Edward Payson Roe.

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noiselessly out into the midnight and deserted streets. On, on he went,
limping he knew not, cared not where, for his passion and mental agony
drove him hither and thither like a leaf before a fitful gale.

"No one knows of this," he groaned. "I can still return and marry
Helen. But oh, what a secret to carry!"

Then his heart pleaded. "This is not the lover she lost - only a
horrible, mocking semblance. He has lost his own identity; he does not
even know himself - would not know her. Ah! I'm not sure of that. I
would be dead indeed if her dear features did not kindle my eyes in
recognition. It may be that the sight of her face is the one thing
essential to restore him. I feel this would be true were it my case.
But how can I give her up now? How can? - how can I? Oh, this terrible
journey! No wonder Helen had forebodings. She loves me; she is mine. No
one else has so good a right. We were to be married only a few hours
hence. Then she whom I've loved from childhood would make my home a
heaves on earth. And yet - and yet - " Even in the darkness he buried his
face in his hands, shuddered, moaned, writhed, and grated his teeth in
the torment of the conflict.

Hour after hour he wavered, now on the point of yielding, then stung by
conscience into desperate uncertainty. The night was cold, the howling
wind would have chilled him at another time, but during his struggle
great drops of sweat often poured from his face. Only the eye of God
saw that battle, the hardest that was fought and won during the war.

At last, when well out of the city, he lifted his agonized eyes and saw
the beautiful hues of morning tingeing the east. Unconsciously, he
repeated the sublime, creative words, "Let there be light." It came to
him. With the vanishing darkness, he revolted finally against the
thought of any shadows existing between him and Helen. She should have
all the light that he had, and decide her own course. He had little
hope that she would wed him, even if she did not marry Nichol in his
present condition - a condition probably only temporary and amenable to
skilful treatment.

Wearily he dragged his lame foot back to a hotel in the populous party
of the city, and obtained food and wine, for he was terribly exhausted.
Next he telegraphed Mr. Kemble:

"Arrived last evening. The wedding will have to be postponed. Will
explain later."

"It's the best I can do now," he muttered. "Helen will think it is all
due to my cousin's illness." Then he returned to the hospital and found
his relative in a state of wonderment at his absence, but refreshed
from a good night's rest. Yankee Blank was nowhere to be seen.

"Hobart," exclaimed his cousin, "you look ill - ten years older than you
did last night."

"You see me now by daylight," was the quiet reply. "I am not very well."

"It's a perfect shame that I've been the cause of so much trouble,
especially when it wasn't necessary."

"Oh, my God!" thought Martine, "there was even no need of this fatal
journey." But his face had become grave and inscrutable, and the plea
of ill-health reconciled his cousin to the necessity of immediate
return. There was no good reason for his remaining, for by a few
additional arrangements his relative would do very well and soon be
able to take care of himself. Martine felt that he could not jeopardize
his hard-won victory by delay, which was as torturing as the time
intervening between a desperate surgical operation and the knowledge
that it is inevitable.

After seeing that his cousin made a good breakfast, he sought a private
interview with the wardmaster. He was able to extract but little
information about Yankee Blank more than the man had given himself.
"Doctors say he may regain his memory at any time, or it may be a long
while, and possibly never," was the conclusion.

"I think I know him," said Martine. "I will bring physician from the
city to consult this morning with the surgeon in charge."

"I'm glad to hear it," was the reply. "Something would have to be done
soon. He is just staying on here and making himself useful to some

When Martine re-entered the ward, Yankee Blank appeared, grinned, and
said affably, "Howdy." Alas! a forlorn, miserable hope that he might
have been mistaken was banished from Hobart's mind now that he saw
Nichol in the clear light of day. The scar across his forehead and a
change of expression, denoting the eclipse of fine, cultivated manhood,
could not disguise the unmistakable features. There was nothing to be
done but carry out as quickly as possible the purpose which had cost
him so dear.

He first telegraphed his uncle to dismiss further anxiety, and that his
son would soon be able to visit him. Then the heavy-hearted man sought
a physician whom he knew well by reputation.

