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A Romance of the Republic By Lydia Maria Child Characters: 11901

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

The months passed on, and brought ever-recurring demands for more soldiers. Mr. King watched the progress of the struggle with the deepest anxiety.

One day, when he had seen a new regiment depart for the South, he returned home in a still more serious mood than was now habitual to him. After supper, he opened the Evening Transcript, and read for a while. Then turning to his wife, who sat near him knitting for the army, he said, "Dear Rosabella, during all the happy years that I have been your husband, you have never failed to encourage me in every good impulse, and I trust you will strengthen me now."

With a trembling dread of what was coming, she asked, "What is it, dear Alfred."

"Rosa, this Republic must be saved," replied he, with solemn emphasis. "It is the day-star of hope to the toiling masses of the world, and it must not go out in darkness. It is not enough for me to help with money. I ought to go and sustain our soldiers by cheering words and a brave example. It fills me with shame and indignation when I think that all this peril has been brought upon us by that foul system which came so near making a wreck of you, my precious one, as it has wrecked thousands of pure and gentle souls. I foresee that this war is destined, by mere force of circumstances, to rid the Republic of that deadly incubus. Rosa, are you not willing to give me up for the safety of the country, and the freedom of your mother's race?"

She tried to speak, but utterance failed her. After a struggle with herself, she said: "Do you realize how hard is a soldier's life? You will break down under it, dear Alfred; for you have been educated in ease and luxury."

"My education is not finished," replied he, smiling, as he looked round on the elegant and luxurious apartment. "What are all these comforts and splendors compared with the rescue of my country, and the redemption of an oppressed race? What is my life, compared with the life of this Republic? Say, dearest, that you will give me willingly to this righteous cause."

"Far rather would I give my own life," she said. "But I will never seek to trammel your conscience, Alfred."

They spoke together tenderly of the past, and hopefully of the future; and then they knelt and prayed together.

Some time was necessarily spent in making arrangements for the comfort and safety of the family during his absence; and when those were completed, he also went forth to rescue Liberty from the jaws of the devouring dragon. When he bade farewell to Flora's family, he said: "Look after my precious ones, Blumenthal; and if I never return, see to it that Percival carries out all my plans with regard to George Falkner."

Eight or ten weeks later, Alfred Blumenthal was lying in a hospital at Washington, dangerously wounded and burning with fever. His father and mother and Mrs. Delano immediately went to him; and the women remained until the trembling balance between life and death was determined in his favor. The soldier's life, which he at first dreaded, had become familiar to him, and he found a terrible sort of excitement in its chances and dangers. Mrs. Delano sighed to observe that the gentle expression of his countenance, so like the Alfred of her memory, was changing to a sterner manhood. It was harder than the first parting to send him forth again into the fiery hail of battle; but they put strong constraint upon themselves, and tried to perform bravely their part in the great drama.

That visit to his suffering but uncomplaining son made a strong impression on the mind of Mr. Blumenthal. He became abstracted and restless. One evening, as he sat leaning his head on his hand, Flora said, "What are you thinking of, Florimond?"

He answered: "I am thinking, dear, of the agony I suffered when I hadn't money to save you from the auction-block; and I am thinking how the same accursed system is striving to perpetuate and extend itself. The Republic has need of all her sons to stop its ravages; and I feel guilty in staying here, while our Alfred is so heroically offering up his young life in the cause of freedom."

"I have dreaded this," she said. "I have seen for days that it was coming. But, O Florimond, it is hard."

She hid her face in his bosom, and he felt her heart beat violently, while he talked concerning the dangers and duties of the time. Mrs. Delano bowed her head over the soldier's sock she was knitting, and tears dropped on it while she listened to them.

The weight that lay so heavily upon their souls was suddenly lifted up for a time by the entrance of Joe Bright. He came in with a radiant face, and, bowing all round, said, "I've come to bid you good by; I'm going to defend the old flag." He lifted up his voice and sang,

"'Tis the star-spangled banner, O long may it wave!" Flora went to the piano, and accompanied him with instrument and voice. Her husband soon struck in; and Rosen Blumen and Lila left their lessons to perform their part in the spirit-stirring strain. When they had sung the last line, Mr. Bright, without pausing to take breath, struck into "Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled," and they followed his lead. He put on all his steam when he came to the verse,

"By our country's woes and pains,

By our sons in servile chains,

We will drain our dearest veins,

But they shall be free!"

He emphasized the word shall, and brought his clenched hand down upon the table so forcibly, that the shade over the gas-light shook.

In the midst of it, Mrs. Delano stole out of the room. She had a great respect and liking for Mr. Bright, but he was sometimes rather too demonstrative to suit her taste. He was too much carried away with enthusiasm to notice her noiseless retreat, and he went on to the conclusion of his song with unabated energy. All earnestness is magnetic. Mr. and Mrs. Blumenthal, and even the children, caught his spirit. When the song ended, Mr. Blumenthal drew a long

breath, and said: "One needs strong lungs to accompany you, Mr. Bright. You sang that like the tramp of a regiment."

