Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

the ceiling-beams are white touched with gold propriate ornament; nor anywhere a touch of and the sunk panels between repeat the tone crude ugliness — even the placards on the of the oak. The seats are mahogany with walls are engrossed in simple gold letters and arms of cherry. The windows are of plain framed in oak. These rooms, in short, which glass, but have small spaces at the top and owe their excellence to the firm of artists that sides filled with olive-green glass of two shades Mr. Louis C. Tiffany directs, might be shown set in delicate ornamental leadings; and more to a foreigner to prove that the American of this glass gives a desirable touch of color in people love not only cleanliness and decency, the lights above the wing-decks at each end. but beauty too, and know the difference between The men's cabin is more simply but as taste- appropriate and inappropriate kinds of beauty. fully treated. The only features which are not Need I point a contrast by explaining what a as good as the rest are the electric lights ; but foreigner must have thought who stepped from these are unobtrusive, and nowhere can we his ocean steamer into a ferry-boat of the ancient find a hint of vulgarity, ostentation, or inap- pattern ?

M. G. van Rensselaer,

AN ECHO OF ANTIETAM.

HE air was tremulous with blue-clad men have women with them, and

farewells. The regiment, these are the couples that the people oftenrecruited within sight of est turn to look at. The girl who has a the steeples of Waterville, soldier lover is the envy of her companions and for three months in to-day as she walks by his side. Her proud camp just outside the city, eyes challenge all who come, saying, “See, was to march the next this is my hero. I am the one he loves.”

morning. A series of great You could easily tell when it was a wife and battles had weakened the Federal armies and not a sweetheart whom the soldier had with the authorities at Washington had ordered all him. There was no challenge in the eyes of available men to the front.

the wife. Young romance shed none of its The camp was to be broken up at an early glamour on the sacrifice she was making for hour, after which the regiment would march her native land. It was only because they through the city to the depot to take the could not bear to sit any longer looking at cars. The streets along the route of the march each other in the house that she and her were already being decorated with flags and husband had come out to walk. garlands. The city that afternoon was full of In the residence parts of the town family soldiers enjoying their last leave of absence. groups were gathered on shady piazzas, a blueThe liquor shops were crowded with parties of coated figure the center of each. They were them drinking with their friends, while others trying to talk cheerfully, making an effort even in threes and fours, with locked arms, paraded to laugh a little. Now and then one of the the streets singing patriotic songs, sometimes women stole unobserved from the circle, but in rather maudlin voices, for to-day in every her bravely smiling face as she presently resaloon a soldier may enter citizens vied for the turned gave no inkling of the flood of tears privilege of treating him to the best in the that had eased her heart in some place apart. house. No man in a blue coat was suffered to The young soldier himself was looking a little pay for anything.

pale and nervous with all his affected good For the most part, however, the men were spirits, and it was safe to guess that he was sober enough over their leave-taking. One saw even then thinking how often this scene would everywhere soldiers and civilians, strolling in come before him afterwards, by the camp-fire pairs, absorbed in earnest talk. They are and on the eve of battle. brothers maybe who have come away from the house to be alone with each other, while In the village of Upton, some four or five they talk of family affairs and exchange last miles out of Waterville, on a broad piazza at charges and promises as to what is to be done the side of a house on the main street, a group if anything happens. Or perhaps they are of four persons were seated around a tea-table. business partners, and the one who has put the The center of interest of this group, as of country's business before his own is giving his so many others that day, was a soldier. He last counsels as to how the store or the shop looked not over twenty-five, with dark blue shall be managed in his absence. Many of the eyes, dark hair cut close to his head, and a mustache trimmed crisply in military fashion. drew near, the conversation had been more and His uniform set off to advantage an athletic more left to the minister and his sister, who, figure of youthful slenderness, and his bronzed with observations sometimes a little forced, complexion told of long days of practice on continued to fend off silence and the demorthe drill-ground in the school of the company alization it would be likely to bring to their and the battalion. He wore the shoulder- young friends. Grace had been the first to straps of a second lieutenant.

