Page images
[ocr errors]


an' tramped, and lumpy with khaki and forth, back and forth, weaving out bodies, an’ with caps an' guns an' things paths through the wheat, a silly song flung around in it, an' the red sun sailin' that we used to sing to a game at school down an' down in the West, an' every kept runnin' in my head: - here an' there awful splatters of blood

I don't want none of your weevily wheat, in the wheat. But I did n't have time An' I don't want none of your barley; to look an' think too much — an' it An' I don't want none of your weevily wheat was mighty lucky I did n't have.

To bake a cake for Charley. They were all English an' had run up- ‘I was mighty glad it did. For all it on a German battery an' been shot to was so silly, it kept me from flyin' right pieces 'fore they hardly knew what was off the handle. An' so I kept on an' on, happenin'. I guess some of 'em must carryin' 'em water. Some of the men have got away, but there was a plenty thought it was funny I should be there, that did n't. They'd been layin' there an' they wanted to talk an' ask me since dawn, an'- an' they were hungry questions; but the most of 'em were

-' her voice broke. ‘An’I did n't have sufferin' too bad to care, an' some of anything to give 'em,' she whispered. 'em were busy goin' along into the

*They say after a while you get kind next world, an' were done with bein' of numb to things,” she went on pres- surprised over anything in this. Most ently, with her grave simplicity. 'I don't of 'em called me “Nurse" or "Sister," know how that is, but I know the things an' some way I liked to have 'em do it. I saw made me stop every now an' then Some of 'em certainly were brave, too. down by the creek out of sight, an' just Why, I saw one young fella jump wring an' wring my hands together in straight up to his feet an' fing his a kind of rage of pity. Once, goin' arms out wide, an' holler right up at through the wheat, I tramped on some- the sky, “Are we downhearted? – thing soft, an' when I looked, it was No!” an' pitch over dead. You know,' it was just a piece of a man. I thought she paused to explain simply, her exI'd lay right down then an' die, but I traordinarily childlike eyes lifted to says to myself, “They want water, they mine for understanding and sympathy, want water' - an' that way I kind of “it just seems to snatch the heart right drove myself on. But all the time I out of you to see a person stand up could see my heart under my waist just waist just to death like that — 'specially when

jumpin'upan' down, like it was fightin' they're so young like that little fella to jump out an' run away. An' then was.' another time - But she broke off. "Of course,' she went on after a mo'No,' she said, 'I won't tell about that. ment, 'I did n't just give 'em water. It's so peaceful here with that blue I'd do any other little thing I could bewater an' sunshine an' all, I reckon I sides. An' every time I could do anyought n't to tell what it's like under thing, I certainly was glad. Doing neath when Hell takes the lid off. An' things seemed to ease up a little that maybe some day the Lord 'll let me terrible rage of pity I felt. I took my forget.

skirt off an' rolled it up for a pillow for ‘But it's funny,' she went on again a little fella who could n't move an' presently, ‘how your mind grabs ahold was layin' with his head in a kind of a of any foolish thing to steady you.' sink-hole. He tried to thank me but She paused, staring down at the little he could n't,

he could n't, - he just sobbed, - but cup as though she drew remembrance he caught ahold of my hand an' kissed from it. 'I recollect as I went back it. That made me cry. It was so sort

"“ God


of young an' pretty of him. After that just what it did do, for I know I broke I went on for a spell with the tears just through into something bigger than I pourin' down my cheeks. But pres- ever had been. ently I found the one who could n't 'Well, after a while, God did have drink the water, an' I quit cryin' then. mercy on that poor soul, for he quit My tears were n't big enough; only pullin' at my hands, and began to die, God's would have been big enough for an' when I came 'round again to him he that.

was gone. But that got me started, an' "The man's face was all gone - eyes, I left off sayin' that foolishness about mouth, everything, — an' still he was the weevily wheat, an' said the little alive. He must have heard me an' prayer instead. I said it to myself first, known somebody was there, for he but after a little bit, I found I was saycommenced to scream an' moan, tryin' in' it out loud. I don't know why, but to say things down in his throat, an' to it seemed like I had to say it every time reach out his hands an' flop about -0 I gave one of 'em water. Just my God! It was like a chicken with its bless us an' keep us an' make his face head off! I thought I'd have to run. to shine upon us and be merciful unto But I did n't. I just sort of fell down us.” It was somehow like a child's beside him, an' caught ahold of his game — like havin' to touch every hands, an' patted them an' talked to tree-box goin' along the street, or stephim like you do to a child in a night- pin' over every crack. Each one of 'em mare. I don't know what I said at had to have the water an' the little first. Just a crazy jumble of pity, I prayer, an' then on to the next, or back reckon; but after a little bit I found I down to the creek for more. Most of was prayin’. I know I needed it, an' 'em did n't seem to notice, but some of it seemed to help him too, for after a 'em laughed, an' some stared like I was little bit, he stopped that awful tryin' crazy, — an' maybe I was a little, to speak down in his throat, an' lay an' again some of 'em were glad of it. still just grippin' my hands. I was so “So I kep’on an'on, an' the sun went crazy I could n't think of a thing to down, an' the dark came, an' it seemed say but “God bless us an' keep us an' like a kind of a lid had shut us away make his face to shine upon us an' be

from all the world. It was n't right merciful unto us." An' I just said that dark, for the stars were shinin'. It was over an' over.

