Part 3 out of 3
Every woman has her pet whim; one of mine
was to teach the men self-respect by treating them
respectfully. Tom, Dick, and Harry would pass,
when lads rejoiced in those familiar abbreviations;
but to address men often old enough to be my
father in that style did not suit my old-fashioned
ideas of propriety. This "Bob" would never do;
I should have found it as easy to call the chaplain
"Gus" as my tragical-looking contraband by a
title so strongly associated with the tail of a kite.
"What is your other name?" I asked. "I like to call my
attendants by their last names rather than by their first."
"I've got no other, Ma'am; we have our masters' names,
or do without. Mine's dead, and I won't have anything
of his about me."
"Well, I'll call you Robert, then, and you may
fill this pitcher for me, if you will be so kind."
He went; but, through all the tame, obedience
years of servitude had taught him, I could see that
the proud spirit his father gave him was not yet
subdued, for the look and gesture with which he
repudiated his master's name were a more effective
declaration of independence than any Fourth-of-July
orator could have prepared.
We spent a curious week together. Robert
seldom left his room, except upon my errands; and
I was a prisoner all day, often all night, by the
bedside of the Rebel. The fever burned itself rapidly
away, for there seemed little vitality to feed it in
the feeble frame of this old young man, whose life
had been none of the most righteous, judging from
the revelations made by his unconscious lips; since
more than once Robert authoritatively silenced
him, when my gentler bushings were of no avail,
and blasphemous wanderings or ribald camp-songs
made my cheeks burn and Robert's face assume
an aspect of disgust. The captain was a gentleman
in the world's eye, but the contraband was
the gentleman in mine;--I was a fanatic, and that
accounts for such depravity of taste, I hope. I
never asked Robert of himself, feeling that somewhere
there was a spot still too sore to bear the
lightest touch; but, from his language, manner, and
intelligence, I inferred that his color had procured
for him the few advantages within the reach of a
quick-witted, kindly treated slave. Silent, grave,
and thoughtful, but most serviceable, was my contraband;
glad of the books I brought him, faithful
in the performance of the duties I assigned to him,
grateful for the friendliness I could not but feel and
show toward him. Often I longed to ask what purpose
was so visibly altering his aspect with such daily
deepening gloom. But I never dared, and no one else
had either time or desire to pry into the past of this
specimen of one branch of the chivalrous "F.F.Vs."
On the seventh night, Dr. Franck suggested that
it would be well for some one, besides the general
watchman of the ward, to be with the captain, as
it might be his last. Although the greater part of
the two preceding nights had been spent there, of
course I offered to remain,--for there is a strange
fascination in these scenes, which renders one
careless of fatigue and unconscious of fear until the
crisis is passed.
"Give him water as long as he can drink, and
if he drops into a natural sleep, it may save him.
I'll look in at midnight, when some change will
probably take place. Nothing but sleep or a
miracle will keep him now. Good night."
Away went the Doctor; and, devouring a whole
mouthful of grapes, I lowered the lamp, wet
the captain's head, and sat down on a hard stool
to begin my watch. The captain lay with his
hot, haggard face turned toward me, filling the air
with his poisonous breath, and feebly muttering,
with lips and tongue so parched that the sanest
speech would have been difficult to understand.
Robert was stretched on his bed in the inner room,
the door of which stood ajar, that a fresh draught
from his open window might carry the fever-fumes
away through mine. I could just see a long, dark
figure, with the lighter outline of a face, and, having
little else to do just then, I fell to thinking of
this curious contraband, who evidently prized
his freedom highly, yet seemed in no haste to
enjoy it. Doctor Franck had offered to send him on
to safer quarters, but he had said, "No, thank
yer, Sir, not yet," and then had gone away to
fall into one of those black moods of his, which
began to disturb me, because I had no power to
lighten them. As I sat listening to the clocks from
the steeples all about us, I amused myself with
planning Robert's future, as I often did my own,
and had dealt out to him a generous hand of
trumps wherewith to play this game of life which
hitherto had gone so cruelly against him, when a
harsh, choked voice called,--
It was the captain, and some new terror seemed
to have gifted him with momentary strength.
"Yes, here's Lucy," I answered, hoping that
by following the fancy I might quiet him,--for
his face was damp with the clammy moisture, and
his frame shaken with the nervous tremor that so
often precedes death. His dull eye fixed upon
me, dilating with a bewildered look of incredulity
and wrath, till he broke out fiercely.--
"That's a lie! she's dead,--and so's Bob,
Finding speech a failure, I began to sing the
quiet tune that had often soothed delirium like
this; but hardly had the line,
"See gentle patience smile on pain,"
passed my lips, when he clutched me by the wrist,
whispering like one in mortal fear,--
"Hush! she used to sing that way to Bob, but
she never would to me. I swore I'd whip the
Devil out of her, and I did; but you know before
she cut her throat she said she'd haunt me, and
there she is!"
He pointed behind me with an aspect of such
pale dismay, that I involuntarily glanced over
my shoulder and started as if I had seen a veritable
ghost; for, peering from the gloom of that inner
room, I saw a shadowy face, with dark hair all
about it, and a glimpse of scarlet at the throat.
An instant showed me that it was only Robert
leaning from his bed's-foot, wrapped in a gray
army-blanket, with his red shirt just visible above
it, and his long hair disordered by sleep. But
what a strange expression was on his face! The
unmarred side was toward me, fixed and motionless
as when I first observed it,--less absorbed
now, but more intent. His eye glittered, his lips
were apart like one who listened with every sense,
and his whole aspect reminded me of a hound to which
some wind had brought the scent of unsuspected prey.
"Do you know him, Robert? Does he mean
"Lord, no, Ma'am; they all own half a dozen
Bobs: but hearin' my name woke me; that's all."
He spoke quite naturally, and lay down again,
while I returned to my charge, thinking that this
paroxysm was probably his last. But by another
hour I perceived a hopeful change, for the tremor
had subsided, the cold dew was gone, his breathing
was more regular, and Sleep, the healer, had
descended to save or take him gently away.
Doctor Franck looked in at midnight, bade me
keep all cool and quiet, and not fail to administer
a certain draught as soon as the captain woke.
Very much relieved, I laid my head on my arms,
uncomfortably folded on the little table, and
fancied I was about to perform one of the feats
which practice renders possible,--"sleeping with
one eye open," as we say: a half-and-half doze, for
all senses sleep but that of hearing; the faintest
murmur, sigh, or motion will break it, and give
one back one's wits much brightened by the
permission to "stand at ease." On this night,
the experiment was a failure, for previous vigils,
confinement, and much care had rendered naps
a dangerous indulgence, Having roused half a
dozen times in an hour to find all quiet, I dropped
my heavy head on my arms, and, drowsily resolving
to look up again in fifteen minutes, fell fast
The striking of a deep-voiced clock woke me
with a start. "That is one," thought I, but, to
my dismay, two more strokes followed; and in
remorseful haste I sprang up to see what harm my
long oblivion had done. A strong hand put me
back into my seat, and held me there. It was
Robert. The instant my eye met his my heart
began to beat, and all along my nerves tingled
that electric flash which foretells a danger that we
cannot see. He was very pale, his mouth grim,
and both eyes full of sombre fire,--for even the
wounded one was open now, all the more sinister
for the deep scar above and below. But his touch
was steady, his voice quiet, as he said,--
"Sit still, Ma'am; I won't hurt yer, nor even
scare yer, if I can help it, but yer waked too
"Let me go, Robert,--the captain is stirring,
--I must give him something."