[graphic]

drop out of the talking, and Philip's answers, On one side of the soldier sat the Rev. when he was addressed, grew more and more Mr. Morton, his cousin, and on the other Miss at random, as the meetings of his eyes with his Bertha Morton, a kindly-faced, middle-aged sweetheart's became more frequent and lasted lady, who was her brother's housekeeper and longer. the hostess of this occasion.

* He will be the handsomest officer in the The fourth member of the party was a girl of regiment, that 's one comfort. Won't he, nineteen or twenty. She was a very pretty girl, Grace ?” said Miss Morton, cheerily. and although to-day her pallid cheeks and red The girl nodded and smiled faintly. Her eyes and swollen eyelids would to other eyes have were brimming, and the twitching of her lips detracted somewhat from her charms, it was from time to time betrayed how great was the certain that they did not make her seem less effort with which she kept her self-command. adorable to the young officer, for he was her “ Yes,” said Mr. Morton; “but though he lover and was to march with the regiment in looks very well now, it is nothing to the imthe morning.

posing appearance he will present when he Lieutenant Philip King was a lawyer, and comes back with a colonel's shoulder-straps. by perseverance and native ability had worked You should be thinking of that, Grace." up a fair practice for so young a man in and “I expect we shall hear from him every around Upton. When he volunteered he had day," said Miss Morton. “He will have no to make up his mind to leave this carefully excuse for not writing with all those envelopes gathered clientage to scatter or to be filched stamped and addressed, with blank paper in from him by less patriotic rivals; but it may them, which Grace has given him. You should be well believed that this seemed to him a little always have three or four in your coat pocket, thing compared with leaving Grace Roberts, Phil." with the chance of never returning to make The young man nodded. her his wife. If, indeed, it had been for him to “I suppose for the most part we shall learn say, he would have placed his happiness beyond of you through Grace; but you must n't forget hazard by marrying her before the regiment us entirely, my boy," said Mr. Morton. “We marched; nor would she have been averse, but shall want to hear from you directly now and her mother, an invalid widow, took a sensible then.” rather than a sentimental view of the case. If “Yes; I 'll be sure to write," Philip replied. he were killed, she said, a wife would do him “ I suppose it will be time enough to see the no good; and if he came home again, Grace regiment pass if we are in our places by 9 would be waiting for him, and that ought to o'clock,” suggested Miss Morton, after a silence. satisfy a reasonable man. It had to satisfy an “ I think so,” said her brother. “ It is a great unreasonable one. The Robertses had always affair to break camp, and I don't believe the lived just beyond the garden from the parson- march will begin till after that time.” age, and Grace, who from a little girl had been “ James has got us one of the windows of a great pet of the childless minister and his Ray & Seymour's offices, you know, Philip,” sister, was almost as much at home there as in resumed Miss Morton; “ which one did you her mother's house. When Philip fell in love say, James ?” with her the Mortons were delighted. They “ The north one." could have wished nothing better for either. “Yes, the north one,” she resumed. “

They From the first Miss Morton had done all she say every window on Main street along the could to make matters smooth for the lovers, route of the regiment is rented. Grace will be and the present little farewell banquet was but with us, you know. You must n't forget to the last of many meetings she had prepared look up at us as you go by”—as if the young for them at the parsonage.

man were likely to. Philip had come out from camp on a three- He was evidently not now listening to her hours' leave that afternoon, and would have to at all. His eyes were fastened upon the girl's report again at half-past seven. It was nearly opposite him, and they seemed to have quite that hour now, though still light, the season forgotten the others. Miss Morton and her being midsummer. There had been an effort brother exchanged compassionate glances. on the part of all to keep up a cheerful tone; Tears were in the lady's eyes. A clock in the but as the time of the inevitable separation sitting-room began to strike:

66

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.” break. Oh, my own dear Phil, what if I should Philip started.

never see you again! Oh! Oh!” “What time is that?” he asked, a little “ Nonsense, darling," he said, crowding huskily. No one replied at once. Then Mr. down the lump that seemed like iron in his Morton said :

throat, and making a desperate effort to keep his “I am afraid it struck seven, my boy." voice steady. “You will see me again, never

“I must leave in ten minutes then,” said doubt it. Don't I tell you I am coming back? the young man, rising from the table. The rest The South cannot hold out much longer. followed his example.

Everybody says so. I shall be home in a year, “I wonder if the buggy will be in time?” and then you will be my wife, to be God's said he.

Grace to me all the rest of my life. Our happi“ It is at the gate," replied Miss Morton. “I ness will be on interest till then; ten per cent. heard it drive up some time ago.”.

a month at least, compound interest, piling up Unmindful of the others now, Philip put his every day. Just think of that, dear; don't let arm about Grace's waist and drew her away yourself think of anything else." to the end of the piazza and thence out into “O Phil, how I love you!" she cried, the garden.

throwing her arms around his neck in a passion “ Poor young things,” murmured Miss Mor- of tenderness.“ Nobody is like you. Nobody ton, the tears running down her cheeks as she ever was. Surely God will not part us. Surely looked after them. “ It is pitiful, James, to see he will not. He is too good.” how they suffer.”

“No, dear, he will not. Some day I shall “Yes," said the minister; “and there are a come back. It will not be long. Perhaps I great many just such scenes to-day. “Ah, well, shall find you waiting for me in this same little as St. Paul says, we see as yet but in part.” summer-house. Let us think of that. It was

Passing in and out among the shrubbery, here, you know, we found out each other's and presently disappearing from the sympa- secret that day.” thetic eyes upon the piazza, the lovers came “I had found out yours long before," she to a little summer-house and there they en- said, faintly smiling. tered. Taking her wrists in his hands, he “ Time's up, Phil.” It was Mr. Morton's held her away from him and his eyes went voice calling to them from the piazza. slowly over her from head to foot, as if he "I must go, darling. Good-bye." would impress upon his mind an image that “ Oh, no, not yet; not quite yet,” she wailed, absence should not have power to dim. clinging to him. “Why, we have been here but

“ You are so beautiful,” he said, “ that in a few moments. It can't be ten minutes yet.” this moment, when I ought to have all my Under the influence of that close, passionate courage, you make me feel that I am a mad- embrace, those clinging kisses and mingling man to leave you for the sake of any cause on tears, there began to come over Philip a feelearth. The future to most men is but a chance ing of weakness, of fainting courage, a dispoof happiness, and when they risk it they only sition to cry out, “ Nothing can be so terrible risk a chance. In staking their lives, they only as this. I will not bear it; I will not go.” By stake a lottery ticket, which would probably a tyrannical effort of will, against which his draw a blank. But my ticket has drawn a cap- whole nature cried out, he unwound her arms ital prize. I risk not the chance, but the cer- from his neck and said in a choked voice: tainty, of happiness. I believe I am a fool, and Darling, this is harder than any battle I if I am killed that will be the first thing they shall have to fight, but this is what I enlisted will say to me on the other side."

for. I must go.” “Don't talk of that, Phil. Oh, don't talk of He had reached the door of the summerbeing killed."

house, not daring for honor's sake to look “No, no; of course not,” he exclaimed. back, when a heartbroken cry smote his ear. “ Don't fret about that; I shall not be killed. ** You have n't kissed me good-bye!” I 've no notion of being killed. But what a He had kissed her a hundred times, but these fool I am to waste these last moments staring kisses she apparently distinguished from the at you when I might be kissing you, my love, good-bye kiss. He came back, and taking her my love!” And clasping her in his arms, he again in his embrace, kissed her lips, her throat, covered her face with kisses.

her bosom, and then once more their lips met She began to sob convulsively.

and in that kiss of parting which plucks the “ Don't, darling ; don't! Don't make it so heart up by the roots. How strong must be hard for me," he whispered, hoarsely. the barrier between one soul and another that

“Oh, do let me cry,” she wailed. “It was they do not utterly merge in moments like that, so hard for me to hold back all the time we turning the agony of parting to the bliss of were at table. I must cry, or my heart will blended being !

