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the Shore Line shot through and thundered past the station; they
crowded on steam; the fireman and his stoker averted their faces as
they whirled by. The world turned her back upon Calhoun, and the dying
town was shut in with her dead. Only, at long intervals, the _Mercy_,
casting anchor far down the channel, sent up by Scip, the weak, black
boatman, the signs of human fellowship - food, physician, purse,
medicine - that spoke from the heart of the North to the heart of the
South, and upheld her in those well-remembered days.

Zerviah Hope, volunteer nurse, became quickly enough a marked man in
Calhoun. He more than verified Doctor Dare's prognosis. Where the
deadliest work was to be done, this man, it was observed, asked to be
sent. Where no one else would go, he went. What no one else would do,
he did. He sought the neglected, and the negroes. He braved the
unclean, and the unburied. With the readiness of all incisive
character acting on emergencies, he stamped himself upon the place and
time. He went to his task as the soldier goes to the front under
raking fire, with gleaming eyes and iron muscles. The fever of the
fight was on him. He seemed to wrestle with disease for his patients,
and to trample death beneath his feet. He glowed over his cures with a
positive physical dilation, and writhed over his dead as if he had
killed them. He seemed built of endurance more than mortal. It was not
known when he slept, scarcely if he ate. His weariness sat upon him
like a halo. He grew thin, refined, radiant. In short, he presented
an example of that rare spectacle which never fails to command
spectators - a common man possessed by an uncommon enthusiasm.

What passed with him at this time in that undiscovered sea which we
call a man's inner life, it would not be easy to assert. So far as we
can judge, all the currents of his nature had swelled into the great,
pulsing tide of self-surrender, which swept him along. Weakness,
wrong, memory, regret, fear, grief, pleasure, hope, - all the little
channels of personal life, - ran dry. He was that most blessed of human
creatures, a man without a past and without a future, and living in a
present nobler than the one could have been or the other could become.
He continued to be a silent man, speaking little, excepting to his
patients, and now and then, very gently, to the lady, Dr. Dare. He was
always pliable to the influence of a woman's voice or to womanly
manner. He had, in the presence of women, the quick responsiveness and
sudden change of color and sensitiveness of intonation which bespeak
the man whose highest graces and lowest faults are likely to be owing
to feminine power.

This was a quality which gave him remarkable success as a nurse. He
was found to be infinitely tender, and of fine, brave patience. It was
found that he shrank from no task because it was too small, as he had
shrunk from no danger because it was too great. He became a favorite
with the sick and with physicians. The convalescent clung to him, the
dying heard of him and sent for him, the Relief Committee leaned upon
him, as in such crises the leader leans upon the led. By degrees, he
became greatly trusted in Calhoun; this is to say, that he became
greatly loved.

I have been told that, to this day, many people personally unknown to
him, whose fate it was to be imprisoned in that beleaguered town at
that time, and who were familiar with the nervous figure and plain,
intense countenance of the Northern nurse, as he passed, terrible day
after terrible day, to his post, cannot hear of him, even now, without
that suffusion of look by which we hold back tears; and that, when
his name took on, as it did, a more than local reputation, they were
unable to speak it because of choking voices. I have often wished that
he knew this.

It was the custom in Calhoun to pay the nurses at short, stated
intervals, - I think once a week, on Saturday nights. The first time
that Hope was summoned to receive his wages, he evinced marked
emotion, too genuine not to be one of surprise and repugnance.

"I had not thought, - " he began, and stood, coloring violently.

"You earn your five dollars a day, if anybody in Calhoun does," urged
the official, with kindly brusqueness.

"It is not right; I do not wish to take the money," said the nurse,
with agitation. "I do not wish to be paid for - saving - human life.
I did not come to the fever district to make money; I came to save
life - _to save life_!" he added, in a quick whisper. He had not slept
for four nights, and seemed, they noticed, more than usually nervous
in his manner.

"The money is yours," insisted the treasurer.

"Very well," said Hope, after a long silence; and no more was said
about it. He took his wages and walked away up the street, absorbed
in thought.