"No, Ma'am, yer can't stir an inch. Look
Holding me with one hand, with the other he
took up the glass in which I had left the draught,
and showed me it was empty.
"Has he taken it?" I asked, more and more
"I flung it out o' winder, Ma'am; he'll have to
"But why, Robert? why did you do it?"
"Because I hate him!"
Impossible to doubt the truth of that; his whole
face showed it, as he spoke through his set teeth,
and launched a fiery glance at the unconscious
captain. I could only hold my breath and stare
blankly at him, wondering what mad act was coming
next. I suppose I shook and turned white, as women
have a foolish habit of doing when sudden danger
daunts them; for Robert released my arm, sat down
upon the bedside just in front of me, and said, with
the ominous quietude that made me cold to see and hear,--
"Don't yer be frightened, Ma'am: don't try
to run away, fer the door's locked an' the key
in my pocket; don't yer cry out, fer yer'd have to
scream a long while, with my hand on yer mouth,
before yer was heard. Be still, an' I'll tell yer
what I'm goin' to do."
"Lord help us! he has taken the fever in some
sudden, violent way, and is out of his head. I
must humor him till some one comes"; in pursuance
of which swift determination, I tried to say,
"I will be still and hear you; but open the
window. Why did you shut it?"
"I'm sorry I can't do it, Ma'am; but yer'd
jump out, or call, if I did, an' I'm not ready yet.
I shut it to make yer sleep, an' heat would do it
quicker'n anything else I could do."
The captain moved, and feebly muttered,
"Water!" Instinctively I rose to give it to him,
but the heavy hand came down upon my shoulder,
and in the same decided tone Robert said,-=
"The water went with the physic; let him
"Do let me go to him! he'll die without
"I mean he shall;--don't yer interfere, if yer
In spite of his quiet tone and respectful manner,
I saw murder in his eyes, and turned faint with
fear; yet the fear excited me, and, hardly knowing
what I did, I seized the hands that had seized me,
"No, no, you shall not kill him! it is base to
hurt a helpless man. Why do you hate him?
He is not your master?"
"He's my brother."
I felt that answer from head to foot. and
seemed to fathom what was coming, with a
prescience vague, but unmistakable. One appeal
was left to me, and I made it.
"Robert, tell me what it means? Do not
commit a crime and make me accessory to it--
There is a better way of righting wrong than by
violence;--let me help you find it."
My voice trembled as I spoke, and I heard the
frightened flutter of my heart; so did he, and if
any little act of mine had ever won affection or
respect from him, the memory of it served me
then. He looked down, and seemed to put some
question to himself; whatever it was, the answer
was in my favor, for when his eyes rose again,
they were gloomy, but not desperate.
"I will tell you, Ma'am; but mind, this makes
no difference; the boy is mine. I'll give the Lord
a chance to take him fust; if He don't, I shall."
"Oh, no! remember, he is your brother."
An unwise speech; I felt it as it passed my lips,
for a black frown gathered on Robert's face, and
his strong hands closed with an ugly sort of grip.
But he did not touch the poor soul gasping there
before him, and seemed content to let the slow
suffocation of that stifling room end his frail life.
"I'm not like to forget that, Ma'am, when I've
been thinkin' of it all this week. I knew him when
they fetched him in, an' would 'a' done it long
'fore this, but I wanted to ask where Lucy was;
he knows,--he told to-night,--an' now he's done
"Who is Lucy?" I asked hurriedly, intent on
keeping his mind busy with any thought but
With one of the swift transitions of a mixed
temperament like this, at my question Robert's
deep eyes filled, the clenched hands were spread
before his face, and all I heard were the broken
"My wife,--he took her--"
In that instant every thought of fear was swallowed
up in burning indignation for the wrong,
and a perfect passion of pity for the desperate man
so tempted to avenge an injury for which there
seemed no redress but this. He was no longer
slave or contraband, no drop of black blood
marred him in my sight, but an infinite compassion
yearned to save, to help, to comfort him.
Words seemed so powerless I offered none, only
put my hand on his poor head, wounded, homeless,
bowed down with grief for which I had no
cure, and softly smoothed the long neglected hair,
pitifully wondering the while where was the
wife who must have loved this tender-hearted man
The captain moaned again, and faintly whispered,
"Air!" but I never stirred. God forgive me!
just then I hated him as only a woman thinking
of a sister woman's wrong could hate. Robert
looked up; his eyes were dry again, his mouth
grim. I saw that, said, "Tell me more," and he
did,--for sympathy is a gift the poorest may give,
the proudest stoop to receive.
"Yer see, Ma'am, his father,--I might say
ours, if I warn't ashamed of both of 'em,--his
father died two years ago, an' left us all to
Marster Ned,--that's him here, eighteen then. He
always hated me, I looked so like old Marster: he
don't--only the light skin an' hair. Old Marster
was kind to all of us, me 'specially, an' bought
Lucy off the next plantation down there in South
Car'lina, when he found I liked her. I married
her, all I could, Ma'am; it warn't much, but we
was true to one another till Marster Ned come
home a year after an' made hell fer both of us.
He sent my old mother to be used up in his
rice swamp in Georgy; he found me with my pretty
Lucy, an' though young Miss cried, an' I prayed
to him on my knees, an' Lucy run away, he
wouldn't have no mercy; he brought her back,
an'--took her, Ma'am."
"Oh! what did you do?" I cried, hot with
helpless pain and passion.
How the man's outraged heart sent the blood
flaming up into his face and deepened the tones
of his impetuous voice, as he stretched his arm
across the bed, saying, with a terribly expressive
"I half murdered him, an' to-night I'll finish."
"Yes, yes,--but go on now; what came next?"
He gave me a look that showed no white man could
have felt a deeper degradation in remembering and
confessing these last acts of brotherly
"They whipped me till I couldn't stand, an'
then they sold me further South. Yer thought
I was a white man once;--look here!"
With a sudden wrench he tore the shirt from
neck to waist, and on his strong brown shoulders
showed me furrows deeply ploughed, wounds
which, though healed, were ghastlier to me than
any in that house. I could not speak to him, and,
with the pathetic dignity a great grief lends the
humblest sufferer, he ended his brief tragedy by
"That's all. Ma'am. I've never seen her since,
an' now I never shall in this world,--maybe not
in t' other."
"But, Robert, why think her dead? The
captain was wandering when he said those sad
things; perhaps he will retract them when he is
sane. Don't despair; don't give up yet."
"No, Ma'am, I guess he's right; she was too
proud to bear that long. It's like her to kill
herself. I told her to, if there was no other way;
an' she always minded me, Lucy did. My poor
girl! Oh, it warn't right! No, by God, it warn't!"
