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wine, then looked around the beautiful apartment prepared for her who
was to have been his wife, "I have grown weak and reckless," he said.
"I ought to have known her well enough - I do know her so well - as to be
sure that I would cloud her happiness if this thing destroyed me."




CHAPTER XII

"YOU MUST REMEMBER"


Mr. And Mrs. Nichol wonderingly yet promptly complied with the request
for their presence, meantime casting about in their minds as to the
identity of the relative who had summoned them so unexpected. Mr.
Kemble arrived at the hotel at about the same moment as they did, and
Jackson was instructed to keep the carriage in waiting. "It was I who
sent for you and your wife," said the banker. "Mr. Martine, if
possible, would have given you cause for a great joy only; but I fear
it must be tempered with an anxiety which I trust will not be long
continued;" and he led the way into the parlor.

"Is it - can it be about Albert?" asked Mrs. Nichols trembling, and
sinking into a chair.

"Yes, Mrs. Nichol. Try to keep your fortitude, for perhaps his welfare
depends upon it."

"Oh, God be praised! The hope of this never wholly left me, because
they didn't find his body."

Dr. Barnes came down at once, and with Mr. Kemble tried to soothe the
strong emotions of the parents, while at the same time enlightening
them as to their son's discovery and condition.

"Well," said Mr. Nichol, in strong emphasis; "Hobart Martine is one of
a million."

"I think he ought to have brought Albert right to me first," Mrs.
Nichol added, shaking her head and wiping her eyes. "After all, a
mother's claim - "

"My dear Mrs. Nichol," interrupted Dr. Barnes, "there was no thought of
undervaluing your claim on the part of our friend Hobart. He has taken
what he believed, and what physicians led him to believe, was the best
course to restore your son. Besides, Mr. Martine is a very sick man.
Even now he needs my attention more than Captain Nichol. You must
realize that he was to have married Miss Kemble to-day; yet he brings
back your son, sends for Mr. Kemble in order that his daughter, as soon
as she can realize the strange truth, may exert her power. He himself
has not seen the girl who was to have been his bride."

"Wife, wife," said Mr. Nichol, brokingly, "no mortal man could do more
for us than Hobart Martine, God bless him!"

"Mrs. Nichol," began Mr. Kemble, "my wife and Helen both unite in the
request that you and your husband bring your son at once to our house;
perhaps you would rather meet him in the privacy - "

"Oh, no, no!" she cried, "I cannot wait. Please do not think I am
insensible to all this well-meant kindness; but a mother's heart cannot
wait. He'll know ME - me who bore him and carried him on my breast."

"Mrs. Nichol, you shall see him at once," said the doctor. "I hope it
will be as you say; but I'm compelled to tell you that you may be
disappointed. There's no certainty that this trouble will pass away at
once under any one's influence. You and your husband come with me. Mr.
Kemble, I will send Jackson down, and so secure the privacy which you
would kindly provide. I will be present, for I may be needed."

He led the way, the mother following with the impetuosity and abandon
of maternal love, and the father with stronger and stranger emotions
than he had ever known, but restrained in a manner natural to a quiet,
reticent man. They were about to greet one on whom they had once
centred their chief hopes and affection, yet long mourned as dead. It
is hard to imagine the wild tumult of their feelings. Not merely by
words, but chiefly by impulse, immediate action, could they reveal how
profoundly they were moved.

With kindly intention, as he opened the door of the apartment, the
doctor began, "Mr. Jackson, please leave us a few - "

Mrs. Nichol saw her son and rushed upon him, crying, "Albert, Albert!"
It was enough at that moment that she recognized him; and the thought
that he would not recognize her was banished. With an intuition of
heart beyond all reasoning, she felt that he who had drawn his life
from her must know her and respond to nature's first strong tie.

In surprise, Nichol had risen, then was embarrassed to find an elderly
woman sobbing on his breast and addressing him in broken, endearing
words by a name utterly unfamiliar. He looked wonderingly at his
father, who stood near, trembling and regarding him through tear-dimmed
eyes with an affectionate interest, impressive even to his limited
perceptions.

"Doctor," he began over his mother's head, "what in thunder does all
this here mean? Me 'n' Jackson was chinnin' comf't'bly, when sud'n you
uns let loose on me two crazy old parties I never seed ner yeared on.
Never had folks go on so 'bout me befo'. Beats even that Hob't
Ma'tine," and he showed signs of rising irritation.

