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Fraser's Scottish Annual
Mary: A Romance of the Transvaal


THE evening sbadows, stealing through one of the smaller wards of the Cape Town hospitals, seemed to bring with them a measure of peace to the occupants of the cots, British soldier and Boer enemy—one in suffering. Save for the occasional gasping of some sorely wounded man, bravely struggling to check the exclamations of pain rising to his lips, the silence was unbroken. In the ante-room off the ward, one of the doctors, a rugged but kindly-faced Scot, was talking to a nurse who had just entered, after taking the customary hour for tea and a walk.

"A Scotch sergeant came in a few minutes ago, Miss Donaldson," he said; "a braw laddie, who was wounded in the fighting around Ladysmith. He has a terribly mangled left arm, which I think can be saved, and a bad chest wound. Ordinarily he ought to pull through. Yet," he paused and sighed.

A solitary bird outside—whose mates had long ago gone to rest— began to sing. The nurse waited for the doctor to resume; but he seemed for the moment to be unaware of her presence.

"You were saying," she began, gently.

The doctor started. ''Ah! yes," he said. "There is considerable fever, yet he should come through. But he puzzles me. In fact he apparently has no desire to live." ''A woman in the case, of course," he added somewhat testily; ''the laddie raves of a Mary; his Mary cruel Mary; lovely Mary; in fact a wonderful Mary, with a dozen different sides to her character.

In the growing darkness he did not notice that the nurse paled, and placed her hand involuntarily over her heart.

"Let us go and see him," he went on; "his cot is quite close. You may—" and he stopped abruptly.

The bird was singing again, and with the first note of its song a voice broke the quietness of the ward. "The bonnie bird,." it said, "dinna ye hear it, Mary, singing o' its love."

"That's him," said the doctor, and he made a step forward.

The nurse laid a trembling hand upon his arm. ''Walt," she said, in a voice strangely unlike her own, and on the instant the truth was laid bare to the kindly doctor.

"My poor girl," he murmured softly. Then, weakly at first, but clear, sweet and passionate, the wounded man began to sing:

"Ye banks and braes o' bonnie Doon,
How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair
How can ye chant ye little birds,
And I sae weary fu' o' care
Thoul't break my heart, thou warbling bird,
That wantons thro' the flowering thorn
Thou minds me o' departed joys,
Departed—never to return."

As the song proceeded the voice grew stronger. A Boer patient who could not understand the words, but felt their passion and pain, cried out "Almighty!" and an English lad, a trumpeter, young and slight, who had played the part of a man on the battle-field, and under the operating knife, wept softly.

"It will do them good," said the doctor grimly, "and him, too." But the nurse answered nothing she was praying for the life of the singer, who continued the strain:-

"Oft hae I roamed by bonnie Doon,
To see the rose and woodbine twine
And ilka bird sang o' its hive,
And fondly sae did I o' mine.
Wi' lightsome heart I pu'd a rose,
Fu' sweet upon its thorny tree;
And my fause luver stole my rose,
But, ah! he left the thorn wi' me."

The song ceased, and the singer began muttering incoherently, the only plain word being "Mary."

"Let me go to him, doctor," said the nurse, brokenly, I—I—am Mary—his Mary."

"I learned that a little while ago," was the answer, "but, lassie, are ye calm enough?"

"Yes—yes. I am—I will be calm I love him—a foolish quarrel—all my fault. 'Twas because, because—" She hesitated.

"Don't tell me an' it hurts ye," said the doctor.

"I will, I must tell some one, and you have been so kind. We quarrelled because I thought myself too much of a lady, to use the homely Scotch words, Donald loved so well. That was all. I was cruel to him."

"Go to him, then," said the doctor huskily; and she went, finding her way by instinct to the cot. The wounded man was tossing restlessly, still murmuring. She lowered her head, and listening, caught snatches of his wild talk. ''Mary Mary, will ye no come back. It's a weary world an ay my hairt grows sick wi' longin'. . . The regiment's ordered tae th' front an lassie if I shudna come back . . . God, He kens I luve ye." And then with exquisite tenderness he said aloud,

"Mary! my Mary!"

She placed a hand upon his brow, and bending lower still, whispered the one word, "Donald."

The wounded man stirred uneasily. ''Wha is't that calls me," he said aloud.

Lower still bent the nurse, and again she whispered "Donald."

"Dreams . . . I ken it's just dreams," he moaned; ''but ay they're bonnie."

"Nae dream my puir laddie;" she answered back, and kissed him on the cheek.

Just then the lights were turned on for the last round of the doctors. The nurse stood upright beside the wounded man's bed. For a moment or two the light blurred his eves then seeing more clearly, he whispered, this time with full understanding, ''Mary, my luve, at last."

"Ay, Donald, my puir laddie; forgie me, forgie me."

The doctor came forward. "Stop that nonsense you two," he said, with assumed fierceness. "You, Miss Donaldson, go away and rest, and you, young man, go to sleep."

"Ye'll nae forbid her a' theg-ether," said Donald earnestly; "ye mauna do that. She's—she's—"

"Yes, she's your Mary, interrupted the doctor, laughingly; and then in a more serious tone, "but we must be careful with your laddie. Have no fears. Mary will nurse you."

"Ay, an' marry me when we gang hame," said Donald, slyly.

Mary blushed, but gently pressed her "laddie's" hand and walked away, as Donald, with a sigh of contentment, closed his eyes. The doctor followed her. "He'll pull through now, lassie," he said kindly.

And in the night watches a woman gave thanks to her God.

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