In War Time


A Magazine of Literature, Science, Art, and Politics.


IN the latter part of the afternoon of a summer day in the year 1860, a little crowd gathered near the door of the military hospital on Filbert Street, in the city of Philadelphia. Like the rest of the vast camps of the sick, which added in those days to the city population some twenty-five thousand of the maimed and ill, this one has been lost, in the healing changes with which civilizing progress, no less quickly than forgiving nature, is apt to cover the traces of war.

The incident which drew to the hospital gate a small crowd was common in those days. Ambulances were bringing to its portal a share of such wounded men as were fit to be removed to a distance from Gettysburg and distributed among the great hospitals of the North. A surgeon in green sash and undress army uniform stood bareheaded within the shade of the doorway. Beside the curbstone, near the ambulances, a younger man, an assistant surgeon, directed the attendants, as they bore the wounded into the building on stretchers between double lines of soldiers of the invalid corps, who at that time did guard duty in our hospitals.

The surgeon at the doorway, a tall, refined-looking man, so erect as to seem a little stiff in figure, made occasional comments in a quiet, well-bred voice, rather monotonously free from the decisive sharpness which habits of command are apt to produce.

“ Step together, my men. Left, right — you shake the stretcher ! Left, right — make more room there, sergeant. Keep back the crowd.”

Sometimes, a man got out of the ambulance with help, and limped eagerly into the open doorway ; sometimes, lost to all around him, one was borne in motionless ; sometimes, it was a face to which death had already whispered, “ Come.” In the little hall the bearers paused, while a young surgeon asked a few brief questions, after which the sick man was given his iced lemonade, or some other refreshing drink, and taken away.

Now and then an officer was carried in. This was usually some desperately wounded man, unable to be taken to his home. As these sufferers passed the surgeon in charge, he noted the scrap of uniform, or the cap, and drawing himself up, saluted with excessive military accuracy. Were the man too ill or too careless to notice this courtesy, a faint lift of the surgeon’s brow, some slight treachery of the features, showed that he, at least, felt that nothing less than paralysis would have prevented him from returning the military salutation.

Meanwhile, about two squares away, as Philadelphians say, a man and woman were walking somewhat rapidly toward the hospital. The man was what is known in the army as a “contract-assistant surgeon,” that is, a physician taken from civil life and paid at a certain rate per month to do the duty of a military surgeon. In some cases these gentlemen lived in the hospitals, and were of course expected to wear uniform, and to submit to all the usual rules of military life. Others merely attended at set hours, and included not only certain of the most able men in the profession of medicine, but also a great number of the more or less competent, glad enough of the eighty dollars a month which they received. Among these latter were many of those hapless persons who drift through life, and seize, as they are carried along, such morsels of good luck as the great tides of fortune float within reach of their feeble tentacula. This contract surgeon was a man of full middle height. He stooped slightly, but the habit became oddly noticeable owing to his uniform, on which the surgeon in charge insisted during the time of the hospital visit. He wore a military cap, under which his hair curled softly. His features were distinct but delicate, and the upper lip, which was short, retreated a little, a peculiarity apt to give to the countenance a certain purity of expression. His face was clean shaved, but he had better have worn a mustache, since the mouth was too regular for manly beauty. As he went by, two sun-browned young fellows in uniform, and wearing their corps marks, turned and glanced at him. One of them said, “ What an interesting face! ” The other returned, smiling, “ But what a careless figure! and a soldier with a sun umbrella is rather droll.” In fact, there was a certain look of indifference to appearances about the man’s whole aspect, and the umbrella which had excited remark was carried at a lazy slope over the shoulder. Evidently, he felt very keenly the damp, oppressive heat of the July day ; but while this was seen in the indolent slowness of his walk, his face showed plainly that the mind was more alive than the body. As they crossed the small park then known as Penn Square, he paused to pick up a flower, counted its stamina, and stowed it away in the lining of his cap. An insect on his sister’s sleeve drew his attention. The trees, the passers-by, a monkey and a hand-organ at a street corner, all seemed to get in turn a share of alert, attentive regard.

Copyright, 1883, by HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & Co.

