Part 3 out of 5
"Then we tuk a short cut an' overtuk 'em agin, an' we drapt another."
Aunt Debby's eyes expressed surprise at this continued good fortune.
"An' then we tuk 'nuther short cut, an' saved 'nuther one."
Aunt Debby waited for him to continue.
"At last--jess ez they come ter the Ford--I seed OUR man."
"Seed Kunnel Bill Pennington?" The great gray eyes were blazing
"Yes." Fortner's speech was the spiritless drawl of the mountains,
and it had now become so languid that it seemed doubtful if after
the enunciation of each word whether vitality enough remained to
evolve a successor. "Yes," he repeated with a yawn, as he stuck
the ball of yarn upon the needles and gave the whole a toss which
landed it in the wall-basket, "an' I GOT him, tew."
"O, just God! Air ye shore?"
"Jess ez shore ez in the last great day thar'll be some 'un settin'
in judgement atween him an' me. I wanted him ter be jess ez shore
about me. I came out in plain sight, and drawed his attention.
He knowed me at fust glimpse, an' pulled his revolver. I kivered
his heart with the sights an' tetcht the trigger. I'm sorry now
thet I didn't shoot him thru the belly, so thet he'd been a week
a-dyin' an' every minnit he'd remembered what he wuz killed fur.
But I wuz so afeered that I would not kill him ef I hit him some
place else'n the heart--thet's a wayall pizen varmints hev--thet
I didn't da'r resk hit. I wuz detarmined ter git him, too, ef I
had ter foller him clean ter Cumberland Gap."
"Ye done God's vengence," said Aunt Debby sternly. "An' yit hit
wuz very soon ter expect hit." She clasped her hands upon her
forehead and rocked back and forth, gazing fixedly into the mass
of incandescent coals.
"Hit's gwine to cla'r up ter-morrow," said Fortner, returning from
an inspection of the sky at the door. "Le's potter off ter bed,"
he continued rousing up Harry. They removed their outer garments
and crawled into one of the comfortable beds in the room.
Later in the night a sharp pain in one of Harry's over-strained
legs awoke him out of his deep slumber, for a few minutes. Aunt
Debby was still seated before the fire in her chair, rocking back
and forth, and singing softly:
"Thy saints in all this glorious war,
Shall conquer ere they die.
They see the triumph from afar--
By faith they bring hit nigh.
Sure I must suffer ef I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord.
I'll bear the toil, endure the pain."
He went to sleep again with the sweet strains ringing in his ears,
as if in some way a part of the marvelous happenings of that most
Chapter XII. Aunt Debby Brill.
Beneath the dark waves where the dead go down,
There are gulfs of night more deep;
But little they care, whom the waves once drown,
How far from the litght they sleep.
And dark though Sorrow's fearful billows be,
They have caverns darker still.
O God! that Sorrow's waves were like the sea,
Whose topmost waters kill.
It was nearly noon when Harry awoke. The awakening came slowly
and with pain. In all his previous experiences he had had no hint
even of such mental and bodily exhaustion as now oppressed him.
Every muscle and tendon was aching a bitter complaint against the
strain it had been subjected to the day before. Dull, pulseless
pain smoldered in some; in others it was the keen throb of the
toothache. Continued lying in one position was unendurable; changing
it, a thrill of anguish; and the new posture as intolerable as the
first. His brain galled and twinged as did his body. To think was
as acute pain as to use his sinews. Yet he could not help thinking
any more than he could help turning in the bed, though to turn was
Every organ of thought was bruised and sore. The fearful events of
the day before would continue to thrust themselves upon his mind.
To put them out required painful effort; to recall and comprehend
them was even worse. Reflecting upon them now, with unstrung
nerves, made them seem a hundred-fold more terrible than when they
were the spontaneous offspring of hot blood. With the reflection
came the thoguhts that this was but a prelude--an introduction--to
an infinitely horrible saturnalia of violence and blood, through
which he was to be hurried until released by his own destruction.
This became a nightmare that threatened to stagnate the blood in
his veins. He gasped, turned his back to the wall with an effort
that thrilled him with pain, and opened his eyes.
Naught that he saw reminded him of the preceding day. Sunny peace
and contentment reigned. The door stood wide open, and as it
faced the south, the noonday sun pushed in--clear to the opposite
wall--a broad band of mellow light, vividly telling of the glory
he was shedding where roof nor shade checked his genial glow. On
the smooth, hard, ashen floor, in the center of this bright zone,
sat a matronly cat, giving with tongue and paw dainty finishing
touches to her morning toilet, and watching with maternal pride
a kittenish game of hide-and-seek on the front step. Through the
open doorway came the self-complacent cackling of hens, celebrating
their latest additions to their nests, and the exultant call of
a cock to his feathered harem to come, admire and partake of some
especially fat worm, which he had just unearthed. Farther away
speckled Guinea chickens were clamoring their satisfaction at the
improvement in the weather. Still farther, gentle tinklings hinted
of peacfully-browsing sheep.
Inside the house, bunches of sweet-smelling medicinal herbs, hanging
agains the walls to dry, made the air heavy with their odors. Aunt
Debby was at work near the bright zone of sun-rays, spinning yarn
with a "big wheel." She held in one hand a long slender roll of
carded wool, and in the other a short stick, with which she turned
the wheel. Setting it to whirling with a long sweep of the stick
against a spoke, she would walk backward while the roll was twisted
out into a long, thin thread, and then walk forward as they yarn
was wound upon the spindle. When she walked backward, the spindle
hummed sharply; when she came forward it droned. There was a stately
rhythm in both, to which her footsteps and graceful sway of body
kept time, and all blended harmoniously with the camp-meeting melody
she was softly singing:
"Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee;
Naked, poor, despised, forsaken,
Thou from hence my all shalt be.
Perish every fond ambition--
All I've sought, or hoped, or known;
Yet how rich is my condition--
God and Heaven still my own."
A world of memories of a joyous past, unflecked by a single one of
the miseries of the present, crowded in upon Harry on the wings of
this well-remembered tune. It was a favorite hymn at the Methodist
church in Sardis, and the last time he had heard it was when he
had accompanied Rachel to the church to attend services conducted
by a noted evangelist.
Ah, Rachel!--what of her?
He had not thought of her since a swift recollection of her words
at the parting scene on the piazza had come to spur up his faltering
resolution, as the regiment advanced up the side of Wildcat. Now
one bitter thought of how useless all that he had gone through
with the day before was to rehabilitate himself in her good opinion
was speedily chased from his mind by the still bitterer one of the
contempt she must feel for him, did she but know of his present
After all, might not the occurrences of yesterday be but the memories
of a nightmare? They seemed too unreal for probability. Perhaps
he was just recovering consciousness after the delirium of a fever.
The walnut sticks in the fireplace popped as sharply as pistols,
and he trembled from head to foot.
"Heavens, I'm a bigger coward than ever," he said bitterly, and
turning himself painfully in bed, he fixed his eyes upon the wall.
"I was led to believe," he continued, "that after I had once been
under fire, I would cease to dread it. Now, it seems to me more
dreadful than I ever imagined it to be."
Aunt Debby's wheel hummed and droned still louder, but her pleasant
tones rode on the cadences like an Aeolian harp in a rising wind:
"Man may trouble and distress me,
'T will but drive me to Thy breast;
Life with trials hard may press me;
Heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
O, 'tis not in grief to harm me,
While Thy love is left to me.
O, 'twere not in joy to charm me,
Were that joy unmixed with Thee."
He wondered weakly why ther were no monasteries in this land and
age, to serve as harbors or refuge for those who shrank from the
fearfulness of war.
He turned over again wearily, and Aunt Debby, looking toward him,
encountered his wide-open eyes.
"Yer awake, air ye?" she said kindly. "Hope I didn't disturb you.
I wuz tryin' ter make ez little noise ez possible."
"No, you didn't rouse me. It's hard for me to sleep in daylight,
even when fatigued, as I am."
"Ef ye want ter git up now," she said, stopping the whell by pressing
the stick against a spoke, and laying the "roll" in her hand upon
the wheel-head, "I'll hev some breakfast fur ye in a jiffy. Ye
kin rise an' dress while I run down ter the spring arter a fresh
bucket o' water."
She covered her head with a "slat sun-bonnet," which she took from
a peg in the wall, lifted a cedar waterpail from a shelf supported
by other long pegs, poured its contents into a large cast-iron
teakettle swinging over the fire, and whisked out of the door.
Presently the notes of her hymn mingled in plaintive harmony with
the sparkling but no sweeter song of a robin redbreast, twittering
his delight in the warm sunshine amid the crimson apples of the
tree that overhung the spring.
"Will ye hev a fresh drink?" she asked Harry, on her return.
He took the gourdful of clear, cool water, which she offered him,
and drank heartily.
"Thet hez the name o' bein' the best spring in these parts," she
said, pleased with his appreciation.
"An' hit's a never-failin' spring, too. We've plenty o' water the
dryest times, when everybody else's goes dry."
"That IS delicious water," said Harry.
"An' now I'll git ye yor breakfast in a minnit. The teakittle's
a-bilin', the coffee's ground, the pone's done, an' when I fry a
little ham, everything will be ready."
As her culinary methods and utensils differed wholly from anything
Harry had ever seen, he studied them with great interest sharpened
not a little by a growing appetite for breakfast.
The clumsy iron teakettle swung on a hook at the end of a chain
fastened somewhere in the throat of the chimney. On the rough stones
forming the hearth were a half-dozen "ovens" and "skillets"--circular,
cast-iron vessels standing on legs, high enough to allow a layer
of live coals to be placed beneath them. They were covered by a
lid with a ledge around it, to retain the mass of coals heaped on
top. The cook's scepter was a wooden hook, with which she moved
the kettles and ovens and lifted lids, while the restless fire
scorched her amrs and face ruddier than cherry.
It was a primitive way, and so wasteful of wood that it required
a tree to furnish fuel enough to prepare breakfast; but under the
hands of a skillful woman those ovens and skillets turned out viands
with a flavor that no modern appliance can equal.
The joists of the house were thickly hung with the small delicious
hams of the country--hams made from young and tender hogs, which
had lived and fattened upon the acorns, fragrant hickory-nuts and
dainty beechnuts of the abundant "mast" of the forest, until the
were saturated with their delicate, nutty flavor. This was farther
enriched by a piquancy gained from the smoke of the burning hickory
and oak, with which they were cured, and the absorption of odors
from the scented herbs in the rooms where they were drying. Many
have sung the praises of Kentucky's horses, whisy and women, but
no poet has tuned his lyre to the more fruitful theme of Kentucky's
mast-fed, smoke-cured, herb-scented hams. For such a man waits a
crown of enduring bays.
Slices of this savory ham, fried in a skillet--the truth of history
forces the reluctant confession that the march of progress had not
yet brought the grid-iron and its virtues to the mountains--a hot
pone of golden-yellow meal, whose steaming sweetness had not been
allowed to distill off, but had been forced back into the loaf by
the hot oven-lid; coffee as black and strong as the virile infusions
which cheer the hearts of the true believers in the tents of the Turk,
and cream from cows that cropped the odorous and juicy grasses of
mountain meadows, made a breakfast that could not have been more
appetizing if composed by a French CHEF, and garnished by a polyglot
Moved thereto by the hospitable urgings of Aunt Debby, and his own
appetite, Harry ate heartily. Under the influence of the comfortable
meal, the cheerful sunshine, and the rousing of the energies that
follow a change from a recumbent to an erect posture, his spirits
rose to a manlier pitch. As he could not walk without pain he
took his seat in a slat-bottomed chair by the side of the hearth,
and Aunt Debby, knitting in hand, occupied a low rocker nearly
"Where's Mr. Fortner?" asked Harry.
"Jim got up, arly, an' arter eatin' a snac said he'd go out an'
take a look around--mebbe he mout go ez fur ez the Ford."
As if to accompany Harry's instinctie tremor over the possibilities
attending the resumption of Fortner's prowling around the flanks
of Zollicoffer's army, the fire shot off a whole volley of sharp
Harry sprang two or three inches above his chair, then reddened
violently, and essayed to conceal his confusion by assiduous
attention with the poker to the wants of the fire.
Aunt Debby regarded him with gentle compassion.
"Yer all shuck up by the happenin's yesterday," she said with such
tactful sympathy that his sensitive mettle was not offended. "'Tis
nateral ye should be. Hit's allers so. Folks kin say what they
please, but fouten's terrible tryin' to the narves, no matter who
does hit. My husband wuz in the Mexican War, an' he's offen tole
me thet fur weeks arter the battle o' Buner Visty he couldn't heah
a twig snap withouten his heart poppin' right up inter his mouth,
an' hit wuz so with everybody else, much ez they tried ter play
off unconsarned like."
"Ah, really?" said Henry, deeply interested in all the concerned
this woman, whose remarkable qualities were impressing themselves
upon his recognition. "What part of the army did your husband
"He wuz in the Kentucky rigimint commanded by Kunnel Henry Clay,
son o' the great Henry Clay, who wuz killed thar. My husband was
promoted to a Leftenant fur his brav'ry in the battle."
"Then this is not your first experience with war?"
"No, indeed," said she, with just a trace of pride swelling in the
temple's delicate network of blue veins. "The Fortners an' the
Brills air soljer families, an' ther young men hev shouldered ther
guns whenever the country needed fouten-men. Great gran'fathers
Brill an' Fortner come inter the State along with Dan'l boone nigh
onter a hundred years ago, and sence then them an' ther descendents
hev fit Injuns, Brittishers an' Mexikins evr'y time an inimy raised
a sword agin the country."
"Many of them lose their lives?"
"Yes, ev'ry war hez cost the families some member. Gran'fathes
Brill an' Fortner war both on 'em killed at the Injun ambush at
Blue Licks. I wuz on'y a baby when my father wuz killed at the
massacre of Winchester's men at the River Raisin. My brother---"
"father of the man I was with yesterday?"
"No; HIS father wuz my oldest brother. My youngest brother--the
'baby' o' the family--wuz mortally wounded by a copper ball in the
charge on the Bishop's Palace at the takin' o' Monterey."
"And your husband--he went through the war safely, did he?"
The pleasant, mobile lines upon the woman's face congealed into stony
hardness. At the moment of Harry's question she was beginning to
count the stitches in her work for some feminine mystery of "narrowing"
or "turning." She stopped, and hands and knittng dropped into her
"My husband," she said slowly and bitterly, "wuz spared by the
Mexikins thet he fit, but not by his own countrymen an' neighbors,
amongst whom he wuz brung up. His blood wuz not poured out on
the soil he invaded, but wuz drunk by the land his forefathers an'
kinsmen hed died fur. The godless Greasers on the River Grande
war kinder ter him nor the CHRISTIAN gentlemen on the Rockassel."
The intensity and bitterness of the utterance revealed a long
conning of the expression of bitter truths.
"He lost his life, then," said Harry, partially comprehending, "in
some of the troubles around here?"
"He wuz killed, bekase he wouldn't help brek down what hit hed cost
so much ter build up. He wuz killed, bekase he thot a pore man's
life wuth mo'en a rich man's nigger. He wuz killed, bekase he
b'lieved this whole country belonged ter the men who'd fit fur hit
an' made hit what hit is, an' thet hit wuzn't a plantation fur a
passel o' slave-drivers ter boss an' divide up jess ez hit suited
"Why, I thought all you Kentuckians were strongly in favor of
keeping the negores in slavery," said Harry in amazement.
"Keepin the niggers ez slaves ain't the question at all. We folks
air ez fur from bein' Abolitionists ez ennybody. Hit's a battle
now with a lot uv 'ristocrats who'd take our rights away."
"I don't quite understand your position," said Harry.
"Hit's bekase ye don't understand the country. The people down
heah air divided into three classes. Fust thar's the few very rich
fam'lies that hev big farms over in the Blue Grass with lots o'
niggers ter work 'em. Then thar's the middle class--like the Fortners
an' the Brills--thet hev small farms in the creek vallies, an'
wharever thar's good land on the mounting sides; who hev no niggers,
an' who try ter lead God-fearin', hard-workin' lives, an' support
ther fam'lies decently. Lastly thar's the pore white trash, thet
lives 'way up in the hollers an' on the wuthless lands about the
headwaters. They've little patches o' corn ter make ther breadstuff,
an' depend on huntin', fishin', an' stealin' fur the rest o' their
vittles. They've half-a-dozen guns in every cabin, but nary a hoe;
they've more yaller dogs then the rest o' us hev sheep, an they
find hit a good deal handier ter kill other folks's hogs than ter
raise ther own pork."
"Hardly desirable neighbors, I should think," ventured Harry.
"Hit's war all the time between our kind o' people, and them other
kinds. Both on 'em hates us like pizen, an' on our side--well, we
air Christians, but we recken thet when Christ tole us ter love our
inimies, an' do good ter them ez despitefully used us, he couldn't
hev hed no idee how mean people would git ter be long arter he left
Harry could not help smiling at this new adaptation of Scriptural
"The low-down white hates us bekase we ain't mean an' ornery ez they
air, an' hold ourselves above 'em. The big-bugs hates us bekase
we won't knuckle down ter 'em, ez ther niggers an' the pore whites
do. So hit's cat-an'-dog all the time. We don't belong ter the
same parties, we don't jine the same churches, an' thar's more or
less trouble a-gwine on batween us an' them continnerly."
"Then when the war broke out you took different sides as usual?"
"Of course! of course! The big nigger-owners an' the ornery whites
who air just ez much ther slaves ez ef they'd been bot an' paid fur
with ther own money, became red-hot Secessioners, while our people
stuck ter the Union. The very old Satan hisself seemed ter take
possession ov 'em, and stir 'em up ter do all manner o' cruelty
ter conquer us inter jinin' in with 'em. The Brills an' Fortners
hed allers been leaders agin the other people,an' now the Rebels
hissed their white slaves onter our men, ez one sets dogs onter steers
in the corn. The chief man among 'em wuz Kunnel Bill Pennington."
Harry looked up with a start.
"Yes, the same one who got his reward yesterd," she continued,
interpreting the expression of his eyes. "The Penningtons air
the richest family this side o' Danville. They an' the Brills an'
Fortners hev allers been mortal enemies. Thar's bin blood shed
in ev'ry gineration. Kunnel Bill's father limpt ter his grae on
'count of a bullet in his hip, which wuz lodged thar soon arter
I'd flung on the floor a ten dollar gold piece he'd crowded inter
my hand at a dance, where he'd come 'ithout ary invite. The bullet
wuz from teh rifle ov a young man named David Brill, thet I married
the next day, jest ez he wuz startin' fur Mexico. He volunteered
a little airlier then he'd intended, fur his father's wheat wuz
not nearly all harvested, but hit wuz thot best ter git himself out
o' the way o' the Penningtons, who wuz a mouty revengeful family,
an' besides they then hed the law on ther side. Ez soon ez he come
back from teh war Ole Kunnel Bill, an' Young Kunnel Bill, an' all
the rest o' the Pennington clan an' connection begun watchin' fur
a chance ter git even with him. The Ole Kunnel used ter vow an'
swar thet he'd never leave the airth ontil Dave Brill wuz under
the clods o' the valley. But he hed ter go last year, spite o'
hisself, an' leave David Brill 'live an' well an' becomin' more an'
more lookt up ter ev'ry day by the people, while the Penningtons
war gittin' wuss and wuss hated. We hed a son, too, the very apple
of our eyes, who wuz growin' up jest like his father---"
The quaver of an ill-repressed sob blurred her tones. She closed
her eyes firmly, as if to choke back the brimming tears, and then
rising from her seat, busied herself brushing the coals and ashes
back into the fire.
"Thet walnut pops so awfully," she said, "thet a body hez to sweep
nearly ev'ry minnit ter keep the harth at all clean."
"The death of his father made no change in the younger Col.
Pennington? He kept up the quarrel the same as ever, did he?"
asked Harry, deeply interested in teh narrative.
"Wussen ever! Wussen ever! He got bitterer ev'ry day. He laid
his defeat when he wuz runnin' fur the Legislatur at our door. He
hired bullies ter git inter a quarrel with David, at public getherin's,
an' kill him in sech a way ez ter have a plea o' self-defense ter
cla'r themselves on, but David tuck too good keer o' hisself ter
git ketched that a-way, an' he hurt one o' the bullies so bad thet
he niver quite got over hit. He an' Kunnel Pennington leveled ther
weepons on each other at a barbecue near London last Fall, but the
bystanders interfered, an' prevented bloodshed fur a time."
"When the war broke out, we never believed hit would reach us. Thar
mout be trouble in Louisville and Cincinnati--some even thought
hit likely that thar would be fouten' in Lexington--but way up in
the mountings we'd be peaceable an' safe allers. Our young men
formed theirselves inter a company o' Home Gyards, an' elected my
husband their Capting. Kunnel Pennington gathered together 'bout
a hundred o' the poorest, orneriest shakes on the headwaters, an'
tuck them off ter jine Sidney Johnson, an' drive the Yankees 'way
from Louisville. Everybody said hit wuz the best riddance o' bad
rubbish the country 'd ever knowed, and when they wuz gone our
chances fur peace seemed better'n ever.
"All the flurry made by ther gwine 'way hed died down, an' ez we
heered nothin' from 'em, or the war, people's minds got quiet ag'in,
an' they sot 'bout hurryin' up their Spring work.
"One bright, sweet mornin' in May, I wuz at my work in the yard
with Fortner--thet wuz my son's name--fixin' up the kittles ter dye
some yarn fur a coat fur him. Husband 'd went ter the other side
o' the hill, whar the new terbacker ground wuz, ter cut out some
trees that shaded the plants. The skies wuz ez bright an' fa'r ez
the good Lord ever made 'em. I could heah the ringin' o' David's
ax, ez he chopped away, an'h hit seemed ter be sayin' ter me
cheefully all the time: 'Heah I am--hard at work.' The smoke from
some brush-piles that he'd sot afire riz up slowly an' gently, fur
thar wuz no wind a-stirring. The birds sung gayly 'bout their work
o' nest-buildin', an' I couldn't help singin' about mine. I left
the kittles fur a minnit ter run down the gyardin walk, ter see
how my bed o' pinks wuz comin' out, an' I sung ez I run.
"Jest then a passel o' men come stringin' up the road ter the
bars. They looked like some o' them that Kunnel Pennington tuck
'way with him, but they rid better critters then any o' them ever
hed, an' they were dressed in a sorter soljer-cloze, an' all o'
'em toted guns.
"Something sent a chill ter my very heart the moment I laid eyes on
'em. Hit a'most stopped beatin' when I see Kunnel Bill Pennington
a little ways behind 'em, with a feather in his hat, an' sword an'
pistols in his belt. When they waited at the bars fur him ter come
up, I knowed instantly what they were arter.
"'Fortner,' I said ter my son, tryin' ter speak ez low ez possible;
'Fortner, honey, slip back through the bushes ez quick ez the
Lord'll let ye, an tell yer daddy that Bill Pennington an' his gang
air heah arter him. Sneak away, but when ye air out o' sight, run
fur yer life, honey.'
"He turned ter go, but tat that minnit Bill Pennington shouted out:
"'Stop thar! Don't ye send thet boy away! Ef he moves a step, I'll
put a bullet through his brain!' Fortner would've run in spite o'
him, but I wuz so skeered for him thet I jumped ter his side an'
ketched his arm.
"'Keep quiet, honey,' I said. 'Likely they won't find yer daddy
"Vain hope! Ez I spoke, the sound o' David's ax rung out clearly
and steadily. The cannons at Wildcat, yesterday, didn't sound
no louder ter me. I could even tell that he wuz choppin' a beech
tree. The licks was ex a-sharp an' ringin' ez ef the ax struck
"Bill Pennington lit offen his beast, an' walked toward me, with
his sword a-clatterin' an' his spurs a-jinglin'.
"'Whar's that Yankeefied scalawag of a husband o' your'n? Whar's
Dave Brill?' he said savagely.
"Hit seemed ter me that every stroke from over the hill said ez
plainly ez tongue could utter words: 'Heah I am. Come over heah!'
I tried ter gain time ter think o' something.
"'He started this mornin' on Roan Molly fer Mt. Vernon, to 'tend
court,' I said, knowin' thet I didn't dare hesitate ter make up a
"'Kunnel, thet air's a lie,' said Jake Johnson, who knowed us.
'Thar's Dave Brill's Roan Molly over thar, in the pasture.'
"'An' this hain't court-day in Mt. Vernon, neither,' said another.
"'I know your husband's on the place, I wuz tole so this mornin','
said Kunnel Bill. 'Hit'll be much better fur ye, ef ye tell me
whar he is. Hit'll at least save yer house from bein' sot afire.'
"Ring! ring! went David's ax, ez ef hit war a trumpet, shoutin'
ter the whole world: 'Heah I am. Come over heah!'
"'Ye kin burn our house ef yer that big a villain,' I said; 'but
I can't tell ye no different.'
"'Kunnel, thet's him a-choppin' over thar,' said Jake Johnson.
'I know he's cl'ared some new ground fur terbacker on thet air
"'I believe hit is,' said Kunnel Bill, listenin' a minnit. 'Parker,
ye an' Haygood go over thar an' git him, while some o' the rest o'
ye look 'bout the stable an' fodder-stack thar. Mind my orders,
an' see thet they are carried out.'
"His manner made me fear everything. A thought flashed inter
my mind. Thar wuz thet horn thar."--Harry followed her eyes with
his, and saw hanging on hooks against the wall one of the long tin
horns, used in the South to call the men-folks of the farms to their
meals. It was crushed and battered to uselessness.--"I thought I'd
blow hit an' attract his attention. He mout then see them a-comin'
an' git away. I ran inter the house an' snatched the horn down,
but afore I could put hit ter my lips, Bill Pennington jerked hit
'way from me, an' stamped on hit.
"'Deb Brill,' said he, with a mortally hateful look, 'yer peart an'
sassy an' bold, an' hev allers been so, an' so 's yer Yankeefied
husband. Ye've hed yer own way offen--too offen. Now I'll heve
mine, an' wipe out some long-standin' scores. Dave Brill hez capped
a lifetime o' plague an' disturbance ter his betters, by becomin'
a trator to his country, an' inducin' others ter be traitors. He
must be quieted. come out an' listen.'
"He pulled me out inter the yard. Dave wuz still choppin' away.
Fur nearly every day fur night thirty years, the sound o' his ax
hed been music in my ears. I had larned to know hit, even afore we
wuz lovers, fur his father's land jined my father's, an' hit seems
ter me that I could tell he note o' his ax from thet o' everybody
else, a'most ez airly ez I could tell a robin's song from a
blackbird's. Girl, woman, wife an' mother, I hed listened to hit
while I knit, wove, or spun, every stroke minglin' with the sounds
o' my wheel or loom an' the song o' the birds, an' tellin' me whar
he wuz, an' thet he wuz toilin' cheefully fur me an' mine.
"Now, fur the fust time in all these years, hits steady strong beat
brought mis'ry ter my ears. Hit wuz ez the tollin' of bell fur
some one not yit dead. My heart o'ny beat ez fast ez he chopped.
Hit would give a great jump when the sound o' the blow reached me,
an' then stand still until the next one came.
"At last came a long--O, so long pause.
"'They've got thar,' said Bill Pennington, cranin' forward his
head ter ketch the fust sound. 'He's seed 'em, an' is tryin' ter
git 'way. But he kin never do hit. I know the men I sent ter do
"Two rifle shots sounded a'most together, an' then immediately
arter wuz a couple o' boastful Injun-like yells.
"'Thar, Deb, heah thet? Ye'r a widder now. Be thankful thet I
let ye off so easy. I ought by rights ter burn yer house, an' put
thet boy o' your'n whar he'll do no harm. but this'll do fur an
example ter these mounting traitors. They've lost their leader,
an' ther hain't no one ter take his place. They'll know now thet
we're in dead airnest. Boys, go inter the house an' git all the
guns thar is thar, an' what vittles an' blankets ye want; but make
haste, fur we must git away from heah in a hurry.'
"I run ez fast ez my feet'd carry me to whar David lay stone
dead. Fortner saddled his colt an' galloped off ter his cousin
Jim Fortner's, ter rouse the Home Gyard. The colt reached Jim's
house, bekase hits mammy wuz thar; but my son never did. In takin'
the shortest road, he hed ter cross the dangerousest ford on the
Rockassel. The young beast wuz skeered nigh ter death, an' hits
rider wuz drowned."
Chapter XIII. "An Apple Jack Raid."
This kind o' sojerin' ain't a mite like our October trainin',
A chap could clear right out from there, ef it only looked like rainin';
And the Cunnels, too, could kiver up their shappoes with bandanners,
An' send the Insines skootin' to the bar-room, with their banners,
(Fear o' gittin' on 'em spotted,) an' a feller could cry quarter
Ef he fired away his ramrod arter tu much rum an' water.
--James Russel Lowell.
The morning after the battle, Kent Edwards was strolling around
the camp at Wildcat. "Shades of my hot-throated ancestors who
swallowed several fine farms by the tumblerful, how thirsty I am!"
he said at length. "It's no wonder these Kentuckians are such
hard drinkers. There's something in the atmosphere that makes me
drier the farther we advance into the State. Maybe the pursuit
of glory has something desiccating in it. At least, all the
warriors I ever heard of seemed composed of clay that required as
much moistening as unslaked lime. I will hie me to teh hill of
frankincense and the mountain of myrrh; in other words, I'll go
back where Abe is, and get what's left in the canteen."
He found his saturine comrade sitting on a log by a comfortable
fire, restoring buttons which, like soldiers, had become "missing
by reason of exigencies of the campaign."
The temptation to believe that inanimate matter can be actuated
by obstinate malice is almost irresistible when one has to do with
the long skeins of black thread which the soldiers use for their
sewing. These skeins resolve themselves, upon the pulling of the
first thread, into bunches of entanglement more hopelessly perverse
than the Gordian knot, or the snarls in a child's hair. To the
inexperienced victim, desirous of securing the wherewithal to sew
a button on, nothing seems easier than to pull a thread out of
the bunch of loose filament that lies before him. Rash man! That
simple mesh hat a baffling power like unto the Labyrinth of Arsino,
and long labor of fingers and teeth aided by heated and improper
language, frequently fails to extract so much as a half foot of
Abe had stuck his needle down into the log beside him. Near, were
the buttons he had fished out of his pocket, and he was laboring with
clumsy fingers and rising temper at an obdurate bunch of thread.
"I've been round looking over the field," said Kent, as he came
A contemptuous snort answered him.
"You ought to've been along. I saw a great many interesting things."
"O, yes, I s'pose. Awful interesting. Lot o' dead men laying
around in the mud. 'Bout as interesting, I should say, as a spell
o' setting on a Coroner's jury. The things you find interesting
would bore anybody else to death."
Abe gave the obstinate clump a savage twist which only made its knots
more rebellious, and he looked as if strongly tempted to throw it
into the fire.
"Don't do it, Abe," said Kent, with a laugh that irritated Abe worse
still. "Thread's thread, out here, a hundred miles from nowhere.
You don't know where you'll get any more. Save it--my dear
fellow--save it. Perchance you may yet sweetly beguile many an hour
of your elegant leisure in unraveling its fantastic convolutions
with your taper fingers, and---"
"Lord! Lord!" said Abe with an expression of deep weariness,
but without looking in Kent's direction, "Who's pulled the string
o' that clack-mill and set it going? When it gets started once
it rolls out big words like punkins dropping out o' the tail of a
wagon going up hill. And there's no way o' stopping it, either.
You've just got to wiat till it runs down."
"The Proverbs say so fittingly that 'A fool delighteth not in wise
instruction,'" said Kent, as he stepped around to the other side
of the fire. His foot fell upon a projecting twig, the other end
of which flew up and landed a very hot coal on the back of Abe's
hand. Abe's action followed that of the twig, in teh suddenness of
his upspringing. He hurled an oath and a firebrand at his comrade.
"This is really becoming domestic," said Kent as he laughingly
dodged. "The gentle amenities could not cluster more thickly around
our fireside, even if we were married."
When Abe resumed his seat he did not come down exactly upon the
spot from which he had arisen. It was a little farther to the
right, where he had stuck the needle. He had forgotten about it,
but he rose with a howl when it keenly reminded him that like the
star-spangled banner, it "was still there."
"Don't rise on my account, I beg," said Kent with a deprecatory wave
of the hand, as he hurried off to wher he could laugh with safety.
A saucy drummer-boy, who neglected this precaution, received a cuff
from Abe's heavy hand that thrilled the rest of the drum-corps with
When Abe's wrath subsided from this ebullient stage back to its
customary one of simmer, Kent ventured to return.
"Say," said he, pulling over the coats and blankets near the fire,
"where's the canteen?"
"There it is by the cups. Can't you see it? If it was a snake
it'd bite you."
"It's done that already, several times, or rather its contents have.
You know what the Bible says, 'Biteth liek a serpent and stingeth
like an adder?' Ah, here it is. But gloomy forebodings seize me:
it is suspiciously light. Paradoxically, its lightness induces
gravity in me. But that pun is entirely too fine-drawn for camp
He shook the canteen near his ear. "Alas! no gurgle responds to
my fond caresses--
Canteen, Mavourneen, O, why art thou silent,
Thou voice of my heart?
It is--woe is me--it is empty."
"Of course it is--you were the last one at it."
"I hurl that foul imputation back into thy teeth base knave. Thou
thyself art a very daughter of a horse-leech with a canteen of
Abe looked at him inquiringly. "You must've found some, some
place," he said, "or you wouldn't be so awful glib. It's taken
'bout half-a-pint to loosen your tongue so that it'd run this way.
I know you."
"No, I've not found a spoonful. The eloquence of thirst is the only
inspiration I have at present. I fain would stay its cravings by
quaffing a beaker of mountain-distilled hair-curler. Mayhap this
humble receptacle contains yet a few drops which escaped thy ravenous
Kent turned the canteen upside down and placed its mouth upon his
tongue. "No," he said, with deep dejection, "all that delicious
fluid of yesterday is now like the Father of his Country."
"Eh?" asked Abe, puzzled.
"Because it is no more--it is no more. It belongs to the unreturning
"I say," he continued after a moment's pause, "let's go out and
hunt for some. there must be plenty in this neighborhood. Nature
never makes a want without providing something to supply it.
Therefore, judging from my thirst, this country ought to be full
They buckled on their belts, picked up their guns and started out,
directing their steps to the front.
In spite of the sunshine the walk through the battle-field was
depressing. A chafing wind fretted through the naked limbs of the
oaks and chestnuts, and drew moans from the pines and the hemlocks.
The brown, dead leaves rustled into little tawny hillocks, behind
protecting logs and rocks. Frequently those took on the shape of
long, narrow mounds as if they covered the graves of some ill-fated
being, who like themselves, had fallen to the earth to rot in dull
obscurity. The clear little streams that in Summer-time murmured
musically down the slopes, under canopies of nodding roses and
fragrant sweet-brier, were now turbid torrents, brawling like churls
drunken with much wine, and tearing out with savage wantonness
their banks, matted with the roots of the blue violets, and the
Scattered over the mountain-side were fatigue-parties engaged in
hunting up the dead, and burying them in shallow graves, hastily
dug in clay so red that it seemed as if saturated with the blood
shed the day before. The buriers thrust their hands into the pockets
of the dead with the flinching, nauseated air of men touching filth,
and took from the garments seeping with water and blood, watches,
letters, ambrotypes, money and trinkets, some of which they
studied to gain a clue to the dead man's identity, some retained
as souvenirs, but threw the most back into the grave with an air of
loathing. The faces of the dead with their staring eyes and open
mouths and long, lank hair, cloyed with the sand and mud thrown up
by the beating rain, looked indescribably repulsive.
The buriers found it better to begin their work by covering the
features with a cap or a broad-brimmed hat. It was difficult for
the coarsest of them to fling a spadeful of dank clay directly upon
the wide-open eyes and seemingly-speaking mouth.
"Those fellows' souls," said Kent, regarding the corpses, "seem to
have left their earthly houses in such haste that they forgot to
close the doors and windows after them. Somewhere I ahve read of
a superstition that bodily tenements left in this way were liable
to be entered and occupied by evil spirits, and from this rose the
custom of piously closing the eyes and mouths of deceased friends."
"No worse spirit's likely to get into them than was shot out of
'em," growled Abe. "A Rebel with a gun is as bad an evil spirit as
I ever expect to meet. But let's go on. It's another kind of an
evil spirit that we are interested in just now--one that'll enter
into and occupy our empty canteen."
"You're right. It's the enemy that my friend Shakspere says we
'put into our mouths to steal away our brains.' By the way, what
a weary hunt he must have in your cranium for a load worth stealing."
"Thee goes that clack-mill again. Great Caesar! if the boys only
had legs as active as your tongue what a racer the regiment would
be! Cavalry'd be nowhere."
Toward the foot of the mountain their path led them across a noisy,
swollen little creek, whose overflowing waters were dyed deeply
red and yellow by the load of hill caly they were carrying away in
their headlong haste. A little to the left lay a corpse of more
striking appearance than any they had yet seen. It was that of a
tall, slender, gracefully formed young man, clad in an officer's
uniform of rich gray cloth, lavishly ornamented with gilt buttons
and gold lace. The features were strong, but delicately cut, and
the dark skin smooth and fine-textured. One shapely hand still
clasped the hilt of a richly ornamented sword, with which he had
evidently been directing his men, and his staring gray eyes seemed
yet filled with the anger of battle. A bullet had reached him as he
stood upon a little knoll, striving to stay the headlong flight.
Falling backward his head touched the edge of the swift running water,
which was now filling his long, black locks with slimy sediment.
"The ounce o' lead that done that piece o' work," said Abe, "was
better'n a horseload o' gold. A few more used with as good judgement
would bring the rebellion to an end in short meter."
"Yes," answered Kent, "he's one of the Chivalry; one of the main
props; one of the fellows who are trying to bring about Secession
in the hopes of being Dukes, or Marquises, or Earls--High Keepers
of His Majesty Jeff. Davis's China Spittoons, or Grand Custodians
of the Prince of South Carolina's Plug Tobacco, when the Southern
Confederacy gains its independence."
"Well," said Abe, raising the Rebel's hat on the point of his bayonet,
and laying it across the corpse's face, "he's changed bosses much
sooner than he expected. Jeff. Davis's blood-relation, who presides
over the Sulphur Confederacy, will put on his shoulder-straps with
a branding-iron, and serve up his rations for him red-hot. I only
wish he had more going along with him to keep him company."
"Save your feelings against the Secessionists for expression with
your gun in the next fight, and come along. I'm getting thirstier
They walked on rapidly for a couple or three hours, without finding
much encouragement in their search. The rugged mountain sides were
but thinly peopled, and the few poor cabins they saw in the distance
they decided were not promising enough of results to justify
clambering up to where they were perched. At last, almost wearied
out, they halted for a little while to rest and scan the interminable
waves of summits that stretched out before them.
"Ah," said Kent, rising suddenly, "let's go on. Hope dawns at
last. I smell apples. That's a perfume my nose never mistakes.
We're near an orchard. Where there's an orchard there's likely
to be a pretty good style of house, and where in Kentucky there's
a good style of house there's a likelihood of being plenty of good
whisky. Now there's a train of brilliant inductive reasoning that
shows that nature intended me to be a great natural philosopher.
Come on, Abe."
The smell of apples certainly did grow more palpable as they proceeded,
and Abe muttered that even if they did not get any thing to drink
they would probably get enough of the fruit to make an agreeable
change in their diet.
They emerged from the woods into a cleared space where a number
of roads and paths focused. To the right was a little opening in
the mountain-side, hardly large enough to be called a valley, but
designated in the language of the region as a "hollow." At its mouth
stood a couple of diminutive log-cabins, of the rudest possible
construction, and roofed with "clapboards" held in place by stones
and poles. A long string of wooden troughs, supported upon props,
conducted the water from an elevated spring to the roof of one of
the cabins, and the water could be seen issuing again from underneath
the logs at one side of the cabin. A very primitive cider mill--two
wooden rollers fastened in a frame, and moved by a long sapling
sweep attached to one of them--stood near. The ground was covered
with rotting apple pomace, from which arose the odor that had
reached Kent's nose.
"Hello!" said the latter, "here's luck; here's richness! We've
succeeded beyond our most sanguine expectations, as the boy said,
who ran away from school to catch minnows, and caught a ducking,
a bad cold and a licking. We've struck an apple-jack distillery,
and as they've been at work lately, they've probably left enough
somewhere to give us all that we can drink."
Abe's sigh was eloquent of a disbelief that such a consummation
was possible, short of the blissful hereafter.
