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THE SOLDIER'S REPRIEVE. Arranged by Mr. C. W. Sanders, for the Union Fifth Reader.
“I thought, Mr. Allan, when I gave my Bennie to his country, that not a father in all this broad land made so precious a gift,—no, not one. The dear boy only slept a minute, just one little minute, at his post; I know that was all, for Bennie never dozed over a duty. How prompt and reliable he was! I know he only fell asleep one little second ;—he was so young, and not strong, that boy of mine! Why, he was as tall as I, and only eighteen! and now they shoot him because he was found asleep when doing sentinel duty. Twenty-four hours, the telegram said, -only twenty-four hours. Where is Bennie now?"
“We will hope, with his heavenly Father," said Mr. Allan, soothingly.
“Yes, yes; let us hope; God is very merciful!
“ I should be ashamed, father,' Bennie said, 'when I am a man, to think I never used this great right arm'and he held it out so proudly before me for my country, when it needed it. Palsy it rather than keep it at the plow.
'Go, then, go, my boy,' I said, “and God keep you! God has kept him, I think, Mr. Allan!" and the farmer repeated these last words slowly, as if, in spite of his reason, his heart doubted them.
"Like the apple of bis eye, Mr. Owen ; doubt it not."
Blossom sat near them listening, with blanched cheek. She had not shed a tear. Her anxiety had been so concealed that no one had noticed it. She had occupied berself mechanically in the household cares. Now she answered a gentle tap at the kitchen door, opening it to receive from a neighbor's hand a letter. "It is from him," was all she said.
It was like a message from the dead! Mr. Owen took the letter, but could not break the envelope, on account of his trembling fingers, and held it toward Mr. Allan, with the helplessness of a child.
The minister opened it, and read as follows:
"DEAR FATHER:- When this reaches you I sliall be in eternity. At first, it seemed awful to me; but I have Thought about it so much now, that it has no terror. They say they will not bind me, nor blind me; but that I may ineet my
death like a man. I thought, father, it might bave been on the battle-field, for my country, and that, when I fell, it would be fighting gloriously; but to be shot down like a dog for nearly betraying it,—to die for neglect of duty! O, father, I wonder the very thought does not kill me! But I shall not disgrace you.
I am going to write you all about it; and when I am gone, you may tell my comrades. I can not now.
"You know I promised Jemmie Carr's mother, I would look after her boy; and, when he fell sick, I did all I could for him. He was not strong when he was ordered back into the ranks, and the day before that night, I carried all his luggage, besides my own, on our march. Towards night we went in on double-quick, and though the luggage began to feel very heavy, every body else was tired too; and as for Jemmie, if I had not lent him an arm now and then, he would have dropped by the way. I was all tired out when we came into camp, and then it was Jemmie's turn to be sentry, and I would take bis place; but I was too tired, father. I could not have kept awake if a gun had been pointed at my head; but I did not know it until—well, until it was too late."
"God be thanked !" interrupted Mr. Owen, reverently. "I knew Bennie was not the boy to sleep carelessly at
"They tell me to-day that I have a short reprieve, given to me by circumstances, — time to write to you,' our good colonel says. Forgive him, father, he only does his duty; he would gladly save me if he could; and do not lay my death up against Jemmie. The poor boy is brokenhearted, and does nothing but beg and entreat them to let him die in my stead.
“I can't bear to think of mother and Blossom. Comfort them, father! Tell them I die as a brave boy should, and that, when the war is over, they will not be ashamed of me, as they must be now. God help me; it is very hard to bearl Good-by, father! God seems near and dear to me; not at all as if he wished me to perish for.
ever, but as if he felt sorry for his poor, sinful, broken. hearted child, and would take me to be with him and my Saviour in a better,-better life.”
A deep sigh burst from Mr. Owen's heart. " Amen," he said solemnly, " Amen."
" To-night, in the early twilight, I shall see the cows all coming home from pasture, and precious little Blossom stand on the back stoop, waiting for me; but I sball never, never come! God bless you all! Forgive your poor Bennie."
Late that night the door of the "back stoop" opened softly, and a little figure glided out, and down the footpath that led to the road by the mill. She seemed rather flying than walking, turning her head neither to the right nor to the left, looking only now and then to Heaven, and folding her hands, as if in prayer. Two hours later, the same young girl stood at the Mill Depot, watching the coming of the night train; and the conductor, as he reached down to lift her into the car, wondered at the tear-stained face that was upturned toward the dim lantern he held in his hand. A few questions and ready answers told him all; and no father could have cared more cenderly for his only child, than he for our little Blossom. She was on her way to Washington, to ask President Lincoln for her brother's life. She had stolen away, leaving only a note to tell her where and why she had gone. She had brought Bennie's letter with her; no good, kind heart, like the President's, could refuse to be melted by it. The next morning they reached New York, and the conductor hurried her on to Washington. Every minute, now, might be the means of saving her brother's life. And so, in an incredibly short time, Blossom reached the Capital, and hastened immediately to the White House.
The President had but just seated himself to his morning's task, of overlooking and signing important papers, when, without one word of announcement, the door softly opened, and Blossom, with downcast eyes and folded hands, stood before him.
"Well, my child,” he said, in his pleasant, cheerful tones, “what do you want, so bright and early in tbe morning?"
“Bennie's life, please, sir,” faltered Blossom..
“My brother, sir. They are going to shoot him for sleeping at his post.”
“Oh, yes;" and Mr. Lincoln ran his eye over the papers before him. “I remember. It was a fatal sleep. You see, child, it was at a time of special danger. Thousands of lives might have been lost for his culpable negligence.”
“So my father said,” replied Blossom, gravely, “but poor Bennie was so tired, sir, and Jemmie so weak. He did the work of two, sir, and it was Jemmie's night, not his; but Jemmie was too tired, and Bennie never thought about himself, that he was tired too."
“What is this you say, child ? Come here; I do not understand," and the kind man caught eagerly, as ever, at what seemed to be a justification of an offence.
Blossom went to him; he put his hand tenderly on her shoulder, and turned up the pale, anxious face towards his. How tall he seemed! and he was President of the United States, too. A dim thought of this kind passed for a moment through Blossom's mind; but she told her simple and straightforward story, and handed Mr. Linzoln Bennie's letter to read.
He read it carefully; then, taking up his pen, wrote a few hasty lines, and rang his bell.
Blossom heard this order given: "Send this dispatch at once."
The President then turned to the girl and said, “Go home, my child, and tell that father of yours, who could approve his country's sentence, even when it took the life of a child like that, that Abraham Lincoln thinks the life far too precious to be lost. Go back, or-wait until
for the act so uncomplainingly, deserves well of his coun. try.” Then Bennie and Blossom took their way to their Green Mountain home. A crowd gathered at the Mill Depot to welcome them back; and, as farmer Owen's band grasped that of his boy, tears flowed down his cheeks, and he was heard to say fervently: “The Lord be praised !”
Among professors of astronomy,
And justly so, for he is hand in glove
With Venus or with Juno gone astray,
A new Andre;
Thus was le sitting, watcliman of the sky,
“My stars!''--lie always puts that stress on my, “My stars and garters!