The winter passed, and the spring came; and moved on with its sweet step of peace, as it does even when men's hearts are all at war. The echo of the battlefields of Virginias wept through the Boulevards with met often; and it thundered at home. Mamma had burst into new triumph at the news of Chancellorsville; and uttered with great earnestness her wish that Jefferson Davis might be able to execute the threat of his proclamation and hang General Butler. But for me, I got no letter; and these echoes began to sound in my ear like the distant outside rumblings of the storm to one whose hearthstone it has already swept and laid desolate. I was not desolate; yet I began to listen as one whose ears were dim with listening. I met Faustina St. Clair again with uneasiness. Not the torment of my former jealousy; but a stir of doubt and pain which I could not repress at the sight of her.
When the summer drew on, to my great pleasure we went to Switzerland again. We established ourselves quietly at Lucerne, which papa was very fond of. There we were much more quiet than we had been the fall before; Ransom having gone home now to take his share in the struggle, and our two Southern friends who had also gone, having no successors like them in our little home circle. We made not so many and not so long excursions. But papa and I had good time for our readings; and I had always a friend with whom I could take counsel, in the grand old Mont Pilatte. What a friend that mountain was to me, to be sure! When I was downhearted, and when anything made me glad; when I was weary and when I was most full of life; its grand head in the skies told me of truth and righteousness and strength; the light and colours that played and rested there, as it held, the sun's beams and gave them back to earth, were a sort of promise to me of beauty and life above and beyond this earth; yes, and of its substantial existence now, even when we do not see it. They were a little hint of what we do not see. I do not exactly know what was the language of the wreaths of vapour that robed and shrouded and then revealed the mountain, with the exquisite shiftings and changings of their gracefulness; I believe it was like, to me, the floating veil that hides God's purposes from us, yet now and then parting enough to let us see the eternal truth and unchangeableness behind it. I told all my moods to Mont Pilatte, and I think it told all its moods to me. After a human friend, there is nothing like a big mountain. And when the news of Gettysburg and Vicksburg came; and mamma grew furious; and I saw for the first time that success was truly looming up on the horizon of the North, and that my dear coloured people might indeed soon be free; that night Mont Pilatte and I shouted together.
There came no particular light on my own affairs all this time. Indeed mamma began to reproach me for what she called my disloyal and treacherous sentiments. And then, hints began to break out, very hard to bear, that I had indulged in traitorous alliances and was an unworthy child of my house. It rankled in mamma's mind, that I had not only refused the connection with one of the two powerful Southern families which had sought me the preceding year; but that I had also discouraged and repelled during the past winter several addresses which might have been made very profitable to my country as well as my own interests. For what had I rejected them all? mamma began to ask discontentedly. Papa shielded me a little; but I felt that the sky was growing dark around me with the coming storm.
One never knows, after all, where the first bolt will come from. Mine struck me all unawares, while I was looking in an opposite quarter. It is hard to write it. A day came, that I had a father in the morning, and at night, none.
It was very sudden. He had been feeble, to be sure, more than usual, for several days, but nobody apprehended anything. Towards evening he failed - suddenly; sent for me, and died in my arms, blessing me. Yes, we had been walking the same road together for some time. I was only left to go on awhile longer alone.
But Mont Pilatte said to me that night, "There remaineth a rest for the people of God." And while the moon went down and the stars slowly trooped over the head of the mountain, I heard that utterance, and those words of the hymn -
"God liveth ever: "Wherefore, soul, despair thou never."
I could go no farther. I could think no more. Kneeling at my window-sill, under the starry night, my soul held to those two things and did not loose its moorings. It is a great deal, to hold fast. It was all then I could do. And even in the remembrance now of the loneliness and desolate feeling that came upon me at that time, there is also a strong sense of the deep sweetness which I was conscious of, rather than able to taste, coming from those words and resting at the bottom of my heart.
I was in some measure drawn out of myself, almost immediately, by the illness of my mother. She fell into a nervous disordered condition, which it taxed all my powers to tend and soothe. I think it was mental rather than bodily, in the origin of it; but body and mind shared in the result, as usual. And when she got better and was able to sit up and even to go about again, she remained under the utmost despondency. Affairs were not looking well for the Southern struggle in America; and besides the mortification of her political affections, mamma was very sure that if the South could not succeed in establishing its independence, we should as a family be ruined.
"We are ruined now, Daisy," she said. "There can be nothing coming from our Magnolia estates - and our Virginia property is a mere battle ground, you know; and what have we to live upon?"
"Mamma, there will be some way," I said. "I have not thought about it."
"No, you do not think but of your own favourite speculations. I wish with all my heart you had never taken to fanatical ways. I have no comfort in you."
"What do you mean by fanaticism, mamma?"
"I will tell you!" replied mamma with energy. "The essence of fanaticism is to have your own way."
"I do not think, mamma, that I want to have my own way."
"Of course, when you have it. That is what such people always say. They don't want to have their own, way. I do not want to have mine, either."
"Is not Dr. Sandford attending to our affairs for us, mamma?"
"I do not know. Your father trusted him, unaccountably. I do not know what he is doing."
"He will certainly do anything that can be done for us, mamma; I am persuaded of that. And he knows how."
"Is it for your sake, Daisy?" mamma said suddenly, and with a glitter in her eye which boded confusion to the doctor.
"I do not know, mamma," I said quietly. "He was always very good and very kind to me."
"I suppose you are not quite a fool," she said, calming down a little. "And a Yankee doctor would hardly lose his senses enough to fall in love with you. Though I believe the Yankees are the most impudent nation upon the earth. I wish Butler could be hanged! I should like to know that was done before I die."
I fled from this turn of the talk always.
It was true, however brought about I do not know, that Dr. Sandford had been for some time kindly bestirring himself to look after our interests at home, which the distressed state of the country had of course greatly imperilled. I was not aware that papa had been at any time seriously concerned about them; however, it soon appeared that mamma had reason enough now for being ill at ease. In the South, war and war preparations had so far superseded the usual employments of men, that next to nothing could be looked for in place of the ordinary large crops and ample revenues. And Melbourne had been let, indeed, for a good rent; but there was some trouble about collecting the rent; and if collected, it belonged to Ransom. Ransom was in the Southern army, fighting no doubt his best, and mamma would not have scrupled to use his money; but Dr. Sandford scrupled to send it without authority. He urged mamma to come home, where he said she could be better taken care of than alone in distant Switzerland. He proposed that she should reoccupy Melbourne, and let him farm the ground for her until Ransom should be able to look after it. Mamma and Aunt Gary had many talks on the subject. I said as little as I could.
"It is almost as bad with me," said my aunt Gary, one of these times. "Only I do not want much."
"I do," said mamma. "And if one must live as one has not been accustomed to live, I would rather it should be where I am unknown."
"You are not unknown here, my dear sister!"
"Personally and socially. Not exactly. But I am historically unknown."
"Historically!" echoed my aunt.
"And living is cheaper here too."
"But one must have some money, even here, Felicia."
"I have jewels," said mamma.
"Your jewels! - Daisy might have prevented all this," said Aunt Gary, looking at me.
"Daisy is one of those whose religion it is to please themselves."
"But, my dear, you must be married some time," my aunt went on, appealingly.
"I do not think that is certain, Aunt Gary."
"You are not waiting for Preston, are you? I hope not; for he is likely to be as poor as you are; if he gets through the battles, poor boy!" And my aunt put her handkerchief to her eyes.
"I am not waiting for Preston," I said, "any more than he is waiting for me."
"I don't know how that is," said my aunt. "Preston was very dependent on you, Daisy; but I don't know - since he has heard these stories of you" -
"Daisy is nothing to Preston!" my mother broke in with some sharpness. "Tell him so, if he ever broaches the question to you. Cut that matter short. I have other views for Daisy, when she returns to her duty. I believe in a religion of obedience - not in a religion of independent self-will. I wish Daisy had been brought up in a convent. She would, if I had had my way. These popular religions throw over all law and order. I hate them!"
"You see, Daisy my dear, how pleasant it would be, if you could see things as your mother does," my aunt remarked.
"I am indifferent whether Daisy has my eyes or not," said mamma; "what I desire is, that she should have my will."
The talks came to nothing, ended in nothing, did nothing. My aunt Gary at the beginning of winter went back to America. My mother did as she had proposed; sold some of her jewels, and so paid her way in Switzerland for some months longer. But this could not last. Dr. Sandford urged her return; she wished also to be nearer to Ransom; and in the spring we once more embarked for home.
The winter had been exceedingly sad to me. No word from America ever reached my hands to give me any comfort; and I was alone with my sorrow. Mamma's state of mind, too, which was most uncomfortable for her, was extremely trying to me; because it consisted of regrets that I could not soothe, anxieties that I was unable to allay, and reproachful wishes that I could neither meet nor promise to meet. Constant repinings, ceaseless irritations, purposeless discussions; they wearied my heart, but I could bring no salve nor remedy unless I would have agreed to make a marriage for money. I missed all that had brought so much sweetness into even my Paris life, with my talks with papa, and readings, and sympathy, and mutual confidence. It was a weary winter, my only real earthly friend being Mont Pilatte. Except Mr. Dinwiddie. I had written to him and got one or two good, strong, kind, helpful answers. Ah, what a good thing a good letter is!
So it was great relief to quit Switzerland and find myself on the deck of the steamer, with every revolution of the paddle wheels bringing me nearer home. Nearer what had been home; all was vague and blank in the distance now. I was sure of nothing. Only, "The Lord is my Shepherd," answers all that. It cannot always stop the beating of human hearts, though; and mine beat hard sometimes, on that homeward voyage. Mamma was very dismal. I sat on deck as much as I could and watched the sea. It soothed me, with its living image of God's grand government on earth; its ceaseless majestic flow, of which the successive billows that raise their heads upon its surface are not the interruption, but the continuation. So with our little affairs, so with mine. Not for nothing does any feeblest one's fortunes rise or fall; but to work somewhat of good either to himself or to others, and so to the whole. I was pretty quiet during the voyage, while I knew that no news could reach me; I expected to keep quiet; but I did not know myself.
We had hardly entered the bay of New York, and I had begun to discern familiar objects and to realise that I was in the same land with Mr. Thorold again, when a tormenting anxiety took possession of my heart. Now that I was near him, questions could be put off no longer. What tidings would greet me? and how should I get any tidings at all? A fever began to run along my veins, which I felt was not to be cured by reasoning. Yes, I was not seeking to dispose my own affairs; I was not trying to take them into my own hands; but I craved to know how they stood, and what it was to which I must submit myself. I was not willing to submit to uncertainty. Yet I remembered I must do just that.
The vessel came to her moorings, and I sat in my muse, only conscious of that devouring impatience which possessed me; and did not see Dr. Sandford till he was close by my side. Then I was glad; but the deck of that bustling steamer was no place to show how glad. I stood still, with my hand in the doctor's, and felt my face growing cold.
"Sit down!" he said, putting me back in the chair from which I had risen; and still keeping my hand. "How is Mrs. Randolph?"
"I suppose you know how she is, from her letters."
"And you?" he said, with a change of tone.
"I do not know. I shall be better, I hope."
"You will be better, to get ashore. Will you learn your mother's pleasure about it? and I will attend to the rest."
I thanked him; for the tone of genuine, manly care and protection, was in my ears for the first time in many a day. Mamma was very willing to avail herself of it too, and to my great pleasure received Dr. Sandford and treated him with perfect courtesy. Rooms were provided for us in one of the best hotels, and comforts ready. The doctor saw us established there, and asked what more he could do for us before he left us to rest. He would not stay to dinner.
"The papers, please," said mamma. "Will you send me all the papers. What is the news? We have heard nothing for weeks."
"I will send you the papers. You will see the news there," said the doctor.
"But what is it?"
"You would not rest if I began upon the subject. It would take a good while to tell it all."
"But what is the position of affairs?"
"Sherman is in Georgia. Grant is in Virginia. There has been, and there is, some stout fighting on hand."
"Sherman and Grant," said mamma. "Where are my people, doctor?"
"Opposed to them. They do not find the way exactly open," the doctor answered.
"Hard fighting, you said. How did it result?"
"Nothing is decided yet - except that the Yankees can fight," said the doctor, with a slight smile. And mamma said no more. But I took courage, and she took gloom. The papers came, a bundle of them, reaching back over several dates; giving details of the battles of the Wilderness and of Sherman's operations in the South. Mamma studied and studied, and interrupted her dinner, to study. I took the sheets as they fell from her hand and looked - for the lists of the wounded. They were long enough, but they did not hold what I was looking for. Mamma broke out at last with an earnest expression of thanksgiving that Sedgwick was killed.
"Why, mamma?" I said in some horror.
"There is one less!" she answered grimly.
"But one less makes very little difference for the cause, mamma."
"I wish there were a dozen then," said she. "I wish all were shot, that have the faculty of leading this rabble of numbers and making them worth something."
But I was getting, I, to have a little pride in Northern blood. I said nothing, of course.
"You are just a traitor, Daisy, I believe," said mamma. "You read of all that is going on, and you know that Ransom and Preston Gary are in it, and you do not care; except you care on the wrong side. But I tell you this, - nothing that calls itself Yankee shall ever have anything to do with me or mine so long as I live. I will see you dead first, Daisy."
There was no answer to be made to this either. It only sank down into my heart; and I knew I had no help in this world.
The question immediately pressed itself upon our attention, where would we go? Dr. Sandford proposed Melbourne; and urged that in the first place we should avail ourselves of the hospitalities of his sister's house in that neighbourhood, most generously tendered us, till he could be at leisure to make arrangements at our old home. Just now he was under the necessity of returning immediately to Washington, where he had one or more hospitals in charge; indeed he left us that same night of our landing; but before he went he earnestly pressed his sister's invitation upon my mother, and promised that so soon as the settlement of the country's difficulties should set him free, he would devote himself to the care of us and Melbourne till we were satisfactorily established.
"And I am in hopes it will not be very long now," he said aside to me. "I think the country has got the right man at last; and that is what we have been waiting for. Grant says he will fight it out on this line, if it takes all summer; and I think the end is coming."
Mamma would give no positive answer to the doctor's instances; she thanked him and talked round the subject, and he was obliged to go away without any contentment of her giving. Alone with me, she spoke out: -
"I will take no Yankee civilities, Daisy. I will be under no obligation to one of them. And I could not endure to be in the house of one of them, if it were conferring instead of receiving obligation."
"What will you do, then, mamma."
"I will wait. You do not suppose that the South can be conquered, Daisy? The idea is absurd!"
"But, mamma? -"
"Why is it absurd?"
"Because they are not a people to give up. Don't you know that? They would die first, every man and woman of them."
"But mamma, whatever the spirit of the people may be, numbers and means have to tell upon the question at last."
"Numbers and means!" mamma repeated scornfully. "I tell you, Daisy, the South cannot yield. And as they cannot yield, they must sooner or later succeed. Success always comes at last to those who cannot be conquered."
"What is to become of us in the mean time, mamma?"
"I don't see that it signifies much," she said, relapsing out of the fire with which the former sentences had been pronounced. "I would like to live to see the triumph come."
That was all I could get from mamma that evening. She lay down on a sofa and buried her face in pillows. I sat in the darkening room and mused. The windows were open; a soft warm air blew the curtains gently in and out; from the street below came the murmur of business and voices and clatter of feet and sound of wheels; not with the earnestness of alarm or the droop of depression, but ringing, sharp, clear, cheery. The city did not feel badly. New York had not suffered in its fortunes or prosperity. There was many a battlefield at the South where the ravages of war had swept all traces and hopes of good fortunes away; never one at the North where the corn had been blasted, or the fruits of the earth untimely ravaged, or the heart of the husbandman disappointed in his ground. Mamma's conclusions seemed to me without premise. What of my own fortunes? I thought the wind of the desert, had blown upon them and they were dead. I remember, in the trembling of my heart as I sat and listened and mused, and thoughts trooped in and out of my head with little order or volition on my part, one word was a sort of rallying point on which they gathered and fell back from time to time, though they started out again on fresh roamings - "Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations"! - I remember, - it seems to me now as if it had been some time before I was born, - how the muslin curtains floated in on the evening wind, and the hum and stir of the street came up to my ear; the bustle and activity, though it was evening; and how the distant battlefields of Virginia looked in forlorn contrast in the far distance. Yet this was really the desert and that the populous place; for there, somewhere, my world was. I grew very desolate as I thought, or mused, by the window. If it had not been for those words of the refuge, my heart would have failed me utterly. After a long while mamma roused up and we had tea brought.
"Has Dr. Sandford gone?" she asked.
"He bid us good bye, mamma, you know. I suppose he took the evening train, as he said."
"Then we shall have no more meddling."
"He means us only kindness, I am sure, mamma."
"I do not like kindness. I do not know what right Dr. Sandford has to offer me kindness. I gave him none."
"Mamma, it seems to me that we are in a condition to receive kindness, - and be very glad of it."
"You are poor-spirited, Daisy; you always were. You never had any right pride of blood or of place. I think it makes no difference to you who people are. If you had done your duty to me, we should have been in no condition now to 'receive kindness,' as you express it. I may thank you."
"What do you mean to do, mamma?"
"Stay here, in this hotel?"
"It will be very expensive, mamma."
"I will meet the expense."
"But, mamma, - without funds?"
"I have a diamond necklace yet, Daisy."
"But, mamma, when that is gone? -"
"Do you think," she broke out with violence, "that this war is going to last for ever? It cannot last. The Yankees will find out what they have undertaken. Lee will drive them back. You do not suppose he can be overcome?"
