"I've thought about that; yes, a great deal. You need some wholesome,
natural interest that is capable of becoming somewhat absorbing. Is it
strange that I should recommend one phase of my hobby, flowers? You
know that every tree, shrub, and plant on our little place is a sort of
a pet with me. You are fond of flowers, but have never given much
thought to their care, leaving that to your gardener. Flowers are only
half enjoyed by those who do not cultivate them, nurse, or pet them.
Then there is such an infinite variety that before you know it your
thoughts are pleasantly occupied in experimenting with even one family
of plants. It is an interest which will keep you much in the open air
and bring you close to Mother Nature."
The result of this talk was that the sad-hearted girl first by resolute
effort and then by a growing fondness for the tasks, began to take a
personal interest in the daily welfare of her plants. Martine and her
father were always on the look-out for something new and rare; and as
winter approached, the former had a small conservatory built on the
sunny side of the house. They also gave her several caged song-birds,
which soon learned to recognize and welcome her. From one of his
clients Martine obtained a droll-looking dog that seemed to possess
almost human intelligence. In the daily care of living things and
dependent creatures that could bloom or be joyous without jarring upon
her feelings, as would human mirth or gayety, her mind became
wholesomely occupied part of each day; she could smile at objects which
did not know, which could not understand.
Still, there was no effort on her part to escape sad memories or the
acts and duties which revived them. A noble monument had been erected
to Captain Nichol, and one of her chief pleasures was to decorate it
with the flowers grown under her own care. Few days passed on which she
did not visit one of the families who were or had been represented at
the front, while Mrs. Nichol felt that if she had lost a son she had in
a measure gained a daughter. As the months passed and winter was
wellnigh spent, the wise gossips of the village again began to shake
their heads and remark, "Helen Kemble and Bart Martine are very good
friends; but I guess that's all it will amount to - all, at any rate,
for a long time."
All, for all time, Helen had honestly thought. It might easily have
been for all time had another lover sought her, or if Martine himself
had become a wooer and so put her on her guard. It was his patient
acceptance of what she had said could not be helped, his
self-forgetfulness, which caused her to remember his need - a need
greatly increased by a sad event. In the breaking up of winter his
mother took a heavy cold which ended in pneumonia and death.
The gossips made many plans for him and indulged in many surmises as to
what he would do; but he merely engaged the services of an old woman as
domestic, and lived on quietly as before. Perhaps he grew a little
morbid after this bereavement and clung more closely to his lonely
This would not be strange. Those who dwell among shadows become ill at
ease away from them. Helen was the first to discover this tendency, and
to note that he was not rallying as she had hoped he would. He rarely
sought their house except by invitation, and then often lapsed into
silences which he broke with an evident effort. He never uttered a word
of complaint or consciously appealed for sympathy, but was slowly
yielding to the steady pressure of sadness which had almost been his
heritage. She would have been less than woman if, recalling the past
and knowing so well the unsatisfied love in his heart, she had not felt
for him daily a larger and deeper commiseration. When the early March
winds rattled the casements, or drove the sleety rain against the
windows, she saw him in fancy sitting alone brooding, always brooding.
One day she asked abruptly, "Hobart, what are you thinking about so
deeply when you are looking at the fire?"
A slow, deep flush came into his face, and he hesitated in his answer.
At last he said, "I fear I'm getting into a bad mood, and think I must
do something decided. Well, for one thing, the continuance of this war
weighs upon my spirit. Men are getting so scarce that I believe they
will take me in some capacity. Now that mother is not here, I think I
ought to go."
"Oh, Hobart, we would miss you so!" she faltered.
He looked up with a smile. "Yes, Helen, I think you would - not many
others, though. You have become so brave and strong that you do not
need me any more."
"I am not so brave and strong as I seem. If I were, how did I become
so? With the tact and delicacy of a woman, yet with the strength of a
man, you broke the crushing force of the first blow, and have helped me
"You see everything through a very friendly medium. At any rate I could
not have been content a moment if I had not done all in my power. You
do not need me any longer; you have become a source of strength to
others. I cannot help seeing crowded hospital wards; and the thought
pursues me that in one of them I might do something to restore a
soldier to his place in the field or save him for those at home. I
could at least be a hospital nurse, and I believe it would be better
for me to be doing some such work."
