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In the ranks He took a private's place. What that war was Too well is known. Days came and went till weeks wore into months, Still she held back her rebel tears, and bravely strove To live debarred of tidings.
Then came the siege of Paris—hideous time!
Spreading through France as gangrene spreads, invasion
Drew near Irene's chateau!
Roger at Metz was with his regiment safe,
And at last date unwounded. He was living ;
He must be living; she was sure of that.
Counting her beads, she waited, waited on.
Wakened, one morning, with a start, she heard
In the far copses of the park shots fired
In quick succession.
It had indeed
Been a mere skirmish—that, and nothing more.
'Twould be well,” Remarked Irene, “that an ambulance Were posted here."
In fact, they had picked up Just at that moment, where the fight had been, A wounded officer-Bavarian heShot through the neck. And, when they brought him in, That tall young man, all pale, eyes closed, and bleeding, Irene commanded he be borne Into the room by Roger occupied When he came wooing there. Then, while they put The wounded man to bed, she carried out Herself his vest and cloak all stained with blood; Bade the old valet wear an air less glum,
And stir himself with more alacrity ;
And, when the doctor dressed the wound, lent aid,
As of the Sisterhood of Charity,
With her own hands. The officer at last,
Wonder and gratitude upon his face,
Sank down among the pillows deftly laid as one asleep.
Bringing the doctor. When he saw his patient,
A strange expression flitted o'er his face,
As to himself he muttered : “Yes; flushed cheek;
Pulse beating much too high. Phew! a bad night;
Fever, delirium, and the rest that follows !"-
“But will he die ?” with tremor on her lip
“Who knows? If possible,
We must arrest the fever. This prescription
Oft succeeds. But some one must take note
Of the oncoming fits; must watch till morn,
And tend him closely."
“Doctor, I am here."
“ Not you, young lady! Service such as this One of your valets can
“No, doctor, no!
Roger perchance may be a prisoner yonder,
Hurt, ill. If he such tending should require
As does this officer, I would he had
A gentle lady for his nurse.
“So be it,"
“You will keep watch, then, through the night.
Must not take hold, or he will straightway die.
Give him the potion four times every hour.
I will return to judge of its effects
At daylight.” Then he went his way.
Scarcely a minute had she been in charge
When the Bavarian, to Irene turning, said,
“This doctor thought I was asleep;
But I heard every word. I thank you, lady;
Less for myself than for her sake, to whom
You would restore me, and who there at home
“Hush! Sleep if you can. Do not excite yourself. Your life depends On perfect quiet."
“No, no! I must at once unload me of a secret That weighs upon me.
I a promise made;
And I would keep it. Death may be at hand."
“ Speak, then,” Irene said, “and ease your soul.”
“It was last month, by Metz; 'twas my ill fate
To kill a Frenchman.'
She turned pale, and lowered
The lamp-light to conceal it. He continued :
e were sent forward to surprise a cottage.
I drove my sabre
Into the soldier's back who sentry stood
Before the door. He fell; nor gave the alarm.
We took the cottage, putting to the sword
Every soul there.
Disgusted with such carnage,
Loathing such scene, I stepped into the air ;
Just then the moon broke through the clouds and
There at my feet a soldier on the ground. 'Twas he,
The sentry whom my sabre had transpierced.
I stooped, to offer him a helping hand;
But, with choked voice, 'It is too late,' he said.
•I must needs die.
You are an officer
To forward this,' he said, his fingers clutching
A gold medallion hanging at his breast,
*To— Then his latest thought
Passed with his latest breath. The loved one's name,
Mistress or bride affianced, was not told
By that poor Frenchman. Seeing blazoned arms
On the medallion, I took charge of it,
Hoping to trace her at some future day
Among the old nobility of France,
To whom reverts the dying soldier's gift.
Here it is. Take it. But, I pray you, swear
That, if death spares me not, you will fulfill
This pious duty in my place.”
Therewith He the medallion handed her; and on it Irene saw the Viscount Roger's blazoned arms. “I swear it, sir !" she murmured. Sleep in peace!”
Solaced by having this disclosure made,
The wounded man sank down in sleep. Irene,
Her bosom heaving, and with eyes aflame
Though tearless all, stood rooted by his side.
Yes, he is dead, her lover! These his arms;
His blazon this; the very blood-stains his !
Struck from behind,
Without or cry or call for comrades' help,
Roger was murdered. And there, sleeping, lies
The man who murdered him! Yes; he has boasted
How in the back the traitorous blow was dealt.
And now he sleeps with drowsiness oppressed,
Roger's assassin ; and 'twas I, Irene,
Who bade him sleep in peace! O
With what cruel mockery, cruel and supreme
Must I give him tendance here,
By this couch watch till dawn of day,
As loving mother by a suffering child !
So that he die not !
And there the flask upon the table stands
Charged with his life. He waits it! Is not this
Beyond imagination horrible ?
Oh, away! such point
Forbearance reaches not. What !—while it glitters
There in sheath, the very sword
Wherewith the murderer struck the blow.
Fierce impulse bids it from the scabbard leap-
Shall I, in deference
To some fantastic notion that affects
Human respect and duty, shall I put
Repose and sleep and antidote and life
Into the horrible hand by which all joy
Is ravished from me? Never ! I will break
The assuaging flask. . But no ! 'Twere needless
I need but leave to Fate to work the end.
Fate, to avenge me, seems to be at one
With my resolve. 'Tw.ere but to let him die !
Yes; there the life-preserving potion stands;
But for one hour might I not fall asleep?