The woman beside him was a strange contrast. Unmindful of anything about her, she walked on steadily with a firm, elastic step, and a face which, however pleasing, — and it was distinctly that,— was not remarkable for decided expression. Whatever might have been her fortunes, time as yet had failed to leave upon her face any strong lines of characterization. Absolute health offers a certain resistance to these grim chiselings of face ; and in this woman ruddy cheeks, clear eyes, and round facial lines above a plump but well-built and compact frame told of a rarely wholesome life. She was dressed in gray linen, fitting her well, but without cuffs, collar, or ribbon ; and although the neatness of her guise showed that it must have exacted some care, it was absolutely devoid of ornament. In her hand she carried a rather heavy basket, which now and then she shifted from one side to the other, for relief.

Presently they turned into Filbert Street from Broad Street.

“ Do look, Ann! ” said Dr. Wendell to his sister, “ I never pass this paper mulberry-tree without a sense of disgust. There is a reptilian vileness of texture and color about the trunk; and don’t you remember how, when we were children, we used to try to find two leaves alike ? Don’t you think, Ann, there is something exasperating about that? I was trying to think why it annoyed me now. It is such a contradiction to the tendency of nature towards monotonous repetition.”

“ You had best be trying to hurry up a little,” returned Miss Wendell.

“ Do give me that basket, dear,” said her companion, pausing; “it is much too heavy for you. I should have carried it myself.”

“ it is not heavy,” she said, smiling, “ and I am very well used to it. But I do think, brother Ezra, we must hurry. Why cannot you hurry? You are half an hour late now, and do look at your vest ! It is buttoned all crooked, and — Why, there is quite a crowd at the hospital door! Oh, why were you so late ! and they do fuss so when you are late.”

“ I see, I see,” he said. “ What can it be ? I wish it was n’t so hot. Do hurry, Ann ! ”

The woman smiled faintly. “ Yea, it is warm. Here, take this basket. I am tired out.”Upon which, somewhat reluctantly lowering his umbrella, he took the basket, and quickened his pace. A large man, solidly built, drove by in a victoria, with servants on the box, himself in cool white. Dr. Wendell glanced at him as he passed, and thought, “ That looks like the incarnation of success ! ” and wondered vaguely what lucky fates had been that man’s easy ladders. Very successful men and people who have had many defeats both get to be superstitious believers in blind fortune, while a certain amount of misfortune destroys in some all the germs of success. For others, a failure is like a blow. It may stagger, but it excites to forceful action.

“Come !” said his sister, looking as worried and flushed as if she, and not he, had been to blame ; and in a minute or two they were entering the hospital.

“ Good-evening, Miss Wendell,” said the surgeon; “excuse me — don’t stand in the way. A moment, Dr. Wendell, — a moment,” he added, saluting him; and glancing, with a gentleman’s instinct, after Miss Wendell, to be sure she was out of hearing. Then turning, he said to his subordinate, “ You are a full half hour late ; in fact,” taking out his watch, “ the clock misled me, —you are thirty-nine minutes late. Sergeant, don’t let me see that clock wrong again. It should be set every morning.”

Wendell flushed. Like most men who think over-well of themselves, he was sensitive to all reproof, and the training of civil life, while it had made more or less of hardship easy to bear, had unfitted him for the precision which that army surgeon exacted alike from his juniors and his clocks.

“ I was somewhat delayed,” said Wendell.

“ Ah ? No matter about excuses. You, we all of us, are portions of a machine. I never excuse myself to myself, or to others. Yes — yes — I know ” — as Wendell began again to explain. At this moment the soldiers set down at his feet a stretcher just removed from an ambulance, while another set of bearers took their places.

The surgeon saluted the new-comer on his little palliasse, noting that around him lay a faded coat of Confederate gray, with a captain’s stripes on the shoulders. The wounded man returned the salute with his left arm.

“ You were hurt at Gettysburg ? ” said the surgeon.

“Yes, sir. On Cemetery Hill; and a damned hard fight, too ! We were most all left there. I shall never see a better fight if I go to heaven ! ”

The attendants laughed, but the surgeon’s face rested unmoved.