"I believe it would be better for me also," she answered, her eyes full
"No, Helen - no, indeed. You have the higher mission of healing the
heart-wounds which the war is making in your own vicinity. You should
not think of leaving your father and mother in their old age, or of
filling their days with anxiety which might shorten their lives."
"It will be very hard for us to let you go. Oh, I did not think I would
have to face this also!"
He glanced at her hastily, for there was a sharp distress in her tone,
of which she was scarcely conscious herself. Then, as if recollecting
himself, he reasoned gently and earnestly: "You were not long in
adopting the best antidote for trouble. In comforting others, you have
been comforted. The campaign is opening in Virginia; and I think it
would be a good and wholesome thing for me to be at work among the
wounded. If I can save one life, it will be such a comfort after the
war is over."
"Yes," she replied, softly; "the war will be over some day. Albert, in
his last letter, said the war would cease, and that happy days of peace
were coming. How they can ever be happy days to some I scarcely know;
but he seemed to foresee the future when he wrote."
"Helen, I'm going. Perhaps the days of peace will be a little happier
if I go."
Martine carried out his purpose almost immediately, seeking the
temporary and most exposed hospitals on the extreme left of Grant's
army before Petersburg. Indeed, while battles were still in progress he
would make his way to the front and become the surgeon's tireless
assistant. While thus engaged, even under the enemy's fire, he was able
to render services to Jim Wetherby which probably saved the soldier's
life. Jim lost his right arm, but found a nurse who did not let him
want for anything till the danger point following amputation had
passed. Before many weeks he was safe at home, and from him Helen
learned more of Martine's quiet heroism than she could ever gather from
his letters. In Jim Wetherby's estimation, Cap and Bart Martine were
the two heroes of the war.
The latter had found the right antidote. Not a moment was left for
morbid brooding. On every side were sharp physical distress, deadly
peril to life and limb, pathetic efforts to hold ground against
diseases or sloughing wounds. In aiding such endeavor, in giving moral
support and physical care, Martine forgot himself. Helen's letters also
were an increasing inspiration. He could scarcely take up one of them
and say, "Here her words begin to have a warmer tinge of feeling;" but
as spring advanced, imperceptibly yet surely, in spite of pauses and
apparent retrogressions, just so surely she revealed a certain warmth
of sympathy. He was engaged in a work which made it easy for her to
idealize him. His unselfish effort to help men live, to keep bitter
tears from the eyes of their relatives, appealed most powerfully to all
that was unselfish in her nature, and she was beginning to ask, "If I
can make this man happier, why should I not do so?" Nichol's letter
gained a new meaning in the light of events: "I do not ask you to
forget me - that would be worse than death - but I ask you to try to be
happy and to make others happy."
"A noble, generous nature prompted those words," she now often mused.
"How can I obey their spirit better than in rewarding the man who not
only has done so much for me, but also at every cost sought to rescue
In this growing disposition she had no innate repugnance to overcome,
nor the shrinking which can neither be defined nor reasoned against.
Accustomed to see him almost daily from childhood, conscious for years
that he was giving her a love that was virtually homage, she found her
heart growing very compassionate and ready to yield the strong, quiet
affection which she believed might satisfy him. This had come about
through no effort on her part, from no seeking on his, but was the
result of circumstances, the outgrowth of her best and most unselfish
But the effect began to separate itself in character from its causes.
All that had gone before might explain why she was learning to love
him, and be sufficient reason for this affection, but a woman's love,
even that quiet phase developing in Helen's heart, is not like a man's
conviction, for which he can give his clear-cut reasons. It is a
tenderness for its object - a wish to serve and give all in return for
what it receives.
Martine vaguely felt this change in Helen long before he understood it.
He saw only a warmer glow of sisterly affection, too high a valuation
of his self-denying work, and a more generous attempt to give him all
the solace and support within her power.