As the memory of this bitter wrong, this
double bereavement, burned in his sore heart, the
devil that lurks in every strong man's blood leaped
up; he put his hand upon his brother's throat, and,
watching the white face before him, muttered low
between his teeth,--
"I'm lettin' him go too easy; there's no pain in
this; we a'n't even yet. I wish he knew me.
Marster Ned! it's Bob; where's Lucy?"
From the captain's lips there came a long faint
sigh, and nothing but a flutter of the eyelids
showed that he still lived. A strange stillness
filled the room as the elder brother held the
younger's life suspended in his hand, while wavering
between a dim hope and a deadly hate. In
the whirl of thoughts that went on in my brain,
only one was clear enough to act upon. I must
prevent murder, if I could,--but how? What
could I do up there alone, locked in with a dying
man and a lunatic?--for any mind yielded utterly
to any unrighteous impulse is mad while the impulse
rules it. Strength I had not, nor much
courage, neither time nor wit for stratagem, and
chance only could bring me help before it was
too late. But one weapon I possessed,--a tongue,
--often a woman's best defence: and sympathy,
stronger than fear, gave me power to use it. What
I said Heaven only knows, but surely Heaven
helped me; words burned on my lips, tears
streamed from my eyes, and some good angel
prompted me to use the one name that had power
to arrest my hearer's hand and touch his heart.
For at that moment I heartily believed that Lucy
lived, and this earnest faith roused in him a like
He listened with the lowering look of one in
whom brute instinct was sovereign for the time,--
a look that makes the noblest countenance base.
He was but a man,--a poor, untaught, outcast,
outraged man. Life had few joys for him; the
world offered him no honors, no success, no home,
no love. What future would this crime mar? and
why should he deny himself that sweet, yet bitter
morsel called revenge? How many white men,
with all New England's freedom, culture, Christianity,
would not have felt as he felt then?
Should I have reproached him for a human anguish,
a human longing for redress, all now left
him from the ruin of his few poor hopes? Who
had taught him that self-control, self-sacrifice, are
attributes that make men masters of the earth and
lift them nearer heaven? Should I have urged
the beauty of forgiveness, the duty of devout
submission? He had no religion, for he was no
saintly "Uncle Tom," and Slavery's black shadow
seemed to darken all the world to him and shut
out God. Should I have warned him of penalties,
of judgments, and the potency of law? What
did he know of justice, or the mercy that should
temper that stern virtue, when every law, human
and divine, had been broken on his hearthstone?
Should I have tried to touch him by appeals to
filial duty, to brotherly love? How had his
appeals been answered? What memories had
father and brother stored up in his heart to plead
for either now? No,--all these influences, these
associations, would have proved worse than useless,
had I been calm enough to try them. I was
not; but instinct, subtler than reason, showed me
the one safe clue by which to lead this troubled
soul from the labyrinth in which it groped and
nearly fell. When I paused, breathless, Robert
turned to me, asking, as if human assurances could
strengthen his faith in Divine Omnipotence,--
"Do you believe, if I let Marster Ned live, the
Lord will give me back my Lucy?"
"As surely as there is a Lord, you will find her
here or in the beautiful hereafter, where there is
no black or white, no master and no slave."
He took his hand from his brother's throat,
lifted his eyes from my face to the wintry sky
beyond, as if searching for that blessed country,
happier even than the happy North. Alas, it was
the darkest hour before the dawn!--there was no
star above, no light below but the pale glimmer
of the lamp that showed the brother who had
made him desolate. Like a blind man who believes
there is a sun, yet cannot see it, he shook
his head, let his arms drop nervously upon his
knees, and sat there dumbly asking that question
which many a soul whose faith is firmer fixed than
his has asked in hours less dark than this,--
"Where is God?" I saw the tide had turned,
and strenuously tried to keep this rudderless
lifeboat from slipping back into the whirlpool
wherein it had been so nearly lost.
"I have listened to you, Robert; now hear me,
and heed what I say, because my heart is full of
pity for you, full of hope for your future, and a
desire to help you now. I want you to go away
from here, from the temptation of this place, and
the sad thoughts that haunt it. You have conquered
yourself once, and I honor you for it, because,
the harder the battle, the more glorious the
victory; but it is safer to put a greater distance
between you and this man. I will write you
letters, give you money, and send you to good old
Massachusetts to begin your new life a freeman,
--yes, and a happy man; for when the captain is
himself again, I will learn where Lucy is, and move
heaven and earth to find and give her back to
you. Will you do this, Robert?"
Slowly, very slowly, the answer came; for the
purpose of a week, perhaps a year, was hard to
relinquish in an hour.
"Yes, Ma'am, I will."
"Good! Now you are the man I thought you,
and I'll work for you with all my heart. You
need sleep, my poor fellow; go, and try to forget.
The captain is still alive, and as yet you are spared
the sin. No, don't look there; I'll care for him.
Come, Robert, for Lucy's sake."
Thank Heaven for the immortality of love!
for when all other means of salvation failed, a spark
of this vital fire softened the man's iron will until
a woman's hand could bend it. He let me take
from him the key, let me draw him gently away
and lead him to the solitude which now was the
most healing balm I could bestow. Once in his
little room, he fell down on his bed and lay there
as if spent with the sharpest conflict of his life. I
slipped the bolt across his door, and unlocked my
own, flung up the window, steadied myself with a
breath of air, then rushed to Doctor Franck. He
came; and till dawn we worked together, saving
one brother's life, and taking earnest thought how
best to secure the other's liberty. When the sun
came up as blithely as if it shone only upon happy
homes, the Doctor went to Robert. For an hour
I heard the murmur of their voices; once I caught
the sound of heavy sobs, and for a time a reverent
hush, as if in the silence that good man were
ministering to soul as well as sense. When he
departed he took Robert with him, pausing to tell
me he should get him off as soon as possible, but
not before we met again.
Nothing more was seen of them all day; another
surgeon came to see the captain, and another
attendant came to fill the empty place. I tried to
rest, but could not, with the thought of poor Lucy
tugging at my heart, and was soon back at my
post again, anxiously hoping that my contraband
had not been too hastily spirited away. Just as
night fell there came a tap, and opening, I saw
Robert literally "clothed and in his right mind."
The Doctor had replaced the ragged suit with
tidy garments, and no trace of that tempestuous
night remained but deeper lines upon the forehead,
and the docile look of a repentant child. He did
not cross the threshold, did not offer me his hand,
--only took off his cap, saying, with a traitorous
falter in his voice,--
"God bless you, Ma'am! I'm goin'."
I put out both my hands, and held his fast.
"Good-bye, Robert! Keep up good heart,
and when I come home to Massachusetts we'll
meet in a happier place than this. Are you quite
ready, quite comfortable for your journey?
"Yes, Ma'am, Yes; the Doctor's fixed everything;
I'm goin' with a friend of his; my papers
are all right, an' I'm as happy as I can be till I
He stopped there; then went on, with a glance
into the room,--
"I'm glad I didn't do it, an' I thank yer,
Ma'am, fer hinderin' me,--thank yer hearty; but
I'm afraid I hate him jest the same."
Of course he did; and so did I; for these faulty
hearts of ours cannot turn perfect in a night, but
need frost and fire, wind and rain, to ripen and
make them ready for the great harvest-home.