"Albert, Albert!" almost shrieked Mrs. Nichol, "don't you know me - ME,
your own mother?"

"Naw."

At the half-indignant, incredulous tone, yet more than all at the
strange accent and form of this negative, the poor woman was almost
beside herself. "Merciful God!" she cried, "this cannot be;" and she
sank into a chair, sobbing almost hysterically.

For reasons of his own, Dr. Barnes did not interfere. Nature in
powerful manifestations was actuating the parents; and he decided, now
that things had gone so far, to let the entire energy of uncurbed
emotion, combined with all the mysterious affinity of the closest
kinship, exert its influence on the clogged brain of his patient.

For a few moments Mrs. Nichol was too greatly overcome to comprehend
anything clearly; her husband, on the other hand, was simply wrought up
to his highest capacity for action. His old instinct of authority
returned, and he seized his son's hand and began, "Now, see here,
Albert, you were wounded in your head - "

"Yes, right yere," interrupted Nichol, pointing to his scar. "I knows
all 'bout that, but I don't like these goin's on, ez ef I wuz a
nachel-bawn fool, en had ter bleve all folks sez. I've been taken in
too often. When I wuz with the Johnnies they'd say ter me, 'Yankee
Blank, see that ar critter? That's a elephant.' When I'd call it a
elephant, they'd larf an' larf till I flattened out one feller's nose.
I dunno nothin' 'bout elephants; but the critter they pinted at wuz a
cow. Then one day they set me ter scrubbin' a nigger to mek 'im white,
en all sech doin's, till the head-doctor stopped the hull blamed
nonsense. S'pose I be a cur'ous chap. I ain't a nachel-bawn ijit. When
folks begin ter go on, en do en say things I kyant see through, then I
stands off en sez, 'Lemme 'lone.' The hospital doctors wouldn't 'low
any foolin' with me 't all."

"I'm not allowing any fooling with you," said Dr. Barnes, firmly. "I
wish you to listen to that man and woman, and believe all they say. The
hospital doctors would give you the same orders."

"All right, then," assented Nichol, with a sort of grimace of
resignation. "Fire away, old man, an' git through with yer yarn so
Jackson kin come back. I wish this woman wouldn't take on so. Hit makes
me orful oncomf't'ble, doggoned ef hit don't."

The rapid and peculiar utterance, the seemingly unfeeling words of his
son, stung the father into an ecstasy of grief akin to anger. A man
stood before him, as clearly recognized as his own image in a mirror.
The captain was not out of his mind in any familiar sense of the word;
he remembered distinctly what had happened for months past. He must
recall, he must be MADE to recollect the vital truths of his life on
which not only his happiness but that of others depended. Although
totally ignorant of what the wisest can explain but vaguely, Mr. Nichol
was bent on restoring his son by the sheer force of will, making him
remember by telling him what he should and must recall. This he tried
to do with strong, eager insistence. "Why, Albert," he urged, "I'm your
father; and that's your mother."

Nichol shook his head and looked at the doctor, who added gravely,
"That's all true."

"Yes," resumed Mr. Nichol, with an energy and earnestness of utterance
which compelled attention. "Now listen to reason. As I was saying, you
were wounded in the head, and you have forgotten what happened before
you were hurt. But you must remember, you must, indeed, or you will
break your mother's heart and mine, too."

"But I tell yer, I kyant reckerlect a thing befo' I kinder waked up in
the hospital, en the Johnnies call me Yankee Blank. I jes' wish folks
would lemme alone on that pint. Hit allus bothers me en makes me mad.
How kin I reckerlect when I kyant?" and he began to show signs of
strong vexation.

Dr. Barnes was about to interfere when Mrs. Nichol, who had grown
calmer, rose, took her son's hand, and said brokenly: "Albert, look me
in the face, your mother's face, and try, TRY with all your heart and
soul and mind. Don't you remember ME?"

It was evident that her son did try. His brow wrinkled in the perplexed
effort, and he looked at her fixedly for a moment or more; but no
magnetic current from his mother's hand, no suggestion of the dear
features which had bent over him in childhood and turned toward him in
love and pride through subsequent years found anything in his arrested
consciousness answering to her appeal.

The effort and its failure only irritated him, and he broke out: "Now
look yere, I be as I be. What's the use of all these goin's on? Doctor,
if you sez these folks are my father and mother, so be it. I'm learning
somethin' new all the time. This ain't no mo' quar, I s'pose, than some
other things. I've got to mind a doctor, for I've learned that much ef
I hain't nuthin' else, but I want you uns to know that I won't stan' no
mo' foolin'. Doctors don't fool me, en they've got the po'r ter mek a
feller do ez they sez, but other folks is got ter be keerful how they
uses me."

