The moonlight flickered along their spears, and played upon their features and made them ghastly; the chilly night wind tossed their tall and hearse like plumes. There they lay in wild confusion, with arms outstretched and twisted limbs; their stern, stalwart forms looking weird and unhuman in the moonlight.
"How many of these do you suppose will be alive at this time to-morrow?" asked Sir Henry.
I shook my head and looked again at the sleeping men, and to my tired and yet excited imagination it seemed as though death had already touched them. My mind's eye singled out those who were sealed to slaughter, and there rushed in upon my heart a great sense of the mystery of human life, and an overwhelming sorrow at its futility and sadness. To-night these thousands slept their healthy sleep; to-morrow they, and many others with them, ourselves perhaps among them, would be stiffening in the cold; their wives would be widows, their children fatherless, and their place know them no more forever. Only the old moon would shine serenely on, the night wind would stir the grasses, and the wide earth would take its happy rest, even as it did aeons before these were, and will do aeons after they have been forgotten.
Yet man dies not while the world, at once his mother and his monument, remains. His name is forgotten, indeed, but the breath he breathed yet stirs the pine-tops on the mountains, the sound of the words he spoke yet echoes on through space; the thoughts his brain gave birth to we have inherited to-day; his passions are our cause of life; the joys and sorrows that he felt are our familiar friends - the end from which he fled aghast will surely overtake us also.
Truly the universe is full of ghosts; not sheeted, churchyard spectres, but the inextinguishable and immortal elements of life, which, having once been, can never die, though they blend and change and change again forever.
All sorts of reflections of this sort passed through my mind - for as I get older I regret to say that a detestable habit of thinking seems to be getting a hold of me - -while I stood and stared at those grim yet fantastic lines of warriors sleeping, as their saying goes, "upon their spears."
"Curtis," I said to Sir Henry, !"I am in a condition of pitiable funk."
Sir Henry stroked his yellow beard and laughed, as he answered: