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  • 1860
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“Bob, Ma’am.”

Every woman has her pet whim; one of mine was to teach the men self-respect by treating them respectfully. Tom, Dick, and Harry would pass, when lads rejoiced in those familiar abbreviations; but to address men often old enough to be my father in that style did not suit my old-fashioned ideas of propriety. This “Bob” would never do; I should have found it as easy to call the chaplain “Gus” as my tragical-looking contraband by a title so strongly associated with the tail of a kite.

“What is your other name?” I asked. “I like to call my attendants by their last names rather than by their first.”

“I’ve got no other, Ma’am; we have our masters’ names, or do without. Mine’s dead, and I won’t have anything of his about me.”

“Well, I’ll call you Robert, then, and you may fill this pitcher for me, if you will be so kind.”

He went; but, through all the tame, obedience years of servitude had taught him, I could see that the proud spirit his father gave him was not yet subdued, for the look and gesture with which he repudiated his master’s name were a more effective declaration of independence than any Fourth-of-July orator could have prepared.

We spent a curious week together. Robert seldom left his room, except upon my errands; and I was a prisoner all day, often all night, by the bedside of the Rebel. The fever burned itself rapidly away, for there seemed little vitality to feed it in the feeble frame of this old young man, whose life had been none of the most righteous, judging from the revelations made by his unconscious lips; since more than once Robert authoritatively silenced him, when my gentler bushings were of no avail, and blasphemous wanderings or ribald camp-songs made my cheeks burn and Robert’s face assume an aspect of disgust. The captain was a gentleman in the world’s eye, but the contraband was the gentleman in mine;–I was a fanatic, and that accounts for such depravity of taste, I hope. I never asked Robert of himself, feeling that somewhere there was a spot still too sore to bear the lightest touch; but, from his language, manner, and intelligence, I inferred that his color had procured for him the few advantages within the reach of a quick-witted, kindly treated slave. Silent, grave, and thoughtful, but most serviceable, was my contraband; glad of the books I brought him, faithful in the performance of the duties I assigned to him, grateful for the friendliness I could not but feel and show toward him. Often I longed to ask what purpose was so visibly altering his aspect with such daily deepening gloom. But I never dared, and no one else had either time or desire to pry into the past of this specimen of one branch of the chivalrous “F.F.Vs.”

On the seventh night, Dr. Franck suggested that it would be well for some one, besides the general watchman of the ward, to be with the captain, as it might be his last. Although the greater part of the two preceding nights had been spent there, of course I offered to remain,–for there is a strange fascination in these scenes, which renders one careless of fatigue and unconscious of fear until the crisis is passed.

“Give him water as long as he can drink, and if he drops into a natural sleep, it may save him. I’ll look in at midnight, when some change will probably take place. Nothing but sleep or a miracle will keep him now. Good night.”

Away went the Doctor; and, devouring a whole mouthful of grapes, I lowered the lamp, wet the captain’s head, and sat down on a hard stool to begin my watch. The captain lay with his hot, haggard face turned toward me, filling the air with his poisonous breath, and feebly muttering, with lips and tongue so parched that the sanest speech would have been difficult to understand. Robert was stretched on his bed in the inner room, the door of which stood ajar, that a fresh draught from his open window might carry the fever-fumes away through mine. I could just see a long, dark figure, with the lighter outline of a face, and, having little else to do just then, I fell to thinking of this curious contraband, who evidently prized his freedom highly, yet seemed in no haste to enjoy it. Doctor Franck had offered to send him on to safer quarters, but he had said, “No, thank yer, Sir, not yet,” and then had gone away to fall into one of those black moods of his, which began to disturb me, because I had no power to lighten them. As I sat listening to the clocks from the steeples all about us, I amused myself with planning Robert’s future, as I often did my own, and had dealt out to him a generous hand of trumps wherewith to play this game of life which hitherto had gone so cruelly against him, when a harsh, choked voice called,–

“Lucy!”

It was the captain, and some new terror seemed to have gifted him with momentary strength.

“Yes, here’s Lucy,” I answered, hoping that by following the fancy I might quiet him,–for his face was damp with the clammy moisture, and his frame shaken with the nervous tremor that so often precedes death. His dull eye fixed upon me, dilating with a bewildered look of incredulity and wrath, till he broke out fiercely.–

“That’s a lie! she’s dead,–and so’s Bob, damn him!”

Finding speech a failure, I began to sing the quiet tune that had often soothed delirium like this; but hardly had the line,

“See gentle patience smile on pain,”

passed my lips, when he clutched me by the wrist, whispering like one in mortal fear,–

“Hush! she used to sing that way to Bob, but she never would to me. I swore I’d whip the Devil out of her, and I did; but you know before she cut her throat she said she’d haunt me, and there she is!”

He pointed behind me with an aspect of such pale dismay, that I involuntarily glanced over my shoulder and started as if I had seen a veritable ghost; for, peering from the gloom of that inner room, I saw a shadowy face, with dark hair all about it, and a glimpse of scarlet at the throat. An instant showed me that it was only Robert leaning from his bed’s-foot, wrapped in a gray army-blanket, with his red shirt just visible above it, and his long hair disordered by sleep. But what a strange expression was on his face! The unmarred side was toward me, fixed and motionless as when I first observed it,–less absorbed now, but more intent. His eye glittered, his lips were apart like one who listened with every sense, and his whole aspect reminded me of a hound to which some wind had brought the scent of unsuspected prey.

“Do you know him, Robert? Does he mean you?”

“Lord, no, Ma’am; they all own half a dozen Bobs: but hearin’ my name woke me; that’s all.”

He spoke quite naturally, and lay down again, while I returned to my charge, thinking that this paroxysm was probably his last. But by another hour I perceived a hopeful change, for the tremor had subsided, the cold dew was gone, his breathing was more regular, and Sleep, the healer, had descended to save or take him gently away. Doctor Franck looked in at midnight, bade me keep all cool and quiet, and not fail to administer a certain draught as soon as the captain woke. Very much relieved, I laid my head on my arms, uncomfortably folded on the little table, and fancied I was about to perform one of the feats which practice renders possible,–“sleeping with one eye open,” as we say: a half-and-half doze, for all senses sleep but that of hearing; the faintest murmur, sigh, or motion will break it, and give one back one’s wits much brightened by the permission to “stand at ease.” On this night, the experiment was a failure, for previous vigils, confinement, and much care had rendered naps a dangerous indulgence, Having roused half a dozen times in an hour to find all quiet, I dropped my heavy head on my arms, and, drowsily resolving to look up again in fifteen minutes, fell fast asleep.

The striking of a deep-voiced clock woke me with a start. “That is one,” thought I, but, to my dismay, two more strokes followed; and in remorseful haste I sprang up to see what harm my long oblivion had done. A strong hand put me back into my seat, and held me there. It was Robert. The instant my eye met his my heart began to beat, and all along my nerves tingled that electric flash which foretells a danger that we cannot see. He was very pale, his mouth grim, and both eyes full of sombre fire,–for even the wounded one was open now, all the more sinister for the deep scar above and below. But his touch was steady, his voice quiet, as he said,–

“Sit still, Ma’am; I won’t hurt yer, nor even scare yer, if I can help it, but yer waked too soon.”