Mrs. Nichol again sank into her chair and wept bitterly; her husband at
last remained silent in a sort of inward, impotent rage of grief. There
was their son, alive and in physical health, yet between him and them
was a viewless barrier which they could not break through.

The strange complications, the sad thwartings of hope which must result
unless he was restored, began to loom already in the future.

Dr. Barnes now came forward and said: "Captain Nichol, you are as you
are at this moment, but you must know that you are not what you were
once. We are trying to restore you to your old self. You'd be a great
deal better off if we succeed. You must help us all you can. You must
be patient, and try all the time to recollect. You know I am not
deceiving you, but seeking to help you. You don't like this. That
doesn't matter. Didn't you see doctors do many things in hospitals
which the patients didn't like?"

"I reckon," replied Nichol, growing reasonable at once when brought on
familiar ground.

"Well, you are my patient. I may have to do some disagreeable things,
but they won't hurt you. It won't be like taking off an arm or a leg.
You have seen that done, I suppose?"

"You bet!" was the eager, proud reply. "I used to hold the fellows when
they squirmed."

"Now hold yourself. Be patient and good-natured. While we are about it,
I want to make every appeal possible to your lost memory, and I order
you to keep on trying to remember till I say: 'Through for the
present.' If we succeed, you'll thank me all the days of your life.
Anyhow, you must do as I say."

"Oh, I know that."

"Well, then, your name is Captain Nichol. This is Mr. Nichol, your
father; this lady is your mother. Call them father and mother when you
speak to them. Always speak kindly and pleasantly. They'll take you to
a pleasant home when I'm through with you, and you must mind them.
They'll be good to you everyway."

Nichol grinned acquiescence and said: "All right, Doctor."

"Now you show your good sense. We'll have you sound and happy yet." The
doctor thought a moment and then asked: "Mr. Nichol, I suppose that
after our visit to Mr. Kemble, you and your wife would prefer to take
your son home with you?"

"Certainly," was the prompt response.

"I would advise you to do so. After our next effort, however it
results, we all will need rest and time for thought. Captain, remain
here a few moments with your father and mother. Listen good-naturedly
and answer pleasantly to whatever they may say to you. I will be back
soon."




CHAPTER XIII

"I'M HELEN"


Dr. Barnes descended the stairs to the parlor where Mr. Kemble
impatiently awaited him. "Well?" said the banker, anxiously.

"I will explain while on the way to your house. The carriage is still
ready, I suppose?" to Jackson.

"Yes," was the eager reply; "how did he take the meeting of his
parents?"

"In the main as I feared. He does not know them yet. Mr. Jackson, you
and I are somewhat alike in one of our duties. I never talk about my
patients. If I did, I ought to be drummed out of the town instead of
ever being called upon again. Of course you feel that you should not
talk about your guests. You can understand why the parties concerned in
this matter would not wish to have it discussed in the village."

"Certainly, Doctor, certainly," replied Jackson, reddening, for he knew
something of his reputation for gossip. "This is no ordinary case."

"No, it is not. Captain Nichol and his friends would never forgive any
one who did not do right by them now. In about fifteen minutes or so I
will return. Have the carriage wait for me at Mr. Kemble's till again
wanted. You may go back to the captain and do your best to keep him
wide-awake."

Jackson accompanied them to the conveyance and said to the man on the
box: "Obey all Dr. Barnes's orders."

As soon as the two men were seated, the physician began: "Our first
test has failed utterly;" and he briefly narrated what had occurred,
concluding, "I fear your daughter will have no better success. Still,
it is perhaps wise to do all we can, on the theory that these sudden
shocks may start up the machinery of memory. Nichol is excited; such
powers as he possesses are stimulated to their highest activity, and he
is evidently making a strong effort to recall the past, I therefore now
deem it best to increase the pressure on his brain to the utmost. If
the obstruction does not give way, I see no other course than to employ
the skill of experts and trust to the healing processes of time."

"I am awfully perplexed, Doctor," was the reply. "You must be firm with
me on one point, and you know your opinion will have great weight.
Under no sentimental sense of duty, or even of affection, must Helen
marry Nichol unless he is fully restored and given time to prove there
is no likelihood of any return of this infirmity."