“ I hope you will soon be well.” Then he added kindly, “ Dr. Wendell, see that this gentleman is put in Ward Two, near a window, and give him some milk punch at once; he looks pale. No lemonade ; milk punch. Come now. my men; move along! Who next? Ah, Major Morton, I have been expecting you! ” and he bent to shake hands warmly with a sallow man who filled the next stretcher. “ I am sorry and glad to see you here. I got your dispatch early to-day. Gettysburg, too, I suppose ? ”

“ Yes, Cemetery Hill. I wonder the old Fifth has any one alive ! ”

“ Well, well,” replied the surgeon, “ we shall give you a health brevet soon. Bed Number Five, next to the last man. Take good care of Major Morton, Dr. Wendell. He is an old friend of mine. There, easy, my men ! I will presently see to you myself, Morton.”

And so the long list of sick and hurt were carried in, one by one, a small share of the awful harvest of Gettysburg, until, as night fell, the surgeon turned and entered the hospital, the sentinel resumed his place at the open door, and the crowd of curious scattered and passed away.

Meanwhile, Dr. Wendell went moodily up-stairs to the vast ward which occupied all the second floor of the old brick armory. He was one of those unhappy people who are made sore for days by petty annoyances; nor did the possession of considerable intelligence and much imagination help him. In fact, these qualities served only, as is usual in such natures, to afford him a more ample fund of self-torment. In measuring himself with others, he saw that in acquisitions and mind he was their superior, and he was constantly puzzled to know why he failed where they succeeded.

The vast hall which he entered was filled with long rows of iron bedsteads, each with its little label for the owner’s name, rank, disease, and treatment suspended from the iron cross-bar above the head, of the sufferer; Beside each bed stood a small wooden table, with one or two bottles and perhaps a book or two upon it. The walls were whitewashed, the floor was scrupulously clean, and an air of extreme and even accurate neatness pervaded the place. Except for the step of a nurse, or occasional words between patients near to one another, or the flutter of the fans which some of them were using to cool themselves in the excessive heat, there was but little noise.

Dr. Wendell followed the litters and saw the two officers, gray coat and blue coat, placed comfortably in adjoining beds.

“ Are you all right ? ” said Wendell to the Confederate.

“ Oh, yes, doctor ! I’ve had too hard a time to growl. This is like heaven ; it’s immensely like heaven ! ”

Miss Wendell had followed them, after distributing here and there some of the contents of her basket.

“ Stop,” she said to her brother; “ let them lift him. There,” she added, with a satisfied air, as she shook up and replaced the pillow, — “there, that is better ! Here are two or three ripe peaches. You said it was like heaven. Don’t you think all pleasant things ought to make us think of heaven ? ”

“Oh, by George,” he replied; “my dear lady, did you ever have a bullet in your shoulder ? I can’t think, for torment. I can only feel.”

“ That may have its use, too,” said she, simply. “ I have been told that pain is a great preacher.”

The patient smiled grimly. “ He gets a fellow’s attention, any way, if that’s good preaching ! ”

“ Ann, Ann ! ” exclaimed her brother. “ Don’t talk to him. Don’t talk, especially any — I mean, he is too tired.”

“ I do not think I hurt him, brother,” she returned, in a quiet aside. “ But there are errands which may not be delayed to wait for our times of ease.”

“ Oh, it is no matter, doctor,” said the officer, smiling, as he half heard Dr. Wendell’s comment. “ I like it. Don’t say a word. It would be a pleasure even to be scolded by a woman. It is all right, I know! Thank you, miss. A little water, please.” And then the doctor and his sister turned to the other bed.

“ Major Morton, I believe ?” said the doctor.

“ Yes, John Morton, Fifth Pennsylvania Reserves. Confound the bed, doctor, how hard it is ! Are all your beds like this ? It’s all over hummocks, like a damson pie ! ”

The doctor felt that somehow he was accused.

“ I never noticed it,” said Wendell. “ The beds are not complained of.”

“ But I complain of it. However, I shall get used to it, I suppose. There must be at least six feathers in the pillow ! ”

“It is n’t feather. It is hair,” remarked Miss Wendell. “ That’s much cooler, you know.”

