The Red Badge of Courage
The youth fell back in the procession until the tattered soldier was not in sight. Then he
started to walk on with the others.
But he was amid wounds. The mob of men was bleeding. Because of the tattered soldier's
question he now felt that his shame could be viewed. He was continually casting sidelong
glances to see if the men were contemplating the letters of guilt he felt burned into his
At times he regarded the wounded soldiers in an envious way. He conceived persons with
torn bodies to be peculiarly happy. He wished that he, too, had a wound, a red badge of
The spectral soldier was at his side like a stalking reproach. The man's eyes were still
fixed in a stare into the unknown. His gray, appalling face had attracted attention in the
crowd, and men, slowing to his dreary pace, were walking with him. They were
discussing his plight, questioning him and giving him advice. In a dogged way he
repelled them, signing to them to go on and leave him alone. The shadows of his face
were deepening and his tight lips seemed holding in check the moan of great despair.
There could be seen a certain stiffness in the movements of his body, as if he were taking
infinite care not to arouse the passion of his wounds. As he went on, he seemed always
looking for a place, like one who goes to choose a grave.
Something in the gesture of the man as he waved the bloody and pitying soldiers away
made the youth start as if bitten. He yelled in horror. Tottering forward he laid a
quivering hand upon the man's arm. As the latter slowly turned his waxlike features
toward him the youth screamed:
"Gawd! Jim Conklin!"
The tall soldier made a little commonplace smile. "Hello, Henry," he said.
The youth swayed on his legs and glared strangely. He stuttered and stammered. "Oh,
Jim--oh, Jim--oh, Jim--"
The tall soldier held out his gory hand. There was a curious red and black combination of
new blood and old blood upon it. "Where yeh been, Henry?" he asked. He continued in a
monotonous voice, "I thought mebbe yeh got keeled over. There 's been thunder t' pay t'-
day. I was worryin' about it a good deal."
The youth still lamented. "Oh, Jim--oh, Jim--oh, Jim--"