Found Yet Lost by E. P. Roe
LOVE IN THE WILDERNESS
Hopeless indeed must that region be which May cannot clothe with some
degree of beauty and embroider with flowers. On the 5th day of the
month the early dawn revealed much that would charm the eyes of all
true lovers of nature even in that section of Virginia whose
characteristics so grimly correspond with its name—The Wilderness. The
low pines and cedars, which abound everywhere, had taken a fresh green;
the deciduous trees, the tangled thickets, impenetrable in many places
by horse or man, were putting forth a new, tender foliage, tinted with
a delicate semblance of autumn hues. Flowers bloomed everywhere, humbly
in the grass close to the soil as well as on the flaunting sprays of
shrubbery and vines, filling the air with fragrance as the light
touched and expanded the petals. Wood-thrushes and other birds sang as
melodiously and contentedly as if they had selected some breezy upland
forest for their nesting-place instead of a region which has become a
synonym for gloom, horror, and death.
Lonely and uninhabited in its normal condition, this forbidding
wilderness had become peopled with thousands of men. The Army of the
Potomac was penetrating and seeking to pass through it. Vigilant
General Lee had observed the movement, and with characteristic boldness
and skill ordered his troops from their strong intrenchments on Mine
Run toward the Union flank. On this memorable morning the van of his
columns wakened from their brief repose but a short distance from the
Federal bivouac. Both parties were unconscious of their nearness, for
with the exception of a few clearings the dense growth restricted
vision to a narrow range. The Union forces were directed in their
movements by the compass, as if they were sailors on a fog-enshrouded
sea; but they well knew that they were seeking their old antagonist,
the Army of Northern Virginia, and that the stubborn tug-of-war might
begin at any moment.
When Captain Nichol shook off the lethargy of a brief troubled sleep,
he found that the light did not banish his gloomy impressions. Those
immediately around him were still slumbering, wrapped in their
blankets. Few sounds other than the voices of the awakening birds broke
the silence. After a little thought he drew his notebook from his
pocket and wrote as follows:
"MY DARLING HELEN—I obey an impulse to write to you this morning. It
is scarcely light enough to see as yet; but very soon we shall be on
the move again to meet—we known not what, certainly heavy, desperate
fighting. I do not know why I am so sad. I have faced the prospect of
battles many times before, and have passed through them unharmed, but
now I am depressed by an unusual foreboding. Naturally my thoughts turn
to you. There was no formal engagement between us when I said those
words (so hard to speak) of farewell, nor have I sought to bind you
since. Every month has made more clear the uncertainty of life in my
calling; and I felt that I had no right to lay upon you any restraint
other than that of your own feelings. If the worst happened you would
be free as far as I was concerned, and few would know that we had told
each other of our love. I wish to tell you of mine once more—not for
the last time, I hope, but I don't know. I do love you with my whole
heart and soul; and if I am to die in this horrible wilderness, where
so many of my comrades died a year ago, my last thoughts will be of you
and of the love of God, which your love has made more real to me. I
love you too well to wish my death, should it occur, to spoil your
young life. I do not ask you to forget me—that would be worse than
death, but I ask you to try to be happy and to make others happy as the
years pass on. This bloody war will come to an end, will become a
memory, and those who perish hope to be remembered; but I do not wish
my memory to hang like a cloud over the happy days of peace. I close,
my darling, in hope, not fear—hope for you, hope for me, whatever may
happen to-day or on coming days of strife. It only remains for me to do
my duty. I trust that you will also do yours, which may be even harder.
Do not give way to despairing grief if I cannot come back to you in
this world. Let your faith in God and hope of a future life inspire and
strengthen you in your battles, which may require more courage and
unselfishness than mine.
"Yours, either in life or death, ALBERT NICHOL."
He made another copy of this letter, put both in envelopes, and
addressed them, then sought two men of his company who came from his
native village. They were awake now and boiling their coffee. The
officer and the privates had grown up as boys together with little
difference of social standing in the democratic town. When off duty,
there still existed much of the old familiarity and friendly converse,
but when Captain Nichol gave an order, his townsmen immediately became
conscious that they were separated from him by the iron wall of
military discipline. This characteristic did not alienate his old
associates. One of the men hit the truth fairly in saying: "When Cap
speaks as Cap, he's as hard and sharp as a bayonet-point; but when a
feller is sick and worn out 'tween times you'd think your granny was
It was as friend and old neighbor that Nichol approached Sam and Jim
Wetherby, two stalwart brothers who had enlisted in his company.
"Boys," he said, "I have a favor to ask of you. The Lord only knows how
the day will end for any of us. We will take our chances and do our
duty, as usual. I hope we may all boil coffee again to-night; but who
knows? Here are two letters. If I should fall, and either or both of
you come out all right, as I trust you will, please forward them. If I
am with you again to-night, return them to me."
"Come, Captain," said Jim, heartily, "the bullet isn't molded that can
harm you. You'll lead us into Richmond yet."
"It will not be from lack of goodwill if I don't. I like your spirit;
and I believe the army will get there this time whether I'm with it or
not. Do as I ask. There is no harm in providing against what may
happen. Make your breakfast quickly, for orders may come at any
moment;" and he strode away to look after the general readiness of his
The two brothers compared the address on the letters and laughed a
little grimly. "Cap is a-providing, sure enough," Sam Wetherby
remarked. "They are both written to the pretty Helen Kemble that he
used to make eyes at in the singing-school. I guess he thinks that you
might stop a bullet as well as himself, Jim."
"It's clear he thinks your chances for taking in lead are just as
good," replied Jim. "But come, I'm one of them fellows that's never hit
till I am hit. One thing at a time, and now it's breakfast."
"Well, hanged if I want to charge under the lead of any other captain!"
remarked Sam, meditatively sipping his coffee. "If that girl up yonder
knows Cap's worth, she'll cry her eyes out if anything happens to him."
A few moments later the birds fled to the closest cover, startled by
the innumerable bugles sounding the note of preparation. Soon the
different corps, divisions, and brigades were upon their prescribed
lines of march. No movement could be made without revealing the close
proximity of the enemy. Rifle-reports from skirmish lines and
reconnoitring parties speedily followed. A Confederate force was
developed on the turnpike leading southwest from the old Wilderness
Tavern; and the fighting began. At about eight o'clock Grant and Meade
came up and made their headquarters beneath some pine-trees near the
tavern. General Grant could scarcely believe at first that Lee had left
his strong intrenchments to give battle in a region little better than
a jungle; but he soon had ample and awful proof of the fact.
Practically unseen by each other, the two armies grappled like giants
in the dark. So thick were the trees and undergrowth that a soldier on
a battle line could rarely see a thousand men on either side of him,
yet nearly two hundred thousand men matched their deadly strength that
day. Hundreds fell, died, and were hidden forever from human eyes.
Thinking to sweep away the rear-guard of Lee's retreating army, Grant
ordered a strong advance on the pike in the afternoon. At first it was
eminently successful, and if it had been followed up vigorously and
steadily, as it undoubtedly would have been if the commander had known
what was afterward revealed, it might have resulted in severe disaster
to the Confederates. The enemy was pressed back rapidly; and the
advancing Union forces were filled with enthusiasm. Before this early
success culminated, genuine sorrow saddened every one in Captain
Nichol's company. With his face toward the enemy, impetuously leading
his men, he suddenly dropped his sword and fell senseless. Sam and Jim
Wetherby heard a shell shrieking toward them, and saw it explode
directly over their beloved leader. They rushed to his side; blood was
pouring over his face, and it also seemed to them that a fragment of
the shell had fatally wounded him in the forehead.
"Poor Cap, poor, brave Cap!" ejaculated Sam. "He didn't give us those
letters for nothing."
"A bad job, an awfully bad job for us all! curse the eyes that aimed
that shell!" growled practical Jim. "Here, take hold. We'll put him in
that little dry ditch we just passed, and bury him after the fight, if
still on our pins. We can't leave him here to be tramped on."
This they did, then hastily rejoined their company, which had swept on
with the battle line. Alas! that battle line and others also were
driven back with terrible slaughter before the day closed. Captain
Nichol was left in the ditch where he had been placed, and poor Sam
Wetherby lay on his back, staring with eyes that saw not at a shattered
bird's nest in the bushes above his head. The letter in his pocket
mouldered with him.
Jim's begrimed and impassive face disguised an aching heart as he
boiled his coffee alone that night. Then, although wearied almost to
exhaustion, he gave himself no rest until he had found what promised to
be the safest means of forwarding the letter in his pocket.
LOVE AT HOME
Long years before the war, happy children were growing in the village
of Alton. They studied the history of wars much as they conned their
lessons in geography. Scenes of strife belonged to the past, or were
enacted among people wholly unlike any who dwelt in their peaceful
community. That Americans should ever fight each other was as undreamed
of as that the minister should have a pitched battle in the street with
his Sunday-school superintendent. They rejoiced mildly when in their
progress through the United States history they came to pages
descriptive of Indian wars and the Revolutionary struggle, since they
found their lessons then more easily remembered than the wordy disputes
and little understood decisions of statesmen. The first skating on the
pond was an event which far transcended in importance anything related
between the green covers of the old history book, while to Albert
Nichol the privilege of strapping skates on the feet of little Helen
Kemble, and gliding away with her over the smooth ice, was a triumph
unknown by any general. He was the son of a plain farmer, and she the
daughter of the village banker. Thus, even in childhood, there was
thrown around her the glamour of position and reputed
wealth—advantages which have their value among the most democratic
folk, although slight outward deference may be paid to their
possessors. It was the charming little face itself, with its piquant
smiles and still more piquant pouts, which won Albert's boyish
admiration. The fact that she was the banker's daughter only fired his
ambition to be and to do something to make her proud of him.
Hobart Martine, another boy of the village, shared all his schoolmate's
admiration for pretty Nellie, as she was usually called. He had been
lame from birth, and could not skate. He could only shiver on the bank
or stamp around to keep himself warm, while the athletic Al and the
graceful little girl passed and repassed, quite forgetting him. There
was one thing he could do; and this pleasure he waited for till often
numb with cold. He could draw the child on his sled to her home, which
adjoined his own.
When it came his turn to do this, and he limped patiently through the
snow, tugging at the rope, his heart grew warm as well as his chilled
body. She was a rather imperious little belle with the other boys, but
was usually gentle with him because he was lame and quiet. When she
thanked him kindly and pleasantly at her gate, he was so happy that he
could scarcely eat his supper. Then his mother would laugh and say,
"You've been with your little sweetheart." He would flush and make no
How little did those children dream of war, even when studying their
history lessons! Yet Albert Nichol now lay in the Wilderness jungle. He
had done much to make his little playmate proud of him. The sturdy boy
developed into a manly man. When he responded to his country's call and
raised a company among his old friends and neighbors, Helen Kemble
exulted over him tearfully. She gave him the highest tribute within her
power and dearest possession—her heart. She made every campaign with
him, following him with love's untiring solicitude through the scenes
he described, until at last the morning paper turned the morning
sunshine into mockery and the songs of the birds into dirges. Captain
Nichol's name was on the list of the killed.
With something of the same jealousy, developed and intensified, which
he had experienced while watching Albert glide away on the ice with the
child adored in a dumb, boyish way, Hobart had seen his old schoolmate
depart for the front. Then his rival took the girl from him; now he
took her heart. Martine's lameness kept him from being a soldier. He
again virtually stood chilled on the bank, with a cold, dreary,
hopeless feeling which he believed would benumb his life. He did not
know, he was not sure that he had lost Helen beyond hope, until those
lurid days when men on both sides were arming and drilling for mutual
slaughter. She was always so kind to him, and her tones so gentle when
she spoke, that in love's fond blindness he had dared to hope. He
eventually learned that she was only sorry for him. He did not, could
not, blame her, for he needed but to glance at Nichol's stalwart form,
and recall the young soldier's record, in order to know that it would
be strange indeed if the girl had chosen otherwise. He would have been
more than human if there had not been some bitterness in his heart; but
he fought it down honestly, and while pursuing his peaceful avocations
engaged in what he believed would be a lifelong battle. He smiled at
the girl across the garden fence and called out his cheery
"Good-morning." He was her frequent companion by the fireside or on the
piazza, according to the season; and he alone of the young men was
welcome, for she had little sympathy for those who remained at home
without his excuse. He was so bravely her friend, keeping his great
love so sternly repressed that she only felt it like a genial warmth in
his tones and manner, and believed that he was becoming in truth what
he seemed, merely a friend.
On that terrible May morning he was out in the garden and heard her
wild, despairing cry as she read the fatal words. He knew that a heavy
battle had been begun, and was going down to the gate for his paper,
which the newsboy had just left. There was no need of opening it, for
the bitter cry he had heard made known to him the one item of
intelligence compared with which all else for the time became
insignificant. Was it the Devil that inspired a great throb of hope in
his heart? At any rate he thought it was, and ground his heel into the
gravel as if the serpent's head was beneath it, then limped to Mr.
The old banker came out to meet him, shaking his gray head and holding
the paper in his trembling hand. "Ah!" he groaned, "I've feared it,
I've feared it all along, but hoped that it would not be. You've seen
Nichol's name—" but he could not finish the sentence.
"No, I have seen nothing; I only heard Helen's cry. That told the whole
"Yes. Well, her mother's with her. Poor girl! poor girl! God grant it
isn't her death-blow too. She has suffered too much under this long
strain of anxiety."
A generous resolve was forming in Martine's mind, and he said
earnestly, "We must tide her through this terrible shock. There may be
some mistake; he may be only wounded. Do not let her give up hope
absolutely. I'll drop everything and go to the battlefield at once. If
the worst has in truth happened, I can bring home his remains, and that
would be a comfort to her. A newspaper report, made up hastily in the
field, is not final. Let this hope break the cruel force of the blow,
for it is hard to live without hope."
"Well, Hobart, you ARE a true friend. God bless and reward you! If
nothing comes of it for poor Nichol, as I fear nothing will, your
journey and effort will give a faint hope to Nellie, and, as you say,
break the force of the blow. I'll go and tell her."
Martine went into the parlor, which Helen had decorated with mementoes
of her soldier lover. He was alone but a few moments before he heard
hasty steps. Helen entered with hot, tearless eyes and an agonized,
"What!" she cried, "is it true that you'll go?"
"Yes, Helen, immediately. I do not think there's reason for despair."
"Oh, God bless you! friend, friend! I never knew what the word meant
before. Oh, Hobart, no sister ever lavished love on a brother as I will
love you if you bring back my Albert;" and in the impulse of her
overwhelming gratitude she buried her face on his shoulder and sobbed
aloud. Hope already brought the relief of tears.
He stroked the bowed head gently, saying, "God is my witness, Helen,
that I will spare no pains and shrink from no danger in trying to find
Captain Nichol. I have known of many instances where the first reports
of battles proved incorrect;" and he led her to a chair.
"It is asking so much of you," she faltered.
"You have asked nothing, Helen. I have offered to go, and I AM going.
It is a little thing for me to do. You know that my lameness only kept
me from joining Captain Nichol's company. Now try to control your
natural feelings like a brave girl, while I explain my plans as far as
I have formed them."
"Yes, yes! Wait a few moments. Oh, this pain at my heart! I think it
would have broken if you hadn't come. I couldn't breathe; I just felt
as if sinking under a weight."
"Take courage, Helen. Remember Albert is a soldier."
"IS, IS! Oh, thanks for that little word! You do not believe that he is
gone and lost to me?"
"I cannot believe it yet. We will not believe it. Now listen patiently,
for you will have your part to do."
"Yes, yes; if I could only do something! That would help me so much.
Oh, if I could only go with you!"
"That would not be best or wise, and might defeat my efforts. I must be
free to go where you could not—to visit places unsafe for you. My
first step must be to get letters to our State Senator. Your father can
write one, and I'll get one or two others. The Senator will give me a
letter to the Governor, who in turn will accredit me to the authorities
at Washington and the officer in command on the battlefield. You know I
shall need passes. Those who go to the extreme front must be able to
account for themselves. I will keep in telegraphic communication with
you, and you may receive additional tidings which will aid me in my
search. Mr. Kemble!" he concluded, calling her father from his
perturbed pacing up and down the hall.
"Ah!" said the banker, entering, "this is a hundred-fold better than
despairing, useless grief. I've heard the gist of what Hobart has said,
and approve it. Now I'll call mother, so that we may all take courage
and get a good grip on hope."
They consulted together briefly, and in the prospect of action, Helen
was carried through the first dangerous crisis in her experience.
Mrs. Martine grieved over her son's unexpected resolve. In her
estimation he was engaging in a very dangerous and doubtful expedition.
Probably mothers will never outgrow a certain jealousy when they find
that another woman has become first in the hearts of their sons. The
sense of robbery was especially strong in this case, for Mrs. Martine
was a widow, and Hobart an only and idolized child.
The mother speedily saw that it would be useless to remonstrate, and
tearfully aided him in his preparations. Before he departed, he won her
over as an ally. "These times, mother, are bringing heavy burdens to
very many, and we should help each other bear them. You know what Helen
is to me, and must be always. That is something which cannot be
changed. My love has grown with my growth and become inseparable from
my life. I have my times of weakness, but think I can truly say that I
love her so well that I would rather make her happy at any cost to
myself. If it is within my power, I shall certainly bring Nichol back,
alive or dead. Prove your love to me, mother, by cheering, comforting,
and sustaining that poor girl. I haven't as much hope of success as I
tried to give her, but she needs hope now; she must have it, or there
is no assurance against disastrous effects on her health and mind. I
couldn't bear that."
"Well, Hobart, if he is dead, she certainly ought to reward you some
"We must not think of that. The future is not in our hands. We can only
do what is duty now."
Noble, generous purposes give their impress to that index of character,
the human face. When Martine came to say good-by to Helen, she saw the
quiet, patient cripple in a new light. He no longer secured her strong
affection chiefly on the basis of gentle, womanly commiseration. He was
proving the possession of those qualities which appeal strongly to the
feminine nature; he was showing himself capable of prompt, courageous
action, and his plain face, revealing the spirit which animated him,
became that of a hero in her eyes. She divined the truth—the love so
strong and unselfish that it would sacrifice itself utterly for her. He
was seeking to bring back her lover when success in his mission would
blot out all hope for him. The effect of his action was most salutary,
rousing her from the inertia of grief and despair. "If a mere friend,"
she murmured, "can be so brave and self-forgetful, I have no excuse for
giving away utterly."
She revealed in some degree her new impressions in parting. "Hobart,"
she said, holding his hand in both of hers, "you have done much to help
me. You have not only brought hope, but you have also shown a spirit
which would shame me out of a selfish grief. I cannot now forget the
claims of others, of my dear father and mother here, and I promise you
that I will try to be brave like you, like Albert. I shall not become a
weak, helpless burden, I shall not sit still and wring idle hands when
others are heroically doing and suffering. Good-by, my friend, my
brother. God help us all!"
