Walking into the tent, Edward started toward the pale light at the far opening, past the hundreds of men lying on the ground, some with blankets but most with nothing. Two or three orderlies moved slowly through the wrecked bodies with buckets of water to comfort the dying. The stench made him gag, and he brought his hand up to his face and nose. Nearer the light he looked at each man trying to recognize his brother. Then he saw him a ghastly white face with the familiar jaw. So changed Edward stopped. He stared at the limp body lying, its head propped on a knapsack. Suddenly he realized James had no legs. Slowly he came closer. James' eyes were shut; he twitched constantly and moaned from time to time.
"Jesus," Edward said. Sitting down on the ground unable to continue.
In a moment James opened his eyes and looked at Edward with a blank stare.
After a hideous effort he whispered, "Ebon is dead. Blown to pieces." James' cracked bleeding lips kept moving but no more sound came. Then he closed his eyes. Edward remembered when he and James had blown up the woodshed with kerosene. No legs. He couldn t take it in.
James tried to move then looked at Edward, "They took my legs. . .Ebon is dead. . .canon. I begged them not to take my legs." Suddenly he smiled. "Hello boyo." Then he passed out.
Edward sat and waited. Tears were not there. He thought of James back home working on the stone house. James had given him his first drink of whiskey. He remembered the burning in his throat and James face full of laughter.
The white frail hand looked unreal jutting out of James' tunic. He saw men dying all the time but this was not the same. He wanted to take his brothers hand but couldn't reach out. . .
An orderly came down the row with water. Kneeling down he touched James neck and said to no one in particular, "This man is dead."
Then looking at Edward he asked, "Friend?"
The orderly said "sorry", and walked back to the front of the tent.
Edward watched the familiar face that reminded him of his mother. He heard the orderly say to the doctor, "The new one. Dead. I'll get the burial boys.
Edward told the burial crew he would take care of his brother. He got his gun and a spade and then carried James out across the large field into the dense wood. He sat down holding the legless body on his lap, the rifle slung over his shoulder. The tall trees were thick and bare. They stood so close together that he would have to find a clearing further ahead to have room to dig.
When he found a place he spent hours cracking the frozen ground, then carefully placed stones around his brother. He laid each one with gentle care until the body was secure and then shoveled on the dirt. He rolled a large stone over to the top of the grave and scratched an X and 1865 on it. Then he sat in the clearing on the frozen ground and thought of his brother.