"Mamma - if the others have more men and more means -"
"They are only Yankees," - mamma said quietly, but with a concentration of scorn impossible to give in words.
"They know how to fight," - I could not help saying.
"Yes, but we do not know how to be overcome! Do you think it, Daisy?"
"Mamma - there was New Orleans - and Vicksburg - and Gettysburg; - and now in Virginia -"
"Yes, now; these battles; you will see how they will turn. Do you suppose this Yankee Grant is a match for Robert E. Lee?"
It was best to drop the discussion, and I dropped it; but it had gone too far to be forgotten. Every bit of news from that time was a point of irritation; if good for the South, mamma asserted that I did not sympathise with it; if good for the North, she found that I was glad, though I tried not to show that I was. She was irritated, and anxious, and unhappy. What I was, I kept to myself.
One desire possessed me, pressing before every other; it was to see Miss Cardigan. I thought I should accomplish this very soon after my landing. I found that I must wait for days.
It was very hard to wait. Yet mamma needed me; she was nervous and low-spirited and unwell and lonely; she could not endure to have me long out of her sight. She never looked with favour upon any proposal of mine to go out, even for a walk; and I could hardly get permission. I fancied that some - latent - suspicion lay beneath all this unwillingness, which did not make it more easy to bear. But I got leave at last, one afternoon early in June; and took my way up the gay thoroughfares of Broadway and the Avenue.
It was June, June all over. Just like the June of four years ago, when Dr. Sandford took me away from school to go to West Point; like the June of three years ago, when I had been finishing my school work, before I went to Washington. I was a mere girl then; now, I seemed to myself at least twenty years older. June sweetness was in all the air; June sunlight through all the streets; roses blossomed in courtyards and looked out of windows; grass was lush and green; people were in summer dresses. I hurried along, my breath growing shorter as I went. The well-known corner of Mme. Ricard's establishment came into view, and bright school-days with it. Miss Cardigan's house opposite looked just as I had left it; and as I drew near I saw that this was literally so. The flowers were blossoming in the garden plots and putting their faces out of window, exactly as if I had left them but a day ago. My knees trembled under me then, as I went up the steps and rang the bell. A strange servant opened to me. I went in, to her astonishment I suppose, without asking any questions; which indeed I could not. What if a second time I should find Mr. Thorold here? Such a thought crossed me as I trod the familiar marble floor, after the wild fashion in which our wishes mock our reason; then it left me the next instant, in my gladness to see through the opening door the figure of my dear old friend. Just as I had left her also. Something, in the wreck of my world, had stood still and suffered no change.
I went in and stood before her. She pulled off her spectacles, looked at me, changed colour and started up. I can hardly tell what she said. I think I was in too great a confusion for my senses to do their office perfectly. But her warm arms were about me, and my head found a hiding-place on her shoulder.
"Sit down, my lamb, my lamb!" were the first words I remember. "Janet, shut the door, and tell anybody I am busy. Sit you down here and rest. My lamb, ye're all shaken. Daisy, my pet, where have you been?"
I sat down, and she did, but I leaned over to the arms that still enfolded me and laid my head on her bosom. She was silent now for a while. And I wished she would speak, but I could not. Her arms pressed me close in the embrace that had so comforted my childhood. She had taken off my bonnet and kissed me and smoothed my hair; and that was all, for what seemed a long while.
"What is it?" she said at last. "I know you're left, my darling. I heard of your loss, while you were so far away from home. One is gone from your world."
"He was happy - he is happy," I whispered.
"Let us praise the Lord for that!" she said in her broadest Scotch accent, which only came out in moments of feeling.
"But he was nearly all my world, Miss Cardigan."
"Ay," she said. "We have but one father. And yet, no, my bairn. Ye're not left desolate."
"I have been very near it."
"I am glad ye are come home."
"But I feel as if I had no home anywhere," I said with a burst of tears which were a great mercy to me at the time. The stricture upon my heart had like to have taken away my breath. Miss Cardigan let me weep, saying sympathy with the tender touch of her soft hand; no otherwise. And then I could lift myself up and face life again.
"You have not forgotten your Lord, Daisy?" she said at length, when she saw me quiet. I looked at her and smiled my answer, though it must have been a sober smile.
"I see," she said; "you have not. But how was it, so far away, my bairn? Weren't you tempted?"
"No, dear Miss Cardigan. What could tempt me?"
"The world, child. Its baits of pleasure and pride and power. Did they never take hold on ye, Daisy?"
"My pleasure I had left at home," I said. "No, that is not quite true. I had the pleasure of being with papa and mamma; and of seeing a great deal of beauty, too. And I had pleasure in Palestine, Miss Cardigan; but it was not the sort to tempt me to forget anything good."
"And pride?" said the old lady.
"Why do you ask me?"
"You're so bonny, my darling. You ken you are; and other folks know it."
"Pride? Yes, it tempted me a little," I said; "but it could not for long, Miss Cardigan, when I remembered."
"Remembered? What was it you remembered?" she said very tenderly; for I believe my eyes had filled again.
"When I remembered what I was heir to."
"And ye didn't have your inheritance all in the future, I trust?" said my old friend. "There's crumbs to be gotten even now from that feast; ye didn't go starving, my bairn?"
"I hadn't much to help me, Miss Cardigan, except the Lord's wonderful world which He has made. That helped me."
"And ye had a crumb of joy now and then?"
"I had more than crumbs sometimes," I said, with a sober looking back over the years.
"And it is my own living Daisy and not an image of her? You are not spoiled a bit, my bairn?"
"Maybe I am," I said, smiling at her. "How do I know?"
"There's a look in your eyes which says you are not," she said with a sort of long breath; "and I know not how you have escaped it. Child! the forces which have assailed you have beaten down many a one. It's only to be strong in the Lord, to be sure; but we are lured away from our strength, sometimes, and then we fall; and we are lured easily."
"Perhaps not when the battle is so very hard to fight, dear Miss Cardigan."
"Maybe no," she said. "But had ye never a minister to counsel ye or to help ye, in those parts?"
"Only when I was in Palestine; nowhere else."
"You must have wanted it sorely."
"Yes, but, Miss Cardigan, I had better teaching all the time. The mountains and the sun and the sky and the beauty, all seemed to repeat the Bible to me, all the time. I never saw the top of Mont Blanc rosy in the sunset, nor the other mountains, without thinking of those words, 'Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect;' - and, 'They shall walk with me in white.' -"
Miss Cardigan wiped away a tear or two.
"But you are looking very sober, my love," she said presently, examining me.
"I have reason," I said. And I went on to give her in detail the account of the past year's doings in my family, and of our present position and prospects. She listened with the greatest sympathy and the most absorbed attention. The story had taken a good while; it was growing late, and I rose to go. Not till then was her nephew alluded to.
"I'm thinking," then said Miss Cardigan slowly, "there's one person you have not asked after, who would ill like to be left out of our mouths."
I stood still and hesitated and I felt my face grow warm.
"I have not heard from him, Miss Cardigan, since -"
And I did not say since when.
"And what of it?" she asked.
"Nothing -" I said, stammering a little, "but I wait."
"He's waiting, poor lad," she said. "Have ye not had letters from him?"
"Never; not since that one I sent him through you."
"He got it, however," said Miss Cardigan; "for there was no reason whatever why he should not. Did you think, Daisy, he had forgotten you?"
"No, Miss Cardigan; but it was told of him that - he had forgotten me."
"How was that done? I thought no one knew about your loving each other, you two children."
"So I thought; but - why, Miss Cardigan, it was confidently told in Paris to my mother that he was engaged to a schoolmate of mine."
"Did you believe it?"
"No. But I never heard from him again, and of course papa did believe it. How could I tell, Miss Cardigan?"
"By your faith, child. I wouldn't have Christian think you didn't believe him, not for all the world holds."
"I did believe him," I said, feeling a rill of joy flowing into some dry places in my heart and changing the wilderness there. "But he was silent, and I waited."
"He was not silent, I'll answer for it," said his aunt; "but the letters might have gone wrong, you know. That is what they have done, somehow."
"What could have been the foundation of that story?" I questioned.
"I just counsel ye to ask Christian, when ye see him - if these weary wars ever let us see him. I think he'll answer ye."
And his aunt's manner rather intimated that my answer would be decisive. I bade her good bye, and returned along the shadowing streets with such a play of life and hope in my heart, as for the time changed it into a very garden of delight. I was not the same person that had walked those ways a few hours ago.
This jubilation, however, could not quite last. I had no sooner got home, than mamma began to cast in doubts and fears and frettings, till the play of the fountain was well nigh covered over with rubbish. Yet I could feel the waters of joy stirring underneath it all; and she said, rather in a displeased manner, that my walk seemed to have done me a great deal of good! and inquired where I had been. I told her, of course; and then had to explain how I became acquainted with Miss Cardigan; a detail which mamma heard with small edification. Her only remark, however, made at the end, was, "I beseech you, Daisy, do not cultivate such associations!"