He felt that she understood him now as never before; and the knowledge
inspired a more resolute purpose, if this were possible. That afternoon
he was on his way. There came two or three days of terrible suspense
for Helen, relieved only by telegrams from Martine as he passed from
point to point. The poor girl struggled as a swimmer breasts pitiless
waves intervening between him and the shore. She scarcely allowed
herself an idle moment; but her effort was feverish and in a measure
the result of excitement. The papers were searched for any scrap of
intelligence, and the daily mail waited for until the hours and minutes
were counted before its arrival.
One morning her father placed Nichol's letter in her hands. They so
trembled in the immense hope, the overwhelming emotion which swept over
her at sight of the familiar handwriting, that at first she could not
open it. When at last she read the prophetic message, she almost
blotted out the writing with her tears, moaning, "He's dead, he's
dead!" In her morbid, overwrought condition, the foreboding that had
been in the mind of the writer was conveyed to hers; and she
practically gave up hope for anything better than the discovery and
return of his remains. Her father, mother, and intimate friends tried
in vain to rally her; but the conviction remained that she had read her
lover's farewell words. In spite of the most pathetic and strenuous
effort, she could not keep up any longer, and sobbed till she slept in
On the following day, old Mr. Wetherby came into the bank. The lines
about his mouth were rigid with suppressed feeling. He handed Mr.
Kemble a letter, saying in a husky voice, "Jim sent this. He says at
the end I was to show it to you." The scrawl gave in brief the details
about Captain Nichol already known to the reader, and stated also that
Sam Wetherby was missing. "All I know is," wrote the soldier, "that we
were driven back, and bullets flew like hail. The brush was so thick I
couldn't see five yards either way when I lost sight of Sam."
The colonel of the regiment also wrote to Captain Nichol's father,
confirming Private Wetherby's letter. The village had been thrown into
a ferment by the tidings of the battle and its disastrous consequences.
There was bitter lamentation in many homes. Perhaps the names of
Captain Nichol and Helen were oftenest repeated in the little
community, for the fact of their mutual hopes was no longer a secret.
Even thus early some sagacious people nodded their heads and remarked,
"Hobart Martine may have his chance yet." Helen Kemble believed without
the shadow of a doubt that all the heart she had for love had perished
in the wilderness.
The facts contained in Jim Wetherby's letter were telegraphed to
Martine, and he was not long in discovering confirmation of them in the
temporary hospitals near the battlefield. He found a man of Captain
Nichol's company to whom Jim had related the circumstances. For days
the loyal friend searched laboriously the horrible region of strife,
often sickened nearly unto death by the scenes he witnessed, for his
nature had not been rendered callous by familiarity with the results of
war. Then instead of returning home, he employed the influence given by
his letters and passes, backed by his own earnest pleading, to obtain
permission for a visit to Nichol's regiment. He found it under fire;
and long afterward Jim Wetherby was fond of relating how quietly the
lame civilian listened to the shells shrieking over and exploding
around him. Thus Martine learned all that could be gathered of Nichol's
fate, and then, ill and exhausted, he turned his face northward. He
felt that it would be a hopeless task to renew his search on the
battlefield, much of which had been burned over. He also had the
conviction it would be fatal to him to look upon its unspeakable
horrors, and breathe again its pestilential air.
He was a sick man when he arrived at home, but was able to relate
modestly in outline the history of his efforts, softening and
concealing much that he had witnessed. In the delirium of fever which
followed, they learned more fully of what he had endured, of how he had
forced himself to look upon things which, reproduced in his ravings,
almost froze the blood of his watchers.
Helen Kemble felt that her cup of bitterness had been filled anew, yet
the distraction of a new grief, in which there was a certain remorseful
self-reproach, had the effect of blunting the sharp edge of her first
sorrow. In this new cause for dread she was compelled in some degree to
forget herself. She saw the intense solicitude of her father and
mother, who had been so readily accessory to Martine's expedition; she
also saw that his mother's heart was almost breaking under the strain
of anxiety. His incoherent words were not needed to reveal that his
effort had been prompted by his love. She was one of his watchers,
patiently enduring the expressions of regret which the mother in her
sharp agony could not repress. Nichol's last letter was now known by
heart, its every word felt to be prophetic. She had indeed been called
upon to exercise courage and fortitude greater than he could manifest
even in the Wilderness battle. Although she often faltered, she did not
fail in carrying out his instructions. When at last Martine, a pallid
convalescent, could sit in the shade on the piazza, she looked older by
years, having, besides, the expression seen in the eyes of some women
who have suffered much, and can still suffer much more. In the matter
relating to their deepest consciousness, no words had passed between
them. She felt as if she were a widow, and hoped he would understand.
His full recognition of her position, and acceptance of the fact that
she did and must mourn for her lover, his complete self-abnegation,
brought her a sense of peace.
The old clock on the landing of the stairway measured off the hours and
days with monotonous regularity. Some of the hours and days had been
immeasurably longer than the ancient timekeeper had indicated; but in
accordance with usual human experiences, they began to grow shorter.
Poignant sorrow cannot maintain its severity, or people could not live.
Vines, grasses, and flowers covered the graves in Virginia; the little
cares, duties, and amenities of life began to screen at times the
sorrows that were nevertheless ever present.
"Hobart," Helen said one day in the latter part of June, "do you think
you will be strong enough to attend the commemorative services next
week? You know they have been waiting for you."
"Yes," he replied quietly; "'and they should not have delayed them so
long. It is very sad that so many others have been added since—since—"
"Well, you have not been told, for we have tried to keep every
depressing and disquieting influence from you. Dr. Barnes said it was
very necessary, because you had seen so much that you should try to
forget. Ah, my friend, I can never forget what you suffered for me!
Captain Nichol's funeral sermon was preached while you were so ill. I
was not present—I could not be. I've been to see his mother often, and
she understands me. I could not have controlled my grief, and I have a
horror of displaying my most sacred feelings in public. Father and the
people also wish you to be present at the general commemorative
services, when our Senator will deliver a eulogy on those of our town
who have fallen; but I don't think you should go if you feel that it
will have a bad effect on you."
"I shall be present, Helen. I suppose my mind has been weak like my
body; but the time has come when I must take up life again and accept
its conditions as others are doing. You certainly are setting me a good
example. I admit that my illness has left a peculiar repugnance to
hearing and thinking about the war; it all seemed so very horrible. But
if our brave men can face the thing itself, I should be weak indeed if
I could not listen to a eulogy of their deeds."
"I am coming to think," resumed Helen, thoughtfully, "that the battle
line extends from Maine to the Gulf, and that quiet people like you and
me are upon it as truly as the soldiers in the field. I have thought
that perhaps the most merciful wounds are often those which kill
"I can easily believe that," he said.
His quiet tone and manner did not deceive her, and she looked at him
wistfully as she resumed, "But if they do not kill, the pain must be
borne patiently, even though we are in a measure disabled."
"Yes, Helen; and you are disabled in your power to give me what I can
never help giving you. I know that. I will not misjudge or presume upon
your kindness. We are too good friends to affect any concealments from
"You have expressed my very thought. When you spoke of accepting the
conditions of life, I hoped you had in mind what you have said—the
conditions of life as they ARE, as we cannot help or change them. We
both have got to take up life under new conditions."
"You have; not I, Helen."
Tears rushed to her eyes as she faltered, "I would be transparently
false should I affect not to know. What I wish you to feel through the
coming months and years is that I cannot—that I am disabled by my
"I understand, Helen. We can go on as we have begun. You have lost, as
I have not, for I have never possessed. You will be the greater
sufferer; and it will be my dear privilege to cheer and sustain you in
such ways as are possible to a simple friend."
She regarded him gratefully, and for the first time since that terrible
May morning the semblance of a smile briefly illumined her face.
MARTINE SEEKS AN ANTIDOTE
It can readily be understood that Martine in his expedition to the
South had not limited his efforts solely to his search for Captain
Nichol. Wherever it had been within his power he had learned all that
he could of other officers and men who had come from his native region;
and his letters to their relatives had been in some instances sources
of unspeakable comfort. In his visit to the front he had also seen and
conversed with his fellow-townsmen, some of whom had since perished or
had been wounded. As he grew stronger, Helen wrote out at his dictation
all that he could remember concerning these interviews; and these
accounts became precious heirlooms in many families.
On the Fourth of July the commemorative oration was delivered by the
Senator, who proved himself to be more than senator by his deep, honest
feeling and good taste. The "spread eagle" element was conspicuously
absent in his solemn, dignified, yet hopeful words. He gave to each
their meed of praise. He grew eloquent over the enlisted men who had so
bravely done their duty without the incentive of ambition. When he
spoke of the honor reflected on the village by the heroism of Captain
Nichol, the hearts of the people glowed with gratitude and pride; but
thoughts of pity came to all as they remembered the girl, robed in
black, who sat with bowed head among them.
"I can best bring my words to a close," said the Senator, "by reading
part of a letter written by one of your townsmen, a private in the
ranks, yet expressive of feelings inseparable from our common human
"DEAR FATHER—You know I ain't much given to fine feelings or fine
words. Poor Sam beat me all holler in such things; but I want you and
all the folks in Alton to know that you've got a regular soldier at
home. Of course we were all glad to see Bart Martine; and we expected
to have a good-natured laugh at his expense when the shells began to
fly. Soldiers laugh, as they eat, every chance they get, 'cause they
remember it may be the last one. Well, we knew Bart didn't know any
more about war than a chicken, and we expected to see him get very
nervous and limp off to the rear on the double quick. He didn't scare
worth a cent. When a shell screeched over our heads, he just waited
till the dinged noise was out of our ears and then went on with his
questions about poor Cap and Sam and the others from our town. We were
supporting a battery, and most of us lying down. He sat there with us a
good hour, telling about the folks at home, and how you were all
following us with your thoughts and prayers, and how you all mourned
with those who lost friends, and were looking after the children of the
killed and wounded. Fact is, before we knew it we were all on our feet
cheering for Alton and the folks at home and the little lame man, who
was just as good a soldier as any of us. I tell you he heartened up the
boys, what's left of us. I'm sorry to hear he's so sick. If he should
die, bury him with a soldier's honors. JAMES WETHERBY."
"These plain, simple, unadorned words," concluded the Senator, "need no
comment. Their force and significance cannot be enhanced by anything I
can say. I do not know that I could listen quietly to shrieking and
exploding shells while I spoke words of courage and good cheer; but I
do know that I wish to be among the foremost to honor your modest,
unassuming townsman, who could do all this and more."
Martine was visibly distressed by this unexpected feature in the
oration and the plaudits which followed. He was too sad, too weak in
body and mind, and too fresh from the ghastly battlefield, not to
shrink in sensitive pain from personal and public commendation. He
evaded his neighbors as far as possible and limped hastily away.
He did not see Helen again till the following morning, for her wound
had been opened afresh, and she spent the remainder of the day and
evening in the solitude of her room. Martine was troubled at this, and
thought she felt as he did.
In the morning she joined him on the piazza. She was pale from her long
sad vigil, but renewed strength and a gentle patience were expressed in
her thin face.
"It's too bad, Helen," he broke out in unwonted irritation. "I wouldn't
have gone if I had known. It was a miserable letting down of all that
had gone before—that reference to me."
Now she smiled brightly as she said, "You are the only one present who
thought so. Has this been worrying you?"
"Yes, it has. If the speaker had seen what I saw, he would have known
better. His words only wounded me."
"He judged you by other men, Hobart. His words would not have wounded
very many. I'm glad I heard that letter—that I have learned what I
never could from you. I'm very proud of my friend. What silly creatures
women are, anyway! They want their friends to be brave, yet dread the
consequences of their being so beyond words."
"Well," said Martine, a little grimly, "I'm going to my office
to-morrow. I feel the need of a long course of reading in Blackstone."
"You must help keep me busy also," was her reply.
"I've thought about that; yes, a great deal. You need some wholesome,
natural interest that is capable of becoming somewhat absorbing. Is it
strange that I should recommend one phase of my hobby, flowers? You
know that every tree, shrub, and plant on our little place is a sort of
a pet with me. You are fond of flowers, but have never given much
thought to their care, leaving that to your gardener. Flowers are only
half enjoyed by those who do not cultivate them, nurse, or pet them.
Then there is such an infinite variety that before you know it your
thoughts are pleasantly occupied in experimenting with even one family
of plants. It is an interest which will keep you much in the open air
and bring you close to Mother Nature."
The result of this talk was that the sad-hearted girl first by resolute
effort and then by a growing fondness for the tasks, began to take a
personal interest in the daily welfare of her plants. Martine and her
father were always on the look-out for something new and rare; and as
winter approached, the former had a small conservatory built on the
sunny side of the house. They also gave her several caged song-birds,
which soon learned to recognize and welcome her. From one of his
clients Martine obtained a droll-looking dog that seemed to possess
almost human intelligence. In the daily care of living things and
dependent creatures that could bloom or be joyous without jarring upon
her feelings, as would human mirth or gayety, her mind became
wholesomely occupied part of each day; she could smile at objects which
did not know, which could not understand.
Still, there was no effort on her part to escape sad memories or the
acts and duties which revived them. A noble monument had been erected
to Captain Nichol, and one of her chief pleasures was to decorate it
with the flowers grown under her own care. Few days passed on which she
did not visit one of the families who were or had been represented at
the front, while Mrs. Nichol felt that if she had lost a son she had in
a measure gained a daughter. As the months passed and winter was
wellnigh spent, the wise gossips of the village again began to shake
their heads and remark, "Helen Kemble and Bart Martine are very good
friends; but I guess that's all it will amount to—all, at any rate,
for a long time."
All, for all time, Helen had honestly thought. It might easily have
been for all time had another lover sought her, or if Martine himself
had become a wooer and so put her on her guard. It was his patient
acceptance of what she had said could not be helped, his
self-forgetfulness, which caused her to remember his need—a need
greatly increased by a sad event. In the breaking up of winter his
mother took a heavy cold which ended in pneumonia and death.
The gossips made many plans for him and indulged in many surmises as to
what he would do; but he merely engaged the services of an old woman as
domestic, and lived on quietly as before. Perhaps he grew a little
morbid after this bereavement and clung more closely to his lonely
This would not be strange. Those who dwell among shadows become ill at
ease away from them. Helen was the first to discover this tendency, and
to note that he was not rallying as she had hoped he would. He rarely
sought their house except by invitation, and then often lapsed into
silences which he broke with an evident effort. He never uttered a word
of complaint or consciously appealed for sympathy, but was slowly
yielding to the steady pressure of sadness which had almost been his
heritage. She would have been less than woman if, recalling the past
and knowing so well the unsatisfied love in his heart, she had not felt
for him daily a larger and deeper commiseration. When the early March
winds rattled the casements, or drove the sleety rain against the
windows, she saw him in fancy sitting alone brooding, always brooding.
One day she asked abruptly, "Hobart, what are you thinking about so
deeply when you are looking at the fire?"
A slow, deep flush came into his face, and he hesitated in his answer.
At last he said, "I fear I'm getting into a bad mood, and think I must
do something decided. Well, for one thing, the continuance of this war
weighs upon my spirit. Men are getting so scarce that I believe they
will take me in some capacity. Now that mother is not here, I think I
ought to go."
"Oh, Hobart, we would miss you so!" she faltered.
He looked up with a smile. "Yes, Helen, I think you would—not many
others, though. You have become so brave and strong that you do not
need me any more."
"I am not so brave and strong as I seem. If I were, how did I become
so? With the tact and delicacy of a woman, yet with the strength of a
man, you broke the crushing force of the first blow, and have helped me
"You see everything through a very friendly medium. At any rate I could
not have been content a moment if I had not done all in my power. You
do not need me any longer; you have become a source of strength to
others. I cannot help seeing crowded hospital wards; and the thought
pursues me that in one of them I might do something to restore a
soldier to his place in the field or save him for those at home. I
could at least be a hospital nurse, and I believe it would be better
for me to be doing some such work."
"I believe it would be better for me also," she answered, her eyes full
"No, Helen—no, indeed. You have the higher mission of healing the
heart-wounds which the war is making in your own vicinity. You should
not think of leaving your father and mother in their old age, or of
filling their days with anxiety which might shorten their lives."
"It will be very hard for us to let you go. Oh, I did not think I would
have to face this also!"
He glanced at her hastily, for there was a sharp distress in her tone,
of which she was scarcely conscious herself. Then, as if recollecting
himself, he reasoned gently and earnestly: "You were not long in
adopting the best antidote for trouble. In comforting others, you have
been comforted. The campaign is opening in Virginia; and I think it
would be a good and wholesome thing for me to be at work among the
wounded. If I can save one life, it will be such a comfort after the
war is over."
"Yes," she replied, softly; "the war will be over some day. Albert, in
his last letter, said the war would cease, and that happy days of peace
were coming. How they can ever be happy days to some I scarcely know;
but he seemed to foresee the future when he wrote."
"Helen, I'm going. Perhaps the days of peace will be a little happier
if I go."
Martine carried out his purpose almost immediately, seeking the
temporary and most exposed hospitals on the extreme left of Grant's
army before Petersburg. Indeed, while battles were still in progress he
would make his way to the front and become the surgeon's tireless
assistant. While thus engaged, even under the enemy's fire, he was able
to render services to Jim Wetherby which probably saved the soldier's
life. Jim lost his right arm, but found a nurse who did not let him
want for anything till the danger point following amputation had
passed. Before many weeks he was safe at home, and from him Helen
learned more of Martine's quiet heroism than she could ever gather from
his letters. In Jim Wetherby's estimation, Cap and Bart Martine were
the two heroes of the war.
The latter had found the right antidote. Not a moment was left for
morbid brooding. On every side were sharp physical distress, deadly
peril to life and limb, pathetic efforts to hold ground against
diseases or sloughing wounds. In aiding such endeavor, in giving moral
support and physical care, Martine forgot himself. Helen's letters also
were an increasing inspiration. He could scarcely take up one of them
and say, "Here her words begin to have a warmer tinge of feeling;" but
as spring advanced, imperceptibly yet surely, in spite of pauses and
apparent retrogressions, just so surely she revealed a certain warmth
of sympathy. He was engaged in a work which made it easy for her to
idealize him. His unselfish effort to help men live, to keep bitter
tears from the eyes of their relatives, appealed most powerfully to all
that was unselfish in her nature, and she was beginning to ask, "If I
can make this man happier, why should I not do so?" Nichol's letter
gained a new meaning in the light of events: "I do not ask you to
forget me—that would be worse than death—but I ask you to try to be
happy and to make others happy."
"A noble, generous nature prompted those words," she now often mused.
"How can I obey their spirit better than in rewarding the man who not
only has done so much for me, but also at every cost sought to rescue
In this growing disposition she had no innate repugnance to overcome,
nor the shrinking which can neither be defined nor reasoned against.
Accustomed to see him almost daily from childhood, conscious for years
that he was giving her a love that was virtually homage, she found her
heart growing very compassionate and ready to yield the strong, quiet
affection which she believed might satisfy him. This had come about
through no effort on her part, from no seeking on his, but was the
result of circumstances, the outgrowth of her best and most unselfish
But the effect began to separate itself in character from its causes.
All that had gone before might explain why she was learning to love
him, and be sufficient reason for this affection, but a woman's love,
even that quiet phase developing in Helen's heart, is not like a man's
conviction, for which he can give his clear-cut reasons. It is a
tenderness for its object—a wish to serve and give all in return for
what it receives.
Martine vaguely felt this change in Helen long before he understood it.
He saw only a warmer glow of sisterly affection, too high a valuation
of his self-denying work, and a more generous attempt to give him all
the solace and support within her power.
One day in July, when the war was well over and the field hospitals
long since broken up, he wrote from Washington, where he was still
pursuing his labors:
"My work is drawing to a close. Although I have not accomplished a
tithe of what I wished to do, and have soon so much left undone, I am
glad to remember that I have alleviated much pain and, I think, saved
some lives. Such success as I have had, dear Helen, has largely been
due to you. Your letters have been like manna. You do not know—it
would be impossible for you to know—the strength they have given, the
inspiration they have afforded. I am naturally very weary and worn
physically, and the doctors say I must soon have rest; but your kind
words have been life-giving to my soul. I turn to them from day to day
as one would seek a cool, unfailing spring. I can now accept life
gratefully with the conditions which cannot be changed. How fine is the
influence of a woman like you! What deep springs of action it touches!
When waiting on the sick and wounded, I try to blend your womanly
nature with my coarser fibre. Truly, neither of us has suffered in vain
if we learn better to minister to others. I cannot tell you how I long
to see the home gardens again; and it now seems that just to watch you
in yours will be unalloyed happiness."
Helen smiled over this letter with sweet, deep meanings in her eyes.
One August evening, as the Kemble family sat at tea, he gave them a
joyous surprise by appearing at the door and asking in a matter-of-fact
voice, "Can you put an extra plate on the table?"
There was no mistaking the gladness of her welcome, for it was as
genuine as the bluff heartiness of her father and the gentle solicitude
of her mother, who exclaimed, "Oh, Hobart, how thin and pale you are!"
"A few weeks' rest at home will remedy all that," he said. "The heat in
Washington was more trying than my work."
"Well, thank the Lord! you ARE at home once more," cried the banker. "I
was thinking of drawing on the authorities at Washington for a neighbor
who had been loaned much too long."
"Helen," said Martine, with pleased eyes, "how well you look! It is a
perfect delight to see color in your cheeks once more. They are
gaining, too, their old lovely roundness. I'm going to say what I think
right out, for I've been with soldiers so long that I've acquired their
"It's that garden work you lured me into," she explained. "I hope you
won't think your plants and trees have been neglected."
"Have you been keeping my pets from missing me?"
"I guess they have missed you least of all. Helen has seen to it that
they were cared for first," said Mrs. Kemble, emphatically.
"You didn't write about that;" and he looked at the girl gratefully.
"Do you think I could see weeds and neglect just over the fence?" she
asked, with a piquant toss of her head.
"Do you think I could believe that you cared for my garden only that
your eyes might not be offended?"
"There, I only wished to give you a little surprise. You have treated
us to one by walking in with such delightful unexpectedness, and so
should understand. I'll show you when you are through supper."
"I'm through now;" and he rose with a promptness most pleasing to her.
His gladness in recognizing old and carefully nurtured friends, his
keen, appreciative interest in the new candidates for favor that she
had planted, rewarded her abundantly.
"Oh," he exclaimed, "what a heavenly exchange from the close, fetid air
of hospital wards! Could the first man have been more content in his
divinely planted garden?"
She looked at him shyly and thought, "Perhaps when you taste of the
fruit of knowledge the old story will have a new and better meaning."
She now regarded him with a new and wistful interest, no longer seeing
him through the medium of friendship only. His face, thin and
spiritualized, revealed his soul without disguise. It was the
countenance of one who had won peace through the divine path of
ministry—healing others, himself had been healed. She saw also his
unchanged, steadfast love shining like a gem over which flows a crystal
current. Its ray was as serene as it was undimmed. It had taken its
place as an imperishable quality in his character—a place which it
would retain without vicissitude unless some sign from her called it
into immediate and strong manifestation. She was in no haste to give
this. Time was touching her kindly; the sharp, cruel outlines of the
past were softening in the distance, and she was content to remember
that the treasure was hers when she was ready for it—a treasure more
With exultation she saw him honored by the entire community. Few days
passed without new proofs of the hold he had gained on the deepest and
best feelings of the people. She who once had pitied now looked up to
him as the possessor of that manhood which the most faultless outward
semblance can only suggest.
Love is a magician at whose touch the plainest features take on new
aspects. Helen's face had never been plain. Even in its anguish it had
produced in beholders the profound commiseration which is more readily
given when beauty is sorrowful. Now that a new life at heart was
expressing itself, Martine, as well as others, could not fail to note
the subtile changes. While the dewy freshness of her girlish bloom was
absent, the higher and more womanly qualities were now revealing
themselves. Her nature had been deepened by her experiences, and the
harmony of her life was all the sweeter for its minor chords.
To Martine she became a wonderful mystery, and he almost worshipped the
woman whose love he believed buried in an unknown grave, but whose eyes
were often so strangely kind. He resumed his old life, but no longer
brooded at home, when the autumn winds began to blow. He recognized the
old danger and shunned it resolutely. If he could not beguile his
thoughts from Helen, it was but a step to her home, and her eyes always
shone with a luminous welcome. Unless detained by study of the legal
points of some case in hand, he usually found his way over to the
Kemble fireside before the evening passed, and his friends encouraged
him to come when he felt like it. The old banker found the young man
exceedingly companionable, especially in his power to discuss
intelligently the new financial conditions into which the country was
passing. Helen would smile to herself as she watched the two men
absorbed in questions she little understood, and observed her mother
nodding drowsily over her knitting. The scene was so peaceful, so
cheery, so hopeful against the dark background of the past, that she
could not refrain from gratitude. Her heart no longer ached with
despairing sorrow, and the anxious, troubled expression had faded out
of her parents' faces.
"Yes," she would murmur softly to herself, "Albert was right; the
bloody war has ceased, and the happy days of peace are coming. Heaven
has blessed him and made his memory doubly blessed, in that he had the
heart to wish them to be happy, although he could not live to see them.
Unconsciously he took the thorns out of the path which led to his
friend and mine. How richly father enjoys Hobart's companionship! He
will be scarcely less happy—when he knows—than yonder friend, who is
such a very scrupulous friend. Indeed, how either is ever going to know
I scarcely see, unless I make a formal statement."
Suddenly Martine turned, and caught sight of her expression.
"All I have for your thoughts! What wouldn't I give to know them!"
Her face became rosier than the firelight warranted as she laughed
outright and shook her head.
"No matter," he said; "I am content to hear you laugh like that."
"Yes, yes," added the banker; "Helen's laugh is sweeter to me than any
music I ever heard. Thank God! we all can laugh again. I am getting
old, and in the course of nature must soon jog on to the better
country. When that time comes, the only music I want to hear from earth
is good, honest laughter."
"Now, papa, hush that talk right away," cried Helen, with glistening
"What's the matter?" Mrs. Kemble asked, waking up.
"Nothing, my dear, only it's time for us old people to go to bed."
"Well, I own that it would be more becoming to sleep there than to
reflect so unfavorably on your conversation. Of late years talk about
money matters always puts me to sleep."
"That wasn't the case, was it, my dear, when we tried to stretch a
thousand so it would reach from one January to another?"
"I remember," she replied, smiling and rolling up her knitting, "that
we sometimes had to suspend specie payments. Ah, well, we were happy."
When left alone, it was Helen's turn to say, "Now your thoughts are
wool-gathering. You don't see the fire when you look at it that way."
"No, I suppose not," replied Martine. "I'll be more frank than you.
Your mother's words, 'We were happy,' left an echo in my mind. How
experience varies! It is pleasant to think that there are many
perfectly normal, happy lives like those of your father and mother."
"That's one thing I like in you, Hobart. You are so perfectly willing
that others should be happy."
"Helen, I agree with your father. Your laugh WAS music, the sweetest I
ever heard. I'm more than willing that you should be happy. Why should
you not be? I have always felt that what he said was true—what he said
about the right to laugh after sorrow—but it never seemed so true
before. Who could wish to leave blighting sorrow after him? Who could
sing in heaven if he knew that he had left tears which could not be
dried on earth?"
"You couldn't," she replied with bowed head.
"Nor you, either; nor the brave man who died, to whom I only do justice
in believing that he would only be happier could he hear your laugh.
Your father's wholesome, hearty nature should teach us to banish every
morbid tendency. Let your heart grow as light as it will, my friend.
Your natural impulses will not lead you astray. Good-night."
"You feel sure of that?" she asked, giving him a hand that fluttered in
his, and looking at him with a soft fire in her eyes.
"Oh, Helen, how distractingly beautiful you are! You are blooming again
like your Jack-roses when the second growth pushes them into flower.
There; I must go. If I had a stone in my breast instead of a
heart—Good-night. I won't be weak again."
MORE THAN REWARD
Helen Kemble's character was simple and direct She was one who lived
vividly in the passing hour, and had a greater capacity for deep
emotions than for retaining them. The reputation for constancy is
sometimes won by those incapable of strong convictions. A scratch upon
a rock remains in all its sharpness, while the furrow that has gone
deep into the heart of a field is eventually almost hidden by a new
flowering growth. The truth was fully exemplified in Helen's case; and
a willingness to marry her lifelong lover, prompted at first by a
spirit of self-sacrifice, had become, under the influence of daily
companionship, more than mere assent. While gratitude and the wish to
see the light of a great, unexpected joy come into his eyes remained
her chief motives, she had learned that she could attain a happiness
herself, not hoped for once, in making him happy.
He was true to his word, after the interview described in the preceding
chapter. He did not consciously reveal the unappeased hunger of his
heart, but her intuition was never at fault a moment.
One Indian-summer-like morning, about the middle of October, he went
over to her home and said, "Helen, what do you say to a long day's
outing? The foliage is at its brightest, the air soft as that of June.
Why not store up a lot of this sunshine for winter use?"
"Yes, Helen, go," urged her mother. "I can attend to everything."
"A long day, did you stipulate?" said the girl in ready assent; "that
means we should take a lunch. I don't believe you ever thought of that."
"We could crack nuts, rob apple-orchards, or if driven to extremity,
raid a farmhouse."
"You have heard too much from the soldiers about living off the
country. I'd rather raid mamma's cupboard before we start. I'll be
ready as soon as you are."
He soon appeared in his low, easy phaeton; and she joined him with the
presentiment that there might be even greater gladness in his face by
evening than it now expressed. While on the way to the brow of a
distant hill which would be their lunching place, they either talked
with the freedom of old friends or lapsed into long silences.
At last he asked, "Isn't it a little odd that when with you the sense
of companionship is just as strong when you are not talking?"
"It's a comfort you are so easily entertained. Don't you think I'm a
rather moderate talker for a woman?"
"Those that talk the most are often least entertaining. I've thought a
good deal about it—the unconscious influence of people on one another.
I don't mean influence in any moral sense, but in the power to make one
comfortable or uncomfortable, and to produce a sense of restfulness and
content or to make one ill at ease and nervously desirous of escape."
"And you have actually no nervous desire to escape, no castings around
in your mind for an excuse to turn around and drive home?"
"No one could give a surer answer to your question than yourself. I've
been thinking of something pleasanter than my enjoyment."
"That your expression has been a very contented one during the last
hour. I am coming to believe that you can accept my friendship without
effort. You women are all such mysteries! One gets hold of a clew now
and then. I have fancied that if you had started out in the spirit of
self-sacrifice that I might have a pleasant time, you would be more
conscious of your purpose. Even your tact might not have kept me from
seeing that you were exerting yourself; but the very genius of the day
seems to possess you. Nature is not exerting herself in the least. No
breath of air is stirring; all storms are in the past or the future.
With a smile on her face, she is just resting in serene content, as you
were, I hope. She is softening and obscuring everything distant by an
orange haze, so that the sunny present may be all the more real. Days
like these will do you good, especially if your face and manner reveal
that you can be as truly at rest as Nature."
"Yet what changes may soon pass over the placid scene!"
"Yes, but don't think of them."
"Well, I won't—not now. Yes, you are becoming very penetrating. I am
not exerting myself in the least to give you a pleasant time. I am just
selfishly and lazily content."
"That fact gives me so much more than content that it makes me happy."
"Hobart, you are the most unselfish man I ever knew."
They had reached their picnic-ground—the edge of a grove whose
bright-hued foliage still afforded a grateful shade. The horse was
unharnessed and picketed so that he might have a long range for
grazing. Then Martine brought the provision basket to the foot of a
great oak, and sat down to wait for Helen, who had wandered away in
search of wild flowers. At last she came with a handful of
late-blooming closed gentians.
"I thought these would make an agreeable feature in your lunch."
"Oh, you are beginning to exert yourself."
"Yes, I have concluded to, a little. So must you, to the extent of
making a fire. The rest will be woman's work. I propose to drink your
health in a cup of coffee."
"Ah, this is unalloyed," he cried, sipping it later on.
"Yes, and everything. We don't foresee the bright days any more than
the dark ones. I did not dream of this in Virginia."
"You are easily satisfied. The coffee is smoky, the lunch is cold,
winter is coming, and—"
"And I am very happy," he said.
"It would be a pity to disturb your serenity."
"Nothing shall disturb it to-day. Peace is one of the rarest
experiences in this world. I mean only to remember that our armies are
disbanded and that you are at rest, like Nature."
She had brought a little book of autumn poems, and after lunch read to
him for an hour, he listening with the same expression of quiet
satisfaction. As the day declined, she shivered slightly in the shade.
He immediately arose and put a shawl around her.
"You are always shielding me," she said gently.
"One can do so little of that kind of thing," he replied, "not much
more than show intent."
"Now you do yourself injustice." After a moment's hesitancy she added,
"I am not quite in your mood to-day, and even Nature, as your ally,
cannot make me forget or even wish to forget."
"I do not wish you to forget, but merely cease to remember for a little
while. You say Nature is my ally. Listen: already the wind is beginning
to sigh in the branches overhead. The sound is low and mournful, as if
full of regret for the past and forebodings for the future. There is a
change coming. All that I wished or could expect in you was that this
serene, quiet day would give you a respite—that complete repose in
which the wounded spirit is more rapidly healed and strengthened for
"Have you been strengthened? Have you no fears for the future?"
"No fears, Helen. My life is strong in its negation. The man who is
agitated by hopes and fears, who is doomed to disappointments, is the
one who has not recognized his limitations, who has not accepted
"Hobart, I'm going to put you on your honor now. Remember, and do not
answer hastily," and her gaze into his face was searching. Although
quiet and perfectly self-controlled, the rich color mounted to her very
"Well, Helen," he asked wonderingly.
"Imagine it possible," she continued with the same earnest gaze, "that
you were a woman who has loved as I have loved, and lost as I have. The
circumstances are all known, and you have only to recall them. If a man
had loved you as you have loved me—"
"But, Helen, can you not believe in a love so strong that it does not
By a gesture she checked him and repeated, "But if a man had loved you
as you have loved me—remember now, on your honor—would you permit him
to love with no better reward than the consciousness of being a solace,
a help, a sort of buffer between you and the ills of life?"
"But, Helen, I am more than that: I am your friend."
"Indeed you are, the best a woman ever had, or I could not speak as I
am doing. Yet what I say is true. From the first it has been your
sleepless aim to stand between me and trouble. What have I ever done
"In giving me your friendship—"
Again she interrupted him, saying, "That virtually means giving you the
chance for continued self-sacrifice. Any man or woman in the land would
give you friendship on such terms, YOUR terms with me. But you do not
answer my question; yet you have answered it over and over again. Were
you in my place with your unselfish nature, you could not take so very
much without an inevitable longing to return all in your power."
He was deeply agitated. Burying his face in his hands, he said
hoarsely, "I must not look at you, or my duty may be too hard. Ah, you
are banishing peace and serenity now with a vengeance! I recognize your
motive—whither your thoughts are tending. Your conscience, your pity,
your exaggerated gratitude are driving you to contemplate a
self-sacrifice compared with which mine is as nothing. Yet the
possibility of what you suggest is so sweet, so—oh, it is like the
reward of heaven for a brief life!" Then he bowed his head lower and
added slowly, as if the words were forced from him, "No, Helen, you
shall not reward me. I cannot take as pay, or 'return,' as you express
it, the reward that you are meditating. I must not remember in after
years that my efforts in your behalf piled up such a burdensome sense
of obligation that there was but one escape from it."
She came to his side, and removing his hands from his face, retained
one of them as she said, gently, "Hobart, I am no longer a shy girl. I
have suffered too deeply, I have learned too thoroughly how life may be
robbed of happiness, and for a time, almost of hope, not to see the
folly of letting the years slip away, unproductive of half what they
might yield to you and me. I understand you; you do not understand me,
probably because your ideal is too high. You employed an illustration
in the narrowest meaning. Is heaven given only as a reward? Is not
every true gift an expression of something back of the gift, more than
"Yes, Hobart, in my wish to make you happier I am not bent on
unredeemed self-sacrifice. You have been the most skilful of wooers."
"And you are the divinest of mysteries. How have I wooed you?"
"By not wooing at all, by taking a course which compelled my heart to
plead your cause, by giving unselfish devotion so unstintedly that like
the rain and dew of heaven, it has fostered a new life in my heart,
different from the old, yet sweet, real, and precious. I have learned
that I can be happier in making you happy. Oh, I shall be no martyr. Am
I inconstant because time and your ministry have healed the old
wound—because the steady warmth and glow of your love has kindled
He regarded her with a gaze so rapt, so reverent, so expressive of
immeasurable gratitude that her eyes filled with tears. "I think you do
understand me," she whispered.
He kissed her hand in homage as he replied, "A joy like this is almost
as hard to comprehend at first as an equally great sorrow. My garden
teaches me to understand you. A perfect flower-stalk is suddenly and
rudely broken. Instead of dying, it eventually sends out a little
side-shoot which gives what bloom it can."
"And you will be content with what it can give?"
"I shall be glad with a happiness which almost terrifies me. Only God
knows how I have longed for this."
That evening the old banker scarcely ceased rubbing his hands in
general felicitation, while practical, housewifely Mrs. Kemble already
began to plan what she intended to do toward establishing Helen in the
Now that Martine believed his great happiness possible, he was eager
for its consummation. At his request the 1st of December was named as
the wedding day. "The best that a fireside and evening lamp ever
suggested will then come true to me," ha urged. "Since this can be,
life is too short that it should not be soon."
Helen readily yielded. Indeed, they were all so absorbed in planning
for his happiness as to be oblivious of the rising storm. When at last
the girl went to her room, the wind sighed and wailed so mournfully
around the house as to produce a feeling of depression and foreboding.
The wild night storm which followed the most memorable day of his life
had no power to depress Martine. In the wavy flames and glowing coals
of his open fire he saw heavenly pictures of the future. He drew his
mother's low chair to the hearth, and his kindled fancy placed Helen in
it. Memory could so reproduce her lovely and familiar features that her
presence became almost a reality. In a sense he watched her changing
expression and heard her low, mellow tones. The truth that both would
express an affection akin to his own grew upon his consciousness like
the incoming of a sun-lighted tide. The darkness and storm without
became only the background of his pictures, enhancing every prophetic
representation. The night passed in ecstatic waking dreams of all that
the word "home" suggests when a woman, loved as he loved Helen, was its
The days and weeks which followed were filled with divine enchantment;
the prosaic world was transfigured; the intricacies of the law were
luminous with the sheen of gold, becoming the quartz veins from which
he would mine wealth for Helen; the plants in his little rose-house
were cared for with caressing tenderness because they gave buds which
would be worn over the heart now throbbing for him. Never did mortal
know such unalloyed happiness as blessed Martine, as he became daily
more convinced that Helen was not giving herself to him merely from the
promptings of compassion.
At times, when she did not know he was listening, he heard her low,
sweet laugh; and it had a joyous ring and melody which repeated itself
like a haunting refrain of music. He would say smilingly, "It is
circumstantial evidence, equivalent to direct proof."
Helen and her mother almost took possession of his house while he was
absent at his office, refurnishing and transforming it, yet retaining
with reverent memory what was essentially associated with Mrs. Martine.
The changing aspects of the house did not banish the old sense of
familiarity, but were rather like the apple-tree in the corner of the
garden when budding into new foliage and flower. The banker's purse was
ever open for all this renovation, but Martine jealously persisted in
his resolve to meet every expense himself. Witnessing his gladness and
satisfaction, they let him have his way, he meanwhile exulting over
Helen's absorbed interest in the adornment of her future home.
The entire village had a friendly concern in the approaching wedding;
and the aged gossips never tired of saying, "I told you so," believing
that they understood precisely how it had all come about. Even Mrs.
Nichol aquiesced with a few deep sighs, assuring herself, "I suppose
it's natural. I'd rather it was Bart Martine than anybody else."
A few days before the 1st of December, Martine received a telegram from
an aged uncle residing in a distant State. It conveyed a request hard
to comply with, yet he did not see how it could be evaded. The despatch
was delivered in the evening while he was at the Kembles', and its
effect upon the little group was like a bolt out of a clear sky. It ran:
"Your cousin dangerously ill at——Hospital, Washington. Go to him at
once, if possible, and telegraph me to come, if necessary."
Hobart explained that this cousin had remained in the army from choice,
and that his father, old and feeble, naturally shrank from a journey to
which he was scarcely equal. "My hospital experience," he concluded,
"leads him to think that I am just the one to go, especially as I can
get there much sooner than he. I suppose he is right. Indeed, I do not
know of any one else whom he could call upon. It certainly is a very
painful duty at this time."
"I can't endure to think of it," Helen exclaimed.
"It's a clear question of conscience, Helen," he replied gently. "Many
years have passed since I saw this cousin, yet he, and still more
strongly his father, have the claims of kinship. If anything should
happen which my presence could avert, you know we should both feel bad.
It would be a cloud upon our happiness. If this request had come before
you had changed everything for me, you know I would have gone without a
moment's hesitation. Very gratitude should make me more ready for
duty;" yet he signed deeply.
"But it may delay the wedding, for which the invitations have gone
out," protested Mrs. Kemble.
"Possibly it may, if my cousin's life is in danger." Then, brightening
up, he added: "Perhaps I shall find that I can leave him in good care
for a short time, and then we can go to Washington on our wedding trip.
I would like to gain associations with that city different from those I
"Come now," said the banker, hopefully, "if we must face this thing, we
must. The probabilities are that it will turn out as Hobart says. At
worst it can only be a sad interruption and episode. Hobart will be
better satisfied in the end if he does what he now thinks his duty."
"Yours is the right view," assented the young man, firmly. "I shall
take the midnight train, and telegraph as soon as I have seen my cousin
and the hospital surgeon."
He went home and hastily made his preparations; then, with valise in
hand, returned to the Kembles'. The old people bade him Godspeed on his
journey, and considerately left him with his affianced.
"Hobart," Helen entreated, as they were parting, "be more than
ordinarily prudent. Do not take any risks, even the most trivial,
unless you feel you must. Perhaps I'm weak and foolish, but I'm
possessed with a strange, nervous dread. This sudden call of duty—for
so I suppose I must look upon it—seems so inopportune;" and she hid
her tears on his shoulder.
"You are taking it much too seriously, darling," he said, gently
drawing her closer to him.
"Yes, my reason tells me that I am. You are only going on a brief
journey, facing nothing that can be called danger. Yet I speak as I
feel—I cannot help feeling. Give me glad reassurance by returning
quickly and safely. Then hereafter I will laugh at forebodings."
"There, you need not wait till I reach Washington. You shall hear from
me in the morning, and I will also telegraph when I have opportunity on
"Please do so, and remember that I could not endure to have my life
Late the following evening, Martine inquired his way to the bedside of
his cousin, and was glad indeed to find him convalescent. His own
experienced eyes, together with the statement of the sick man and
wardmaster, convinced him that the danger point was well passed. In
immense relief of mind he said cheerily, "I will watch to-night"; and
so it was arranged.
His cousin, soothed and hushed in his desire to talk, soon dropped into
quiet slumber, while Martine's thronging thoughts banished the sense of
drowsiness. A shaded lamp burned near, making a circle of light and
leaving the rest of the ward dim and shadowy. The scene was very
familiar, and it was an easy effort for his imagination to place in the
adjoining cots the patients with whom, months before, he had fought the
winning or losing battle of life. While memory sometimes went back
compassionately to those sufferers, his thoughts dwelt chiefly upon the
near future, with its certainty of happiness—a happiness doubly
appreciated because his renewed experience in the old conditions of his
life made the home which awaited him all the sweeter from contrast. He
could scarcely believe that he was the same man who in places like this
had sought to forget the pain of bereavement and of denial of his
dearest wish—he who in the morning would telegraph Helen that the
wedding need not even be postponed, or any change made in their plans.
The hours were passing almost unnoted, when a patient beyond the circle
of light feebly called for water. Almost mechanically Hobart rose to
get it, when a man wearing carpet slippers and an old dressing-gown
shuffled noiselessly into view.
"Captain Nichol!" gasped Martine, sinking back, faint and trembling, in
The man paid no attention, but passed through the circle of light to
the patient, gave him a drink, and turned. Martine stared with the
paralysis of one looking upon an apparition.
When the figure was opposite to him, he again ejaculated hoarsely,
The form in slippers and gray ghostly dressing-gown turned sleepy eyes
upon him without the slightest sign of recognition, passed on, and
disappeared among the shadows near the wardmaster's room.
A blending of relief and fearful doubt agitated Martine. He knew he had
been wide awake and in the possession of every faculty—that his
imagination had been playing him no tricks. He was not even thinking of
Nichol at the time; yet the impression that he had looked upon and
spoken to his old schoolmate, to Helen's dead lover, had been as strong
as it was instantaneous. When the man had turned, there had been an
unnatural expression, which in a measure dispelled the illusion. After
a moment of thought which scorched his brain, he rose and followed the
man's steps, and was in time to see him rolling himself in his blanket
on the cot nearest the door. From violent agitation, Martine
unconsciously shook the figure outlined in the blanket roughly, as he
asked, "What's your name?"
"Yankee Blank, doggone yer! Kyant you wake a feller 'thout yankin' 'im
out o' baid? What yer want?"
"Great God!" muttered Hobart, tottering back to his seat beside his
sleeping cousin, "was there ever such a horrible, mocking suggestion of
one man in another? Yankee Blank—what a name! Southern accent and
vernacular, yet Nichol's voice! Such similarity combined with such
dissimilarity is like a nightmare. Of course it's not Nichol. He was
killed nearly two years ago. I'd be more than human if I could wish him
back now; but never in my life have I been so shocked and startled.
This apparition must account for itself in the morning."
But he could not wait till morning; he could not control himself five
minutes. He felt that he must banish that horrible semblance of Nichol
from his mind by convincing himself of its absurdity.
He waited a few moments in order to compose his nerves, and then
returned. The man had evidently gone to sleep.
"What a fool I am!" Martine again muttered. "Let the poor fellow sleep.
The fact that he doesn't know me is proof enough. The idea of wanting
any proof! I can investigate his case in the morning, and, no doubt, in
broad light that astonishing suggestion of Nichol will disappear."
He was about to turn away when the patient who had called for water
groaned slightly. As if his ears were as sensitive to such sounds as
those of a mother who hears her child even when it stirs, the man
arose. Seeing Martine standing by him, he asked in slight irritation,
"What yer want? Why kyant yer say what yer want en have done 'th it?
Lemme 'tend ter that feller yander firs'. We uns don't want no mo'
stiffs;" and he shuffled with a peculiar, noiseless tread to the
patient whose case seemed on his mind. Martine followed, his very hair
rising at the well-remembered tones, and the mysterious principle of
identity again revealed within the circle of light.
"This is simply horrible!" he groaned inwardly, "and I must have that
man account for himself instantly."
"Now I'll 'tend ter yer, but yer mout let a feller sleep when he kin."
"Don't you know me?" faltered Martine, overpowered.
"Please tell me your real name, not your nickname."
"Ain' got no name 'cept Yankee Blank. What's the matter with yer,
"Didn't you ever hear of Captain Nichol?"
"Reckon not. Mout have. I've nussed mo' cap'ins than I kin reckerlect."
"Are you a hospital nurse?"
"Sorter 'spect I am. That's what I does, anyhow. Have you anything agin
it? Don't yer come 'ferin' round with me less yer a doctor, astin' no
end o' questions. Air you a new doctor?"
"My name is Hobart Martine," the speaker forced himself to say,
expecting fearfully a sign of recognition, for the impression that it
was Nichol grew upon him every moment, in spite of apparent proof to
"Hump! Hob't Ma'tine. Never yeared on yer. Ef yer want ter chin mo' in
the mawnin', I'll be yere."
"Wait a moment, Yan—"
"Yankee Blank, I tole yer."
"Well, here's a dollar for the trouble I'm making you," and Martine's
face flushed with shame at the act, so divided was his impression about
Yankee Blank took the money readily, grinned, and said, "Now I'll chin
till mawnin' ef yer wants hit."
"I won't keep you long. You remind me of—of—well, of Captain Nichol."
"He must 'a' been a cur'ous chap. Folks all say I'm a cur'ous chap."
"Won't you please tell me all that you can remember about yourself?"
"'Tain't much. Short hoss soon curried. Allus ben in hospitals. Had
high ole jinks with a wound on my haid. Piece o' shell, they sez, cut
me yere," and he pointed to a scar across his forehead. "That's what
they tole me. Lor'! I couldn't mek much out o' the gibberish I firs'
year, en they sez I talked gibberish too. But I soon got the hang o'
the talk in the hospital. Well, ez I wuz sayin', I've allus been in
hospitals firs' one, then anuther. I got well, en the sojers call me
Yankee Blank en set me waitin' on sick uns en the wounded. That's what
I'm a-doin' now."
"You were in Southern hospitals?"
"I reckon. They called the place Richman."
"Why did you come here?"
"Kaze I wuz bro't yere. They said I was 'changed."
"Exchanged, wasn't it?"
"Reckon it was. Anyhow I wuz bro't yere with a lot o' sick fellers. I
wuzn't sick. For a long time the doctors kep' a-pesterin' me with
questions, but they lemme 'lone now. I 'spected you wuz a new doctor,
en at it agin."
"Don't you remember the village of Alton?"
The man shook his head.
"Don't you—" and Martine's voice grew husky—"don't you remember Helen
"Never yeared on her. I only reckerlect people I've seen in hospitals.
Women come foolin' roun' some days, but Lor'! I kin beat any on 'em
teekin' keer o' the patients; en wen they dies, I kin lay 'em out. You
ast the wardmaster ef I kant lay out a stiff with the best o' 'em."
"That will do. You can go to sleep now."
"All right, Doc. I call everybody doc who asts sech a lot o'
questions." He shuffled to his cot and was soon asleep.
"HOW CAN I?"
Martine sank into his chair again. Although the conversation had been
carried on in low tones, it was the voice of Nichol that he had heard.
Closer inspection of the slightly disfigured face proved that, apart
from the scar on the forehead, it was the countenance of Nichol. A
possible solution of the mystery was beginning to force itself in
Hobart's reluctant mind. When Nichol had fallen in the Wilderness, the
shock of his injury had rendered him senseless and caused him to appear
dead to the hasty scrutiny of Sam and Jim Wetherby. They were terribly
excited and had no time for close examination. Nichol might have
revived, have been gathered up with the Confederate wounded, and sent
to Richmond. There was dire and tremendous confusion at that period,
when within the space of two or three days tens of thousands were
either killed or disabled. In a Southern hospital Nichol might have
recovered physical health while, from injury to the brain, suffering
complete eclipse of memory. In this case he would have to begin life
anew, like a child, and so would pick up the vernacular and bearing of
the enlisted men with whom he would chiefly associate.
Because he remembered nothing and know nothing, he may at first have
been tolerated as a "cur'ous chap," then employed as he had explained.
He could take the place of a better man where men were greatly needed.
This theory could solve the problem; and Martine's hospital experience
prepared his mind to understand what would be a hopeless mystery to
many. He was so fearfully excited that he could not remain in the ward.
The very proximity to this strange being, who had virtually risen from
the dead and appeared to him of all others, was a sort of torture in
What effect would this discovery have on his relations to Helen? He
dared not think yet he must think. Already the temptation of his life
was forming in his mind. His cousin was sleeping; and with a wild
impatience to escape, to get away from all his kind, he stole
noiselessly out into the midnight and deserted streets. On, on he went,
limping he knew not, cared not where, for his passion and mental agony
drove him hither and thither like a leaf before a fitful gale.
"No one knows of this," he groaned. "I can still return and marry
Helen. But oh, what a secret to carry!"
Then his heart pleaded. "This is not the lover she lost—only a
horrible, mocking semblance. He has lost his own identity; he does not
even know himself—would not know her. Ah! I'm not sure of that. I
would be dead indeed if her dear features did not kindle my eyes in
recognition. It may be that the sight of her face is the one thing
essential to restore him. I feel this would be true were it my case.
But how can I give her up now? How can?—how can I? Oh, this terrible
journey! No wonder Helen had forebodings. She loves me; she is mine. No
one else has so good a right. We were to be married only a few hours
hence. Then she whom I've loved from childhood would make my home a
heaves on earth. And yet—and yet—" Even in the darkness he buried his
face in his hands, shuddered, moaned, writhed, and grated his teeth in
the torment of the conflict.
Hour after hour he wavered, now on the point of yielding, then stung by
conscience into desperate uncertainty. The night was cold, the howling
wind would have chilled him at another time, but during his struggle
great drops of sweat often poured from his face. Only the eye of God
saw that battle, the hardest that was fought and won during the war.
At last, when well out of the city, he lifted his agonized eyes and saw
the beautiful hues of morning tingeing the east. Unconsciously, he
repeated the sublime, creative words, "Let there be light." It came to
him. With the vanishing darkness, he revolted finally against the
thought of any shadows existing between him and Helen. She should have
all the light that he had, and decide her own course. He had little
hope that she would wed him, even if she did not marry Nichol in his
present condition—a condition probably only temporary and amenable to
Wearily he dragged his lame foot back to a hotel in the populous party
of the city, and obtained food and wine, for he was terribly exhausted.
Next he telegraphed Mr. Kemble:
"Arrived last evening. The wedding will have to be postponed. Will
"It's the best I can do now," he muttered. "Helen will think it is all
due to my cousin's illness." Then he returned to the hospital and found
his relative in a state of wonderment at his absence, but refreshed
from a good night's rest. Yankee Blank was nowhere to be seen.
"Hobart," exclaimed his cousin, "you look ill—ten years older than you
did last night."
"You see me now by daylight," was the quiet reply. "I am not very well."
"It's a perfect shame that I've been the cause of so much trouble,
especially when it wasn't necessary."
"Oh, my God!" thought Martine, "there was even no need of this fatal
journey." But his face had become grave and inscrutable, and the plea
of ill-health reconciled his cousin to the necessity of immediate
return. There was no good reason for his remaining, for by a few
additional arrangements his relative would do very well and soon be
able to take care of himself. Martine felt that he could not jeopardize
his hard-won victory by delay, which was as torturing as the time
intervening between a desperate surgical operation and the knowledge
that it is inevitable.
After seeing that his cousin made a good breakfast, he sought a private
interview with the wardmaster. He was able to extract but little
information about Yankee Blank more than the man had given himself.
"Doctors say he may regain his memory at any time, or it may be a long
while, and possibly never," was the conclusion.
"I think I know him," said Martine. "I will bring physician from the
city to consult this morning with the surgeon in charge."
"I'm glad to hear it," was the reply. "Something would have to be done
soon. He is just staying on here and making himself useful to some
When Martine re-entered the ward, Yankee Blank appeared, grinned, and
said affably, "Howdy." Alas! a forlorn, miserable hope that he might
have been mistaken was banished from Hobart's mind now that he saw
Nichol in the clear light of day. The scar across his forehead and a
change of expression, denoting the eclipse of fine, cultivated manhood,
could not disguise the unmistakable features. There was nothing to be
done but carry out as quickly as possible the purpose which had cost
him so dear.
He first telegraphed his uncle to dismiss further anxiety, and that his
son would soon be able to visit him. Then the heavy-hearted man sought
a physician whom he knew well by reputation.
The consultation was held, and Nichol (as he may be more properly named
hereafter) was closely questioned and carefully examined. The result
merely confirmed previous impressions. It was explained, as far as
explanation can be given of the mysterious functions of the brain, that
either the concussion of the exploding shell or the wound from a flying
fragment had paralyzed the organ of memory. When such paralysis would
cease, if ever, no one could tell. The power to recall everything might
return at any moment or it might be delayed indefinitely. A shock, a
familiar face, might supply the potency required, or restoration come
through the slow, unseen processes of nature. Martine believed that
Helen's face and voice would accomplish everything.
He was well known to the medical authorities and had no difficulty in
securing belief that he had identified Nichol. He also promised that
abundant additional proof should be sent on from Alton, such certainty
being necessary to secure the officer's back pay and proper discharge
from the service. The surgeon then addressed the man so strangely
disabled, "You know I'm in charge of this hospital?"
"I reckon," replied Nichol, anxiously, for the brief experience which
he could recall had taught him that the authority of the
surgeon-in-chief was autocratic.
"Well, first, you must give up the name of Yankee Blank. Your name
hereafter is Captain Nichol."
"All right, Doctor. I'll be a gin'ral ef you sez so."
"Very well; remember your name is Captain Nichol. Next, you must obey
this man and go with him. You must do just what he says in all
respects. His name is Mr. Hobart Martine."
"Yes, he tole me las' night, Hob't Ma'tine. He took on mighty cur'ous
after seein' me."
"Do you understand that you are to mind, to obey him in all respects
just as you have obeyed me?"
"I reckon. Will he tek me to anuther hospital?"
"He will take you where you will be well cared for and treated kindly."
Having written Nichol's discharge from the hospital, the surgeon turned
to other duties.
Martine informed his cousin, as far as it was essential, of the
discovery he had made and of the duties which it imposed, then took his
leave. Nichol readily accompanied him, and with the exception of a
tendency to irritation at little things, exhibited much of the
good-natured docility of a child. Martine took him to a hotel, saw that
he had a bath, put him in the hands of a barber, and then sent for a
clothier. When dressed in clean linen and a dark civilian suit, the
appearance of the man was greatly improved. Hobart had set his teeth,
and would entertain no thought of compromise with his conscience. He
would do by Nichol as he would wish to be done by if their relations
were reversed. Helen should receive no greater shock than was
inevitable, nor should Nichol lose the advantage of appearing before
her in the outward aspect of a gentleman.
Martine then planned his departure so that he would arrive at Alton in
the evening—the evening of the day on which he was to have been
married. He felt that Mr. Kemble should see Nichol first and hear the
strange story; also that the father must break the news to the
daughter, for he could not. It was a terrible journey to the poor
fellow, for during the long hours of inaction he was compelled to face
the probable results of his discovery. The sight of Nichol and his
manner was intolerable; and in addition, he was almost as much care as
a child. Everything struck him as new and strange, and he was disposed
to ask numberless questions. His vernacular, his alternations of
amusement and irritation, and the oddity of his ignorance concerning
things which should be simple or familiar to a grown man, attracted the
attention of his fellow-passengers. It was with difficulty that
Martine, by his stern, sad face and a cold, repelling manner, kept
curiosity from intruding at every point.
At last, with heart beating thickly, he saw the lights of Alton
gleaming in the distance. It was a train not often used by the
villagers, and fortunately no one had entered the car who knew him;
even the conductor was a stranger. Alighting at the depot, he hastily
took a carriage, and with his charge was driven to the private entrance
of the hotel. Having given the hackman an extra dollar not to mention
his arrival till morning, he took Nichol into the dimly-lighted and
deserted parlor and sent for the well-known landlord. Mr. Jackson, a
bustling little man, who, between the gossip of the place and his few
guests, never seemed to have a moment's quiet, soon entered. "Why, Mr.
Martine," he exclaimed, "we wasn't a-lookin' for you yet. News got
around somehow that your cousin was dyin' in Washington and that your
weddin' was put off too—Why! you look like a ghost, even in this
light," and he turned up the lamp.
Martine had told Nichol to stand by a window with his back to the door.
He now turned the key, pulled down the curtain, then drew his charge
forward where the light fell clear upon his face, and asked, "Jackson,
who is that?"
The landlord stared, his jaw fell from sheer astonishment, as he
faltered, "Captain Nichol!"
"Yes," said Nichol, with a pleased grin, "that's my new name! Jes' got
it, like this new suit o' clo's, bes' I ever had, doggoned ef they
ain't. My old name was Yankee Blank."
"Great Scott!" ejaculated Jackson; "is he crazy?"
"Look yere," cried Nichol; "don' yer call me crazy or I'll light on yer
so yer won't fergit it."
"There, there!" said Martine, soothingly, "Mr. Jackson doesn't mean any
harm. He's only surprised to see you home again."
"Is this home? What's home?"
"It's the town where you were brought up. We'll make you understand
about it all before long. Now you shall have some supper. Mr. Jackson
is a warm friend of yours, and will see that you have a good one."
"I reckon we'll get on ef he gives me plenty o' fodder. Bring it
toreckly, fer I'm hungry. Quit yer starin', kyant yer?" "Don't you know
me, Captain Nichol? Why, I—"
"Naw. Never seed ner yeared on yer. Did I ever nuss yer in a hospital?
I kyant reckerlect all on 'em. Get we uns some supper."
"That's the thing to do first, Jackson," added Martine, "Show us
upstairs to a private room and wait on us yourself. Please say nothing
of this till I give you permission."
They were soon established in a suitable apartment, in which a fire was
kindled. Nichol took a rocking-chair and acquiesced in Martine's going
out on the pretext of hastening supper.
The landlord received explanations which enabled him to co-operate with
Martine. "I could not," said the latter, "take him to his own home
without first preparing his family. Neither could I take him to mine
for several reasons."
"I can understand some of 'em, Mr. Martine. Why, great Scott! How about
your marriage, now that—"
"We won't discuss that subject. The one thing for you to keep in mind
is that Nichol lost his memory at the time of his wound. He don't like
to be stared at or thought strange. You must humor him much as you
would a child. Perhaps the sight of familiar faces and scenes will
restore him. Now copy this note in your handwriting and send it to Mr.
Kemble. Tell your messenger to be sure to put it into the banker's
hands and no other's," and he tore from his note-book a leaf on which
was pencilled the following words:
"DEAR SIR—A sick man at the hotel wishes to see you on important
business. Don't think it's bad news about Mr. Martine, because it
isn't. Please come at once and oblige, HENRY JACKSON."
SHADOWS OF COMING EVENTS
This first day of winter, her fatal wedding-day, was a sad and strange
one to Helen Kemble. The sun was hidden by dark clouds, yet no snow
fell on the frozen ground. She had wakened in the morning with a start,
oppressed by a disagreeable yet forgotten dream. Hastily dressing, she
consoled herself with the hope of a long letter from Martine,
explaining everything and assuring her of his welfare; but the early
mail brought nothing. As the morning advanced, a telegram from
Washington, purposely delayed, merely informed her that her affianced
was well and that full information was on its way.
"He has evidently found his cousin very low, and needing constant
care," she had sighingly remarked at dinner.
"Yes, Nellie," said the banker, cheerily, "but it is a comfort he is
well. No doubt you are right about his cousin, and it has turned out as
Hobart feared. In this case it is well he went, for he would always
have reproached himself if he had not. The evening mail will probably
make all clear."
"It has been so unfortunate!" complained Mrs. Kemble. "If it had only
happened a little earlier, or a little later! To have all one's
preparations upset and one's plans frustrated is exasperating. Were it
not for that journey, Helen would have been married by this time.
People come ostensibly to express sympathy, but in reality to ask
"I don't care about people," said Helen, "but the day has been so
different from what we expected that it's hard not to yield to a
presentiment of trouble. It is so dark and gloomy that we almost need a
lamp at midday."
"Well, well," cried hearty Mr. Kemble, "I'm not going to cross any
bridges till I come to them. That telegram from Hobart is all we need,
to date. I look at things as I do at a bank-bill. If its face is all
right, and the bill itself all right, that's enough. You women-folks
have such a lot of moods and tenses! Look at this matter sensibly.
Hobart was right in going. He's doing his duty, and soon will be back
with mind and conscience at rest. It isn't as if he were ill himself."
"Yes, papa, that's just the difference; we women feel, and you men
reason. What you say, though, is a good wholesome antidote. I fear I'm
a little morbid to-day."
After dinner she and her mother slipped over to the adjoining cottage,
which had been made so pretty for her reception. While Mrs. Kemble
busied herself here and there, Helen kindled a fire on the hearth of
the sitting-room and sat down in the low chair which she knew was
designed for her. The belief that she would occupy it daily and be at
home, happy herself and, better far, making another, to whom she owed
so much, happy beyond even his fondest hope, brought smiles to her face
as she watched the flickering blaze.
"Yes," she murmured, "I can make him happier even than he dreams. I
know him so well, his tastes, his habits, what he most enjoys, that it
will be an easy task to anticipate his wishes and enrich his life. Then
he has been such a faithful, devoted friend! He shall learn that his
example had not been lost on me."
At this moment the wind rose in such a long mournful, human-like sigh
about the house that she started up and almost shuddered. When the
evening mail came and brought no letter, she found it hard indeed not
to yield to deep depression. In vain her father reasoned with her. "I
know all you say sounds true to the ear," she said, "but not to my
heart. I can't help it; but I am oppressed with a nervous dread of some
They passed the early hours of the evening as best they could, seeking
to divert each other's thoughts. It had been long since the kind old
banker was so garrulous, and Helen resolved to reward him by keeping
up. Indeed, she shrank from retiring, feeling that through the
sleepless night she would be the prey of all sorts of wretched fancies.
Never once did her wildest thoughts suggest what had happened, or warn
her of the tempest soon to rage in her breast.
Then came the late messenger with the landlord's copied note. She
snatched it from the bearer's hand before he could ring the bell, for
her straining ears had heard his step even on the gravel walk.
Tremblingly she tore open, the envelope in the hall without looking at
"Mr. Jackson said how I was to give it to your father," protested the
"Well, well," responded Mr. Kemble, perturbed and anxious, "I'm here.
You can go unless there's an answer required.'
"Wasn't told nothin' 'bout one," growled the departing errand-boy.
"Give the note to me, Helen," said her father. "Why do you stare at it
She handed it to him without a word, but looked searchingly in his
face, and so did his wife, who had joined him.
"Why, this is rather strange," he said.
"I think it is," added Helen, emphatically.
Mrs. Kemble took the note and after a moment ejaculated: "Well, thank
the Lord! it isn't about Hobart."
"No, no," said the banker, almost irritably. "We've all worried about
Hobart till in danger of making fools of ourselves. As if people never
get sick and send for relatives, or as if letters were never delayed!
Why, bless me! haven't we heard to-day that he was well? and hasn't
Jackson, who knows more about other people's business than his own,
been considerate enough to say that his request has nothing to do with
Hobart? It is just as he says, some one is sick and wants to arrange
about money matters before banking hours to-morrow. There, it isn't
far. I'll soon be back."
"Let me go with you, father," pleaded Helen. "I can stay with Mrs.
Jackson or sit in the parlor till you are through."
"Oh, no, indeed."
"Papa, I AM going with you," said Helen, half-desperately. "I don't
believe I am so troubled for nothing. Perhaps it's a merciful warning,
and I may be of use to you."
"Oh, let her go, father," said his wife. "She had better be with you
than nervously worrying at home. I'll be better satisfied if she is
"Bundle up well, then, and come along, you silly little girl."
Nichol was too agreeably occupied with his supper to miss Hobart, who
watched in the darkened parlor for the coming of Mr. Kemble. At last he
saw the banker passing through the light streaming from a shop-window,
and also recognized Helen at his side. His ruse in sending a note
purporting to come from the landlord had evidently failed; and here was
a new complication. He was so exhausted in body and mind that he felt
he could not meet the girl now without giving way utterly. Hastily
returning to the room in which were Nichol and Jackson, he summoned the
latter and said, "Unfortunately, Miss Kemble is coming with her father.
Keep your counsel; give me a light in another private room; detain the
young lady in the parlor, and then, bring Mr. Kemble to me."
"Ah, glad to see you, Mr. Kemble," said the landlord, a moment or two
later, with reassuring cheerfulness; "you too, Miss Helen. That's
right, take good care of the old gentleman. Yes, we have a sick man
here who wants to see you, sir. Miss Helen, take a seat in the parlor
by the fire while I turn up the lamp. Guess you won't have to wait
"Now, Helen," said her father, smiling at her significantly, "can you
trust me out of your sight to go upstairs with Mr. Jackson?"
Much relieved, she smiled in return and sat down to wait.
"Who is this man, Jackson?" Mr. Kemble asked on the stairs.
"Well, sir, he said he would explain everything."
A moment later the banker needed not Martine's warning gesture
enjoining silence, for he was speechless with astonishment.
"Mr. Jackson," whispered Martine, "will you please remain in the other
room and look after your patient?"
"Hobart," faltered Mr. Kemble, "in the name of all that's strange, what
does this mean?"
"It is indeed very strange, sir. You must summon all your nerve and
fortitude to help us through. Never before were your strength and good
strong common-sense more needed. I've nearly reached the end of my
endurance. Please, sir, for Helen's sake, preserve your self-control
and the best use of all your faculties, for you must now advise. Mr.
Kemble, Captain Nichol is alive."
The banker sank into a chair and groaned. "This would have been glad
news to me once; I suppose it should be so now. But how, how can this
"Well, sir, as you say, it should be glad news; it will be to all
eventually. I am placed in a very hard position; but I have tried to do
my duty, and will."
"Why, Hobart, my boy, you look more worn than you did after your
illness. Merciful Heaven! what a complication!"
"A far worse one than you can even imagine. Captain Nichol wouldn't
know you. His memory was destroyed at the time of the injury. All
before that is gone utterly;" and Martine rapidly narrated what is
already known to the reader, concluding, "I'm sorry Helen came with
you, and I think you had better get her home as soon as possible. I
could not take him to my home for several reasons, or at least I
thought it best not to. It is my belief that the sight of Helen, the
tones of her voice, will restore him; and I do not think it best for
him to regain his consciousness of the past in a dwelling prepared for
Helen's reception as my wife. Perhaps later on, too, you will
understand why I cannot see him there. I shall need a home, a refuge
with no such associations. Here, on this neutral ground, I thought we
could consult, and if necessary send for his parents to-night. I would
have telegraphed you, but the case is so complicated, so difficult.
Helen must be gradually prepared for the part she must take. Cost me
what it may, Nichol must have his chance. His memory may come back
instantly and he recall everything to the moment of his injury. What
could be more potent to effect this than the sight and voice of Helen?
No one here except Jackson is now aware of his condition. If she can
restore him, no one else, not even his parents, need know anything
about it, except in a general way. It will save a world of disagreeable
talk and distress. At any rate, this course seemed the best I could hit
upon in my distracted condition."
"Well, Hobart, my poor young friend, you have been tried as by fire,"
said Mr. Kemble, in a voice broken by sympathy; "God help you and guide
us all in this strange snarl! I feel that the first thing to be done is
to get Helen home. Such tidings as yours should be broken to her in
that refuge only."
"I agree with you most emphatically, Mr. Kemble. In the seclusion of
her own home, with none present except yourself and her mother, she
should face this thing and nerve herself to act her part, the most
important of all. If she cannot awaken Captain Nichol's memory, it is
hard to say what will, or when he will be restored."
"Possibly seeing me, so closely associated with her, may have the same
effect," faltered the banker.
"I doubt it; but we can try it. Don't expect me to speak while in the
hallway. Helen, no doubt, is on the alert, and I cannot meet her
to-night. I am just keeping up from sheer force of will. You must try
to realize it. This discovery will change everything for me. Helen's
old love will revive in all-absorbing power. I've faced this in
thought, but cannot in reality NOW—I simply CANNOT. It would do no
good. My presence would be an embarrassment to her, and I taxed beyond
mortal endurance. You may think me weak, but I cannot help it. As soon
as possible I must put you, and if you think best, Captain Nichol's
father, in charge of the situation. Jackson can send for his father at
once if you wish."
"I do wish it immediately. I can't see my way through this. I would
like Dr. Barnes' advice and presence also."
"I think it would be wise, sir. The point I wish to make is that I have
done about all that I now can in this affair. My further presence is
only another complication. At any rate, I must have a respite—the
privilege of going quietly to my own home as soon as possible."
"Oh, Hobart, my heart aches for you; it just ACHES for you. You have
indeed been called upon to endure a hundredfold too much in this
strange affair. How it will all end God only knows. I understand you
sufficiently. Leave the matter to me now. We will have Dr. Barnes and
Mr. and Mrs. Nichol here as soon as can be. I suppose I had better see
the captain a few moments and then take Helen home."
Martine led the way into the other apartment, where Nichol, rendered
good-natured by his supper and a cigar, was conversing sociably with
the landlord. Mr. Kemble fairly trembled as he came forward,
involuntarily expecting that the man so well known to him must give
some sign of recognition.
Nichol paid no heed to him. He had been too long accustomed to see
strangers coming and going to give them either thought or attention.
"I say, Hob't Ma'tine," he began, "don' yer cuss me fer eatin' all the
supper. I 'lowed ter this Jackson, as yer call 'im, that yer'd get a
bite somewhar else, en he 'lowed yer would."
"All right, Nichol; I'm glad you had a good supper."
"I say, Jackson, this Ma'tine's a cur'ous chap—mo cur'ous than I be, I
reckon. He's been actin' cur'ous ever since he seed me in the
horspital. It's all cur'ous. 'Fore he come, doctors en folks was trying
ter fin' out 'bout me, en this Ma'tine 'lows he knows all 'bout me. Ef
he wuzn't so orful glum, he'd be a good chap anuff, ef he is cur'ous.
Hit's all a-changin' somehow, en yet' tisn't. Awhile ago nobody knowd
'bout me, en they wuz allus a-pesterin' of me with questions. En now
Ma'tine en you 'low you know 'bout me, yet you ast questions jes' the
same. Like anuff this man yere," pointing with his cigar to Mr. Kemble,
who was listening with a deeply-troubled face, "knows 'bout me too, yet
wants to ast questions. I don' keer ef I do say it, I had better times
with the Johnnies that call me Yankee Blank than I ever had sence.
Well, ole duffer [to Mr. Kemble], ast away and git yer load off'n yer
mind. I don't like glum faces roun' en folks jes' nachelly bilin' over
"No, Captain Nichol," said the banker, gravely and sadly, "I've no
questions to ask. Good-by for the present."
Nichol nodded a careless dismissal and resumed his reminiscences with
Jackson, whose eager curiosity and readiness to laugh were much more to
Following the noise made by closing the door, Helen's voice rang up
from the hall below, "Papa!"
"Yes, I'm coming, dear," he tried to answer cheerily. Then he wrung
Martine's hand and whispered, "Send for Dr. Barnes. God knows you
should have relief. Tell Jackson also to have a carriage go for Mr.
Nichol at once. After the doctor comes you may leave all in our hands.
Martine heard the rustle of a lady's dress and retired precipitately.
"YOU CANNOT UNDERSTAND"
With an affectation of briskness he was far from feeling, Mr. Kemble
came down the stairs and joined his daughter in the hall. He had taken
pains to draw his hat well over his eyes, anticipating and dreading her
keen scrutiny, but, strange to say, his troubled demeanor passed
unnoticed. In the interval of waiting Helen's thoughts had taken a new
turn. "Well, papa," she began, as they passed into the street, "I am
curious to know about the sick man. You stayed an age, but all the same
I'm glad I came with you. Forebodings, presentiments, and all that kind
of thing seemed absurd the moment I saw Jackson's keen, mousing little
visage. His very voice is like a ray of garish light entering a dusky,
haunted room. Things suggesting ghosts and hobgoblins become
ridiculously prosaic, and you are ashamed of yourself and your fears."
"Yes, yes," replied Mr. Kemble, yielding to irritation in his deep
perplexity, "the more matter-of-fact we are the better we're off. I
suppose the best thing to do is just to face what happens and try to be
"Well, papa, what's happened to annoy you to-night? Is this sick man
going to make you trouble?"