about that time that I found the little 'I guess it was n't the words that he officer. He was dyin', off in the wheat wanted, it was the feelin' of havin' God all to himself, an' he got me to take there in all that awful dark and blood, down some messages for his folks. I an' some human bein' beside him who wrote 'em in my diary. I had a pocket was sorry. Anyhow, every time I'd stop flashlight in my bag, an' it made a he'd snatch at my wrists so hard it round eye of light that stared out at would hurt; look —' She broke off to every word I wrote. They were the push up her gray sleeve, and there on simplest kind of words. Just love, love her thin wrist, still vividly black and to mother, and love to father, and blue, were the bruised prints of fingers. Snippy and Peg, an' good-bye to 'em ‘But I was glad to be hurt I wanted all, an' how he was glad to die for Engto be hurt. I wanted to have a share in land. But they look mighty strange all the sufferin'. It just seemed like my jumpin' out there in my diary alongheart would break. An',' she added side of travel notes about Brussels. with great simplicity, 'I reckon that's It's like something big an' terrible had


[ocr errors]

smashed its fist right through all the tear my heart out to help 'em. But all little fancy things.

I could do was just to stand on the out‘But it was funny,' she went on after side like, an’ watch 'em sufferin' an' a minute, 'how sort of like children so maybe dyin' inside there all alone. many of the men were, so trusting an' That's why it seemed like bein' hurt helpless. There was one little fella al- too would make it easier. ways said the same thing to me every 'Well, along late in the night, the time I came 'round. “They'll sure be guns broke out again awful loud, an' around for us soon now, won't they, presently off against the sky I saw red sister?” he'd say. An' I'd always an- streaks of flame go up in two places, swer, “Oh, yes, just in a little bit now.”


an' I knew they were towns on fire. I An' he'd settle back again, so trusting just stopped still an' looked, an' an' satisfied, an' like I really knew. thought what it was like with the That was the way they all seemed to folks scurryin' 'round like rats, an' the

- just children. Even the ones fire an' the shells rainin' down on 'em. that cursed an' screamed at me. An' “That's Hell - right over there,” I

another thing was funny,' she added says out loud to myself, an' then I lifting her grave child's eyes to mine; went on down to the creek faster than 'I've never been married never ever. Maybe I was gettin' kind of lightknown what it was to have children headed then, an' God knows it was but that night all those men were my enough to make anybody so; anyhow, children, even the biggest an' roughest I felt like I had to hold Hell back. It of 'em. I felt 'em all here' - She put was loose right over there, an' the only her hands up tight against her breast thing that held it off was the cup of

. 'An'I b'lieve I would have died for any water an' the little prayer. So I kept one of 'em. I reckon bein' so crazy with on back an' forth, back an' forth from pity had stretched me up out of bein' the creek, faster an' faster. I thought a scary old maid into bein' a mother. if I missed one of 'em it would let Hell

'I recollect there was two loose horses in on all the rest, so I kept on an' on. gallopin' about. They were wild with The guns were boomin', an' the flames fear, an' they'd gallop as hard as ever goin' up into the sky, an' all Hell was they could in one direction, an' then loose, but the little prayer an' the cup they'd wheel 'round an' come to a of water was holdin' it back. An' then stand with their heads up, an' their at last, when it commenced to freshen tails cocked, an' nicker, an' snort over for dawn, I knew I'd won.' what they smelt, an' then take out She drew a deep breath, and paused, again. Well, once they came chargin' looking up at me with clear, far-away right down on us, an' I thought sure eyes. they were goin' right over the men. I “That was because I knew He was never stopped to think: I ran straight there,' she said. out in front of 'em wavin' my arms an' 'He-?' I questioned, awestruck by hollerin'. They just missed gallopin' her tone. right over me. But I did n't care; I She nodded. “Yes, God,' she anb’lieve I'd almost have been glad. It swered simply. 'An' after that, that was like I said — I wanted to be hurt terrible lonesomeness melted all away. too. That was because it was all so I knew that though I had to stand outlonesome for 'em. Death an' sufferin' side an' see 'em suffer, He was inside is a lonesome thing,”she stated gravely. there with 'em closer to 'em even ‘When they'd scream, I felt like I'd than they was to themselves. So I knew it was n't really lonesome for 'em, my hair was all falling down, an' I only even if they were sufferin' an' dyin'. had on my short alpaca underskirt, An' I'm right sure that a good many of 'cause I'd taken off my dress skirt to 'em got to know that, too — anyhow,

anyhow, make a pillow like I said; but I just the faces of some of the ones that had stood right up in the midst of all those died looked that way when I saw 'em poor bodies, an' says, “I'm Miss Smithin the mornin'. Maybe it was because son — Sadie Virginia Smithson — an'

