BY WM. BANKS, JR., TORONTO.
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
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
"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'
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
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—"
"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
"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.