“Let me go, Robert,–the captain is stirring, –I must give him something.”

“No, Ma’am, yer can’t stir an inch. Look here!”

Holding me with one hand, with the other he took up the glass in which I had left the draught, and showed me it was empty.

“Has he taken it?” I asked, more and more bewildered.

“I flung it out o’ winder, Ma’am; he’ll have to do without.”

“But why, Robert? why did you do it?”

“Because I hate him!”

Impossible to doubt the truth of that; his whole face showed it, as he spoke through his set teeth, and launched a fiery glance at the unconscious captain. I could only hold my breath and stare blankly at him, wondering what mad act was coming next. I suppose I shook and turned white, as women have a foolish habit of doing when sudden danger daunts them; for Robert released my arm, sat down upon the bedside just in front of me, and said, with the ominous quietude that made me cold to see and hear,–

“Don’t yer be frightened, Ma’am: don’t try to run away, fer the door’s locked an’ the key in my pocket; don’t yer cry out, fer yer’d have to scream a long while, with my hand on yer mouth, before yer was heard. Be still, an’ I’ll tell yer what I’m goin’ to do.”

“Lord help us! he has taken the fever in some sudden, violent way, and is out of his head. I must humor him till some one comes”; in pursuance of which swift determination, I tried to say, quite composedly,–

“I will be still and hear you; but open the window. Why did you shut it?”

“I’m sorry I can’t do it, Ma’am; but yer’d jump out, or call, if I did, an’ I’m not ready yet. I shut it to make yer sleep, an’ heat would do it quicker’n anything else I could do.”

The captain moved, and feebly muttered, “Water!” Instinctively I rose to give it to him, but the heavy hand came down upon my shoulder, and in the same decided tone Robert said,-=

“The water went with the physic; let him call.”

“Do let me go to him! he’ll die without care!”

“I mean he shall;–don’t yer interfere, if yer please, Ma’am.”

In spite of his quiet tone and respectful manner, I saw murder in his eyes, and turned faint with fear; yet the fear excited me, and, hardly knowing what I did, I seized the hands that had seized me, crying,–

“No, no, you shall not kill him! it is base to hurt a helpless man. Why do you hate him? He is not your master?”

“He’s my brother.”

I felt that answer from head to foot. and seemed to fathom what was coming, with a prescience vague, but unmistakable. One appeal was left to me, and I made it.

“Robert, tell me what it means? Do not commit a crime and make me accessory to it– There is a better way of righting wrong than by violence;–let me help you find it.”

My voice trembled as I spoke, and I heard the frightened flutter of my heart; so did he, and if any little act of mine had ever won affection or respect from him, the memory of it served me then. He looked down, and seemed to put some question to himself; whatever it was, the answer was in my favor, for when his eyes rose again, they were gloomy, but not desperate.

“I will tell you, Ma’am; but mind, this makes no difference; the boy is mine. I’ll give the Lord a chance to take him fust; if He don’t, I shall.”

“Oh, no! remember, he is your brother.”

An unwise speech; I felt it as it passed my lips, for a black frown gathered on Robert’s face, and his strong hands closed with an ugly sort of grip. But he did not touch the poor soul gasping there before him, and seemed content to let the slow suffocation of that stifling room end his frail life.

“I’m not like to forget that, Ma’am, when I’ve been thinkin’ of it all this week. I knew him when they fetched him in, an’ would ‘a’ done it long ‘fore this, but I wanted to ask where Lucy was; he knows,–he told to-night,–an’ now he’s done for.”

“Who is Lucy?” I asked hurriedly, intent on keeping his mind busy with any thought but murder.

With one of the swift transitions of a mixed temperament like this, at my question Robert’s deep eyes filled, the clenched hands were spread before his face, and all I heard were the broken words,–

“My wife,–he took her–“

In that instant every thought of fear was swallowed up in burning indignation for the wrong, and a perfect passion of pity for the desperate man so tempted to avenge an injury for which there seemed no redress but this. He was no longer slave or contraband, no drop of black blood marred him in my sight, but an infinite compassion yearned to save, to help, to comfort him. Words seemed so powerless I offered none, only put my hand on his poor head, wounded, homeless, bowed down with grief for which I had no cure, and softly smoothed the long neglected hair, pitifully wondering the while where was the wife who must have loved this tender-hearted man so well.

The captain moaned again, and faintly whispered, “Air!” but I never stirred. God forgive me! just then I hated him as only a woman thinking of a sister woman’s wrong could hate. Robert looked up; his eyes were dry again, his mouth grim. I saw that, said, “Tell me more,” and he did,–for sympathy is a gift the poorest may give, the proudest stoop to receive.

“Yer see, Ma’am, his father,–I might say ours, if I warn’t ashamed of both of ’em,–his father died two years ago, an’ left us all to Marster Ned,–that’s him here, eighteen then. He always hated me, I looked so like old Marster: he don’t–only the light skin an’ hair. Old Marster was kind to all of us, me ‘specially, an’ bought Lucy off the next plantation down there in South Car’lina, when he found I liked her. I married her, all I could, Ma’am; it warn’t much, but we was true to one another till Marster Ned come home a year after an’ made hell fer both of us. He sent my old mother to be used up in his rice swamp in Georgy; he found me with my pretty Lucy, an’ though young Miss cried, an’ I prayed to him on my knees, an’ Lucy run away, he wouldn’t have no mercy; he brought her back, an’–took her, Ma’am.”

“Oh! what did you do?” I cried, hot with helpless pain and passion.

How the man’s outraged heart sent the blood flaming up into his face and deepened the tones of his impetuous voice, as he stretched his arm across the bed, saying, with a terribly expressive gesture,–

“I half murdered him, an’ to-night I’ll finish.”

“Yes, yes,–but go on now; what came next?”

He gave me a look that showed no white man could have felt a deeper degradation in remembering and confessing these last acts of brotherly
oppression.

“They whipped me till I couldn’t stand, an’ then they sold me further South. Yer thought I was a white man once;–look here!”

With a sudden wrench he tore the shirt from neck to waist, and on his strong brown shoulders showed me furrows deeply ploughed, wounds which, though healed, were ghastlier to me than any in that house. I could not speak to him, and, with the pathetic dignity a great grief lends the humblest sufferer, he ended his brief tragedy by simply saying,–

“That’s all. Ma’am. I’ve never seen her since, an’ now I never shall in this world,–maybe not in t’ other.”

“But, Robert, why think her dead? The captain was wandering when he said those sad things; perhaps he will retract them when he is sane. Don’t despair; don’t give up yet.”

“No, Ma’am, I guess he’s right; she was too proud to bear that long. It’s like her to kill herself. I told her to, if there was no other way; an’ she always minded me, Lucy did. My poor girl! Oh, it warn’t right! No, by God, it warn’t!”