"Like enough. I hope not. At any rate, he has claims which I must meet."
"Don't you think you can meet them?" was her next anxious query, her
mind reverting to some financial obligation.
"We'll see. You and mother'll have to help me out, I guess. I'll tell
you both when we get home;" and his sigh was so deep as to be almost a
"Papa," said Helen, earnestly pressing his arm, "don't worry. Mamma and
I will stand by you; so will Hobart. He is the last one in the world to
desert one in any kind of trouble."
"I know that, no one better; but I fear he'll be in deeper trouble than
any of us. The exasperating thing is that there should be any trouble
at all. If it had only happened before—well, well, I can't talk here
in the street. As you say, you must stand by me, and I'll do the best I
can by you and all concerned."
"Oh, papa, there was good cause for my foreboding."
"Well, yes, and no. I don't know. I'm at my wits' end. If you'll be
brave and sensible, you can probably do more than any of us."
"Papa, papa, something IS the matter with Hobart," and she drew him
hastily into the house, which they had now reached.
Mrs. Kemble met them at the door. Alarmed at her husband's troubled
face, she exclaimed anxiously, "Who is this man? What did he want?"
"Come now, mother, give me a chance to get my breath. We'll close the
doors, sit down, and talk it all over."
Mrs. Kemble and her daughter exchanged an apprehensive glance and
followed with the air of being prepared for the worst.
The banker sat down and wiped the perspiration from his brow, then
looked dubiously at the deeply anxious faces turned toward him. "Well,"
he said, "I'm going to tell you everything as far as I understand it.
Now I want to see if you two can't listen calmly and quietly and not
give way to useless feeling. There's much to be done, and you
especially, Helen, must be in the right condition to do it."
"Oh, papa, why torture me so? Something HAS happened to Hobart. I can't
endure this suspense."
"Something has happened to us all," replied her father, gravely.
"Hobart has acted like a hero, like a saint; so must you. He is as well
and able to go about as you are. I've seen him and talked with him."
"He saw you and not me?" cried the girl, starting up.
"Helen, I entreat, I command you to be composed and listen patiently.
Don't you know him well enough to be sure he had good reasons—"
"I can't imagine a reason," was the passionate reply, as she paced the
floor. "What reason could keep me from him? Merciful Heaven! father,
have you forgotten that I was to marry him to-day? Well," she added
hoarsely, standing before him with hands clinched in her effort at
self-restraint, "the reason?"
"Poor fellow! poor fellow! he has not forgotten it," groaned Mr.
Kemble. "Well, I might as well out with it. Suppose Captain Nichol was
not killed after all?"
Helen sank into a chair as if struck down as Nichol had been himself.
"What!" she whispered; and her face was white indeed.
Mrs. Kemble rushed to her husband, demanding, "Do you mean to tell us
that Captain Nichol is alive?"
"Yes; that's just the question we've got to face."
"It brings up another question," replied his wife, sternly. "If he's
been alive all this time, why did he not let us know? As far as I can
make out, Hobart has found him in Washington—"
"Helen," cried her father to the trembling girl, "for Heaven's sake, be
"He's alive, ALIVE!" she answered, as if no other thought could exist
in her mind. Her eyes were kindling, the color coming into her face,
and her bosom throbbed quickly as if her heart would burst its bonds.
Suddenly she rushed to her father, exclaiming, "He was the sick man.
Oh, why did you not let me see him?"
"Well, well!" ejaculated Mr. Kemble, "Hobart was right, poor fellow!
Yes, Helen, Captain Nichol is the sick man, not dangerously ill,
however. You are giving ample reason why you should not see him yet;
and I tell you plainly you can't see him till you are just as composed
as I am."
She burst into a joyous, half-hysterical laugh as she exclaimed,
"That's not asking much. I never saw you so moved, papa. Little wonder!
The dead is alive again! Oh, papa, papa, you don't understand me at
all! Could I hear such tidings composedly—I who have wept so many long
nights and days over his death? I must give expression to overwhelming
feeling here where it can do no harm, but if I had seen him—when I do
see him—ah! he'll receive no harm from me."
"But, Helen, think of Hobart," cried Mrs. Kemble, in sharp distress.
"Mother, mother, I cannot help it. Albert is alive, ALIVE! The old
feeling comes back like the breaking up of the fountains of the great
deep. You cannot know, cannot understand; Hobart will. I'm sorry, SORRY
for him; but he will understand. I thought Albert was dead; I wanted to
make Hobart happy. He was so good and kind and deserving that I did
love him in a sincere, quiet way, but not with my first love, not as I
loved Albert. I thought my love was buried with him; but it has burst
the grave as he has. Papa, papa, let me go to him, now, NOW! You say he
is sick; it is my place to nurse him back to life. Who has a better
right? Why do you not bring him here?"
"Perhaps it will be best, since Helen feels so," said Mr. Kemble,
looking at his wife.
"Well, I don't know," she replied with a deep sigh. "We certainly don't
wish the public to be looking on any more than we can help. He should
be either here or at his own home."
"There's more reason for what you say than you think," Mr. Kemble began.
"There, papa," interrupted Helen, "I'd be more or less than human if I
could take! this undreamed-of news quietly, I can see how perplexed and
troubled you've been, and how you've kindly tried to prepare me for the
tidings. You will find that I have strength of mind to meet all that is
required of me. It is all simpler to me than to you, for in a matter of
this kind the heart is the guide, indeed, the only guide. Think! If
Albert had come back months ago; if Hobart had brought him back wounded
and disabled—how would we have acted? Only our belief in his death led
to what has happened since, and the fact of life changes everything
"Now, Helen, stop and listen to me," said her father, firmly. "In one
sense the crisis is over, and you've heard the news which I scarcely
knew how to break to you. You say you will have strength of mind to
meet what is required of you. I trust you may. But it's time you
understood the situation as far as I do. Mother's words show she's off
the track in her suspicion. Nichol is not to blame in any sense. He is
deserving of all sympathy, and yet—oh, dear, it is such a
complication!" and the old man groaned as he thought of the personality
who best knew himself as Yankee Blank. "The fact is," he resumed to his
breathless listeners, "Nichol is not ill at all physically. His mind is
Mrs. Kemble sank back in her chair, and Helen uttered a cry of dismay.
"Yes, his mind is affected peculiarly. He remembers nothing that
happened before he was wounded. You must realize this, Helen; you must
prepare yourself for it. His loss of memory is much more sad than if he
had lost an arm or a leg. He remembers only what he has picked up since
"Then, then, he's not insane?" gasped Helen.
"No, no, I should say not," replied her father, dubiously; "yet his
words and manner produce much the same effect as if he were—even a
"Oh, this is dreadful!" cried his wife.
"Dreadful indeed, but not hopeless, you know. Keep in mind doctors say
that his memory may come back at any time; and Hobart has the belief
that the sight and voice of Helen will bring it back."
"God bless Hobart," said Helen, with a deep breath, "and God help him!
His own love inspired that belief. He's right; I know he's right."
"Well, perhaps he is. I don't know. I thought Nichol would recognize
me; but there wasn't a sign."
"Oh, papa," cried Helen, smiling through her tears, "there are some
things which even your experience and wisdom fail in. Albert will know
me. We have talked long enough; now let us act."
"You don't realize it all yet, Helen; you can't. You must remember that
Nichol regained consciousness in a Southern hospital. He has learned to
talk and act very much like such soldiers as would associate with him."
"The fact that he's alive and that I now may restore him is enough,
"Well, I want Dr. Barnes present when you meet him."
"Certainly; at least within call."
"I must stipulate too," said Mrs. Kemble. "I don't wish the coming
scenes to take place in a hotel, and under the eyes of that gossip,
Jackson. I don't see why Hobart took him there."
"I do," said Mr. Kemble, standing up for his favorite. "Hobart has
already endured more than mortal man ought, yet he has been most
delicately considerate. No one but Jackson and Dr. Barnes know about
Nichol and his condition. I have also had Nichol's father and mother
sent for on my own responsibility, for they should take their share of
the matter. Hobart believes that Helen can restore Nichol's memory.
This would simplify everything and save many painful impressions. You
see, it's such an obscure trouble, and there should be no ill-advised
blundering in the matter. The doctors in Washington told Hobart that a
slight shock, or the sight of an object that once had the strongest
hold upon his thoughts—well, you understand."
"Yes," said Helen, "I DO understand. Hobart is trying to give Albert
the very best chance. Albert wrote that his last earthly thoughts would
be of me. It is but natural that my presence should kindle those
thoughts again. It was like Hobart, who is almost divine in his
thoughtfulness of others, to wish to shield Albert from the eyes of
even his own father and mother until he could know them, and know us
all. He was only taken to the hotel that we all might understand and be
prepared to do our part. Papa, bring Albert here and let his father and
mother come here also. He should be sacredly shielded in his infirmity,
and give a every chance to recover before being seen by others; and
please, papa, exact from Jackson a solemn promise not to tattle about
"Yes, yes; but we have first a duty to perform. Mother, please prepare
a little lunch, and put a glass of your old currant wine on the tray.
Hobart must not come to a cold, cheerless home. I'll go and have his
old servant up and ready to receive him."
"No, mamma, that is still my privilege," said Helen, with a rush, of
tears. "Oh, I'm so sorry, SORRY for him! but neither he nor I can help
or change what is, what's true."
When the tray was ready, she wrote and sealed these words:
"God bless you, Hobart; God reward you! You have made me feel to-night
that earth is too poor, and only heaven rich enough to reward you.
MR. KEMBLE'S APPEAL
It often happens that the wife's disposition is an antidote to her
husband: and this was fortunately true of Mrs. Jackson. She was neither
curious nor gossiping, and with a quick instinct that privacy was
desired by Martine, gave at an early hour her orders to close the house
for the night. The few loungers, knowing that she was autocratic,
slouched off to other resorts. The man and maids of all work were kept
out of the way, while she and her husband waited on their unexpected
guests. After Mr. Kemble's departure, the errand-boy was roused from
his doze behind the stove and seat for Dr. Barnes; then Jackson wrote
another note at Martine's dictation:
"MR. WILLIAM NICHOL:
"DEAR SIR—A relative of yours is sick at my house. He came on the
evening train. You and your wife had better come at once in the
Martine retired to the room in which he had seen Mr. Kemble, that he
might compose himself before meeting the physician. The sound of
Helen's voice, the mere proximity of the girl who at this hour was to
have been his wife had not "old chaos" come again for him, were by no
means "straws" in their final and crushing weight. Motionless, yet with
mind verging on distraction, he sat in the cold, dimly lighted room
until aroused by the voice of Dr. Barnes.
"Why, Hobart!" cried his old friend, starting at the bloodshot eyes and
pallid face of the young man, "what is the matter? You need me, sure
enough, but why on earth are you shivering in this cold room at the
Martine again said to Jackson: "Don't leave him," and closed the door.
Then, to the physician: "Dr. Barnes, I am ill and worn-out. I know it
only too well. You must listen carefully while I in brief tell you why
you were sent for; then you and others must take charge and act as you
think best. I'm going home. I must have rest and a respite. I must be
by myself;" and he rapidly began to sketch his experiences in
"Hold!" said the sensible old doctor, who indulged in only a few strong
exclamations of surprise, which did not interrupt the speaker, "hold!
You say you left the ward to think it over, after being convinced that
you had discovered Nichol. Did you think it over quietly?"
"Quietly!" repeated Martine, with intense bitterness. "Would a man, not
a mummy, think over such a thing quietly? Judge me as you please, but I
was tempted as I believe never man was before. I fought the Devil till
"I thought as much," said the doctor, grasping Martine's hand, then
slipping a finger on his pulse. "You fought on foot too, didn't you?"
"Yes, I walked the streets as if demented."
"Of course. That in part accounts for your exhaustion. Have you slept
"Oh, Doctor, let me get through and go home!"
"No, Hobart, you can't get through with me till I am with you. My dear
fellow, do you think that I don't understand and sympathize with you?
There's no reason why you should virtually risk your life for Captain
Nichol again. Take this dose of quinine at once, and then proceed. I
can catch on rapidly. First answer, how much have you slept since?"
"The idea of sleep! You can remedy this, Doctor, after my part in this
affair is over. I must finish now. Helen may return, and I cannot meet
her, nor am I equal to seeing Mr. and Mrs. Nichol. My head feels queer,
but I'll get through somehow, if the strain is not kept up too long;"
and he finished in outline his story. In conclusion he said, "You will
understand that you are now to have charge of Nichol. He is prepared by
his experience to obey you, for he has always been in hospitals, where
the surgeon's will is law. Except with physicians, he has a sort of
rough waywardness, learned from the soldiers."
"Yes, I understand sufficiently now to manage. You put him in my
charge, then go home, and I'll visit you as soon as I can."
"One word more, Doctor. As far as you think best, enjoin reticence on
Jackson. If the sight of Helen restores Nichol, as I believe it will,
little need ever be said about his present condition. Jackson would not
dare to disobey a physician's injunction."
"Don't you dare disobey them, either. I'll manage him too. Come."
Nichol had slept a good deal during the latter part of his journey, and
now was inclined to wakefulness—a tendency much increased by his habit
of waiting on hospital patients at night. In the eager and curious
Jackson he had a companion to his mind, who stimulated in him a certain
"Hello, Ma'tine," he said, "ye're gittin' tired o' me, I reckon, ye're
off so much. I don't keer. This yere Jackson's a lively cuss, en I 'low
we'll chin till mawnin'."
"Yes, Nichol, Mr. Jackson is a good friend of yours; and here is
another man who is more than a friend. You remember what the surgeon at
the hospital said to you?"
"I reckon," replied Nichol, anxiously. "Hain't I minded yer tetotally?"
"Yes, you have done very well indeed—remarkably well, since you knew I
was not a doctor. Now this man is a doctor—the doctor I was to bring
you to. You won't have to mind me any more, but you must mind this man,
Dr. Barnes, in all respects, just as you did the doctors in the
hospitals. As long as you obey him carefully he will be very good to
"Oh, I'll mind, Doctor," said Nichol, rising and assuming the
respectful attitude of a hospital nurse. "We uns wuz soon larned that't
wuzn't healthy to go agin the doctor. When I wuz Yankee Blank, 'fo' I
got ter be cap'n, I forgot ter give a Johnny a doze o' med'cine, en I'm
doggoned ef the doctor didn't mek me tek it myse'f. Gee wiz! sech a
time ez I had! Hain't give the doctors no trouble sence."
"All right, Captain Nichol," said Dr. Barnes, quietly, "I understand my
duties, and I see that you understand yours. As you say, doctors must
be obeyed, and I already see that you won't make me or yourself any
trouble. Good-night, Hobart, I'm in charge now."
"Good-night, Doctor. Mr. Jackson, I'm sure you will carry out Dr.
Barnes' wishes implicitly."
"Yer'd better, Jackson," said Nichol, giving him a wink. "A doctor kin
give yer high ole jinks ef ye're not keerful."
Martine now obeyed the instinct often so powerful in the human breast
as well as in dumb animals, and sought the covert, the refuge of his
home, caring little whether he was to live or die. When he saw the
lighted windows of Mr. Kemble's residence, he moaned as if in physical
pain. A sudden and immeasurable longing to see, to speak with Helen
once before she was again irrevocably committed to Nichol, possessed
him. He even went to her gate to carry out his impulse, then curbed
himself and returned resolutely to his dwelling. As soon as his step
was on the porch, the door opened and Mr. Kemble gave him the warm
grasp of friendship. Without a word, the two men entered the
sitting-room, sat down by the ruddy fire, and looked at each other,
Martine with intense, questioning anxiety in his haggard face. The
banker nodded gravely as he said, "Yes, she knows."
"It's as I said it would be?" Martine added huskily, after a moment or
"Well, my friend, she said you would understand her better than any one
else. She wrote you this note."
Martine's hands so trembled that he could scarcely break the seal. He
sat looking at the tear-blurred words some little time, and grew
evidently calmer, then faltered, "Yes, it's well to remember God at
such a time. He has laid heavy burdens upon me. He is responsible for
them, not I. If I break, He also will be responsible."
"Hobart," said Mr. Kemble, earnestly, "you must not break under this,
for our sake as well as your own. I have the presentiment that we shall
all need you yet, my poor girl perhaps most of all. She doesn't, she
can't realize it. Now, the dead is alive again. Old girlish impulses
and feelings are asserting themselves. As is natural, she is deeply
excited; but this tidal wave of feeling will pass, and then she will
have to face both the past and future. I know her well enough to be
sure she could never be happy if this thing wrecked you. And then,
Hobart," and the old man sank his voice to a whisper, "suppose—suppose
Nichol continues the same."
"He cannot," cried Martine, almost desperately. "Oh, Mr. Kemble, don't
suggest any hope for me. My heart tells me there is none, that there
should not be any. No, she loved him as I have loved her from
childhood. She is right. I do understand her so well that I know what
the future will be."
"Well," said Mr. Kemble, firmly, as he rose, "she shall never marry him
as he is, with my consent. I don't feel your confidence about Helen's
power to restore him. I tell you, Hobart, I'm in sore straits. Helen is
the apple of my eye. She is the treasure of our old age. God knows I
remember what you have done for her and for us in the past; and I feel
that we shall need you in the future. You've become like a son to
mother and me, and you must stand by us still. Our need will keep you
up and rally you better than all Dr. Barnes' medicine. I know you well
enough to know that. But take the medicine all the same; and above all
things, don't give way to anything like recklessness and despair. As
you say, God has imposed the burden. Let him give you the strength to
bear it, and other people's burdens too, as you have in the past. I
must go now. Don't fail me."
Wise old Mr. Kemble had indeed proved the better physician. His
misgivings, fears, and needs, combined with his honest affection, had
checked the cold, bitter flood of despair which had been overwhelming
Martine. The morbid impression that he would be only another
complication, and of necessity an embarrassment to Helen and her
family, was in a measure removed. Mere words of general condolence
would not have helped him; an appeal like that to the exhausted
soldier, and the thought that the battle for him was not yet over,
stirred the deep springs of his nature and slowly kindled the purpose
to rally and be ready. He rose, ate a little of the food, drank the
wine, then looked around the beautiful apartment prepared for her who
was to have been his wife, "I have grown weak and reckless," he said.
"I ought to have known her well enough—I do know her so well—as to be
sure that I would cloud her happiness if this thing destroyed me."
"YOU MUST REMEMBER"
Mr. And Mrs. Nichol wonderingly yet promptly complied with the request
for their presence, meantime casting about in their minds as to the
identity of the relative who had summoned them so unexpected. Mr.
Kemble arrived at the hotel at about the same moment as they did, and
Jackson was instructed to keep the carriage in waiting. "It was I who
sent for you and your wife," said the banker. "Mr. Martine, if
possible, would have given you cause for a great joy only; but I fear
it must be tempered with an anxiety which I trust will not be long
continued;" and he led the way into the parlor.
