“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 ever since.”
“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 of tears.
“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.