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much, life had been so hard, her boy was all she had to show for so much endured - might not this cup pass? Pale, impassioned maids, kneeling by their virgin beds, wore out the night with an importunity that would not be put off. Sure in their great love and their little knowledge that no case could be like theirs, they beseeched God with bitter weeping for their lovers' lives, because, forsooth, they could not bear it if hurt came to them. The answers to many thousands of these agonizing appeals of maid and wife and mother were already in the enemy's cartridge-boxes.
THE day came. The dispatches in the morning papers stated that the armies would probably be engaged from an early hour.
Who that does not remember those battlesummers can realize from any telling how the fathers and mothers, the wives and sisters and sweethearts at home, lived through the days when it was known that a great battle was going on at the front in which their loved ones were engaged? It was very quiet in the house on those days of battle. All spoke in hushed voices and stepped lightly. The children, too small to understand the meaning of the shadow on the home, felt it and took their noisy sports elsewhere. There was little conversation, except as to when definite news might be expected. The household work dragged sadly, for though the women sought refuge from thought in occupation, they were constantly dropping whatever they had in hand to rush away to their chambers to face the presentiment, perhaps suddenly borne in upon them with the force of a conviction, that they might be called on to bear the worst. The table was set for the regular meals, but there was little pretense of eating. The eyes of all had a faroff expression, and they seemed barely to see one another. There was an intent, listening look upon their faces, as if they were hearkening to the roar of the battle a thousand miles away.
Many pictures of battles have been painted, but no true one yet, for the pictures contain only men. The women are unaccountably left out. We ought to see not alone the opposing lines of battle writhing and twisting in a death embrace, the batteries smoking and flaming, the hurricanes of cavalry, but innumerable women also, spectral forms of mothers, wives, sweethearts clinging about the necks of the advancing soldiers, vainly trying to shield them with their bosoms, extending supplicating hands to the foe, raising eyes of anguish to heaven. The soldiers, grim-faced, with battlelighted eyes, do not see the ghostly forms that
throng them, but shoot and cut and stab across and through them as if they were not there - yes, through them, for few are the balls and bayonets that reach their marks without traversing some of these devoted breasts. Spectral, alas, is their guardianship, but real are their wounds and deadly as any the combatants receive.
Soon after breakfast on the day of the battle Grace came across to the parsonage, her swollen eyes and pallid face telling of a sleepless night. She could not bear her mother's company that day, for she knew that she had never greatly liked Philip. Miss Morton was very tender and sympathetic. Grace was a little comforted by Mr. Morton's saying that commonly great battles did not open much before noon. It was a respite to be able to think that probably up to that moment at least no harm had come to Philip. In the early afternoon the minister drove into Waterville to get the earliest bulletins at the "Banner" office, leaving the two women alone.
The latter part of the afternoon a neighbor who had been in Waterville drove by the house, and Miss Morton called to him to know if there were any news yet. He drew a piece of paper from his pocket, on which he had scribbled the latest bulletin before the "Banner" office, and read as follows: "The battle opened with a vigorous attack by our right. The enemy was forced back, stubbornly contesting every inch of ground. General division is now bearing the brunt of the fight and is suffering heavily. The result is yet uncertain."
The division mentioned was the one in which Philip's regiment was included. "Is suffering heavily"- those were the words. There was something fearful in the way the present tense brought home to Grace a sense of the battle as then actually in progress. It meant that while she sat there on the shady piazza with the drowsy hum of the bees in her ears, looking out on the quiet lawn where the house cat stretched on the grass kept a sleepy eye on the birds as they flitted in the branches of the apple trees, Philip might be facing a storm of lead and iron, or, maybe, blent in some desperate hand-to-hand struggle, was defending his life her life against murderous cut and
To begin to pray for his safety was not to dare to cease, for to cease would be to withdraw a sort of protection-all, alas! she could give-and abandon him to his enemies. If she had been watching over him from above the battle, an actual witness of the carnage going on that afternoon on the far-off field, she could scarcely have endured a more harrowing suspense from moment to moment. Overcom
with the agony, she threw herself on the sofa in the sitting-room and lay quivering, with her face buried in the pillow, while Miss Morton sat beside her, stroking her hair and saying such feeble, soothing words as she might.
