These instances were not known to the man of whom we write, but lessstriking ones of the same character had not escaped his observation. Hewas profoundly disquieted, but for another reason than the uncannysilence of that moonlight march.
‘Good Lord! ‘ he said to himself–and again it was as if another hadspoken his thought–‘if those people are what I take them to be we havelost the battle and they are moving on Nashville!’
Then came a thought of self–an apprehension –a strong sense ofpersonal peril, such as in an- other we call fear. He stepped quicklyinto the shadow of a tree. And still the silent battalions moved slowlyforward in the haze.
The chill of a sudden breeze upon the back of his neck drew hisattention to the quarter whence it came, and turning to the east he sawa faint grey light along the horizon–the first sign of return– ing day.This increased his apprehension.
‘I must get away from here,’ he thought, ‘or I shall be discoveredand taken.‘
He moved out of the shadow, walking rapidly toward the greying east.From the safer seclusion of a clump of cedars he looked back. The entirecolumn had passed out of sight: the straight white road lay bare anddesolate in the moonlight!
Puzzled before, he was now inexpressibly astonished. So swift apassing of so slow an army!–he could not comprehend it. Minute afterminute passed unnoted; he had lost his sense of time. He sought with aterrible earnestness a solution of the mystery, but sought in vain.
Whenat last he roused himself from his abstraction the sun’s rim was visi-ble above the hills, but in the new conditions he found no other lightthan that of day; his understanding was involved as darkly in doubt asbefore.
On every side lay cultivated fields showing no sign of war and war’sravages. From the chimneys of the farmhouses thin ascensions of bluesmoke signalled preparations for a day’s peaceful toil. Having stilledits immemorial allocution to the moon, the watch-dog was assisting anegro who, prefixing a team of mules to the plough, was flatting andsharping contentedly at his task.
The hero of this tale staredstupidly at the pastoral picture as if he had never seen such a thing inall his life; then he put his hand to his head, passed it through hishair and, withdrawing it, attentively considered the palm–a singularthing to do. Apparently reassured by the act, he walked confidentlytoward the road.