The Red Badge of Courage HTML version
This advance of the enemy had seemed to the youth like a ruthless hunting. He began to
fume with rage and exasperation. He beat his foot upon the ground, and scowled with
hate at the swirling smoke that was approaching like a phantom flood. There was a
maddening quality in this seeming resolution of the foe to give him no rest, to give him
no time to sit down and think. Yesterday he had fought and had fled rapidly. There had
been many adventures. For to-day he felt that he had earned opportunities for
contemplative repose. He could have enjoyed portraying to uninitiated listeners various
scenes at which he had been a witness or ably discussing the processes of war with other
proved men. Too it was important that he should have time for physical recuperation. He
was sore and stiff from his experiences. He had received his fill of all exertions, and he
wished to rest.
But those other men seemed never to grow weary; they were fighting with their old
speed. He had a wild hate for the relentless foe. Yesterday, when he had imagined the
universe to be against him, he had hated it, little gods and big gods; to-day he hated the
army of the foe with the same great hatred. He was not going to be badgered of his life,
like a kitten chased by boys, he said. It was not well to drive men into final corners; at
those moments they could all develop teeth and claws.
He leaned and spoke into his friend's ear. He menaced the woods with a gesture. "If they
keep on chasing us, by Gawd, they'd better watch out. Can't stand TOO much."
The friend twisted his head and made a calm reply. "If they keep on a-chasin' us they'll
drive us all inteh th' river."
The youth cried out savagely at this statement. He crouched behind a little tree, with his
eyes burning hatefully and his teeth set in a curlike snarl. The awkward bandage was still
about his head, and upon it, over his wound, there was a spot of dry blood. His hair was
wondrously tousled, and some straggling, moving locks hung over the cloth of the
bandage down toward his forehead. His jacket and shirt were open at the throat, and
exposed his young bronzed neck. There could be seen spasmodic gulpings at his throat.
His fingers twined nervously about his rifle. He wished that it was an engine of
annihilating power. He felt that he and his companions were being taunted and derided
from sincere convictions that they were poor and puny. His knowledge of his inability to
take vengeance for it made his rage into a dark and stormy specter, that possessed him
and made him dream of abominable cruelties. The tormentors were flies sucking
insolently at his blood, and he thought that he would have given his life for a revenge of
seeing their faces in pitiful plights.
The winds of battle had swept all about the regiment, until the one rifle, instantly
followed by others, flashed in its front. A moment later the regiment roared forth its