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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Aged Stranger

By Bret Harte (1836–1902)

An Incident of the War.

“I WAS with Grant”—the stranger said;

Said the farmer, “Say no more,

But rest thee here at my cottage porch,

For thy feet are weary and sore.”

“I was with Grant”—the stranger said;

Said the farmer, “Nay, no more,—

I prithee sit at my frugal board,

And eat of my humble store.

“How fares my boy,—my soldier boy,

Of the old Ninth Army Corps?

I warrant he bore him gallantly

In the smoke and the battle’s roar!”

“I know him not,” said the aged man,

“And, as I remarked before,

I was with Grant”—“Nay, nay, I know,”

Said the farmer, “say no more:

“He fell in battle,—I see, alas!

Thou’dst smooth these tidings o’er,—

Nay: speak the truth, whatever it be,

Though it rend my bosom’s core.

“How fell he,—with his face to the foe,

Upholding the flag he bore?

Oh say not that my boy disgraced

The uniform that he wore!”

“I cannot tell,” said the aged man,

“And should have remarked, before,

That I was with Grant,—in Illinois,—

Some three years before the war.”

Then the farmer spake him never a word,

But beat with his fist full sore

That aged man, who had worked for Grant

Some three years before the war.