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首页 » 儿童英文小说 » A Loyal Little Red-Coat » CHAPTER XIX—A SAD LITTLE CHAPTER
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OT a bright outlook certainly, but then, you see, it is to be only a little chapter.

Some people think that children’s books ought to be cheery and bright from cover to cover, and so they ought—that is, for the very little children; but when they have gotten beyond the days of rhymes and jingles and colored pictures, and have wit enough and appreciation enough to enjoy a chaptered story, then I, for one, think the stories should be true to life. To be sure, the charm of such delightful and purely impossible tales as “Alice in Wonderland” and “Water Babies” lies in the fact that they do not pretend to be true to anything in the world save the enchanting-caprice of the people who write them; but when one comes to place a story in a real time, and put real people in it, then it is bound to be true to the real things.

Then one certainly does not need to be, say, more than seven years old to get at least an inkling of the truth, that the real things of life are not always bright things. But there is no use of dwelling at too great length upon these same sorrowful experiences, and so for that reason we are going to try to make this a short chapter. And now, to tell you right away what the sad thing was, for fear your lively imagination should be conjuring up something yet more sad than the reality, though the reality was sad enough, since it was nothing more nor less than that, when Captain Hugh Boniface woke on the morning after the Assembly, he found that he could move neither hand nor foot. The eager mind worked as actively as ever, but not a muscle would respond to the great, strong will, and the Captain knew—knew beyond all hoping—that he was completely paralyzed, and that in all probability, as far as ever rendering any real service to that blessed little family of his was concerned, he had better, from that time, be out of the world than in it.

It is needless to tell you very particularly with what foreboding the alarming news spread through the little household, nor how breathlessly they all waited for old Dr. Melville’s verdict as he came from the Captain’s room a few hours later. Nor of how, in spite of his encouraging words, that bade them be hopeful, they read that in his kind old eyes which plainly told them that he felt there was little enough to ground any real hope upon.

“Yes,” said Dr. Melville, gravely, as Mrs. Boniface followed him to the door, at the close of one of his professional visits, “I feared something of this sort might be in store for the Captain. He has been into my office several times complaining of certain wretched benumbing feelings that we doctors dread to hear acknowledged. But it’s not strange, Mrs. Boniface, not strange at all; he’s been through enough to break down the strongest constitution. There was a sight of mischief already done when they brought him home from Lexington in ‘75, and then all these years of worry and excitement have not helped matters.”

“But, doctor,” said Mrs. Boniface, nerving herself to ask the question, “do you think he will never be any better?”

“I doubt if he ever walks again, Mrs. Boniface.”

“Do you mean, Dr. Melville, that it is your opinion that he never will walk again. You must be very frank with me, else I cannot tell how to plan for the future.”

“Well, then, since you are a brave woman, and I know you mean what you say, I will give you my honest opinion, which is this: that your good Captain will probably, at least in a degree, regain the use of his hands and arms, but never, I fear, of his lower limbs.”

It was not easy for Mrs. Boniface to hear her fears put thus plainly into words, but it was best, she felt sure, that she should know the worst.

Meantime the days dragged wearily along for Captain Boniface, and yet brought with them one glorious revelation. Never before had he known quite so fully what an all-powerful love there was in his heart for that dear wife of his. It was a privilege simply to be able to watch her as she moved so quietly about the room, and to listen to the sweet familiar voice; and was it not abundant cause for thankfulness that he was still in the same world with her, though no longer able to move about in it. But what were they going to do? That, of course, was the thought that gave him greatest anxiety. The sum of money in the bank had been growing more and more slender with every year of diminished income, until now there was scarce enough left to tide them over more than another twelve months, and then only with the strictest economy. But the good Captain did not have to meet this dread question alone, and in the twilight of a November afternoon he had talked it all over with his wife, and as the result of that long, quiet talk they had decided that Mrs. Boniface should write for aid to her father, a clergyman, living alone in a little ivy-grown rectory in the South of England. But it was not easy to come to this decision. They hesitated to intrude their heavy anxieties upon the good old man, whose own income was by no means ample. But there was simply no one else to whom they could turn, and they knew he would gladly give them any help within his power.

“And now, Hugh, there is nothing for us to do but to wait till the answer to my letter comes, and do let us try not to worry,” said Mrs. Boniface when the long talk was over, and they did try, and they succeeded, and right in the face of the heaviest trial they had ever known there was peace and even an added sweetness in the Boniface home life. The new trouble knit all hearts closer together; they realized more keenly than ever before how much it was just to have each other, and they cared far less than such a little while ago they would have thought possible for the insults of people who, after all, had been friends only in name. But half the secret of the bravery of the little household lay in the fact that the Captain himself was so brave; but often, of course, his courage was strongly tested; seldom more strongly than when little Kate would come running to the side of his bed, and he felt himself powerless to lift her to a seat beside him or to romp with her as he used to love to do.

One afternoon, when he was alone in the room, he heard the patter of her little feet on the stairway. He could count each step, for, after the necessarily slow fashion of very little walkers, she had need to plant both feet on one step before attempting another. But at last the patient little climber was where she wanted to be, and said, without stopping to think, “Lift me up, papa, please.”

“Ah! Kate, you always forget papa can’t do that,” and the Captain’s eyes grew misty.

“Oh, yes, I did fordet,” Kate answered, with a world of regret in her tone; and then she laid her chubby head on her father’s arm and tenderly stroked the great brown hand as though she loved him more than ever now, and for the very reason that he was so helpless.

“Kate,” said her father, when he felt sure that he could speak and yet keep his voice steady, “you are such a darling, Kate.”

“Mamma said that a little while ago,” answered her little ladyship calmly, “and Josephine said it yesterday twice, and then Hazel said something like it too. I dess I was never quite so nice as lately.”

“I guess you were never quite such a comfort,” smiled the Captain. “But then you must not grow too set up about it.”

Kate did not pay much attention to this last remark; she had decided on a little plan, and was putting it into execution. She pushed a chair to the side of the bed and mounted, by aid of its round, to its seat; from there it was an easy climb to the bed; and then, shoving the chair away with a push of her little foot, she turned to her father with a sigh of honest satisfaction, such as no mere “lifting up” could possibly have occasioned.


Evidently she had come to stay, the blessed little sunbeam, and straightway the Captain began to rack his brain for the story that he knew well enough in a moment would be asked for, and for the sort that would be likely to keep her attention longest. No one could tell so good a story as the Captain, and no one could tell it as well—at least, that was the verdict of Starlight and Flutters, of Hazel and the Marberrys, and a few other little folk who now and then had the pleasure of hearing him. Little Kate was delighted with the fact that she was to be favored with “the first story since papa fell ill,” and, I fear, took a little selfish delight in the fact that she was the only listener. As for the story, it proved a fine one, with some very queer little people in it, who did most outlandish things, and Kate sat entranced till it was finished, and then, laying her head down on her father’s shoulder, “just to think it over,” fell fast asleep instead, and did not waken, even when the Captain, hearing Josephine’s step in the hall, called her in to throw something over her. And then, after a while, what with Kate’s regular breathing as she lay on his helpless arm, and what with the light in the room growing dim and yet more dim as the glow faded out of the sunset, the Captain fell asleep too, and all was so tranquil and peaceful that it seems almost as though we had made a mistake in calling this “A Sad Little Chapter.”


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