« 上一頁繼續 »
the morning, behaved with great cool- walked so rapidly that his employer ness. The head of the household lay could not keep up with him. He called ill. It was their first care to provide upon him to slacken his pace; but, as for him. Then they went deliberately no attention was paid to this, the genabout, gathering up their valuables, tleman dropped his books upon the taking just what they wanted. They ground, and, running forward, knocked. secured a wagon to carry away their him down, determined to be obeyed, things. Their house, meanwhile, had fire or no fire. been full of refugees from the flames. But all were not so cool. One man, One of the young ladies, going for seeing the flames advancing in the dithe last time through the deserted rection of his house, rushed thither to rooms, found, on a sofa in the parlor, save his property. He worked with a sick woman, utterly unable to move. might and main, but, when the house At first, she felt almost in despair at was nearly emptied, became aware of sight of this poor creature, so the fact that it was his neighbor's. By meeting a fearful fate.
But quickly this time his own dwelling was on fire, recovering her presence of mind, she from which he saved scarcely anything. called in men from the street, and, I know one person who passed through by their united efforts, they carried his hall perfectly empty-handed, while her out, and forced a passing wagon all around him were bundles and boxes, to take her to a safe place. A young which were consumed in the fire ; anlady, who lived at a little distance from other walked out of his house with a this family, was spending the night at package of envelopes in his hand, leavthe other end of the city. They sat up ing, close by, an article worth thirty doltill half past twelve, and she was then lars. in the act of retiring, never dreaming I must mention one of many instanthat her home was in danger, when a ces of unselfishness that came under my loaded wagon stopped at the door, and observation. A gentleman was comout stepped her sister and child. She fortably established in a house which went back in the same vehicle, and he had recently bought and furnished, worked till twelve the next day, getting expecting there to enjoy the pleasures things out of the house, collecting and of a home. One half of the house he guarding them till they could be re- had rented; but the husband of the moved.
woman to whom it was let was not in There was, of course, the usual dif- town. Their dwelling shared the fate ference shown amongst people in such of those around them, being burnt. He circumstances, - energy and coolness first set to work to save his own things; contrasted with imbecility and frantic but, struck by the forlorn condition of excitement. A friend who moved three his tenant, he did his best to save her times, with her husband so ill that he effects, even to the detriment of his had to be carried from place to place, own; for when they were examined, never once forgot to administer his the greater portion of them was found medicine at regular intervals,
to be hers. Time has not exhausted steady hand pouring out the drops by the truth and beauty of the saying, that the light of the fire.
“ in the night the stars shine forth,” A gentleman was carrying some of and the stars did not pale even in the his books, preceded by an assistant, terrible light of the fire that consumed who also had his arms full. The latter
half a city.
MY LITTLE BOY.
T: "HERE were nine of us, all told, claimed from me a mother's care,
when mother died; myself, the the youngest a wailing babe but seven eldest, aged twenty, a plain and serious days old, whom I came to cherish and woman, well fitted by nature and cir- love as my little boy. cumstance to fill the place made vacant When I had settled down, and grown by death.
accustomed to the vacuum which never I cannot remember when I was young. could be filled for me, I thought a great Indeed, when I hear other women re- deal upon mother's last words. I was count the story of their early days, I proud of the trust she reposed in me, think I had no childhood, for mine was and I meant to be faithful to it. I wonlike no other.
dered much why she had thought it Mother was married so young, that likely I should never marry; for I was a at the age when most women begin to woman with strong instincts, and, amid think seriously of marriage she had all the toil and care of my barren life, I around her a numerous brood, of which had seen afar, through gleaming mists, I was less the elder sister than the the mountains of hope arise, and beyounger mother. She was delicate by yond the heat and dust and labor of nature, and peevish by reason of her duty caught glimpses of green ways burdens, and I think could never have made pleasant by quiet waters. been a self-reliant character ; so she I do not think my burden seemed fretted and sighed through life, and heavier now that mother no longer when death came, unawares, she seemed helped me to bear it; for my sense of not sorry for the refuge.
responsibility had been increased by She called me to her bed one day in her complaining spirit. Her discouraga tone so cheerful that I wondered, and ing views of life held in check the reins when I saw the calm and brightness in of my eager fancy: it seemed wrong her face, hope made me glad." Mar- to enjoy a happiness I could not share garet,” she said, “ you have been a with her. Now I no longer felt this good daughter. I never did you justice restraint; but, knowing that somehow until this illness opened my eyes. You she had missed this happiness for which have shamed me by your patience and I waited, the knowledge invested her your sacrifices so gently borne. You are memory with a tender pity, and temmore fit to be a mother than I ever was; pered my pleasure with a feeling akin and I leave the children to your care
to pain. without a fear. It is not likely you
will I was never idle. Behind the real ever marry, and I die content, knowing work of life, my fancy wrought on, unthat you will do your duty.”