One morning, he went to his lodgings to seek a little rest. It was
about six o'clock, and people were already moving in the hot, thirsty
streets. The apothecaries' doors were open, and their clerks were
astir. The physicians drove or walked hastily, with the haggard look
of men whose days and nights are too short for their work, and whose
hope, and heart as well, have grown almost too small. Zerviah noticed
those young Northern fellows among them, Frank and Remane, and saw how
they had aged since they came South, - brave boys, both of them, and
had done a man's brave deed. Through her office window, as he walked
past, he caught a glimpse of Dr. Dare's gray dress and blonde, womanly
head of abundant hair. She was mixing medicines, and patients stood
waiting. She looked up and nodded as he went by; she was too busy
to smile. At the door of the Relief Committee, gaunt groups hung,
clamoring. At the telegraph office, knots of men and women gathered,
duly inspiring the heroic young operator, - a slight girl, - who had not
left her post for now many days and nights. Her chief had the fever
last week, - was taken at the wires, - lived to get home. She was the
only person alive in the town who knew how to communicate with the
outer world. She had begun to teach a little brother of hers the Morse
alphabet, - "That somebody may know, Bobby, if I - can't come some day."
She, too, knew Zerviah Hope, and looked up; but her pretty face was
clouded with the awful shadow of her own responsibility.

"We all have about as much as we can bear," thought Zerviah, as he
went by. His own burden was lightened a little that morning, and he
was going home to get a real rest. He had just saved his last
patient - the doctor gave him up. It was a young man, the father of
five very little children, and their mother had died the week before.
The nurse had looked at the orphans, and said: "_He's got to live._"
This man had blessed him this morning, and called the love of heaven
on his head and its tender mercy on his whole long life. Zerviah
walked with quick step. He lifted his head, with its short, black,
coarse hair. His eyes, staring for sleep, flashed, fed with a food the
body knows not of. He felt almost happy, as he turned to climb the
stairs that led to the attic shelter where he had knelt and watched
the dawn come on that first day, and given himself to God and to the
dying of Calhoun. He had always kept that attic, partly because he had
made that prayer there. He thought it helped him to make others since.
He had not always been a man who prayed. The habit was new, and
required culture. He had guarded it rigidly since he came South, as
he had his diet and regimen of bathing, air, and other physical needs.

On this morning that I speak of, standing with his almost happy face
and lifted head, with his foot upon the stairs, he turned, for no
reason that he could have given, and looked over his shoulder. A man
behind him, stepping softly, stopped, changed color, and crossed the
street.

"I am followed," said the nurse.

He spoke aloud, but there was no one to hear him. A visible change
came over his face. He stood uncertain for a moment; then shut the
door and crawled upstairs. At intervals he stopped on the stairs to
rest, and sat with his head in his hands, thinking. By and by he
reached his room, and threw himself heavily upon his bed. All the
radiance had departed from his tired face, as if a fog had crept over
it. He hid it in his long, thin, humane hands, and lay there
for a little while. He was perplexed - not surprised. He was not
shocked - only disappointed. Dully he wished that he could get five
minutes' nap; but he could not sleep. Not knowing what else to do, he
got upon his knees presently, in that place by the window he liked to
pray in, and said aloud:

"Lord, I didn't expect it; I wasn't ready. I should like to sleep long
enough to decide what to do."

After this, he went back to bed and lay still again, and in a little
while he truly slept. Not long; but to those who perish for rest, a
moment of unconsciousness may do the work of a cup of water to one
perishing of thirst. He started, strengthened, with lines of decision
forming about his mouth and chin; and, having bathed and cleanly
dressed, went out.

He went out beyond the town to the hut where Scip the boatman lived.
Scip was at home. He lived quite alone. His father, his mother and
four brothers had died of the plague since June. He started when he
saw Hope, and his habitual look of fear deepened to a craven terror;
he would rather have had the yellow fever than to have seen the
Northern nurse just then. But Zerviah sat down by him on the hot sand,
beside a rather ghastly palmetto that grew there, and spoke to him
very gently. He said:

"The _Mercy_ came in last night, Scip. - I know. And you rowed down for
the supplies. You heard something about me on board the _Mercy_. Tell
me, Scip."

"He's a durn fool," said Scip, with a dull show of passion.

"Who is a durn fool?"

"That dem mate."

"So it was the mate? Yes. What did he say, Scip?"

"I never done believe it," urged Scip, with an air of suddenly
recollected virtue.

"But you told of it, Scip."

"I never told nobody but Jupiter, the durn fool!" persisted Scip.

"Who is Jupiter?"