Inside of one of the cabins they found a still about the size of
a tub, with a worm of similar small proportions, kept cook by the
flow from the spring. Some tubs and barrels, in which the lees of
cider were rapidly turning to vinegar, gave off a fuity, spirituous
odor, but for awhile their eager search did not discover a bit
of the distilled product. At last, Kent, with a cry of triumph,
dragged from a place of cunning concealment a small jug, stopped
with a corncob. He smelled it hungrily.
"Yes, here is some. It's apple-jack, not a week old, and as rank
as a Major General. Phew! I can smell every stick they burned to
distil it. Abe, watch me closely while I drink. I magnanimously
take the lead, out of consideration for you. If I ain't dead in
five minutes, you try it."
"O, stop monkeying, and drink," was the impatient answer.
Kent put the jug to his mouth and took a long draught. "Shade of
old Father Noah, the first drunkard," he said as he wiped the tears
from his eyes, "another swig like that would pull out all the rivets
in my internal pipings. Heavens! it went down like pulling a cat
out of a hole by the tail. I'm afraid to wipe my mouth, lest my
breath burn a hole in the sleeve of my blouse."
Three-quarters of an hour later, the spirits in the jug were
lowering and those in the men rising with unequal rapidity. Under
the influence of the fiery stimulant, Kent's sanguine temperament
boiled and bubbled over. Imagination painted the present and future
in hues of dazzling radiance. Everything was as delightful as it
could be now, and would become more charming as time rolled on. But
with Abe Bolton drinking tended to develop moroseness into savagery.
"Ah, comfort me with apple-jack, and stay me with flagons of it,"
said Kent Edwards, setting down the jug with the circumspection of
a man not yet too drunk to suspect that he is losing exact control
of his legs and arms. "That gets better the deeper down you go.
First it was like swallowing a chestnut burr; now, old hand-made
Bourbon couldn't be smoother."
"A man can get used to a'most anything," said Bolton.
"I get gladder every day, Abe, that I came into the army. I wouldn't
have missed all this experience for the finest farm in the Miami
''Twere worth ten years of peaceful life,
To soldier have a day,'
Sir Walter Scott says--as I improve him."
"'Specially one of them soaking days when we were marching through
the mud to Wildcat."
"O, those were just thrown in to make us appreciate good weather
when we have it. Otherwise we wouldn't. You know what the song
'For Spring would be but gloomy weather,
If we had nothing else but Spring.'"
"Well, for my part, one o' them days was enough to p'ison six months
o' sunshine. I declare, I believe I'll feel mildewed for the rest
of my life. I know if I pulled off my clothes you could scrape
the green mold off my back."
"And I'm sure that if we'd had the whole army to pick from, we
couldn't've got in with a better lot of boys and officers. Every
one of them's true blue, and a MAN all the way through. It's the
best regiment in the army, and our company's the best company in
the regiment, and I flatter myself the company hasn't got two other
as good men as we are."
"Your modesty'll ruin you yet, Kent," said Abe, sardonically.
"It's very painful to see a man going 'round unerrating himself
as you do. If I could only get you to have a proper opinion of
yourself--that is, believe that you are a bigger man than General
Scott or George B. McClellan, I'd have some hopes of you."
"We'll have one grand, big battle with the Secessionists now, pretty
soon--everything's getting ripe for it--and we'll whip them like
Wellington whipped Napoleon at Waterloo. Our regiment will cover
itself with glory, in which you and I will have a big share. Then
we'll march back to Sardis with flags flying and drums beating,
everybody turning out, and the bands playing 'See, the Conquering
Hero Comes,' when you and I come down the street, and we'll be
heroes for the rest of our natural lives."
"Go ahead, and tell the rest of it to the mash-tubs and the still.
I've heard as much as I can stand, an I must have a breath of fresh
air. I'm going into the other cabin to see what's there."
Kent followed him to the door, with the jug in his hand.
"Kent, there's a man coming down the path there," said Abe, pulling
himself together, after the manner of a half-drunken man whose
attention is powerfully distracted.
"Where?" asked Kent, setting the jug down with solicitous gentleness,
and reaching back for his musket.
"There, by that big chestnut. Can't you see him? or have you got
so much whisky in you, that you can't see anything? He's in Rebel
clothes, and he's got a gun. I'm going to shoot him."
"Maybe he's one of these loyal Kentuckians. Hold on a minute, till
you are sure," said Kent, half cocking his own gun.
"The last words of General Washington were 'Never trust a nigger
with a gun.' A man with that kind o' cloze has no business carrying
weapons around in this country. I'm going to shoot."
"If you shoot with your hands wobbling that way, you'll make him
aas full of holes as a skimmer. That'd be cruel. Steady yourself
up a little, while I talk to him.
"Halt, there!" commanded Kent, with a thick tongue. "Who are you,
and how many are with you?"
"I'm a Union man," said Fortner, for it was he, "an' I'm alone."
"Lay down your gun and come up here, if you are a friend," ordered
The swaggering imperiousness in Edward's tone nettled Fortner as
much as the order itself. "I don't make a practice of layin' down
my gun for no man," he said proudly. "I'm ez good Union ez ary
of you'uns dar be, an' I don't take no orders from ye. I could've
killed ye both, ef I'd a wanted ter, afore ye ever seed me."
Bolton's gun cracked, and the bullet buried itself in the thick,
soft bark of the chestnut, just above Fortner's head, and threw
dust and chips in his eyes. He brushed them away angrily, and
instinctively raised his rifle. Kent took this as his cue to fire,
but his aim was even worse than Abe's.
"Ruined again by strong drink," he muttered despairingly, as he saw
the failure of his shot. "Nothing but new apple jack could make
me miss so fair a mark."
"Now, ye fellers, lay down YORE guns!" shouted Fortner, springing
forward to where they were, with his rifle cocked. "Lay 'em down!
I say. Lay 'em down, or I'll let daylight through ye!"
"He's got us, Abe," said Kent, laying down his musket reluctantly.
His example was followed by Abe, who, however, did not place his
gun so far that he could not readily pick it up again, if Fortner
gave him an instant's opportunity. Fortner noticed this, and pushed
the musket farther away with his foot, still covering the two with
"Ye see now," he said "thet I hev ye at my marcy, ef I wanted ter
kill or capture ye. Efi I gin ye back yer guns, ye'll admit thet
I'm yer friend, and not yer inimy, won't ye?"
"It'll certainly look like an overture to a permanent and disinterested
friendship," said Kent, brightening up; and Abe, who was gathering
himself up for a spring to catch Fortner's rifle, let his muscles
"Well, ye kin take up yer guns agin and load 'em," said Fortner,
letting down the hammer of his rifle. "I'm Jim Fortner, supposed
ter be the pizenest Union man on the Rockassel! Come along ter my
house, an I'll gin ye a good meal o' vittels. Hit's on'y a little
piece off, an' I've got thar one of yer fellers. His name's Harry
Chapter XIV. In the Hospital.
As the tall ship whose lofty prore
Shall never stem the billows more
Deserted by her gallant band,
Amid the breakers lies astrand--
Soon his couch lay Rhoderick Dhu,
And oft his fevered limbs he threw
In toss abrupt, as when her sides
Lie rocking in the advancing tides,
That shake her frame with ceaseless beat,
Yet can not heave her from her seat;--
O, how unlike her course on sea!
Or his free step on hill and lea!--Lady of the Lake.
An Army Hospital is the vestibule of the Cemetery--the ante-room
where the recruiting-agents of Death--Wounds and Disease--assemble
their conscripts to prepare them for the ranks from which there is
neither desertion nor discharge. Therein enter those who are to
lay aside "this muddy vesture of decay," for the changeless garb
of the Beyond. Thither troop the Wasted and Stricken to rest a
little, and prepare for the last great journey, the first milestone
of which is placed over their heads.
Humanity and Science have done much for the Army Hospital, but still
its swinging doors wave two to the tomb where they return one to
health and activity.
It was a broiling hot day when Rachel Bond descended from the
ambulance which had brought her from the station to camp.
She shielded her eyes with a plam-leaf fan, and surveyed the
surroundings of the post of duty to which she had been assigned.
She found herself in a little city of rough plank barracks, arranged
in geometrically correct streets and angles about a great plain
of a parade ground, from which the heat radiated as from a glowing
stove. A flag drooped as if wilted from the top of a tall pole
standing on the side of the parade-ground opposite her. Languidly
pacing in front of the Colonel's tent was an Orderly, who had
been selected in the morning for his spruce neatness, but who now
looked like some enormous blue vegetable, rapidly withering under
the sun's blistering rays.
Beyond were the barracks, baking and sweltering, cracking their rough,
unpainted sides into yawning fissures, and filling the smothering
air with resinous odors distilled from the fat knots in the refuse
planking of which they were built. Beyond these was the line of
camp-guards--bright gun-barrels and bayonets glistening painfully,
and those who bore them walking with as weary slowness as was
consistent with any motion whatever, along their beats.
On straw in the oven-like barracks, and under the few trees in the
camp-ground, lay the flushed and panting soldiers, waiting wearily
for that relief which the descending sun would bring.
The hospital to which Rachel had been brought differed from the rest
of the sheds in the camp by being whitewashed within and without,
which made it radiate a still more unendurable heat than its
duller-lustered companions. A powerful odor of chloride of lime
and carbolic acid shocked her sensitive nostrils with their tales
of all the repulsiveness those disinfectants were intended to
destroy or hide.
Several dejected, hollow-eyed convalescents, whose uniforms hung
about their wasted bodies as they would about wooden crosses, sat
on benches in the scanty shade by one side of the building, and
fanned themselves weakly with fans clumsily fashioned from old
newspapers. They looked up as the trim, lady-like figure stepped
lightly down from the ambulance, and the long-absent luster returned
briefly to their sad eyes.
"That looks like home, Jim," said one of the fever-wasted.
"That it does. Lord! she looks as fresh and sweet as the
Johnny-jump-ups down by our old spring-house. I expect she's come
down here to find somebody that belongs to her that's sick. Don't
I wish it was me!"
"I wouldn't mind being a brother, or a cousin, or a sweetheart to
her myself. That'd be better luck than to be given a sutler-shop.
Just see her move! She's got a purtier gait than our thoroughbred
"IT does one's eyes good to look at her. It makes me feel better
than a cart-load of the stuff that old Pillbags forces down our
"You're a-talking. She's a lady--every inch of her--genuine,
simon-pure, fast colors, all-wool, a yard wide, as fine as silk,
and bright a a May morning."
