The Red Badge of Courage HTML version

Chapter 14
When the youth awoke it seemed to him that he had been asleep for a thousand years, and
he felt sure that he opened his eyes upon an unexpected world. Gray mists were slowly
shifting before the first efforts of the sun rays. An impending splendor could be seen in
the eastern sky. An icy dew had chilled his face, and immediately upon arousing he
curled farther down into his blanket. He stared for a while at the leaves overhead, moving
in a heraldic wind of the day.
The distance was splintering and blaring with the noise of fighting. There was in the
sound an expression of a deadly persistency, as if it had not began and was not to cease.
About him were the rows and groups of men that he had dimly seen the previous night.
They were getting a last draught of sleep before the awakening. The gaunt, careworn
features and dusty figures were made plain by this quaint light at the dawning, but it
dressed the skin of the men in corpse-like hues and made the tangled limbs appear
pulseless and dead. The youth started up with a little cry when his eyes first swept over
this motionless mass of men, thick-spread upon the ground, pallid, and in strange
postures. His disordered mind interpreted the hall of the forest as a charnel place. He
believed for an instant that he was in the house of the dead, and he did not dare to move
lest these corpses start up, squalling and squawking. In a second, however, he achieved
his proper mind. He swore a complicated oath at himself. He saw that this somber picture
was not a fact of the present, but a mere prophecy.
He heard then the noise of a fire crackling briskly in the cold air, and, turning his head, he
saw his friend pottering busily about a small blaze. A few other figures moved in the fog,
and he heard the hard cracking of axe blows.
Suddenly there was a hollow rumble of drums. A distant bugle sang faintly. Similar
sounds, varying in strength, came from near and far over the forest. The bugles called to
each other like brazen gamecocks. The near thunder of the regimental drums rolled.
The body of men in the woods rustled. There was a general uplifting of heads. A
murmuring of voices broke upon the air. In it there was much bass of grumbling oaths.
Strange gods were addressed in condemnation of the early hours necessary to correct war.
An officer's peremptory tenor rang out and quickened the stiffened movement of the men.
The tangled limbs unraveled. The corpse-hued faces were hidden behind fists that twisted
slowly in the eye sockets.
The youth sat up and gave vent to an enormous yawn. "Thunder!" he remarked
petulantly. He rubbed his eyes, and then putting up his hand felt carefully the bandage
over his wound. His friend, perceiving him to be awake, came from the fire. "Well,
Henry, ol' man, how do yeh feel this mornin'?" he demanded.