Convalescence.

A poem by Juliana Horatia Ewing

Hold my hand, little Sister, and nurse my head, whilst I try to remember the word,
What was it?--that the doctor says is now fairly established both in me and my bird.
C-O-N-con, with a con, S-T-A-N-stan, with a stan--No! That's Constantinople, that is
The capital of the country where rhubarb-and-magnesia comes from, and I wish they would keep it in that country, and not send it to this.
C-O-N-con--how my head swims! Now I've got it! C-O-N-V-A-L-E-S-C-E-N-C-E.
Convalescence! And that's what the doctor says is now fairly established both in my blackbird and me.
He says it means that you are better, and that you'll be well by and by.
And so the Sea-captain says, and he says we ought to be friends, because we're both convalescents--at least we're all three convalescents, my blackbird, and the Captain and I.
He's a sea-captain, not a land-captain, but, all the same, he was in the war,
And he fought,--for I asked him,--and he's been ill ever since, and that's why he's not afloat, but ashore;
And why somebody else has got his ship; and she behaved so beautifully in the battle, and he loves her quite as much as his wife, and rather better than the rest of his relations, for I asked him; and now he's afraid she will never belong to him any more.
I like him. I've seen him three times out walking with two sticks, when I was driving in the bath-chair, but I never talked to him till to-day.
He'd only one stick and a telescope, and he let me look through it at the big ship that was coming round the corner into the bay.
He was very kind, and let me ask questions. I said, "Are you a sea-captain?" and he said, "Yes." And I said, "How funny it is about land things and sea things!
There are captains and sea-captains, and weeds and sea-weeds, and serpents and sea-serpents. Did you ever meet one, and is it really like the dragons on our very old best blue tea-things?"
But he never did. So I asked him, "Have you got convalescence? Does your doctor say it is fairly established? Do your eyes ache if you try to read, and your neck if you draw, and your back if you sit up, and your head if you talk?
Don't you get tired of doing nothing, and worse tired still if you do anything; and does everything wobble about when you walk?
Wouldn't you rather go back to bed? I think I would. Don't you wish you were well? Wouldn't you rather be ill than only better?
I do hate convalescence, don't you?"
Then I stopped asking, and he shut up his telescope, and sat down on the shingle, and said, "When you come to my age, little chap, you won't think 'What is it I'd rather have?' but, 'What is it I've got to do?'
'What have I got to do or to bear; and how can I do it or bear it best?'
That's the only safe point to make for, my lad. Make for it, and leave the rest!"
I said, "But wouldn't you rather be in battles than in bed, with your head aching as if it would split?"
And he said, "Of course I would; so would most men. But, my little convalescent, that's not it.
What would you think of a man who was ordered into battle, and went grumbling and wishing he were in bed?"
"What should I think of the fellow? Why, I should know he was a coward," I said.
"And if he were confined to bed," said the Sea-captain, "and lay grumbling and wishing he were in battle, I should give him no better a name;
For the courage that dares, and the courage that bears, are really one and the same."
Hold my hand, little Sister, and nurse my head, for I'm thinking, and I very much fear
You've had no good of being well since I was ill; I've led you such a life; but indeed I am obliged to you, dear!
Is it true that Nurse has got something the matter with her legs, and that Mary has gone home because she's worn out with nursing,
And won't be fit to work for months? (will she be convalescent, because it was such hard work waiting on me?) and did Cook say, "So much grumbling and complaining is nigh as big a sin as swearing and cursing"?
I wish I hadn't been so cross with poor Mary, and I wish I hadn't given so much trouble about my medicine and my food.
I didn't think about her. I only thought what a bother it was. I wish I hadn't thought so much about being miserable, that I never thought of trying to be good.
I believe the Sea-captain is right, and I shall tell him so to-morrow, when he comes here to tea;
He's going to look at my blackbird's leg, and if it is really set, he wants me to let it go free.
He says captivity is worse than convalescence, and so I should think it must be.
Are you tired, little Sister? You feel shaky. Don't beg my pardon; I beg yours. I've not let you go out of my sight for weeks.
Get your things on, and have a gallop on Jack.
Ride round this way and let me see you. I won't say a word about wishing I was going too; and if my head gets bad whilst you're away, I will bear it my very best till you come back.
Tell me one thing before you start. If I learn to be patient, shall I learn to be brave, do you think? The Sea-captain says so.
He says, "Self-command is the making of a man," and he's a finely-made man himself, so he ought to know.
Perhaps, if I try hard at Convalescence now, I may become a brave sea-captain hereafter, and take my beautiful ship into battle, and bring her out again with flying colours and fame,
If the courage that dares, and the courage that bears, are really one and the same.

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