"I agree with you emphatically. There is no reason for such
self-sacrifice on your daughter's part. Nichol would not appreciate it.
He is not an invalid; on the contrary, a strong, muscular man,
abundantly able to take care of himself under the management of his
family."

"He has my profound sympathy," continued Mr. Kemble, "but giving that
unstintedly is a very different thing from giving him my only child."

"Certainly. Perhaps we need not say very much to Miss Helen on this
point at present. Unless he becomes his old self she will feel that she
has lost him more truly than if he were actually dead. The only deeply
perplexing feature in the case is its uncertainty. He may be all right
before morning, and he may never recall a thing that happened before
the explosion of that shell."

The carriage stopped, and Mr. Kemble hastily led the way to his
dwelling. Helen met them at the door. "Oh, how long you have been!" she
protested; "I've just been tortured by suspense."

Dr. Barnes took her by the hand and led her to the parlor. "Miss
Helen," he said gravely, "if you are not careful you will be another
patient on my hands. Sad as is Captain Nichol's case, he at least obeys
me implicitly; so must you. Your face is flushed, your pulse feverish,
and - "

"Doctor," cried the girl, "you can't touch the disease till you remove
the cause. Why is he kept so long from me?"

"Helen, child, you MUST believe that the doctor - that we all - are doing
our best for you and Nichol," said Mr. Kemble, anxiously. "His father
and mother came to the hotel. It was but natural that they should wish
to see him at once. How would we feel?"

"Come, Helen, dear, you must try to be more calm," urged the mother,
gently, with her arm around her daughter's neck. "Doctor, can't you
give her something to quiet her nerves?"

"Miss Helen, like the captain, is going to do just as I say, aren't
you? You can do more for yourself than I can do for you. Remember, you
must act intelligently and cooperate with me. His father, and
especially his mother, exhibited the utmost degree of emotion and made
the strongest appeals without effect. Now we must try different
tactics. All must be quiet and nothing occur to confuse or irritate
him."

"Ah, how little you all understand me! The moment you give me a chance
to act I can be as calm as you are. It's this waiting, this torturing
suspense that I cannot endure. Hobart would not have permitted it. He
knows, he understands. Every effort will fail till Albert sees me. It
will be a cause for lasting gratitude to us both that I should be the
one to restore him. Now let me manage. My heart will guide me better
than your science."

"What will you do?" inquired her father, in deep solicitude.

"See, here's his picture," she replied, taking it from a table
near - "the one he gave me just before he marched away. Let him look at
that and recall himself. Then I will enter. Oh, I've planned it all! My
self-control will be perfect. Would I deserve the name of woman if I
were weak or hysterical? No, I would do my best to rescue any man from
such a misfortune, much more Albert, who has such sacred claims."

"That's a good idea of yours about the photograph. Well, I guess I must
let Nature have her own way again, only in this instance I advise quiet
methods."

"Trust me, Doctor, and you won't regret it."

"Nerve yourself then to do your best, but prepare to be disappointed
for the present. I do not and cannot share in your confidence."

"Of course you cannot," she said, with a smile which illuminated her
face into rare beauty. "Only love and faith could create my confidence."

"Miss Helen," was the grave response, "would love and faith restore
Captain Nichol's right arm if he had lost it?"

"Oh, but that's different," she faltered.

"I don't know whether it is or not. We are experimenting. There may be
a physical cause obstructing memory which neither you nor any one can
now remove. Kindness only leads me to temper your hope."

"Doctor," she said half-desperately, "it is not hope; it is belief. I
could not feel as I do if I were to be disappointed."

"Ah, Miss Helen, disappointment is a very common experience. I must
stop a moment and see one who has learned this truth pretty thoroughly.
Then I will bring Nichol and his parents at once."

Tears filled her eyes. "Yes, I know," she sighed; "my heart just bleeds
for him, but I cannot help it. Were I not sure that Hobart understands
me better than any one else, I should be almost distracted. This very
thought of him nerves me. Think what he did for Albert from a hard
sense of duty. Can I fail? Good-by, and please, PLEASE hasten."

Martine rose to greet the physician with a clear eye and a resolute
face. "Why, why!" cried Dr. Barnes, cheerily, "you look a hundred per
cent better. That quinine - "

"There, Doctor, I don't undervalue your drugs; but Mr. Kemble has been
to see me and appealed to me for help - to still be on hand if needed.
Come, I've had my hour for weakness. I am on the up-grade now. Tell me
how far the affair has progressed."