- ' I cared so much myself that I kind of I've been holdin' Hell back all night.” broke through into knowin' how much 'I knew I was talkin' crazy but I did more God cared. Folks always talk n't care-like the way you do comin' like He was a father 'way off in the sky, out of ether.' but I got to know that night that what 'He stared at me for a spell, an' then was really God was something big an' he says, kind of funny, “Well, Miss close right in your own heart, that was Sadie Virginia, I'm glad you held some a heap more like a big mother. of it back, for everybody else in the

‘An' it was all bigger an' sort of sim- world was letting it loose last night.” pler than I'd ever thought it would be. 'He was mighty kind to me, though, Right over there was Hell an' big guns, an' helped get me to one of the base an' men killin' each other, but here hospitals, an' from there over to Engwhere we were, were just stars overhead, land. But I don't know what hapan’ folks that you could do things for, pened to the professor an' his party.' an'God. I reckon that's the way, she "Well,' I ventured after a long pause, said with her grave simplicity, 'when and not knowing quite what to say, things get too awful you suffer through the Laurel Literary Society will be to God, an' He turns you back to the glad enough to have you belong to it simplest things - just the little prayer, now.' an' the


of water for men that were She flashed bolt upright at that, her like sick children. This is the cup,' she eyes staring at me. added, holding it out for my inspection. ‘But — but you don't understand,' 'An' - an' that's all, I reckon,' she she cried breathlessly. 'I've been face concluded. “When daylight came the to face with war an' death an' Hell an' stretcher-bearers did get through to us. God, - I've been born again, — do There was a sort of doctor officer with you reckon any of them little old things them, an' I never in my life saw any matter now?' one look so tired.

I was stunned by the white look of ““Who are you, an' what in thunder her face. are you doing here?he stormed out What does matter — now?' I whisat me — only I don't say it as strong pered at last. as he did.

'Nothin',' she answered, 'nothin' 'I reckon I must have looked like a but God an' love an' doin' things for wild woman. I had lost my hat and folks. That was why I had to tell you.'

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]


[ocr errors]

simple covenant to be the worst. ‘Yea,'

he cries, mournfully, ‘mine own famiTo an Oriental the phrase 'bread liar friend, in whom I trusted, which and salt' is of sacred import. The say- did eat my bread, hath lifted up his ing, “There is bread and salt between heel against me.' us,' which has been prevalent in the As the son of a Syrian family I was East from time immemorial, is equal to brought up to think of bread as possaying, "We are bound together by a sessing a mystic sacred significance. I solemn covenant.' To say of one that never would step on a piece of bread he ‘knows not the significance of bread fallen in the road, but would pick it up, and salt' is to stigmatize him as a base press it to my lips for reverence, and ingrate.

place it in a wall or some other place A noble foe refuses to 'taste the salt' where it would not be trodden upon. of his adversary — that is, to eat with What always seemed to me to be one him - so long as he feels disinclined to of the noblest traditions of my people be reconciled to him. Such a foe dreads was their reverence for the aishthe thought of repudiating the cove- bread; literally, 'the life-giver.' While nant which the breaking of bread to- breaking bread together we would not gether forms. In the rural districts of rise to salute an arriving guest, whatSyria, much more than in the cities, is ever his social rank. Whether spoken still observed the ancient custom that or not, our excuse for not rising and a man on an important mission should engaging in the cordial Oriental salutanot eat his host's bread until the er- tion before the meal was ended, was rand is made known. The covenant of our reverence for the food, — hirmet'bread and salt' should not be entered el-'aish. We could, however, and alinto before the attitude of the host to- ways did, invite the newcomer most ward his guest's mission is fully known. urgently to partake of the repast. If the request is granted, then the meal At least once each year, for many is enjoyed as a fraternal affirmation of years, I carried the korban — the bread the agreement just made. So in the offering — to the mizbeh (altar of sactwenty-fourth chapter of the book of rifice) in our village church, as an offerGenesis we are told that Abraham's ing for the repose of the souls of our servant, who had gone to Mesopotamia, dead as well as for our own spiritual se‘unto the city of Nahor,' to bring a curity. Bread was one of the elements of wife of his master's kindred to his son the holy Eucharist. The mass always Isaac, refused to eat at Laban's table closed with the handing by the priest before he had told his errand.

to the members of the congregation of Of all his enemies, the writer of the small pieces of consecrated bread. The Forty-first Psalm considered the 'fa- Gospel taught us also that Christ was miliar friend' who went back on this the 'bread of life.'

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »