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Perhaps there is nothing in the
world like that first awakening after any sudden sorrow. One has the whole blow
over again, and that at an instant before the faculties are fully equal to the
shock. Nelly did not wake. Mrs. Buswell sat up shivering on the outside of the
bed, piled some blankets over her yet unconscious companion, slipped off and
away to kindle the fire and be where again she might know the wild abandonment
to tears and cries without disturbing any soul to be her witness, for with time
comes reserve. But by-and-by, when, feeling as if such vehement misery were
wrong, she bestirred herself once more about the place, every thing seemed made
to stab her, All the gathered goods in her pantry cruelly smote the good
house-wife's soul; there would be plenty of Christmas-beggars though before noon
to divide it with ; she could send her turkey, too, to some mother whose son had
come home, some mother whom Heaven had not stripped of every thing, and her
heart grew hard and angry. - She took her lonesome cup of tea --for Nelly still
slept as she had lain down in her clothes on the outside of the bed and she made
it bitter with her tears. Then with the ineffaceable instinct of her kind, she
swept and scoured all bright and clean again, as if it were necessary for her to
contrast every outside brilliancy with the darkness of her spirit within. There
still hung the stocking from the mantle-shelf, filled, as she had said, with all
the reminiscences of his boyhood, filled too with dainty nicknacks of Nelly's
needle-work, such things as are never vouchsafed to any one's boyhood ; what a
happy scene of laughing and caressing she had pictured to herself when he should
have taken it down and be emptying its contents on his awkward knees. Now those
dead hands would never lighten it ; she had not the heart to take it down
herself. Walking to and fro, she went to the window, perhaps attracted by the
whistle of the express-train rattling over the bridge ; all was such clear
crystal-line weather outside, from such a throne of azure the sun was scattering
his golden shafts, such fine and dazzling crust of snow, such white and driven
drifts along the fields, all was so pure, so bright, so fresh, and in the midst
the glad church bells began to ring out their burden of blessing and rejoicing.
Mrs. Buswell turned away and went again into the inner room ; and there, as the
prayer-book caught her glance, still open as on yesterday, something bent her
knee and her spirit, and she kneeled, repeating the words before her till unable
to see them for the fast-falling showers of warm tears anew, she found it in her
heart at last to thank God with words of her own that he had taken her darlings
from the toils and trials of earth to Himself.
And as she still knelt there, her
head bowed upon the page, she heard the outer door open and shut with a quick
slam. She paid it no attention. Then the handle of the inner door turned, and
there came a foot upon the floor. It was some neighbor to see if she wanted a
good turn, she said vaguely to herself but in a moment, as the foot crossed and
drew nearer—that a neighbor's step? Never! What had happened ? Was the earth
quaking and shaking and rolling away from under her feet ! Had the heavens
fallen, and had she caught Frank again, or was it he, the great brown fellow,
the stalwart bearded hero of a hundred fights, who had caught her and tossed her
in his arms and kissed her face all over from crown to cap-sheaf as if she were
the child and not he ? And Mrs. Buswell, all herself again, returned the saucy
intruder a round box on the ear for the daring deed, and then kissed the place
twenty times to pay for it, so soon as it came her turn for kissing; and as
suddenly, to make the round of her alternations complete, burst into tears, such
different tears from all the rest she had shed, and wiped them away with his
neckerchief. Then something told Frank that mother and son were not alone in the
room ; he looked anxiously, uncertainly about; and, under the blankets piled
above her, Nelly stirred, moaning gently in her sleep. In a breath he was beside
her. " Softly ! softly!" said good Mrs. Buswell, "don't let her be shocked ;
be-sides, she had an opiate, and she'll be ill." But in the instant that Frank
lingered there above her, his soul in his eyes, the moan ceased, as if his mere
presence had charmed it away, the features grew quiet, then changed into calm
smiling, and a long sigh of relief parted the lips while the eyelids fluttered
and opened and the glance rested on him. Mrs. Buswell shoved him aside, round
the corner of the wardrobe.
"Nelly," said she, "we've had a
terrible night-mare, you and I. We dreamed Frank was killed, dear that the
minister said so. But, thank God! it was only a dream. Here, child, drink this
Seltzer water. There ! that's a good girl. Now, do you think you can bear it ?
Will you be quiet if I tell you something if I tell you that—"
But Nelly was not listening to a
word she said. She was sitting up, supported by one hand, and the dark eyes were
peering round the corner of the wardrobe, and in a moment more she had sprung
and was in Frank's arms.
I meant to have told you about
Mrs. Buswell's Christmas. But somehow it has all turned into what happened the
day before Mrs. Buswell's Christmas. As for the Christmas itself, it would have
been like all the other Christmases of Christendom, if at every other hearth the
grave had given up the dead to make its glory and its grace complete. Nelly and
Frank must go to church ; there was no-thing for it but that. Mrs. Buswell must
stay at home to cook such a dinner as never table groaned under in that house
before; to get out the great copper and boil the plum-pudding in it for with-out
you tasted of plum-pudding and mince-pie on Christmas-day, farewell luck for all
the year ! to baste that turkey as if it had been a thank-offering. And then
when Nelly came home she was to wash the celery, and Frank was to help her ; and
it took them more time to do it than it had taken Mrs. Bus-well to dress the
whole dinner, and to crack the beautifully segmented oil-nuts into the bargain.
And such baskets as she made ready for Frank and Nelly to take round to all the
poor folk of their ken. And then in Mrs. Buswell's busy brain an-other plan took
life and shape. Why, pray, should
not all their pleasure be
completed at once ? Why should not joy come in an avalanche as well as a
dribblet ? Why should she not make sure of Nelly for her daughter now orphan
Nelly, who had no one but herself to consult in the matter ? Why should not
Frank know a brief bit of the comfort of married life and a home of his own
before he re-turned to winter-quarters, and hard tack, and hard knocks again ?
Why would not Christmas-day do for a wedding-day ? With all of which catechism,
finding no satisfactory replies herself, she breathlessly assailed the two, from
a burning face, on their return. And it seemed that the same idea had already
been broached, and discussed, and pleaded by Frank; and before dinner was
brought on he stepped out to secure the same minister who had given consolation
to his mother yesterday to give a little to himself and Nelly this afternoon. A
gay dinner the three made, with a wooden chair and a plate in it, brought in for
tiny little Schwartz, who had gone through the war with Frank, to fill the
fourth side of the table. And Frank took down his new stocking and emptied it on
the table after dessert, every thing in it reminding him of some history in the
past, and insisting, when all that was done, upon helping his mother and Nelly
wash up the dishes, making infinitely more work than he gave assistance, keeping
them all hanging, till the water was cold and had to be replenished, over the
countless recitals he had to tell of breathless dangers, and of the last escape
of all, when, being taken prisoner in the desperate engagement, he had broken
jail, and, reporting himself, had come North on his promised furlough. And then,
if they were not so gay, never was there a happier group than that which quietly
sat about the fire, after the clergyman had come and gone, in the red, early
sunset the blissful mother beaming on her children, yet with a tender thought
for all those sorrowful mothers whose dear ones came back no more, the young
husband and wife side by side in the growing shadows. And the fire-light danced
on the wall, and the stars came out in the clear, keen heavens, and God's
blessing seemed to brood wide winged over the whole earth on that happy
I'm a physician, and my name is
Robert Jervis. Most of the fellows at the club call me Dr. Bob probably because
my hair is always short bobbed off, you know.
I have a wife and four innocent
children. Doc-tors always have children ; they are not so much of a luxury to
them as to serve other people. I call my children innocents, and so they are,
though now and then they do play the very deuce with my medicines ; but then
that shows a commendable spirit of research and inquiry. Mrs. Jervis says it is
mischief. When young Bob one day gave the cat a blue-pill, she went so far as to
say that it was a piece of downright cruelty; but I assured her that it was only
an experiment illustrating his inclination toward his father's profession, and
that, for my part, I didn't care if he physicked all the cats in town if thereby
he qualified himself for usefulness in the walks of medicine, which his father
so adorned ! I have noticed since then that we have no 'cats in our house ;
either my logic or Bob's experiment was successful.
There are some people in my line
who never take time to enjoy a holiday. I'm not one of that sort. I believe
Christmas, for instance, was meant for me as much as for other men, and I try
always to enjoy it in a rational way. And that brings me to my story.
