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Work: A Story of Experience HTML version

XVII. The Colonel
TEN years earlier Christie made her début as an Amazon, now she had a braver part to
play on a larger stage, with a nation for audience, martial music and the boom of cannon
for orchestra; the glare of battle-fields was the "red light;" danger, disease, and death, the
foes she was to contend against; and the troupe she joined, not timid girls, but high-
hearted women, who fought gallantly till the "demon" lay dead, and sang their song of
exultation with bleeding hearts, for this great spectacle was a dire tragedy to them.
Christie followed David in a week, and soon proved herself so capable that Mrs. Amory
rapidly promoted her from one important post to another, and bestowed upon her the only
honors left the women, hard work, responsibility, and the gratitude of many men.
"You are a treasure, my dear, for you can turn your hand to any thing and do well
whatever you undertake. So many come with plenty of good-will, but not a particle of
practical ability, and are offended because I decline their help. The boys don't want to be
cried over, or have their brows 'everlastingly swabbed,' as old Watkins calls it: they want
to be well fed and nursed, and cheered up with creature comforts. Your nice beef-tea and
cheery ways are worth oceans of tears and cart-loads of tracts."
Mrs. Amory said this, as Christie stood waiting while she wrote an order for some extra
delicacy for a very sick patient. Mrs. Sterling, Jr., certainly did look like an efficient
nurse, who thought more of "the boys" than of herself; for one hand bore a pitcher of
gruel, the other a bag of oranges, clean shirts hung over the right arm, a rubber cushion
under the left, and every pocket in the big apron was full of bottles and bandages, papers
and letters.
"I never discovered what an accomplished woman I was till I came here," answered
Christie, laughing. "I'm getting vain with so much praise, but I like it immensely, and
never was so pleased in my life as I was yesterday when Dr. Harvey came for me to take
care of poor Dunbar, because no one else could manage him."
"It's your firm yet pitiful way the men like so well. I can't describe it better than in big
Ben's words: 'Mis Sterlin' is the nuss for me, marm. She takes care of me as ef she was
my own mother, and it's a comfort jest to see her round.' It's a gift, my dear, and you may
thank heaven you have got it, for it works wonders in a place like this."
"I only treat the poor fellows as I would have other women treat my David if he should
be in their care. He may be any hour, you know."
"And my boys, God keep them!"
The pen lay idle, and the gruel cooled, as young wife and gray-haired mother forgot their
duty for a moment in tender thoughts of the absent. Only a moment, for in came an
attendant with a troubled face, and an important young surgeon with the well-worn little
case under his arm.