"She was very good to me, mamma, when I was a schoolgirl."
"Very well, you are not a schoolgirl now."
It followed very easily, that I could see little of my dear old friend. Mamma was suspicious of me and rarely allowed me to go I out of her sight. We abode still at the hotel, where we had luxurious quarters; how paid for, mamma's jewel-box knew. It made me very uneasy to live so; for jewels, even be they diamonds, cannot last very long after they are once turned into gold pieces; and I knew ours went fast; but nothing could move my mother out of her pleasure. In vain Dr. Sandford wrote and remonstrated; and in vain I sometimes pleaded. "The war is not going to last for ever," she would coldly reply; "you and Dr. Sandford are two fools. The South cannot be conquered, Daisy."
But I, with trembling hope, was beginning to think otherwise.
So the days passed on, and the weeks. Mamma spent half her time over the newspapers. I consulted them, I could not help it, in my old fashion; and it made them gruesome things to me. But it was a necessity for me, to quiet my nerves with the certainty that no name I loved was to be found there in those lists of sorrow.
And one day that certainty failed. Among the new arrivals of wounded men just come into Washington from Virginia, I saw the name of Captain Preston Gary.
It was late in the summer, or early in September; I forget which. We were as we had been; nothing in our position changed. Mamma at the moment was busy over other prints, having thrown this down; and feeling my cheeks grow white as I sat there, I held the paper to shield my face and pondered what I should do. The instant thought had been, "I must go to him." The second brought difficulties. How to meet the difficulties, I sat thinking; that I must go to Preston I never doubted for a moment. I sat in a maze; till an exclamation from my mother brought my paper shield down.
"Here's a letter from the doctor, Daisy; he says your cousin is in the hospital."
"His hospital?" I asked.
"I suppose so; he does not say that. But he says he is badly wounded. I wonder how he comes to be in Washington?"
"Taken prisoner, mamma."
"Yes, - wounded," mamma said bitterly. "That's the only way he could. Dr. Sandford bids me let his mother know. She can't go to him; even if my letter could reach her in time and she could get to Washington, which I don't believe she could; she is too ill herself. I shall not write to her."
"Let us go, mamma; you and I."
"I?" said mamma. "I go to that den of thieves? No; I shall not go to Washington, unless I am dragged there."
"But Preston, mamma; think!"
"I am tired of thinking, Daisy. There is no good in thinking. This is the work of your favourite Northern swords and guns; I hope you enjoy it."
"I Would like to remedy it, mamma; to do something at least. Mamma, do let us go to Preston!"
I spoke very earnestly, and I believe with tears. Mamma looked at me.
"Why, do you care for him?" she asked.
"Very much!" I said weeping.
"I did not know you had any affection for anything South, except the coloured people."
"Mamma, let us go to Preston. He must want us so much!"
"I cannot go to Washington, Daisy."
"Can you spare me, mamma? I will go."
"Do you love Preston Gary?" said mamma, sitting up-right to look at me.
"Mamma, I always loved him. You know I did."
"Why did you not say so before?"
"I did say so, mamma, whenever I was asked. Will you let me go? O mamma, let me go!"
"What could you do, child? he is in the hospital."
"Mamma, he may want so many things; I know he must want some things."
"It is vain talking. You cannot go alone, Daisy."
"No, ma'am; but if I could get a good safe friend to go with me?"
"I do not know such a person in this place."
"I do, mamma, - just the person."
"Not a fit person for you to travel with."
"Yes, mamma, just the one; safe and wise to take care of me. And if I were once there, Dr. Sandford would do anything for me."
Mamma pondered my words, but would not yield to them. I wept half the evening, I think, with a strange strain on my heart that said I must go to Preston. Childish memories came thick about me, and later memories; and I could not bear the idea of his dying, perhaps, alone in a hospital, without one near to say a word of truth or help him in any wish or want that went beyond the wants of the body. Would even those be met? My nerves were unstrung.
"Do stop your tears, Daisy!" mamma said at length. "I can't bear them. I never saw you do so before."
"Mamma, I must go to Preston."
"If you could go there properly, child, and had any one to take care of you; as it is, it is impossible."
I half thought it was; I could not bend mamma. But while we sat there under the light of the lamp, and I was trying to do some work, which was every now and then wetted by a drop that would fall, a servant brought in a note to me. It was from Mrs. Sandford, in New York, on her way to Washington to look after a friend of her own; and asking if in any matter she could be of service to me or to mamma. I had got my opportunity now, and I managed to get mamma's consent. I answered Mrs. Sandford's note; packed up my things; and by the early train next morning started with her for Washington.
Mrs. Sandford was very kind, very glad to have me with her, very full of questions, of sympathy, of condolence, and of care; I remember all that, and how I took it at the time, feeling that Daisy and Daisy's life had changed since last I was under that same gentle and feeble guidance. And I remember what an undertone of music ran through my heart in the thought that I might perhaps hear of, or see, Mr. Thorold. Our journey was prosperous; and the next person we saw after arriving at our rooms was Dr. Sandford. He shook hands with his sister; and then, his eye lightened and his countenance altered as he turned to the other figure in the room and saw who it was.
"Daisy!" he exclaimed, warmly grasping my hand, - "Miss Randolph! where is Mrs. Randolph, and what brings you here?"
"Why, the train, to be sure, Grant," answered his sister-in- law. "What a man you are - for business! Do let Daisy rest and breathe and have something to eat, before she is obliged to give an account of herself. See, we are tired to death."
Perhaps she was, but I was not. However, the doctor and I both yielded. Mrs. Sandford and I withdrew to change our dresses, and then we had supper; but after supper, when she was again out of the room, Dr. Sandford turned to me and took my hand.
"I must go presently," he said. "Now, Miss Randolph, what is it?"
I sat down and he sat down beside me, still holding my hand, on a sofa in the room.
"Dr. Sandford, my cousin Gary is a prisoner and in the hospital. You wrote to mamma."
"Yes. I thought his mother might like to know."
"She is ill herself, in Georgia, and cannot come to Washington. Dr. Sandford, I want to go in and take care of him."
"You!" said the doctor. But whatever he thought, his countenance was impenetrable.
"You can manage that for me."
"Can I?" said he. "But, Daisy, you do not come under the regulations."
"That is no matter, Dr. Sandford."
"How is it no matter?"
"Because, I know you can do what you like. You always could manage things for me."
He smiled a little, but went on in an unchanged tone.
"You are too young; and - excuse me - you have another disqualification."
"I will do just as you tell me," I said.
"If I let you in."
"You will let me in."
"I do not see that I ought. I think I ought not."
"But you will, Dr. Sandford. My cousin was very dear to me when I was a child at Melbourne - I love him yet very much - no one would take so good care of him as I would; and it would be a comfort to me for ever. Do let me go in! I have come for that."
"You might get sick yourself," he said. "You do not know what you would be obliged to hear and see. You do not know, Daisy."
"I am not a child now," - I replied.
There was more in my answer than mere words; there was more, I know, in my feeling; and the doctor took the force of it. He looked very sober, though, upon my plan, which it was evident he did not like.
"Does Mrs. Randolph give her consent to this proceeding?" he asked.
"She knows I came that I might look after Preston. I did not tell her my plan any further."
"She would not like it."
"Mamma and I do not see things with the - same eyes, some things, Dr. Sandford. I think I ought to do it."
"I think she is right," he said. "You are not fit for it. You have no idea what you would be obliged to encounter."
"Try me," I said.
"I believe you are fit for anything," he broke out in answer to this last appeal; "and I owned myself conquered by you, Daisy, long ago. I find I have not recovered my independence. Well - you will go in. But you cannot be dressed - so."
"No, I will change my dress. I will do it immediately."
"No, not to-night!" exclaimed the doctor. "Not to-night. It is bad enough to-morrow; but I shall not take you in to-night. Rest, and sleep and be refreshed; I need not say, be strong; for that you are always. No, I will not take you with me to- night. You must wait."
And I could do no more with him for the time. I improved the interval, however. I sent out and got some yards of check to make aprons; and at my aprons I sat sewing all the evening, to Mrs. Sandford's disgust.
"My dear child, what do you want of those things?" she said, looking at them and me with an inexpressible disdain of the check.
"I think they will be useful, ma'am."
"But you are not going into the hospital?"
"Yes; to-morrow morning."
"As a visitor. But not to stay."
"I am going to stay if I am wanted," I said, displaying the dimensions of my apron for my own satisfaction.
"My dear, if you stay, you will be obliged to see all manner of horrible things."
"They must be worse to bear than to see, Mrs. Sandford."
"But you cannot endure to see them, Daisy; you never can. Grant will never allow it."
I sewed in silence, thinking that Dr. Sandford would conform his will to mine in the matter.
