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

When the new home was completed inside Clara turned her attention to out-of-door matters and found more than one opportunity for daring feats. With shining eyes and bated breath, she learned to cross the little winding French river on teetering logs at its most dangerous depths. When this grew tame, she would go to the sawmill and ride out on the saw carriage twenty feet above the stream, and be pulled back on the returning log, and oh the joy of such dangerous sport!

By the time she was eleven years old her brothers had been so successful with their hill farms that they followed their father down to the valley of the river, where they bought the sawmill and built new dams and a grain-mill, and Sally and Stephen, who both married, settled in homes near the Barton farm. Then came the building of the new barn and David’s accident. Eleven-year-old Clara, a child in years but mature mentally, proved equal to the emergency and took up her role of nurse in the same vigorous way she went about everything–but she had to pay a high price for her devotion.

David was strong and well again, but the little sister who had been his constant companion through the weary months was far from normal. The family had been so occupied with the invalid that no thought had been given to his young nurse. Now with grave concern Captain Barton talked with his wife.

“She has not gained an ounce in weight in these two years,” he said, “and she isn’t an inch taller. If anything, she seems to be more morbidly self-conscious and shy than ever. What shall we do with her?”

That was the question. The years shut up in the sick-room had completely unfitted Clara for ordinary life; she seemed to be more afraid of speaking to any one, more afraid of being seen or talked to than ever before. All took a hand at helping her to forget herself. Sally, who knew what an imaginative nature her small sister had, interested her in reading poetry, which was a delight to Clara. At the same time her father and brothers kept her out-of-doors as much as possible, and her father gave her a fine horse of her own. She named him Billy, and at once jumped on his back to get acquainted. From that time the slim, graceful animal with his youthful rider became one of the features of the neighborhood as they galloped across country. But, despite all that was done to make her healthy and happy, her self-consciousness and shyness remained, and another way of curing her was tried. She was sent to the boarding-school which was kept by her old teacher, Colonel Stone. He was delighted to have her in the school, and her quick mind was an amazement to him; but she was so homesick that often it was impossible for her to study or to recite, while being with one hundred and fifty girls of her own age made her more bashful than ever. In despair, Colonel Stone advised her father to take her home before she became seriously sick, and soon she found herself again in her beloved haunts. After that time her brother Stephen taught her mathematics; and later, when two fine teachers came to Oxford, she studied Latin, philosophy and chemistry with them, besides literature, history and languages–finding herself far ahead of the other scholars of her age, although she had been buried in a sick-room for two years.

As long as she was busy she was contented, but when vacation came she was again miserable. Her active mind and body demanded constant work; when she did not have it she was simply wretched, and made those around her so.

One day, when she was in her brother’s mill watching the busy weavers, she had a sudden desire to work a loom herself. When she mentioned this at home her mother was horrified, but Stephen, who understood her restless nature better, took Clara’s side and a few days later she proudly took her place before her loom and with enthusiastic persistence mastered the mysteries of the flying shuttle. How long she would have kept on with the work cannot be guessed, for on the fifteenth day after she began work the mill burned down, and she was again on the look-out for new employment for her active brain and body.