known and unsuspected by the world ; After this came many sad days,—the my lamp of joy, fed by the sweet oil parting, the silent form which death had of hope, was ready for the lighting, and made majestic, the funeral hymns, the I was content to wait. tolling bell, the clods upon the coffin- My little boy throve bravely. Every lid ; and when the sun shone out and morning I awoke him with a kiss; and, the birds sang again, it seemed to me I perhaps because each day seemed but a had dreamed it all, and that the sun continuation of the other, time stood could not shine nor the birds sing above still for him. He was for me the incara grave on which the grass had not nation of all loveliness. The fair face, yet had time to grow. But I had not and blond hair, and brown, brooding dreamed, nor had I time for dreaming eyes, were beautiful as an angel's, and Mother was dead, and eight children goodness set its seal on his perfections.
He gave me no trouble: grief brings which at first was no bigger than a age, joy confirms youth, and I and my man's hand, but it grew until it filled little boy grew young together. He the land with darkness, and the fair was with me everywhere, lightening my prospect on which I had so loved to labor with his prattling tongue, helping gaze was hidden behind the storm. me with his sweet, hindering ways; and My little boy and I looked into each when the kisses had been many that other's faces, and he cried, “ Margaret, had waked him many morns, he stood I must go!
!" beside me, my little boy, hardly a hand's I did not say nay,- for the tears which breadth lower than myself.
were not in my eyes were in my voice, The world had changed for all but and to speak was to betray them, - but him and me. My father had wandered I turned about to make him ready. off to foreign parts; sisters and broth- In these days my little boy's vision ers, one by one, had gone forth to was finer than my own; and when we conquer kingdoms and reign in their stood together, looking from our orient own right, and one young sister, just window, he saw keener and farther than on the border-land of maiden fancies, I had ever done ; for my eyes now (O friends, I write this line with tears!) looked through a veil of tears, while his, turned from earth and crossed the bor- like the eagle's, penetrated the cloud der-land of heaven.
to the sunshine behind it. He was full But he and I remained alone in the of the dream of glory; and his words, old homestead, and walked together fraught with purpose and power, stirred sweetly down the years.
me like a trumpet. I caught the inIf I came upon disappointment, I had spiration that thrilled his soul; for we not sought it, neither did I fall by it; had walked so long together that all but that which was my future slid by paths pursued by him must find me me and became the past, so gently that ever at his side. I scarce remember where one ended or One day I was summoned to meet a the other began; and though all other visitor; and going, a tall figure in mililovers failed me, one true remained, to tary dress gave me a military salute. whom I ever would be true. The future It was my little boy, who, half abashed did not look less fair; nay, I deemed it at his presumption, drew himself up, more full of promise than ever.
and sought refuge from shyness in as though I had passed from my old valor. It was not a sight to make me stand-point of observation to a more smile, though I smiled to please my easterly window; and the prospect was
warrior, who, well pleased, displayed not the less enchanting that I looked his art, to show how fields were won. upon it over the shoulder of my little Won! He had no thought of loss; for boy. We talked much of it together; youth and hope dream not of defeat, and though he had the nearer view, it and he talked of how the war was to was my practised vision that saw path- be fought and ended, and all should ways of beauty not yet suspected by be well. him.
I kissed my little boy good night; But we were still happy in the pres- and he slept peacefully, dreaming of ent, and did not speculate much upon fields of glory, as Jacob dreamed and the future. The rolling years brought
saw a heavenly vision. him completeness, and to the graces of He went; and then it seemed as if person were added the gifts of wisdom there had been with him one fair long and knowledge. The down that shaded summer day, and this was the evening his cheek, like the down upon a ripe thereof; and my heart was heavy within peach, had darkened and strengthened to the symbol of manhood, and his But many letters reached me from words had the clear ring of purpose. the distant field,- long and loving letFor there was a cloud upon the horizon ters, full of hope, portraying all the
poetry and beauty of camp-life, casting women's — souls were tried. Long the grosser part aside; and to me at days of silence passed, days of sickenhome, musing amid peaceful scenes, ing doubt, and then came the news of it seemed a great, triumphant march, victory, -- victory bought with precious which must crush, with its mere dis- blood and heavy loss. Over the ghastly play of power, all wicked foes. But the hospital lists I hung, fearing and dreadsacrifice of blood was needed for the re- ing to meet the name of my little boy, mission of sin, and these holiday troops taking hope, as the list shortened, from - heroes in all save the art of war the despair of others, and no mention. lost the day, and, returning, brought Thank God, who giveth us the victory! back with their thinned ranks
little And later, when details come in, I boy unharmed. Unharmed, thank God! see in “official report” my little boy's but bronzed and bearded like the pard, name mentioned for meritorious and and tarnished with the wear and bur- gallant conduct, and recommended for nished with the use of war.
