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An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
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One sunny autumn afternoon a child strayed away from its rude home in a small field and
entered a forest unobserved. It was happy in a new sense of freedom from control, happy
in the opportunity of exploration and adventure; for this child's spirit, in bodies of its
ancestors, had for thousands of years been trained to memorable feats of discovery and
conquest--victories in battles whose critical moments were centuries, whose victors'
camps were cities of hewn stone. From the cradle of its race it had conquered its way
through two continents and passing a great sea had penetrated a third, there to be born to
war and dominion as a heritage.
The child was a boy aged about six years, the son of a poor planter. In his younger
manhood the father had been a soldier, had fought against naked savages and followed
the flag of his country into the capital of a civilized race to the far South. In the peaceful
life of a planter the warrior-fire survived; once kindled, it is never extinguished. The man
loved military books and pictures and the boy had understood enough to make himself a
wooden sword, though even the eye of his father would hardly have known it for what it
was. This weapon he now bore bravely, as became the son of an heroic race, and pausing
now and again in the sunny space of the forest assumed, with some exaggeration, the
postures of aggression and defense that he had been taught by the engraver's art. Made
reckless by the ease with which he overcame invisible foes attempting to stay his
advance, he committed the common enough military error of pushing the pursuit to a
dangerous extreme, until he found himself upon the margin of a wide but shallow brook,
whose rapid waters barred his direct advance against the flying foe that had crossed with
illogical ease. But the intrepid victor was not to be baffled; the spirit of the race which
had passed the great sea burned unconquerable in that small breast and would not be
denied. Finding a place where some bowlders in the bed of the stream lay but a step or a
leap apart, he made his way across and fell again upon the rear-guard of his imaginary
foe, putting all to the sword.
Now that the battle had been won, prudence required that he withdraw to his base of
operations. Alas; like many a mightier conqueror, and like one, the mightiest, he could
curb the lust for war,
Nor learn that tempted Fate will leave the loftiest star.
Advancing from the bank of the creek he suddenly found himself confronted with a new
and more formidable enemy: in the path that he was following, sat, bolt upright, with ears
erect and paws suspended before it, a rabbit! With a startled cry the child turned and fled,
he knew not in what direction, calling with inarticulate cries for his mother, weeping,
stumbling, his tender skin cruelly torn by brambles, his little heart beating hard with
terror--breathless, blind with tears--lost in the forest! Then, for more than an hour, he
wandered with erring feet through the tangled undergrowth, till at last, overcome by
fatigue, he lay down in a narrow space between two rocks, within a few yards of the