“ Cooler ! ” replied the major. “ It’s red hot. Everything is red hot! But I suppose it is myself. Confound the flies ! I wonder what the deuce they ’re for ! Could n’t I have a net ? ”

“Flies?” reflected Miss Wendell. “ They must be right — but — but they are dirty ! ” She wisely, however, kept silence as to the place and function of flies in nature. “ I will ask for a net,” she said.

“ Oh, yes, do,” he returned ; “ that’s a good woman,”

“ I am not a good woman,” exclaimed Miss Wendell, “but I will ask about the net.”

“ Oh, but you will be, if you get me a net,” continued the patient. “ And ask, too, please, about my wife. She was to be in the city to-day.”

He spoke like one used to command, and as if his discomforts were to receive instant attention. In the field no man was easier pleased, or less exacting about the small comforts of camp, but the return to a city seemed to let loose all the habitual demands of a life of ease.

Dr. Wendell promised to see about the lady.

Mrs. Morton was to come from Saratoga, and why could not Dr. Lagrange see him at once ? Every one kept him waiting, and he supposed Mrs. Morton would keep him waiting, like every one else.

At length Miss Wendell said, “ My brother has his duties here, sir. I think I can go and see about it. You must needs feel troubled concerning your wife. As you look for her to-day, I might meet her at the depot, because, if, as you have said, she does not know to what hospital you have been taken, she will be in great distress, — great distress, I should think.”

“Yes, great distress,” repeated Major Morton, with an odd gleam of amusement on his brown face. “ But how will you know her ? Stop ! Yes — she telegraphed me she would come by an afternoon train to-morrow, and I am a day too soon, you see.”

“ There are only three trains,” said Miss Wendell, looking at the time-table in an evening paper, which an orderly had been sent to find. “ I can go to them all, if you wish. I do not mind taking trouble for our wounded soldiers. It is God’s cause, sir. Don’t let it worry you.”

Morton’s mustache twitched with the partly controlled merriment of the hidden lips beneath it. There was, for his nature, some difficulty in seeing relations between a large belief and small duties. There was the Creator, of whom he thought with vagueness, and who certainly had correct relations to Christ Church ; but what had he to do with a woman going to look for another woman at a depot ?

“You might tell my sister, major, what Mrs. Morton is like,” suggested Dr. Wendell.

“ Like ? ” returned Morton, rather wearily, and then again feebly amused at the idea of describing his wife. “ Like, like ? By George, that’s a droll idea ! ”

Most of us, in fact, would have a little trouble in accurately delineating for a stranger the people familiar to us, and would, if abruptly required to do so, be apt to hesitate, or, like the major, to halt altogether.

“ Like ? ” he again said. “ God bless me ! why, I could n’t describe myself ! ”

“ But her gown ? ” said Miss Wendell, with ingenuity, and remembering, with a sense of approval of her own cleverness, that she herself, having but two gowns, might through them, at least, be identified.

Major Morton laughed. “ Gown ? She may have had twenty gowns since I saw her. It is quite eighteen months. You might look for a tall woman, rather simply dressed, — handsome woman, I may say. Small boy with her, a maid, and no end of bundles, bags, rugs, — all that sort of thing. You must know.”

Miss Wendell was not very clear in her own mind that she did know, but, seeing that the wounded man was tired, accepted his description as sufficient, and said cheerfully, “ No doubt I shall find her. Good-night.”

“ Beg pardon, doctor, but I did n’t quite catch your name,” said the patient.

“ My name is Wendell, — Dr. Wendell,” returned the doctor.

“ Thanks; and one thing more, doctor : send me some opium, and soon, too. I am suffering like the devil! ”

“ How little he knows!” thought Miss Wendell, with a grave look and an inward and satisfactory consciousness that her beliefs enabled her at least to entertain a higher and more just appreciation in regard to the improbable statement he had made.

“ Yes,” replied the doctor. “ We ’ll see about it.” He had a feeling, not quite uncommon in his profession, that such suggestions in regard to treatment were in a measure attacks on his own prerogative of superior intelligence. “ We shall see,” he said, “when we make the evening round.”

“ Confound the fellow, and his evening round! ” growled the major under his mustache. “ I wish he had my leg, or I had him in my regiment.”