"I will never forgive him if he does!" said the lady. But that also I thought would have to be borne. My heart was firm for whatever lay before me. In the hospital, by Preston's side, I was sure my work lay; and to be there, I must have a place at other bedsides as well as his. In the morning Mrs. Sandford renewed her objections and remonstrances as soon as she saw her brother-in-law; and to do him justice, he looked as ill pleased as she did.
"Daisy wants to go into the hospital as a regular nurse," she said.
"It is a weakness of large-hearted women now-a-days."
"Large-hearted! Grant, you are not going to permit such a thing?"
"I am no better than other men," said the doctor; "and have no more defences."
"But it is Daisy that wants the defences," Mrs. Sandford cried; "it is she that is running into danger."
"She shall want no defences while she is in my hospital."
"It is very well to say; but if you let her in there, you cannot help it. She must be in danger, of all sorts of harm."
"If you will prevent it, Mrs. Sandford, you will lay me under obligations," said the doctor, sitting down and looking up at his sister-in-law somewhat comically. "I am helpless, for I have passed my word. Daisy has the command."
"But just look at the figure she is, in that dress! Fancy it! That is Miss Randolph."
The doctor glanced up and down, over my dress, and his eye turned to Mrs. Sandford with provoking unconcern.
"But you will not let her stay there, Grant?"
The doctor looked up at me now, and I saw an answer ready on his lips. There was but one way left for me, I thought; I do not know how I came to do it, but I was not Daisy that morning; or else my energies were all strung up to a state of tension that made Daisy a different person from her wont. I laid my hand lightly over the doctor's mouth before he could speak. It silenced him, as I hoped. He rose up with a look that showed me I had conquered, and asked if I were ready. He must go, he said.
I did not keep him waiting. And once out in the street, with my hand on his arm, I was quite Daisy again; as humble and quiet as ever in my life. I went like a child now, in my guardian's hand; through the little crowds of men collected here and there, past the sentinels at the hospital door, in through the wide, clean, quiet halls and rooms, where Dr. Sandford's authority and system made everything work, I afterwards found, as by the perfection of machinery. Through one ward and another at last, where the rows of beds, each containing its special sufferer, the rows of faces, of various expression, that watched us from the beds, the attendants and nurses and the work that was going on by their hands, caused me to draw a little closer to the arm on which I leaned and to feel yet more like a weak child. Yet even then, even at that moment, the woman within me began to rise and put down the feeling of childish weakness. I began to be strong.
Out of the wards, into his own particular room and office, comfortable enough, Dr. Sandford brought me then. He gave me a chair, and poured me out a glass of wine.
"No, thank you," said I, smiling. "I do not need it."
"You are pale."
"That is womanish; but I am not weak or faint, though."
"Do you maintain your purpose?"
"You had better take off your bonnet and shawl then. You would find them in the way."
I obeyed, and went on to envelope myself in my apron. Dr. Sandford looked on grimly. Very ill pleased he was, I could see. But then I laid my hand on his arm and looked at him.
"I am so much obliged to you for this," I said earnestly. And his face softened.
"I am afraid it is wrong in me," he remarked.
"If you thought it was, you would not do it," I answered; "and I hope I should not ask it. I am ready now. But Dr. Sandford, I want teaching, as to what I ought to do. Who will teach me?"
"I will teach you. But you know how to give a sick man tea or soup, I fancy, without much teaching."
"There are other things, Dr. Sandford."
"It will not be necessary. There are others to do the other things. Captain Gary has only some simple wounds to be dressed."
"But there are others, Dr. Sandford? And I must know how to do all that the nurses do. I am not here to be in the way. I am not going to take care of my cousin only."
"There is enough to do," said the doctor; "but, you will not like it, Daisy."
Something in his wistful look at me, something in the contrast between merely seeing what he was afraid I should see, and the suffering itself which by the sufferers had to be borne, touched me keenly. My eyes filled as I looked at the doctor, but I think the purpose in my heart perhaps came out in my face; for his own suddenly changed, and with a "Come, then!" - he gave me his arm and led the way upstairs and into another succession of rooms, to the ward and the room where my cousin Preston lay.
A clean, quiet, airy room, like all the rest; like all the rest filled with rows of beds, the occupants of which had come from the stir of the fight and the bustle of the march, to lie here and be still; from doing to suffering. How much the harder work, I thought; and if it be well done, how much the nobler. And all who know the way in which our boys did it, will bear witness to their great nobleness. Patient, and strong, and brave, where there was no excitement to cheer, nor spectators to applaud; their fortitude and their patience and their generous self-devotion never failed nor faltered, when all adventitious or real helps and stimulants were withdrawn, and patriotism and bravery stood alone.
From the turn of Dr. Sandford's head, I knew on which side I might look to see Preston; and as we slowly passed up the long line of beds, I scanned breathlessly each face. Old and young, grim and fair, gentle and rough; it was a variety. And then I saw, I should hardly have known it, a pale face with a dark moustache and a thick head of dark, glossy hair, which was luxuriant yet, although it had been cropped. His eyes were closed as we came up; opened as we paused by his bed-side, and opened very wide indeed as he looked from the doctor to me.
"How do you do, this morning, Gary?" said my conductor.
"Confoundedly -" was the somewhat careless answer, made while examining my face.
"You see who has come to look after you?"
"It isn't Daisy!" he cried.
"How do you do, Preston?" I said, taking hold of the hand which lay upon the coverlid. He drew the hand hastily away, half raising himself on his elbow.
"What have you come here for?" he asked.
"I have come to take care of you."
"You," said Preston. "In this place! Where is mamma?"
"Aunt Gary is far away from here. She could not get to you."
"But you, you were in Switzerland."
"Not since last May."
"Lie down, Gary, and take it quietly," said Dr. Sandford, putting his hand on his shoulder. Preston scowled and submitted, without taking his eyes from my face.
"You are not glad to see me?" I asked, feeling his manner a little awkward.
"Of course not. You ought not to be in this place. What have you got on that rig for?"
"That! I suppose you don't dress so at home, do you? You didn't use it. Hey? what is it for?"
"It is that I may be properly dressed. Home things would be out of place here."
"Yes; so I think," said Preston; "and you most of all. Where is Aunt Randolph?"
"You do not seem very grateful, Gary," said the doctor, who all this while stood by with an impenetrable countenance.
"Grateful - for what?"
"For your cousin's affection and kindness, which has come here to look after you."
"I am not grateful," said Preston. "I shall not have her stay."
"What has brought you here, Preston?" I asked by way of diversion.
"Me? Powder. It's an infernal invention. If one could fight with steel, there would be some fun in it. But powder has no respect of persons."
"How has it hurt you?" I asked. I had somehow never chosen to put the question to Dr. Sandford; I can hardly tell why. Now it was time to know. Preston's eye fell on me with sudden gentleness.
"Daisy, go away," he said. "You have no business here. It is of all places no place for you. Go away, and don't come again."
"Dr. Sandford," said I, "will you take me with you and give me my lesson? That is the first thing. I must earn my right to the place, it seems."
The doctor looked at me in his turn; I avoided the eye of Preston. He looked at me in a way not hard to read; quite agreeing with Preston in wishing me away, but, I saw also, respecting my qualifications for the work I had come to do. I saw that he gave me a great reverence on account of it; but then, Dr. Sandford always gave me more reverence than belonged to me. I made use of this, and held my advantage. And the doctor seeing that I was calmly in earnest, even took me at my word.
We began a progress through the ward; during which every man's condition was inquired into; wounds examined and dressed; and course of treatment prescribed. I looked on at first as a mere spectator; bearing the revelation of pain and suffering with all the fortitude I could muster; but I found in a little while that it would overmaster me if I continued an idle looker-on; and putting aside the attendant nurse at last with a whisper to which she yielded, I offered myself quietly in her place to do her work. Dr. Sandford glanced at me then, but made no remark whatever; suffering me to do my pleasure, and employing me as if I had been there for a month. He began to give me directions too. It seemed a long age of feeling and experience, the time while we were passing through the ward; yet Dr. Sandford was extremely quick and quiet in his work, and lost no seconds by unnecessary delay. Even I could see that. He was kind, too; never harsh, though very firm in his authority and thorough in his business. I could not help an unconscious admiration for him growing as we went on. That steady, strong blue eye; what a thing it was for doubt and fear to rest on. I saw how doubt and fear rested. I thought I did; though the bearing of all the sufferers there was calm and self-contained to an admirable degree. It was so, I heard, with all our soldiers everywhere.
We came round, last of all, to Preston's couch again; and the doctor paused. He glanced at me again for the first time in a long while. I do not know how I trembled inwardly; outwardly, I am sure, I did not flinch. His eye went to Preston.
"Do you see, you are to have a better nurse than you deserve?" he said.
"It is disgusting!" Preston muttered.
"Some things are," answered the doctor; "not a brave woman, or a gentle man."
"Send Daisy away from this place. You know she ought not to be here; and you can forbid it."
