“Oh!” cried Jim Wetherby, excitedly, “them was the last words I heard from him just before the shell burst, and he looks now just as he did then.”
“Yes,” said Dr. Barnes, sadly and gravely, “memory came back to him at the point where he lost it. He has died as we thought at first—a brave soldier leading a charge.”
The stern, grand impress of battle remained upon the officer’s countenance. Friends and neighbors looked upon his ennobled visage with awe, and preserved in honored remembrance the real man that temporarily had been obscured. Helen’s eyes, when taking her farewell look, were not so blinded with tears but that she recognized his restored manhood. Death’s touch had been more potent than love’s appeal.
In the Wilderness, upon a day fatal to him and so many thousands, Captain Nichol had prophesied of the happy days of peace. They came, and he was not forgotten.
One evening Dr. Barnes was sitting with Martine and Helen at their fireside. They had been talking about Nichol, and Helen remarked thoughtfully, “It was so very strange that he should have regained his memory in the way and at the time he did.”
“No,” replied the physician, “that part of his experience does not strike me as so very strange. In typhoid cases a lucid interval is apt to precede death. His brain, like his body, was depleted, shrunken slightly by disease. This impoverishment probably removed the cerebral obstruction, and the organ of memory renewed its action at the point where it had been arrested. My theory explains his last ejaculation, ‘Ah!’ It was his involuntary exclamation as he again heard the shell burst. The reproduction in his mind of this explosion killed him instantly after all. He was too enfeebled to bear the shock. If he had passed from delirium into quiet sleep—ah, well! he is dead, and that is all we can know with certainty.”
“Well,” said Martine, with a deep breath, “I am glad he had every chance that it was possible for us to give him.”
“Yes, Hobart,” added his wife, gently, “you did your whole duty, and I do not forget what it cost you.”
“Mother,” remarked Farmer Banning, discontentedly, “Susie is making a long visit.”
“She is coming home next week,” said his cheery wife. She had drawn her low chair close to the air-tight stove, for a late March snowstorm was raging without.
“It seems to me that I miss her more and more.”
“Well, I’m not jealous.”
“Oh, come, wife, you needn’t be. The idea! But I’d be jealous if our little girl was sorter weaned away from us by this visit in town.”
“Now, see here, father, you beat all the men I ever heard of in scolding about farmers borrowing, and here you are borrowing trouble.”
“Well, I hope I won’t have to pay soon. But I’ve been thinking that the old farmhouse may look small and appear lonely after her gay winter. When she is away, it’s too big for me, and a suspicion lonely for us both. I’ve seen that you’ve missed her more than I have.”