"Is it—can it be about Albert?" asked Mrs. Nichols trembling, and
sinking into a chair.
"Yes, Mrs. Nichol. Try to keep your fortitude, for perhaps his welfare
depends upon it."
"Oh, God be praised! The hope of this never wholly left me, because
they didn't find his body."
Dr. Barnes came down at once, and with Mr. Kemble tried to soothe the
strong emotions of the parents, while at the same time enlightening
them as to their son's discovery and condition.
"Well," said Mr. Nichol, in strong emphasis; "Hobart Martine is one of
"I think he ought to have brought Albert right to me first," Mrs.
Nichol added, shaking her head and wiping her eyes. "After all, a
"My dear Mrs. Nichol," interrupted Dr. Barnes, "there was no thought of
undervaluing your claim on the part of our friend Hobart. He has taken
what he believed, and what physicians led him to believe, was the best
course to restore your son. Besides, Mr. Martine is a very sick man.
Even now he needs my attention more than Captain Nichol. You must
realize that he was to have married Miss Kemble to-day; yet he brings
back your son, sends for Mr. Kemble in order that his daughter, as soon
as she can realize the strange truth, may exert her power. He himself
has not seen the girl who was to have been his bride."
"Wife, wife," said Mr. Nichol, brokingly, "no mortal man could do more
for us than Hobart Martine, God bless him!"
"Mrs. Nichol," began Mr. Kemble, "my wife and Helen both unite in the
request that you and your husband bring your son at once to our house;
perhaps you would rather meet him in the privacy—"
"Oh, no, no!" she cried, "I cannot wait. Please do not think I am
insensible to all this well-meant kindness; but a mother's heart cannot
wait. He'll know ME—me who bore him and carried him on my breast."
"Mrs. Nichol, you shall see him at once," said the doctor. "I hope it
will be as you say; but I'm compelled to tell you that you may be
disappointed. There's no certainty that this trouble will pass away at
once under any one's influence. You and your husband come with me. Mr.
Kemble, I will send Jackson down, and so secure the privacy which you
would kindly provide. I will be present, for I may be needed."
He led the way, the mother following with the impetuosity and abandon
of maternal love, and the father with stronger and stranger emotions
than he had ever known, but restrained in a manner natural to a quiet,
reticent man. They were about to greet one on whom they had once
centred their chief hopes and affection, yet long mourned as dead. It
is hard to imagine the wild tumult of their feelings. Not merely by
words, but chiefly by impulse, immediate action, could they reveal how
profoundly they were moved.
With kindly intention, as he opened the door of the apartment, the
doctor began, "Mr. Jackson, please leave us a few—"
Mrs. Nichol saw her son and rushed upon him, crying, "Albert, Albert!"
It was enough at that moment that she recognized him; and the thought
that he would not recognize her was banished. With an intuition of
heart beyond all reasoning, she felt that he who had drawn his life
from her must know her and respond to nature's first strong tie.
In surprise, Nichol had risen, then was embarrassed to find an elderly
woman sobbing on his breast and addressing him in broken, endearing
words by a name utterly unfamiliar. He looked wonderingly at his
father, who stood near, trembling and regarding him through tear-dimmed
eyes with an affectionate interest, impressive even to his limited
"Doctor," he began over his mother's head, "what in thunder does all
this here mean? Me 'n' Jackson was chinnin' comf't'bly, when sud'n you
uns let loose on me two crazy old parties I never seed ner yeared on.
Never had folks go on so 'bout me befo'. Beats even that Hob't
Ma'tine," and he showed signs of rising irritation.
"Albert, Albert!" almost shrieked Mrs. Nichol, "don't you know me—ME,
your own mother?"
At the half-indignant, incredulous tone, yet more than all at the
strange accent and form of this negative, the poor woman was almost
beside herself. "Merciful God!" she cried, "this cannot be;" and she
sank into a chair, sobbing almost hysterically.
For reasons of his own, Dr. Barnes did not interfere. Nature in
powerful manifestations was actuating the parents; and he decided, now
that things had gone so far, to let the entire energy of uncurbed
emotion, combined with all the mysterious affinity of the closest
kinship, exert its influence on the clogged brain of his patient.
For a few moments Mrs. Nichol was too greatly overcome to comprehend
anything clearly; her husband, on the other hand, was simply wrought up
to his highest capacity for action. His old instinct of authority
returned, and he seized his son's hand and began, "Now, see here,
Albert, you were wounded in your head—"
"Yes, right yere," interrupted Nichol, pointing to his scar. "I knows
all 'bout that, but I don't like these goin's on, ez ef I wuz a
nachel-bawn fool, en had ter bleve all folks sez. I've been taken in
too often. When I wuz with the Johnnies they'd say ter me, 'Yankee
Blank, see that ar critter? That's a elephant.' When I'd call it a
elephant, they'd larf an' larf till I flattened out one feller's nose.
I dunno nothin' 'bout elephants; but the critter they pinted at wuz a
cow. Then one day they set me ter scrubbin' a nigger to mek 'im white,
en all sech doin's, till the head-doctor stopped the hull blamed
nonsense. S'pose I be a cur'ous chap. I ain't a nachel-bawn ijit. When
folks begin ter go on, en do en say things I kyant see through, then I
stands off en sez, 'Lemme 'lone.' The hospital doctors wouldn't 'low
any foolin' with me 't all."
"I'm not allowing any fooling with you," said Dr. Barnes, firmly. "I
wish you to listen to that man and woman, and believe all they say. The
hospital doctors would give you the same orders."
"All right, then," assented Nichol, with a sort of grimace of
resignation. "Fire away, old man, an' git through with yer yarn so
Jackson kin come back. I wish this woman wouldn't take on so. Hit makes
me orful oncomf't'ble, doggoned ef hit don't."
The rapid and peculiar utterance, the seemingly unfeeling words of his
son, stung the father into an ecstasy of grief akin to anger. A man
stood before him, as clearly recognized as his own image in a mirror.
The captain was not out of his mind in any familiar sense of the word;
he remembered distinctly what had happened for months past. He must
recall, he must be MADE to recollect the vital truths of his life on
which not only his happiness but that of others depended. Although
totally ignorant of what the wisest can explain but vaguely, Mr. Nichol
was bent on restoring his son by the sheer force of will, making him
remember by telling him what he should and must recall. This he tried
to do with strong, eager insistence. "Why, Albert," he urged, "I'm your
father; and that's your mother."
Nichol shook his head and looked at the doctor, who added gravely,
"That's all true."
"Yes," resumed Mr. Nichol, with an energy and earnestness of utterance
which compelled attention. "Now listen to reason. As I was saying, you
were wounded in the head, and you have forgotten what happened before
you were hurt. But you must remember, you must, indeed, or you will
break your mother's heart and mine, too."
"But I tell yer, I kyant reckerlect a thing befo' I kinder waked up in
the hospital, en the Johnnies call me Yankee Blank. I jes' wish folks
would lemme alone on that pint. Hit allus bothers me en makes me mad.
How kin I reckerlect when I kyant?" and he began to show signs of
Dr. Barnes was about to interfere when Mrs. Nichol, who had grown
calmer, rose, took her son's hand, and said brokenly: "Albert, look me
in the face, your mother's face, and try, TRY with all your heart and
soul and mind. Don't you remember ME?"
It was evident that her son did try. His brow wrinkled in the perplexed
effort, and he looked at her fixedly for a moment or more; but no
magnetic current from his mother's hand, no suggestion of the dear
features which had bent over him in childhood and turned toward him in
love and pride through subsequent years found anything in his arrested
consciousness answering to her appeal.
The effort and its failure only irritated him, and he broke out: "Now
look yere, I be as I be. What's the use of all these goin's on? Doctor,
if you sez these folks are my father and mother, so be it. I'm learning
somethin' new all the time. This ain't no mo' quar, I s'pose, than some
other things. I've got to mind a doctor, for I've learned that much ef
I hain't nuthin' else, but I want you uns to know that I won't stan' no
mo' foolin'. Doctors don't fool me, en they've got the po'r ter mek a
feller do ez they sez, but other folks is got ter be keerful how they
Mrs. Nichol again sank into her chair and wept bitterly; her husband at
last remained silent in a sort of inward, impotent rage of grief. There
was their son, alive and in physical health, yet between him and them
was a viewless barrier which they could not break through.
The strange complications, the sad thwartings of hope which must result
unless he was restored, began to loom already in the future.
Dr. Barnes now came forward and said: "Captain Nichol, you are as you
are at this moment, but you must know that you are not what you were
once. We are trying to restore you to your old self. You'd be a great
deal better off if we succeed. You must help us all you can. You must
be patient, and try all the time to recollect. You know I am not
deceiving you, but seeking to help you. You don't like this. That
doesn't matter. Didn't you see doctors do many things in hospitals
which the patients didn't like?"
"I reckon," replied Nichol, growing reasonable at once when brought on
"Well, you are my patient. I may have to do some disagreeable things,
but they won't hurt you. It won't be like taking off an arm or a leg.
You have seen that done, I suppose?"
"You bet!" was the eager, proud reply. "I used to hold the fellows when
"Now hold yourself. Be patient and good-natured. While we are about it,
I want to make every appeal possible to your lost memory, and I order
you to keep on trying to remember till I say: 'Through for the
present.' If we succeed, you'll thank me all the days of your life.
Anyhow, you must do as I say."
"Oh, I know that."
"Well, then, your name is Captain Nichol. This is Mr. Nichol, your
father; this lady is your mother. Call them father and mother when you
speak to them. Always speak kindly and pleasantly. They'll take you to
a pleasant home when I'm through with you, and you must mind them.
They'll be good to you everyway."
Nichol grinned acquiescence and said: "All right, Doctor."
"Now you show your good sense. We'll have you sound and happy yet." The
doctor thought a moment and then asked: "Mr. Nichol, I suppose that
after our visit to Mr. Kemble, you and your wife would prefer to take
your son home with you?"
"Certainly," was the prompt response.
"I would advise you to do so. After our next effort, however it
results, we all will need rest and time for thought. Captain, remain
here a few moments with your father and mother. Listen good-naturedly
and answer pleasantly to whatever they may say to you. I will be back
Dr. Barnes descended the stairs to the parlor where Mr. Kemble
impatiently awaited him. "Well?" said the banker, anxiously.
"I will explain while on the way to your house. The carriage is still
ready, I suppose?" to Jackson.
"Yes," was the eager reply; "how did he take the meeting of his
"In the main as I feared. He does not know them yet. Mr. Jackson, you
and I are somewhat alike in one of our duties. I never talk about my
patients. If I did, I ought to be drummed out of the town instead of
ever being called upon again. Of course you feel that you should not
talk about your guests. You can understand why the parties concerned in
this matter would not wish to have it discussed in the village."
"Certainly, Doctor, certainly," replied Jackson, reddening, for he knew
something of his reputation for gossip. "This is no ordinary case."
"No, it is not. Captain Nichol and his friends would never forgive any
one who did not do right by them now. In about fifteen minutes or so I
will return. Have the carriage wait for me at Mr. Kemble's till again
wanted. You may go back to the captain and do your best to keep him
Jackson accompanied them to the conveyance and said to the man on the
box: "Obey all Dr. Barnes's orders."
As soon as the two men were seated, the physician began: "Our first
test has failed utterly;" and he briefly narrated what had occurred,
concluding, "I fear your daughter will have no better success. Still,
it is perhaps wise to do all we can, on the theory that these sudden
shocks may start up the machinery of memory. Nichol is excited; such
powers as he possesses are stimulated to their highest activity, and he
is evidently making a strong effort to recall the past, I therefore now
deem it best to increase the pressure on his brain to the utmost. If
the obstruction does not give way, I see no other course than to employ
the skill of experts and trust to the healing processes of time."
"I am awfully perplexed, Doctor," was the reply. "You must be firm with
me on one point, and you know your opinion will have great weight.
Under no sentimental sense of duty, or even of affection, must Helen
marry Nichol unless he is fully restored and given time to prove there
is no likelihood of any return of this infirmity."
"I agree with you emphatically. There is no reason for such
self-sacrifice on your daughter's part. Nichol would not appreciate it.
He is not an invalid; on the contrary, a strong, muscular man,
abundantly able to take care of himself under the management of his
"He has my profound sympathy," continued Mr. Kemble, "but giving that
unstintedly is a very different thing from giving him my only child."
"Certainly. Perhaps we need not say very much to Miss Helen on this
point at present. Unless he becomes his old self she will feel that she
has lost him more truly than if he were actually dead. The only deeply
perplexing feature in the case is its uncertainty. He may be all right
before morning, and he may never recall a thing that happened before
the explosion of that shell."
The carriage stopped, and Mr. Kemble hastily led the way to his
dwelling. Helen met them at the door. "Oh, how long you have been!" she
protested; "I've just been tortured by suspense."
Dr. Barnes took her by the hand and led her to the parlor. "Miss
Helen," he said gravely, "if you are not careful you will be another
patient on my hands. Sad as is Captain Nichol's case, he at least obeys
me implicitly; so must you. Your face is flushed, your pulse feverish,
"Doctor," cried the girl, "you can't touch the disease till you remove
the cause. Why is he kept so long from me?"
"Helen, child, you MUST believe that the doctor—that we all—are doing
our best for you and Nichol," said Mr. Kemble, anxiously. "His father
and mother came to the hotel. It was but natural that they should wish
to see him at once. How would we feel?"
"Come, Helen, dear, you must try to be more calm," urged the mother,
gently, with her arm around her daughter's neck. "Doctor, can't you
give her something to quiet her nerves?"
"Miss Helen, like the captain, is going to do just as I say, aren't
you? You can do more for yourself than I can do for you. Remember, you
must act intelligently and cooperate with me. His father, and
especially his mother, exhibited the utmost degree of emotion and made
the strongest appeals without effect. Now we must try different
tactics. All must be quiet and nothing occur to confuse or irritate
"Ah, how little you all understand me! The moment you give me a chance
to act I can be as calm as you are. It's this waiting, this torturing
suspense that I cannot endure. Hobart would not have permitted it. He
knows, he understands. Every effort will fail till Albert sees me. It
will be a cause for lasting gratitude to us both that I should be the
one to restore him. Now let me manage. My heart will guide me better
than your science."
"What will you do?" inquired her father, in deep solicitude.
"See, here's his picture," she replied, taking it from a table
near—"the one he gave me just before he marched away. Let him look at
that and recall himself. Then I will enter. Oh, I've planned it all! My
self-control will be perfect. Would I deserve the name of woman if I
were weak or hysterical? No, I would do my best to rescue any man from
such a misfortune, much more Albert, who has such sacred claims."
"That's a good idea of yours about the photograph. Well, I guess I must
let Nature have her own way again, only in this instance I advise quiet
"Trust me, Doctor, and you won't regret it."
"Nerve yourself then to do your best, but prepare to be disappointed
for the present. I do not and cannot share in your confidence."
"Of course you cannot," she said, with a smile which illuminated her
face into rare beauty. "Only love and faith could create my confidence."
"Miss Helen," was the grave response, "would love and faith restore
Captain Nichol's right arm if he had lost it?"
"Oh, but that's different," she faltered.
"I don't know whether it is or not. We are experimenting. There may be
a physical cause obstructing memory which neither you nor any one can
now remove. Kindness only leads me to temper your hope."
"Doctor," she said half-desperately, "it is not hope; it is belief. I
could not feel as I do if I were to be disappointed."
"Ah, Miss Helen, disappointment is a very common experience. I must
stop a moment and see one who has learned this truth pretty thoroughly.
Then I will bring Nichol and his parents at once."
Tears filled her eyes. "Yes, I know," she sighed; "my heart just bleeds
for him, but I cannot help it. Were I not sure that Hobart understands
me better than any one else, I should be almost distracted. This very
thought of him nerves me. Think what he did for Albert from a hard
sense of duty. Can I fail? Good-by, and please, PLEASE hasten."
Martine rose to greet the physician with a clear eye and a resolute
face. "Why, why!" cried Dr. Barnes, cheerily, "you look a hundred per
cent better. That quinine—"
"There, Doctor, I don't undervalue your drugs; but Mr. Kemble has been
to see me and appealed to me for help—to still be on hand if needed.
Come, I've had my hour for weakness. I am on the up-grade now. Tell me
how far the affair has progressed."
"Haven't time, Hobart. Since Mr. Kemble's treatment is so efficacious,
I'll continue it. You will be needed, you will indeed, no matter how it
all turns out. I won't abandon my drugs, either. Here, take this."
Martine took the medicine as administered. "Now when you feel drowsy,
go to sleep," added the doctor.
"Tell me one thing—has she seen him yet?"
"No; his father and mother have, and he does not know them. It's going
to be a question of time, I fear."
"Helen will restore him."
"So she believes, or tries to. I mercifully shook her faith a little.
Well, she feels for you, old fellow. The belief that you understand her
better than any one has great sustaining power."
"Say I won't fail her; but I entreat that you soon let me know the
result of the meeting."
"I'll come in," assented the doctor, as he hastily departed. Then he
added sotto voce, "If you hear anything more under twelve or fifteen
hours, I'm off my reckoning."
Re-entering the carriage, he was driven rapidly to the hotel. Jackson
had played his part, and had easily induced Nichol to recount his
hospital experience in the presence of his parents, who listened in
mingled wonder, grief, and impotent protest.
"Captain, put on your overcoat and hat and come with me," said the
doctor, briskly. "Your father and mother will go with us."
"Good-by, Jackson," said Nichol, cordially. "Ye're a lively cuss, en I
hopes we'll have a chaince to chin agin."
With a blending of hope and of fear, his parents followed him. The
terrible truth of his sensibility to all that he should recognize and
remember became only the more appalling as they comprehended it. While
it lost none of its strangeness, they were compelled to face and to
accept it as they could not do at first.
"Now, Captain," said the doctor, after they were seated in the
carriage, "listen carefully to me. It is necessary that you recall what
happened before you were wounded. I tell you that you must do it if you
can, and you know doctors must be obeyed."
"Look yere, Doctor, ain't I a-tryin'? but I tell yer hit's like tryin'
ter lift myself out o' my own boots."
"Mind, now, I don't say you must remember, only try your best. You can
"Well, you are going to the house of an old friend who knew you well
before you were hurt. You must pay close heed to all she says just as
you would to me. You must not say any rude, bad words, such as soldiers
often use, but listen to every word she says. Perhaps you'll know her
as soon as you see her. Now I've prepared you. I won't be far off."
"Don't leave me, Doctor. I jes' feels nachelly muxed up en mad when
folks pester me 'bout what I kyant do."
"You must not get angry now, I can tell you. That would never do at
all. I FORBID it."
"There, there now, Doctor, I won't, doggone me ef I will," Nichol
Mr. Kemble met them at the door, and the captain recognized him
"Why, yere's that sensible ole feller what didn't want to ast no
questions," he exclaimed.
"You are right, Captain Nichol, I have no questions to ask."