"You overstate my power, my friend," said the doctor. "Shall we see how you are getting along to-day."
Preston's eye came to me again, silently, with reluctance and regret in it. I was touched more than I chose to show, and more than it was safe to think about."
"Does she know?" he asked.
"She does not know. Your cousin, Miss Randolph, has given one of his arms for his cherished cause."
"And one of my legs too," said Preston. "If it would do the cause any good, I would not care; but what good does it do? That's what I don't like about powder."
I had much ado to stand this communication. The work of examining and dressing Preston's wounds, however, immediately began; and in the effort to do my part, as usual, I found the best relief for overstrained nerves. I think some tears fell upon the bandages; but no word of remark was made by either physician or patient, till the whole business was concluded. Dr. Sandford then carried me off to a nice, warm, comfortable apartment, which he told me I might always hold as my own whenever I had time to be there; he seated me in a chair, and a second time poured me out a glass of wine, which he took from a cupboard.
"I do not drink it," I said, shaking my head.
"Yes, you do, - to-day."
"I never drink it," I said. "I cannot touch it, Dr. Sandford."
"You must take something. What is the matter with the wine? Is it disagreeable to you?"
"I will not help anybody else drink it," I said, looking at him and forcing a smile; for I was tired and very sick at heart.
"Nobody will know you take it."
"Not if I do not take it. They will if I do."
"Are you going upon that old childish plan of yours?" said the doctor, sitting down beside me and looking with a wistful kind of tenderness into my face. "Are you bent still upon living for other people, Daisy?"
"You know, the Master I follow did so; and His servants must be like him," I said, and I felt my smile was stronger and brighter this time. Dr. Sandford arose, summoned an attendant and sent him off for a cup of tea for me; then saw me take it.
"Now," said he, "are you fixed in the plan of devoting yourself to the care of this ungracious cousin?"
"Of him, and of others," I said.
"He does not deserve it."
"Suppose we waited to give people their deserts, Dr. Sandford?"
"Some people deserve to be allowed to take care of you," said the doctor, getting up and beginning to pace up and down the floor. "They deserve it; and find it hard work; or denied them altogether."
"You do take care of me," I said gratefully. "You always did, Dr. Sandford. You are doing it now; and I am thanking you all the time in my heart."
"Well," said he abruptly, standing still before me, - "you are one of those who are born to command; and in your case I always find I have to obey. This room you will use as you please; no one will share it with you; and you need a retiring-place for a breath of rest when you can get it. I shall see you constantly, as I am going out and in; and anything you want you will tell me. But you will not like it, Daisy. You can stand the sight of blood, like other women, whose tenderness makes them strong; but you will not like some other things. You will not like the way you will have to take your meals in this place."
I had finished my cup of tea, and now stood up to let the doctor take me back to my place beside Preston; which he did without any more words. And there he left me; and I sat down to consider my work and my surroundings. My cousin had forgotten his impatience in sleep; and there was a sort of lull in the business of the ward at that hour.
I found in a few minutes that it was a great comfort to me to be there. Not since papa's death, had so peaceful a sense of full hands and earnest living crept into my heart. My thoughts flew once or twice to Mr. Thorold, but I called them back as soon; I could not bear that; while at the same time I felt I was nearer to him here than anywhere else. And my thoughts were very soon called effectually home from my own special concerns, by seeing that the tenant of one of the neighbouring beds was restless and suffering from fever. A strong, fine- looking man, flushed and nervous on a fever bed, in helpless inactivity, with the contrast of life energies all at work and effectively used only a little while ago, in the camp and the battlefield. Now lying here. His fever proceeded from his wounds, I knew, for I had seen them dressed. I went to him and laid my hand on his forehead. I wonder what and how much there can be in the touch of a hand. It quieted him, like a charm; and after a while, a fan and a word or two now and then were enough for his comfort. I did not seem to be Daisy Randolph; I was just - the hospital nurse; and my use was to minister; and the joy of ministering was very great.
From my fever patient I was called to others, who wanted many various things; it was a good while before I got round to Preston again. Meanwhile, I was secretly glad to find out that I was gaining fast ground in the heart of the other nurse of the ward, who had at first looked upon me with great doubt and mistrust on account of my age and appearance. She was a clever, energetic New England woman; efficient and helpful as it was possible to be; thin and wiry, but quiet, and full of sense and kindliness. With a consciousness of her growing favour upon me, I came at last to Preston's bedside again. He looked anything but amicable.
"Where is Aunt Randolph?" were his first words, uttered with very much the manner of a growl. I replied that I had left her in New York.
"I shall write to her," said Preston. "How came she to do such an absurd thing as to let you come here? and whom did you come with? Did you come alone?"
"Not at all. I came with proper company."
"Proper company wouldn't have brought you," Preston growled.
"I think you want something to eat, Preston," I said. "You will feel better when you have had some refreshment."
It was just the time for a meal and I saw the supplies coming in. And Preston's refreshment, as well as that of some others, I attended to myself. I think he found it pleasant; for although some growls waited upon me even in the course of my ministering to him, I heard from that time no more remonstrances; and I am sure Preston never wrote his letter. A testimonial of a different sort was conveyed in his whispered request to me, not to let that horrid Yankee spinster come near him again.
But Miss Yates was a good friend to me.
"You are looking a little pale," she said to me at evening. "Go and lie down a spell. All's done up; you ain't wanted now, and you may be, for anything anybody can tell, before an hour is gone. Just you go away and get some rest. It's been your first day. And the first day's rather tough."
I told her I did not feel tired. But she insisted; and I yielded so far as to go and lie down for a while in the room which Dr. Sandford had given to me. When I came back, I met Miss Yates near the door of the room. I asked her if there were any serious cases in the ward just then.
"La! half of 'em's serious," said she; "if you mean by that they might take a wrong turn and go off. You never can tell."
"But are there any in immediate danger, do you think?"
She searched my face before she answered.
"How come you to be so strong, and so young, and so - well, so unlike all this sort of thing? - Have you ever, no you never have, seen much of sickness and death, and that?"
"No; not much."
"But you look as calm as a field of white clover. I beg your pardon, my dear; it's like you. And you ain't one of the India rubber sort, neither. I am glad you ain't, too; I don't think that sort is fit to be nurses or anything else."
She looked at me inquiringly.
"Miss Yates," I said, "I love Jesus. I am a servant of Christ. I like to do whatever my Lord gives me to do."
"Oh!" said she. "Well I ain't. I sometimes wish I was. But it comes handy now, for there's a man down there - he ain't a going to live, and he knows it, and he's kind o' worried about it; and I can't say nothing to him. Maybe you can. I've written his letters for him, and all that; but he's just uneasy."
I asked, and she told me, which bed held this sick man, who would soon be a dying one. I walked slowly down the ward, thinking of this new burden of life-work that was laid upon me and how to meet it. My very heart sank. I was so helpless. And rose too; for I remembered that our Redeemer is strong. What could I do?
I stood by the man's side. He was thirsty and I gave him lemonade. His eye met mine as his lips left the cup; an eye of unrest.
"Are you comfortable?" I asked.
"As much as I can be." - It was a restless answer.
"Can't you think of Jesus, and rest?" I asked, bending over him. His eye darted to mine with a strange expression of inquiry and pain; but it was all the answer he made.
"There is rest at His feet for all who trust in Him; - rest in His arms for all who love Him."
"I am not the one or the other," he said shortly.
"But you may be."
"I reckon not, - at this time of day," he said.
"Any time of day will do," I said tenderly.
"I guess not," said he. "One cannot do anything lying here - and I sha'n't lie here much longer, either. There's no time now to do anything."
"There is nothing to do, dear friend, but to give your heart and trust to the Lord who died for you - who loves you - who invites you - who will wash away your sins for His own sake, in His own blood, which He shed for you. Jesus has died for you; you shall not die, if you will put your trust in Him."
He looked at me, turned his head away restlessly, turned it back again, and said, -
"That won't do."
"I don't believe in wicked people going to heaven."
"Jesus came to save wicked people; just them."
"They've got to be good, though, before they" - he paused, - "go - to His place."
"Jesus will make you good, if you will let him."
"What chance is there, lying here; and only a few minutes at that?"
He spoke almost bitterly, but I saw the drops of sweat standing on his brow, brought there by the intensity of feeling. I felt as if my heart would have broken.
"As much chance here as anywhere," I answered calmly. "The heart is the place for reform; outward work, without the heart, signifies nothing at all; and if the heart of love and obedience is in any man, God knows that the life would follow, if there were opportunity."
"Yes. I haven't it," he said, looking at me.
"You may have it."
"I tell you, you are talking - you don't know of what," he said vehemently.
"I know all about it," I answered softly.
"There is no love nor obedience in me," he repeated, searching my eyes, as if to see whether there were anything to be said to that.
"No; you are sick at heart, and dying, unless you can be cured. Can you trust Jesus to cure you? They that be whole need not a physician, He says, but those that are sick."
