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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesAladdin O'brien - Book 3 - Chapter 31
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Aladdin O'brien - Book 3 - Chapter 31 Post by :Refugee Category :Long Stories Author :Gouverneur Morris Date :May 2012 Read :1895

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Aladdin O'brien - Book 3 - Chapter 31

BOOK III CHAPTER XXXI

There was a pretty girl in Manchester, Maryland (possibly several, but one was particularly pretty), and Aladdin, together with several young officers (nearly all officers were young in that war) of the Sixth Army Corps, rather flattered himself that he was making an impression. He was all for making impressions in those days. Margaret was engaged to marry Peter--and a pretty girl was a pretty girl. The pretty girl of Manchester had several girls and several officers to tea on a certain evening, and they remained till midnight, making a great deal of noise and flirting outrageously in dark corners. Two of the girls got themselves kissed, and two of the officers got their ears boxed, and later a glove each to stick in their hat-bands. At midnight the party broke up with regret, and the young officers, seeking their quarters, turned in, and were presently sleeping the sleep of the constant in heart. But Aladdin did not dream about the pretty girl of Manchester, Maryland. When he could not help himself--under the disadvantage of sleep, when suddenly awakened, or when left alone--his mind harped upon Margaret. And often the chords of the harping were sad chords. But on this particular night he dreamed well. He dreamed that her little feet did wrong and fled for safety unto him. What the wrong was he knew in his dream, but never afterward--only that it was a dreadful, unforgivable wrong, not to be condoned, even by a lover. But in his dream Aladdin was more than her lover, and could condone anything. So he hid her feet in his hands until those who came to arrest them had passed, and then he waked to find that his hands were empty, and the delicious dream over. He waked also to find that it was still dark, and that the Sixth Army Corps was to march to a place called Taneytown, where General Meade had headquarters. He made ready and presently was riding by his general at the head of a creaking column, under the starry sky. In the great hush and cool that is before a July dawn, God showed himself to the men, and they sang the "Battle-hymn of the Republic," but it sounded sweetly and yearningly, as if sung by thousands of lovers:


Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword
His truth is marching on.


The full sunlight gives man poise and shows him the practical side of things, but in the early morning and late at night man is seldom quite rational. He weakly allows himself to dwell upon what was not, is not, and will not be. And so Aladdin, during the first period of that march, pretended that Margaret was to be his and that all was well.

A short distance out of Manchester the column met with orders from General Meade and was turned westward toward Gettysburg. With the orders came details of the first day's fight, and Aladdin learned of the officer bringing them, for he was a Maine man, that Hamilton St. John was among the dead. Aladdin and the officer talked long of the poor boy, for both had known him well. They said that he had not been as brilliant as John, nor as winning as Hannibal, but so honest and reliable, so friendly and unselfish. They went over his good qualities again and again, and spoke of his great strength and purity, and of other things which men hold best in men.

And now they were riding with the sun in their eyes, and white dust rolled up from the swift feet of horses and men. Wild roses and new-mown grass filled the air with delightful fragrance, and such fields as were uncut blazed with daisies and buttercups. Over the trimmed lawns about homesteads yellow dandelions shone like stars in a green sky. Men, women, and children left their occupations, and stood with open mouths and wide eyes to see the soldiers pass. The sun rose higher and the day became most hot, but steadily, unflinchingly as the ticking of a clock, the swift, bleeding, valiant feet of the Sixth Army Corps stepped off the miles. And the men stretched their ears to hear the mumbled distant thunder of artillery--that voice of battle which says so much and tells so little to those far off. The Sixth Corps felt that it was expected to decide a battle upon Northern soil for the North, and marching in that buoyant hope, left scarcely a man, broken with fatigue and disappointment, among the wild flowers by the side of the way.

If you have ever ridden from Cairo to the Pyramids you will remember that at five miles' distance they look as huge as at a hundred yards, and that it is not until you actually touch them with your hand that you even begin to realize how wonderfully huge they really are. It was so with the thunders of Gettysburg. They sounded no louder, and they connoted no more to the column now in the immediate vicinage of the battle, than they had to its far-distant ears. But presently the column halted behind a circle of hills, and beheld white smoke pouring heavenward as if a fissure had opened in the earth and was giving forth steam. And they beheld in the heavens themselves tiny, fleecy white clouds and motionless rings, and they knew that shells were bursting and men falling upon the slopes beyond the hills.

A frenzy of eagerness seized upon the tired feet, and they pressed upward, lightly, like dancers' feet. Straps creaked upon straining breasts, and sweat ran in bubbles. Then the head of the column reached the ridge of a hill, and its leaders saw through smarting eyes a great horseshoe of sudden death.

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BOOK III CHAPTER XXXIIThat morning Peter Manners had received a letter, but he had not had a chance to open and read it. It was a letter that belonged next to his heart, as he judged by the writing, and next to his heart, in a secure pocket, he placed it, there to lie and give him strength and courage for the cruel day's work, and something besides the coming of night to look forward to. For the rest, he went among the lines, and smiled like a boy released from school to see how silently and savagely they fought. The
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BOOK III CHAPTER XXX"Where are the tall men that marched on the right, That marched to the battle so handsome and tall? They 've been left to mark the places where they saw the foemen's faces, For the fever and the lead took them all, Jenny Orde, The fever and the lead took them all. "I found him in the forefront of the battle, Kenny Orde, With the bullets spitting up the ground around him, And the sweat was on his brow, and his lips
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