And the prisoner, General? said the soldier, saluting, with an inquiring glance in the direction of that unfortunate.
Do as I said, replied the officer, curtly.
The soldier took the note and ducked himself out of the tent. General Clavering turned his handsome face toward the Federal spy, looked him in the eyes, not unkindly, and said: It is a bad night, my man.
For me, yes.
Do you guess what I have written?
Something worth reading, I dare say. Andperhaps it is my vanityI venture to suppose that I am mentioned in it.
Yes; it is a memorandum for an order to be read to the troops at reveille concerning your execution. Also some notes for the guidance of the provostmarshal in arranging the details of that event.
I hope, General, the spectacle will be intelligently arranged, for I shall attend it myself.
Have you any arrangements of your own that you wish to make? Do you wish to see a chaplain, for example?
I could hardly secure a longer rest for myself by depriving him of some of his.
Good God, man! do you mean to go to your death with nothing but jokes upon your lips? Do you know that this is a serious matter?
How can I know that? I have never been dead in all my life. I have heard that death is a serious matter, but never from any of those who have experienced it.
The general was silent for a moment; the man interested, perhaps amused hima type not previously encountered.
Death, he said, is at least a lossa loss of such happiness as we have, and of opportunities for more.
A loss of which we shall never be conscious can be borne with composure and therefore expected without apprehension. You must have observed, General, that of all the dead men with whom it is your soldierly pleasure to strew your path none shows signs of regret.
If the being dead is not a regrettable condition, yet the becoming sothe act of dyingappears to be distinctly disagreeable to one who has not lost the power to feel.
Pain is disagreeable, no doubt. I never suffer it without more or less discomfort. But he who lives longest is most exposed to it. What you call dying is simply the last painthere is really no such thing as dying. Suppose, for illustration, that I attempt to escape. You lift the revolver that you are courteously concealing in your lap, and
The general blushed like a girl, then laughed softly, disclosing his brilliant teeth, made a slight inclination of his handsome head and said nothing. The spy continued: You fire, and I have in my stomach what I did not swallow. I fall, but am not dead. After a half-hour of agony I am dead. But at any given instant of that half-hour I was either alive or dead. There is no transition period.
When I am hanged to-morrow morning it will be quite the same; while conscious I shall be living; when dead, unconscious. Nature appears to have ordered the matter quite in my interestthe way that I should
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