It is always hard, and for ardent temperaments almost impossible, to hold the mind balanced in a state of suspense, yielding overmuch neither to hope nor to fear, under circumstances like these. As a relief to the torture which such a state of tension ends in causing, the mind at length, if it cannot abandon itself to hope, embraces even despair. About 5 o'clock Miss Morton was startled by an exceeding bitter cry. Grace was sitting upon the sofa. "O Miss Morton!" she cried, bursting into tears which before she had not been able to shed, "he is dead."
"Grace! Grace! what do you mean?” "He is dead, I know he is dead," wailed the girl; and then she explained that while from moment to moment she had sent up prayers for him, every breath a cry to God, she suddenly had been unable to pray more, and this she felt was a sign that petition for his life was now vain. Miss Morton strove to convince her that this was but an effect of overwrought nerves, but with slight success.
In the early evening Mr. Morton returned with the latest news the telegraph had brought. The full scope of the result was not yet known. The advantage had probably remained with the National forces, although the struggle had been one of those close and stubborn ones, with scanty laurels for the victors, to be expected when men of one race meet in battle. The losses on both sides had been enormous, and the report was confirmed that Philip's division had been badly cut up.
The parsonage was but one of thousands of homes in the land where no lamps were lighted that evening, the members of the household sitting together in the dark-silent, or talking in low tones of the far-away starlighted battlefield, the anguish of the wounded, the still heaps of the dead.
Nevertheless, when at last Grace went home she was less entirely despairing than in the afternoon. Mr. Morton, in his calm, convincing way, had shown her the groundlessness of her impression that Philip was certainly dead, and had enabled her again to entertain hope. It no longer rose, indeed, to the height of a belief that he had escaped wholly scathless. In face of the terrible tidings that would have been too presumptuous. But perhaps he had been only wounded. Yesterday the thought would have been insupportable, but now she was eager to make this compromise with Providence. She was distinctly affected by the curious superstition that if we voluntarily concede something
to fate, while yet the facts are not known, we gain a sort of equitable assurance against a worse thing. It was settled, she told herself, that she was not to be overcome or even surprised to hear that Philip was woundedslightly wounded. She was no better than other women that he should be wholly spared.
The paper next morning gave many names of officers who had fallen, but Philip's was not among them. The list was confessedly incomplete; nevertheless, the absence of his name was reassuring. Grace went across the garden after breakfast to talk with Miss Morton about the news and the auspicious lack of news. Her friend's cheerful tone infused her with fresh courage. To one who has despaired a very little hope goes to the head like wine to the brain of a faster, and, though still very tremulous, Grace could even smile a little now and was almost cheerful. Secretly already she was beginning to play false with fate, and, in flat repudiation of her last night's compact, to indulge the hope that her soldier had not been even wounded. But this was only at the bottom of her heart. She did not own to herself that she really did it. She felt a little safer not to break the bargain yet.
About 11 o'clock in the forenoon Mr. Morton came in. His start and look of dismay on seeing Grace indicated that he had expected to find his sister alone. He hastily attempted to conceal an open telegram which he held in his hand, but it was too late. Grace had already seen it, and whatever the tidings it might contain there was no longer any question of holding them back or extenuating them. Miss Morton, after one look at her brother's face, silently came to the girl's side and put her arms around her waist. "Christ, our Saviour," she murmured, "for thy name's sake, help her now." Then the minister said:
"Try to be brave, try to bear it worthily of him; for, my poor little girl, your sacrifice has been accepted. He fell in a charge at the head of his men."
