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|The Red Badge of Courage||Stephen Crane|
|Page 2 of 4||
"I tell yeh what I'm 'fraid of, Henry--I 'll tell yeh what I 'm 'fraid of. I 'm 'fraid I 'll fall down --an' then yeh know--them damned artillery wagons--they like as not 'll run over me. That 's what I 'm 'fraid of--"
The youth cried out to him hysterically: "I 'll take care of yeh, Jim! I'll take care of yeh! I swear t' Gawd I will!"
"Sure--will yeh, Henry?" the tall soldier beseeched.
"Yes--yes--I tell yeh--I'll take care of yeh, Jim!" protested the youth. He could not speak accurately because of the gulpings in his throat.
But the tall soldier continued to beg in a lowly way. He now hung babelike to the youth's arm. His eyes rolled in the wildness of his terror. "I was allus a good friend t' yeh, wa'n't I, Henry? I 've allus been a pretty good feller, ain't I? An' it ain't much t' ask, is it? Jest t' pull me along outer th' road? I 'd do it fer you, Wouldn't I, Henry?"
He paused in piteous anxiety to await his friend's reply.
The youth had reached an anguish where the sobs scorched him. He strove to express his loyalty, but he could only make fantastic gestures.
However, the tall soldier seemed suddenly to forget all those fears. He became again the grim, stalking specter of a soldier. He went stonily forward. The youth wished his friend to lean upon him, but the other always shook his head and strangely protested. "No--no--no-- leave me be--leave me be--"
His look was fixed again upon the unknown. He moved with mysterious purpose, and all of the youth's offers he brushed aside. "No--no-- leave me be--leave me be--"
The youth had to follow.
Presently the latter heard a voice talking softly near his shoulders. Turning he saw that it belonged to the tattered soldier. "Ye 'd better take 'im outa th' road, pardner. There 's a batt'ry comin' helitywhoop down th' road an' he 'll git runned over. He 's a goner anyhow in about five minutes--yeh kin see that. Ye 'd better take 'im outa th' road. Where th' blazes does he git his stren'th from?"
"Lord knows!" cried the youth. He was shaking his hands helplessly.
He ran forward presently and grasped the tall soldier by the arm. "Jim! Jim!" he coaxed, "come with me."
The tall soldier weakly tried to wrench himself free. "Huh," he said vacantly. He stared at the youth for a moment. At last he spoke as if dimly comprehending. "Oh! Inteh th' fields? Oh!"
He started blindly through the grass.
The youth turned once to look at the lashing riders and jouncing guns of the battery. He was startled from this view by a shrill outcry from the tattered man.
"Gawd! He's runnin'!"
Turning his head swiftly, the youth saw his friend running in a staggering and stumbling way toward a little clump of bushes. His heart seemed to wrench itself almost free from his body at this sight. He made a noise of pain. He and the tattered man began a pursuit. There was a singular race.
When he overtook the tall soldier he began to plead with all the words he could find. "Jim --Jim--what are you doing--what makes you do this way--you 'll hurt yerself."
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