But happy in the assertion of his professional position, Dr. Wendell had rejoined his sister, the more content because he felt that she had relieved him of the trouble of finding the wife of the officer. Like many people who, intellectually, are active enough, he disliked physical exertion. At times, indeed, he mildly reproached himself for the many burdens he allowed his sister to carry, and yet failed to see how largely she was the power which supplemented his own nature by urging him along with an energy which often enough distressed him, and as often hurt his self-esteem. There are in life many of these partnerships: a husband with intellect enough, owing the driving power to a wife’s sense of duty, or to her social ambitions ; a brother with character, using, half-unconsciously, the generous values of a sister’s more critical intelligence. When one of the partners in these concerns dies, the world says, “ Oh, yes, he is quite used up by this death. Now he has lost all his activity. Poor fellow, he must have felt it very deeply.”


Moods are the climates of the mind. They warm or chill resolves, and are in turn our flatterers or our cynical satirists. With some people, their moods are fatal gifts of the east or the west wind; while with others, especially with certain women, and with men who have feminine temperaments, they come at the call of a resurgent memory, of a word that wounds, of a smile at meeting, or at times from causes so trivial that while we acknowledge their force we seek in vain for the reasons of their domination. With Wendell, the moods to which he was subject made a good deal of the sun and shade of life. He was without much steady capacity for resistance, and yielded with a not incurious attention to his humors, — being either too weak or too indifferent to battle with their influence, and in fact having, like many persons of intelligence, without vigor of character, a pleasure in the belief that he possessed in a high degree individualities, even in the way of what he knew to be morbid.

One of these overshadowing periods of depression was brought on by his sister’s mild remonstrance concerning his want of punctuality, and by the reproof of his superior, Dr. Lagrange, or, as he much preferred to be addressed, Major Lagrange, such being his titular rank on the army register.

Miss Wendell had gone home first, and Wendell was about to follow her, when he was recalled by an orderly, who ran after him to tell him of the sudden death of one of his patients. Death was an incident of hospital life too common to excite men, in those days of slaughter; but it so chanced that, as regards this death, Wendell experienced a certain amount of discomfort. A young officer had died abruptly, from sudden exertion, and Wendell felt vaguely that his own mood had prevented him from giving the young man such efficient advice as might have made him more careful. The thought was not altogether agreeable,

“ I ought never to have been a doctor,” groaned Wendell to himself. “ Everything is against me.” Then, seeing no criticism in the faces of the nurses, he gave the usual orders in case of a death, and, with a last glance at the moveless features and open eyes of the dead, left the ward.

There is probably no physician who cannot recall some moment in his life when he looked with doubt and trouble of mind on the face of death ; but for the most part his is a profession carried on with uprightness of purpose and habitual watchfulness, so that it is but very rarely that its practitioners have as just reason for self-reproach as Wendell had.

Very ill at ease with himself, he walked towards the station, where, having missed his train, he had to wait for half an hour. Sitting here alone, he soon reasoned himself into his usual state of self-satisfied calm. It was after all a piece of bad fortune, and attended with no consequences to himself; one of many deaths, the every-day incidents of a raging war and of hospital life. Very likely it would have happened soon or late, let him have done as he might. A less imaginative man would have suffered less ; a man with more conscience would have suffered longer, and been the better for it.

At the station in Germantown he lit his pipe, and, soothed by its quieting influence, walked homeward to his house on Main street.

He was rapidly coming to a state of easier mind, under the effect of the meerschaum’s subtle influence upon certain groups of ganglionic nerve cells deep in his cerebrum, when, stumbling on the not very perfect pavements of the suburban village, he dropped his pipe, and had a shock of sudden misery as he saw it by the moonlight in fragments; a shock which, as he reflected with amazement a moment later, seemed to him — nay, which was — quite as great as that caused by the death of his patient, an hour before !

He stood a moment, overcome with the calamity, and then walked on slowly, with an abrupt sense of disturbing horror at the feeling that the pipe’s material wholeness was to him, for a moment, as important as the young officer’s life. The people who live in a harem of sentiments are very apt to lose the wholesome sense of relation in life, so that in their egotism small things become large, and as often large things small. They are apt, as Wendell was, to call to their aid and comfort whatever power of casuistry they possess to support their feelings, and thus by degrees habitually weaken their sense of moral perspective.

