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Everyman's Land

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Padre, when you died, you left a message for me. You asked me to go on writing, if I were in trouble, just as I used to write when you were on earth. I used to "confess," and you used to advise. Also you used to scold. How you used to scold! I am going to do now what you asked, in that message.

I shall never forget how you packed me off to school at Brighton, and Brian to Westward Ho! the year father died and left us to you—the most troublesome legacy a poor bachelor parson ever had! I'd made up my mind to hate England. Brian couldn't hate anything or anybody: dreamers don't know how to hate: and I wanted to hate you for sending us there. I wanted to be hated and misunderstood. I disguised myself as a Leprechaun and sulked; but it didn't work where you were concerned. You understood me as no one else ever could—or will, I believe. You taught me something about life, and to see that people are much the same all over the world, if you "take them by the heart."

You took me by the heart, and you held me by it, from the time I was twelve till the time when you gave your life for your country. Ten years! When I tell them over now, as a nun tells the beads of her rosary, I realize what good years they were, and how their goodness—with such goodness as I had in me to face them—came through you.

Even after you died, you seemed to be near, with encouragement and advice. Remembering how pleased you were, when I decided to train as a nurse, added later to the sense of your nearness, because I felt you would rejoice when I was able to be of real use. It was only after you went that my work began to count, but I was sure you knew. I could hear your voice say, "Good girl! Hurrah for you!" when I got the gold medal for nursing the contagious cases; your dear old Irish voice, as it used to say the same words when I brought you my school prizes.

Perhaps I was "a good girl." Anyhow, I was a good nurse. Not that I deserved much credit! Brian was fighting, and in danger day and night. You were gone; and I was glad to be a soldier in my way, with never a minute to think of myself. Besides, somehow I wasn't one bit afraid. I loved the work. But, Padre mio, I am not a good girl now. I'm a wicked girl, wickeder than you or I ever dreamed it was in me to be, at my worst. Yet if your spirit should appear as I write, to warn me that I'm sinning an unpardonable sin, I should go on sinning it.

For one thing, it's for Brian, twin brother of my body, twin brother of my heart. For another thing, it's too late to turn back. There's a door that has slammed shut behind me.

Now, I'll begin and tell you everything exactly as it happened. Many a "confession-letter" I've begun in just these words, but never one like this. I don't deserve that it should bring me the heartease which used to come. But the thought of you is my star in darkness. Brian is the last person to whom I can speak, because above all things I want him to be happy. On earth there is no one else. Beyond the earth there is—you.

When Brian was wounded, they expected him to die, and he was asking for me. The telegram came one day when we had all been rather overworked in the hospital, and I was feeling ready to drop. I must only have imagined my tiredness though, for when I heard about Brian I grew suddenly strong as steel....