A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking downinto the swift water twenty feet below. The man's hands were behindhis back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled hisneck. It was attached to a stout cross-timber above his head and theslack fell to the level of his knees. Some loose boards laid upon theties supporting the rails of the railway supplied a footing for himand his executioners--two private soldiers of the Federal army, directed by a sergeant who in civil life may have been a deputysheriff. At a short remove upon the same temporary platform was anofficer in the uniform of his rank, armed. He was a captain. Asentinel at each end of the bridge stood with his rifle in theposition known as "support," that is to say, vertical in front of theleft shoulder, the hammer resting on the forearm thrown straightacross the chest--a formal and unnatural position, enforcing an erectcarriage of the body. It did not appear to be the duty of these twomen to know what was occurring at the center of the bridge; theymerely blockaded the two ends of the foot planking that traversed it. Beyond one of the sentinels nobody was in sight; the railroad ranstraight away into a forest for a hundred yards, then, curving, waslost to view. Doubtless there was an outpost farther along. Theother bank of the stream was open ground--a gentle slope topped witha stockade of vertical tree trunks, loopholed for rifles, with asingle embrasure through which protruded the muzzle of a brass cannoncommanding the bridge. Midway up the slope between the bridge andfort were the spectators--a single company of infantry in line, at"parade rest," the butts of their rifles on the ground, the barrelsinclining slightly backward against the right shoulder, the handscrossed upon the stock. A lieutenant stood at the right of the line, the point of his sword upon the ground, his left hand resting upon hisright. Excepting the group of four at the center of the bridge, not aman moved. The company faced the bridge, staring stonily, motionless.The sentinels, facing the banks of the stream, might have been statuesto adorn the bridge. The captain stood with folded arms, silent, observing the work of his subordinates, but making no sign. Death is adignitary who when he comes announced is to be received with formalmanifestations of respect, even by those most familiar with him. Inthe code of military etiquette silence and fixity are forms ofdeference.
- Crime & Mystery
- Paperback / softback
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- Independently Published
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