"Haven't time, Hobart. Since Mr. Kemble's treatment is so efficacious,
I'll continue it. You will be needed, you will indeed, no matter how it
all turns out. I won't abandon my drugs, either. Here, take this."

Martine took the medicine as administered. "Now when you feel drowsy,
go to sleep," added the doctor.

"Tell me one thing - has she seen him yet?"

"No; his father and mother have, and he does not know them. It's going
to be a question of time, I fear."

"Helen will restore him."

"So she believes, or tries to. I mercifully shook her faith a little.
Well, she feels for you, old fellow. The belief that you understand her
better than any one has great sustaining power."

"Say I won't fail her; but I entreat that you soon let me know the
result of the meeting."

"I'll come in," assented the doctor, as he hastily departed. Then he
added sotto voce, "If you hear anything more under twelve or fifteen
hours, I'm off my reckoning."

Re-entering the carriage, he was driven rapidly to the hotel. Jackson
had played his part, and had easily induced Nichol to recount his
hospital experience in the presence of his parents, who listened in
mingled wonder, grief, and impotent protest.

"Captain, put on your overcoat and hat and come with me," said the
doctor, briskly. "Your father and mother will go with us."

"Good-by, Jackson," said Nichol, cordially. "Ye're a lively cuss, en I
hopes we'll have a chaince to chin agin."

With a blending of hope and of fear, his parents followed him. The
terrible truth of his sensibility to all that he should recognize and
remember became only the more appalling as they comprehended it. While
it lost none of its strangeness, they were compelled to face and to
accept it as they could not do at first.

"Now, Captain," said the doctor, after they were seated in the
carriage, "listen carefully to me. It is necessary that you recall what
happened before you were wounded. I tell you that you must do it if you
can, and you know doctors must be obeyed."

"Look yere, Doctor, ain't I a-tryin'? but I tell yer hit's like tryin'
ter lift myself out o' my own boots."

"Mind, now, I don't say you must remember, only try your best. You can
do that?"

"I reckon."

"Well, you are going to the house of an old friend who knew you well
before you were hurt. You must pay close heed to all she says just as
you would to me. You must not say any rude, bad words, such as soldiers
often use, but listen to every word she says. Perhaps you'll know her
as soon as you see her. Now I've prepared you. I won't be far off."

"Don't leave me, Doctor. I jes' feels nachelly muxed up en mad when
folks pester me 'bout what I kyant do."

"You must not get angry now, I can tell you. That would never do at
all. I FORBID it."

"There, there now, Doctor, I won't, doggone me ef I will," Nichol
protested anxiously.

Mr. Kemble met them at the door, and the captain recognized him
instantly.

"Why, yere's that sensible ole feller what didn't want to ast no
questions," he exclaimed.

"You are right, Captain Nichol, I have no questions to ask."

"Well, ef folks wuz all like you I'd have a comf't'ble time"

"Come with me, Captain," said the physician, leading the way into the
parlor. Mr. Kemble silently ushered Mr. and Mrs. Nichol into the
sitting-room on the opposite side of the hall and placed them in the
care of his wife. He then went into the back parlor in which was Helen,
now quiet as women so often are in emergencies. Through a slight
opening between the sliding-door she looked, with tightly clasped hands
and parted lips, at her lover. At first she was conscious of little
else except the overwhelming truth that before her was one she had
believed dead. Then again surged up with blinding force the old feeling
which had possessed her when she saw him last - when he had impressed
his farewell kiss upon her lips. Remembering the time for her to act
was almost at hand, she became calm - more from the womanly instinct to
help him than from the effort of her will.

Dr. Barnes said to Nichol, "Look around. Don't you think you have seen
this room before? Take your time and try to remember."

The captain did as he was bidden, but soon shook his head. "Hit's right
purty, but I don't reckerlect."

"Well, sit down here, then, and look at that picture. Who is it?"

"Why, hit's me - me dressed up as cap'n," ejaculated Nichol, delightedly.

"Yes, that was the way you looked and dressed before you were wounded."

"How yer talk! This beats anythin' I ever yeared from the Johnnies."

"Now, Captain Nichol, you see we are not deceiving you. We called you
captain. There's your likeness, taken before you were hurt and lost
your memory, and you can see for yourself that you were a captain. You
must think how much there is for you to try to remember. Before you


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Online LibraryEdward Payson RoeTaken Alive → online text (page 11 of 26)