"And as wholesome as Spring sunshine."
All unconscious that her appearance was to the invalids who looked
upon her like a sweet, health-giving breeze bursting through a
tainted atmosphere, Rachel passed wearily along the burning walks
toward the Surgeon's office, with a growing heart-sickness at the
unwelcome appearance of the task she had elected for herself.
The journey had been full of irritating discomforts. Heat, dust,
and soiled linen are only annoyances to a man; they are real miseries
to a woman. The marvel is not that Joan of Arc dared the perils
of battle, but that she endured the continued wretchedness of camp
uncleanliness, to the triumphant end.
With her throat parched, garments "sticky," hair, eyes, ears and
nostrils filled with irritating dust, and a feeling that collar
and cuffs were, as ladies phrase it, "a sight to behold," Rachel's
heoric enthusiasm ebbed to the bottom. Ushered into the Surgeon's
office she was presented to a red-faced, harsh-eyed man, past
the middle age, who neither rose nor apologized to her for being
discovered in the undress of a hot day. He montioned her to a
seat with the wave of the fan he was vigorously using, and taking
her letter of introduction, adjusted eye-glasses upon a ripe-colored
nose, and read it with a scowl that rippled his face with furrows.
"So you're the first of the women nurses that's to be assigned to
me," he said ungraciously, after finishing the letter, and scanning
her severely for a moment over the top of his glasses. "I suppose
I have to have 'em."
The manner hurt Rachel even more than the words. Before she could
frame a reply he continued:
"I don't take much stock in this idea of women nurses, especially
when they're young and pretty." He scowled at Rachel as if she had
committed a crime in being young and beautiful. "But the country's
full of women with a Quixotic notion of being Florence Nightingales,
and they've badgered the Government into accepting their services.
I suppose I'll have to take my share of them. Ever nursed?"
"No, sir," responded Rachel, compressing as much ahughtiness as
possible into the answer.
"Of course not. Girls at your age are not at all likely to know
anything that is useful, and least of all how to nurse a sick
man. I hardly know which is the worst, a young one who don't know
anything, or a middle-aged one who thinks she knows it all, and
continually interferes with the management of a case. I believe
though, I'd rather have had the middle-aged one to start with.
She'd be more likely to tend to her business, and not have her
head turned by the attentions of the good-looking young officers
who swarm around her. Mind, I'll not allow any flirting here."
Rachel's face crimsoned. "You forget yourself," she said, cuttingly;
"or perhaps you have nothing to forget. At least, man an effort
to remember that I'm a lady."
The bristly eyebrows straightened down to a level line over the
small blue eyes, and unpleasant furrows drew themselves around the
corners of his mouth. "YOU forget," he said, "that if you enter
upon these duties you are in the military service and subject to
your superior officers. You forget the necessity of the most rigid
discipline, and that it is my duty to explain and enforce this."
"I certainly expect to obey orders," said Rachel, a little overawed.
"You may rightly expect to," he answere with a slight sneer; "because
it will be a matter of necessity--you will have to. We must have
instant and unquestioning obedience to orders here, as well as
everywhere else in the Army, or it would be like a rope of sand--of
no strength whatever--no strength, whatever."
"I know it," answered Rachel, depressed even more by th apparition
of martial law than she had been by the heat.
"And what I have been telling you is only the beginning," continued
the Surgeon, noting the effect of his words, and exulting in
their humbling power. "The cornerstone of everything military is
obedience--prompt, unfailing obedience, by everybody, soldier or
officer, to his superiors. Without it---"
"Major Moxon," said an officer, entering and saluting, "the General
presents his compliments, and desires to know why his repeated
orders in regard to the furloughing of men have been so persistently
"Because," said the Surgeon, getting purplish-red about the cheeks
and nose, " because the matter's one which I consider outside of
his province--beyond his control, sir. I am Chief of the Medical
Department, as you are perhaps aware, sir."
"We presumed that you were taking that view of the matter, from
your course," answered the Aide calmly. "I am not here to argue
the matter with you, but simply to direct you to consider yourself
under arrest. Charges are being prepared against you, to which I
will add specifications based on this interview. Good afternoon,
sir." The Aide saluted stiffly and moved away, leaving the Surgeon
in a state of collapse at the prospect of what he had brought upon
himself by his injudicious contumacy. Mis Rachel was in that state
of wonderment that comes to pupils at seeing their teachers rebel
agains their own precepts. The Surgeon was too much engrossed in
his own affairs to pay farther heed to her. He tapped a bell.
"Orderly," he said, to the soldier who responded, "conduct this
young woman to Dr. Denslow. Inform him that she is to be with us
as a nurse, and ask him to be kind enough to assign her suitable
quarters. Good afternoon, ma'am."
In another office, much smaller and far less luxuriously furnished,
she found Dr. Denslow, a hazel-eyed, brown-bearded man of thirty,
whose shoulder-straps bore the modest bars of Captain. The reader
has already made his acquaintance. He received her with the pleasant,
manly sympathy for her sex, which had already made him one of the
most popular of family physicians in the city where he was practicing
at the outbreak of the war.
Rachel's depressed spirits rose again at his cordial reception.
"I am so busy," he said, after a brief exchange of commonplaces,
"that I'll not have the time to give you much information this
afternoon as to your duties, and I know that you are so fatigued with
your journey and the heat that you will not care to do anything but
rest and refresh yourself. I will therefore show you immediately
to your quarters."
"This will be your field of labor," he said, as he led her down
the long aisle between rows of cots toward her room. "It's not a
cheerful one to contemplate at first. Human suffering is always
a depressing spectacle, and you will see here more of it and more
varied agony than you can find anywhere outside of an army hospital's
walls. But as the deed is so is the duty, and the glory of doing
it. To one who wants to serve God and his fellow-creatures--which
I take it is the highest form of religion--here is an opportunity
that he may bless God for giving him. Here he can earn a brighter
crown than is given them who die at the stake for opinion's sake."
So earnest was his enthusiasm that Rachel felt herself lifted up
by it, in spite of her discomforts. But then she turned her eyes
away from his impassioned face, and looked over the array of white
beds, each with its pale and haggard occupant, his eyes blazing
with the delirium of fever, or closed in the langor of exhaustion,
with limbs tossing as the febrile fire seethed the blood, or quivering
with the last agonies. Groans, prayers, and not a few oaths fell
on her ears. The repulsive smell of the disinfectants, the nauseating
odor of the sick room where hundreds of invalids were lying, the
horrible effluvia of the typhus rose on the hot air, and seemed
part of the misery which so strongly assailed her other senses.
She was sick at heart, and with every feeling in active revolt,
but without a word she turned and followed Dr. Denslow to a hot,
close, little room which had been cut off one end of the hospital,
though not so separated from it but that the sounds and odors from
the sick wards continually filtered in through the wide cracks in
its plank sides. An iron bedstead, of the same pattern as that
upon which the sick lay, stood in one corner, and in another was
a rudely-fashioned stand, upon which was a tin-basin, a cake of
yellow bar-soap, and a bucket of water for washing. This was all
As the door closed behind the Doctor, Rachel threw herself upon
the cot, in a fit of despair at the wreck of all her fancies, and
the repulsiveness of the career upon which she had embarked.
"I can not--I will not--live here a week," she said to herself,
over and over again. "I will die for the lack of comforts--of the
decencies of life, even--to say nothing of being poisoned by these
horrible smells, or driven distracted by the raving sick and that
boor of a Surgeon. But I can not draw back; I would rather die than
go back to Sardis with a confession of failure at the very outset
of my attempt to play the heroine."
Then she remembered her last words to Harry Glen: "I only know that
you have failed where a number of commonplace men have succeeded,
and that is sufficient."
Would she subject herself to having him throw these words in her
teeth? No. Any shape of trial and death, rather.
Chapter XV. Making an Acquaintance with Duty.
And with light in her looks she entered the chamber of sickness.
Noiselessly moved about the assiduous, careful attendants,
Moistening the feverish lip, and teh aching brow, and in silence
Closing the sightless eyes of the dead, and concealing their faces,
Where on their pallets they lay like drifts of snow by the roadside.
Many a languid head upraised as Evangeline entered,
Turned on its pillow of pain to gaze while she passed for her presence
Fell on their hearts like a ray of sun on the walls of a prison,
And as she looked around she saw how Death the Consoler,
Laying his hand on many a heart hade healed it forever.--Evangaline.
Nervously bolting the rude door after Dr. Denslow's departure,
Rachel tossed her hat into one corner, and without farther undressing
flung herself down upon the coarse blankets of the cot, in utter
exhaustion of mind and body. Nature, beneficent ever to Youth and
Health, at once drew the kindly curtains of Sleep, and the world
and its woes became oblivion.
Early the next morning the shrill REVEILLE called for a resumption
of the day's activities. She was awakened by the fifes screaming
a strenuously cheeful jig, but lay for some minutes without opening
her eyes. She was so perfectly healthful in every way that the
tribulations of the previous day had left no other traces than a
slight wariness. But every sense began informing her that yesterday's
experience was not a nightmare of her sleep, but a waking reality.
The morning sun was already pouring hot beams upon the thin roof
over her head. Through the wide cracks in the partition came the
groans and the nauseating odors which had depressed her so on the
day before. Mingled with these was the smell of spoiled coffee
and ill-cooked food floating in from the kitchen, where a detail
of slovenly and untaught cooks were preparing breakfast.
She shuddered and opened her eyes.
The rude garniture of her room, thickly covered with coarse dust,
and destitute of everything to make life comfortable, looked even
more repugnant than it had the evening before.
The attack of sickness at heart at the position in which she found
herself came on with renewed intensity, for the hatefulness of
everything connected with the lot she had chosen seemed to have
augmented during the passing hours. She tried to gain a little
respite by throwing one white arm over her eyes, so as to shut out
all sight, that she might imagine for a moment at least that she
was back under the old apple tree at Sardis, before all this sorrow
had come into her life.
"It is not possible," she murmured to herself, "that Florence
Nightingale, and those who assisted her found their work and its
surroundings as unlovely as it is here. I won't believe it. In
Europe things are different, and the hospitals are made fitting
places for women to visit and dwell in."
It would have helped her much if she could have known that the
Crimean hospitals, in which Florence Nightingale won world-wide
fame, lacked immeasurably of the conveniences and comforts with
which American ingenuity and lavish generosity mitigated somewhat
the wretchedness of army hospitals.
