“But, my dear – ”
“That is where they came from. Isn’t it lucky I got that commission to-day. There’s the bell; I wonder who it can be?” She stopped and listened while the door opened and Jonas, the butler, entered. “Is it Captain Thorne?” asked Edith eagerly.
“It’s another offisuh, ma’am. He says he’s fum de President an’ he’s got to see Miss Edith pussonally.”
Jonas extended a card which, as he spoke, Edith took and glanced at indifferently.
“Lieutenant Maxwell,” she read.
“Ask the gentleman in, Jonas,” said Mrs. Varney.
“It’s come,” whispered Edith to her mother.
“Do you know who he is?”
“No – but he’s from the President – it must be that commission.”
At this moment old Jonas ushered into the drawing-room a very dashing young officer, handsome in face, gallant in bearing, and dressed in a showy and perfectly fitting uniform, which was quite a contrast to the worn habiliments of the men at the front. Mrs. Varney stepped forward a little, and Lieutenant Maxwell bowed low before her.
“Good-evening, ma’am. Have I the honour of addressing Miss Varney?”
“I am Mrs. Varney, sir.”
“Madam,” said the Lieutenant, “I am very much afraid this looks like an intrusion on my part, but I come from the President, and he desires me to see Miss Varney personally.”
“Any one from the President could not be otherwise than welcome, sir. This is my daughter. Edith, let me present Lieutenant Maxwell.”
The young Lieutenant, greatly impressed, bowed profoundly before her, and taking a large brown envelope from his belt, handed it to her.
“Miss Varney,” he said, “the President directed me to deliver this into your hands, with his compliments. He is glad to be able to do this, he says, not only at your request, but because of your father and for the merits of the gentleman in question.”
“Oh, thank you,” cried the girl, taking the envelope.
“Won’t you be seated, Lieutenant Maxwell?” said Mrs. Varney.
“Yes, do,” urged the girl, holding the envelope pressed very tightly to her side.
“Nothing would please me so much, ladies,” answered the Lieutenant, “but I must go back to the President’s house right away. I’m on duty this evening. Would you mind writing me off a line or two, Miss Varney, just to say you have received the communication?”
“Why, certainly, you want a receipt. I’ll go upstairs to my desk; it won’t take a moment. And could I put in how much I thank him for his kindness?”
“I am sure he would be more than, pleased,” smiled Lieutenant Maxwell, as Edith left the room and hastened up the stairs.
“We haven’t heard so much cannonading to-day, Lieutenant,” said Mrs. Varney. “Do you know what it means?”
“I don’t think they are quite positive, ma’am, but they can’t help looking for a violent attack to follow.”
“I don’t see why it should quiet down before an assault.”
“Well, there is always a calm before a storm,” said the Lieutenant. “It might be some signal, or it might be they are moving their batteries to open on some special point of attack. They are trying every way to break through our defences, you know.”
“It’s very discouraging. We can’t seem to drive them back this time.”
“We’re holding them where they are, though,” said Maxwell proudly. “They’ll never get in unless they do it by some scurvy trick; that’s where the danger lies. We are always looking out for it, and – ”
At this moment Edith Varney reëntered the room. She had left her hat upstairs with the official-looking envelope, and had taken time to glance at a mirror and then to thrust a red rose in her dark hair. The impressionable young Lieutenant thought she looked prettier than ever.
“Lieutenant Maxwell,” she said, extending a folded paper, “here is your receipt – ”
The butler’s words to some one in the hall interrupted her further speech.
“Will you jes’ kin’ly step dis way, suh!” she heard Jonas say, and as Edith turned she found herself face to face with Captain Thorne!
On the sleeves of Captain Thorne’s coat the insignia of a Captain of Confederate Artillery were displayed; his uniform was worn, soiled, and ill-fitting, giving honourable evidence of hard service; his face was pale and thin and showed signs of recent illness, from which he had scarcely recovered. In every particular he was a marked contrast to Lieutenant Maxwell.
“Miss Varney,” he said, bowing low.
“We were expecting you,” answered Edith, giving her hand to Thorne. “Here’s Captain Thorne, mamma!”