It may seem a slight thing to dwell upon, but for self - indulgent persons there is nothing valueless in their personal belongings, and the train of reflection brought by this little accident was altogether characteristic. Thrown back by this trifle into his mood of gloom, he reached his own house, and saw through the open windows his sister’s quiet face bent over her sewingmachine, which was humming busily.

About two years before this date, Wendell and his sister had left the little village on Cape Cod to try their fortunes elsewhere. These two were the last descendants of a long line of severely religious divines, who had lived and preached at divers places on the Cape. But at last one of them — Wendell’s father — became the teacher of a normal school, and died in late middle life, leaving a few thousand dollars to represent the commercial talent of some generations of Yankees whose acuteness had been directed chiefly into the thorny tracks of biblical exegesis. His son, a shy, intellectual lad, had shown promise at school, and only when came the practical work of life exhibited those defects of character which had been of little moment so long as a good memory and mental activity were the sole requisites. Persistent energy, sufficing to give the daily supply of power needful for both the physical and mental claims of any exacting profession, were lacking. In a career at school or college it is possible to “catch up,” but in the school of life there are no examinations at set intervals, and success is usually made up of the sum of happy uses of multiplied, fractional opportunities. His first failure was as a teacher, one of the most self-denying of avocations. Then he studied medicine, and was so carried away by the intellectual enthusiasm it aroused in him that could he have retired into some quiet college nook, as a student of physiology or pathology, he would probably have attained a certain amount of reputation, because in such a career irregular activity is less injurious. Want of means, however, or want of will to endure for a while some necessary privations, inclined him to accept the every-day life and trials of a practicing physician in the town where he was born. The experiment failed. There was some want in the young man which interfered with success at home, so that the outbreak of the war found him ready, as were many of his class, to welcome the chances of active service as a doctor in the field. A rough campaign in West Virginia resulted very soon in his suddenly quitting the army, and finding his way to Philadelphia, where his sister joined him. She readily accepted his excuse of ill health as a reason for his leaving the service, and they finally decided to try their luck anew in the Quaker town. Miss Wendell brought with her the few thousand dollars which represented her father’s life-long savings. Yielding to her better judgment, the doctor found a home in Germantown, within a few miles of Philadelphia, as being cheaper than the city, and in the little, longdrawn-out town which Pastorius founded they settled themselves, with the conviction on Ann’s part that now, at last, her brother’s talents would find a fitting sphere, and the appreciation which ignorant prejudice had denied him elsewhere. What more the severe, simple, energetic woman of limited mind thought of her brother, we may leave this, their life-tale, to tell.

The house they rented for but a moderate sum was a rather large two-story building of rough gray micaceous stone, with a front lit by four windows. Over the door projected an old-fashioned penthouse, and before it was what is known in Pennsylvania as a stoop ; that is, a large, flat stone step, with a bench on either side. Across the front of the house an ivy had year by year spread its leaves, until it hung in masses from the eaves, and mingled on the hipped roof with the Virginia creeper and the trumpet vine, which grew in the garden on one side of the house, and, climbing to the gable, mottled in October the darker green with crimson patches. Behind the house a half acre of garden was gay with dahlias, sunflowers, and hollyhocks, with a bit of pasture farther back, for use, if needed.

The house had been, in the past, the dwelling of a doctor, who bad long ceased to practice, and to it the sister and brother had brought the old furniture from a home on Cape Cod, in which some generations of Puritan divines had lived, and in which they had concocted numberless sermons of inconceivable length. Notwithstanding his sister’s economic warnings, the doctor had added from time to time, as his admirable taste directed, many books, a few engravings, and such other small ornaments as his intense love of color suggested.

