Sunday, September 7, 2014

Was Merely Whisperin' Bill

So you're takin' the census, mister?
There's three of us livin' still,
My wife and I, an' our only son,
that folks call Whisperin' Bill;
But Bill couldn't tell ye his name, sir,
an' so it's hardly worth givin' ,
For ye see a bullet killed his mind,
an' left his body livin'.

Set down for a minute, mister;
ye see Bill was only fifteen
At the time O' the war,
an' as likely a boy as ever this world has seen;
An' what with the news of battles lost,
the speeches an' all the noise,
I guess every farm in the neighborhood
lost a part of its crop O' boys.

'Twas the harvest time when Bill left home;
every stalk in the fields of rye
Seemed to stand tip-top to see him off
an' wave a fond good-bye;
His sweetheart was here with some other girls
-the sassy little miss!
An' pretendin' she wanted to whisper
in his ear, she gave him a rousin' kiss.

Oh, he was a handsome feller,
an' tender an' brave an' smart.
An' tho' he was bigger than I was,
the boy had a woman's heart.
I couldn't control my feelin's,
but I tried with all my might.
An' his mother an' me stood a-cryin'
till Bill was out o' sight.

His mother she often told him
 when she knew he was goin' away,
That God would take care o' him,
 maybe, if he didn't forgit to pray;
An' on the bloodiest battle-fields,
when bullets whizzed in the air
An' Bill was a-fightin' desperit,
 he used to whisper a prayer.

Oh, his comrades has often told me
that Bill never flinched a bit,
When every second a gap in the ranks
 told where a ball had hit.
An' one night when the field was covered
 with the awful harvest o' war.
They found my boy 'mongst the martyrs
 o' the cause he was fightin' for.

His fingers were clutched in the dewy grass
 — oh, no, sir, he wasn't dead,
But he lay sort of helpless an' crazy
 with a rifle-ball in his head ;
An' if Bill had really died that night
 I'd give all I've got worth givin';
For ye see the bullet had killed his mind
 an' left his body livin'.

An officer wrote an' told us how
 the boy had been hurt in the fight,
But he said that the doctors reckoned
 they could bring him round all right,
An' then we heard from a neighbor,
 dis- abled at Malvern Hill,
That he thought in the course of a week or so
he'd be comin' home with Bill.

We was that anxious t' see him
we'd set up an' talk o' nights
Till the break o' day had dimmed the stars
an' put out the northern lights;
We waited an' watched for a month or more,
an' the Summer was nearly past.
When a letter came one day that said
 they'd started for home at last.

I'll never forgit the day Bill came
 'twas harvest-time again
An' the air-bloom over the yellow fields
 was sweet with the scent o' the grain;
The door-yard was full o' the neighbors,
 who had come to share our joy,
An' all of us sent up a mighty cheer
 at the sight o' that soldier boy.

An' all of a sudden somebody said:
"My God! don't the boy know his mother?"
An' Bill stood a-whisperin', fearful like,
 an' starin' from one to another:
"Don't be afraid. Bill," said he to himself,
 as he stood in his coat o' blue,
"Why, God'll take care o' you, Bill;
 God'll take care o' you."

He seemed to be loadin' an' firin' a gun,
an' to act like a man who hears
 The awful roar o' the battle-field
a-soundin' in his ears;
I saw that the bullet had touched his brain
 an' somehow made it blind,
With the picture o' war before his eyes
 an' the fear o' death in his mind.

I grasped his hand, an' says I to Bill,
 "Don't ye remember me?
I'm yer father — don't ye know me?
 How frightened ye seem to be!"
But the boy kep' a-whisperin' to himself,
 as if 'twas all he knew,
"God'll take care o' you, Bill;
God'll take care o' you."

He's never known us since that day,
nor his sweetheart, an' never will:
Father an' mother an' sweetheart-
 are all the same to Bill.
An' many's the time his mother
 sets up the whole night through,
An' smooths his head, and says:
"Yes, Bill, God'll take care o' you."

Unfortunit? Yes, but we can't complain.
It's a livin' death more sad
 When the body chngs to a life o' shame
 an' the soul has gone to the bad;
An' Bill is out o' the reach
o'' harm an' danger of every kind.
We only take care of his body,
 but God takes care of his mind.

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