One year ago I had a memorable
Christmas experience. Rather, I had a memorable Christmas-eve. Sitting in my
cozy parlor, with my wife at my elbow, chatting with her of the morrow, there
came a sudden ring of the door-bell, sharp, quick, decisive. Who was sick now?
Biddy thrust in her head at the
"Mrs. Jones's little boy, Sir,
says his sister's very sick, and you're wanted to come right over, Sir."
Who was Mrs. Jones? I had a
tolerably large circle of acquaintance.. I knew any quantity of Smiths, a host
of Browns, but not a single Jones. And what if I did? Was I bound to leave my
comfortable nest on Christmas-eve to serve a family I had never heard of to
administer rhubarb and ipecac to some youngster needing, more than any thing
else, perhaps, to be let alone? There, right before me, hanging in a row, were
four stockings representing four pairs of little feet now snugly ensconced under
coverlet and blanket stockings which wife and I had promised ourselves all sorts
of amusement and satisfaction in filling in the name of Santa Claus. Must I
abandon that pleasure, and plunge out into the driving snow, maybe on a fool's
errand ? Couldn't I have one night to myself?
" Please, Sir, the lad says his
sister's very sick, and won't you come right away ?"
It was Biddy's voice, and it
roused me to the actual " situation." Perhaps my little girls would have a
merrier Christmas, I thought to myself, if I answered this call of the little
It was a cold, dismal, barren
place to which the thinly-clad, shivering boy led me. An old, rambling house,
with broken windows, creaking doors, and cold and want every where. Nor was that
the worst. In the one main room into which the whole family appeared to be
crowded, a drunken, ragged wretch lay in a heavy sleep upon the floor, while
over the little bed a pale, wan-faced woman leaned with despair in her eyes,
thre half clothed children, with hunger in their faces, hitching her skirts,
clamoring for bread. And on the little bed, moaning and gasping, lay a child
with a sweet a face as ever angel wore a child whose little life seemed nearly
It was a pronounced case of
scarlet miter, the scourge of childhood. The disease seemed to have been running
its coarse rapidly a few hours must decide the fate of the sufferer. I was not
slow in meeting the emergency, employing all my skill, feeling the time to be
short. Meanwhile the mo
ther cried and prayed by turns,
the children crouching around her.
" God be merciful!" she said,
again and again; sometimes adding, " Save her, doctor, save her !"
Then, after a while, winning her
gradually from herself, she told me her story ; how, once a happy household,
intemperance in the husband and father had brought them to want and misery ; how
already one child had gone to Potter's Field because of hunger unsatisfied; how
Tom, the oldest boy, was at sea, but was expected home every day.
"He wrote that he'd be here on
Christmas, Sir, and that he'd bring his pockets full of presents for the
children. They've all been dreaming about it ever since ; and Mary that's the
name of the sick one, Sir, and she's his favorite talks about him in her"
"Why don't he come ?" It was a
weak voice that spoke, the sufferer was delirious again. " He promised one a
doll, and I'm tired of waiting. Won't you tell him to hurry?" Then, a moment
after, " Did you hear the angel, mother ? It was a bright angel, and sang so
very sweetly, `Come with me, come with me, Mary !' I want to go, mother. But
what will Tom say? He'll want to kiss me ; and who'll take care of the doll?"
For a moment all was still. Then we heard,
"Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep."
I'm an old doctor, and I'm used
to strange scenes, but that was too much for me. As for the mother, she tell
right down in a paroxysm of grief, and all the shivering little ones cried as if
their hearts would break. Only the drunken brute in the corner was unmoved.
"Oh, if Tom was only here," at
last the mother moaned, "maybe he could do something for her!"
" Only God can help her now," I
answered. What would the fellows at the club have thought if they had heard me
say that? I, the hard-shell, impervious Dr. Bob ! Presently I added,
" She has suffered for want of
nourishment, Mrs. Jones, but that may prove a blessing in the end. It will leave
the fever less to prey upon. But she is very sick, Mrs. Jones."
Just then a strong step was heard
in the passage. " It's Tom ! it's Tom !"
It was Tom a strong, noble, brown
faced boy, still on the sunny side of twenty, with a frank, open look, that won
you in a moment.