As the memory of this bitter wrong, this double bereavement, burned in his sore heart, the devil that lurks in every strong man’s blood leaped up; he put his hand upon his brother’s throat, and, watching the white face before him, muttered low between his teeth,–

“I’m lettin’ him go too easy; there’s no pain in this; we a’n’t even yet. I wish he knew me. Marster Ned! it’s Bob; where’s Lucy?”

From the captain’s lips there came a long faint sigh, and nothing but a flutter of the eyelids showed that he still lived. A strange stillness filled the room as the elder brother held the younger’s life suspended in his hand, while wavering between a dim hope and a deadly hate. In the whirl of thoughts that went on in my brain, only one was clear enough to act upon. I must prevent murder, if I could,–but how? What could I do up there alone, locked in with a dying man and a lunatic?–for any mind yielded utterly to any unrighteous impulse is mad while the impulse rules it. Strength I had not, nor much
courage, neither time nor wit for stratagem, and chance only could bring me help before it was too late. But one weapon I possessed,–a tongue, –often a woman’s best defence: and sympathy, stronger than fear, gave me power to use it. What I said Heaven only knows, but surely Heaven helped me; words burned on my lips, tears streamed from my eyes, and some good angel prompted me to use the one name that had power to arrest my hearer’s hand and touch his heart. For at that moment I heartily believed that Lucy lived, and this earnest faith roused in him a like belief.

He listened with the lowering look of one in whom brute instinct was sovereign for the time,– a look that makes the noblest countenance base. He was but a man,–a poor, untaught, outcast, outraged man. Life had few joys for him; the world offered him no honors, no success, no home, no love. What future would this crime mar? and why should he deny himself that sweet, yet bitter morsel called revenge? How many white men, with all New England’s freedom, culture, Christianity, would not have felt as he felt then?
Should I have reproached him for a human anguish, a human longing for redress, all now left him from the ruin of his few poor hopes? Who had taught him that self-control, self-sacrifice, are attributes that make men masters of the earth and lift them nearer heaven? Should I have urged the beauty of forgiveness, the duty of devout submission? He had no religion, for he was no saintly “Uncle Tom,” and Slavery’s black shadow seemed to darken all the world to him and shut out God. Should I have warned him of penalties, of judgments, and the potency of law? What did he know of justice, or the mercy that should temper that stern virtue, when every law, human and divine, had been broken on his hearthstone? Should I have tried to touch him by appeals to filial duty, to brotherly love? How had his appeals been answered? What memories had father and brother stored up in his heart to plead for either now? No,–all these influences, these associations, would have proved worse than useless, had I been calm enough to try them. I was not; but instinct, subtler than reason, showed me the one safe clue by which to lead this troubled soul from the labyrinth in which it groped and nearly fell. When I paused, breathless, Robert turned to me, asking, as if human assurances could strengthen his faith in Divine Omnipotence,–

“Do you believe, if I let Marster Ned live, the Lord will give me back my Lucy?”

“As surely as there is a Lord, you will find her here or in the beautiful hereafter, where there is no black or white, no master and no slave.”

He took his hand from his brother’s throat, lifted his eyes from my face to the wintry sky beyond, as if searching for that blessed country, happier even than the happy North. Alas, it was the darkest hour before the dawn!–there was no star above, no light below but the pale glimmer of the lamp that showed the brother who had made him desolate. Like a blind man who believes there is a sun, yet cannot see it, he shook his head, let his arms drop nervously upon his knees, and sat there dumbly asking that question which many a soul whose faith is firmer fixed than his has asked in hours less dark than this,–

“Where is God?” I saw the tide had turned, and strenuously tried to keep this rudderless lifeboat from slipping back into the whirlpool wherein it had been so nearly lost.

“I have listened to you, Robert; now hear me, and heed what I say, because my heart is full of pity for you, full of hope for your future, and a desire to help you now. I want you to go away from here, from the temptation of this place, and the sad thoughts that haunt it. You have conquered yourself once, and I honor you for it, because, the harder the battle, the more glorious the victory; but it is safer to put a greater distance between you and this man. I will write you letters, give you money, and send you to good old Massachusetts to begin your new life a freeman, –yes, and a happy man; for when the captain is himself again, I will learn where Lucy is, and move heaven and earth to find and give her back to you. Will you do this, Robert?”

Slowly, very slowly, the answer came; for the purpose of a week, perhaps a year, was hard to relinquish in an hour.

“Yes, Ma’am, I will.”

“Good! Now you are the man I thought you, and I’ll work for you with all my heart. You need sleep, my poor fellow; go, and try to forget. The captain is still alive, and as yet you are spared the sin. No, don’t look there; I’ll care for him. Come, Robert, for Lucy’s sake.”

Thank Heaven for the immortality of love! for when all other means of salvation failed, a spark of this vital fire softened the man’s iron will until a woman’s hand could bend it. He let me take from him the key, let me draw him gently away and lead him to the solitude which now was the most healing balm I could bestow. Once in his little room, he fell down on his bed and lay there as if spent with the sharpest conflict of his life. I slipped the bolt across his door, and unlocked my own, flung up the window, steadied myself with a breath of air, then rushed to Doctor Franck. He came; and till dawn we worked together, saving one brother’s life, and taking earnest thought how best to secure the other’s liberty. When the sun came up as blithely as if it shone only upon happy homes, the Doctor went to Robert. For an hour I heard the murmur of their voices; once I caught the sound of heavy sobs, and for a time a reverent hush, as if in the silence that good man were ministering to soul as well as sense. When he departed he took Robert with him, pausing to tell me he should get him off as soon as possible, but not before we met again.

Nothing more was seen of them all day; another surgeon came to see the captain, and another attendant came to fill the empty place. I tried to rest, but could not, with the thought of poor Lucy tugging at my heart, and was soon back at my post again, anxiously hoping that my contraband had not been too hastily spirited away. Just as night fell there came a tap, and opening, I saw Robert literally “clothed and in his right mind.” The Doctor had replaced the ragged suit with tidy garments, and no trace of that tempestuous night remained but deeper lines upon the forehead, and the docile look of a repentant child. He did not cross the threshold, did not offer me his hand, –only took off his cap, saying, with a traitorous falter in his voice,–

“God bless you, Ma’am! I’m goin’.”

I put out both my hands, and held his fast.

“Good-bye, Robert! Keep up good heart, and when I come home to Massachusetts we’ll meet in a happier place than this. Are you quite ready, quite comfortable for your journey?

“Yes, Ma’am, Yes; the Doctor’s fixed everything; I’m goin’ with a friend of his; my papers are all right, an’ I’m as happy as I can be till I find,–“

He stopped there; then went on, with a glance into the room,–

“I’m glad I didn’t do it, an’ I thank yer, Ma’am, fer hinderin’ me,–thank yer hearty; but I’m afraid I hate him jest the same.”

