hurts a good deal," he replied.

There was a faltering in his voice.

"Oh," said the corporal. He linked his arm

in the youth's and drew him forward. "Come

on, Henry. I'll take keer 'a yeh."

As they went on together the loud private

called out after them: "Put 'im t' sleep in my

blanket, Simpson. An'--hol' on a minnit--here's

my canteen. It's full 'a coffee. Look at his head

by th' fire an' see how it looks. Maybe it's a

pretty bad un. When I git relieved in a couple

'a minnits, I'll be over an' see t' him."

The youth's senses were so deadened that his

friend's voice sounded from afar and he could

scarcely feel the pressure of the corporal's arm.

He submitted passively to the latter's directing

strength. His head was in the old manner hang-

ing forward upon his breast. His knees wobbled.

The corporal led him into the glare of the

fire. "Now, Henry," he said, "let's have look at

yer ol' head."

The youth sat down obediently and the cor-

poral, laying aside his rifle, began to fumble in the

bushy hair of his comrade. He was obliged to

turn the other's head so that the full flush of the

fire light would beam upon it. He puckered his

mouth with a critical air. He drew back his lips

and whistled through his teeth when his fingers

came in contact with the splashed blood and the

rare wound.

"Ah, here we are!" he said. He awkwardly

made further investigations. "Jest as I thought,"

he added, presently. "Yeh've been grazed by a

ball. It's raised a queer lump jest as if some

feller had lammed yeh on th' head with a club.

It stopped a-bleedin' long time ago. Th' most

about it is that in th' mornin' yeh'll feel that a

number ten hat wouldn't fit yeh. An' your

head'll be all het up an' feel as dry as burnt pork.

An' yeh may git a lot 'a other sicknesses, too, by

mornin'. Yeh can't never tell. Still, I don't

much think so. It's jest a damn' good belt on th'

head, an' nothin' more. Now, you jest sit here

an' don't move, while I go rout out th' relief.

Then I'll send Wilson t' take keer 'a yeh."

The corporal went away. The youth re-

mained on the ground like a parcel. He stared

with a vacant look into the fire.

After a time he aroused, for some part, and

the things about him began to take form. He

saw that the ground in the deep shadows was

cluttered with men, sprawling in every con-

ceivable posture. Glancing narrowly into the

more distant darkness, he caught occasional

glimpses of visages that loomed pallid and

ghostly, lit with a phosphorescent glow. These

faces expressed in their lines the deep stupor of

the tired soldiers. They made them appear like

men drunk with wine. This bit of forest might

have appeared to an ethereal wanderer as a scene

of the result of some frightful debauch.

On the other side of the fire the youth

observed an officer asleep, seated bolt upright,

with his back against a tree. There was some-

thing perilous in his position. Badgered by

dreams, perhaps, he swayed with little bounces

and starts, like an old toddy-stricken grandfather

in a chimney corner. Dust and stains were upon

his face. His lower jaw hung down as if lacking

strength to assume its normal position. He was

the picture of an exhausted soldier after a feast of war.

He had evidently gone to sleep with his

sword in his arms. These two had slumbered in

an embrace, but the weapon had been allowed

in time to fall unheeded to the ground. The

brass-mounted hilt lay in contact with some parts

of the fire.

Within the gleam of rose and orange light

from the burning sticks were other soldiers,

snoring and heaving, or lying deathlike in

slumber. A few pairs of legs were stuck forth,

rigid and straight. The shoes displayed the mud

or dust of marches and bits of rounded trousers,

protruding from the blankets, showed rents and

tears from hurried pitchings through the dense brambles.

The fire crackled musically. From it swelled

light smoke. Overhead the foliage moved

softly. The leaves, with their faces turned

toward the blaze, were colored shifting hues of

silver, often edged with red. Far off to the right,

through a window in the forest could be seen a

handful of stars lying, like glittering pebbles, on

the black level of the night.

Occasionally, in this low-arched hall, a soldier

would arouse and turn his body to a new posi-

tion, the experience of his sleep having taught

him of uneven and objectionable places upon the

ground under him. Or, perhaps, he would lift

himself to a sitting posture, blink at the fire for

an unintelligent moment, throw a swift glance at

his prostrate companion, and then cuddle down

again with a grunt of sleepy content.

The youth sat in a forlorn heap until his

friend the loud young soldier came, swinging two

canteens by their light strings. "Well, now,

Henry, ol' boy," said the latter, "we'll have yeh

fixed up in jest about a minnit."

He had the bustling ways of an amateur

nurse. He fussed around the fire and stirred the

sticks to brilliant exertions. He made his patient

drink largely from the canteen that contained the

coffee. It was to the youth a delicious draught.

He tilted his head afar back and held the canteen

long to his lips. The cool mixture went caress-

ingly down his blistered throat. Having finished,

he sighed with comfortable delight.

The loud young soldier watched his comrade

with an air of satisfaction. He later produced

an extensive handkerchief from his pocket. He

folded it into a manner of bandage and soused

water from the other canteen upon the middle of

it. This crude arrangement he bound over the

youth's head, tying the ends in a queer knot at

the back of the neck.

"There," he said, moving off and surveying

his deed, "yeh look like th' devil, but I bet yeh feel better."

The youth contemplated his friend with grate-

ful eyes. Upon his aching and swelling head the

cold cloth was like a tender woman's hand.

"Yeh don't holler ner say nothin'," remarked

his friend approvingly. "I know I'm a black-

smith at takin' keer 'a sick folks, an' yeh never

squeaked. Yer a good un, Henry. Most 'a men

would a' been in th' hospital long ago. A shot in

th' head ain't foolin' business."

The youth made no reply, but began to fumble

with the buttons of his jacket.

"Well, come, now," continued his friend,

"come on. I must put yeh t' bed an' see that yeh

git a good night's rest."

The other got carefully erect, and the loud

young soldier led him among the sleeping forms

lying in groups and rows. Presently he stooped

and picked up his blankets. He spread the rubber

one upon the ground and placed the woolen one

about the youth's shoulders.

"There now," he said, "lie down an' git some sleep."

The youth, with his manner of doglike obe-

dience, got carefully down like a crone stoop-

ing. He stretched out with a murmur of relief

and comfort. The ground felt like the softest couch.

But of a sudden he ejaculated: "Hol' on a

minnit! Where you goin' t' sleep?"

His friend waved his hand impatiently.

"Right down there by yeh."

"Well, but hol' on a minnit," continued the youth.

"What yeh goin' t' sleep in? I've got your--"

The loud young soldier snarled: "Shet up

an' go on t' sleep. Don't be makin' a damn' fool

'a yerself," he said severely.

After the reproof the youth said no more.

An exquisite drowsiness had spread through him.

The warm comfort of the blanket enveloped him

and made a gentle languor. His head fell for-

ward on his crooked arm and his weighted lids

went softly down over his eyes. Hearing a

splatter of musketry from the distance, he

wondered indifferently if those men sometimes

slept. He gave a long sigh, snuggled down into

his blanket, and in a moment was like his comrades.



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