A Private’s Return by Hamlin Garland

The title of our narrative for today is “The Return of a Private.” The author is Hamlin Garland. Harry Monroe is here to tell our story. As the train entered Wisconsin through the border, the soldiers gave a cheer. Returning to their northern homes from the south had been an arduous journey. A wide scar of crimson stretched over the brow of one of the males. Another person had a leg injury that made walking uncomfortable. The third had contracted malaria, which explained his very wide and bright eyes. Illustration of soldiers sitting on a train heading into New York Harbor.

Attempting to get some rest, the trio of troops laid down their blankets on the train seats. Despite it being summer, the evening was quite chilly. The feverish soldier, Private Smith, shuddered in the darkness. His happiness at home was tempered with anxiety and terror. He realized that he was ill and frail. How was he going to provide for his family? Where was the strength to tackle the labor-intensive tasks that farmers are required to perform? Three years of his life had been dedicated to his country. And he had very little left over for his family in terms of money and strength.

Slowly, the light of dawn turned pale yellow. The train was approaching the town of La Crosse, where the three troops were scheduled to disembark. Since it was Sunday, the station was deserted. Smith said to himself, “I’ll get home in time for dinner.” He grinned and said, “She usually has dinner about one o’clock on Sunday afternoon.” Smith leaped from the train with the other two soldiers. “Okay, guys, this is where we say goodbye,” Smith said at the start. Together, we have marched for many miles. I guess we’re done now.” It was difficult for the three men to look at one another.

One of the soldiers told Smith, “We should go home with you.” “You’ll never be able to walk all those miles with that heavy pack on your back.” Smith swiftly turned and left. A few minutes later, he turned around once more and raised his cap. His two companions followed suit. Then, with a long, steady soldier’s step, they marched forth.

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