"Doctor Remane's Jupiter, him that holds his hoss, that he brung up
from the fever. He said he wouldn't tell. I never done believe it,
_never_!"

"It seems to me, Scip," said Zerviah, in a low, kind voice, "that I
wouldn't have told if I'd been you. But never mind."

"I never done mean to hurt you!" cried Scip, following him into the
road. "Jupiter the durn, he said he'd never tell. I never told nobody
else."

"You have told the whole town," said Zerviah Hope, patiently. "I'm
sorry, but never mind."

He stood for a moment looking across the stark palmetto, over the
dusty stretch of road, across the glare, to the town. His eyes blinded
and filled.

"It wouldn't have been a great while," he said. "I wish you hadn't,
Scip, but never mind!"

He shook the negro gently off, as if he had been a child. There was
nothing more to say. He would go back to his work. As he walked along,
he suddenly said to himself:

"She did not smile this morning! Nor the lady at the telegraph office,
either. Nor - a good many other folks. I remember now.... Lord!" he
added aloud, thought breaking into one of his half-unconscious
prayers, which had the more pathos because it began with the rude
abruptness of an apparent oath, - "Lord! what in the name of heaven am
I going to do about it?"

Now, as he was coming into the little city, with bowed head and broken
face, he met Doctor Dare. She was riding on her rounds upon a patient,
Southern tackey, and she was riding fast. But she reined up and
confronted him.

"Mr. Hope! There is a hateful rumor brought from New York about you. I
am going to tell you immediately. It is said - "

"Wait a minute!" he pleaded, holding out both hands. "Now. Go on."

"It is said that you are an escaped convict," continued the lady,
distinctly.

"It is false!" cried the nurse, in a ringing voice.

The doctor regarded him for a moment.

"I may be wrong. Perhaps it was not so bad. I was in a cruel hurry,
and so was Doctor Frank. Perhaps they said a discharged convict."

"What else?" asked Zerviah, lifting his eyes to hers.

"They said you were just out of a seven years' imprisonment for
manslaughter. They said you killed a man - for jealousy, I believe;
something about a woman."

"What else?" repeated the nurse, steadily.

"I told them I _did not believe one word of it_!" cried Marian Dare.

"Thank you, madam," said Zerviah Hope, after a scarcely perceptible
pause; "but it is true."

He drew one fierce breath.

"She was beautiful," he said. "I loved her; he ruined her; I stabbed
him!"

He had grown painfully pale. He wanted to go on speaking to this
woman, not to defend or excuse himself, not to say anything weak or
wrong, only to make her understand that he did not want to excuse
himself; in some way, just because she _was_ a woman, to make her feel
that he was man enough to bear the burden of his deed. He wanted to
cry out to her, "You are a woman! Oh, be gentle, and understand how
sorry a man can be for a deadly sin!" but his lips were parched. He
moved them dryly; he could not talk.

She was silent at first. She was a prudent woman; she thought before
she spoke.

"Poor fellow!" she said, suddenly. Her clear blue eyes overflowed. She
held out her hand, lifted his, wrung it, dropped it, and softly added,
"Well, never mind!" much as if he had been a child or a patient, - much
as he himself had said, "Never mind!" to Scip.

Then Zerviah Hope broke down.

"I haven't got a murderer's heart!" he cried. "It has been taken away
from me. I ain't so bad - _now_. I meant to be - I wanted to do - "

"Hush!" she said. "You have, and you shall. God is fair."

"Yes," said the penitent convict, in a dull voice, "God is fair, and
so he let 'em tell of me. I've got no fault to find with _Him_. So
nigh as I can understand Almighty God, He means well.... I guess
He'll pull me through some way.... But I wish Scip hadn't told just
now. I can't _help_ being sorry. It wasn't that I wanted to cheat,
but" - he choked - "_the sick folks used to like me_. Now, do you think
I'd ought to go on nursing, Doctor? Do you think I'd ought to stop?"

"You are already an hour late," replied the woman of science, in her
usual business-like voice. "Your substitute will be sleepy and
restless; that affects the patient. Go back to your work as fast as
you can. Ask me no more foolish questions."

She drew her veil; there was unprofessional moisture on her long,
feminine lashes. She held out her hearty hand-grasp to him, touched
the tackey, and galloped away.

