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    Chapter 14

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    Chapter 14
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    CHAPTER XIV - SOLDIER BOY - TO HIMSELF

    It is five months. Or is it six? My troubles have clouded my
    memory. I have been all over this land, from end to end, and now I
    am back again since day before yesterday, to that city which we
    passed through, that last day of our long journey, and which is
    near her country home. I am a tottering ruin and my eyes are dim,
    but I recognized it. If she could see me she would know me and
    sound my call. I wish I could hear it once more; it would revive
    me, it would bring back her face and the mountains and the free
    life, and I would come - if I were dying I would come! She would
    not know ME, looking as I do, but she would know me by my star.
    But she will never see me, for they do not let me out of this
    shabby stable - a foul and miserable place, with most two wrecks
    like myself for company.

    How many times have I changed hands? I think it is twelve times -
    I cannot remember; and each time it was down a step lower, and each
    time I got a harder master. They have been cruel, every one; they
    have worked me night and day in degraded employments, and beaten
    me; they have fed me ill, and some days not at all. And so I am
    but bones, now, with a rough and frowsy skin humped and cornered
    upon my shrunken body - that skin which was once so glossy, that
    skin which she loved to stroke with her hand. I was the pride of
    the mountains and the Great Plains; now I am a scarecrow and
    despised. These piteous wrecks that are my comrades here say we
    have reached the bottom of the scale, the final humiliation; they
    say that when a horse is no longer worth the weeds and discarded
    rubbish they feed to him, they sell him to the bull-ring for a
    glass of brandy, to make sport for the people and perish for their
    pleasure.

    To die - that does not disturb me; we of the service never care for
    death. But if I could see her once more! if I could hear her bugle
    sing again and say, "It is I, Soldier - come!"
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