Lula wrote a longer letter next time, telling of her papa,
and mamma, and brother Johnnie; how she went to school where there was a funny master, who
pretended to be cross, and was not; how she, aiding her playmates, bought for him a fine
ruler as a present, and placed it, with a note, on his table on April-Fools Day.
Even about her Java sparrow the little pen discoursed, her dear J. S. who wore a white
standing-collar like old Mr. Waters, and who slept in a basket. She spent some time over
the epistle, spilled ink over the table-cover, and double-dyed her fingers. But she sent
off a cheery letter, and not a word of mine discouraged her. In due time Mr. Fleming
answered, and the correspondence went on all winter. I liked his letters very much, as
well as Lula did, which is saying a great deal for them. He remembered he was writing to a
child, and while he interested her our feelings were excited by his simple relations. When
Christmas approached Lula wished to send him a box.
"I think I ought, mamma; he is my soldier, and has
nobody else to think of him."
I gave her permission, but offered no assistance, wishing
to see how she would manage. She begged a soap-box of the cook, and Johnnie helped her
line it with paper. Grandma was now besieged with requests for a pair or two of the blue
stockings she was constantly knitting. They begged me to make a plum-cake, and papa gave a
bottle of wine. The children bought nuts and candy; and Lula, after an anxious talk with
me, sent, as her own particular gift, pocket-handkerchiefs marked with his
name"D.P. Fleming." Papa having suggested something to read, Johnnie
brought his favorite books, Arabian Nights and Pilgrims Progress, and could with
difficulty be persuaded to substitute Harpers Magazines.
The acknowledgment of the box was a grateful letter that
more than repaid us. Lula was specially delighted, because Mr. Fleming confessed to
weakness for candy, and her father had laughed at her for sending bonbons to a soldier.
There was a note to Mr. Nelson, in which Mr. Fleming said he was to have a furlough, with
the rest of the regiment, before re-enlisting for the war. He begged permission to see
Lula. Mr. Nelson immediately wrote for him to come. But we did not tell Lula, to save her
the excitement and fretting of expectation. About two weeks afterward I was reading in my
room when Lula flew in.
"Mamma," said she. "there is a soldier down
stairs asking for you?" And she hid her face in my dress and began to tremble.
The servant brought in his card.
"Dont you wish to see Mr. Fleming, Lula?"
"No, no!" she sobbed.
"I am going down, and will send Margaret up for you.
You may be disappointed in him, Lula; but remember, he is fighting our battles for us; he
is a soldier, and as such deserves comfort and kindness. Expect nothing, but come down
quietly when I send for you."
I owned to a little trepidation myself: a glance dispelled
it. He was a tall, robust young manalmost handsome. His voice trembled a little as
he responded to my welcome, and told me he could never tell all our goodness had done for
him. Lulas letter came when he felt forsakendesperateand saved him. His
regard for her seemed a kind of reverence. While he was talking I saw Lula peeping in at
the other end of the drawing-room, and I called her. At that name he rose, dropped the cap
he held, and went forward to meet her. She was blushing like a peonyan old-fashioned
red onebut smiling, and looking up at him from under her long lashes. He offered her
his hand without a word. Lula gave him hers, when he kissed it as if she had been a
princess and he of the blood-royal. She was a little afraid of him at first; but all
shyness wore off when Johnnie came home, and went into a complete state of admiration. Mr.
Nelson asked him to stay with us during his leave, and I was afterward very glad he did
so, for that week gave me thorough knowledge of him, and when he left us I loved him as if
he had been one of mine.
For a long time after Mr. Flemings departure Johnnie
and Lula played army plays exclusively. The drilled with canes, got up camp suppers,
fought battles, were taken by guerrillasembodiments of the stories of their friend.
A few letters passed between us, for I now undertook the bulk of the correspondence; then
the campaign began, and we hear nothing. I was sure, from the silence that followed
Gettysburg, in which his regiment took a prominent part, that something had happened to
him. Mr. Nelson vainly inquired. He was thought to be a prisoner, but it was not
positively known. Lula and Johnnie could not realize our fears. To be a prisoner was fine
thing in their eyes. What a story Mr. Fleming would have to tell them.
That fall we went to Baltimore to visit an old aunt, and
in the course of our stay we went to see the hospitals. As I never lost any chance of
hearing of the lost Fleming, I told his story to the pleasant young nurse who walked about
with us. She had been to the front, in the very first rank of those who went to care for
There was a Captain Fleming ill in one of the wards, dying
of the wounds received at Gettysburg. She did not know his first name, or any thing about
him, except that he had no friends to whom news of his condition could be sent. I asked
her to point him out, for a misgiving seized me. Surely it was he, white and changed. I
drew back, fearing he would see me too suddenly. The nurse spoke, and told him some one
had come to see him. A little color flashed into his face as I came forward, and the poor
fellow turned his face into the pillow and sobbed. I cried too. "Why didnt you
let us know where you where?" I asked at last.
"I did," said he; "but my letters had been
unanswered for so long that I thought perhaps you had done enough for me, so I wrote no
more. Isnt Lula here?"
"You shall se her to-morrow. When you are a little
stronger, and can be moved, you must come to us. We will nurse you well again."
"I shall soon be well enough to be moved," said
he, with a melancholy significance, "but not to your house, dear lady. Do you think
Lula will know me? I hope she will not be afraid again. You will bring her
I promisedand the next day we came. Lula knew he was
very ill, but she was not quite prepared for the white face, the great black eyes, with
their eager, intense glance. He smiled, and motioned her to come near him.
"Then you didnt forget your soldier after
"Oh, I didntI didnt!" And both
the soft arms went round his neck. "Cant you get up, poor Mr. Fleming?"
"Do you know," said he, holding her to him with
his little strength, "they have made me a captain, and given me a sword? Lula, I must
give it to you with my own hands. I know you will keep it for my sake. If I never
disgraced my office, never hesitated in my duty, never doubted in the cause at last, it
was because I knew Lula loved me and believed in me. There it is. Will you bring it to
Lula was greatly afraid of any weapon, I knew. I saw her
pause and turn from him to the sword.
"It will not hurt you, my child," said I.
"It is in its sheath."
So the dimpled, inexpert hands brought it to the bedside.
He grasped it by the hilt, and held her hand with his there. A moment passed in silence. I
thought he prayed.
"Now, good-by, dear little one! When I get well I
will come for the sword. Keep it for me. Will you kiss me, Lula?"
She stopped her pouting mouth to his, and then looking up
to me, one arm hugging the fearful sword, held out the other hand to be led away. The soft
eyes were full of awe. She did not cry, but sat very still in the carriage. When here
father came in at night, and Lula tried to tell him every thing, she could not for her
The next day Mr. Nelson went with me to the hospital; but
all was over. We told Lula that Mr. Fleming was well. God had taken him home to his mother
A few days after my husband went to Washington and
succeeded in seeing Flemings colonel, who spoke of our soldier in unqualified
"I gave him a sword," said he, "for he
saved my life once that day. His bravery won him his shoulder-straps and a grave.
Proud fellow! He lay suffering in Baltimore, and would not let me know. I would have given
all I own to have found him."
When we were once more at home her father hung the sword
on the wall of Lulas room.
"My little girl must remember," said he, turning
and seeing the tears running down her cheeks, "that Captain Fleming never failed in
his duty, died in doing it. She must guard purely what he won bravely. A child may live
the life of a soldier in its highest sense. Lula, may yours never dishonor the