Of course he did; and so did I; for these faulty hearts of ours cannot turn perfect in a night, but need frost and fire, wind and rain, to ripen and make them ready for the great harvest-home. Wishing to divert his mind, I put my poor mite into his hand, and, remembering the magic of a certain little book, I gave him mine, on whose dark cover whitely shone the Virgin Mother and the Child, the grand history of whose life the book contained. The money went into Robert’s pocket with a grateful murmur, the book into his bosom with a long took and a tremulous–

“I never saw my baby, Ma’am.”

I broke down then; and though my eyes were too dim to see, I felt the touch of lips upon my hands, heard the sound of departing feet, and knew my contraband was gone.

When one feels an intense dislike, the less one says about the subject of it the better; therefore I shall merely record that the captain lived,–in time was exchanged; and that, whoever the other party was, I am convinced the Government got the best of the bargain. But long before this occurred, I had fulfilled my promise to Robert; for as soon as my patient recovered strength of memory enough to make his answer trustworthy, I asked, without any circumlocution,–

“Captain Fairfax, where is Lucy?”

And too feeble to be angry, surprised, or insincere, he straightway answered,–

“Dead, Miss Dane.”

“And she killed herself, when you sold Bob?”

“How the Devil did you know that?” he muttered, with an expression half-remorseful, half-amazed; but I was satisfied, and said no more.

Of course, this went to Robert, waiting far away there in a lonely home,–waiting, working, hoping for his Lucy. It almost broke my heart to do it; but delay was weak, deceit was wicked; so I sent the heavy tidings. and very soon the answer came,–only three lines; but I felt that the sustaining power of the man’s life was gone.

“I thought I’d never see her any more; I’m glad to know she’s out of trouble. I thank yer, Ma’am; an’ if they let us, I’ll fight fer yer till I’m killed. which I hope will be ‘fore long.”

Six months later he had his wish, and kept his word.

Every one knows the story of the attack on Fort Wagner; but we should not tire yet of recalling how our Fifty-Fourth, spent with three sleepless nights, a day’s fast, and a march under the July sun, stormed the fort as night fell, facing death in many shapes, following their brave leaders through a fiery rain of shot and shell, fighting valiantly for God and Governor Andrew,”– how the regiment that went into action seven hundred strong came out having had nearly half its number captured, killed, or wounded, leaving their young commander to be buried, like a chief of earlier times, with his body-guard around him, faithful to the death. Surely, the insult turns to honor, and the wide grave needs no monument but the heroism that consecrates it in our sight; surely, the hearts that held him nearest see through their tears a noble victory in the seeming sad defeat; and surely, God’s benediction was bestowed, when this loyal soul answered, as Death called the roll, “Lord, here I am, with the brothers Thou hast given me!”

The future must show how well that fight was fought; for though Fort Wagner still defies us, public prejudice is down; and through the cannon smoke of that black night the manhood of the colored race shines before many eyes that would not see, rings in many ears that would not hear, wins many hearts that would not hitherto believe.

When the news came that we were needed, there was none so glad as I to leave teaching contrabands, the new work I had taken up, and go to nurse “our boys,” as my dusky flock so proudly called the wounded of the Fifty-Fourth. Feeling more satisfaction, as I assumed my big apron and turned up my cuffs, than if dressing for the President’s levee, I fell to work on board the hospital-ship in Hilton-Head harbor. The scene was most familiar, and yet strange; for only dark faces looked up at me from the pallets so thickly laid along the floor, and I missed the sharp accent of my Yankee boys in the slower, softer voices calling cheerily to one another, or answering my questions with a stout, “We’ll never give it up, Ma’am, till the last Reb’s dead,” or, “If our people’s free, we can afford to die.”

Passing from bed to bed, intent on making one pair of hands do the work of three, at least, I gradually washed, fed, and bandaged my way down the long line of sable heroes, and coming to the very last, found that he was my contraband. So old, so worn, so deathly weak and wan, I never should have known him but for the deep scar on his cheek. That side lay uppermost, and caught my eye at once; but even then I doubted, such an awful change had come upon him, when, turning to the ticket just above his head, I saw the name, “Robert Dane.” That both assured and touched me, for, remembering that he had no name, I knew that he had taken mine. I longed for him to speak to me, to tell how he had fared since I lost sight of him, and let me perform some little service for him in return for many he had done for me; but he seemed asleep; and as I stood re-living that strange night again, a bright lad, who lay next him softly waving an old fan across both beds, looked up and said,–

“I guess you know him, Ma’am?”

“You are right. Do you?”

“As much as any one was able to, Ma’am.”

“Why do you say ‘was,’ as if the man were dead and gone?”

“I s’pose because I know he’ll have to go. He’s got a bad jab in the breast, an’ is bleedin’ inside, the Doctor says. He don’t suffer any, only gets weaker ‘n’ weaker every minute. I’ve been fannin’ him this long while, an’ he’s talked a little; but he don’t know me now, so he’s most gone, I guess.”

There was so much sorrow and affection in the boy’s face, that I remembered something, and asked, with redoubled interest,–

Are you the one that brought him off? I was told about a boy who nearly lost his life in saving that of his mate.”

I dare say the young fellow blushed, as any modest lad might have done; I could not see it, but I heard the chuckle of satisfaction that escaped him, as he glanced from his shattered arm and bandaged side to the pale figure opposite.

“Lord, Ma’am, that’s nothin’; we boys always stan’ by one another, an’ I warn’t goin’ to leave him to be tormented any more by them cussed Rebs. He’s been a slave once, though he don’t look half so much like it as me, an’ was born in Boston.”

He did not; for the speaker was as black as the ace of spades,–being a sturdy specimen, the knave of clubs would perhaps be a fitter representative,– but the dark freeman looked at the white slave with the pitiful, yet puzzled expression I have so often seen on the faces of our wisest men, when this tangled question of Slavery presents itself, asking to be cut or patiently undone.

“Tell me what you know of this man; for, even if he were awake, he is too weak to talk.”

“I never saw him till I joined the regiment, an’ no one ‘peared to have got much out of him. He was a shut-up sort of feller, an’ didn’t seem to care for anything but gettin’ at the Rebs. Some say he was the fust man of us that enlisted; I know he fretted till we were off, an’ when we pitched into old Wagner, he fought like the Devil.”

“Were you with him when he was wounded? How was it?”

“Yes, Ma’am. There was somethin’ queer about it; for he ‘peared to know the chap that killed him, an’ the chap knew him. I don’t dare to ask, but I rather guess one owned the other some time,–for, when they clinched, the chap sung out, ‘Bob!’ an’ Dane, ‘Marster Ned! then they went at it.”

I sat down suddenly, for the old anger and compassion struggled in my heart, and I both longed and feared to hear what was to follow.