One day in July, when the war was well over and the field hospitals
long since broken up, he wrote from Washington, where he was still
pursuing his labors:
"My work is drawing to a close. Although I have not accomplished a
tithe of what I wished to do, and have soon so much left undone, I am
glad to remember that I have alleviated much pain and, I think, saved
some lives. Such success as I have had, dear Helen, has largely been
due to you. Your letters have been like manna. You do not know - it
would be impossible for you to know - the strength they have given, the
inspiration they have afforded. I am naturally very weary and worn
physically, and the doctors say I must soon have rest; but your kind
words have been life-giving to my soul. I turn to them from day to day
as one would seek a cool, unfailing spring. I can now accept life
gratefully with the conditions which cannot be changed. How fine is the
influence of a woman like you! What deep springs of action it touches!
When waiting on the sick and wounded, I try to blend your womanly
nature with my coarser fibre. Truly, neither of us has suffered in vain
if we learn better to minister to others. I cannot tell you how I long
to see the home gardens again; and it now seems that just to watch you
in yours will be unalloyed happiness."
Helen smiled over this letter with sweet, deep meanings in her eyes.
One August evening, as the Kemble family sat at tea, he gave them a
joyous surprise by appearing at the door and asking in a matter-of-fact
voice, "Can you put an extra plate on the table?"
There was no mistaking the gladness of her welcome, for it was as
genuine as the bluff heartiness of her father and the gentle solicitude
of her mother, who exclaimed, "Oh, Hobart, how thin and pale you are!"
"A few weeks' rest at home will remedy all that," he said. "The heat in
Washington was more trying than my work."
"Well, thank the Lord! you ARE at home once more," cried the banker. "I
was thinking of drawing on the authorities at Washington for a neighbor
who had been loaned much too long."
"Helen," said Martine, with pleased eyes, "how well you look! It is a
perfect delight to see color in your cheeks once more. They are
gaining, too, their old lovely roundness. I'm going to say what I think
right out, for I've been with soldiers so long that I've acquired their
"It's that garden work you lured me into," she explained. "I hope you
won't think your plants and trees have been neglected."
"Have you been keeping my pets from missing me?"
"I guess they have missed you least of all. Helen has seen to it that
they were cared for first," said Mrs. Kemble, emphatically.
"You didn't write about that;" and he looked at the girl gratefully.
"Do you think I could see weeds and neglect just over the fence?" she
asked, with a piquant toss of her head.
"Do you think I could believe that you cared for my garden only that
your eyes might not be offended?"
"There, I only wished to give you a little surprise. You have treated
us to one by walking in with such delightful unexpectedness, and so
should understand. I'll show you when you are through supper."
"I'm through now;" and he rose with a promptness most pleasing to her.
His gladness in recognizing old and carefully nurtured friends, his
keen, appreciative interest in the new candidates for favor that she
had planted, rewarded her abundantly.
"Oh," he exclaimed, "what a heavenly exchange from the close, fetid air
of hospital wards! Could the first man have been more content in his
divinely planted garden?"
She looked at him shyly and thought, "Perhaps when you taste of the
fruit of knowledge the old story will have a new and better meaning."
She now regarded him with a new and wistful interest, no longer seeing
him through the medium of friendship only. His face, thin and
spiritualized, revealed his soul without disguise. It was the
countenance of one who had won peace through the divine path of
ministry - healing others, himself had been healed. She saw also his
unchanged, steadfast love shining like a gem over which flows a crystal
current. Its ray was as serene as it was undimmed. It had taken its
place as an imperishable quality in his character - a place which it
would retain without vicissitude unless some sign from her called it
into immediate and strong manifestation. She was in no haste to give
this. Time was touching her kindly; the sharp, cruel outlines of the
past were softening in the distance, and she was content to remember
that the treasure was hers when she was ready for it - a treasure more
With exultation she saw him honored by the entire community. Few days
passed without new proofs of the hold he had gained on the deepest and
best feelings of the people. She who once had pitied now looked up to
him as the possessor of that manhood which the most faultless outward
semblance can only suggest.