The consultation was held, and Nichol (as he may be more properly named
hereafter) was closely questioned and carefully examined. The result
merely confirmed previous impressions. It was explained, as far as
explanation can be given of the mysterious functions of the brain, that
either the concussion of the exploding shell or the wound from a flying
fragment had paralyzed the organ of memory. When such paralysis would
cease, if ever, no one could tell. The power to recall everything might
return at any moment or it might be delayed indefinitely. A shock, a
familiar face, might supply the potency required, or restoration come
through the slow, unseen processes of nature. Martine believed that
Helen's face and voice would accomplish everything.

He was well known to the medical authorities and had no difficulty in
securing belief that he had identified Nichol. He also promised that
abundant additional proof should be sent on from Alton, such certainty
being necessary to secure the officer's back pay and proper discharge
from the service. The surgeon then addressed the man so strangely
disabled, "You know I'm in charge of this hospital?"

"I reckon," replied Nichol, anxiously, for the brief experience which
he could recall had taught him that the authority of the
surgeon-in-chief was autocratic.

"Well, first, you must give up the name of Yankee Blank. Your name
hereafter is Captain Nichol."

"All right, Doctor. I'll be a gin'ral ef you sez so."

"Very well; remember your name is Captain Nichol. Next, you must obey
this man and go with him. You must do just what he says in all
respects. His name is Mr. Hobart Martine."

"Yes, he tole me las' night, Hob't Ma'tine. He took on mighty cur'ous
after seein' me."

"Do you understand that you are to mind, to obey him in all respects
just as you have obeyed me?"

"I reckon. Will he tek me to anuther hospital?"

"He will take you where you will be well cared for and treated kindly."
Having written Nichol's discharge from the hospital, the surgeon turned
to other duties.

Martine informed his cousin, as far as it was essential, of the
discovery he had made and of the duties which it imposed, then took his
leave. Nichol readily accompanied him, and with the exception of a
tendency to irritation at little things, exhibited much of the
good-natured docility of a child. Martine took him to a hotel, saw that
he had a bath, put him in the hands of a barber, and then sent for a
clothier. When dressed in clean linen and a dark civilian suit, the
appearance of the man was greatly improved. Hobart had set his teeth,
and would entertain no thought of compromise with his conscience. He
would do by Nichol as he would wish to be done by if their relations
were reversed. Helen should receive no greater shock than was
inevitable, nor should Nichol lose the advantage of appearing before
her in the outward aspect of a gentleman.

Martine then planned his departure so that he would arrive at Alton in
the evening - the evening of the day on which he was to have been
married. He felt that Mr. Kemble should see Nichol first and hear the
strange story; also that the father must break the news to the
daughter, for he could not. It was a terrible journey to the poor
fellow, for during the long hours of inaction he was compelled to face
the probable results of his discovery. The sight of Nichol and his
manner was intolerable; and in addition, he was almost as much care as
a child. Everything struck him as new and strange, and he was disposed
to ask numberless questions. His vernacular, his alternations of
amusement and irritation, and the oddity of his ignorance concerning
things which should be simple or familiar to a grown man, attracted the
attention of his fellow-passengers. It was with difficulty that
Martine, by his stern, sad face and a cold, repelling manner, kept
curiosity from intruding at every point.

At last, with heart beating thickly, he saw the lights of Alton
gleaming in the distance. It was a train not often used by the
villagers, and fortunately no one had entered the car who knew him;
even the conductor was a stranger. Alighting at the depot, he hastily
took a carriage, and with his charge was driven to the private entrance
of the hotel. Having given the hackman an extra dollar not to mention
his arrival till morning, he took Nichol into the dimly-lighted and
deserted parlor and sent for the well-known landlord. Mr. Jackson, a
bustling little man, who, between the gossip of the place and his few
guests, never seemed to have a moment's quiet, soon entered. "Why, Mr.
Martine," he exclaimed, "we wasn't a-lookin' for you yet. News got
around somehow that your cousin was dyin' in Washington and that your
weddin' was put off too - Why! you look like a ghost, even in this
light," and he turned up the lamp.

Martine had told Nichol to stand by a window with his back to the door.
He now turned the key, pulled down the curtain, then drew his charge
forward where the light fell clear upon his face, and asked, "Jackson,
who is that?"

The landlord stared, his jaw fell from sheer astonishment, as he
faltered, "Captain Nichol!"

"Yes," said Nichol, with a pleased grin, "that's my new name! Jes' got
it, like this new suit o' clo's, bes' I ever had, doggoned ef they
ain't. My old name was Yankee Blank."