PHILIP's body was brought home for burial, and the funeral was a great event in the village. Business of all kinds was suspended, and all the people united in making of the day a solemn patriotic festival. Mr. Morton preached the funeral sermon.
"Oh, talk about the country," sobbed Grace when he asked her if there was anything in particular she would like him to speak of.
"For pity's sake don't let me feel sorry now that I gave him up for the Union. Don't leave me now to think it would have been better if I had not let him go."
So he preached of the country, as ministers
sometimes did preach in those days, making it very plain that in a righteous cause men did well to die for their native land and their women did well to give them up. Expounding the lofty wisdom of self-sacrifice, he showed how truly it was said that "whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life . . . shall find it," and how none make such rich profit out of their lives as the heroes who seem to throw them away.
They had come, he told the assembled people, to mourn no misadventure, no misfortune; this dead soldier was not pitiable. He was no victim of a tear-compelling fate. No broken shaft typified his career. He was rather one who had done well for himself, a wise young merchant of his blood, who having seen a way to barter his life at incredible advantage, at no less a rate indeed than a man's for a nation's, had not let slip so great an opportunity.
So he went on, still likening the life of a man to the wares of a shopkeeper, worth to him only what they can be sold for and a loss if overkept, till those who listened began to grow ill at ease in presence of that flag-draped coffin, and were vaguely troubled because they still lived.
Then he spoke of those who had been bereaved. This soldier, he said, like his comrades, had staked for his country not only his own life but the earthly happiness of others also, having been fully empowered by them to do so. Some had staked with their own lives the happiness of parents, some that of wives and children, others maybe the hopes of maidens pledged to them. In offering up their lives to their country they had laid with them upon the altar these other lives which were bound up with theirs, and the same fire of sacrifice had consumed them both. A few days before in the storm of battle those who had gone forth had fulfilled their share of the joint sacrifice. In a thousand homes, with tears and the anguish of breaking hearts, those who had sent them forth were that day fulfilling theirs. Let them now in their extremity seek support in the same spirit of patriotic devotion which had
upheld their heroes in the hour of death. As they had been lifted above fear by the thought that it was for their country they were dying, not less should those who mourned them find inspiration in remembering it was for the nation's sake that their tears were shed and for the country that their hearts were broken. It had been appointed that half in blood of men and half in women's tears the ransom of the people should be paid, so that their sorrow was not in vain, but for the healing of the nation.
It behooved these therefore to prove worthy of their high calling of martyrdom, and while they must needs weep, not to weep as other women wept, with hearts bowed down, but rather with uplifted faces, adopting and ratifying, though it might be with breaking hearts, this exchange they had made of earthly happiness for the life of their native land. So should they honor those they mourned, and be joined with them not only in sacrifice but in the spirit of sacrifice.
So it was in response to the appeal of this stricken girl before him that the minister talked of the country, and to such purpose was it that the piteous thing she had dreaded, the feeling, now when it was forever too late, that it would have been better if she had kept her lover back, found no place in her heart. There was, indeed, had she known it, no danger at all that she would be left to endure that, so long as she dreaded it, for the only prayer that never is unanswered is the prayer to be lifted above self. So to pray and so to wish is but to cease to resist the divine gravitations ever pulling at the soul. As the minister discoursed of the mystic gain of self-sacrifice, the mystery of which he spoke was fulfilled in her heart. She appeared to stand in some place overarching life and death, and there was made partaker of an exultation whereof if religion and philosophy might but catch and hold the secret their ancient quest were over.
Gazing through streaming eyes upon the coffin of her lover, she was able freely to consent to the sacrifice of her own life which he had made in giving up his own.
QETWEEN these frowning granite steeps
And here it moves with torrent force,
Of its great bulk and wandering soul.
O curbless river, savage stream,
And each hath countenance from the rest,
I muse upon this river's brink;
I listen long; I strive to think
What cry goes forth, of many blent,
And by that cry what thing is meant,—
From out this dim and strange uproar
Amid this swift, phantasmal stream
And seems in summoned haste to urge,
Half prescient, towards a destined verge!
