Even the lookers-on were different. Once all was wild enthusiasm and glad uproar; now men’s lips were set, and women’s smileless even as they cheered; fewer handkerchiefs whitened the air, for wet eyes needed them; and sudden lulls, almost solemn in their stillness, followed the acclamations of the crowd. All watched with quickened breath and proud souls that living wave, blue below, and bright with a steely glitter above, as it flowed down the street and away to join the sea of dauntless hearts that for months had rolled up against the South, and ebbed back reddened with the blood of men like these.
As the inspiring music, the grand tramp drew near, Christie felt the old thrill and longed to fall in and follow the flag anywhere. Then she saw David, and the regiment became one man to her. He was pale, but his eyes shone, and his whole face expressed that two of the best and bravest emotions of a man, love and loyalty, were at their height as he gave his new-made wife a long, lingering look that seemed to say:
“I could not love thee, dear, so much, Loved I not honor more.”
Christie smiled and waved her hand to him, showed him his wedding roses still on her breast, and bore up as gallantly as he, resolved that his last impression of her should be a cheerful one. But when it was all over, and nothing remained but the trampled street, the hurrying crowd, the bleak November sky, when Mrs. Wilkins sat sobbing on the steps like Niobe with her children scattered about her, then Christie’s heart gave way, and she hid her face on Mr. Power’s shoulder for a moment, all her ardor quenched in tears as she cried within herself:
“No, I could not bear it if I was not going too!”
Ten years earlier Christie made her début as an Amazon, now she had a braver part to play on a larger stage, with a nation for audience, martial music and the boom of cannon for orchestra; the glare of battle-fields was the “red light;” danger, disease, and death, the foes she was to contend against; and the troupe she joined, not timid girls, but high-hearted women, who fought gallantly till the “demon” lay dead, and sang their song of exultation with bleeding hearts, for this great spectacle was a dire tragedy to them.
Christie followed David in a week, and soon proved herself so capable that Mrs. Amory rapidly promoted her from one important post to another, and bestowed upon her the only honors left the women, hard work, responsibility, and the gratitude of many men.
“You are a treasure, my dear, for you can turn your hand to any thing and do well whatever you undertake. So many come with plenty of good-will, but not a particle of practical ability, and are offended because I decline their help. The boys don’t want to be cried over, or have their brows ‘everlastingly swabbed,’ as old Watkins calls it: they want to be well fed and nursed, and cheered up with creature comforts. Your nice beef-tea and cheery ways are worth oceans of tears and cart-loads of tracts.”