As he now entered the sitting-room, the general look of the place gave him, despite his mood, a sense of tranquil pleasure. The high-backed, claw-toed chairs, the tall, mahogany clock, with its chicken-cock on top, seeming to welcome him with the same quiet face which had watched him from childhood, were pleasant to the troubled man ; and the fireplace tiles, and the red curtains, and the bits of Delft ware on the mantel were all so agreeable to his sense of beauty in form and color that he threw himself into a chair with some feeling of comfort. His sister left her work, and, crossing the room, kissed him. Evidently he was her chief venture in life ! From long habit of dependent growth the root fibres of his being were clasped about her, as a tree holds fast for life and support to some isolated rock, and neither he nor she was any more conscious than the tree or rock of the economic value which he took out of their relation. On his part, it was a profound attachment, — merely an attachment; on hers a pure and simple, venerative love. Women expect much from an idol and get little, but believe they get everything; and now and then, even as to the best a woman can set up, she has cankering doubts.

“ Brother,” said Miss Wendell, cheerfully, “I was thinking, before you came in, how thankful we should be for all our life, just now. You are getting some practice,” — then observing his face, “ not all you will have, you know, but enough, with the hospital, to let us live, oh, so pleasantly ! ” Patting his cheek tenderly, she added, “ And best of all for me, I feel that you are not worried, that you are having a chance, at last.”

“Yes, yes,” he answered, “I know, I know ! I only hope it will continue.”

“ Why should it not ? By the time you cease to be an assistant surgeon — I mean, when this horrible war is over —you will have a good hold on practice, and you will only have to love your books and microscope and botany a little less, and study human beings more.”

“ I hardly know if they are worth the studying ! But never mind me. I am cross to-night.”

“ Oh, no, that you are not. I won’t have you say that! Yon are tired, I dare say, and troubled about all those poor fellows in the hospital.”

Wendell moved uneasily, She was sitting on the arm of his chair, and running her hand caressingly through his hair, which was brown, and broke into a wave of half curl around his forehead.

Her consciousness as to much of her brother’s outer range of feelings was almost instinctive, although, of course, it misled her often enough.

“ I knew that was it,” she said, with a loving sense of appreciation. “ I was sure it was that. What has happened at the hospital ? I heard Dr. Lagrange call you back. Oh, it was n’t about being late — and such a hot day, too ! ”

“ No, I was n’t bothered about that. It was about a sudden death, that happened just before I left. You may remember that officer in the far corner of the ward.”

“ What, that nice young fellow, a mere boy! Oh, Ezra,” she added, after a pause, “ I sometimes thank God, in these war times, that I am not a mother ! Do you think it’s wrong to feel that way, brother ? ”

“ Nonsense, Ann ! You might find enough to annoy yourself about, besides that. When some one comes for sister Ann you can begin to think about the matter. What ’s the use of settling theoretical cases ? There’s quite enough of real bother in life that one can’t escape, and is forced to reason about.”

Ann arose, her eyes filling. “ Yes,” she said, “ yes — I dare say,” her thoughts for a moment far off, recalling a time when, years before, she had been obliged to decide whether she should give up her life with her brother and father, and go to the West to share the love and wealthier surroundings of a man whose claim upon her was, she felt, an honest and loving one. Had he too been poor, and had she been called by him to bear a life of struggle, it is possible she might have yielded. As it was, habitual affection and some vague sense of her power to fill the wants of her brother’s existence made the woman’s craving for self-sacrifice, as a proof to herself of the quality of her love, sufficient to decide her, and she had turned away gently, but decisively, from a life of ease. Yet sometimes all the lost loveliness of a mother’s duties overwhelmed her for a dreaming moment. “Yes,” she said, at last, “you are right. It’s always best to live in the day that is with us. But what I wanted to say was that you must not let such inevitable things as a death no one could have prevented overcome you so as to unsettle you and lessen your usefulness to others.”

“Oh, no, of course not!” He felt annoyed: this lad pursued him like a ghost. “ Don’t let us talk of it any more,” he said. “ I broke my meerschaum, coming home.”

“ Oh, did you ? But I’m very sorry, Ezra.”

“ Yes; it seemed like the death of an old friend.”

“ Don’t you think that is a great deal to say, —an old friend? ”

“ Not half enough.”

She saw that he was annoyed, and, knowing well the nature of the mood which possessed him, returned.