“You see, when the Colonel–Lord keep an’ send him back to us!–it a’n’t certain yet, you know, Ma’am, though it’s two days ago we lost him–well, when the Colonel shouted, ‘Rush on. boys, rush on!’ Dane tore away as if he was goin’ to take the fort alone; I was next him, an’ kept close as we went through the ditch an’ up the wall. Hi! warn’t that a rusher!” and the boy flung up his well arm with a whoop, as if the mere memory of that stirring moment came over him in a gust of irrepressible excitement.

“Were you afraid?” I said,–asking the question women often put, and receiving the answer they seldom fail to get.

“No, Ma’am!”– emphasis on the “Ma’am,” –“I never thought of anything but the damn Rebs, that scalp, slash, an’ cut our ears off, when they git us. I was bound to let daylight into one of ’em at least, an’ I did. Hope he liked it!”

“It is evident that you did, and I don’t blame you in the least. Now go on about Robert, for I should be at work.”

“He was one of the fust up; I was just behind, an’ though the whole thing happened in a minute. I remember how it was, for all I was yellin’ an’ knockin’ round like mad. Just where we were, some sort of an officer was wavin’ his sword an’ cheerin’ on his men; Dane saw him by a big flash that come by; he flung away his gun, give a leap, an’ went at that feller as if he was Jeff, Beauregard, an’ Lee, all in one. I scrabbled after as quick as I could, but was only up in time to see him git the sword straight through him an’ drop into the ditch. You needn’t ask what I did next, Ma’am, for I don’t quite know myself; all I ‘m clear about is, that I managed somehow to pitch that Reb into the fort as dead as Moses, git hold of Dane, an’ bring him off. Poor old feller! we said we went in to live or die; he said he went in to die, an’ he ‘s done it.”

I had been intently watching the excited speaker; but as he regretfully added those last words I turned again, and Robert’s eyes met mine, –those melancholy eyes, so full of an intelligence that proved he had heard, remembered, and reflected with that preternatural power which often outlives all other faculties. He knew me, yet gave no greeting; was glad to see a woman’s face, yet had no smile wherewith to welcome it; felt that he was dying, yet uttered no farewell. He was too far across the river to return or linger now; departing thought, strength, breath, were spent in one grateful look, one murmur of submission to the last pang he could ever feel. His lips moved, and, bending to them, a whisper chilled my cheek, as it shaped the broken words,–

“I would have done it,–but it ‘s better so,– I’m satisfied.”

Ah! well he might be,–for, as he turned his face from the shadow of the life that was, the sunshine of the life to be touched it with a beautiful content, and in the drawing of a breath my contraband found wife and home, eternal liberty and God.

NELLY’S HOSPITAL

Nelly sat beside her mother picking lint; but while her fingers flew, her eyes often looked wistfully out into the meadow, golden with buttercups, and bright with sunshine. Presently she said, rather bashfully, but very earnestly, “Mamma, I want to tell you a little plan I’ve made, if you’ll please not laugh.”

I think I can safely promise that, my dear,” said her mother, putting down her work that she might listen quite respectfully.

Nelly looked pleased, and went on confidingly,

“Since brother Will came home with his lame foot, and I’ve helped you tend him, I’ve heard a great deal about hospitals, and liked it very much. To-day I said I wanted to go and be a nurse, like Aunt Mercy; but Will laughed, and told me I’d better begin by nursing sick birds and butterflies and pussies before I tried to take care of men. I did not like to be made fun of, but I’ve been thinking that it would be very pleasant to have a little hospital all my own, and be a nurse in it, because, if I took pains, so many pretty creatures might be made well, perhaps. Could I, mamma?”

Her mother wanted to smile at the idea, but did not, for Nelly looked up with her heart and eyes so full of tender compassion, both for the unknown men for whom her little hands had done their best, and for the smaller sufferers nearer home, that she stroked the shining head, and answered readily: “Yes, Nelly, it will be a proper charity for such a young Samaritan, and you may learn much if you are in earnest. You must study how to feed and nurse your little patients, else your pity will do no good, and your hospital become a prison. I will help you, and Tony shall be your surgeon.”

“O mamma, how good you always are to me! Indeed, I am in truly earnest; I will learn, I will be kind, and may I go now and begin?”

“You may, but tell me first where will you have your hospital?”

“In my room, mamma; it is so snug and sunny, and I never should forget it there,” said Nelly.

“You must not forget it anywhere. I think that plan will not do. How would you like to find caterpillars walking in your bed, to hear sick pussies mewing in the night, to have beetles clinging to your clothes, or see mice, bugs, and birds tumbling downstairs whenever the door was open?” said her mother.

Nelly laughed at that thought a minute, then clapped her hands, and cried: “Let us have the old summer-house! My doves only use the upper part, and it would be so like Frank in the storybook. Please say yes again, mamma.”

Her mother did say yes, and, snatching up her hat, Nelly ran to find Tony, the gardener’s son, a pleasant lad of twelve, who was Nelly’s favorite playmate. Tony pronounced the plan a “jolly” one, and, leaving his work, followed his young mistress to the summer-house, for she could not wait one minute.

“What must we do first?” she asked, as they stood looking in at the dusty room, full of garden tools, bags of seeds, old flower-pots, and watering-cans.

“Clear out the rubbish, miss,” answered Tony.

“Here it goes, then,” and Nelly began bundling everything out in such haste that she broke two flower-pots, scattered all the squash-seeds, and brought a pile of rakes and hoes clattering down about her ears.

“Just wait a bit, and let me take the lead, miss. You hand me things, I’ll pile ’em in the barrow and wheel ’em off to the barn; then it will save time, and be finished up tidy.”

Nelly did as he advised, and very soon nothing but dust remained.

“What next?” she asked, not knowing in the least.

“I’ll sweep up while you see if Polly can come and scrub the room out. It ought to be done before you stay here, let alone the patients.”

“So it had,” said Nelly, looking very wise all of a sudden. “Will says the wards–that means the rooms, Tony–are scrubbed every day or two, and kept very clean, and well venti-some- thing–I can’t say it; but it means having a plenty of air come in. I can clean windows while Polly mops, and then we shall soon be done.”
Away she ran, feeling very busy and important. Polly came, and very soon the room looked like another place. The four latticed windows were set wide open, so the sunshine came dancing through the vines that grew outside, and curious roses peeped in to see what frolic was afoot. The walls shone white again, for not a spider dared to stay; the wide seat which encircled the room was dustless now,–the floor as nice as willing hands could make it; and the south wind blew away all musty odors with its fragrant breath. ” How fine it looks! ” cried Nelly, dancing on the doorstep, lest a foot-print should mar the still damp floor.

“I’d almost like to fall sick for the sake of staying here,” said Tony, admiringly. “Now, what sort of beds are you going to have, miss?

“I suppose it won’t do to put butterflies and toads and worms into beds like the real soldiers where Will was?” answered Nelly, looking anxious.

Tony could hardly help shouting at the idea; but, rather than trouble his little mistress, he said very soberly: “I’m afraid they wouldn’t lay easy, not being used to it. Tucking up a butterfly would about kill him; the worms would be apt to get lost among the bed-clothes; and the toads would tumble out the first thing.”