"Mother!" " Tom!" and they were
folded in a close embrace.
Then looking around resting his
glance for a second only on the sleeping sot he seemed to comprehend at once all
the misery of the hour and the place. At the sight of Mary's face, lying on the
rumpled pillow, I saw him start, while the shadow of a great fear seemed to
settle upon him.
" Have I come home to find death
here before me?"
He turned to me imploringly.
" Death is every where," I
answered; " but while there is life there is hope."
" And I had my trunk full of
gifts for the darling!"
" Has Tom come ? Why don't you
hurry home, Tom ? It is getting dark, and I want to kiss you before I go to
Poor Tom ! There was no welcome
in the voice he longed to hear—no recognition only weary complaint. Would she
indeed go away into the dark, leaving no good-by behind for the brother come
home from the seas?
The hours slipped on. Crouching
down in a corner the children fell asleep. The mother, worn and exhausted, laid
her head on Tom's broad shoulders and wept herself into unconsciousness. So,
sitting silently, he and I watched beside the bed. At intervals the sick one
murmured his name in her delirium ; .and I could hear Lim whispering to
him-self, "Spare spare her, Lord!" So the night passed on.
Just as the dawn touched the
roofs, standing over the little sufferer, I saw her eyes open with a calm,
natural look, and presently heard the word,
Thank God! She was safe. The
crisis Lad passed. She would live.
" Tom is here," I said, bending
my lips close to hers.
Oh the glad look that came into
her eyes as, obedient to my call, he bowed his head over her pillow ! From the
very borders of the River of Death she had come back to greet the dear wanderer,
sighing and praying for her return.
At the breakfast-table, on
Christmas morning, I told the story of the night to my happy household. I think
young Bob was astonished at seeing tears in my eyes; but I couldn't recite my
narrative without feeling more tenderly than was my wont. Mrs. Dr. Bob cried
like a booby ; and, for that mat-ter, so did all the rest. But very soon it was
clear sky again in our faces. Then I made a suggestion.
Not long after, that suggestion
being concurred in by the family conference, a procession filed out from time
kitchen of Dr. Robert Jervis, No. 2019 Grand Street, and marched courageously
toward 6J Dark Lane. At the head of said procession marched Dr. Bob himself,
bearing a hoge basket of provisions; behind him came Mrs. Dr. Bob with another
basket, heaped with clean linen and dainties adapted to the palate of an
invalid, while still behind marched all the little Jervises, each loaded with a
basket, pail, or package, Biddy bringing up the rear with a turkey " browned to
a turn." Down Grand Street, up Dark Lane, straight to the door of the Jones's,
the procession marched; through the door it pressed unfalteringly, each basket
being finally placed on the plain table where Mrs. Jones's weary head was
leaning, with Tom's hand smoothing her matted hair. Then, while the junior
Jervises marched homeward again, we unpacked our I stores, spread a bountiful
repast, and summoning all to partake, ourselves "served at table" the poor n o
her crying and eating by turns, while Torn saluted each mouthful with a smile
and a blessing on the donors.
Then Tom's Christmas presents
—Mrs.. Dr. Bob read a psalm from
an old Bible which Mrs. Jones produced from her pocket; Tom said a word of
prayer; and we went home—home to our happy children, with hearts full of joy and
thanksgiving to the Father of us all.
That was my last and my happiest
Christmas; and I have not told my story in vain if it has suggested to any that
there is nothing which gives so sweet a flavor to our own Christmas cheer as a
kind action done for any of God's poor, in the name of Him whose birth was like
the rising of a great Hope to a world astray.
ARMY OF THE CUMBERLAND.
