« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
go into action. As I was gazing at his animated resolute face, a shell burst near us and a fragment struck and tore the brim of his cap. He held it up to me, and said with a smile, while a shudder ran over my frame, “A near thing, wasn't it?” Again almost irresistibly came over me the wish to send him off that fatal field, to know whatever might befall that he at least was safe. So young, so gifted, so instinct with hope and spirit and gallantry, surely it was not natural that he should die. Death even could not touch him. He smiled in its very face. If he had shrunk from it, I think I would have felt it less. The wild impulse died away as I looked upon his uncovered head with a feeling of mingled admiration and despair.
Suddenly the enemy's fire slackens. Ours in its turn ceases. Measured by time-pieces, the cannonade has lasted two hours ; by sensations, two ages. And now we all feel that the time has come. The inactivity and suspense are over. I felt it myself as I drew a long breath, and I could see it in the countenances of those around
There was a look of absolute relief. The decisive moment had come at length. What remained was to die.
We all rose up.
There was a pressing down of caps upon foreheads, a tightening of belts, a general indefinable stir and murmur of preparation. Then came the order to charge. The division-commander rode along the line. He said nothing eloquent or pointed, he made no appeals to the pride or the patriotism of his troops, he uttered no word of encouragement. He simply said, "Soldiers, you see those heights before you. Well, I want you to take them.” Then there rose from the whole line a ringing cheer. “We'll do it, General,” was the response. This was all. Simple words, but not unbecoming the men or the occasion. So with the answer. There was nothing fine in the whole scene, that is, nothing dramatically high-wrought, effective, or telling. Eminently brave nations have very different ways of doing these things. This was the Virginia way. Then the division commenced its advance across the field at ordinary time, as regularly, as quietly, in as solid order as if on parade. I was engrossed by attention to my duties as captain of my own company, but still I had time to notice the cool precision with which the devoted band moved forward, as if on a holiday march. Graham was near me, his cheek flushed, his lips partes, his drawn sword in his hand. The instinct of command was apparent ; he seemed to lower above those around him. His whole figure was ennobled and elevated by the lofty spirit which animated him.
I turned hastily away, unable to bear the thoughts that rose within me at the sight, and at that moment the Federal artillery opened. Round shot, shell and canister poured into the devoted column, but it did not falter. Every moment the storm seemed to increase in fury. A great gap was made in my own company. A man fell close at my side ; another took his place, and the ranks closed up. In a moment he and the man by his side were both swept away.
As I repeated the words of command I wondered to myself whether I would live to complete the sentence, and I remember distinctly that I speculated as to whether the lips would finish the words after the head was off. Every moment I looked by instinct in the direction of Graham.
The ranks were thinned. I missed one familiar form after another, but he was still there, his countenance as bright and fearless as ever, the flush on his cheeks, the fire in his eye. But now his nostril was dilated and his lips compressed. Never a better man for the work before him, the beau-ideal of the leader of a forlorn hope.
We are advancing at quick time now; indeed, if we are much longer in getting to the enemy's works there will be none of us left to take them. I look over the ranks of my own company; more than half are gone, and the last discharge has made a frightful gap and covered me with the blood of the man next me. Poor fellow! I can see his hand clutch the earth convulsively as he falls. Graham is still up, bareheaded now, and waving his sword as we advanced at a double quick. I can see that there is blood on his sleeve, but whether his own or another's I can not tell. Now with a loud cheer we rush up the slope within a few yards of the enemy's guns. Then the musketry opens ; the artillery had been child's play to this. The leaden hail comes thick and fast, whole ranks sink down beneath it. We are going at a run now, and there is little opportunity to see or think of anything. A bullet enters my shoulder, but I hardly feel it. Even in that moment I look for Graham ; we are very near together now; he is in advance of all, straining every nerve as he climbs the ascent, his whole countenance indicative of intense eagerness, of invincible resolve. He is waving his sword over his head and encouraging his men ; the flag. bearer falls, he snatches the flag with his other hand and bears it on; it is down again, and he who held it, down too, the sword in one hand, the flag in the other. An instant ago and he was then ahead of all, cheering on the others, and now — well, I cannot stop to think or grieve; but if one life (since that day scarcely worth the keeping) could have saved his, it would have been freely given. As it is, my blood is turned to fire, my heart has but one consciousness, my eyes are blind to but one sight; we rush over the breastworks, we bayonet the gunners and seize the guns. I hear now the ringing cheer that went up from the few yet left alive. I had no heart to join in it, no thought but of going forward, no wish but to meet the enemy hand to hand. The works are taken and the enemy routed ; but as the smoke clears away we see another and stronger line of works, behind which stand heavy masses of reserves in waiting. Meanwhile on both flanks and in front the fire pours in ; we stand on the crater of a volcano. Men stagger blindly to and fro; they look for their comrades to form and charge, but there are none left. A sheet of fire is in their faces, a hail-storm of bullets is beating upon them. Oh for five thousand more! but for one thousand more! To perish thus in the very arms of victory, and yet with victory not secured! To see it slip from our relaxing grasp! To conquer and have none left to hold ! And then not to be able to keep what he had died to gain! To leave those from whom he had met his death in possession of what he had striven so hard to win! I looked desperately around for support. I was the only officer of my company left on the field; scarcely any of the men remained. The whole division was reduced to a mere handful; anything like order was impossible; no organisation could be maintained. However, I started forward; but just at that moment I was conscious of a sudden shock and a sharp burning sensation in my side. A gush of blood followed as I fell to the ground, a swimming of the head, a deathly sickness, a great darkness, and no more.
I need not tell you of my restoration to consciousness to find myself a prisoner; of the first dim agonising glimmerings of what had happened ; of the slow and gradual return of full recollection, and the leaden hopelessness that step by step, as I fought with my convictions, took possession of my soul. Somehow, from the time when I saw him fall, up to that at which I lost consciousness myself, I had not doubted that the worst had happened. Now the sense of my loss came back with lingering steps. Better to have had one sharp bitter pang of reawakening ; better never to have doubted than this slow but certain approach of despair. Personally I felt as if there was little left for me to fear further. The chances of war held nothing else like this in store for me.
Long afterwards, when I had returned to Virginia, I heard from one who was by his side when he fell, and performed the last offices of friendship, that at any rate his death must have been almost painless. He was shot through the heart; a bullet had previously pierced his arm, but that he did not seem to feel. Years have passed since he was brought back again to rest in the bosom of the land he had died in vain to save ; but I can never hear the word Gettysburg, nor see anything connected with it, but there comes before me with ghastly distinctness the vision of that bloody field, and the death-scene of the noblest and most gifted being I have ever known.
FRIDA AND HER POET.
A SCANDINAVIAN LEGEND,
BRAVE young Poet, born in days of eld,
Dwelt ’mid the frozen Northlands; he beheld,
Rich with young life, and love's sweet blossoming,
On earth to die, in heaven be glorified, -
That passionate rush of music, the heart's wrong
So golden bright in youth's benignant prime,
To whom the God, “But doth she love thee still ?”
The Minstrel answered : “Faith, a ceaseless shower,
“I loose thy heavenly bonds,- I bid thee go !”
The All-Father cried, “ And seek thy Love below !”
To earth he came : drear waste and flowery lea
At last, when aimless as an autumn leaf
And desolate longing, on his eyes a spark
There broke a sudden lightning on his brain
As ebbs a flood-tide, so his eager breath
He bids a last farewell
Twice ransomed soul! thou spirit that hast striven
To whom the Singer, in a voice that seems