promotion. Ah! the groans of the How he talked and laughed, making dying are lost in the shouts of the light of danger, and, growing serious, victor; and, forgetting the evil because said the fight had but begun, the busi- of this good, a woman's heart cried, ness of the nation must, for years, be Laus Deo! war, - and that his strength and man- After the battle, hardly fought and hood, nay, his life if need be, should be dearly purchased, my hero came home given to his country. Then his words on furlough. War had developed him made me brave, and his looks made me faster than the daily kisses of love had proud. I blessed him with unfaltering done; for my little boy – crowned lips; and above the hills of promise, with immortal youth for me — for all which my little boy and I saw looking the world came from this rude emfrom our orient window, rose higher brace a man in stature and wisdom, a yet the mountains of truth, with the hero in valor and endurance, a leader straight path of duty leading to the beloved and revered. skies. But when he was gone again, But for all this I tucked him in o' gone,
there fell a shadow of the com- nights, and shut off harmful draughts ing night, and the evening and the morn- from him who oft had lain upon the ing were the second day.
sod, and for covering had but the His frequent letters dissipated the cloudy sky. sense of danger, and brought me great These were blissful days,- marked in comfort. War is not a literary art, and the past by white memories,– in which letters from the “imminent deadly we talked of future plans, the future so breach," made it seem less deadly. near, yet to our vision so remote, and His self-abnegation filled me with won- purposed this and that, not considering der. “It is well that few should be that Heaven disposes all things. lost, that many may be saved,” he And when he must be off, I kissed wrote. In what school had this tender him lightly; for success brings security, youth learned heroism, I asked myself, and I was growing accustomed to these as I read his noble words and trembled partings ; but he drew me to his breast, at his courage.
struck by some pang of coming evil, My dreams and my gaze turned south- and called me mother. Ah! then my ward. No eastern beams lured me to heart yearned over my little boy, and I that lookout so long endeared; for the would fain have stayed his going ; but, eyes through which I once gazed looked dashing the tears from his eyes, he through the smoke of battle, and hope hurried away, nor looked behind him and faith had fled with him, and left once. me but suspense.
All through the winter, which for him Now came hot work.
was summer, my heart lay lightly in its pressed sorely, and men's — ay, and place, and I waited calmly the coming
of the end. The struggle was almost over; the storm-cloud had rolled back, after deluging the land in blood; in this consecrated soil slavery was forever buried; the temple of freedom was reared in the name of all men, and the dove of peace sat brooding in its eaves.
All this my little boy had said must come to pass before he sheathed his sword; and this had come to pass.
He had marched "to the sea," my conquering hero, and was "coming up," crowned with new laurels. I was waiting the fulness of time, lulled with the fulness of content. Sherman had gathered his hosts for another combat, the last, and then the work would be done, and well done. Thus wrote my little boy; and my heart echoed his words, "well done."
This battle-day I worked out of doors from morning until night, seeking to bring order and beauty out of confusion and decay, striving to have all things ready when he came. My sleep was sweet that night, and I awoke with these words in my mind:
"Lord, in the morning Thou shalt hear
The sun streamed in through the eastern window, and all the hills beyond were bathed in glory; the earth was fair to look upon, and happiness, descending from the skies, nestled in my heart.
I planted all this day, covering precious seed, thinking on their summer beauty; and, as the evening fell, I stood at the garden gate watching the
Still, no sense of loss, no shadow of the coming night. Peace covered my heart, and would not be scared away. Blind infatuation! that could not see.
"Was it not then a victory?" I cried; for sadness and defeat were written in his face.
"Nay, not that." The outstretched hand turned white with pity. "But this-"
Too kind to speak the words, at sight of which I fell, struck by a bolt that, riving his heart, through leagues of space had travelled straight to mine.
Months later, when the long night had passed away, and the dawn brought patience and resignation, one who saw him fall, gloriously, told me the story. I could bear it then; for in my soul's eclipse I had beheld him walking on the heavenly hills, and knew that there he was waiting for me.
He lies buried, at his own request, where he fell, on Southern soil.
O pilgrim to those sacred shrines, if in your wandering ye come upon a nameless grave, marked by a sunken sword, tread lightly above the slumbers of my little boy!