"Smith," privately asked the agonized Harry, "what would you do if you were in my place; go and cut your throat from ear to ear?""In here there is a lady, ill," we heard Miss Harper say."Why, I says, s' I, 'Mis' Charlotte, how we know he ain' gwine fo' to double on his huntehs? Betteh wait a spell, and den ef no word come back dat he a-doublin', you kin be sho' he done lit out fo' to jine de Yankees roun' Pote Hudsom.'"
She replied that she did not mean that. Nevertheless, I insisted, would she? She only bent lower still. I asked the third time; and with nothing but the parting of her hair for me to look at, she nodded, and one of her braids fell over in front, and I took the pink-ribboned live end of it timorously between thumb and finger and felt as if I had hold of an electric battery.He drew a long breath, murmured "My God!" and then suddenly asked "You found him so, or--?""Yes, madam, between Melpomene and Terpsichore."
"No, I don't; pray don't ask me to draw inferences; I might infer too much.""I had a Confederate general's pass.""Aunt Martha!" moaned some one. "Well, in short," said the aunt, twinkling like her brother, "we can't deliver the goods, and--" She started as though some one had slapped her between the shoulder-blades. It was the engine caused it, whistling in the old, lawless way, putting a whoop, a howl, a scream and a wail into one. The young ladies quailed, the train jerked like several collisions, the bell began tardily to clang, and my steed whirled, cleared a packing case, whirled again, and stood facing the train, his eyes blazing, his nostrils flapping, not half so much frightened as insulted. The post-quartermaster waved to the ladies and they to us. For a last touch I lifted my cap high and backed my horse on drooping haunches--you've seen Buffalo Bill do it--and then, with a leap like a cricket's, and to a clapping of maidens' hands that made me whooping drunk, we stretched away, my horse and I, on a long smooth gallop, for Brookhaven.
"Oh! I certainly didn't mean anything against you, Smith. Why is your manner so strange to me to-day? Oh, Smith, if you knew what--if I could speak to you in sacred confidence--I--I wouldn't injure Ned Ferry in your eyes, nor in anybody's; I only tell you what I do tell so you may help me to help him. But he's staying here, Smith, and keeping you here, to be near one whose name--without her a-dreaming of it--is already coupled with--why,--why, what made you start that a-way again, Smith?"I took up my pen, and until twilight we spoke thereafter only of abstracts and requisitions. But then he led me on to tell him all about myself. I explained why my first name was Richard and my second name Thorndyke, and dwelt especially on the enormous differences between the Smiths from whom we were and those from whom we were not descended.
LXIII SOMETHING I HAVE NEVER TOLD TILL NOWMiss Charlotte's a-comin' down de la--ane!"
"When; where is he?" eagerly asked Quinn, seeing Ferry was not going to ask."Pardon," interrupted the General, "the sunlight annoys you. Major, will you drop that curtain?" "Thank you. One thing I am here for, General, is to tell you something, and I have to begin by asking that neither of you will ever say how you learned it."
"Did you ever see her?""Why, Mr. Smith, she's actually been sitting up--in the twilight--at the open window--while Aunt Martha and I smoothed up her bed." Harry groaned.My problem was indeed simplified. The despatch had been stolen, opened, read, re-sealed and returned. All I now had to do was to lie here till daybreak and then get away if I could, deliver the despatch to Ned Ferry, and tell him--ah! what?--how much? Oh, my bemired soul, how much must I tell? My shame I might bear; I might wash it out in blood at the battle's front; but my perfidy! how much was it perfidy to withhold; how much was it perfidy to confess?
Sweetest ladies in de land--I confessed I had, and told him how, on our journey to Squire Wall's, being stung to desperation by the infantile way in which she had drooled out to others what my love had sacredly confided to her alone, I had abruptly confronted her with the fact, and in the ensuing debate, carried away by the torrent of my emotions, had offered her my love, for life and all.
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"I'd exchange for yours any day, and thank you, dear," responded Charlotte; "you're a bunch of sweet-peas. Isn't she, Mr. Smith?"
With some slave men to help us, Harry and I bore Charlotte out and laid her in the ambulance, mattress and all, on an under bedding of fodder. She had begged off from opiates, and was as full of the old starlight as if the day, still strong, were gone. I helped the married daughter up beside the driver, Harry and I mounted, and we set forth for the brigade camp. Mrs. Roy's daughter had with her a new romance, which she had been reading to Charlotte. Now she was eager to resume it, and Charlotte consented. It was a work of some merit; I have the volume yet, inscribed to me on the fly-leaf "from C.O.," as I have once already stated, in my account of my friend "The Solitary." At the end of a mile we made a change; Harry rode a few yards ahead with an officer who happened to overtake us, I took the reins from the ambulance driver, and he followed on my horse; I thought I could drive more smoothly than he."Papa tells us you are being sent off on courier duty to-night. What a heart-breaking thing is war! How full of cruel sepa'--"详情
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