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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Louisa M. Alcott

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When food was brought, she fed one of the badly wounded men, and offered the same help to his neighbor. "Thank you, ma'am," he said, "I don't think I'll ever eat again, for I'm shot in the stomach. But I'd like a drink of water, if you ain't too busy."

"I rushed away," she says; "but the water pails were gone to be refilled, and it was some time before they reappeared. I did not forget my patient, meanwhile, and, with the first mugful, hurried back to him. He seemed asleep; but something in the tired white face caused me to listen at his lips for a breath. None came. I touched his forehead; it was cold; and then I knew that, while he waited, a better nurse than I had given him a cooler draught, and healed him with a touch. I laid the sheet over the quiet sleeper, whom no noise could now disturb; and, half an hour later, the bed was empty."

With cheerful face and warm heart she went among the soldiers, now writing letters, now washing faces, and now singing lullabies. One day a tall, manly fellow was brought in. He seldom spoke, and uttered no complaint. After a little, when his wounds were being dressed, Miss Alcott observed the big tears roll down his cheeks and drop on the floor.

She says: "My heart opened wide and took him in, as, gathering the bent head in my arms, as freely as if he had been a child, I said, 'Let me help you bear it, John!' Never on any human countenance have I seen so swift and beautiful a look of gratitude, surprise, and comfort as that which answered me more eloquently than the whispered--

"'Thank you, ma'am; this is right good! this is what I wanted.'

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"'Then why not ask for it before?'

"'I didn't like to be a trouble, you seemed so busy, and I could manage to get on alone.'"

The doctors had told Miss Alcott that John must die, and she must take the message to him; but she had not the heart to do it. One evening he asked her to write a letter for him. "Shall it be addressed to wife or mother, John?"

"Neither, ma'am; I've got no wife, and will write to mother myself when I get better. Mother's a widow; I'm the oldest child she has, and it wouldn't do for me to marry until Lizzy has a home of her own, and Jack's learned his trade; for we're not rich, and I must be father to the children and husband to the dear old woman, if I can."

"No doubt you are both, John; yet how came you to go to war, if you felt so?"

"I went because I couldn't help it. I didn't want the glory or the pay; I wanted the right thing done, and people kept saying the men who were in earnest ought to fight. I was in earnest, the Lord knows! but I held off as long as I could, not knowing which was my duty. Mother saw the case, gave me her ring to keep me steady, and said 'Go'; so I went."

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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