dead and the dying lying out in the pitiless storm, of the dastardly outrages of rebel fiends—thought of all this, with his great warm heart overflowing with love for the dear old 'Banger,' and resolved to go. The next morning, he notified his 'boss' of his intention to quit his service for that of Uncle Sam. The old fellow only opened his eyes very wide, grunted, brought out the stocking, (a striped relic of the departed Frau Kordwäner,) and from it counted out and paid Hopeful every cent that was due him. But there was one thing that sat heavily upon Hopeful's mind. He was in a predicament that all of us are liable to fall into—he was in love, and with Christina, Herr Kordwäner's daughter. Christina was a plump maiden, with a round, rosy face, an extensive latitude of shoulders, and a general plentitude and solidity of figure. All these she had; but what had captivated Hopeful's eye was her trim ankle, as it had appeared to him one morning, encased in a warm white yarn stocking of her own knitting. From this small beginning, his great heart had taken in the whole of her, and now he was desperately in love. Two or three times he had essayed to tell her of his proposed departure; but every time that the words were coming to his lips, something rushed up into his throat ahead of them, and he couldn't speak. At last, after walking home from church with her on Sunday evening, he held out his hand and blurted out:
'Well, good-by. We're off to-morrow.'
Christina didn't faint. She didn't take out her delicate and daintily perfumed mouchoir, to hide the tears that were not there. She looked at him for a moment, while two great real tears rolled down her cheeks, and then—precipitated all her charms right into his arms. Hopeful stood it manfully—rather liked it, in fact. But this is a tableau that we've no right to be looking at; so let us pass by how they parted—with what tears and embraces, and extravagant protestations of undying affection, and wild promises of eternal remembrance; there is no need of telling, for we all know how foolish young people will be under such circumstances. We older heads know all about such little matters, and what they amount to. Oh! yes, certainly we do.
The next morning found Hopeful, with a dozen others, in charge of the lieutenant, and on their way to join the regiment. Hopeful's first experience of camp-life was not a singular one. He, like the rest of us, at first exhibited the most energetic awkwardness in drilling. Like the rest of us, he had occasional attacks of home-sickness; and as he stood at his post on picket in the silent night-watches, while the camps lay quietly sleeping in the moonlight, his thoughts would go back to his far-away home, and the little shop, and the plentiful charms of the fair-haired Christina. So he went on, dreaming sweet dreams of home, but ever active and alert, eager to learn and earnest to do his duty, silencing all selfish suggestions of his heart with the simple logic of a pure patriotism.
'Hopeful,' he would say, 'the Banger's took care o' you all your life, an' now you're here to take care of it. See that you do it the best you know how.'
It would be more thrilling and interesting, and would read better, if we could take our hero to glory amid the roar of cannon and muskets, through a storm of shot and shell, over a serried line of glistening bayonets. But strict truth—a matter of which newspaper correspondents, and sensational writers, generally seem to have a very misty conception—forbids it.
It was only a skirmish—a bush-whacking fight for the possession of a swamp. A few companies were deployed as skirmishers, to drive out the rebels.
'Now, boys,' shouted the captain, 'after'em! Shoot to kill, not to scare 'em!'
'Ping! ping!' rang the rifles.
'Z-z-z-z-vit!' sang the bullets.
On they went, crouching among the bushes, creeping along under the banks of the brook, cautiously peering from behind trees in search of 'butternuts.'
Hopeful was in the advance; his hat was lost, and his hair more defiantly bristling than ever. Firmly grasping his rifle, he pushed on, carefully watching every tree and bush, A rebel sharp-shooter started to run from one tree to another, when, quick as thought, Hopeful's rifle was at his shoulder, a puff of blue smoke rose from its mouth, and the rebel sprang into the air and fell back—dead. Almost at the same instant, as Hopeful leaned forward to see the effect of his shot, he felt a sudden shock, a sharp, burning pain, grasped at a bush, reeled, and sank to the ground.
'Are you hurt much, Hope?' asked one of his comrades, kneeling beside him and staunching the blood that flowed from his wounded leg.
'Yes, I expect I am; but that red wamus over yonder's redder 'n ever now. That feller won't need a pension.'
They carried him back to the hospital, and the old surgeon looked at the wound, shook his head, and briefly made his prognosis.
'Bone shattered—vessels injured—bad leg—have to come off. Good constitution, though; he'll stand it.'
And he did stand it; always cheerful, never complaining, only, regretting that he must be discharged—that he was no longer able to serve his country.
And now Hopeful is again sitting on his little bench in Mynheer Kordwäner's little shop, pegging away at the coarse boots, singing the same glorious prophecy that we first heard him singing. He has had but two troubles since his return. One is the lingering regret and restlessness that attends a civil life after an experience of the rough, independent life in camp. The other trouble was when he first saw Christina after his return. The loving warmth with which she greeted him pained him; and when the worthy Herr considerately went out of the room, leaving them alone, he relapsed into gloomy silence. At length, speaking rapidly, and with choked utterance, he began:
'Christie, you know I love you now, as I always have, better 'n all the world. But I'm a cripple now—no account to nobody—just a dead weight—an' I don't want you, 'cause o' your promise before I went away, to tie yourself to a load that'll be a drag on you all your life. That contract—ah—promises—an't—is—is hereby repealed! There!' And he leaned his head upon his hands and wept bitter tears, wrung by a great agony from his loving heart.
Christie gently laid her hand upon his shoulder, and spoke, slowly and calmly: 'Hopeful, your soul was not in that leg, was it?'
It would seem as if Hopeful had always thought that such was the case, and was just receiving new light upon the subject, he started up so suddenly.
'By jing! Christie!' And he grasped her hand, and—but that is another of those scenes that don't concern us at all. And Christie has promised next Christmas to take the name, as she already has the heart, of Tackett. Herr Kordwäner, too, has come to the conclusion that he wants a partner, and on the day of the wedding a new sign is to be put up over a new and larger shop, on which 'Co.' will mean Hopeful Tackett. In the mean time, Hopeful hammers away lustily, merrily whistling, and singing the praises of the 'Banger.' Occasionally, when he is resting, he will tenderly embrace his stump of a leg, gently patting and stroking it, and talking to it as to a pet. If a stranger is in the shop, he will hold it out admiringly, and ask:
'Do you know what I call that? I call that 'Hopeful Tackett—his mark.''
And it is a mark—a mark of distinction—a badge of honor, worn by many a brave fellow who has gone forth, borne and upheld by a love for the dear old flag, to fight, to suffer, to die if need be, for it; won in the fierce contest, amid the clashing strokes of the steel and the wild whistling of bullets; won by unflinching nerve and unyielding muscle; worn as a badge of the proudest distinction an American can