Page by Page Books
Read Books Online, for Free
Painted Windows Elia W. Peattie


Page 4 of 5

Table Of Contents: Painted Windows

Previous Page

Next Page

Next Chapter

More Books

More by this Author

I had heard war stories all my life, though usually father told such tales in a half-joking way, as if to make light of everything he had gone through. But now, as we ate there under the tossing pines, and the wild chorus in the treetops swelled like a rising sea, the spirit of the old days came over him. He was a good "stump speaker," and he knew how to make a story come to life, and never did all his simple natural gifts show themselves better than on this night, when he dwelt on his old campaigns. For the first time I was to look into the heart of a kindly natured man, forced by terrible necessity to go through the dread experience of war. I gained an idea of the unspeakable homesickness of the man who leaves his family to an unimagined fate, and sacrifices years in the service of his country. I saw that the mere foregoing of roof and bed is an indescribable distress; I learned something of what the palpitant anxiety before a battle must be, and the quaking fear at the first rattle of bullets, and the half-mad rush of determination with which men force valour into their faltering hearts; I was made to know something of the blight of war -- the horror of the battlefield, the waste of bounty, the ruin of homes.

Then, rising above this, came stories of devotion, of brotherhood, of service on the long, desolate marches, of courage to the death of those who fought for a cause. I began to see wherein lay the highest joy of the soldier, and of how little account he held himself, if the principle for which he fought could be preserved. I heard for the first time the wonderful words of Lincoln at Gettysburg, and learned to repeat a part of them.

Tired of reading? Add this page to your Bookmarks or Favorites and finish it later.

I was only eight, it is true, but emotion has no age, and I understood then as well as I ever could, what heroism and devotion and self-forgetfulness mean. I understood, too, the meaning of the words "our country," and my heart warmed to it, as in the older times the hearts of boys and girls warmed to the name of their king. The new knowledge was so beautiful that I thought then, and I think now, that nothing could have served as so fit an accompaniment to it as the shouting of those pines. They sang like heroes, and in their swaying gave me fleeting glimpses of the stars, unbelievably brilliant in the dusky purple sky, and half-obscured now and then by drifting clouds.

By and by we lay down, not far apart, each rolled in an army blanket, frayed with service. Our feet were to the fire -- for it was so that soldiers lay, my father said -- and our heads rested on mounds of pine-needles.

Sometimes in the night I felt my father's hand resting lightly on my shoulders to see that I was covered, but in my dreams he ceased to be my father and became my comrade, and I was a drummer boy, -- I had seen the play, "The Drummer Boy of the Rappahannock," -- marching forward, with set teeth, in the face of battle.

Whatever could redeem war and make it glorious seemed to flood my soul. All that was highest, all that was noble in that dreadful conflict came to me in my sleep -- to me, the child who had been born when my father was at "the front." I had a strange baptism of the spirit. I discovered sorrow and courage, singing trees and stars. I was never again to think that the fireside and fireside thoughts made up the whole of life.

Page 4 of 5 Previous Page   Next Page
Who's On Your Reading List?
Read Classic Books Online for Free at
Page by Page Books.TM
Painted Windows
Elia W. Peattie

Home | More Books | About Us | Copyright 2004