Wishing to divert his mind, I put my poor mite
into his hand, and, remembering the magic of a
certain little book, I gave him mine, on whose
dark cover whitely shone the Virgin Mother and
the Child, the grand history of whose life the book
contained. The money went into Robert's pocket
with a grateful murmur, the book into his bosom
with a long took and a tremulous--
"I never saw my baby, Ma'am."
I broke down then; and though my eyes were
too dim to see, I felt the touch of lips upon my
hands, heard the sound of departing feet, and
knew my contraband was gone.
When one feels an intense dislike, the less one
says about the subject of it the better; therefore
I shall merely record that the captain lived,--in
time was exchanged; and that, whoever the other
party was, I am convinced the Government got
the best of the bargain. But long before this
occurred, I had fulfilled my promise to Robert; for
as soon as my patient recovered strength of memory
enough to make his answer trustworthy, I asked, without
"Captain Fairfax, where is Lucy?"
And too feeble to be angry, surprised, or insincere,
he straightway answered,--
"Dead, Miss Dane."
"And she killed herself, when you sold Bob?"
"How the Devil did you know that?" he
muttered, with an expression half-remorseful,
half-amazed; but I was satisfied, and said no more.
Of course, this went to Robert, waiting far
away there in a lonely home,--waiting, working,
hoping for his Lucy. It almost broke my heart
to do it; but delay was weak, deceit was wicked;
so I sent the heavy tidings. and very soon the
answer came,--only three lines; but I felt that the
sustaining power of the man's life was gone.
"I thought I'd never see her any more; I'm glad
to know she's out of trouble. I thank yer, Ma'am;
an' if they let us, I'll fight fer yer till I'm killed.
which I hope will be 'fore long."
Six months later he had his wish, and kept his
Every one knows the story of the attack on
Fort Wagner; but we should not tire yet of
recalling how our Fifty-Fourth, spent with three
sleepless nights, a day's fast, and a march under
the July sun, stormed the fort as night fell, facing
death in many shapes, following their brave leaders
through a fiery rain of shot and shell, fighting
valiantly for God and Governor Andrew,"--
how the regiment that went into action seven hundred
strong came out having had nearly half its
number captured, killed, or wounded, leaving
their young commander to be buried, like a chief
of earlier times, with his body-guard around him,
faithful to the death. Surely, the insult turns to
honor, and the wide grave needs no monument
but the heroism that consecrates it in our sight;
surely, the hearts that held him nearest see through
their tears a noble victory in the seeming sad defeat;
and surely, God's benediction was bestowed,
when this loyal soul answered, as Death called
the roll, "Lord, here I am, with the brothers
Thou hast given me!"
The future must show how well that fight was
fought; for though Fort Wagner still defies us,
public prejudice is down; and through the cannon
smoke of that black night the manhood of the
colored race shines before many eyes that would
not see, rings in many ears that would not hear,
wins many hearts that would not hitherto believe.
When the news came that we were needed,
there was none so glad as I to leave teaching
contrabands, the new work I had taken up, and
go to nurse "our boys," as my dusky flock so
proudly called the wounded of the Fifty-Fourth.
Feeling more satisfaction, as I assumed my big
apron and turned up my cuffs, than if dressing for
the President's levee, I fell to work on board the
hospital-ship in Hilton-Head harbor. The scene
was most familiar, and yet strange; for only dark
faces looked up at me from the pallets so thickly
laid along the floor, and I missed the sharp accent
of my Yankee boys in the slower, softer voices
calling cheerily to one another, or answering my
questions with a stout, "We'll never give it up,
Ma'am, till the last Reb's dead," or, "If our
people's free, we can afford to die."
Passing from bed to bed, intent on making one
pair of hands do the work of three, at least, I
gradually washed, fed, and bandaged my way
down the long line of sable heroes, and coming to
the very last, found that he was my contraband.
So old, so worn, so deathly weak and wan, I
never should have known him but for the deep
scar on his cheek. That side lay uppermost, and
caught my eye at once; but even then I doubted,
such an awful change had come upon him, when,
turning to the ticket just above his head, I saw the
name, "Robert Dane." That both assured and
touched me, for, remembering that he had no
name, I knew that he had taken mine. I longed
for him to speak to me, to tell how he had fared
since I lost sight of him, and let me perform some
little service for him in return for many he had
done for me; but he seemed asleep; and as I
stood re-living that strange night again, a bright
lad, who lay next him softly waving an old fan
across both beds, looked up and said,--
"I guess you know him, Ma'am?"
"You are right. Do you?"
"As much as any one was able to, Ma'am."
"Why do you say 'was,' as if the man were
dead and gone?"
"I s'pose because I know he'll have to go.
He's got a bad jab in the breast, an' is bleedin'
inside, the Doctor says. He don't suffer any,
only gets weaker 'n' weaker every minute. I've
been fannin' him this long while, an' he's talked
a little; but he don't know me now, so he's most
gone, I guess."
There was so much sorrow and affection in the
boy's face, that I remembered something, and
asked, with redoubled interest,--
Are you the one that brought him off? I
was told about a boy who nearly lost his life in
saving that of his mate."
I dare say the young fellow blushed, as any
modest lad might have done; I could not see it,
but I heard the chuckle of satisfaction that escaped
him, as he glanced from his shattered arm and
bandaged side to the pale figure opposite.
"Lord, Ma'am, that's nothin'; we boys always
stan' by one another, an' I warn't goin' to
leave him to be tormented any more by them
cussed Rebs. He's been a slave once, though
he don't look half so much like it as me, an'
was born in Boston."
He did not; for the speaker was as black as the ace
of spades,--being a sturdy specimen, the knave of clubs
would perhaps be a fitter representative,-- but the dark
freeman looked at the white slave with the pitiful, yet
puzzled expression I have so often seen on the faces of
our wisest men, when this tangled question of Slavery
presents itself, asking to be cut or patiently undone.
"Tell me what you know of this man; for,
even if he were awake, he is too weak to talk."
"I never saw him till I joined the regiment, an'
no one 'peared to have got much out of him. He
was a shut-up sort of feller, an' didn't seem to
care for anything but gettin' at the Rebs. Some
say he was the fust man of us that enlisted; I know
he fretted till we were off, an' when we pitched
into old Wagner, he fought like the Devil."
"Were you with him when he was wounded?
How was it?"
"Yes, Ma'am. There was somethin' queer
about it; for he 'peared to know the chap that
killed him, an' the chap knew him. I don't dare
to ask, but I rather guess one owned the other
some time,--for, when they clinched, the chap
sung out, 'Bob!' an' Dane, 'Marster Ned!
then they went at it."
I sat down suddenly, for the old anger and
compassion struggled in my heart, and I both longed
and feared to hear what was to follow.
"You see, when the Colonel--Lord keep an'
send him back to us!--it a'n't certain yet, you
know, Ma'am, though it's two days ago we lost
him--well, when the Colonel shouted, 'Rush on.
boys, rush on!' Dane tore away as if he was
goin' to take the fort alone; I was next him, an'
kept close as we went through the ditch an' up
the wall. Hi! warn't that a rusher!" and the
boy flung up his well arm with a whoop, as if the
mere memory of that stirring moment came over
him in a gust of irrepressible excitement.
