"I should--have turned back, my boy." After a silence the hero said more to himself than to me "Ah, if my brother were here to-night--I might live!""Sir," said Miss Harper, "you give me no occasion to doubt it." She followed the men upstairs. "Estelle, go back to your sister and cousin; and if you, my dear,"--to our hostess--"will kindly go also, and stay with them--"
"Ah! not certainly. Where is your carbine?""Oh, hang him and the horse! you've told me that three times; what of it?"
Lieutenant Helm came out as I went in, and I paused an instant to ask him in fierce suspicion if he had bandaged his hand himself. "No," he whispered, "Miss Camille." It was a lie, but I did not learn that until months after. "Come downstairs as soon as you can," he added, "there's a hot supper down there; first come first served." We parted.
"Are they married?" I softly asked Harry at the first opportunity, but he could not tell me. He knew only that Ferry had been expected to arrive about an hour before midnight; if he arrived later the wedding would be deferred until to-day. On our whole ride we met no one from Gallatin until near the edge of the town we passed a smiling rider who called after us, "You-all a-hurryin' for nothin'!"Her response was a question, which he repeated: "Is he hurt? no, Richard never gets hurt. Shall he tell us whatever he knows?"
"Oh, how innocent you always are! Look here! just tell me this; was it the Major's brother brought it, or was it Ned Ferry?""Stop, sir! I command you! There is no Lieutenant of any name on this place!"Ere the sun shall go down there are heads to be broke."
I could see by Ferry's face that there was no worse news. He met me aside, and privately bade me go to Roy's (where Charlotte was). "Kendall is there," he said; "I leave you and him in charge. That will rest your horses. Kendall has your Yankee horse, his own is sick. You and Kendall get all the sleep you can, you may get none to-night.""Dead?"So we played the game--oldest game on earth--and loveliest. Bungling moves we made, as you see, and sometimes did not know whose move it was. At length she admitted that this is a very unsafe world in which to be kind to soldiers. I told how fickle some of them were. She would not say she would--or wouldn't--make my case a permanent exception or a solitary one; yet with me she blissfully pooh-poohed the idea that our acquaintance was new, she being so wonderfully like my mother, and I being so wonderfully ditto, ditto. And when I burst into a blazing eulogy of my mother, my listener gave me kinder looks than I ever deserved of any woman alive. On my trying to reciprocate, she asked me for more flowers and hurried back to our earlier theme.
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"By getting you to send him so far to your own army's rear that he cannot get back; to compel him to leave the country; to go into your country, where law and order reign as they cannot here between the lines."XLIII "YES, AND BACK AGAIN"
Three hours later the stars still gleamed down through the balmy night above the long westward-galloping column of our brigade, that for those three hours had not slackened from the one unmitigated speed. The Federal regiment of whose plans Charlotte had apprised Ferry had been camped well to southward of this course, but in the day just past they had marched to the north, intending a raid around our right and into our rear. To-night they were resting in a wide natural meadow through the middle of which ran this road we were on. Around the southern edge of this inviting camp-ground by a considerable stream of water; the northern side was on rising ground and skirted by woods, and in these woods as day began to break stood our brigade, its presence utterly unsuspected in all that beautiful meadow whitened over with lane upon lane of the tents of the regiment of Federal cavalry, whose pickets we had already silently surprised and captured. Now, as warily as quails, we moved along an unused, woodcutters' road and began to trot up a gentle slope beyond whose crest the forest sank to the meadow. We were within a few yards of this crest, when a small mounted patrol came up from the other side, stood an instant profiled against the sky, bent low, gazed, wheeled and vanished.Between eleven and twelve the Colonel, Harry and I were in a dense wood, moving noiselessly toward a clearing brilliantly lighted by the moon. I was guide. A few rods back in the woods Gholson was holding our horses and with cocked revolver detaining a young mulatto woman from whom the Colonel had extorted the knowledge which had brought us to this spot. The clearing was fenced, but was full of autumn weeds. Near the two sides next us, tilted awry on its high basement pillars, loomed an old cotton-gin house, its dark shadows falling toward us. A few yards beyond towered and gleamed a white-boled sycamore, and between the two the titanic arms of the horse-power press widened broadly downward out of the still night sky. The tree was the one which old Lucius Oliver had once pointed out to me at dawn.详情
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