“I shall have to ask mamma about it. What will you do while I’m gone?” said Nelly, unwilling that a moment should be lost.

“I’ll make frames for nettings to the windows, else the doves will come in and eat up the sick people.

“I think they will know that it is a hospital, and be too kind to hurt or frighten their neighbors,” began Nelly; but as she spoke, a plump white dove walked in, looked about with its red-ringed eyes, and quietly pecked up a tiny bug that had just ventured out from the crack where it had taken refuge when the deluge came.

“Yes, we must have the nettings. I’ll ask mamma for some lace,” said Nelly, when she saw that; and, taking her pet dove on her shoulder, told it about her hospital as she went toward the house; for, loving all little creatures as she did, it grieved her to have any harm befall even the least or plainest of them. She had a sweet child-fancy that her playmates understood her language as she did theirs, and that birds, flowers, animals, and insects felt for her the same affection which she felt for them. Love always makes friends, and nothing seemed to fear the gentle child; but welcomed her like a little sun who shone alike on all, and never suffered an eclipse.

She was gone some time, and when she came back her mind was full of new plans, one hand full of rushes, the other of books, while over her head floated the lace, and a bright green ribbon hung across her arm.

“Mamma says that the best beds will be little baskets, boxes, cages, and any sort of thing that suits the patients; for each will need different care and food and medicine. I have not baskets enough, so, as I cannot have pretty white beds, I am going to braid pretty green nests for my patients, and, while I do it, mamma thought you’d read to me the pages she has marked, so that we may begin right.”

“Yes, miss; I like that. But what is the ribbon for?” asked Tony.

“O, that’s for you. Will says that, if you are to be an army surgeon, you must have a green band on your arm; so I got this to tie on when we play hospital.”

Tony let her decorate the sleeve of his gray jacket, and when the nettings were done, the welcome books were opened and enjoyed. It was a happy time, sitting in the sunshine, with leaves pleasantly astir all about them, doves cooing overhead, and flowers sweetly gossiping together through the summer afternoon. Nelly wove her smooth, green rushes. Tony pored over his pages, and both found something better than fairy legends in the family histories of insects, birds, and beasts. All manner of wonders appeared, and were explained to them, till Nelly felt as if a new world had been given her, so full of beauty, interest, and pleasure that she never could be tired of studying it. Many of these things were not strange to Tony, because, born among plants, he had grown up with them as if they were brothers and sisters, and the sturdy, brown-faced boy had learned many lessons which no poet or philosopher could have taught him, unless he had become as child-like a s himself, and studied from the same great book.

When the baskets were done, the marked pages all read, and the sun began to draw his rosy curtains round him before smiling “Good night,” Nelly ranged the green beds round the room, Tony put in the screens, and the hospital was ready. The little nurse was so excited that she could hardly eat her supper, and directly afterwards ran up to tell Will how well she had succeeded with the first part of her enterprise. Now brother Will was a brave young officer, who had fought stoutly and done his duty like a man. But when lying weak and wounded at home, the cheerful courage which had led him safely through many dangers seemed to have deserted him, and he was often gloomy, sad, or fretful, because he longed to be at his post again, and time passed very slowly. This troubled his mother, and made Nelly wonder why he found lying in a pleasant room so much harder than fighting battles or making weary marches. Anything that interested and amused him was very welcome, and when Nelly, climbing on the arm of his sofa, told her plans, mishaps, and successes, he laughed out more heartily than he had done for many a day, and his thin face began to twinkle with fun as it used to do so long ago. That pleased Nelly, and she chatted like any affectionate little magpie, till Will was really interested; for when one is ill, small things amuse.

“Do you expect your patients to come to you, Nelly?” he asked.

“No, I shall go and look for them. I often see poor things suffering in the garden, and the wood, and always feel as if they ought to be taken care of, as people are.”

“You won’t like to carry insane bugs, lame toads, and convulsive kittens in your hands, and they would not stay on a stretcher if you had one. You should have an ambulance and be a branch of the Sanitary Commission,” said Will.

Nelly had often heard the words, but did not quite understand what they meant. So Will told her of that great never-failing charity, to which thousands owe their lives; and the child listened with lips apart, eyes often full, and so much love and admiration in her heart that she could find no words in which to tell it. When her brother paused, she said earnestly: “Yes, I will be a Sanitary. This little cart of mine shall be my amb’lance, and I’ll never let my water-barrels go empty, never drive too fast, or be rough with my poor passengers, like some of the men you tell about. Does this look like an ambulance, Will?”

“Not a bit, but it shall, if you and mamma like to help me. I want four long bits of cane, a square of white cloth, some pieces of thin wood, and the gum-pot,” said Will, sitting up to examine the little cart, feeling like a boy again as he took out his knife and began to whittle. Upstairs and downstairs ran Nelly till all necessary materials were collected, and almost breathlessly she watched her brother arch the canes over the cart, cover them with the cloth, and fit an upper shelf of small compartments, each lined with cotton-wool to serve as beds for wounded insects, lest they should hurt one another or jostle out. The lower part was left free for any larger creatures which Nelly might find. Among her toys she bad a tiny cask which only needed a peg to be water-tight; this was filled and fitted in before, because, as the small sufferers needed no seats, there was no place for it behind, and, as Nelly was both horse and driver, it was more convenient in front. On each side of it stood a box of stores. In one were minute rollers, as bandages are called, a few bottles not yet filled, and a wee doll’s jar of cold-cream, because Nelly could not feel that her outfit was complete without a medicine-chest. The other box was full of crumbs, bits of sugar, bird-seed, and grains of wheat and corn, lest any famished stranger should die for want of food before she got it home. Then mamma painted “U.S. San. Com.” in bright letters on the cover, and Nelly received her charitable plaything with a long sigh of satisfaction.

“Nine o’clock already. Bless me, what a short evening this has been,” exclaimed Will, as Nelly came to give him her good-night kiss.

“And such a happy one,” she answered.

“Thank you very, very much, dear Will. I only wish my little amb’lance was big enough for you to go in,–I’d so like to give you the first ride.”

“Nothing I should like better, if it were possible, though I’ve a prejudice against ambulances in general. But as I cannot ride, I’ll try and hop out to your hospital to-morrow, and see how you get on,”–which was a great deal for Captain Will to say, because he had been too listless to leave his sofa for several days.

That promise sent Nelly happily away to bed, only stopping to pop her head out of the window to see if it was likely to be a fair day to-morrow, and to tell Tony about the new plan as he passed below.

“Where shall you go to look for your first load of sick folks, miss?” he asked.

“All round the garden first, then through the grove, and home across the brook. Do you think I can find any patients so? ” said Nelly.

“I know you will. Good night, miss,” and Tony walked away with a merry look on his face, that Nelly would not have understood if she had seen it.