"Were you afraid?" I said,--asking the question
women often put, and receiving the answer
they seldom fail to get.
"No, Ma'am!"-- emphasis on the "Ma'am,"
--"I never thought of anything but the damn
Rebs, that scalp, slash, an' cut our ears off, when
they git us. I was bound to let daylight into one
of 'em at least, an' I did. Hope he liked it!"
"It is evident that you did, and I don't blame
you in the least. Now go on about Robert, for
I should be at work."
"He was one of the fust up; I was just behind,
an' though the whole thing happened in a minute.
I remember how it was, for all I was yellin' an'
knockin' round like mad. Just where we were,
some sort of an officer was wavin' his sword an'
cheerin' on his men; Dane saw him by a big
flash that come by; he flung away his gun, give a
leap, an' went at that feller as if he was Jeff,
Beauregard, an' Lee, all in one. I scrabbled
after as quick as I could, but was only up in time
to see him git the sword straight through him an'
drop into the ditch. You needn't ask what I did
next, Ma'am, for I don't quite know myself; all
I 'm clear about is, that I managed somehow to
pitch that Reb into the fort as dead as Moses,
git hold of Dane, an' bring him off. Poor old
feller! we said we went in to live or die; he said
he went in to die, an' he 's done it."
I had been intently watching the excited
speaker; but as he regretfully added those last
words I turned again, and Robert's eyes met mine,
--those melancholy eyes, so full of an intelligence
that proved he had heard, remembered, and reflected
with that preternatural power which often
outlives all other faculties. He knew me, yet
gave no greeting; was glad to see a woman's face,
yet had no smile wherewith to welcome it; felt
that he was dying, yet uttered no farewell. He
was too far across the river to return or linger
now; departing thought, strength, breath, were
spent in one grateful look, one murmur of submission
to the last pang he could ever feel. His lips
moved, and, bending to them, a whisper chilled
my cheek, as it shaped the broken words,--
"I would have done it,--but it 's better so,--
Ah! well he might be,--for, as he turned his face
from the shadow of the life that was, the sunshine
of the life to be touched it with a beautiful
content, and in the drawing of a breath my
contraband found wife and home, eternal liberty
Nelly sat beside her mother picking lint; but
while her fingers flew, her eyes often looked
wistfully out into the meadow, golden with
buttercups, and bright with sunshine. Presently she
said, rather bashfully, but very earnestly, "Mamma,
I want to tell you a little plan I've made, if
you'll please not laugh."
I think I can safely promise that, my dear,"
said her mother, putting down her work that she
might listen quite respectfully.
Nelly looked pleased, and went on confidingly,
"Since brother Will came home with his lame
foot, and I've helped you tend him, I've heard a
great deal about hospitals, and liked it very much.
To-day I said I wanted to go and be a nurse, like
Aunt Mercy; but Will laughed, and told me I'd
better begin by nursing sick birds and butterflies
and pussies before I tried to take care of men. I
did not like to be made fun of, but I've been
thinking that it would be very pleasant to have a
little hospital all my own, and be a nurse in it,
because, if I took pains, so many pretty creatures
might be made well, perhaps. Could I, mamma?"
Her mother wanted to smile at the idea, but
did not, for Nelly looked up with her heart and
eyes so full of tender compassion, both for the
unknown men for whom her little hands had done
their best, and for the smaller sufferers nearer
home, that she stroked the shining head, and answered
readily: "Yes, Nelly, it will be a proper
charity for such a young Samaritan, and you may
learn much if you are in earnest. You must study
how to feed and nurse your little patients, else
your pity will do no good, and your hospital become
a prison. I will help you, and Tony shall
be your surgeon."
"O mamma, how good you always are to me!
Indeed, I am in truly earnest; I will learn,
I will be kind, and may I go now and begin?"
"You may, but tell me first where will you
have your hospital?"
"In my room, mamma; it is so snug and sunny,
and I never should forget it there," said Nelly.
"You must not forget it anywhere. I think
that plan will not do. How would you like to
find caterpillars walking in your bed, to hear sick
pussies mewing in the night, to have beetles clinging
to your clothes, or see mice, bugs, and birds
tumbling downstairs whenever the door was
open?" said her mother.
Nelly laughed at that thought a minute, then
clapped her hands, and cried: "Let us have the
old summer-house! My doves only use the upper
part, and it would be so like Frank in the storybook.
Please say yes again, mamma."
Her mother did say yes, and, snatching up her
hat, Nelly ran to find Tony, the gardener's son,
a pleasant lad of twelve, who was Nelly's favorite
playmate. Tony pronounced the plan a "jolly" one, and,
leaving his work, followed his young mistress to the
summer-house, for she could not wait one minute.
"What must we do first?" she asked, as they
stood looking in at the dusty room, full of
garden tools, bags of seeds, old flower-pots, and
"Clear out the rubbish, miss," answered Tony.
"Here it goes, then," and Nelly began bundling
everything out in such haste that she broke
two flower-pots, scattered all the squash-seeds,
and brought a pile of rakes and hoes clattering
down about her ears.
"Just wait a bit, and let me take the lead,
miss. You hand me things, I'll pile 'em in the
barrow and wheel 'em off to the barn; then it
will save time, and be finished up tidy."
Nelly did as he advised, and very soon nothing
but dust remained.
"What next?" she asked, not knowing in the
"I'll sweep up while you see if Polly can
come and scrub the room out. It ought to
be done before you stay here, let alone the
"So it had," said Nelly, looking very wise all
of a sudden. "Will says the wards--that means
the rooms, Tony--are scrubbed every day or
two, and kept very clean, and well venti-some-
thing--I can't say it; but it means having a plenty
of air come in. I can clean windows while Polly
mops, and then we shall soon be done."
Away she ran, feeling very busy and important.
Polly came, and very soon the room looked
like another place. The four latticed windows
were set wide open, so the sunshine came dancing
through the vines that grew outside, and curious
roses peeped in to see what frolic was afoot. The
walls shone white again, for not a spider dared
to stay; the wide seat which encircled the room
was dustless now,--the floor as nice as willing
hands could make it; and the south wind blew
away all musty odors with its fragrant breath.
" How fine it looks! " cried Nelly, dancing
on the doorstep, lest a foot-print should mar the
still damp floor.
"I'd almost like to fall sick for the sake of
staying here," said Tony, admiringly. "Now, what
sort of beds are you going to have, miss?
"I suppose it won't do to put butterflies and
toads and worms into beds like the real soldiers
where Will was?" answered Nelly, looking
Tony could hardly help shouting at the idea;
but, rather than trouble his little mistress, he said
very soberly: "I'm afraid they wouldn't lay
easy, not being used to it. Tucking up a butterfly
would about kill him; the worms would be apt to
get lost among the bed-clothes; and the toads
would tumble out the first thing."
"I shall have to ask mamma about it. What will
you do while I'm gone?" said Nelly, unwilling
that a moment should be lost.
"I'll make frames for nettings to the windows,
else the doves will come in and eat up the sick
"I think they will know that it is a hospital,
and be too kind to hurt or frighten their neighbors,"
began Nelly; but as she spoke, a plump white dove walked
in, looked about with its red-ringed eyes, and quietly
pecked up a tiny bug that had just ventured out from
the crack where it had taken refuge when the deluge came.