"Great Scott!" ejaculated Jackson; "is he crazy?"

"Look yere," cried Nichol; "don' yer call me crazy or I'll light on yer
so yer won't fergit it."

"There, there!" said Martine, soothingly, "Mr. Jackson doesn't mean any
harm. He's only surprised to see you home again."

"Is this home? What's home?"

"It's the town where you were brought up. We'll make you understand
about it all before long. Now you shall have some supper. Mr. Jackson
is a warm friend of yours, and will see that you have a good one."

"I reckon we'll get on ef he gives me plenty o' fodder. Bring it
toreckly, fer I'm hungry. Quit yer starin', kyant yer?" "Don't you know
me, Captain Nichol? Why, I - "

"Naw. Never seed ner yeared on yer. Did I ever nuss yer in a hospital?
I kyant reckerlect all on 'em. Get we uns some supper."

"That's the thing to do first, Jackson," added Martine, "Show us
upstairs to a private room and wait on us yourself. Please say nothing
of this till I give you permission."

They were soon established in a suitable apartment, in which a fire was
kindled. Nichol took a rocking-chair and acquiesced in Martine's going
out on the pretext of hastening supper.

The landlord received explanations which enabled him to co-operate with
Martine. "I could not," said the latter, "take him to his own home
without first preparing his family. Neither could I take him to mine
for several reasons."

"I can understand some of 'em, Mr. Martine. Why, great Scott! How about
your marriage, now that - "

"We won't discuss that subject. The one thing for you to keep in mind
is that Nichol lost his memory at the time of his wound. He don't like
to be stared at or thought strange. You must humor him much as you
would a child. Perhaps the sight of familiar faces and scenes will
restore him. Now copy this note in your handwriting and send it to Mr.
Kemble. Tell your messenger to be sure to put it into the banker's
hands and no other's," and he tore from his note-book a leaf on which
was pencilled the following words:


"DEAR SIR - A sick man at the hotel wishes to see you on important
business. Don't think it's bad news about Mr. Martine, because it
isn't. Please come at once and oblige, HENRY JACKSON."



This first day of winter, her fatal wedding-day, was a sad and strange
one to Helen Kemble. The sun was hidden by dark clouds, yet no snow
fell on the frozen ground. She had wakened in the morning with a start,
oppressed by a disagreeable yet forgotten dream. Hastily dressing, she
consoled herself with the hope of a long letter from Martine,
explaining everything and assuring her of his welfare; but the early
mail brought nothing. As the morning advanced, a telegram from
Washington, purposely delayed, merely informed her that her affianced
was well and that full information was on its way.

"He has evidently found his cousin very low, and needing constant
care," she had sighingly remarked at dinner.

"Yes, Nellie," said the banker, cheerily, "but it is a comfort he is
well. No doubt you are right about his cousin, and it has turned out as
Hobart feared. In this case it is well he went, for he would always
have reproached himself if he had not. The evening mail will probably
make all clear."

"It has been so unfortunate!" complained Mrs. Kemble. "If it had only
happened a little earlier, or a little later! To have all one's
preparations upset and one's plans frustrated is exasperating. Were it
not for that journey, Helen would have been married by this time.
People come ostensibly to express sympathy, but in reality to ask

"I don't care about people," said Helen, "but the day has been so
different from what we expected that it's hard not to yield to a
presentiment of trouble. It is so dark and gloomy that we almost need a
lamp at midday."

"Well, well," cried hearty Mr. Kemble, "I'm not going to cross any
bridges till I come to them. That telegram from Hobart is all we need,
to date. I look at things as I do at a bank-bill. If its face is all
right, and the bill itself all right, that's enough. You women-folks
have such a lot of moods and tenses! Look at this matter sensibly.
Hobart was right in going. He's doing his duty, and soon will be back
with mind and conscience at rest. It isn't as if he were ill himself."

"Yes, papa, that's just the difference; we women feel, and you men
reason. What you say, though, is a good wholesome antidote. I fear I'm
a little morbid to-day."

