‘Mr President,’ said the general, who had come with us, ’here are some of the brave men of our army, whom you wished to see.
He came and shook hands with each and thanked us in the name of the republic, for the example of courage and patriotism we and many others had given to the army. He had a lean, tall, ungraceful figure and he spoke his mind without any frill or flourish. He said only a few words of good plain talk and was done with us.
‘Which is Brower?’ he enquired presently.
I came forward more scared than ever I had been before.
‘My son,’ he said, taking my hand in his, ‘why didn’t you run?’
‘Didn’t dare,’ I answered. ’I knew it was more dangerous to run away than to go forward.’
‘Reminds me of a story,’ said he smiling. ’Years ago there was a bully in Sangamon County, Illinois, that had the reputation of running faster and fighting harder than any man there. Everybody thought he was a terrible fighter. He’d always get a man on the run; then he’d ketch up and give him a licking. One day he tadded a lame man. The lame man licked him in a minute.
’"Why didn’t ye run?” somebody asked the victor.
’"Didn’t dast,” said he. “Run once when he tackled me an I’ve been lame ever since.”
“How did ye manage to lick him?” said the other.
‘"Wall,” said he, “I hed to, an’ I done it easy.”
‘That’s the way it goes,’ said the immortal president, ’ye do it easy if ye have to.
He reminded me in and out of Horace Greeley, although they looked no more alike than a hawk and a handsaw. But they had a like habit of forgetting themselves and of saying neither more nor less than they meant. They both had the strength of an ox and as little vanity. Mr Greeley used to say that no man could amount to anything who worried much about the fit of his trousers; neither of them ever encountered that obstacle.
Early next morning I took a train for home. I was in soldier clothes I had with me no others — and all in my car came to talk with me about the now famous battle of Bull Run.
The big platform at Jersey City was crowded with many people as we got off the train. There were other returning soldiers — some with crutches, some with empty sleeves.
A band at the further end of the platform was playing and those near me were singing the familiar music,
’John Brown’s body lies a mouldering in the grave.
Somebody shouted my name. Then there rose a cry of three cheers for Brower. It’s some of the boys of the Tribune, I thought — I could see a number of them in the crowd. One brought me a basket of flowers. I thought they were trying to have fun with me.
‘Thank you!’ said I, ‘but what is the joke?’
‘No joke,’ he said. ‘It’s to honour a hero.’
‘Oh, you wish me to give it to somebody.’
I was warming with embarrassment