"Yes, we must have the nettings. I'll ask
mamma for some lace," said Nelly, when she saw
that; and, taking her pet dove on her shoulder,
told it about her hospital as she went toward the
house; for, loving all little creatures as she did, it
grieved her to have any harm befall even the least
or plainest of them. She had a sweet child-fancy
that her playmates understood her language
as she did theirs, and that birds, flowers, animals,
and insects felt for her the same affection which
she felt for them. Love always makes friends,
and nothing seemed to fear the gentle child; but
welcomed her like a little sun who shone alike on
all, and never suffered an eclipse.
She was gone some time, and when she came
back her mind was full of new plans, one hand
full of rushes, the other of books, while over her
head floated the lace, and a bright green ribbon
hung across her arm.
"Mamma says that the best beds will be little
baskets, boxes, cages, and any sort of thing that
suits the patients; for each will need different care
and food and medicine. I have not baskets
enough, so, as I cannot have pretty white beds, I
am going to braid pretty green nests for my
patients, and, while I do it, mamma thought you'd
read to me the pages she has marked, so that we
may begin right."
"Yes, miss; I like that. But what is the ribbon
for?" asked Tony.
"O, that's for you. Will says that, if you are
to be an army surgeon, you must have a green
band on your arm; so I got this to tie on when we
Tony let her decorate the sleeve of his gray
jacket, and when the nettings were done, the
welcome books were opened and enjoyed. It
was a happy time, sitting in the sunshine, with
leaves pleasantly astir all about them, doves cooing
overhead, and flowers sweetly gossiping together
through the summer afternoon. Nelly wove her
smooth, green rushes. Tony pored over his pages,
and both found something better than fairy legends
in the family histories of insects, birds, and beasts.
All manner of wonders appeared, and were explained
to them, till Nelly felt as if a new world
had been given her, so full of beauty, interest, and
pleasure that she never could be tired of studying
it. Many of these things were not strange to
Tony, because, born among plants, he had grown
up with them as if they were brothers and sisters,
and the sturdy, brown-faced boy had learned
many lessons which no poet or philosopher could
have taught him, unless he had become as child-like a
s himself, and studied from the same great book.
When the baskets were done, the marked pages
all read, and the sun began to draw his rosy
curtains round him before smiling "Good night,"
Nelly ranged the green beds round the room, Tony
put in the screens, and the hospital was ready.
The little nurse was so excited that she could
hardly eat her supper, and directly afterwards
ran up to tell Will how well she had succeeded
with the first part of her enterprise. Now brother
Will was a brave young officer, who had fought
stoutly and done his duty like a man. But when
lying weak and wounded at home, the cheerful
courage which had led him safely through many
dangers seemed to have deserted him, and he was
often gloomy, sad, or fretful, because he longed
to be at his post again, and time passed very
slowly. This troubled his mother, and made
Nelly wonder why he found lying in a pleasant
room so much harder than fighting battles or
making weary marches. Anything that interested
and amused him was very welcome, and when
Nelly, climbing on the arm of his sofa, told her
plans, mishaps, and successes, he laughed out more
heartily than he had done for many a day, and his
thin face began to twinkle with fun as it used to
do so long ago. That pleased Nelly, and she
chatted like any affectionate little magpie, till
Will was really interested; for when one is ill,
small things amuse.
"Do you expect your patients to come to you,
Nelly?" he asked.
"No, I shall go and look for them. I often
see poor things suffering in the garden, and the
wood, and always feel as if they ought to be taken
care of, as people are."
"You won't like to carry insane bugs, lame
toads, and convulsive kittens in your hands, and
they would not stay on a stretcher if you had
one. You should have an ambulance and be
a branch of the Sanitary Commission," said
Nelly had often heard the words, but did not
quite understand what they meant. So Will told
her of that great never-failing charity, to which
thousands owe their lives; and the child listened
with lips apart, eyes often full, and so much love
and admiration in her heart that she could find no
words in which to tell it. When her brother
paused, she said earnestly: "Yes, I will be a
Sanitary. This little cart of mine shall be my
amb'lance, and I'll never let my water-barrels go
empty, never drive too fast, or be rough with my
poor passengers, like some of the men you tell
about. Does this look like an ambulance, Will?"
"Not a bit, but it shall, if you and mamma
like to help me. I want four long bits of cane, a
square of white cloth, some pieces of thin wood,
and the gum-pot," said Will, sitting up to examine
the little cart, feeling like a boy again as
he took out his knife and began to whittle.
Upstairs and downstairs ran Nelly till all
necessary materials were collected, and almost
breathlessly she watched her brother arch the
canes over the cart, cover them with the cloth,
and fit an upper shelf of small compartments, each
lined with cotton-wool to serve as beds for
wounded insects, lest they should hurt one another
or jostle out. The lower part was left free for any
larger creatures which Nelly might find. Among
her toys she bad a tiny cask which only needed a
peg to be water-tight; this was filled and fitted
in before, because, as the small sufferers needed
no seats, there was no place for it behind, and, as
Nelly was both horse and driver, it was more
convenient in front. On each side of it stood a
box of stores. In one were minute rollers, as
bandages are called, a few bottles not yet filled,
and a wee doll's jar of cold-cream, because Nelly
could not feel that her outfit was complete without
a medicine-chest. The other box was full of
crumbs, bits of sugar, bird-seed, and grains of
wheat and corn, lest any famished stranger should
die for want of food before she got it home. Then
mamma painted "U.S. San. Com." in bright letters on
the cover, and Nelly received her charitable
plaything with a long sigh of satisfaction.
"Nine o'clock already. Bless me, what a
short evening this has been," exclaimed Will, as
Nelly came to give him her good-night kiss.
"And such a happy one," she answered.
"Thank you very, very much, dear Will. I only
wish my little amb'lance was big enough for
you to go in,--I'd so like to give you the first
"Nothing I should like better, if it were possible,
though I've a prejudice against ambulances in
general. But as I cannot ride, I'll try and hop out
to your hospital to-morrow, and see how you get
on,"--which was a great deal for Captain Will
to say, because he had been too listless to leave
his sofa for several days.
That promise sent Nelly happily away to bed,
only stopping to pop her head out of the window
to see if it was likely to be a fair day to-morrow,
and to tell Tony about the new plan as he passed
"Where shall you go to look for your first load
of sick folks, miss?" he asked.
"All round the garden first, then through the
grove, and home across the brook. Do you think
I can find any patients so? " said Nelly.
"I know you will. Good night, miss," and
Tony walked away with a merry look on his face,
that Nelly would not have understood if she had
Up rose the sun bright and early, and up rose
Nurse Nelly almost as early and as bright. Breakfast
was taken in a great hurry, and before the
dew was off the grass this branch of the S. C.
was all astir. Papa, mamma, big brother and
baby sister, men and maids, all looked out to see
the funny little ambulance depart, and nowhere in
all the summer fields was there a happier child than
Nelly, as she went smiling down the garden path,
where tall flowers kissed her as she passed and
every blithe bird seemed singing a "Good speed!"