Love is a magician at whose touch the plainest features take on new
aspects. Helen's face had never been plain. Even in its anguish it had
produced in beholders the profound commiseration which is more readily
given when beauty is sorrowful. Now that a new life at heart was
expressing itself, Martine, as well as others, could not fail to note
the subtile changes. While the dewy freshness of her girlish bloom was
absent, the higher and more womanly qualities were now revealing
themselves. Her nature had been deepened by her experiences, and the
harmony of her life was all the sweeter for its minor chords.
To Martine she became a wonderful mystery, and he almost worshipped the
woman whose love he believed buried in an unknown grave, but whose eyes
were often so strangely kind. He resumed his old life, but no longer
brooded at home, when the autumn winds began to blow. He recognized the
old danger and shunned it resolutely. If he could not beguile his
thoughts from Helen, it was but a step to her home, and her eyes always
shone with a luminous welcome. Unless detained by study of the legal
points of some case in hand, he usually found his way over to the
Kemble fireside before the evening passed, and his friends encouraged
him to come when he felt like it. The old banker found the young man
exceedingly companionable, especially in his power to discuss
intelligently the new financial conditions into which the country was
passing. Helen would smile to herself as she watched the two men
absorbed in questions she little understood, and observed her mother
nodding drowsily over her knitting. The scene was so peaceful, so
cheery, so hopeful against the dark background of the past, that she
could not refrain from gratitude. Her heart no longer ached with
despairing sorrow, and the anxious, troubled expression had faded out
of her parents' faces.
"Yes," she would murmur softly to herself, "Albert was right; the
bloody war has ceased, and the happy days of peace are coming. Heaven
has blessed him and made his memory doubly blessed, in that he had the
heart to wish them to be happy, although he could not live to see them.
Unconsciously he took the thorns out of the path which led to his
friend and mine. How richly father enjoys Hobart's companionship! He
will be scarcely less happy - when he knows - than yonder friend, who is
such a very scrupulous friend. Indeed, how either is ever going to know
I scarcely see, unless I make a formal statement."
Suddenly Martine turned, and caught sight of her expression.
"All I have for your thoughts! What wouldn't I give to know them!"
Her face became rosier than the firelight warranted as she laughed
outright and shook her head.
"No matter," he said; "I am content to hear you laugh like that."
"Yes, yes," added the banker; "Helen's laugh is sweeter to me than any
music I ever heard. Thank God! we all can laugh again. I am getting
old, and in the course of nature must soon jog on to the better
country. When that time comes, the only music I want to hear from earth
is good, honest laughter."
"Now, papa, hush that talk right away," cried Helen, with glistening
"What's the matter?" Mrs. Kemble asked, waking up.
"Nothing, my dear, only it's time for us old people to go to bed."
"Well, I own that it would be more becoming to sleep there than to
reflect so unfavorably on your conversation. Of late years talk about
money matters always puts me to sleep."
"That wasn't the case, was it, my dear, when we tried to stretch a
thousand so it would reach from one January to another?"
"I remember," she replied, smiling and rolling up her knitting, "that
we sometimes had to suspend specie payments. Ah, well, we were happy."
When left alone, it was Helen's turn to say, "Now your thoughts are
wool-gathering. You don't see the fire when you look at it that way."
"No, I suppose not," replied Martine. "I'll be more frank than you.
Your mother's words, 'We were happy,' left an echo in my mind. How
experience varies! It is pleasant to think that there are many
perfectly normal, happy lives like those of your father and mother."
"That's one thing I like in you, Hobart. You are so perfectly willing
that others should be happy."
"Helen, I agree with your father. Your laugh WAS music, the sweetest I
ever heard. I'm more than willing that you should be happy. Why should
you not be? I have always felt that what he said was true - what he said
about the right to laugh after sorrow - but it never seemed so true
before. Who could wish to leave blighting sorrow after him? Who could
sing in heaven if he knew that he had left tears which could not be
dried on earth?"
"You couldn't," she replied with bowed head.