Up rose the sun bright and early, and up rose Nurse Nelly almost as early and as bright. Breakfast was taken in a great hurry, and before the dew was off the grass this branch of the S. C. was all astir. Papa, mamma, big brother and baby sister, men and maids, all looked out to see the funny little ambulance depart, and nowhere in all the summer fields was there a happier child than Nelly, as she went smiling down the garden path, where tall flowers kissed her as she passed and every blithe bird seemed singing a “Good speed!”

“How I wonder what I shall find first,” she thought, looking sharply on all sides as she went. Crickets chirped, grasshoppers leaped, ants worked busily at their subterranean houses, spiders spun shining webs from twig to twig, bees were coming for their bags of gold, and butterflies had just begun their holiday. A large white one alighted on the top of the ambulance, walked over the inscription as if spelling it letter by letter, then floated away from flower to flower, like one carrying the good news far and wide.

“Now every one will know about the hospital and be glad to see me coming,” thought Nelly. And indeed it seemed so, for just then a black- bird, sitting on a garden wall, burst out with a song full of musical joy, Nelly’s kitten came running after to stare at the wagon and rub her soft side against it, a bright-eyed toad looked out from his cool bower among the lily-leaves, and at that minute Nelly found her first patient. In one of the dewy cobwebs hanging from a shrub near by sat a fat black and yellow spider, watching a fly whose delicate wings were just caught in the net. The poor fly buzzed pitifully, and struggled so hard that the whole web shook: but the more he struggled, the more he entangled himself, and the fierce spider was preparing to descend that it might weave a shroud about its prey, when a little finger broke the threads and lifted the fly safely into the palm of a hand, where he lay faintly humming his thanks.

Nelly had heard much about contrabands, knew who they were, and was very much interested in them; so, when she freed the poor black
fly she played he was her contraband, and felt glad that her first patient was one that needed help so much. Carefully brushing away as much of the web as she could, she left small Pompey, as she named him, to free his own legs, lest her clumsy fingers should hurt him; then she laid him in one of the soft beds with a grain or two of sugar if he needed refreshment, and bade him rest and recover from his fright, remembering that he was at liberty to fly away whenever he liked, because she had no wish to male a slave of him.

Feeling very happy over this new friend, Nelly went on singing softly as she walked, and presently she found a pretty caterpillar dressed in brown fur, although the day was warm. He lay so still she thought him dead, till he rolled himself into a ball as she touched him.

“I think you are either faint from the heat of this thick coat of yours, or that you are going to make a cocoon of yourself, Mr. Fuzz,” said Nelly.

“Now I want to see you turn into a butterfly, so I shall take you, and if get lively again I will let you go. I shall play that you have given out on a march, as the soldiers sometimes do, and been left behind for the Sanitary people to see to.”

In went sulky Mr. Fuzz, and on trundled the ambulance till a golden green rose-beetle was discovered, lying on his back kicking as if in a fit.

“Dear me, what shall I do for him?” thought Nelly. “He acts as baby did when she was so illl, and mamma put her in a warm bath. I haven’t got my little tub here, or any hot water, and I’m afraid the beetle would not like it if I had. Perhaps he has pain in his stomach; I’ll turn him over, and pat his back, as nurse does baby’s when she cries for pain like that.”

She set the beetle on his legs, and did her best to comfort him; but he was evidently in great distress, for he could not walk, and instead of lifting his emerald overcoat, and spreading the wings that lay underneath, be turned over again, and kicked more violently than before. Not knowing what to do, Nelly put him into one of her soft nests for Tony to cure if possible. She found no more patients in the garden except a dead bee, which she wrapped in a leaf, and took home to bury. When she came to the grove, it was so green and cool she longed to sit and listen to the whisper of the pines, and watch the larch-tassels wave in the wind. But, recollecting her charitable errand, she went rustling along the pleasant path till she came to another patient, over which she stood considering several minutes before she could decide whether it was best to take it to her hospital, because it was a little gray snake, with bruised tail. She knew it would not hurt her, yet she was afraid of it; she thought it pretty, yet could not like it: she pitied its pain, yet shrunk from helping it, for it had a fiery eye, and a keep quivering tongue, that looked as if longing to bite.

“He is a rebel, I wonder if I ought to be good to him,” thought Nelly, watching the reptile writhe with pain. “Will said there were sick rebels in his hospital, and one was very kind to him. It says, too, in my little book, ‘Love your enemies.’ I think snakes are mine, but I guess I’ll try and love him because God made him. Some boy will kill him if I leave him here, and then perhaps his mother will be very sad about it. Come, poor worm, I wish to help you, so be patient, and don’t frighten me.”

Then Nelly laid her little handkerchief on the ground, and with a stick gently lifted the wounded snake upon it, and, folding it together, laid it in the ambulance. She was thoughtful after that, and so busy puzzling her young head about the duty of loving those who hate us, and being kind to those who are disagreeable or unkind, that she went through the rest of the wood quite forgetful of her work. A soft “Queek,queek!” made her look up and listen. The sound came from the long meadow-grass, and, bending it carefully back, she found a half-fledged bird, with one wing trailing on the ground, and its eyes dim with pain or hunger.

“You darling thing, did you fall out of your nest and hurt your wing?” cried Nelly, looking up into the single tree that stood near by. No nest was to be seen, no parent birds hovered overhead, and little Robin could only tell its troubles in that mournful “Queek, queek, queek!”

Nelly ran to get both her chests, and, sitting down beside the bird, tried to feed it. To her joy it ate crumb after crumb, as if it were half starved, and soon fluttered nearer a confiding fearlessness that made her very proud. Soon baby Robin seemed quite comfortable, his eye brightened, he “queeked” no more, and but for the drooping wing would have been himself again. With one of her bandages Nelly bound both wings closely to his sides for fear he should hurt himself by trying to fly; and though he seemed amazed at her proceedings, he behaved very well, only staring at her, and ruffling up his few feathers in a funny way that made her laugh. Then she had to discover some way of accommodating her two larger patients so that neither should hurt nor alarm the other. A bright thought came to her after much pondering. Carefully lifting the handkerchief, she pinned the two ends to the roof of the cart, and there swung little Forked- tongue, while Rob lay easily below.

By this time, Nelly began to wonder how it happened that she found so many more injured things than ever before. But it never entered her innocent head that Tony had searched the wood and meadow before she was up, and laid most of these creatures ready to her hands, that she might not be disappointed. She had not yet lost her faith in fairies, so she fancied they too belonged to her small sisterhood, and presently it did really seem impossible to doubt that the good folk had been at work.

Coming to the bridge that crossed the brook, she stopped a moment to watch the water ripple over the bright pebbles, the ferns bend down to drink, and the funny tadpoles frolic in quieter nooks, where the sun shone, and the dragon-flies swung among the rushes. When Nelly turned to go on, her blue eyes opened wide. and the handle of the ambulance dropped with a noise that caused a stout frog to skip into the water heels over head. Directly in the middle of the bridge was a pretty green tent, made of two tall burdock leaves. The stems were stuck into cracks between the boards, the tips were pinned together with a thorn, and one great buttercup nodded in the doorway like a sleepy sentinel. Nelly stared and smiled, listened, and looked about on every side. Nothing was seen but the quiet meadow and the shady
grove, nothing was heard but the babble of the brook and the cheery music of the bobolinks.