After dinner she and her mother slipped over to the adjoining cottage,
which had been made so pretty for her reception. While Mrs. Kemble
busied herself here and there, Helen kindled a fire on the hearth of
the sitting-room and sat down in the low chair which she knew was
designed for her. The belief that she would occupy it daily and be at
home, happy herself and, better far, making another, to whom she owed
so much, happy beyond even his fondest hope, brought smiles to her face
as she watched the flickering blaze.

"Yes," she murmured, "I can make him happier even than he dreams. I
know him so well, his tastes, his habits, what he most enjoys, that it
will be an easy task to anticipate his wishes and enrich his life. Then
he has been such a faithful, devoted friend! He shall learn that his
example had not been lost on me."

At this moment the wind rose in such a long mournful, human-like sigh
about the house that she started up and almost shuddered. When the
evening mail came and brought no letter, she found it hard indeed not
to yield to deep depression. In vain her father reasoned with her. "I
know all you say sounds true to the ear," she said, "but not to my
heart. I can't help it; but I am oppressed with a nervous dread of some
impending trouble."

They passed the early hours of the evening as best they could, seeking
to divert each other's thoughts. It had been long since the kind old
banker was so garrulous, and Helen resolved to reward him by keeping
up. Indeed, she shrank from retiring, feeling that through the
sleepless night she would be the prey of all sorts of wretched fancies.
Never once did her wildest thoughts suggest what had happened, or warn
her of the tempest soon to rage in her breast.

Then came the late messenger with the landlord's copied note. She
snatched it from the bearer's hand before he could ring the bell, for
her straining ears had heard his step even on the gravel walk.
Tremblingly she tore open, the envelope in the hall without looking at
the address.

"Mr. Jackson said how I was to give it to your father," protested the

"Well, well," responded Mr. Kemble, perturbed and anxious, "I'm here.
You can go unless there's an answer required.'

"Wasn't told nothin' 'bout one," growled the departing errand-boy.

"Give the note to me, Helen," said her father. "Why do you stare at it

She handed it to him without a word, but looked searchingly in his
face, and so did his wife, who had joined him.

"Why, this is rather strange," he said.

"I think it is," added Helen, emphatically.

Mrs. Kemble took the note and after a moment ejaculated: "Well, thank
the Lord! it isn't about Hobart."

"No, no," said the banker, almost irritably. "We've all worried about
Hobart till in danger of making fools of ourselves. As if people never
get sick and send for relatives, or as if letters were never delayed!
Why, bless me! haven't we heard to-day that he was well? and hasn't
Jackson, who knows more about other people's business than his own,
been considerate enough to say that his request has nothing to do with
Hobart? It is just as he says, some one is sick and wants to arrange
about money matters before banking hours to-morrow. There, it isn't
far. I'll soon be back."

"Let me go with you, father," pleaded Helen. "I can stay with Mrs.
Jackson or sit in the parlor till you are through."

"Oh, no, indeed."

"Papa, I AM going with you," said Helen, half-desperately. "I don't
believe I am so troubled for nothing. Perhaps it's a merciful warning,
and I may be of use to you."

"Oh, let her go, father," said his wife. "She had better be with you
than nervously worrying at home. I'll be better satisfied if she is
with you."

"Bundle up well, then, and come along, you silly little girl."

Nichol was too agreeably occupied with his supper to miss Hobart, who
watched in the darkened parlor for the coming of Mr. Kemble. At last he
saw the banker passing through the light streaming from a shop-window,
and also recognized Helen at his side. His ruse in sending a note
purporting to come from the landlord had evidently failed; and here was
a new complication. He was so exhausted in body and mind that he felt
he could not meet the girl now without giving way utterly. Hastily
returning to the room in which were Nichol and Jackson, he summoned the
latter and said, "Unfortunately, Miss Kemble is coming with her father.
Keep your counsel; give me a light in another private room; detain the
young lady in the parlor, and then, bring Mr. Kemble to me."

"Ah, glad to see you, Mr. Kemble," said the landlord, a moment or two
later, with reassuring cheerfulness; "you too, Miss Helen. That's
right, take good care of the old gentleman. Yes, we have a sick man
here who wants to see you, sir. Miss Helen, take a seat in the parlor
by the fire while I turn up the lamp. Guess you won't have to wait

"Now, Helen," said her father, smiling at her significantly, "can you
trust me out of your sight to go upstairs with Mr. Jackson?"

Much relieved, she smiled in return and sat down to wait.