"How I wonder what I shall find first," she
thought, looking sharply on all sides as she went.
Crickets chirped, grasshoppers leaped, ants
worked busily at their subterranean houses,
spiders spun shining webs from twig to twig, bees
were coming for their bags of gold, and butterflies
had just begun their holiday. A large white one
alighted on the top of the ambulance, walked
over the inscription as if spelling it letter by letter,
then floated away from flower to flower, like one
carrying the good news far and wide.
"Now every one will know about the hospital
and be glad to see me coming," thought Nelly.
And indeed it seemed so, for just then a black-
bird, sitting on a garden wall, burst out with a
song full of musical joy, Nelly's kitten came
running after to stare at the wagon and rub her soft
side against it, a bright-eyed toad looked out
from his cool bower among the lily-leaves, and at
that minute Nelly found her first patient. In one
of the dewy cobwebs hanging from a shrub near
by sat a fat black and yellow spider, watching
a fly whose delicate wings were just caught in the
net. The poor fly buzzed pitifully, and struggled
so hard that the whole web shook: but the more
he struggled, the more he entangled himself, and
the fierce spider was preparing to descend that it
might weave a shroud about its prey, when a
little finger broke the threads and lifted the fly
safely into the palm of a hand, where he lay
faintly humming his thanks.
Nelly had heard much about contrabands, knew who
they were, and was very much interested in them;
so, when she freed the poor black
fly she played he was her contraband, and felt
glad that her first patient was one that needed
help so much. Carefully brushing away as much
of the web as she could, she left small Pompey,
as she named him, to free his own legs, lest her
clumsy fingers should hurt him; then she laid him
in one of the soft beds with a grain or two of
sugar if he needed refreshment, and bade him rest
and recover from his fright, remembering that he
was at liberty to fly away whenever he liked,
because she had no wish to male a slave of him.
Feeling very happy over this new friend, Nelly
went on singing softly as she walked, and presently
she found a pretty caterpillar dressed in
brown fur, although the day was warm. He lay
so still she thought him dead, till he rolled himself
into a ball as she touched him.
"I think you are either faint from the heat of
this thick coat of yours, or that you are going to
make a cocoon of yourself, Mr. Fuzz," said Nelly.
"Now I want to see you turn into a butterfly, so
I shall take you, and if get lively again I will
let you go. I shall play that you have given out
on a march, as the soldiers sometimes do, and
been left behind for the Sanitary people to see to."
In went sulky Mr. Fuzz, and on trundled the
ambulance till a golden green rose-beetle was
discovered, lying on his back kicking as if in a fit.
"Dear me, what shall I do for him?" thought
Nelly. "He acts as baby did when she was so
illl, and mamma put her in a warm bath. I haven't
got my little tub here, or any hot water, and I'm
afraid the beetle would not like it if I had. Perhaps
he has pain in his stomach; I'll turn him over,
and pat his back, as nurse does baby's when she
cries for pain like that."
She set the beetle on his legs, and did her best
to comfort him; but he was evidently in great distress,
for he could not walk, and instead of lifting
his emerald overcoat, and spreading the wings
that lay underneath, be turned over again, and
kicked more violently than before. Not knowing
what to do, Nelly put him into one of her soft
nests for Tony to cure if possible. She found no
more patients in the garden except a dead bee,
which she wrapped in a leaf, and took home to
bury. When she came to the grove, it was so
green and cool she longed to sit and listen to the
whisper of the pines, and watch the larch-tassels
wave in the wind. But, recollecting her charitable
errand, she went rustling along the pleasant
path till she came to another patient, over which
she stood considering several minutes before she
could decide whether it was best to take it to her
hospital, because it was a little gray snake, with
bruised tail. She knew it would not hurt her,
yet she was afraid of it; she thought it pretty,
yet could not like it: she pitied its pain, yet shrunk
from helping it, for it had a fiery eye, and a keep
quivering tongue, that looked as if longing to bite.
"He is a rebel, I wonder if I ought to be good
to him," thought Nelly, watching the reptile
writhe with pain. "Will said there were sick
rebels in his hospital, and one was very kind to
him. It says, too, in my little book, 'Love your
enemies.' I think snakes are mine, but I guess I'll
try and love him because God made him. Some boy
will kill him if I leave him here, and then perhaps
his mother will be very sad about it. Come,
poor worm, I wish to help you, so be patient, and
don't frighten me."
Then Nelly laid her little handkerchief on the
ground, and with a stick gently lifted the wounded
snake upon it, and, folding it together, laid it in
the ambulance. She was thoughtful after that,
and so busy puzzling her young head about the
duty of loving those who hate us, and being kind
to those who are disagreeable or unkind, that she
went through the rest of the wood quite forgetful
of her work. A soft "Queek,queek!" made her
look up and listen. The sound came from the
long meadow-grass, and, bending it carefully
back, she found a half-fledged bird, with one
wing trailing on the ground, and its eyes dim with
pain or hunger.
"You darling thing, did you fall out of your
nest and hurt your wing?" cried Nelly, looking
up into the single tree that stood near by. No
nest was to be seen, no parent birds hovered
overhead, and little Robin could only tell its troubles
in that mournful "Queek, queek, queek!"
Nelly ran to get both her chests, and, sitting
down beside the bird, tried to feed it. To her
joy it ate crumb after crumb, as if it were
half starved, and soon fluttered nearer a
confiding fearlessness that made her very proud.
Soon baby Robin seemed quite comfortable, his
eye brightened, he "queeked" no more, and but
for the drooping wing would have been himself
again. With one of her bandages Nelly bound
both wings closely to his sides for fear he should
hurt himself by trying to fly; and though he seemed
amazed at her proceedings, he behaved very
well, only staring at her, and ruffling up his few
feathers in a funny way that made her laugh.
Then she had to discover some way of accommodating
her two larger patients so that neither should
hurt nor alarm the other. A bright thought came
to her after much pondering. Carefully lifting
the handkerchief, she pinned the two ends to the
roof of the cart, and there swung little Forked-
tongue, while Rob lay easily below.
By this time, Nelly began to wonder how it
happened that she found so many more injured
things than ever before. But it never entered her
innocent head that Tony had searched the wood
and meadow before she was up, and laid most of
these creatures ready to her hands, that she
might not be disappointed. She had not yet lost
her faith in fairies, so she fancied they too
belonged to her small sisterhood, and presently it
did really seem impossible to doubt that the good
folk had been at work.
Coming to the bridge that crossed the brook,
she stopped a moment to watch the water ripple
over the bright pebbles, the ferns bend down to
drink, and the funny tadpoles frolic in quieter
nooks, where the sun shone, and the dragon-flies
swung among the rushes. When Nelly turned to
go on, her blue eyes opened wide. and the handle
of the ambulance dropped with a noise that caused
a stout frog to skip into the water heels over head.
Directly in the middle of the bridge was a pretty
green tent, made of two tall burdock leaves. The
stems were stuck into cracks between the boards,
the tips were pinned together with a thorn, and
one great buttercup nodded in the doorway like a
sleepy sentinel. Nelly stared and smiled, listened,
and looked about on every side. Nothing was
seen but the quiet meadow and the shady
grove, nothing was heard but the babble of
the brook and the cheery music of the bobolinks.