The river flows,- unwasting flows;
Edith M. Thomas.
THE "FREE COMMAND" AT THE MINES OF KARA.
HE most important of the objects that we had in view at the mines of Kara was the investigation of penal servitude in its relation to political offenders. Common, hard-labor felons, such as burglars, counterfeiters, and murderers, we had seen, or could see, in a dozen other places; but political convicts were to be found only in the log prisons and penal settlements of Kara, and there, if anywhere, their life must be studied. In order to succeed in the task that we had set ourselves, it was necessary that we should personally visit and inspect one or both of the political prisons, and obtain unrestricted access, in some way, to the small body of state criminals who had finished their "term of probation" and were living under surveillance in the so-called "free command." We were well aware that these were not easy things to do; but we were no longer inexperienced and guileless tourists, dependent wholly upon letters of introduction and official consent. We had had six months' training in the school that sharpens the wits of the politicals themselves, we had learned how best to deal with suspicious police and gendarme officers, we were in possession of all the information and all the suggestions that political ex-convicts in other parts of Siberia could give us, and we saw no reason to despair of success.
It seemed to me that the best policy for us to pursue, at first, was to make as many friends as possible; get hold of the threads of social and official relationship in the penal settlement where we found ourselves; avoid manifestations of interest in the political convicts; make a careful study of our environment, and then wait - maintaining meanwhile, as Ladislaw says in " Middlemarch," "an attitude of receptivity towards all sublime chances." Nothing was to be gained and everything might be risked by premature or over-hasty action. For three or four days, therefore, we did not attempt to do anything except to visit the commoncriminal prisons and the mines, talk with the officials who called upon us, make ourselves agreeable to Major Potulof and his pretty wife, and study the situation. It soon became evident to me that there would be no use in asking
1 I use these words here in a somewhat restricted sense, to denote "katorzhniki" (kah'torz-nee-kee), or political criminals who are actually in penal servitude. There are political convicts, of course, in other parts
for permission to see the political convicts of the free command, and that if we made their acquaintance at all we should have to do it secretly. I knew most of them by name and reputation; I had a letter of introduction to one of them,- Miss Nathalie Armfeldt,— and I had been furnished by her friends with a map of the Lower Diggings, showing the situation of the little cabin in which she and her mother lived; but how to visit her, or open communications with her secretly, in a small village swarming with Cossacks and gendarmes, and, moreover, in a village where a foreigner was as closely and curiously watched and stared at as the Tsar of all the Russias would be in a New England hamlet, I did not know. But that was not the worst of it. I soon discovered that I could not even get away from Major Potulof. From the moment of our arrival he gave up all his other duties and devoted himself exclusively to us. If we staid at home all day, he remained all day at home. If we went out, he accompanied us. I could not make a motion towards my hat or my overcoat without his asking, "Where are you going?" If I replied that I was going out for exercise, or for a little walk, he would say, "Wait a minute and I will go with you." What could I do? He evidently did not intend that we should see some things in Kara, or have an opportunity to make any independent investigations. I understood and fully appreciated his situation as a high officer of the Crown, and I was sorry to cause him any uneasiness or annoyance; but I had undertaken to ascertain the real state of affairs, and I intended to do it by any means that seemed to be within the limits of honor and fairness. The most embarrassing feature of the situation, from a moral point of view, was that growing out of our presence in Major Potulof's house as his guests. It did not seem to be fair to mislead the man whose hospitality we were enjoying, or even to conceal from him our real purposes; and yet we had no alternative. Our only chance of success lay in secrecy. If we should intimate to Major Potulof that we desired to see the political convicts of the free command, and to hear what they might have to say concerning their life and the treatment to which they had been subjected, he would probably of Siberia; but all who are actually undergoing penal servitude - that is, the "katorzhniki "-live in the Kara prisons and villages.