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Quite So
by [?]

Whatever John Bladburn had been, he was a lonely man. Whenever I want a type of perfect human isolation, I shall think of him, as he was in those days, moving remote, self-contained, and alone in the midst of two hundred thousand men.


THE Indian summer, with its infinite beauty and tenderness, came like a reproach that year to Virginia. The foliage, touched here and there with prismatic tints, drooped motionless in the golden haze. The delicate Virginia creeper was almost minded to put forth its scarlet buds again. No wonder the lovely phantomóthis dusky Southern sister of the pale Northern Juneólingered not long with us, but, filling the once peaceful glens and valleys with her pathos, stole away rebukefully before the savage enginery of man.

The preparations that had been going on for months in arsenals and foundries at the North were nearly completed. For weeks past the air had been filled with rumors of an advance; but the rumor of to-day refuted the rumor of yesterday, and the Grand Army did not move. Heintzelman’s corps was constantly folding its tents, like the Arabs, and as silently stealing away; but somehow it was always in the same place the next morning. One day, at length, orders came down for our brigade to move.

“We’re going to Richmond, boys!” shouted Strong, thrusting his heads in at the tent; and we all cheered and waved our caps like mad. You see, Big Bethel and Bull Run and Ball’s Bluff (the bloody B’s, as we used to call them,) had n’t taught us any better sense.

Rising abruptly from the plateau, to the left of our encampment,I was a tall hill covered with a stunted growth of red-oak, persimmon, and chestnut. The night before we struck tents I climbed up to the crest to take a parting look at a spectacle which custom had not been able to rob of its enchantment. There, at my feet, and extending miles and miles away, lay the camps of the Grant Army, with its camp-fires reflected luridly against the sky. Thousands of lights were twinkling in every direction, some nestling in the valley, some like fire-flies beating their wings and palpitating among the trees, and others stretching in parallel lines and curves, like the street-lamps of a city. Somewhere, far off, a band was playing, at intervals it seemed; and now and then, nearer to, a silvery strain from a bugle shot sharply up through the night and seemed to lose itself like a rocket among the stars,óthe patient, untroubled stars. Suddenly a hand was laid upon my arm.

“I’d like to say a word to you,” said Bladburn.

With a little start of surprise, I made room for him on the fallen tree where I was seated.

“I may n’t get another chance,” he said.”You and the boys have been very kind to me, kinder than I deserve; but sometimes I’ve fancied that my not saying anything about myself had given you the idea that all was not right in my past. I want to say that I came down to Virginia with a clean record.”

“We never really doubted it, Bladburn.”

“If I did n’t write home,” he continued, “it was because I had n’t any home, neither kith nor kin. When I said the old folks were dead, I said it. Am I boring you? If I thought I wasó”

“No, Bladburn. I have often wanted you to talk to me about yourself, not from idle curiosity, I trust, but because I liked you that rainy night when you came to camp, and have gone on liking you ever since. This is n’t too much to say, when Heaven only knows how soon I may be past saying it or you listening to it.”

“That’s it,” said Bladburn, hurriedly, “that’s why I want to talk with you. I’ve a fancy that I sha’ n’t, come out of our first battle.”

The words gave me a queer start, for I had been trying several days to throw off a similar presentiment concerning him,óa foolish presentiment that grew out of a dream.

“In case anything of that kind turns up,” he continued, “I’d like you to have my Latin grammar here,óyou’ve seen me reading it. You might stick it away in a bookcase, for the sake of old times. It goes against me to think of it falling into rough hands or being kicked about camp and trampled under foot.”