The Red Badge of Courage HTML version
The regiment was standing at order arms at the side of a lane, waiting for the command to
march, when suddenly the youth remembered the little packet enwrapped in a faded
yellow envelope which the loud young soldier with lugubrious words had intrusted to
him. It made him start. He uttered an exclamation and turned toward his comrade.
His friend, at his side in the ranks, was thoughtfully staring down the road. From some
cause his expression was at that moment very meek. The youth, regarding him with
sidelong glances, felt impelled to change his purpose. "Oh, nothing," he said.
His friend turned his head in some surprise, "Why, what was yeh goin' t' say?"
"Oh, nothing," repeated the youth.
He resolved not to deal the little blow. It was sufficient that the fact made him glad. It
was not necessary to knock his friend on the head with the misguided packet.
He had been possessed of much fear of his friend, for he saw how easily questionings
could make holes in his feelings. Lately, he had assured himself that the altered comrade
would not tantalize him with a persistent curiousity, but he felt certain that during the first
period of leisure his friend would ask him to relate his adventures of the previous day.
He now rejoiced in the possession of a small weapon with which he could prostrate his
comrade at the first signs of a cross-examination. He was master. It would now be he who
could laugh and shoot the shafts of derision.
The friend had, in a weak hour, spoken with sobs of his own death. He had delivered a
melancholy oration previous to his funeral, and had doubtless in the packet of letters,
presented various keepsakes to relatives. But he had not died, and thus he had delivered
himself into the hands of the youth.
The latter felt immensely superior to his friend, but he inclined to condescension. He
adopted toward him an air of patronizing good humor.
His self-pride was now entirely restored. In the shade of its flourishing growth he stood
with braced and self-confident legs, and since nothing could now be discovered he did
not shrink from an encounter with the eyes of judges, and allowed no thoughts of his own
to keep him from an attitude of manfulness. He had performed his mistakes in the dark,
so he was still a man.