Survivors by Elsie Singmaster
A Memorial Day Story
In the year 1868, when Memorial Day was instituted,
Fosterville had thirty-five men in its parade. Fosterville
was a border town; in it enthusiasm had run high,
and many more men had enlisted than those required by
the draft. All the men were on the same side but Adam
Foust, who, slipping away, joined himself to the troops
of his mother’s Southern State. It could not have been
any great trial for Adam to fight against most of his
companions in Fosterville, for there was only one of
them with whom he did not quarrel. That one was his
cousin Henry, from whom he was inseparable, and of
whose friendship for any other boys he was intensely
jealous. Henry was a frank, open-hearted lad who
would have lived on good terms with the whole world
if Adam had allowed him to.
Adam did not return to Fosterville until the morning
of the first Memorial Day, of whose establishment he
was unaware. He had been ill for months, and it was
only now that he had earned enough to make his way
home. He was slightly lame, and he had lost two fingers
of his left hand. He got down from the train at the
station, and found himself at once in a great crowd. He
knew no one, and no one seemed to know him. Without
asking any questions, he started up the street. He
meant to go, first of all, to the house of his cousin Henry,
and then to set about making arrangements to resume
his long-interrupted business, that of a saddler, which
he could still follow in spite of his injury.
As he hurried along he heard the sound of band music,
and realized that some sort of a procession was advancing.
With the throng about him he pressed to the curb.
The tune was one which he hated; the colors he hated
also; the marchers, all but one, he had never liked.
There was Newton Towne, with a sergeant’s stripe on
his blue sleeve; there was Edward Green, a captain;
there was Peter Allinson, a color-bearer. At their head,
taller, handsomer, dearer than ever to Adam’s jealous
eyes, walked Henry Foust. In an instant of forgetfulness
Adam waved his hand. But Henry did not see;
Adam chose to think that he saw and would not answer.
The veterans passed, and Adam drew back and was
lost in the crowd.
But Adam had a parade of his own. In the evening,
when the music and the speeches were over and the
half-dozen graves of those of Fosterville’s young men
who had been brought home had been heaped with flowers,
and Fosterville sat on doorsteps and porches talking
about the day, Adam put on a gray uniform and walked
from one end of the village to the other. These were
people who had known him always; the word flew from
step to step. Many persons spoke to him, some
laughed, and a few jeered. To no one did Adam pay
any heed. Past the house of Newton Towne, past the
store of Ed Green, past the wide lawn of Henry Foust,
walked Adam, his hands clasped behind his back, as
though to make more perpendicular than perpendicularity
itself that stiff backbone. Henry Foust ran
down the steps and out to the gate.
“Oh, Adam!” cried he.
Adam stopped, stock-still. He could see Peter Allinson
and Newton Towne, and even Ed Green, on Henry’s
porch. They were all having ice-cream and cake together.
“Well, what?” said he, roughly.
“Won’t you shake hands with me?”
“No,” said Adam.
“Won’t you come in?”
Still Henry persisted.
“Some one might do you harm, Adam.”
“Let them!” said Adam.
Then Adam walked on alone. Adam walked alone
for forty years.
Not only on Memorial Day did he don his gray uniform
and make the rounds of the village. When the
Fosterville Grand Army Post met on Friday evenings
in the post room, Adam managed to meet most of the
members either going or returning. He and his gray
suit became gradually so familiar to the village that no
one turned his head or glanced up from book or paper
to see him go by. He had from time to time a new suit,
and he ordered from somewhere in the South a succession
of gray, broad-brimmed military hats. The farther
the war sank into the past, the straighter grew old
Adam’s back, the prouder his head. Sometimes, early
in the forty years, the acquaintances of his childhood,
especially the women, remonstrated with him.
“The war’s over, Adam,” they would say. “Can’t
you forget it?”
“Those G. A. R. fellows don’t forget it,” Adam would
answer. “They haven’t changed their principles. Why
should I change mine?”
“But you might make up with Henry.”
“That’s nobody’s business but my own.”
“But when you were children you were never separated.
Make up, Adam.”
“When Henry needs me, I’ll help him,” said Adam.
“Henry will never need you. Look at all he’s got!”