NASHVILLE, the present
head-quarters of the Army of the Cumberland, is situated on the south bank of
the Cumbeland River, which, in this section of its course, runs nearly east and
west. The " Rock City," as it is called, had before the war a population of from
fifteen to twenty thousand. Its site consists of an entire rock, and at various
heights is elevated from 70 to 175 feet above the river. Upon the highest point,
Capitol Hill, the State House is built. As soon as the State authorities had
carried the State over to secession the Common Council appropriated seven
hundred and fifty thousand dollars to build a residence for President Davis, as
an inducement to remove the rebel capital from Richmond to their city. As a
consequence of the fall of
Fort Donelson Nashville was evacuated by the rebels
February 17, 1862. Fort Donelson had been captured on the previous day, which
was Sunday. Early that morning Governor HARRIS had received from FLOYD the most
flattering news : according to the dispatch
GRANT'S army had been defeated, and
the siege of the fort had been raised. The inhabitants were assembled in the
churches, and were giving thanks for a great victory when the whole city was
thrown into a tumult by the appearance of the excited Governor galloping through
the streets proclaiming that Donelson had fallen, and that GRANT was coming to
Nashville. The confusion was indescribable ; and in the disorder gangs of
plunderers, taking advantage of the panic of the citizens, had every thing their
own way. It was not until a week after that BUELL'S advance entered the city and
took possession. Governor ANDREW JOHNSON soon after arrived and assumed control
of the State as military Governor.
In September, 1862, the city was
threatened by General BRAGG'S advance, but the Army of the Ohio, under General
BUELL, having been concentrated there, BRAGG slipped by and moved on
This necessitated the removal of the Federal army to the latter point, General
THOMAS being left behind at Nashville. BRECKINRIDGE and FORREST then attempted
the siege of the city, while BRAGG was manoeuvring against BUELL. The rebels
attacked November 5, but were repulsed.
The largest of the defensive
works about Nashville is Fort Negley, named after General JAMES S. NEGLEY, who
conducted the defense against BRECKINRIDGE. At its right is Fort Morton. Farther
south, and connected with the former two, is Fort Confiscation. The Capitol is
protected by a strong work, or system of works, called Fort Andrew Johnson.
South of the city, and covering the approaches on the Hardin, the Hillsboro, and
the Granny White pikes, is Fort Houston. Fort Gillem, on the west, commands the
approaches by the river roads. There are strong works also on the north.
battle of Franklin,
November 30, General THOMAS concentrated his army in the defenses south of
Nashville. HOOD followed, and partially invested the city, his flanks resting on
the Cumberland River. HOOD chose the most inopportune time for operating against
the city. It was the season when the river was full, and our gun boats could
with facility patrol the line of the river.
An attempt was made, however, to
blockade the river below Nashville, which was partially successful. Maintaining
this blockade they would have been able to cut off THOMAS'S supply boats from
the lower fleet. As the supply-boat Magnet was down the river on the way to the
lower fleet, December 3, she was tired upon by a rebel battery on the south
bank, seventeen miles below Nashville. She received two shots through her cabin,
one of them killing a female colored servant. Captain FITCH ordered down the
gun-boats , Carondolet and Neosho, with several tin clads, to dislodge the
battery. These boats failed to discover the rebels, and the Magnet was towed
back with them. On the 6th the Neosho was ordered to convey twenty-three
transports down the river. The rebels opened fire upon her from the same battery
as before. The fire was severe, and splintered up the temporary wooden cabins.
An hour and thirty minutes' fighting having failed to dislodge the rebels the
boat withdrew up the river to get in better fighting trim, and, returning,
fought the batteries till night, and then proceeded back to Nashville.
On the 15th General THOMAS
assumed the offensive against HOOD. His line from west to east ran thus WILSON'S
cavalry, A. J. SMIITH, WOOD, STEEDMAN. SCHIOFIELD'S corps was in reserve. Early
in the morning the artillery opened fiercely from all the forts and batteries.
Then STEEDMAN advanced and drove in the enemy's right and attacked heavily. This
attack was intended merely as a demonstration, while the heaviest blow was
hanging over the rebel left and centre. Toward noon SMITH and WOOD became
engaged. HOOD held a strong position on the southern approaches to the city.
WOOD attacked the works on the Granny White pike near the rebel centre, and
after considerable resistance carried them, and secured the entire line in his
front. Our batteries were moved forward and planted on the commanding positions
gained, SMITH corps on WOOD'S right in the mean time engaging the rebel left. In
the afternoon SCHOFIELD came in on SMITH'S right. At the same time the whole
line advanced. It was not long before the rebels opposite WOOD, SMITH, and
SCHOFIELD began to give way, falling back from hill to hill. This gave us a
position between the rebels and the river on their left flank, which was now
being rolled up on their centre. (Next