"She is a good woman," said Zerviah, half aloud, looking down at his
cold fingers. "She touched me, and she knew! Lord, I should like to
have you bless her!"

He looked after her. She sat her horse finely; her gray veil drifted
in the hot wind. His sensitive color came. He watched her as if he had
known that he should never see her again on earth.

A ruined character may be as callous as a paralyzed limb. A ruined and
repentant one is in itself an independent system of sensitive and
tortured nerves.

Zerviah Hope returned to his work, shrinking under the foreknowledge
of his fate. He felt as if he knew what kind of people would remind
him that they had become acquainted with his history, and what ways
they would select to do it.

He was not taken by surprise when men who had lifted their hats to the
popular nurse last week, passed him on the street to-day with a cold
nod or curious stare. When women who had reverenced the self-sacrifice
and gentleness of his life as only women do or can reverence the
quality of tenderness in a man, shrank from him as if he were
something infectious, like the plague, - he knew it was just, though he
felt it hard.

His patients heard of what had happened, sometimes, and indicated a
feeling of recoil. That was the worst. One said:

"I am sorry to hear you are not the man we thought you," and died in
his arms that night.

Zerviah remembered that these things must be. He reasoned with
himself. He went into his attic, and prayed it all over. He said:

"Lord, I can't expect to be treated as if I'd never been in prison.
I'm sorry I mind it so. Perhaps I'd ought not to. I'll try not to care
too much."

More than once he was sure of being followed again, suspiciously or
curiously. It occurred to him at last that this was most likely to
happen on pay-days. That puzzled him. But when he turned, it was
usually some idler, and the fellow shrank and took to his heels, as if
the nurse had the fever.

In point of fact, even in that death-stricken town, to be alive was
to be as able to gossip as well people, and rumor, wearied of the
monotonous fever symptom, found a diverting zest in this shattered
reputation.

Zerviah Hope was very much talked about in Calhoun; so much, that the
Relief Committee heard, questioned, and experienced official anxiety.
It seemed a mistake to lose so valuable a man. It seemed a severity to
disturb so noble a career. Yet who knew what sinister countenance the
murderer might be capable of shielding beneath his mask of pity? The
official mind was perplexed. Was it humane to trust the lives of our
perishing citizens to the ministrations of a felon who had so
skillfully deceived the most intelligent guardians of the public weal?
There was, in particular, a chairman of a sub-committee (on the water
supply) who was burdened with uneasiness.

"It's clear enough what brought _him_ to Calhoun," said this man.
"What do you suppose the fellow does with his five dollars a day?"

The Committee on the Water Supply promptly divided into a
Sub-Vigilance, and to the Sub-Vigilance Committee Zerviah Hope's case
was referred. The result was, that he was followed on pay-day.

One Saturday night, just as the red-hot sun was going down, the
sub-committee returned to the Relief Office in a state of high
official excitement, and reported to the chief as follows:

"We've done it. We've got him. We've found out what the fellow does
with his money. He puts it - "

"Well?" for the sub-committee hesitated.

"Into the relief contribution-boxes on the corners of the street."

"_What!_"

"Every dollar. We stood and watched him count it out - his week's
wages. Every mortal cent that Yankee's turned over to the fund for the
sufferers. He never kept back a red. He poured it all in."

"Follow him next week. Report again."

They followed, and reported still again. They consulted, and accepted
the astounding truth. The murderer, the convict, the miserable, the
mystery, Zerviah Hope, - volunteer nurse, poor, friendless, discharged
from Sing Sing, was proved to have surrendered to the public charities
of Calhoun, every dollar which he had earned in the service of her
sick and dying.

The Committee on the Water Supply, and the Sub-Vigilance Committee
stood, much depressed, before their superior officer. He, being a just
man, flushed red with a noble rage.

"Where is he? Where is Zerviah Hope? The man should be sent for. He
should receive the thanks of the committee. He should receive the
acknowledgments of the city. And we've set on him like detectives!
hunted him down! Zounds! The city is disgraced. Find him for me!"

"We have already done our best," replied the sub-committee, sadly.
"We have searched for the man. He cannot be found."

"Where is the woman-doctor?" persisted the excited chief. "She
recommended the fellow. She'd be apt to know. Can't some of you find
her?"

At this moment, young Dr. Frank looked haggardly into the Relief
Office.

"I am taking her cases," he said. "She is down with the fever."

