The Red Badge of Courage HTML version

Chapter 5
There were moments of waiting. The youth thought of the village street at home before
the arrival of the circus parade on a day in the spring. He remembered how he had stood,
a small, thrillful boy, prepared to follow the dingy lady upon the white horse, or the band
in its faded chariot. He saw the yellow road, the lines of expectant people, and the sober
houses. He particularly remembered an old fellow who used to sit upon a cracker box in
front of the store and feign to despise such exhibitions. A thousand details of color and
form surged in his mind. The old fellow upon the cracker box appeared in middle
Some one cried, "Here they come!"
There was rustling and muttering among the men. They displayed a feverish desire to
have every possible cartridge ready to their hands. The boxes were pulled around into
various positions, and adjusted with great care. It was as if seven hundred new bonnets
were being tried on.
The tall soldier, having prepared his rifle, produced a red handkerchief of some kind. He
was engaged in knotting it about his throat with exquisite attention to its position, when
the cry was repeated up and down the line in a muffled roar of sound.
"Here they come! Here they come!" Gun locks clicked.
Across the smoke-infested fields came a brown swarm of running men who were giving
shrill yells. They came on, stooping and swinging their rifles at all angles. A flag, tilted
forward, sped near the front.
As he caught sight of them the youth was momentarily startled by a thought that perhaps
his gun was not loaded. He stood trying to rally his faltering intellect so that he might
recollect the moment when he had loaded, but he could not.
A hatless general pulled his dripping horse to a stand near the colonel of the 304th. He
shook his fist in the other's face. "You've got to hold 'em back!" he shouted, savagely;
"you've got to hold 'em back!"
In his agitation the colonel began to stammer. "A-all r-right, General, all right, by Gawd!
We-we 'll do our--we-we 'll d-d-do-do our best, General." The general made a passionate
gesture and galloped away. The colonel, perchance to relieve his feelings, began to scold
like a wet parrot. The youth, turning swiftly to make sure that the rear was unmolested,
saw the commander regarding his men in a highly resentful manner, as if he regretted
above everything his association with them.