BLTC Press Titles

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The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Thomas Carlyle, Rudolf Steiner

The Bhagavad Gita


Further Adventures of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll


by Elsie Singmaster



PARSONS knew little of the great wave of protest that swept over the Army of the Potomac when Hooker was replaced by Meade. The sad depression of the North, sick at heart since December, did not move him; he was too thoroughly occupied with his own sensations. He sat alone, when his comrades would leave him alone, brooding, his terror equally independent of victory or defeat. The horror of war appalled him. He tried to reconstruct the reasons for his enlisting, but found it impossible. The war had made of him a stranger to himself. He could scarcely visualize the little farm that he had left, or his mother. Instead of the farm, he saw corpse-strewn fields; instead of his mother, the mutilated bodies of young men. His senses seemed unable to respond to any other stimuli than those of war. He had not been conscious of the odors of the sweet Maryland spring, or of the song of mocking-birds; his nostrils were full of the smell of blood, his ears of the cries of dying men.

Worse than the recollection of what he had seen were the forebodings that filled his soul. In a day — yes, an hour, for the rumors of coming battle forced themselves to his unwilling ears — he might be as they. Presently he too would lie, staring, horrible, under the Maryland sky.

The men in his company came gradually to leave him to himself. At first they thought no less of him because he was afraid. They had all been afraid. They discussed their sensations frankly as they sat round the camp-fire, or lay prone on the soft grass of the fields.

"Scared!" laughed the oldest member of the company, who was speaking chiefly for the encouragement of Parsons, whom he liked. "My knees shook, and my chest caved in. Every bullet killed me. But by the time I'd been dead about forty times, I saw the Johnnies, and something hot got into my throat, and I got over it."

"And weren't you afraid afterwards?" asked Parsons, trying to make his voice sound natural.

"No, never."

"But I was," confessed another man. His face was bandaged, and blood oozed through from the wound that would make him leer like a satyr for the rest of his life. "I get that way every time. But I get over it. I don't get hot in my throat, but my skin prickles."

Young Parsons walked slowly away, his legs shaking visibly beneath him.

Adams turned on his side and watched him.

"Got it bad," he said shortly. Then he lay once more on his back and spread out his arms. "God, but I'm sick of it! And if Lee's gone into Pennsylvania, and we're to chase him, and old Joe's put out, the Lord knows what'll become of us. I bet you a pipeful of tobacco, there ain't one of us left by this time next week. I bet you —"

The man with the bandaged face did not answer. Then Adams saw that Parsons had come back and was staring at him.

"Ain't Hooker in command no more?" he asked.

"No; Meade."

"And we're going to Pennsylvania?"

"Guess so." Adams sat upright, the expression of kindly commiseration on his face changed to one of disgust. "Brace up, boy. What's the matter with you?"

Parsons sat down beside him. His face was gray; his blue eyes, looking out from under his little forage-cap, closed as though he were swooning.

"I can't stand it," he said thickly. "I can see them all day, and hear them all night, all the groaning — I —"

The old man pulled from his pocket a little bag. It contained his last pipeful of tobacco, the one that he had been betting.

"Take that. You got to get such things out of your head. It won't do. The trouble with you is that ever since you've enlisted, this company 's been hanging round the outside. You ain't been in a battle. One battle'll cure you. You got to get over it."

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