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Nellie Peters' Pocket Handkerchief and What It Saw
A Story of the War

By the Reverend Charles Todd Quintard
Late Chaplain C.S.A.
Afterwards Second Bishop of Tennessee

Sewanee, Tennessee: The University Press, 1907.

St. Luke's Church


MY DEAR CHILDREN: I have a story to tell you--a kind of history of myself--and I shall tell it my own way. I am not very old, hardly half grown, but I have seen a great many things--some joyous and some sad.

My mistress has always taken very great care of me; and when she did not need my company, has provided me very comfortable quarters in a very pretty box, with a number of companions about my own size.

The first event of importance which I recollect was the baptism of Nellie's little brother. He was a bright, beautiful child, only two months old. The Bishop was visiting the family, and as the little babe was to receive his name, he baptized him. [Bishop Stephen Elliott, of Georgia.] It was a very pleasant sight. All the children of the family were present and several friends, among them a clergyman of the Church, and a Bishop, who was [1/2] both a soldier of the Cross and of his country. [Bishop Polk, of Louisiana.] He was a man of noble presence, and I saw from his look and action that he was very much in earnest. He was one of the sponsors, and during the service I could see that his whole soul was in it. I loved, to look in his face--it was so full of goodness and truth.

Nellie's mother held the little one in her arms--

"She stood up in the meekness of a heart
Resting on God, and held her fair young child
Upon her bosom, with its gentle eyes
Folded in sleep, as if its soul had gone
To whisper the baptismal vow in heaven."

After the little one was baptised, and so made "a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven," an angel, whom I had not observed before, bent down and kissed the new-born Christian, and said with a "still small voice" that was very musical: "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven;" and then I knew that this was little Stephen's guardian-angels and [2/3] that he had just .now begun his appointed work. It was all very pleasant. The service was over and the two Bishops kissed the regenerated child, and there was a song as of angels rejoicing and praising God because He had vouchsafed to receive the sweet babe for His own child by adoption and to incorporate him into His holy Church.

After this came the beautiful springtime, and the birds sang in the trees, which little by little put forth a foliage of living green. The flowers opened, and all nature was glowing with life. I heard a great deal about the war, but did not give it much heed. I frequently accompanied Nellie to St. Luke's Church.

She was very regular, in her attendance, both at Sunday School and at the morning and evening services. Her minister was always glad to ask her questions, when the children gathered around the chancel, because he was sure to get a prompt and proper answer.

One evening Nellie came to her room in great distress. She was crying, and the big tears rolled down her cheeks. She took me out of my box, and went down to the sitting room. [3/4] All the family were gathered there, and all seemed very sad.

At first I did not understand it, but in a little while I learned that the great and good Bishop, who was sponsor for little Stephen, had laid down his life for his country. I cannot tell all that was said, but Nellie's father told the children what a loss the country and the Church had sustained, and how he feared there was not another man in all the land who could take his place.

That night very late, the Bishop's body was brought from the field--where he had fallen in defense of the Church and the Altars to which he had been bound as a sacrifice--and was taken to St. Luke's Church. The coffin was placed just in front of the altar-railing. A guard of soldiers was outside, and a guard of angels inside the church.

Early in the morning, Nellie's mother and some other ladies went to the church, and arranged the most beautiful flowers around the coffin. A cross of spotless white flowers rested on the Bishop's breast, and he looked very calm and peaceful; so peaceful in the repose of death that he must have died with a smile on his lips.

[5] Many hundreds came to take a last look at his beloved features, for all men loved him. Each one felt that he had a part in the great sacrifice of this glorious servant of God, and many were the tears that coursed down the cheeks of strong men unused to weep. After the service, the minister gave all the congregation an opportunity of passing by the coffin, and the crowd continued to pass up one aisle and down the other, until the very last moment that could be allowed.

Not very long after the Bishop's death, little Stephen was taken sick. I cannot tell with what tender solicitude he was nursed, nor what fervent prayers were put up in his behalf, but he died; and his guardian-angel who had watched over his short earthly life went with him to the paradise of God, where he would be forever free from sin and sorrow, and. forever happy with the angels of God.

