The Red Badge of Courage Chapter 7
The youth cringed as he realized that he had been wrong about the battle; his side had won after all. He heard cheering from the lines and felt angry and cheated. He had justified his flight by convincing himself that annihilation approached, that the selfless camaraderie he had felt had given way to a duty to save his individual self. He had convinced himself that his action was a strategic move that had done the army good, for the officers could fit the little pieces back together later. Now the thought that his line had withstood the charge made him bitter. His better judgment had been bested by the ignorant droves that had not run; he feared the derision of his comrades when he returned to camp.
Filled with indulgent self-pity, the youth wandered into the woods. He got caught often in the thick underbrush and swore as he moved away from the sound of battle. Soon the battle was far off and he heard only the noises of nature. He suddenly thought of nature as a woman, with an aversion to tragedy. He threw a pine cone at a squirrel, who ran away skittishly up a tree. The youth looked to this as justification for his actions: nature had shown him that the natural way of dealing with danger was to run. The squirrel was living proof that the youth and nature, the higher power, saw eye to eye.
The youth walked through a swamp and saw an animal leap in and come out with a fish. Going deeper, he reached a place where the boughs over head looked like a chapel. Inside, he stopped as he saw a dead soldier, sitting with his back against a tree. The uniform was faded from blue to green, the mouth was yellowed and open, and ants crawled over the gray face. The youth retreated, looking all the while at the face for fear it would come to life. He fled with a vision of the ants swarming on the man's face.