“ Ah, well, brother, we will buy another friend to-morrow, and age him as fast as possible. Bless me, it is ten o’clock! ” and she began to move about the room, and to put things in the usual neat state in which she kept their sitting-room. The books were rearranged, the bits of thread or paper carefully picked up, a chair or two pushed back, a crooked table cover drawn into place.

This was a small but regularly repeated torment to Wendell. He did not dislike a neat parlor, — nay, would have felt the want of neatness ; but this little bustle and stir at the calmest time of the day disturbed him, while lie knew that in this, as in some other matters, Ann was immovable, so that as a rule he had ceased to resist, as he usually did cease to resist where the opposition was positive and enduring.

This time, however, he exclaimed, “ I do wish, Ann, for once, you would go to bed quietly ! ”

“ Why, of course, you dear old boy ! I just want to straighten things up a little, and then to read to you a bit.”

“ I would like that. Read me Browning’s Saul.”

“ Yes,” she returned cheerfully, “ that is always good ; ” and so read aloud with simple and earnest pleasure that exquisite poem.

It soothed the man as the harp of the boy shepherd soothed the king.

“ What noble verse ! ” he said. “Read again, Ann, that part beginning, ‘And the joy of mere living,’and humor the rhythm a little. I think it is a mistake of most readers to affect to follow the sense so as to make a poem seem in the reading like prose, as if the rhythm were not meant to be a kind of musical accompaniment of exalted thought and sentiment. How you hear the harp in it! I never knew anybody to speak of the pleasure a poet must have in writing such verse as that. It must sing to him as sweetly as to any one else, and more freshly.”

“Yes,” said Ann. “I have seen somewhere that everybody who writes verse thinks his own delightful.”

“No doubt, — as every woman’s last baby is the most charming. But I should think that neither motherhood nor paternity of verse could quite make the critical faculty impossible. Shakespeare must have been able to appreciate Hamlet duly.”

“ I don’t know,” said Ann.

Her brother often got quite above her in his talk, and then she either gave up with a sort of gasp, as the air into which he rose became too thin for her intellectual lungs, or else she made more or less successful effort to follow his flights, or at least to deceive him into the belief that she did so.

Her brother was fond of Hamlet, which has been, and ever will be, the favorite riddle of many thoughtful men. He liked to read it to her, and to have it read to him. She had suddenly now one of those brief inspirations which astonish us at times in unanalytic people. She said, “ I sometimes think Hamlet was like you, — a little like you, brother ! ”

Ezra looked up at his sister with amused surprise. Human nature, he reflected to himself, is inexhaustible, and we may rest sure that on Methuselah’s nine hundred and sixty-ninth birthday he might have startled his family by some novelty of word or deed.

“ I hardly know if it be a compliment,” he said aloud, with a little smile. “ I should like to be sure of what Hamlet’s sister would have said of him. Go to bed and think about it! ”

After Ann had left him, Wendell himself retired to what was known as his office, a back room with a southern outlook on the garden. Here were a few medical books, two or three metaphysical treatises, a mixture of others on the use of the microscope and on botany, with odd volumes of the older and less known dramatists, and a miscellaneous collection representing science and sentiment. On the table was a small microscope, and a glass dish or two, with minute water plants, making a nursery for some of the lesser forms of animal and vegetable life. In a few minutes Wendell, absorbed, was gazing into the microscope at the tiny dramas which the domestic life of a curious pseudopod presented. He soon began to draw it with much adroitness. It is possible for some men to pursue every object, their duties and their pleasures, with equal energy, nor is it always true that the Jack-of-alltrades is master of none ; but it was true of this man that, however well he did things,—and he did many things well, — he did none with sufficient intensity of purpose, or with such steadiness of effort as to win high success in any one of them.

It was nearly twelve o’clock when he was startled by hearing his sister call, “ Ezra, Ezra! Do go to bed. You will oversleep yourself in the morning.”

“ Yes, yes, I know,” he answered, quite accustomed to her warning care. “ Good-night. I won’t sit up any later. It is all right.”

Ann sighed, as she stood barefooted on the stairs, and had she known Mr. Pickwick might have shared his inward conviction.

S. Weir Mitchell.