"Well, ef folks wuz all like you I'd have a comf't'ble time"
"Come with me, Captain," said the physician, leading the way into the
parlor. Mr. Kemble silently ushered Mr. and Mrs. Nichol into the
sitting-room on the opposite side of the hall and placed them in the
care of his wife. He then went into the back parlor in which was Helen,
now quiet as women so often are in emergencies. Through a slight
opening between the sliding-door she looked, with tightly clasped hands
and parted lips, at her lover. At first she was conscious of little
else except the overwhelming truth that before her was one she had
believed dead. Then again surged up with blinding force the old feeling
which had possessed her when she saw him last—when he had impressed
his farewell kiss upon her lips. Remembering the time for her to act
was almost at hand, she became calm—more from the womanly instinct to
help him than from the effort of her will.
Dr. Barnes said to Nichol, "Look around. Don't you think you have seen
this room before? Take your time and try to remember."
The captain did as he was bidden, but soon shook his head. "Hit's right
purty, but I don't reckerlect."
"Well, sit down here, then, and look at that picture. Who is it?"
"Why, hit's me—me dressed up as cap'n," ejaculated Nichol, delightedly.
"Yes, that was the way you looked and dressed before you were wounded."
"How yer talk! This beats anythin' I ever yeared from the Johnnies."
"Now, Captain Nichol, you see we are not deceiving you. We called you
captain. There's your likeness, taken before you were hurt and lost
your memory, and you can see for yourself that you were a captain. You
must think how much there is for you to try to remember. Before you
went to the war, long before you got hurt, you gave this likeness of
yourself to a young lady that you thought a great deal of. Can't you
recall something about it?"
Nichol wrinkled his scarred forehead, scratched his head, and hitched
uneasily in his chair, evidently making a vain effort to penetrate the
gloom back of that vague awakening in the Southern hospital. At last he
broke out in his usual irritation, "Naw, I kyant, doggon—"
"Hush! you must not use that word here. Don't be discouraged. You are
trying; that's all I ask," and the doctor laid a soothing hand on his
shoulder. "Now, Captain, I'll just step in the next room. You think
quietly as you can about the young lady to whom you gave that picture
Nichol was immensely pleased with his photograph, and looked at it in
all its lights. While thus gratifying a sort of childish vanity, Helen
entered noiselessly, her blue eyes, doubly luminous from the pallor of
her face, shining like sapphires. So intent was her gaze that one might
think it would "kindle a soul under the ribs of death."
At last Nichol became conscious of her presence and started,
exclaiming, "Why, there she is herself."
"OH, Albert, you DO know me," cried the girl, rushing toward him with
He took it unhesitatingly, saying with a pleased wonder, "Well, I
reckon I'm comin' round. Yer the young lady I give this picture to?"
"I'm Helen," she breathed, with an indescribable accent of tenderness
"Why, cert'ny. The doctor tole me 'bout you."
"But you remember me yourself?" she pleaded. "You remember what you
said to me when you gave me this picture?" and she looked into his eyes
with an expression which kindled even his dull senses.
"Oh, shucks!" he said slowly, "I wish I could. I'd like ter 'blige yer,
fer ye're right purty, en I am a-tryin' ter mind the doctor."
Such a sigh escaped her that one might think her heart and hope were
going with it. The supreme moment of meeting had come and gone, and he
did not know her; she saw and felt in her inmost soul that he did not.
The brief and illusive gleam into the past was projected only from the
present, resulting from what he had been told, not from what he
She withdrew her hand, turned away, and for a moment or two her form
shook with sobs she could not wholly stifle. He looked on perplexed and
troubled, then broke out, "I jes' feels ez ef I'd split my blamed ole
She checked him by a gesture. "Wait," she cried, "sit down." She took a
chair near him and hastily wiped her eyes. "Perhaps I can help you
remember me. You will listen closely, will you not?"
"I be dog—oh, I forgot," and he looked toward the back parlor
apprehensively. "Yes, mees, I'll do anythin' yer sez."
"Well, once you were a little boy only so high, and I was a little girl
only so high. We both lived in this village and we went to school
together. We studied out of the same books together. At three o'clock
in the afternoon school was out, and then we put our books in our desks
and the teacher let us go and play. There was a pond of water, and it
often froze over with smooth black ice. You and I used to go together
to that pond; and you would fasten my skates on my feet—"
"Hanged ef I wouldn't do it agin," he cried, greatly pleased. "Yer
beats 'em all. Stid o' astin' questions, yer tells me all 'bout what
happened. Why, I kin reckerlect it all ef I'm tole often anuff."
With a sinking heart she faltered on, "Then you grew older and went
away to school, and I went away to school. We had vacations; we rode on
horseback together. Well, you grew to be as tall as you are now; and
then came a war and you wore a captain's uniform, like—like that you
see in your likeness, and—and—" she stopped. Her rising color became
a vivid flush; she slowly rose as the thought burned its way into her
consciousness that she was virtually speaking to a stranger. Her words
were bringing no gleams of intelligence into his face; they were
throwing no better, no stronger light upon the past than if she were
telling the story to a great boy. Yet he was not a boy. A man's face
was merely disfigured (to her eyes) by a grin of pleasure instead of a
pleased smile; and a man's eyes were regarding her with an unwinking
stare of admiration. She was not facing her old playmate, her old
friend and lover, but a being whose only consciousness reached back but
months, through scenes, associations coarse and vulgar like himself.
She felt this with an intuition that was overwhelming. She could not
utter another syllable, much less speak of the sacred love of the past.
"O God!" she moaned in her heart, "the man has become a living grave in
which his old self is buried. Oh, this is terrible, terrible!"
As the truth grew upon her she sprang away, wringing her hands and
looking upon him with an indescribable expression of pity and dread.
"Oh," she now moaned aloud, "if he had only come back to me mutilated
in body, helpless! but this change—"
She fled from the room, and Nichol stared after her in perplexed
"FORWARD! COMPANY A"
When Mrs. Kemble was left alone with Captain Nichol's parents in the
sitting-room, she told them of Helen's plan of employing the photograph
in trying to recall their son to himself. It struck them as an
unusually effective method. Mrs. Kemble saw that their anxiety was so
intense that it was torture for them to remain in suspense away from
the scene of action. It may be added that her own feelings also led her
to go with them into the back parlor, where all that was said by Nichol
and her daughter could be heard. Her solicitude for Helen was not less
than theirs for their son; and she felt the girl might need both
motherly care and counsel. She was opposed even more strenuously than
her husband to any committal on the daughter's part to her old lover
unless he should become beyond all doubt his former self. At best, it
would be a heavy cross to give up Martine, who had won her entire
affection. Helen's heart presented a problem too deep for solution.
What would—what could—Captain Nichol be to her child in his present
condition, should it continue?
It was but natural, therefore, that she and her husband should listen
to Helen's effort to awaken memories of the past with profound anxiety.
How far would she go? If Nichol were able to respond with no more
appreciative intelligence than he had thus far manifested, would a
sentiment of pity and obligation carry her to the point of accepting
him as he was, of devoting herself to one who, in spite of all their
commiseration and endeavors to tolerate, might become a sort of horror
in their household! It was with immense relief that they heard her
falter in her story, for they quickly divined that there was nothing in
him which responded to her effort. When they heard her rise and moan,
"If he had only come back to me mutilated in body, helpless! but this
change—" they believed that she was meeting the disappointment as they
Mr. and Mrs. Nichol heard the words also, and while in a measure
compelled to recognize their force, they conveyed a meaning hard to
accept. The appeal upon which so much hope had been built had failed.
In bitterness of soul, the conviction grew stronger that their once
brave, keen-minded son would never be much better than an idiot.
Then Helen appeared among them as pale, trembling, and overwhelmed as
if she had seen a spectre. In strong reaction from her effort and
blighted hope she was almost in a fainting condition. Her mother's arms
received her and supported her to a lounge; Mrs. Nichol gave way to
bitter weeping; Mr. Kemble wrung the father's hand in sympathy, and
then at his wife's request went for restoratives. Dr. Barnes closed the
sliding-doors and prudently reassured Nichol: "You have done your best,
Captain, and that is all I asked of you. Remain here quietly and look
at your picture for a little while, and then you shall have a good long
"I did try, Doctor," protested Nichol, anxiously. "Gee wiz! I reckon a
feller orter try ter please sech a purty gyurl. She tole me lots. Look
yere, Doctor, why kyan't I be tole over en over till I reckerlect it
"Well, we'll see, Captain. It's late now, and we must all have a rest.
Stay here till I come for you."
Nichol was so pleased with his photograph that he was well content in
its contemplation. The physician now gave his attention to Helen, who
was soon so far restored as to comprehend her utter failure. Her
distress was great indeed, and for a few moments diverted the thoughts
of even Mr. and Mrs. Nichol from their own sad share in the
"Oh, oh!" sobbed Helen, "this is the bitterest sorrow the war has
brought us yet."
"Well, now, friends," said Dr. Barnes, "it's time I had my say and gave
my orders. You must remember that I have not shared very fully in your
confidence that the captain could be restored by the appeals you have
made; neither do I share in this abandonment to grief now. As the
captain says, he is yet simply unable to respond. We must patiently
wait and see what time and medical skill can do for him. There is no
reason whatever for giving up hope. Mrs. Kemble, I would advise you to
take Miss Helen to her room, and you, Mr. Nichol, to take your wife and
son home. I will call in the morning, and then we can advise further."
His counsel was followed, the captain readily obeying when told to go
with his parents. Then the physician stepped over to Martine's cottage
and found, as he supposed, that the opiate and exhausted nature had
brought merciful oblivion.
It was long before Helen slept, nor would she take anything to induce
sleep. She soon became quiet, kissed her mother, and said she wished to
be alone. Then she tried to look at the problem in all its aspects, and
earnestly asked for divine guidance. The decision reached in the gray
dawn brought repose of mind and body.
It was late in the afternoon when Martine awoke with a dull pain in his
head and heart. As the consciousness of all that had happened returned,
he remembered that there was good reason for both. His faithful old
domestic soon prepared a dainty meal, which aided in giving tone to his
exhausted system. Then he sat down by his fire to brace himself for the
tidings he expected to hear. Helen's chair was empty. It would always
be hers, but hope was gone that she would smile from it upon him during
the long winter evenings. Already the room was darkening toward the
early December twilight, and he felt that his life was darkening in
like manner. He was no longer eager to hear what had occurred. The
mental and physical sluggishness which possessed him was better than
sharp pain; he would learn all soon enough—the recognition, the
beginning of a new life which inevitably would drift further and
further from him. His best hope was to get through the time, to endure
patiently and shape his life so as to permit as little of its shadow as
possible to fall upon hers. But as he looked around the apartment and
saw on every side the preparations for one who had been his, yet could
be no longer, his fortitude gave way, and he buried his face in his
So deep was his painful revery that he did not hear the entrance of Dr.
Barnes and Mr. Kemble. The latter laid a hand upon his shoulder and
said kindly, "Hobart, my friend, it is just as I told you it would be.
Helen needs you and wishes to see you."
Martine started up, exclaiming, "He must have remembered her."
Mr. Kemble shook his head. "No, Hobart," said the doctor, "she was as
much of a stranger to him as you were. There were, of course, grounds
for your expectation and hers also, but we prosaic physiologists have
some reason for our doubtings as well as you for your beliefs. It's
going to be a question of time with Nichol. How are you yourself? Ah, I
see," he added, with his finger on his patient's pulse. "With you it's
going to be a question of tonics."
"Yes, I admit that," Martine replied, "but perhaps of tonics other than
those you have in mind. You said, sir [to Mr. Kemble], that Helen
wished to see me?"
"Yes, when you feel well enough."
"I trust you will make yourselves at home," said Martine, hastily
preparing to go out.
"But don't you wish to hear more about Nichol?" asked the doctor,
"Not at present. Good-by."
Yet he was perplexed how to meet the girl who should now have been his
wife; and he trembled with strange embarrassment as he entered the
familiar room in which he had parted from her almost on the eve of
their wedding. She was neither perplexed nor embarrassed, for she had
the calmness of a fixed purpose. She went swiftly to him, took his
hand, led him to a chair, then sat down beside him. He looked at her
wonderingly and listened sadly as she asked, "Hobart, will you be
patient with me again?"
"Yes," he replied after a moment, yet he sighed deeply in foreboding.
Tears came into her eyes, yet her voice did not falter as she
continued: "I said last night that you would understand me better than
any one else; so I believe you will now. You will sustain and
strengthen me in what I believe to be duty."
"Yes, Helen, up to the point of such endurance as I have. One can't go
"No, Hobart, but you will not fail me, nor let me fail. I cannot marry
Captain Nichol as he now is"—there was an irrepressible flash of joy
in his dark eyes—"nor can I," she added slowly and sadly, "marry you."
He was about to speak, but she checked him and resumed. "Listen
patiently to me first. I have thought and thought long hours, and I
think I am right. You, better than I, know Captain Nichol's
condition—its sad contrast to his former noble self. The man we once
knew is veiled, hidden, lost—how can we express it? But he exists, and
at any time may find and reveal himself. No one, not even I, can revolt
at what he is now as he will revolt at it all when his true
consciousness returns. He has met with an immeasurable misfortune. He
is infinitely worse off than if helpless—worse off than if he were
dead, if this condition is to last; but it may not last. What would he
think of me if I should desert him now and leave him nothing to
remember but a condition of which he could only think with loathing? I
will hide nothing from you, Hobart, my brave, true friend—you who have
taught me what patience means. If you had brought him back utterly
helpless, yet his old self in mind, I could have loved him and married
him, and you would have sustained me in that course. Now I don't know.
My future, in this respect, is hidden like his. The shock I received
last night, the revulsion of feeling which followed, leaves only one
thing clear. I must try to do what is right by him; it will not be
easy. I hope you will understand. While I have the deepest pity that a
woman can feel, I shrink from him NOW, for the contrast between his
former self and his present is so terrible. Oh, it is such a horrible
mystery! All Dr. Barnes's explanations do not make it one bit less
mysterious and dreadful. Albert took the risk of this; he has suffered
this for his country. I must suffer for him; I must not desert him in
his sad extremity. I must not permit him to awake some day and learn
from others what he now is, and that I, the woman he loved, of all
others, left him to his degradation. The consequences might be more
fatal than the injury which so changed him. Such action on my part
might destroy him morally. Now his old self is buried as truly as if he
had died. I could never look him in the face again if I left him to
take his chances in life with no help from me, still less if I did that
which he could scarcely forgive. He could not understand all that has
happened since we thought him dead. He would only remember that I
deserted him in his present pitiable plight. Do you understand me,
"I must, Helen."
"I know how hard it is for you. Can you think I forget this for a
moment? Yet I send for you to help, to sustain me in a purpose which
changes our future so greatly. Do you not remember what you said once
about accepting the conditions of life as they are? We must do this
again, and make the best of them."
"But if—suppose his memory does not come back. Is there to be no hope?"
"Hobart, you must put that thought from you as far as you can. Do you
not see whither it might lead? You would not wish Captain Nichol to
remain as he is?"
"Oh," he cried desperately, "I'm put in a position that would tax any
saint in the calendar."
"Yes, you are. The future is not in our hands. I can only appeal to you
to help me do what I think is right NOW."
He thought a few moments, took his resolve, then gave her his hand
silently. She understood him without a word.
The news of the officer's return and of his strange condition was soon
generally known in the village; but his parents, aided by the
physician, quickly repressed those inclined to call from mere
curiosity. At first Jim Wetherby scouted the idea that his old captain
would not know him, but later had to admit the fact with a wonder which
no explanations satisfied. Nichol immediately took a fancy to the
one-armed veteran, who was glad to talk by the hour about soldiers and
Before any matured plan for treatment could be adopted Nichol became
ill, and soon passed into the delirium of fever. "The trouble is now
clear enough," Dr. Barnes explained. "The captain has lived in
hospitals and breathed a tainted atmosphere so long that his system is
poisoned. This radical change of air has developed the disease."
Indeed, the typhoid symptoms progressed so rapidly as to show that the
robust look of health had been in appearance only. The injured,
weakened brain was the organ which suffered most, and in spite of the
physician's best efforts his patient speedily entered into a condition
of stupor, relieved only by low, unintelligible mutterings. Jim
Wetherby became a tireless watcher, and greatly relieved the
grief-stricken parents. Helen earnestly entreated that she might act
the part of nurse also, but the doctor firmly forbade her useless
exposure to contagion. She drove daily to the house, yet Mrs. Nichol's
sad face and words could scarcely dissipate the girl's impression that
the whole strange episode was a dream.
At last it was feared that the end was near. One night Dr. Barnes, Mr.
and Mrs. Nichol, and Jim Wetherby were watching in the hope of a gleam
of intelligence. He was very low, scarcely more than breathing, and
they dreaded lest there might be no sign before the glimmer of life
faded out utterly.
Suddenly the captain seemed to awake, his glassy eyes kindled, and a
noble yet stern expression dignified his visage. In a thick voice he
said, "For—" Then, as if all the remaining forces of life asserted
themselves, he rose in his bed and exclaimed loudly, "Forward! Company
A. Guide right. Ah!" He fell back, now dead in very truth.
"Oh!" cried Jim Wetherby, excitedly, "them was the last words I heard
from him just before the shell burst, and he looks now just as he did
"Yes," said Dr. Barnes, sadly and gravely, "memory came back to him at
the point where he lost it. He has died as we thought at first—a brave
soldier leading a charge."
The stern, grand impress of battle remained upon the officer's
countenance. Friends and neighbors looked upon his ennobled visage with
awe, and preserved in honored remembrance the real man that temporarily
had been obscured. Helen's eyes, when taking her farewell look, were
not so blinded with tears but that she recognized his restored manhood.
Death's touch had been more potent than love's appeal.
In the Wilderness, upon a day fatal to him and so many thousands,
Captain Nichol had prophesied of the happy days of peace. They came,
and he was not forgotten.
One evening Dr. Barnes was sitting with Martine and Helen at their
fireside. They had been talking about Nichol, and Helen remarked
thoughtfully, "It was so very strange that he should have regained his
memory in the way and at the time he did."
"No," replied the physician, "that part of his experience does not
strike me as so very strange. In typhoid cases a lucid interval is apt
to precede death. His brain, like his body, was depleted, shrunken
slightly by disease. This impoverishment probably removed the cerebral
obstruction, and the organ of memory renewed its action at the point
where it had been arrested. My theory explains his last ejaculation,
'Ah!' It was his involuntary exclamation as he again heard the shell
burst. The reproduction in his mind of this explosion killed him
instantly after all. He was too enfeebled to bear the shock. If he had
passed from delirium into quiet sleep—ah, well! he is dead, and that
is all we can know with certainty."
"Well," said Martine, with a deep breath, "I am glad he had every
chance that it was possible for us to give him."
"Yes, Hobart," added his wife, gently, "you did your whole duty, and I
do not forget what it cost you."