He was silent, gazing at me.
"Can you lay your heart, just as it is, at Jesus' feet, and ask him to take it and make it right? He says, Come."
"What must I do?"
"But you are mistaken," he said. "I am not good."
"No," said I; and then I know I could not keep back the tears from springing; - "Jesus did not come to save the good. He came to save you. He bids you trust Him, and your sins shall be forgiven, for He gave His life for yours; and He bids you come to Him, and He will take all that is wrong away, and make you clean."
"Come?" - the sick man repeated.
"With your heart - to his feet. Give yourself to Him. He is here, though you do not see Him."
The man shut his eyes, with a weary sort of expression overspreading his features; and remained silent. After a little while he said slowly -
"I think - I have heard - such things - once. It is a great while ago. I don't think I know - what it means."
Yet the face looked weary and worn; and for me, I stood beside him and my tears dripped like a summer shower. Like the first of the shower, as somebody says; the pressure at my heart was too great to let them flow. O life, and death! O message of mercy, and deaf ears! O open door of salvation, and feet that stumble at the threshold! After a time his eyes opened.
"What are you doing there?" he said vaguely.
"I am praying for you, dear friend."
"Praying?" said he. "Pray so that I can hear you."
I was well startled at this. I had prayed with papa; with no other, and before no other, in all my life. And here were rows of beds on all sides of me, wide-awake careless eyes in some of their occupants; nurses and attendants moving about; no privacy; no absolute stillness. I thought I could not; then I knew I must; and then all other things faded into insignificance before the work Jesus came to do and had given me to help. I knelt down, not without hands and face growing cold in the effort; but as soon as I was once fairly speaking to my Lord, I ceased to think or care who else was listening to me. There was a deep stillness around; I knew that; the attendants paused in their movements, and words and work I think were suspended during the few minutes when I was on my knees. When I got up, the sick man's eyes were closed. I sat down with my face in my hands, feeling as if I had received a great wrench; but presently Miss Yates came with a whispered request that I would do something that was required just then for somebody. Work set me all right very soon. But when after a while I came round to Preston again, I found him in a rage.
"What has come over you?" he said, looking at me with a complication of frowns. I was at a loss for the reason, and requested him to explain himself.
"You are not Daisy!" he said. "I do not know you any more. What has happened to you?"
"What do you mean, Preston?"
"Mean!" said he with a fling. "What do you mean? I don't know you."
I thought this paroxysm might as well pass off by itself, like another; and I kept quiet.
"What were you doing just now," said he savagely, "by that soldier's bedside?"
"That soldier? He is a dying man, Preston."
"Let him die!" he cried. "What is that to you? You are Daisy Randolph. Do you remember whose daughter you are? You making a spectacle of yourself, for a hundred to look at!"
But this shot quite overreached its mark. Preston saw it had not touched me.
"You did not use to be so bold," he began again. "You were delicate to an exquisite fault. I would never have believed that you would have done anything unwomanly. What has taken possession of you?"
"I should like to take possession of you just now, Preston, and keep you quiet," I said. "Look here, - your tea is coming. Suppose you wait till you understand things a little better; and now - let me give you this. I am sure Dr. Sandford would bid you be quiet; and in his name, I do."
Preston fumed; but I managed to stop his mouth; and then I left him, to attend to other people. But when all was done, and the ward was quiet, I stood at the foot of the dying man's bed, thinking, what could I do more for him? His face looked weary and anxious; his eye rested, I saw, on me, but without comfort in it. What could I say, that I had not said? or how could I reach him? Then, I do not know how the thought struck me, but I knew what to do.
"My dear," said Miss Yates, touching my shoulder, "hadn't you better give up for to-night? You are a young hand; you ain't seasoned to it yet; you'll give out if you don't look sharp. Suppose you quit for to- night."
"O no!" I said hastily - "Oh no, I cannot. I cannot."
"Well, sit down, any way, before you can't stand. It is just as cheap sittin' as standin'."
I sat down; she passed on her way; the place was quiet; only there were uneasy breaths that came and went near me. Then I opened my mouth and sang -
"There is a fountain filled with blood, "Drawn from Immanuel's veins; "And sinners plunged beneath that flood, "Lose all their guilty stains."
"The dying thief rejoiced to see "That fountain in his day; "And there may I, as vile as he, "Wash all my sins away."
I sang it to a sweet simple air, in which the last lines are repeated and repeated and drawn out in all their sweetness. The ward was as still as death. I never felt such joy that I could sing; for I knew the words went to the furthest corner and distinctly, though I was not raising my voice beyond a very soft pitch. The stillness lasted after I stopped; then some one near spoke out -
"Oh, go on!"
And I thought the silence asked me. But what to sing? that was the difficulty. It had need be something so very simple in the wording, so very comprehensive in the sense; something to tell the truth, and to tell it quick, and the whole truth; what should it be? Hymns came up to me, loved and sweet, but too partial in their application, or presupposing too much knowledge of religious things. My mind wandered; and then of a sudden floated to me the refrain that I had heard and learned when a child, long ago, from the lips of Mr. Dinwiddie, in the little chapel at Melbourne; and with all the tenderness of the old time and the new it sprung from my heart and lips now -
"In evil long I took delight, "Unawed by shame or fear; "Till a new object struck my sight, "And stopped my wild career."
"O the Lamb - the loving Lamb! "The Lamb on Calvary "The Lamb that was slain, but lives again, "To intercede for me."
How grand it was! But for the grandeur and the sweetness of the message I was bringing, I should have broken down a score of times.
As it was, I poured my tears into my song, and wept them into the melody. But other tears, I knew, were not so contained; in intervals I heard low sobbing in more than one part of the room. I had no time to sing another hymn before Dr. Sandford came in. I was very glad he had not been five minutes earlier.
I followed him round the ward, seeking to acquaint myself as fast as possible with whatever might help to make me useful there. Dr. Sandford attended only to business and not to me, till the whole round was gone through. Then he said, -
"You will let me take you home now, I hope."
"I am at home," I answered.
"Even so," said he smiling. "You will let me take you from home then, to the place my sister dwells in."
"No, Dr. Sandford; and you do not expect it."
"I have some reason to know what to expect, by this time. Will you not do it at my earnest request? not for your sake, but for mine? There is presumption for you!"
"No, Dr. Sandford; it is not presumption, and I thank you; but I cannot. I cannot, Dr. Sandford. I am wanted here."
"Yes, so you will be to-morrow."
"I will be here to-morrow."
"But, Daisy, this is unaccustomed work; and you cannot bear it, no one can, without intermission. Let me take you to the hotel to-night. You shall come again in the morning."
"I cannot. There is some one here who wants me."
"Your cousin, do you mean?"
"Oh no. Not he at all. There is one who is, I am afraid, dying."
"Morton," said the doctor. "Yes. You can do nothing for him."
But I thought of my hymn, and the tears rose to my eyes.
"I will do what I can, Dr. Sandford. I cannot leave him."
"There is a night nurse who will take charge. You must not watch. You must not do that, Daisy. I command here."
"All but me," I said, putting my hand on his arm. "Trust me. I will try to do just the right thing."
There must have been more persuasion in my look than I knew; for Dr. Sandford quitted me without another word, and left me to my own will. I went softly down the room to the poor friend I was watching over. I found his eyes watching me; but for talk there was no time just then; some services were called for in another part of the ward that drew me away from him; and when I came back he seemed to be asleep. I sat down at the bed foot and thought my hymn all over, then the war, my own life, and lastly the world. Miss Yates came to me and bent down.
"Are you tired out, dear?"
"Not at all," I said. "Not at all - tired."
"They'd give their eyes if you'd sing again. It's better than doctors and anodynes; and it's the first bit of anything unearthly we've had in this place. Will you try?"
I was only too glad. I sang, "Jesus, lover of my soul" - "Rock of Ages" - and then, -
"Just as I am, without one plea, "But that Thy blood was shed for me, "And that Thou bidst me come to Thee, "O Lamb of God, I come."
And stillness, deep and peaceful seeming, brooded over all the place in the pauses between the singing. There were restless and weary and suffering people around me; patient indeed too, and uncomplaining, in the worst of times; but now even sighs seemed to be hushed. I looked at the man who was said to be dying. His wide open eyes were intently fixed upon me; very intently; and I thought, less ruefully than a while ago. Then I sang, -
"Come to Jesus just now -"
As I sang, a voice from the further end of the room took it up, and bore me company in a somewhat rough but true and manly chorus, to the end of the singing. It rang sweet round the room; it fell sweet on many ears, I know. And so I gave my Lord's message.
I sang no more that night. The poor man for whose sake I had begun the singing, rapidly grew worse. I could not leave him; for ever and again, in the pauses of suffering, his eyes sought mine. I answered the mute appeal as I best could, with a word now and a word then. Towards morning the struggle ceased. He spoke no more to me; but the last look was to my eyes, and in his, it seemed to me, the shadow had cleared away. That was all I could know.