Lying still became unendurable, she rose, in hopes that action might
bring some sort of relief. Such plain toilet was made as the very
limited means at her command permitted. The scant privacy afforded
by her room was another torture. Maiden modesty suggested a Peeping
Tom at every yawning crack in the planking.
At least, neatly attired in a serviceable gray frock, with a dainty
white collar at her throat, and her satiny hair brushed smoothly
over her forehead, she opened her door and stepped out into the
main ward room.
A murmur of appreciation arose from those who looked upon her, and
the sick ceased groaning, to feast their eyes upon the fair, fresh
apparition of sweet young womanhood. There was such unmistakable
pleasure written on every face that for a moment even she herself
became a little conscious that her presence was like a grateful
shower upon a parched and weary land. But before she could buoy
her spirits up with this knowledge they sank again as she perceived
Dr. Moxon stalking down the long aisle, with ill-humor expressed
in every motion of his bulky figure. He was frowning deeply; his
great feet fell flatly upon the creaking planks, as if he were
crushing something at every step, and he rated the occupants of
the cots on either side as he passed along.
"No. 4," he said sharply to a gaunt boy, whose cheeks were burning
with rising fever, "you've got a relapse. Serves you right
for leaving your bed yesterday. Now don't deny it, for I saw you
outside myself. I'll send the Wardmaster to the guard-house for
"But, Doctor, it wasn't his fault," gasped the sick man, painfully.
"I begged so hard to go out that he couldn't refuse me. It was so
hot in here and smelled so badly, that I felt I should die unless
I got a breath of fresh air."
"Silence!" thundered the Surgeon; "I'll have no talking back to me.
Steward, send that Wardmaster to the guard-house for disobedience
of orders. No. 7, you refused to take your medicine yesterday.
Steward, double his prescription, and if he shows the least resistance
to taking it, have the nurses hold him and force it down his throat.
Do you hear? There, why don't you hold still?" (This to a man
who was having a large blister applied to his back.)
"It hurts so," answered the sufferer.
"Hurts, eh? Well, I'll show you what hurts some of these days,
when I cut your leg off. Well, what do you want, youngster?"
A slender, white-faced boy was standing at the foot of his cot, at
"attention," and saluting respectfully.
"If you please," said he, "I'd like to be discharged, and go back to
my company. I'm well enough now to do duty, and I'll be entirely
well in a short time, if I can get out of doors into the fresh
"Indeed," answered Dr. Moxon, with a sneer, "may I inquire when
you began to diagnose cases, and offer advice to your superior
officers? Why don't you set up in the practice of medicine at once,
and apply for a commission as Surgeon in the Army? Step back, an
don't ever speak to me again in this manner, or it'll be the worse
for you, I can tell you. I know when you are fit to go back to
duty, and I won't have patients annoying me with their whims and
fancies. Step back, sir."
Thus he passed along, leaving anger and humiliation behind him, as
a steamer leaves a wake of waves beaten into a froth.
"Old Sawbones made a mistake with his morning cocktail, and mixed
a lot of wormwood with it," said one of the "convalescents," in an
undertone to those about him.
"This awful hot weather's spilin' most everything," said another,
"and the old man's temper never was any too sweet."
Dr. Moxon came up to Rachel, and regarded her for an instant very
unpleasantly. "Young woman," he said in a harsh tone and with
a still harsher manner, "the rules of this institution require
every attendant to be present at morning roll-call, under pain of
punishment. You were not present this morning, but be careful that
you are in the future."
Rachel's grief over her own situation had been swallowed up by
indignation at the Surgeon's brutality to others. All her higher
instincts were on fire at the gratuitous insults to boys, toward
whom her womanly sumpathies streamed out. The pugnacious element,
large in hers as in all strong natures, asserted itself and invited
to the fray. If there was no one else to resist this petty tyrant
she would, and mayhap in this she might find such exercise of her
heroic qualities that she felt were within her, as would justify
herself in her own esteem. She met with a resolute glance his
peevish eyes, and said;
"When the rules are communicated to me in a proper manner, I shall
take care to obey them, if they are just and proper; but I will
not be spoken to in that way by any man."
His eyes fell from the encounter with hers, and the dull mottle in
his cheek became crimson with a blush at this assertion of outraged
womanly dignity. He turned away, saying gruffly:
"Just as I expected. The moment a woman comes into the hospital,
all discipline is at an end."
He moved off angrily. All the inmates saw and overheard. If Rachel's
refreshing beauty had captivated them before, her dauntless spirit
completed the conquest.
A cheery voice behind her said, "Good morning." There was something
so winning in its tones that the set lines in her indignant face
relaxed, and she turned softened eyes to meet the frankly genial
ones of Dr. Paul Denslow.
"Good morning, Miss---," he repeated, as she hesitated, a little
"Bond--Rachel Bond's my name. Good morning, sir," she answered,
putting out her hand.
As he took it, he said: "I want to make an abject apology. We
are ill-prepared to entertain a lady here, and no one knew of your
coming. But we certainly intend to mitigate in some degree the
desolation of the room to which you were conducted. I left you
for the purpose of seeing what the store-room contained that would
contribute a trifle toward transforming it into a maiden's bower--"
"Cinderella's fairy godmother couldn't have made the transformation
with that room," she said with a little shrug of despair.
"Probably not--probably not--and I lay no claim to even the least
of the powers exercised by the old lady with the wand. But I allow
no man to surpass me in the matter of good intentions. That is a
luxury of which the poorest of us can afford an abundance, and I
will not deny myself anything that is so cheap."
Rachel was beguiled into smiling at his merry cynicism.
"Allusions to the pavement in the unmentionable place are barred
in this connection," he continued gayly. "On my way to carry out
these good intentions--at some one else's expense, remember, all
the time--I was called to the bedside of a dying man, and detained
there some time. When I at last returned to your room, I judged
that you were fast asleep, and I decided not to disturb you."
"I think you would have found it a difficult matter to have roused
me. I had sunk on the cot, and was sleeping the sleep of--"
"The just," interposed Dr. Denslow, gallantly.
"No, of the fatigued."
"Well, scientific truth compels me to say that fatigue is a surer
and stronger sedative than a clear conscience even. I know,
for I have occasionally tried a clear conscience--only by way of
experiment, you know," he added, apologetically.
"Well, whatever the case, I was slepping as though on downy beds
"Then my mind is lightened of a mountain-load of responsibility
for having made you pass a miserable night. But let's go in to
breakfast. I am opposed to doing anything on an empty stomach--even
to holding a pleasant conversation. It invites malaria, and malaria
brings a number of disagreeable sensations which people mistake for
repentance, remorse, religious awakening, and so on, according to
their mental idiosyncrasies, and the state of their digestion."
The breakfast did not help remove the unpleasant impressions already
made upon her mind. The cloth that covered the coarse planks
of the table was unmistakably a well-worn sheet. Tin cups and
platters made humble substitution for china, and were appropriately
accompanied by cast-iron knives and two tined forks.
Two Hospital Stewards--denoted by the green bands, embroidered with
CADUCEI, around their arms--and the same number of Wardmasters,
formed the mess which sat down with Dr. Denslow and Rachel, on
benches around the table.
What bouyant cheerfulness could do to raise Rachel's spirits and
give an appetizing flavor to the coarse viands, Dr. Denslow did.
"I apprehend," said he, "that you will suspect that in obtaining
this steak the indefatigable cook made a mistake, and sliced a
piece from a side of sole leather hanging near. This was not the
case. It was selected with a deep physiological design. Meat
of this character consists almost wholly of fibrine, the least
heat-producing constituent of flesh. By excluding all fats and
other tender portions, and confining ourselves to fibrine, we are
the better able to stand this torrid weather."
One of the Hospital Stewards groaned deeply.
"What is the matter, 'Squills'?" said the Doctor, kindly.
"I was thinking of the monstrous fibber-in here," said "Squills,"
"'Squills,' I don't know how I can properly punish the disrespect
shown our young lady guest and your superior officer, by that vile
pun and the viler implication contained in it."
"This sugar," continued the Doctor, lifting some out of an old
tomato can with a large iron spoon, and tendering it to Rachel for
her coffee, "has a rich golden color, which is totally absent from
the paler varieties to which you are accustomed. Its deeper hue
comes from having caught more of the Cuban yellow sun's rays."
"Yes," interjected "Squills," "all the Cuban's yellow sons raise.
Their daughters, too, are sometimes almost brown."
Dr. Denslow frowned.
"What a queer odor it has," said Rachel, sniffing it, and staying
the spool just over her cup.
"Has it?" said the Doctor, sniffing too. "O, that's nothing.
That's only chloroform. The ants were very bad, and we put some
in to kill them off."
"I don't believe I'll take any in my coffee, thank you," said
Rachel, calmly. "There are times when I don't like it sweetened."
"But you'll certainly take cream, then," he said, breaking off the
cover of a can of condensed milk. "Here is some put in the reverse
of the homeopathic plan. Instead of being the 30th dilution, it is
about the 30th concentration. With this little can, and his pump
in good order, a milkman could supply a good big route with 'pure
grass-fed milk.' Within these narrow walls are compressed the
nutritive juices of an acre of fragrant white clover."
"The Doctor was formerly a lecturer in a medical college," said
"Squills" "sotto voce" to Rachel.
Rachel's appetite had seemed sufficient for almost any food, but
she confined her breakfast to two or three crackers of hard bread,
and a few sups of coffee. The pleasantry had failed of its desired
effect. It was like vinegar upon niter, or the singing of songs
to an heavy heart.
As they rose from the table the Doctor informed her that he and
the Stewards were about to make their morning round of the wards,
and that she had better accompany them. She went along without a
They walked slowly up and down the long aisles behind the Doctor,
who stopped before each cot, and closely examined its occupant's
tongue, pulse, and other indicators of his condition, and gave
prescriptions, which the Steward wrote down, as to medicine and
food. What was better still were his words of sympathy for the
very ill and of cheery encouragement for the convalescent, which
he bestowed upon every one.
"A visit from Dr. Denslow does a sick man more good," whispered
"Squills" to Rachel, as he saw her eyes light up with admiration
at the Doctor's tactful kindliness, "than all the drugs in the
dispensary. I sometiems believe he's one of them that can cure by
a simple laying-on of hands. He's just the opposite of old Moxon,
who'd counteract the effect of the best medicine in the world."