* * * * *

It was the morning after his last pay-day - Sunday morning, the first
in October; a dry, deadly, glittering day. Zerviah had been to his
attic to rest and bathe; he had been there some hours since sunrise,
in the old place by the window, and watched the red sun kindle, and
watched the dead-carts slink away into the color, and kneeled and
prayed for frost. Now, being strengthened in mind and spirit, he was
descending to his Sabbath's work, when a message met him at the door.
The messenger was a negro boy, who thrust a slip of paper into his
hand, and, seeming to be seized with superstitious fright, ran rapidly
up the street and disappeared.

The message was a triumphal result of the education of the freedmen's
evening school, and succinctly said:

"ive Gut IT. Nobuddy Wunt Nuss me. Norr no Docter nEther.

"P. S. Joopiter the Durn hee sed he'd kerry This i dont
Serpose youd kum. SCIP."

The sun went down that night as red as it had risen. There were no
clouds. There was no wind. There was no frost. The hot dust curdled in
the shadow that coiled beneath the stark palmetto. That palmetto
always looked like a corpse, though there was life in it yet. Zerviah
came to the door of Scip's hovel for air, and looked at the thing. It
seemed like something that ought to be buried. There were no other
trees. The everglades were miles away. The sand and the scant, starved
grass stretched all around. Scip's hut stood quite by itself. No one
passed by. Often no one passed for a week, or even more. Zerviah
looked from the door of the hut to the little city. The red light lay
between him and it, like a great pool. He felt less lonely to see the
town, and the smoke now and then from chimneys. He thought how many
people loved and cared for one another in the suffering place. He
thought how much love and care suffering gave birth to, in human
hearts. He began to think a little of his own suffering; then Scip
called him, sobbing wretchedly. Scip was very sick. Hope had sent for
Dr. Dare. She had not come. Scip was too sick to be left. The nurse
found his duty with the negro. Scip was growing worse.

By and by, when the patient could be left for a moment again, Zerviah
came to the air once more. He drew in great breaths of the now cooler
night. The red pool was gone. All the world was filled with the fatal
beauty of the purple colors that he had learned to know so well. The
swamps seemed to be asleep, and to exhale in the slow, regular
pulsations of sleep. In the town, lamps were lighted. From a hundred
windows, fair, fine sparks shone like stars as the nurse looked over.
There, a hundred watchers tended their sick or dead, or their healing,
dearly loved, and guarded ones. Dying eyes looked their last at eyes
that would have died to save them; strengthening hands clasped hands
that had girded them with the iron of love's tenderness, through the
valley of the shadow, and up the heights of life and light. Over
there, in some happy home, tremulous lips that the plague had parted
met to-night in their first kiss of thanksgiving.

Zerviah thought of these things. He had never felt so lonely before.
It seemed a hard place for a man to die in. Poor Scip!

Zerviah clasped his thin hands and looked up at the purple sky.

"Lord," he said, "it is my duty. I came South to do my duty. Because
he told of me, had I ought to turn against him? It is a lonesome
place; he's got it hard, but I'll stand by him.... Lord!" - his worn
face became suddenly suffused, and flashed, transfigured, as he lifted
it - "Lord God Almighty! You stood by me! _I_ couldn't have been a
pleasant fellow to look after. You stood by _me_ in my scrape! I
hadn't treated _You_ any too well.... You needn't be afraid I'll leave
the creetur."

He went back into the hut. Scip called, and he hurried in. The nurse
and the plague, like two living combatants, met in the miserable place
and battled for the negro.

The white Southern stars blazed out. How clean they looked! Zerviah
could see them through the window, where the wooden shutter had
flapped back. They looked well and wholesome - holy, he thought. He
remembered to have heard some one say, at a Sunday meeting he happened
into once, years ago, that the word holiness meant health. He wondered
what it would be like, to be holy. He wondered what kinds of
people would be holy people, say, after a man was dead. Women, he
thought, - good women, and honest men who had never done a deadly deed.

He occupied his thoughts in this way. He looked often from the cold
stars to the warm lights throbbing in the town. They were both company
to him. He began to feel less alone. There was a special service
called somewhere in the city that night, to read the prayers for the
sick and dying. The wind rose feebly, and bore the sound of the
church-bells to the hut. There was a great deal of company, too, in
the bells. He remembered that it was Sunday night.


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