"Yes," said Nelly softly to herself, "that is a
fairy tent, and in it I may find a baby elf sick
with whooping-cough or scarlet-fever. How
splendid it would be! only I could never nurse
such a dainty thing."
Stooping eagerly, she peeped over the buttercup's
drowsy head, and saw what seemed a tiny
cock of hay. She had no time to feel disappointed,
for the haycock began to stir, and, looking
nearer, she beheld two silvery gray mites, who
wagged wee tails, and stretched themselves as if
they had just waked up. Nelly knew that they
were young field-mice, and rejoiced over them,
feeling rather relieved that no fairy had appeared,
though she still believed them to have had a hand
in the matter.
"I shall call the mice my Babes in the Wood,
because they are lost and covered up with leaves,"
said Nelly, as she laid them in her snuggest bed,
where they nestled close together, and fell fast
Being very anxious to get home, that she might
tell her adventures, and show how great was the
need of a sanitary commission in that region,
Nelly marched proudly up the avenue, and, having
displayed her load, hurried to the hospital,
where another applicant was waiting for her. On
the step of the door lay a large turtle, with one
claw gone, and on his back was pasted a bit of
paper, with his name,-- Commodore Waddle,
U.S.N." Nelly knew this was a joke of Will's,
but welcomed the ancient mariner, and called
Tony to help her get him in.
All that morning they were very busy settling
the new-comers, for both people and books had
to be consulted before they could decide what
diet and treatment was best for each. The
winged contraband had taken Nelly at her word,
and flown away on the journey home. Little
Rob was put in a large cage, where he could use
his legs, yet not injure his lame wing. Forked-tongue
lay under a wire cover, on sprigs of fennel,
for the gardener said that snakes were fond of it.
The Babes in the Wood were put to bed in one
of the rush baskets, under a cotton-wool coverlet.
Greenback, the beetle, found ease for his unknown
aches in the warm heart of a rose, where he sunned
himself all day. The Commodore was
made happy in a tub of water, grass, and stones,
and Mr. Fuzz was put in a well-ventilated glass
box to decide whether he would be a cocoon or not.
Tony had not been idle while his mistress was
away, and he showed her the hospital garden he
had made close by, in which were cabbage, nettle,
and mignonette plants for the butterflies, flowering
herbs for the bees, chick-weed and hemp for
the birds, catnip for the pussies, and plenty of room
left for whatever other patients might need. In
the afternoon, while Nelly did her task at lint-picking,
talking busily to Will as she worked, and
interesting him in her affairs, Tony cleared a
pretty spot in the grove for the burying-ground,
and made ready some small bits of slate on which
to write the names of those who died. He did
not have it ready an hour too soon, for at sunset
two little graves were needed, and Nurse Nelly
shed tender tears for her first losses as she laid the
motherless mice in one smooth hollow, and the
gray-coated rebel in the other. She had learned
to care for him already, and when she found him
dead, was very glad she had been kind to him,
hoping that he knew it, and died happier in her
hospital than all alone in the shadowy wood.
The rest of Nelly's patients prospered, and of
the many added afterward few died, because of
Tony's skilful treatment and her own faithful care.
Every morning when the day proved fair the little
ambulance went out upon its charitable errand;
every afternoon Nelly worked for the human
sufferers whom she loved; and every evening brother
Will read aloud to her from useful books, showed
her wonders with his microscope, or prescribed
remedies for the patients, whom he soon knew by
name and took much interest in. It was Nelly's
holiday; but, though she studied no lessons, she
learned much, and unconsciously made her pretty
play both an example and a rebuke for others.
At first it seemed a childish pastime, and people
laughed. But there was something in the familiar
words "sanitary," "hospital" and "ambulance"
that made them pleasant sounds to
many ears. As reports of Nelly's work went
through the neighborhood, other children came to
see and copy her design. Rough lads looked
ashamed when in her wards they found harmless
creatures hurt by them, and going out they said
among themselves, "We won't stone birds, chase
butterflies, and drown the girls' little cats any
more, though we won't tell them so." And most
of the lads kept their word so well that people
said there never had been so many birds before
as all that summer haunted wood and field. Tender-
hearted playmates brought their pets to be
cured; even busy farmers bad a friendly word
for the small charity, which reminded them so
sweetly of the great one which should never be
forgotten; lonely mothers sometimes looked out
with wet eyes as the little ambulance went by,
recalling thoughts or absent sons who might be
journeying painfully to some far-off hospital, where
brave women waited to tend them with hands as
willing, hearts as tender, as those the gentle child
gave to her self-appointed task.
At home the charm worked also. No more idle
days for Nelly, or fretful ones for Will, because
the little sister would not neglect the helpless
creatures so dependent upon her, and the big
brother was ashamed to complain after watching
the patience of these lesser sufferers, and merrily
said he would try to bear his own wound as
quietly and bravely as the "Commodore" bore
his. Nelly never knew how much good she had
done Captain Will till he went away again in the
early autumn. Then he thanked her for it, and
though she cried for joy and sorrow she never
forgot it, because he left something behind him
which always pleasantly reminded her of the
double success her little hospital had won.
When Will was gone and she had prayed
softly in her heart that God would keep him safe
and bring him home again, she dried her tears
and went away to find comfort in the place where
he had spent so many happy hours with her. She
had not been there before that day, and when she
reached the door she stood quite still and wanted
very much to cry again, far something beautiful
had happened. She had often asked Will for a
motto for her hospital, and he had promised to
find her one. She thought he had forgotten it;
but even in the hurry of that busy day he had
found time to do more than keep his word, while
Nelly sat indoors, lovingly brightening the tarnished
buttons on the blue coat that had seen so
Above the roof, where the doves cooed in the
sun, now rustled a white flag with the golden
S.C." shining on it as the wind tossed it to and
fro. Below, on the smooth panel of the door, a
skilful pencil had drawn two arching ferns, in
whose soft shadow, poised upon a mushroom,
stood a little figure of Nurse Nelly, and undeneath
it another of Dr. Tony bottling medicine, with spectacles
upon his nose. Both hands of the miniature Nelly were
outstretched, as if beckoning to a train of insects,
birds and beasts, which was so long that it not only
circled round the lower rim of this fine sketch, but
dwindled in the distance to mere dots and lines. Such
merry conceits as one found there! A mouse bringing the
tail it had lost in some cruel trap, a dor-bug with
a shade over its eyes, an invalid butterfly carried
in a tiny litter by long-legged spiders, a fat frog
with gouty feet hopping upon crutches, Jenny
Wren sobbing in a nice handkerchief, as she
brought dear dead Cock Robin to be restored to
life. Rabbits, lambs, cats, calves, and turtles, all
came trooping up to be healed by the benevolent
little maid who welcomed them so heartily.
Nelly laughed at these comical mites till the
tears ran down her cheeks, and thought she never
could be tired of looking at them. But presently
she saw four lines clearly printed underneath her
picture, ahd her childish face grew sweetly serious
as she read the words of a great poet, which
Will had made both compliment and motto:-
"He prayeth best who loveth best
All things, both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all."