"Nor you, either; nor the brave man who died, to whom I only do justice
in believing that he would only be happier could he hear your laugh.
Your father's wholesome, hearty nature should teach us to banish every
morbid tendency. Let your heart grow as light as it will, my friend.
Your natural impulses will not lead you astray. Good-night."
"You feel sure of that?" she asked, giving him a hand that fluttered in
his, and looking at him with a soft fire in her eyes.
"Oh, Helen, how distractingly beautiful you are! You are blooming again
like your Jack-roses when the second growth pushes them into flower.
There; I must go. If I had a stone in my breast instead of a
heart - Good-night. I won't be weak again."
MORE THAN REWARD
Helen Kemble's character was simple and direct She was one who lived
vividly in the passing hour, and had a greater capacity for deep
emotions than for retaining them. The reputation for constancy is
sometimes won by those incapable of strong convictions. A scratch upon
a rock remains in all its sharpness, while the furrow that has gone
deep into the heart of a field is eventually almost hidden by a new
flowering growth. The truth was fully exemplified in Helen's case; and
a willingness to marry her lifelong lover, prompted at first by a
spirit of self-sacrifice, had become, under the influence of daily
companionship, more than mere assent. While gratitude and the wish to
see the light of a great, unexpected joy come into his eyes remained
her chief motives, she had learned that she could attain a happiness
herself, not hoped for once, in making him happy.
He was true to his word, after the interview described in the preceding
chapter. He did not consciously reveal the unappeased hunger of his
heart, but her intuition was never at fault a moment.
One Indian-summer-like morning, about the middle of October, he went
over to her home and said, "Helen, what do you say to a long day's
outing? The foliage is at its brightest, the air soft as that of June.
Why not store up a lot of this sunshine for winter use?"
"Yes, Helen, go," urged her mother. "I can attend to everything."
"A long day, did you stipulate?" said the girl in ready assent; "that
means we should take a lunch. I don't believe you ever thought of that."
"We could crack nuts, rob apple-orchards, or if driven to extremity,
raid a farmhouse."
"You have heard too much from the soldiers about living off the
country. I'd rather raid mamma's cupboard before we start. I'll be
ready as soon as you are."
He soon appeared in his low, easy phaeton; and she joined him with the
presentiment that there might be even greater gladness in his face by
evening than it now expressed. While on the way to the brow of a
distant hill which would be their lunching place, they either talked
with the freedom of old friends or lapsed into long silences.
At last he asked, "Isn't it a little odd that when with you the sense
of companionship is just as strong when you are not talking?"
"It's a comfort you are so easily entertained. Don't you think I'm a
rather moderate talker for a woman?"
"Those that talk the most are often least entertaining. I've thought a
good deal about it - the unconscious influence of people on one another.
I don't mean influence in any moral sense, but in the power to make one
comfortable or uncomfortable, and to produce a sense of restfulness and
content or to make one ill at ease and nervously desirous of escape."
"And you have actually no nervous desire to escape, no castings around
in your mind for an excuse to turn around and drive home?"
"No one could give a surer answer to your question than yourself. I've
been thinking of something pleasanter than my enjoyment."
"That your expression has been a very contented one during the last
hour. I am coming to believe that you can accept my friendship without
effort. You women are all such mysteries! One gets hold of a clew now
and then. I have fancied that if you had started out in the spirit of
self-sacrifice that I might have a pleasant time, you would be more
conscious of your purpose. Even your tact might not have kept me from
seeing that you were exerting yourself; but the very genius of the day
seems to possess you. Nature is not exerting herself in the least. No
breath of air is stirring; all storms are in the past or the future.
With a smile on her face, she is just resting in serene content, as you
were, I hope. She is softening and obscuring everything distant by an
orange haze, so that the sunny present may be all the more real. Days
like these will do you good, especially if your face and manner reveal
that you can be as truly at rest as Nature."
"Yet what changes may soon pass over the placid scene!"
"Yes, but don't think of them."
"Well, I won't - not now. Yes, you are becoming very penetrating. I am