"No. 19, Quin. Sulph., grains 16; make four powders, one every
three hours," continued "Squills," repeating the directions as he
received them, "Spiritus Frumenti, 1 oz., at evening. No. 2 diet.
No. 20, Dover's powder 10 grains, at bedtime. No 1 diet. You,"
addressing himself to Rachel again, "will do even better than Dr.
Denslow, soon. Can't you see how the mere sight of you brightens
up everybody around here?"
Rachel had no reply ready for so broad a compliment, but its
assertion of her high usefulness went far to reconcile her to her
She wondered silently if her mission was to be confined to posing
as a thing of beauty and a joy forever.
This differed much from her expectations, for she dreaded at each
step lest the next bring her fact to face with some horrible task,
which she would be expected to undertake. But the Doctor, with his
usual tact, was almost imperceptibly inducting her into her duties.
"Would Miss Bond kindly shake this powder into that cup of water
and give it to that boy?"
She did so, and was rewarded by the recipient's grateful look, as
"It don't seem at all nasty when YOU give it to me."
"Would she hand tht one this bit of magnesia for his heartburn?"
It was a young Irishman, who received the magnesia with a gallant
"Faith, your white fingers have made it swater than loaf-sugar."
Rachel colored deeply, and those within hearing laughed.
At the next cot a feverish boy tossed wearily. Rachel noticed the
uncomfortable arrangement of the folded blanket which did duty as
a pillow. She stepped quickly to the head of the cot, took the
blanket out, refolded it with a few deft, womanly motinos, and
replaced it with a cool surface uppermost.
"O, that is SO good," murmured the boy, half-unclosing his eyes.
"It's just as mother would've done."
Dr. Denslow looked earnest approval.
Rachel began to feel an interest kindling in her work. It was not
in a womanly nature to resist this cordial appreciation of all she
A few cots farther on a boy wanted a letter written home. She was
provided with stationary, and taking her place by the side of the
cot, received his instructions, and wrote to his anxious parents
the first news they had from their only son since they had been
informed, two weeks before, that he had been sent to the hospital.
When she had finished she rejoined the Doctor, who had by this time
nearly completed his round of the ward. As soon as he was through
he dismissed Stewards and Wardmasters to their duties, adn returned
with her to her room. It was so changed that she thought she ahd
made a mistake when she opened the door. The time of her absence
had been well employed by a detail of men, whom the Doctor had
previously instructed. The floor was as white and clean as strong
arms with an abundance of soap and hot water could scrupt it, the
walls and ceiling were neatly papered with "Harper's Weeklies,"
and "Frank Leslies," other papers concealed the roughness of the
table and shelves, white sheet and pillow-cases had given the cot
an air of inviting neatness, and before it lay a square of rag
carpet. The window was shaded with calico curtains, the tin basin
and dipper had been scoured to brightness, and beside them stood
a cedar water-pail with shining brass hoops.
"Ah," she said, with brightening face, "this is something like
"Yes," answered Dr. Denslow, "I imagine it IS some improvement upon
the sandy desert in which you spent the night. I hope we will soon
be able to make it still more comfortable. We have just started
this hospital, and we are sadly destitute of many of the commonest
necessaries of such an institution. But everything will get better
in a week or so, and while I can not exactly promise you the comforts
of a home, I can assure you that life will be made more endurable
than it seems to be possible now."
"I do hope none of this has been taken away from any sick man who
needs it more than I?" said Rachel, with a remembrance of how much
the boys in the ward needed.
"Do not disturb yourself with any such thought. Your comfort has
not been bought at the expense of any one else's. I would not
give, even to you, anything taht would help restore a sick soldier
to his regiment or his home. My first duty, as that of yours and
all of us, is to him. He is the man of the occasion. All the
rest of us are mere adjuncts to him. We have no reason for being,
except to increase his effectiveness."
The earnestness with which he spoke, so different from his light
bantering at the breakfast table, made her regard him more attentively.
"I begin to get a glimmering," she said at length, "of the inspiration
in this kind of work. Before it has all seemed unutterably repulsive
to me. But it has its rewards."
"Yes," said he, lapsing still deeper into a mood which she soon
came to recognize in him as a frequent one of spiritual exaltation,
"we who toil here, labor amidst the wreck and ruin of war without
the benefit of that stirring impulse which fills the souls of those
who actually go into battle. The terrors of human suffering which
they see but for an instant, as when the lightning in the night
shows the ravages of the storm, encompass us about and abide with
us continually. We are called upon for another kind of fortitude,
and we must look for our reward otherwise than in the victor's
laurels. We can only have to animate us our own consciousness of
a high duty well done. To one class of minds this is an infinitely
rich meed. The old Jewish legend says that Abrahams principal
jewel was one worn upon his breast, 'whose light raised those who
were bowed down, and healed the sick,' and when he passed from
earth it was placed in heaven, where it shown as one of the great
stars. Of such kind must be our jewel."
He stopped, and blushing through his beard, as if ashamed of his
heroics, said with a light laugh:
"But if there is anything I fear it is self-righteousness which
cankereth the soul. Come; I will show you a sight which will
repress any tendency you may ever feel to exalt your services to
the pinnacle of human merit."
While leading her to a remote part of the hospital he continued:
"Of course greater love hath no man than this, that he gave his
life for that which he loves. Considered relatively to the person
the peasant who falls in the defense of his country gives just as
much as the Emperor who may die by his side. In either case the
measure of devotion is brim-full. Nothing more can be added to
it. But there are accessories and surroundings which apparently
make one life of much greater value than another, and make it a
vastly richer sacrifice when laid on the altar of patriotism."
"There are certainly degrees of merit, even in yielding up one's
life," said Rachel, not altogther unmindful of the sacrifice she
herself had made in coming to the front.
"Judged by this standard," the Doctor continued, "the young man
whom we are about to see has made a richer offering to his country
than it is possible for most men to make. It is almost shames me
as to the meagerness of the gift I bring."
"If you be ashamed how must others who give much less feel?"
"He was in the first dawn of manhood," the Doctor went on, without
noticing the interruption, "handsome as a heathen god, educated and
wealty, and with high aspirations for a distinguished scientific
career fermenting in his young blood like new wine. Yet he turned his
back upon all this--upon the opening of a happy married life--to
carry a private soldier's musket in the ranks, and to die ingloriously
by the shot of a skulking bushwhacker. He would not even take a
commision, because he wanted that used to encourage some other man,
who might need the inducement."
"But why call his death inglorious? If a man braves death why is
any one time or place worse than another?"
"Because for a man of his temperament he is dying the cruelest death
possible. He had expected, if called upon to yield his life, to
purchase with it some great good for his country. But to perish
uselessly as he is doing, as if bitten by a snake, is terrible.
Here we are. I will tell you before we go in that he has a bullet
wound through the body, just grazing an artery and it is only
a question of a short time, and the slightest shock, when a fatal
hemorrhage will ensue. Be very quiet and careful."
He untied a rope stretched across the entrance to a little wing of
the building to keep unnecessary footsteps at a distance.
"How is he this morning?" he asked of a gray-haired nurse seated
in front of a door curtained with a blanket.
"Quiet and cheeful as ever," answered the nurse, rising and pulling
the blanket aside that they might enter.
The face upon which Rachel's eyes fell when she entered the room
impressed her as an unusual combination of refinement and strength.
Beyond this she noted little as to the details of the patient's
countenance, except that he had hazel eyes, and a clear complexion
asserting itself under the deep sun-burning.
When they entered he was languidly fanning himself with a fan which
had been ingeniously constructed for him by some inmate, out of a
twig of willow bent into a hoop, and covered by pasting paper over
it. He gave a faint smile of welcome to the Doctor, but his face
lighted up with pleasure when he saw Rachel.
"Good morning, Sanderson," said Dr. Denslow, in a repressed voice.
"How do you feel?"
"As usual," whispered Sanderson.
"This is Miss Rachel Bond, who is assigned to our hospital as
A slight movement of Sanderson's head acknowledged Rachel's bow.
"I am so glad to see you," he whispered, taking hold of her hand.
"Sit down there, please."
Rachel took the indicated seat at the head of the cot.
"Doctor," inquired Sanderson, "is it true that McClellan has had
to fall back from before Richmond?"
"I have tried hard to keep the news from you," answered Dr. Denslow,
reluctantly. "I feat it is too true. Let us hope it is only a
temporary reverse, and that it will soon be more than overcome."
"Not in time for me," said Sanderson, in deep dejection. "I have
lived several days merely because I wanted to see Richmond taken
before I died. I can wait no longer."
The Doctor essayed some confused words of encouragement, but stopped
abruptly, and feigning important business in another part of the
hospital, hurried out, bidding Rachel await his return.
When he was gone Sanderson lifted Rachel's hand to his lips, and
said with deep feeling:
"I am so glad you have come. You remind me of her."
The ebbing life welled up for the last time into such ardent
virility that Rachel's first maidenly instinct was to withdraw her
hand from his earnest pressure and kiss.
"No, do not take your hand away," he said eagerly. "There need be
no shame, for I shall be clay almost before you flush has had time
to fade. I infringe on no other's rights, for I see in you only
another whom you much resemble."
Rachel suffered her hand to remain within his grasp.
"I would that she knew as you do, that I died thinking of her, next
to my country. You will write and tell her so. The Doctor will
give you her address, and you can tell her, as only a woman can
tell another what the woman-heart hungers for, of my last moments.
It is so much better that you should do it than Dr. Denslow, even,
grand as he is in every way. You will tell her that there was not
a thought of repining--that I felt that giving my life was only
partial payment to those who gave theirs to purchase for me every
good thing that I have enjoyed. I had twenty-five years of as happy
a life as ever a man lived, and she came as its crowning joy. I
look forward almost eagerly to what that Power, which has made every
succeeding year of my life happier than the previous one, has in
store for me in the awakening beyond. Ah, see there! It has come.
There goes my life."
She looked in the direction of his gaze, and saw a pool of blood
slowly spreading out from under the bed, banking itself against
the dust into miniature gulfs and seas. The hand that held hers
relaxed, and looking around she saw his eyes closed as if in peaceful
Dr. Denslow entered while she still gazed on the dead face, and
"I am so sorry I left you alone. I did not expect this for some
"How petty and selfish all my life has been," said Rachel, dejectedly,
as they left the room.
"Not a particle more than his was, probably," said Dr. Denslow,