“Yes,” said Nelly softly to herself, “that is a fairy tent, and in it I may find a baby elf sick with whooping-cough or scarlet-fever. How splendid it would be! only I could never nurse such a dainty thing.”

Stooping eagerly, she peeped over the buttercup’s drowsy head, and saw what seemed a tiny
cock of hay. She had no time to feel disappointed, for the haycock began to stir, and, looking nearer, she beheld two silvery gray mites, who wagged wee tails, and stretched themselves as if they had just waked up. Nelly knew that they were young field-mice, and rejoiced over them, feeling rather relieved that no fairy had appeared, though she still believed them to have had a hand in the matter.

“I shall call the mice my Babes in the Wood, because they are lost and covered up with leaves,” said Nelly, as she laid them in her snuggest bed, where they nestled close together, and fell fast asleep again.

Being very anxious to get home, that she might tell her adventures, and show how great was the need of a sanitary commission in that region, Nelly marched proudly up the avenue, and, having displayed her load, hurried to the hospital, where another applicant was waiting for her. On the step of the door lay a large turtle, with one claw gone, and on his back was pasted a bit of paper, with his name,– Commodore Waddle, U.S.N.” Nelly knew this was a joke of Will’s, but welcomed the ancient mariner, and called Tony to help her get him in.

All that morning they were very busy settling the new-comers, for both people and books had to be consulted before they could decide what diet and treatment was best for each. The winged contraband had taken Nelly at her word, and flown away on the journey home. Little Rob was put in a large cage, where he could use his legs, yet not injure his lame wing. Forked-tongue lay under a wire cover, on sprigs of fennel, for the gardener said that snakes were fond of it. The Babes in the Wood were put to bed in one of the rush baskets, under a cotton-wool coverlet. Greenback, the beetle, found ease for his unknown aches in the warm heart of a rose, where he sunned himself all day. The Commodore was
made happy in a tub of water, grass, and stones, and Mr. Fuzz was put in a well-ventilated glass box to decide whether he would be a cocoon or not.

Tony had not been idle while his mistress was away, and he showed her the hospital garden he had made close by, in which were cabbage, nettle, and mignonette plants for the butterflies, flowering herbs for the bees, chick-weed and hemp for the birds, catnip for the pussies, and plenty of room left for whatever other patients might need. In the afternoon, while Nelly did her task at lint-picking, talking busily to Will as she worked, and interesting him in her affairs, Tony cleared a pretty spot in the grove for the burying-ground, and made ready some small bits of slate on which to write the names of those who died. He did not have it ready an hour too soon, for at sunset two little graves were needed, and Nurse Nelly shed tender tears for her first losses as she laid the motherless mice in one smooth hollow, and the gray-coated rebel in the other. She had learned to care for him already, and when she found him dead, was very glad she had been kind to him, hoping that he knew it, and died happier in her hospital than all alone in the shadowy wood.

The rest of Nelly’s patients prospered, and of the many added afterward few died, because of Tony’s skilful treatment and her own faithful care. Every morning when the day proved fair the little ambulance went out upon its charitable errand; every afternoon Nelly worked for the human sufferers whom she loved; and every evening brother Will read aloud to her from useful books, showed her wonders with his microscope, or prescribed remedies for the patients, whom he soon knew by name and took much interest in. It was Nelly’s holiday; but, though she studied no lessons, she learned much, and unconsciously made her pretty play both an example and a rebuke for others.

At first it seemed a childish pastime, and people laughed. But there was something in the familiar words “sanitary,” “hospital” and “ambulance” that made them pleasant sounds to
many ears. As reports of Nelly’s work went through the neighborhood, other children came to see and copy her design. Rough lads looked ashamed when in her wards they found harmless creatures hurt by them, and going out they said among themselves, “We won’t stone birds, chase butterflies, and drown the girls’ little cats any more, though we won’t tell them so.” And most of the lads kept their word so well that people said there never had been so many birds before as all that summer haunted wood and field. Tender- hearted playmates brought their pets to be cured; even busy farmers bad a friendly word for the small charity, which reminded them so sweetly of the great one which should never be forgotten; lonely mothers sometimes looked out with wet eyes as the little ambulance went by, recalling thoughts or absent sons who might be journeying painfully to some far-off hospital, where brave women waited to tend them with hands as willing, hearts as tender, as those the gentle child gave to her self-appointed task.

At home the charm worked also. No more idle days for Nelly, or fretful ones for Will, because the little sister would not neglect the helpless creatures so dependent upon her, and the big brother was ashamed to complain after watching the patience of these lesser sufferers, and merrily said he would try to bear his own wound as quietly and bravely as the “Commodore” bore his. Nelly never knew how much good she had done Captain Will till he went away again in the early autumn. Then he thanked her for it, and though she cried for joy and sorrow she never forgot it, because he left something behind him which always pleasantly reminded her of the double success her little hospital had won.

When Will was gone and she had prayed softly in her heart that God would keep him safe and bring him home again, she dried her tears and went away to find comfort in the place where he had spent so many happy hours with her. She had not been there before that day, and when she reached the door she stood quite still and wanted very much to cry again, far something beautiful had happened. She had often asked Will for a motto for her hospital, and he had promised to find her one. She thought he had forgotten it; but even in the hurry of that busy day he had found time to do more than keep his word, while Nelly sat indoors, lovingly brightening the tarnished buttons on the blue coat that had seen so many battles.

Above the roof, where the doves cooed in the sun, now rustled a white flag with the golden S.C.” shining on it as the wind tossed it to and fro. Below, on the smooth panel of the door, a skilful pencil had drawn two arching ferns, in whose soft shadow, poised upon a mushroom, stood a little figure of Nurse Nelly, and undeneath it another of Dr. Tony bottling medicine, with spectacles upon his nose. Both hands of the miniature Nelly were outstretched, as if beckoning to a train of insects, birds and beasts, which was so long that it not only circled round the lower rim of this fine sketch, but dwindled in the distance to mere dots and lines. Such merry conceits as one found there! A mouse bringing the tail it had lost in some cruel trap, a dor-bug with a shade over its eyes, an invalid butterfly carried in a tiny litter by long-legged spiders, a fat frog with gouty feet hopping upon crutches, Jenny Wren sobbing in a nice handkerchief, as she brought dear dead Cock Robin to be restored to life. Rabbits, lambs, cats, calves, and turtles, all came trooping up to be healed by the benevolent little maid who welcomed them so heartily.

Nelly laughed at these comical mites till the tears ran down her cheeks, and thought she never could be tired of looking at them. But presently she saw four lines clearly printed underneath her picture, ahd her childish face grew sweetly serious as she read the words of a great poet, which Will had made both compliment and motto:-

“He prayeth best who loveth best
All things, both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.”