"And you blazed away like an explosion of artillery," rejoined he.

"The fact is," replied Blumenthal. "the war spirit pervades the air, and I've caught it. I'm going to join the army."

"Are you?" exclaimed Mr. Bright, seizing his hand with so tight a grip that it made him wince. "I hope you'll be my captain."

Mr. Blumenthal rubbed his hand, and smiled as he said, "I pity the

Rebel that you get hold of, Mr. Bright."

"Ask your pardon. Ask your pardon," rejoined he. "But speaking of the tramp of a regiment, here it goes!" And he struck up "John Brown's Hallelujah." They put their souls into it in such a manner, that the spirit of the brave old martyr seemed marching all through it.

When it came to a conclusion, Mr. Bright remarked: "Only to think how that incendiary song is sung in Boston streets, and in the parlors too, when only little more than a year ago a great mob was yelling after Wendell Phillips, for speaking on the anniversary of John Brown's execution. I said then the fools would get enough of slavery before they'd done with it; and I reckon they're beginning to find it out, not only the rowdies, but the nabobs that set 'em on. War ain't a blessing, but it's a mighty great teacher; that's a fact. No wonder the slavites hated Phillips. He aims sure and hits hard. No use in trying to pass off shams upon him. If you bring him anything that ain't real mahogany, his blows'll be sure to make the veneering fly. But I'm staying too long. I only looked in to tell you I was going." He glanced round for Mrs. Delano, and added: "I'm afraid I sung too loud for that quiet lady. The fact is, I'm full of fight."

"That's what the times demand," replied Mr. Blumenthal.

They bade him "Good night," and smiled at each other to hear his strong voice, as it receded in the distance, still singing, "His soul is marching on."

"Now I will go to Mamita," said Flora. "Her gentle spirit suffers in these days. This morning, when she saw a company of soldiers marching by, and heard the boys hurrahing, she said to me so piteously, 'O Flora, these are wild times.' Poor Mamita! she's like a dove in a tornado."

"You seemed to be strong as an eagle while you were singing," responded her husband.

"I felt like a drenched humming-bird when Mr. Bright came in," rejoined she; "but he and the music together lifted me up into the blue, as your Germans say."

"And from that height can you say to me, 'Obey the call of duty,


She put her little hand in his and answered, "I can. May God protect us all!"

Then, turning to her children, she said: "I am going to bring Mamita; and presently, when I go away to be alone with papa a little while, I want you to do everything to make the evening pleasant for Mamita. You know she likes to hear you sing, 'Now Phoebus sinketh in the west.'"

"And I will play that Nocturne of Mendelssohn's that she likes so much," replied Rosen Blumen. "She says I play it almost as well as Aunt Rosa."

"And she likes to hear me sing, 'Once on a time there was a king,'" said Lila. "She says she heard you singing it in the woods a long time ago, when she hadn't anybody to call her Mamita."

"Very well, my children," replied their mother. "Do everything you can to make Mamita happy; for there will never be such another Mamita."

* * * * *

During the anxious months that followed Mr. Blumenthal's departure, the sisters and their families were almost daily at the rooms of the Sanitary Commission, sewing, packing, or writing. Henriet had become expert with the sewing-machine, and was very efficient help; and even Tulee, though far from skilful with her needle, contrived to make dozens of hospital slippers, which it was the pride of her heart to deliver to the ladies of the Commission. Chloe added her quota of socks, often elephantine in shape, and sometimes oddly decorated with red tops and toes; but with a blessing for "the boys in blue" running through all the threads. There is no need to say how eagerly they watched for letters, and what a relief it was to recognize the writing of beloved hands, feeling each time that it might be the last.

Mr. King kept up occasional correspondence with the officers of George Falkner's company, and sent from time to time favorable reports of his bravery and good habits. Henriet received frequent letters from him, imperfectly spelled, but full of love and loyalty.

Two years after Mr. King left his happy home, he was brought back with a Colonel's shoulder-strap, but with his right leg gone, and his right arm in a sling. When the first joy of reunion had expressed itself in caresses and affectionate words, he said to Rosa, "You see what a cripple you have for a husband."

"I make the same reply the English girl did to Commodore Barclay," she replied; "'You're dear as ever to me, so long as there's body enough to hold the soul,'"

Eulalia wept tears of joy on her father's neck, while Flora, and Rosen Blumen, and Lila clasped their arms round him, and Tulee stood peeping in at the door, waiting for her turn to welcome the hero home.

"Flora, you see my dancing days are over," said the Colonel.

"Never mind, I'll do your dancing," she replied. "Rosen Blumen, play uncle's favorite waltz."

She passed her arm round Eulalia, and for a few moments they revolved round the room to the circling music. She had so long been called the life of the family, that she tried to keep up her claim to the title. But her present mirthfulness was assumed; and it was contrary to her nature to act a part. She kissed her hand to her brother-in-law, and smiled as she whirled out of the room; but she ran up stairs and pressed the tears back, as she murmured to herself, "Ah, if I could only be sure Florimond and Alfred would come back, even mutilated as he is!"

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