“Well, then, I don’t need him,” declared Adam, as he
walked away. He went back to his saddler shop, where
he sat all day stitching. He had ample time to think of
Henry and the past.
“Brought up like twins!” he would say. “Sharing
like brothers! Now he has a fine business and a fine
house and fine children, and I have nothing. But I
have my principles. I ain’t never truckled to him.
Some day he’ll need me, you’ll see!”
As Adam grew older, it became more and more certain
that Henry would never need him for anything. Henry
tried again and again to make friends, but Adam would
have none of him. He talked more and more to himself
as he sat at his work.
“Used to help him over the brook and bait his
hook for him. Even built corn-cob houses for him to
knock down, that much littler he was than me. Stepped
out of the race when I found he wanted Annie. He
might ask me for something!” Adam seemed often to be
By the year 1875 fifteen of Fosterville’s thirty-five
veterans had died. The men who survived the war were,
for the most part, not strong men, and weaknesses established
in prisons and on long marches asserted themselves.
Fifteen times the Fosterville Post paraded to
the cemetery and read its committal service and fired its
salute. For these parades Adam did not put on his gray
During the next twenty years deaths were fewer.
Fosterville prospered as never before; it built factories
and an electric car line. Of all its enterprises Henry
Foust was at the head. He enlarged his house and
bought farms and grew handsomer as he grew older.
Everybody loved him; all Fosterville, except Adam,
sought his company. It seemed sometimes as though
Adam would almost die from loneliness and jealousy.
“Henry Foust sittin’ with Ed Green!” said Adam to
himself, as though he could never accustom his eyes to
this phenomenon. “Henry consortin’ with Newt
The Grand Army Post also grew in importance. It
paraded each year with more ceremony; it imported fine
music and great speakers for Memorial Day.
Presently the sad procession to the cemetery began
once more. There was a long, cold winter, with many
cases of pneumonia, and three veterans succumbed;
there was an intensely hot summer, and twice in one
month the post read its committal service and fired its
salute. A few years more, and the post numbered but
three. Past them still on post evenings walked Adam,
head in air, hands clasped behind his back. There was
Edward Green, round, fat, who puffed and panted;
there was Newton Towne, who walked, in spite of palsy,
as though he had won the battle of Gettysburg; there
was, last of all, Henry Foust, who at seventy-five was
hale and strong. Usually a tall son walked beside him,
or a grandchild clung to his hand. He was almost never
alone; it was as though every one who knew him tried
to have as much as possible of his company. Past him
with a grave nod walked Adam. Adam was two years
older than Henry; it required more and more stretching
of arms behind his back to keep his shoulders
In April Newton Towne was taken ill and died. Edward
Green was terrified, though he considered himself,
in spite of his shortness of breath, a strong man.
“Don’t let anything happen to you, Henry,” he would
say. “Don’t let anything get you, Henry. I can’t
“I’ll be there,” Henry would reassure him. Only
one look at Henry, and the most alarmed would have
“It would kill me to march alone,” said Edward
As if Fosterville realized that it could not continue
long to show its devotion to its veterans, it made this
year special preparations for Memorial Day. The Fosterville
Band practiced elaborate music, the children
were drilled in marching. The children were to precede
the veterans to the cemetery and were to scatter flowers
over the graves. Houses were gayly decorated, flags
and banners floating in the pleasant spring breeze.
Early in the morning carriages and wagons began to
bring in the country folk.
Adam Foust realized as well as Fosterville that the
parades of veterans were drawing to their close.
“This may be the last time I can show my principles,”
said he, with grim setting of his lips. “I will
put on my gray coat early in the morning.”
Though the two veterans were to march to the
cemetery, carriages were provided to bring them home.
Fosterville meant to be as careful as possible of its
“I don’t need any carriage to ride in, like Ed Green,”
said Adam proudly. “I could march out and back.
Perhaps Ed Green will have to ride out as well as
But Edward Green neither rode nor walked. The
day turned suddenly warm, the heat and excitement
accelerated his already rapid breathing, and the doctor
forbade his setting foot to the ground.
“But I will!” cried Edward, in whom the spirit of
war still lived.
“No,” said the doctor.
“Then I will ride.”
“You will stay in bed,” said the doctor.
So without Edward Green the parade was formed.