I slept longer than I had meant to do, the next morning; but I rose with a happy feeling of being in my place; where I wanted to be. That is, to be sure, not always the criterion by which to know the place where one ought to be; yet where it is a qualification it is also in some sense a token. The ministry of the hours preceding swept over me while I was dressing, with something of the grand swell and cadence of the notes of a great organ; grand and solemn and sweet. I entered the ward, ready for the day's work, with a glad readiness.
So I felt, as I stepped in and went down the space between the rows of beds. Miss Yates nodded to me.
"Here you are!" she said. "Fresh as the morning. Well I don't know why we shouldn't have pleasant things in such a place as this, if we can get them; there's enough that ain't pleasant, and folks forget there is anything else in the world. Now you'll be better than breakfast, to some of them; and here's breakfast, my dear. You know how to manage that."
I knew very well how to manage that; and I knew too, as I went on with my ministrations, that Miss Yates was not altogether wrong. My ministry did give pleasure; and I could not help enjoying the knowledge. This was not the enjoyment of flattering crowds, waiting round me with homage in their eyes and on their tongues. I had known that too, and felt the foolish flutter of gratified vanity for a moment, to be ashamed of it the next. This was the brightening eye, the relaxing lip, the tone of gratification, from those whose days and hours were a weary struggle with pain and disease; to bring a moment's refreshment to them was a great joy, which gives me no shame now in the remembrance. Even if it was only the refreshment of memory and fancy, that was something; and I gave thanks in my heart, as I went from one sufferer to another, that I had been made pleasant to look at. Preston himself smiled at me this morning, which I thought a great gain.
"Well, you do know how to sing!" he said softly, as I was giving him his tea and toast.
"I am glad you think so."
"Think so! Why, Daisy, positively I was inclined to bless gunpowder for the minute, for having brought me here. Now if you would only sing something else - Don't you know anything from Norma, or II Trovatore?"
"They would be rather out of place here."
"Not a bit of it. Create a soul under the ribs - Well, this is vile tea."
"Hush, Preston; you know the tea is good, like everything else here."
"I know no such thing. There is nothing good in this place, - except you, - and I suppose that is the reason you have chosen it for your abode. I can't imagine how Aunt Randolph came to let you, though."
"She let me come to take care of you."
"I'm not worth it. What's a man good for, when there is only half of him left? I should like just to get into one other field, and let powder take the other half."
"Hush, Preston! hush; you must not talk so. There's your mother."
"My mother won't think much of me now, I don't know why she should. You never did, even when I was myself."
"I think just as much of you now as ever, Preston. You might be much more than your old self, if you would."
Preston frowned and rolled his head over on the pillow.
"Confounded!" he muttered. "To be in such a den of Yankees!"
"You are ungrateful."
"I am not. I owe it to Yankee powder."
What, perhaps, had Southern powder done? I shivered inwardly, and for a moment forgot Preston.
"What is the matter?" said he. "You look queer; and it is very queer of you to spill my tea."
"Drink it then," I said, "and don't talk in such a way. I will not have you do it, Preston, to me."
He glanced at me, a little wickedly; but he had finished his breakfast and I turned from him. As I turned, I saw that the bed opposite, where Morton had died a few hours before, had already received another occupant. It startled me a little; this quick transition; this sudden total passing away; then, as I cast another glance at the newly come, my breath stood still. I saw eyes watching me, - I had never but once known such eyes; I saw an embrowned but very familiar face; as I looked, I saw a flash of light come into the eyes, quick and brilliant as I had seen such flashes come and go a hundred times. I knew what I saw.
It seems to me now in the retrospect, it seemed to me then, as if my life - that which makes life - were that moment suddenly gathered up, held before me, and then dashed under my feet; thrown down to the ground and trampled on. For a moment the sight of my eyes failed me. I think nobody noticed it. I think nothing was to be seen, except that I stood still for that minute. It passed, and my sight returned; and as one whose life is under foot and who knows it will never rise again, I crossed the floor to Thorold. We were not alone. Eyes and ears were all around us. Remembering this, I put my hand in his and said a simple -
"How do you do?"
But his look at me was so infinitely glad and sweet, that my senses failed me again. I did not sink down; but I stood without sight or hearing. The clasp of his hand recalled me.
"It is Daisy!" he said smiling. "Daisy, and not a vision. My Daisy! How is it?"
"What can I do for you?" I said hastily.
"Nothing. Stand there. I have been looking at you; and thought it was long till you would look at me."
"I was busy."
"Yes, I know, love. How is it, Daisy? When did you come back from Switzerland?"
"I did not know of it."
"Letters failed, I suppose."
"Then you wrote?"
"I wrote, - with papa's letter."
"Oh, long ago - long ago; - I don't know, - a year or two."
"It never reached me," he said, a shadow crossing his bright brow.
"I sent it to your aunt, for her to send it to you; and she sent it; I asked her."
"Failed," he said. "What was it, Daisy?"
The question was put eagerly.
"Papa was very good," I said; - "and you were very right, Christian, and I was wrong. He liked your letter."
"And I should have liked his?" he said, with one of those brilliant illuminations of eye and face.
"I think you would."
"Then I have got all I can ask for," he said. "You are mine; and while we live in this world we belong to each other. Is it not so?"
There was mamma. But I could not speak of her. Even she could not prevent the truth of what Christian said; in one way it must be true. I gave no denial. Thorold clasped my hand very fast, and I stood breathless. Then suddenly I asked if he had had his breakfast? He laughed and said yes, and still clasped my hand in a grasp that said it was better than food and drink to him. I stood like one from under whose feet the ground is slipping away. I longed to know, but dared not ask, what had brought him there; whether he was suffering; the words would not come to my lips. I knew Dr. Sandford would be here by and by; how should I bear it? But I, and nobody but me, must do all that was done for this sufferer at least.
I left Mr. Thorold, to attend to duties that called me on all hands. I did them like one in a dream. Yet my ordinary manner was quiet, and I suppose nobody saw any difference; only I felt it. I was looking all the time for the moment of Dr. Sandford's appearance, and praying for strength. It came, his visit, as everything does come, when its time was; and I followed him in his round; waiting and helping as there was want of me. I did it coolly, I know, with faculties sharpened by an intense motive and feelings engrossed with one thought. I proved myself a good assistant; I knew Dr. Sandford approved of me; I triumphed, so far, in the consciousness that I had made good my claim to my position, and was in no danger of being shoved away on the score of incompetency.
"Doctor," said Preston when we came round to him, "won't you send away Miss Randolph out of a place that she is not fit for?"
"I will," said Dr. Sandford grimly, "when I find such a place."
"Out of this place, then, where she ought not to be; and you know it."
"It would be your loss, my friend. You are exercising great self-denial, or else you speak in ignorance."
"She might as well go on the stage at once!" said Preston bitterly. "Singing half the night to sixty soldiers, - and won't give one a thing from Norma, then!"
The doctor gave one quick glance of his blue eye at me; it was a glance inquiring, recognising, touched, sympathising, all in an instant; it surprised me. Then it went coolly back to his work.
"What does she sing?"
"Psalms" - said Preston.
"Feverish tendency?" said the doctor.
Preston flung himself to one side, with a violent word, almost an oath, that shocked me. We left him and went on.
Or rather, went over; for at the instant Dr. Sandford's eye caught the new occupant of the opposite bed. I was glad to find that he did not recognise him.
The examination of Mr. Thorold's wounds followed. They were internal, and had been neglected. I do not know how I went through it; seeing how he went through it partly helped me, for I thought he did not seem to suffer greatly. His face was entirely calm, and his eye clear whenever it could catch mine. But the operation was long; and I felt when it was over as if I had been through a battle myself. I was forced to leave him and go on with my attentions to the other sufferers in the ward; and I could not get back to Mr. Thorold till the dinner hour. I managed to be at his side to serve him then. But he had the use of his arms and hands and did not need feeding, like some of the others.
"It is worth being here, Daisy," said Mr. Thorold, when I came with his dinner; which was, however, a light one.
"No," said I. Speaking in low tones, which I was accustomed to use to all there, we were in little danger of being overheard.
"Not to you," said he with a laughing flash of his eye; "I only spoke of my own sense of things. That is as I tell you."
"How do you do now?" I asked tremblingly.
His eye changed, softened, lifted itself to mine with a beautiful glow in it. I half knew what was coming before he spoke.
"We know in whose hands I am," he said. "I have earned the 'right to my name,' Daisy."
Ah, that was hard to bear! harder than the surgeon's probe which had gone before. It was hard at the same time not to fall on my knees to give thanks; or to break out into a shout of glad praise. I suppose I showed nothing of it, only stood still - and pale by the side of the bed; till Mr. Thorold asked me for something, and I knew that I had been neglecting his dinner. And then I knew that I was neglecting others; and flew across to Preston, who needed my services.