The Red Badge of Courage HTML version

Chapter 18
The ragged line had respite for some minutes, but during its pause the struggle in the
forest became magnified until the trees seemed to quiver from the firing and the ground
to shake from the rushing of men. The voices of the cannon were mingled in a long and
interminable row. It seemed difficult to live in such an atmosphere. The chests of the men
strained for a bit of freshness, and their throats craved water.
There was one shot through the body, who raised a cry of bitter lamentation when came
this lull. Perhaps he had been calling out during the fighting also, but at that time no one
had heard him. But now the men turned at the woeful complaints of him upon the ground.
"Who is it? Who is it?"
"Its Jimmie Rogers. Jimmie Rogers."
When their eyes first encountered him there was a sudden halt, as if they feared to go
near. He was thrashing about in the grass, twisting his shuddering body into many strange
postures. He was screaming loudly. This instant's hesitation seemed to fill him with a
tremendous, fantastic contempt, and he damned them in shrieked sentences.
The youth's friend had a geographical illusion concerning a stream, and he obtained
permission to go for some water. Immediately canteens were showered upon him. "Fill
mine, will yeh?" "Bring me some, too." "And me, too." He departed, ladened. The youth
went with his friend, feeling a desire to throw his heated body into the stream and,
soaking there, drink quarts.
They made a hurried search for the supposed stream, but did not find it. "No water here,"
said the youth. They turned without delay and began to retrace their steps.
From their position as they again faced toward the place of the fighting, they could of
comprehend a greater amount of the battle than when their visions had been blurred by
the hurling smoke of the line. They could see dark stretches winding along the land, and
on one cleared space there was a row of guns making gray clouds, which were filled with
large flashes of orange-colored flame. Over some foliage they could see the roof of a
house. One window, glowing a deep murder red, shone squarely through the leaves. From
the edifice a tall leaning tower of smoke went far into the sky.
Looking over their own troops, they saw mixed masses slowly getting into regular form.
The sunlight made twinkling points of the bright steel. To the rear there was a glimpse of
a distant roadway as it curved over a slope. It was crowded with retreating infantry. From
all the interwoven forest arose the smoke and bluster of the battle. The air was always
occupied by a blaring.