"Who is this man, Jackson?" Mr. Kemble asked on the stairs.

"Well, sir, he said he would explain everything."

A moment later the banker needed not Martine's warning gesture
enjoining silence, for he was speechless with astonishment.

"Mr. Jackson," whispered Martine, "will you please remain in the other
room and look after your patient?"

"Hobart," faltered Mr. Kemble, "in the name of all that's strange, what
does this mean?"

"It is indeed very strange, sir. You must summon all your nerve and
fortitude to help us through. Never before were your strength and good
strong common-sense more needed. I've nearly reached the end of my
endurance. Please, sir, for Helen's sake, preserve your self-control
and the best use of all your faculties, for you must now advise. Mr.
Kemble, Captain Nichol is alive."

The banker sank into a chair and groaned. "This would have been glad
news to me once; I suppose it should be so now. But how, how can this

"Well, sir, as you say, it should be glad news; it will be to all
eventually. I am placed in a very hard position; but I have tried to do
my duty, and will."

"Why, Hobart, my boy, you look more worn than you did after your
illness. Merciful Heaven! what a complication!"

"A far worse one than you can even imagine. Captain Nichol wouldn't
know you. His memory was destroyed at the time of the injury. All
before that is gone utterly;" and Martine rapidly narrated what is
already known to the reader, concluding, "I'm sorry Helen came with
you, and I think you had better get her home as soon as possible. I
could not take him to my home for several reasons, or at least I
thought it best not to. It is my belief that the sight of Helen, the
tones of her voice, will restore him; and I do not think it best for
him to regain his consciousness of the past in a dwelling prepared for
Helen's reception as my wife. Perhaps later on, too, you will
understand why I cannot see him there. I shall need a home, a refuge
with no such associations. Here, on this neutral ground, I thought we
could consult, and if necessary send for his parents to-night. I would
have telegraphed you, but the case is so complicated, so difficult.
Helen must be gradually prepared for the part she must take. Cost me
what it may, Nichol must have his chance. His memory may come back
instantly and he recall everything to the moment of his injury. What
could be more potent to effect this than the sight and voice of Helen?
No one here except Jackson is now aware of his condition. If she can
restore him, no one else, not even his parents, need know anything
about it, except in a general way. It will save a world of disagreeable
talk and distress. At any rate, this course seemed the best I could hit
upon in my distracted condition."

"Well, Hobart, my poor young friend, you have been tried as by fire,"
said Mr. Kemble, in a voice broken by sympathy; "God help you and guide
us all in this strange snarl! I feel that the first thing to be done is
to get Helen home. Such tidings as yours should be broken to her in
that refuge only."

"I agree with you most emphatically, Mr. Kemble. In the seclusion of
her own home, with none present except yourself and her mother, she
should face this thing and nerve herself to act her part, the most
important of all. If she cannot awaken Captain Nichol's memory, it is
hard to say what will, or when he will be restored."

"Possibly seeing me, so closely associated with her, may have the same
effect," faltered the banker.

"I doubt it; but we can try it. Don't expect me to speak while in the
hallway. Helen, no doubt, is on the alert, and I cannot meet her
to-night. I am just keeping up from sheer force of will. You must try
to realize it. This discovery will change everything for me. Helen's
old love will revive in all-absorbing power. I've faced this in
thought, but cannot in reality NOW - I simply CANNOT. It would do no
good. My presence would be an embarrassment to her, and I taxed beyond
mortal endurance. You may think me weak, but I cannot help it. As soon
as possible I must put you, and if you think best, Captain Nichol's
father, in charge of the situation. Jackson can send for his father at
once if you wish."

"I do wish it immediately. I can't see my way through this. I would
like Dr. Barnes' advice and presence also."

"I think it would be wise, sir. The point I wish to make is that I have
done about all that I now can in this affair. My further presence is
only another complication. At any rate, I must have a respite - the
privilege of going quietly to my own home as soon as possible."

"Oh, Hobart, my heart aches for you; it just ACHES for you. You have
indeed been called upon to endure a hundredfold too much in this
strange affair. How it will all end God only knows. I understand you
sufficiently. Leave the matter to me now. We will have Dr. Barnes and

Online LibraryEdward Payson RoeTaken Alive → online text (page 9 of 26)