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

he Aed away.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Pursued by the sound of her desolate sobbing, regiment comes wheeling round the corner

into view and fills the wide street from curb to The stable-boy held the dancing horse at the curb with its broad front. As the blue river gate, and Mr. Morton and his sister stood sweeps along, the rows of polished bayonets, waiting there.

rising and falling with the swinging tread of the Good-bye, Phil, till we see you again,” said men, are like interminable ranks of foamMiss Morton, kissing him tenderly. “We'll crested waves rolling in upon the shore. The take good care of her for you."

imposing mass, with its rhythmic movement, “Will you please go to her now?” he said, gives the impression of a single organism. One huskily. “She is in the summer-house. For forgets to look for the individuals in it, forgets God's sake try to comfort her.”

that there are individuals. Even those who “Yes, poor boy, I will,” she answered. He have brothers, sons, lovers there, for a moshook hands with Mr. Morton and jumped ment almost forget them in the impression of into the buggy.

a mighty whole. The mind is slow to realize “I 'll get a furlough and be back in a few that this great dragon, so terrible in its beauty, months, maybe. Be sure to tell her that,” he emitting light as it moves from a thousand said.

burnished scales, with flaming crest proudly The stable-boy stood aside, the mettlesome waving in the van, is but an aggregation of horse gave a plunge and started off at a three- men singly so feeble. minute gait. The boy drew out his watch and The hearts of the lookers-on as they gaze observed : “ He hain't got but fifteen minutes are swelling fast. An afflatus of heroism given to git to camp in, but he 'll do it. The mare 's forth by this host of self-devoted men coma stepper, and Phil King knows how to handle municates itself to the most stolid spectators. the ribbons.”

The booming of the drum fills the brain, and The buggy vanished in a cloud of dust the blood in the veins leaps to its rhythm. around the next turn in the road. The stable- The unearthly gayety of the fife, like the sweet, boy strode whistling down the street, the min- shrill song of a bird soaring above the battle, ister went to his study, and Miss Morton dis- infects the nerves till the idea of death brings appeared in the shrubbery in the direction of a scornful smile to the lips. Eyes glaze with the summer-house.

rapturous tears as they rest upon the flag. There is a thrill of voluptuous sweetness in the thought of dying for it. Life seems of value

only as it gives the poorest something to sacEARLY next morning the country roads rifice. It is dying that makes the glory of the leading into Waterville were covered with world, and all other employments seem but carts and wagons and carriages loaded with idle while the regiment passes. people coming into town to see the regiment The time for farewells is gone by. The off. The streets were hung with flags and lucky men at the ends of the ranks have indeed spanned with decorated arches bearing patri- an opportunity without breaking step to exotic inscriptions. Red, white, and blue stream- change an occasional handshake with a friend ers hung in festoons from building to building on the sidewalk, or to snatch a kiss from wife and floated from cornices. The stores and or sweetheart, but those in the middle of the places of business were all closed, the side- line can only look their farewells. Now and walks were packed with people in their Sunday then a mother intrusts her baby to a fileclothes, and the windows and balconies were leader to be passed along from hand to hand lined with gazers long before it was time for the till it reaches the father, to be sent back with regiment to appear. Everybody - men, women, a kiss or maybe perched aloft on his shoulder and children — wore the national colors in cock- to ride to the depot, crowing at the music and ades or rosettes, while many young girls were clutching at the gleaming bayonets. At every dressed throughout in red, white, and blue. The such touch of nature the people cheer wildly. city seemed tricked out for some rare gala-day, From every window and balcony the ladies but the grave faces of the expectant throng, and shower garlands upon the troops. the subdued and earnest manner which ex- Where is Grace? for this is the Upton comtended even to the older children, stamped this pany which is passing now. Yonder she stands as no ordinary holiday.

on a balcony, between Mr. Morton and his After hours of patient waiting at last the sister. She is very pale and the tears are word passes from mouth to mouth, “ They are streaming down her cheeks, but her face is coming." Vehicles are quickly driven out of radiant. She is smiling through her tears, as if the way, and in a general hush all eyes are there was no such thing on earth as fear or turned towards the head of the street. Pres- sorrow. She has looked forward to this ordeal ently there is a burst of martial music, and the with harrowing expectations, only to find her

II.