Before the court-house waited the band, and the long
line of school-children, and the burgess, and the fire
company, and the distinguished stranger who was to
make the address, until Henry Foust appeared, in his
blue suit, with his flag on his breast and his bouquet in
his hand. On each side of him walked a tall, middle-aged
son, who seemed to hand him over reluctantly
to the marshal, who was to escort him to his place.
Smilingly he spoke to the marshal, but he was the
only one who smiled or spoke. For an instant men
and women broke off in the middle of their sentences, a
husky something in their throats; children looked up
at him with awe. Even his own grandchildren did
not dare to wave or call from their places in the ranks.
Then the storm of cheers broke.
Round the next corner Adam Foust waited. He
was clad in his gray uniform—those who looked at
him closely saw with astonishment that it was a new
uniform; his brows met in a frown, his gray moustache
seemed to bristle.
“How he hates them!” said one citizen of Fosterville
to another. “Just look at poor Adam!”
“Used to bait his hook for him,” Adam was saying.
“Used to carry him pick-a-back! Used to go halves
with him on everything. Now he walks with Ed
Adam pressed forward to the curb. The band was
playing “Marching Through Georgia,” which he
hated; everybody was cheering. The volume of sound
“Cheering Ed Green!” said Adam. “Fat! Lazy!
Didn’t have a wound. Dare say he hid behind a tree!
The band was in sight now, the back of the drum-major
appeared, then all the musicians swung round
the corner. After them came the little children with
their flowers and their shining faces.
“Him and Ed Green next,” said old Adam.
But Henry walked alone. Adam’s whole body
jerked in his astonishment. He heard some one say
that Edward Green was sick, that the doctor had
forbidden him to march, or even to ride. As he pressed
nearer the curb he heard the admiring comments of
“Isn’t he magnificent!”
“See his beautiful flowers! His grandchildren always
send him his flowers.”
“He’s our first citizen.”
“He’s mine!” Adam wanted to cry out. “He’s
Never had Adam felt so miserable, so jealous, so
heartsick. His eyes were filled with the great figure.
Henry was, in truth, magnificent, not only in himself,
but in what he represented. He seemed symbolic of a
great era of the past, and at the same time of a new
age which was advancing. Old Adam understood all
“He’s mine!” said old Adam again, foolishly.
Then Adam leaned forward with startled, staring
eyes. Henry had bowed and smiled in answer to the
cheers. Across the street his own house was a mass
of color—red, white, and blue over windows and doors,
gay dresses on the porch. On each side the pavement
was crowded with a shouting multitude. Surely no
hero had ever had a more glorious passage through
the streets of his birthplace!
But old Adam saw that Henry’s face blanched, that
there appeared suddenly upon it an expression of intolerable
pain. For an instant Henry’s step faltered
and grew uncertain.
Then old Adam began to behave like a wild man.
He pushed himself through the crowd, he flung himself
upon the rope as though to tear it down, he called out,
“Wait! wait!” Frightened women, fearful of some
sinister purpose, tried to grasp and hold him. No
man was immediately at hand, or Adam would have
been seized and taken away. As for the feeble women—Adam
shook them off and laughed at them.
“Let me go, you geese!” said he.
A mounted marshal saw him and rode down upon
him; men started from under the ropes to pursue him.
But Adam eluded them or outdistanced them. He
strode across an open space with a surety which gave
no hint of the terrible beating of his heart, until he
reached the side of Henry. Him he greeted, breathlessly
and with terrible eagerness.
“Henry,” said he, gasping, “Henry, do you want
me to walk along?”
Henry saw the alarmed crowds, he saw the marshal’s
hand stretched to seize Adam, he saw most clearly of
all the tearful eyes under the beetling brows. Henry’s
voice shook, but he made himself clear.
“It’s all right,” said he to the marshal. “Let him
“I saw you were alone,” said Adam. “I said, ‘Henry
needs me.’ I know what it is to be alone. I——”
But Adam did not finish his sentence. He found a
hand on his, a blue arm linked tightly in his gray arm,
he felt himself moved along amid thunderous roars of
“Of course I need you!” said Henry. “I’ve needed
you all along.”
Then, old but young, their lives almost ended, but
themselves immortal, united, to be divided no more,
amid an ever-thickening sound of cheers, the two
marched down the street.