After months of disaster there had come authentic news of victory. All Union-loving men drew a long breath of relief when it was certain that Lee had given up the field and fallen back across the Potomac. The newsboys, yelling through the crowded streets in town, and the evening trains arriving from the neighboring city were besieged by eager buyers of the "extras," giving lists of the killed and wounded. Just at sunset of this late ...
After months of disaster there had come authentic news of victory. All Union-loving men drew a long breath of relief when it was certain that Lee had given up the field and fallen back across the Potomac. The newsboys, yelling through the crowded streets in town, and the evening trains arriving from the neighboring city were besieged by eager buyers of the "extras," giving lists of the killed and wounded. Just at sunset of this late September day a tall young girl, in deep mourning, stood at a suburban station clinging to the arm of a sad, stern-featured old man. People eyed them with respect and sympathy, not unmixed with rural curiosity, for Doctor Warren was known and honored by one and all. A few [Pg 2]months agone his only son had been brought home, shot to death at the head of his regiment, and was laid in his soldier grave in their shaded churchyard. It was a bitter trial, but the old man bore up sturdily. He was an eager patriot; he had no other son to send to the front and was himself too old to serve; it had pleased God to demand his first-born in sacrifice upon his country's altar, and though it crushed his heart it could not kill his loyalty and devotion. His whole soul seemed with the army in Virginia; he had nothing but scorn for those who lagged at home, nothing but enthusiastic faith in every man who sought the battle-front, and so it happened that he almost welcomed the indications that told him his daughter's heart was going fast—given in return for that of a soldier lover.
For a moment it had dazed him. She was still so young—so much a child in his fond eyes—still his sweet-faced, sunny-haired baby Bess. He could hardly realize she was eighteen even when with blushing cheeks she came to show him the photograph of a manly, gallant-looking young soldier in the uniform of a lieutenant of infantry. Strange as the story may seem to-day, there was at the time nothing very surprising about its most salient feature—she and her hero had never met.[Pg 3]
With other girls she had joined a "Soldiers' Aid Society;" had wrought with devoted though misguided diligence in the manufacture of "Havelocks" that were bearers of much sentiment but no especial benefit to the recipients at the front; and like many of her companions she had slipped her name and address into one of these soon-discarded cap covers. As luck would have it, their package of "Havelocks," "housewives," needle-cases, mittens (with trigger finger duly provided for), ear-muffs, wristlets, knitted socks, and such things, worn by the "boys" their first winter in Virginia, but discarded for the regulation outfit thereafter, fell to the lot of the—th Massachusetts Infantry, and a courteous letter from the adjutant told of its distribution. Bessie Warren was secretary of the society, and the secretary was instructed to write to the adjutant and say how gratified they were to find their efforts so kindly appreciated. More than one of the girls wished that she were secretary just then, and all of them hoped the adjutant would answer. He did, and sent, moreover, a photographic group of several officers taken at regimental headquarters. Each figure was numbered, and on the back was an explana[Pg 4]tion setting forth the names of the officers, the item which each had received as his share, and, where it was known, the name of the fair manufacturer. The really useful items, it would seem, had been handed to the enlisted men, and the officers had reserved for themselves only such articles as experience had proved to be of no practical value. The six in the picture had all chosen "Havelocks," and opposite the name of Bessie Warren was that of Second Lieutenant Paul Revere Abbot. Reference to the "group" again developed the fact that Mr. Abbot was decidedly the handsomest soldier of the party—tall, slender, youthful, with clear-cut and resolute features and a decidedly firm, solid look about him that was distinguishable in a group of decidedly distinguished-looking men. There followed much laughing talk and speculation and theory among the girls, but the secretary was instructed to write another letter of thanks, and did so very charmingly, and mention was made of the circumstance that several of their number had brothers or cousins at the front. Then some of the society had happened, too, to have a photograph taken in the quaint uniform, with cap and apron, which they had worn at a recently given[Pg 5] "Soldiers' Fair," and one of their number—not Miss Warren—sent a copy of this to the camp of the—th Massachusetts. Central figure in this group was Bessie Warren, unquestionably the loveliest girl among them all, and one day there came to her a single photograph, a still handsomer picture of Mr.