FOR LOVE’S SAKE
serious and philosophical have been my last few letters, that I should like
to revel in romance.
Have you thought of the hard life of the war-nurses and wondered
from whence they gather the strength for their daily and nightly labors?
Love is the source of the almost superhuman endurance of many of the women
who seem to their charges like angels of light and healing.
One nurse whom we will call Mary, for she is a type of the
virgin-mother of hearts, has gone out into heaven a hundred times in the
souls of those she has tended. Will that love not guard her on earth through
the whole course of her life and follow her also into the heaven world
beyond? Be sure it will.
Mary is neither a scholar nor a poet. You would not have dreamed
of inviting her to a reception had her path ever crossed yours; but Mary is
not unfit for the society of angels and gods would not scorn to have her in
She was just an ordinary nurse before she
became a war-nurse, and before the white fire of love touched her
personality and burned it up as a sacrifice on the alter of her country’s
She was a very pretty nurse and in her hours of leisure once
wore stylish hats and revelled in laces and furbelows; for the love of
beauty and daintiness often nests in a heart that is capable of heroism.
When the war broke out Mary was engaged to be married to a
soldier. Mary went to the front and he also went to the front; but neither
of them knew where the other was for many, many days.
Every man who was brought to her severely wounded Mary nursed as
if he had been the absent friend of her heart, and many a life she saved by
her tender care and by the atmosphere of hope which radiated from her as
fragrance from a rose.
“If he should be wounded,” she said to herself, “some of
the girls will care for him as I care for these men.”
Mary was not jealous lest another should
have the privilege of nursing the man she loved, and lest in his heart
should blossom the flower of thankfulness for another than herself. Mary had
not much time to think about herself; her thoughts were too busy with
It may have been because she was not jealous nor over-watchful
for her property in her lover, that when he was wounded he was really
brought to the hospital where she served so faithfully. Of course he was
given to Mary to nurse—it could not have been otherwise, and he was very
seriously wounded. When the operation was performed by which the doctors
hoped to save his life, it was Mary who stood by and assisted. She did not
faint nor cry out even when they cut his broken arm away, the arm on which
she had dreamed she might lean for the rest of her earthly life. Mary was
thinking about his mother and was glad that she was not there to see what
she herself saw. During many of the hours when Mary might have slept, she
was writing to the mother—writing brave letters wherein she sought to veil
the fear that was in her own heart.
Tom—we will call him Tom because that was
not his name—Tom had never been able to believe in any life beyond the earth
life, and as Mary watched his strength grow less she prayed all day and most
of the night that something might happen to make Tom believe in heaven and
angels. The exigencies of war had left him long on the battlefield after the
shell had shattered his right arm, and his wound had been infected before
the operation by which the doctors sought to save him for England and for
Tom knew that he might have to leave the world. Mary would not
keep the overwhelming possibility from him, though she still kept it from
his mother; for she hoped that in the hours or days which might be all that
remained for him in the sunshine of the upper world something might happen,
some miracle of thought or of love, which should open his eyes to what she
called the Truth.
Each day I spent a little time in the long white room in which
Tom lay; but even if he could have seen me, I might not have been much
comfort to him, and I cannot speak to any ears except those trained to
listen for unusual sounds.
I sympathized with Mary. Having convinced
so many souls of the truth of immortality through a former writing of mine,
I wanted to convince one more—for Mary’s sake; because I knew that if Tom
should go out of life firmly believing that death was the end of him, it
might really be the end of him for a long time.
In my perplexity I sought the Beautiful Being for advice. That
angel’s knowledge compared to mine is like an arc-light beside a tallow dip.
Together we went back to the hospital where Mary sat talking
with Tom about the future life, about God and Christ and angels. She had
many soldiers under her charge; but the other nurses worked a little harder
to give her more time with Tom, for all the world loves a lover—especially
in the horrors of war-time.
“It isn’t that I do not want to believe,” he was saying to Mary,
“it’s that I just can’t. If I could see with my own eyes an angel, or
someone that I knew was dead, it would be different. But how could I see
such a thing?"
The Beautiful Being drew nearer, smiling,
and waved its gauzy veil before the eyes of the dying man; but he could not
The Beautiful Being wove a glamor of light around him, and sang
as only angels can; but Tom could still neither see nor hear.
“I think you will have to ‘materialize’,” the Beautiful Being
said to me, with a whimsical smile. “Those eyes are stopped with matter, and
cannot see anything finer than matter.”
I was not attracted by the suggestion, but my incomprehensible
friend followed it up.
“In that bed yonder,” it said, “is one of those mortals who are
called natural mediums, natural materializing mediums, because their tenuous
bodies are so loosely held by the physical that they are easily detached and
borrowed from. Now materialize yourself and let Tom see something which he
will take for an angel.”
“I am no angel,” I said, “and the eyes of a dying atheist would
never mistake me for one.”
“Try it and see,” said the Beautiful Being, pointing to a man in
a neighboring bed, who was the “medium” in question.
I looked at the man and read around him the story of his life.
He was a coarse fellow, a saloon-keeper, and another familiar compound-word
would have fitted him like a glove.
“Clothe myself in that man’s etheric body!”
I said in disgust. “I would not touch him with a ten-foot pole!”
“How dainty-fingered you are!” said the Beautiful Being. “Did I
not know you so well, I could almost believe you self-righteous.”
“Call me what you like,” I replied, “but I will not do phenomena
with that body.”
The Beautiful Being laughed.
“It would be so easy,” it said, as if to itself, “so easy and so
The angel moved toward the sleeping saloon-keeper (I had almost
written the harsher compound), and gradually from his side there issued a
vaporous stream. From force of earthly habit I rubbed my eyes, for I could
not believe that I saw aright. The pure and exquisite angel was clothing
itself in the unhealthy emanations of the sleeping medium, and in the space
of twenty ticks of the clock on the wall it passed, fully materialized, with
a speaking throat, to the foot of Tom’s bed.
He sat up, in the surprise and shock of the vision.
“What are you?” he asked, hoarsely.
“I am an angel,” said the Beautiful Being, truly, “and I have
come to prove to you that miracles can happen, and to assure you that when
you leave your body behind on the morrow I shall meet you on the other side
of the change.”
Mary could also hear and see, and she fell on her knees with a
little sob of joy and wonder; for she had never seen an angel, though her
faith was strong enough to remove mountains.
“Then it is really true!” Tom gasped. “I shall not die with my
body. And how wonderful you are!”
For the Beautiful Being had performed the transformation so well
that it preserved in its borrowed body all the glory and amazing loveliness
of that form which charms the hosts of the unseen world.
“I no longer doubt,” said Tom. “I believe, and I die happy.”
“I shall not forget to meet you when you come out,” smiled my
friend. “Good-bye now, for a little while. I leave you with Mary, who is
also a kind of angel.”
Slowly the borrowed shape retreated towards
the body of the sleeping saloon-keeper, and after a moment my friend stood
beside me, clothed in its own pure form; but on its shoulders and feet were
dark stains that looked like mud.
“They will soon blow away in the fresh air outside,” smiled the
Beautiful Being. “And was it not worth while to convince that soul of its
We passed out under the stars, but the scene left an indelible
impression on my consciousness. And I shall often remember when I feel
self-righteous, how the purest being I ever knew wore the soiled garment of
a vulgar saloon-keeper, which left stains on its dainty shoulders and its
shining feet—how it dipped itself for the first time in the filth of the
world, for love’s sake.