III.

self at the trying moment seized upon and outlined against the glimmering landscape, listed above all sense of personal affliction by betrayed the location of the roads along which the passion of self-devotion with which the air artillery, cavalry, infantry were hurrying eagerly is electric. Her face as she looks down upon forward to take their assigned places for the her lover is that of a priestess in the ecstasy of morrow's work. sacrifice. He is saluting with his sword. Now Who said that men fear death? Who conhe has passed. With a great sob she turns cocted that fable for old wives? He should away. She does not care for the rest of the have stood that night with Philip in the midst pageant. Her patriotism has suddenly gone. of a host of 125,000 men in the full flush and The ecstasy of sacrifice is over. She is no vigor of life, calmly and deliberately making longer a priestess, but a broken-hearted girl, ready at dawn to receive death in its most who only asks to be led away to some place horrid forms at one another's hands. It is in where she can weep till her lover returns. vain that Religion invests the tomb with terror,

and Philosophy, shuddering, averts her face; the nations turn from these gloomy teachers

to storm its portals in exultant hosts, battering There was to be a great battle the next day. them wide enough for thousands to charg The two armies had been long mancuvring through abreast. The heroic instinct of hufor position, and now they stood like wrestlers manity with its high contempt of death is who have selected their holds and with body wiser and truer, never let us doubt, than braced against body, knee against knee, wait superstitious terrors or philosophic doubts. for the signal to begin the struggle. There It testifies to a conviction, deeper than reason, had been during the afternoon some brisk that man is greater than his seeming self; to an fighting, but a common desire to postpone the underlying consciousness that his mortal life decisive contest till the morrow had prevented is but an accident of his real existence, the the main forces from becoming involved. fashion of a day, to be lightly worn and gaily Philip's regiment had thus far only been en- doffed at duty's call. gaged in a few trifling skirmishes, barely What a pity it truly is that the tonic air of enough to stir the blood. This was to be its battlefields -- the air that Philip breathed that first battle, and the position to which it had night before Antietam — cannot be gathered been allotted promised a bloody baptism in up and preserved as a precious elixir to reinvigthe morning. The men were in excellent heart, orate the atmosphere in times of peace when but as night settled down there was little or men grow faint of heart and cowardly and no merriment to be heard about the camp-fires. quake at thought of death. Most were gathered in groups discussing in low tones the chances of the morrow. Some, The soldiers huddled in their blankets on knowing that every fiber of muscle would be the ground slept far more soundly that night needed for the work before them, had wisely before the battle than their men-folk and gone to sleep, while here and there a man, women-folk in their warm beds at home. For heedless of the talk going on about him, was them it was a night of watching, a vigil of lying on his back staring up at the darkening prayers and tears. The telegraph in those days sky, thinking.

made of the nation an intensely sensitive orAs the twilight deepened, Philip strolled to ganism, with nerves a thousand miles long. the top of a little knoll just out of the camp Ere its echoes had died away, every shot fired and sat down with a vague notion of casting up at the front had sent a tremor to the anxious accounts a little in view of the final settle- hearts at home. The newspapers and bulletin ment which very possibly might come for him boards in all the towns and cities of the North next day. But the inspiration of the scene had announced that a great battle would surely around him soon diverted his mind from per- take place the next day, and, as the night closed sonal engrossments. Some distance down the in, a mighty cloud of prayer rose from innumerlines he could see the occasional flash of a gun able firesides, the self-same prayer from each, where a battery was lazily shelling a piece of that he who had gone from that home might woods which it was desirable to keep the survive the battle, whoever else must fall. enemy from occupying during the night. A The wife, lest her own appeal might fail, burning barn in that direction made a flare on taught her cooing baby to lisp the father's name,

a the sky. Over behind the wooded hills where thinking that surely the Great Father's heart the Confederates lay rockets were going up, would not be able to resist a baby's prayer. indicating the exchange of signals and the per- The widowed mother prayed that if it were fecting of plans which might mean defeat and consistent with God's will he would spare her ruin to him and his the next day. Behind him, son. She laid her heart, pierced through with within the Federal lines, clouds of dust, dimly many sorrows, before him. She had borne so

« AnkstesnisTęsti »