"He died ere his expanding soul
Had ever burnt with wrong desires,
Had ever spurned at heaven's control,
Or ever quenched its sacred fires."

[6] Just where the Bishops body had rested in the church, there they placed little Stephen's. Loving hearts and gentle hands wove garlands of flowers and evergreens and placed them around the little coffin.

Nellie's heart was almost broken when her little brother died, and so was taken away from her earthly love--but she knew that this love was not wasted, and would not be lost, but that henceforward it would be a bright chain to bind her to her angel brother in paradise.

"For angels, and living saints, and dead,
But one communion make."

But Nellie shed many tears, and I knew very well that she would mourn for a long time over the little one that God had taken, for it is the work of many a dark hour, of many tears, and many prayers, to bring the heart back from an infant gone. When she left the church, she dropped me on the floor, just by the seat she had occupied during the services, and there I was left for a long time.

There was no service in the church that I recollect after that but once, and then Nellie [6/7] did not come. I had been hearing the sound of cannon for some days, and shut up in the church as I was, I did not know what it all meant. One day the minister of the church came in all alone, but he did not notice me.

Then the guns began thundering at such a rate that the church shook and I could hear the shells screaming through the air and bursting close by the holy house in which I was. I knew God's angels were there, for the minister had said that "The angel of the Lord tarrieth round about them that fear Him and delivereth them." And he had read from the Bible all about their offering up the prayers of faithful men to God--"And another angel came and stood at the altar bearing a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God, out of the angel's hand." And I knew that the angels were in that holy place still, and it seemed a very dreadful thing to have [7/8] wicked men doing all they could to destroy God's own house.

Hundreds of shot and shell fell all around it, and finally the angels bowed before the altar, and I heard a great crash, and I knew that a shot had gone through the roof, just above where I lay. For days and days together the fearful sounds continued. Pieces of shell came through the side of the church, and every time the church was struck, the angels looked sad, and bowed their heads at the altar where they stood.

I do not know how long it all lasted, but for many days and nights there was no abatement. At length I saw the angels standing just where the bodies of the Bishop and his little god-child Stephen had rested, and then I heard a great crashing noise and one of the largest shells came tearing through the side of the church and struck the prayer-desk on which the large Bible happened to be lying. The prayer-desk was broken and the Bible fell under it, and quicker than thought the angels took the great Bible--so full of "peace and good will towards men"--and placed it just on top of the terrible [8/9] monster, and it did not explode; so that it did little real damage.

There the Bible lay--God's message of good will--with this missile of darkness and death beneath it, and all the while the smoke of the incense ascended up with the prayers of all saints--ascended up before God, out of the angels' hands. And this was the prayer--I knew it because it was the fourteenth Sunday after Trinity.

"Almighty and everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith, hope, and charity; and that we may obtain that which Thou dost promise, make us to love that which Thou dost command; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

From the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, this prayer went up from the angels' hands, and in every place over the whole world, the same fragrant incense was offered up unto God's holy name.

Early in the morning there came to the church a holy Bishop, [Bishop Lay, of Arkansas.] and with him was the rector of the Parish. [The Rev. Charles Todd Quintard, M.D.] They looked in [9/10] wonder at the sight, and then reverently lifted the Bible back to its place and removed the shell. They gathered all the prayer-books they could find for the soldiers, for they were missionaries to the army.

Then the rector came to Nellie's seat, thinking all the while of the dear friends who had offered up in that place the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. He sat down for awhile and thought over the scattered flock and the desolations of God's house. He thought of the hardships of the war, and of the evils which "the craft and subtilty of the devil and of man" were working, and wondered how, out of it all, God was to bring peace to His people.

As he rose up he espied me on the floor, and knowing to whom I belonged he put me in an envelope and sent me to my owner. And now I am back once more in my snug home, better satisfied to remain in quiet because of all I have seen and passed through.

Here ends the story of "Nellie Peters'
Pocket Handkerchief and What It Saw,"
written by the late Charles Todd Quintard,
sometime Chaplain of the army of the
Confederate States, and afterwards Bishop of
Tennessee; first published in the Church
, and now edited by Arthur
Howard Noll, and reprinted by the
University Press of Sewanee
Tennessee, anno Dom-
ini, one thousand
nine hundred
and seven

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