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Clara Barton: "The Angel Of The Battlefields"
by [?]

For several weeks the sound of hammer and saw had been heard on the Barton farm where a new barn was being built. The framework was almost up, and David Barton and his little sister Clara, with a group of friends, were eagerly watching the carpenters, who were just fixing the high rafters to the ridge-pole.

“I dare you to climb to the top, Dave!” suddenly challenged a boy in the group.

David Barton, who was known as the “Buffalo Bill” of the neighborhood, always took a dare. Almost before the challenge had been given his coat was off and he had started toward the new building amid a chorus of cries: “Good for you, Dave!” from the group of young spectators who were always thrilled by his daring exploits. Only the little sister Clara protested.

“Don’t, David,” she exclaimed. “It isn’t safe.”

Her warning was not heeded. Up went the sure-footed athlete until he had almost reached the topmost peak of the barn. Crash! a board gave way under his feet, and down to the ground he was hurled, landing on his back on a pile of heavy boards. Limp and lifeless he lay there, a strange contrast to the vigorous young man who had climbed up the building only a few moments earlier, and the accident seemed to paralyze the faculties of those who saw it happen. It was not the builders or the older persons present who spoke first, but small, dark-eyed, determined Clara, who idolized her brother.

“Get mother, and go for the doctor, quick!” she commanded, and in less time than it takes to tell it the entire Barton family had been summoned to the scene of the disaster, and a doctor was bending over the unconscious man.

Dorothy and Sally, the grown-up sisters, hastily obeyed the doctor’s orders, and made a room in the farm-house ready for their injured brother, while Stephen Barton and one of the workmen carried him in as gently as possible and laid him on the bed which he was not to leave for many weary months. Examination proved that the injury was a serious one, and there was need of careful and continuous nursing. To the surprise of the whole family, who looked on eleven-year-old Clara, the youngest of them all, as still a baby, when Mrs. Barton made ready to take charge of the sick-room, she found a resolute little figure seated by the bedside, with determination to remain there showing on every line of her expressive face.

“Let me take care of him! I can do it–I want to. Please, oh, please!” pleaded Clara.

At first the coveted permission was denied her, for how could a girl so young take care of a dangerously injured man? But as the weary days and nights of watching wore away and it seemed as if there would be no end to them, from sheer exhaustion the older members of the family yielded their places temporarily to Clara. Then one day when the doctor came and found her in charge, the sick-room was so tidy and quiet, and the young nurse was so clear-minded and ready to obey his slightest order, that when she begged him to let her take care of her brother he gave his hearty permission, and Clara had won her way.

From that time on, through long months, she was the member of the family whose entire thought and care was centered in the invalid. David was very sick for such a long time that it seemed as if he could never rally, and his one great comfort was having Clara near him. Hour after hour, and day after day, she sat by his bedside, his thin hand clasped in her strong one, with the patience of a much older, wiser nurse. She practically shut herself up in that sick-room for two whole years, and it seemed as if there was nothing too hard for her to do well and quickly, if in any way it would make David more comfortable. Finally a new kind of bath was tried with success. David was cured, and Clara Barton had served her earliest apprenticeship as a nurse.