Mrs. Varney shook hands with him graciously while her daughter turned once more to the other man, with the acknowledgment of the order, which she handed to him.
“I wasn’t so very long writing it, was I, Lieutenant Maxwell?” she asked.
“I’ve never seen a quicker piece of work, Miss Varney,” returned that young man, putting the note in his belt and smiling as he did so. “When you want a clerkship over at the Government offices, you must surely let me know.”
“You would better not commit yourself,” said Edith jestingly; “I might take you at your word.”
“Nothing would please me more,” was the prompt answer. “All you have got to do is just apply, and refer to me, of course.”
“Lots of the other girls are doing it,” continued Edith half-seriously. “They have to live. Aren’t there a good many where you are?”
“Well, we don’t have so many as they do over at the Treasury. I believe there are more ladies over there than men. And now I must go.”
“A moment,” said Mrs. Varney, coming forward with Thorne. “Do you gentlemen know each other?”
Captain Thorne shook his head and stepped forward, looking intently at the other.
“Let me have the pleasure of making you acquainted, then. Captain Thorne – Lieutenant Maxwell.”
Thorne slowly inclined his head. Maxwell also bowed.
“I have not had the pleasure of meeting Captain Thorne before, although I have heard of him a great many times,” he said courteously.
“Yes?” answered the other, who seemed to be a man of few words.
“In fact, Captain, there is a gentleman in one of our offices who seems mighty anxious to pick a fight with you.”
“Really!” exclaimed Captain Thorne, smiling somewhat sarcastically; “pick a fight with me! To what office do you refer, sir?”
“The War Office, sir,” said Lieutenant Maxwell, rather annoyed, he could not exactly say why.
“Dear, dear!” continued Thorne urbanely; “I didn’t suppose there was anybody in the War Office who wanted to fight!”
“And why not, sir?” asked Lieutenant Maxwell haughtily, while Edith barely stifled a laugh, and her mother even smiled.
“Well, if he wanted to fight, he’d hardly be in an office at a time like this, would he?”
Captain Thorne’s sarcasm seemed to perturb the youngster, but his good breeding got the better of his annoyance.
“I’d better not tell him that, Captain,” he said with a great effort at lightness; “he would certainly insist upon having you out.”
“That would be too bad,” said the Captain. “It might interfere with his office hours and – ”
“He doesn’t believe it, Miss Varney,” said Maxwell, turning to the younger woman, “but it is certainly true. I dare say you know the gentleman – ”
“Please don’t, Lieutenant,” interrupted Edith quickly. “I would rather not talk about it, if you please.”
“Of course,” said Maxwell, “I didn’t know there was anything – ”
“Yes,” said Edith. “Let’s talk about something else. You know there is always the weather to fall back on – ”
“I should say so,” laughed the Lieutenant, “and mighty bad weather for us, too.”
“Yes, isn’t it?”
They turned away, talking and laughing somewhat constrainedly, while Mrs. Varney picked up the note that was still lying on the table.
“From your note, I suppose you are leaving us immediately, Captain Thorne. Your orders have come?”
“Yes, Mrs. Varney,” said the Captain. “I am afraid this must be the last of my pleasant calls.”
“Isn’t it rather sudden? Are you quite well? It seems to me they ought to give you a little more time to recover.”
“I have no doubt that I am, or feel, much better than I look,” said the Captain, “and we have to be ready for anything, you know. I have been idle too long already.”
“Yes, I suppose so,” said Mrs. Varney. “Well, it has been a great pleasure to have you call upon us. When you are away, we shall greatly miss your visits.”
“Thank you; I shall never forget what they have been to me.”
“Lieutenant Maxwell is going, mamma,” said Edith.
“So soon! Please excuse me a moment, Captain. I am very sorry you have to hurry away, Lieutenant; we shall hope for the pleasure of seeing you again, if your duties permit.”
“I shall certainly avail myself of your invitation, if you will allow me.” He saluted Captain Thorne. “Good-evening, sir.”
Thorne, of course, returned the courteous salute of his junior.
“Lieutenant Maxwell,” he said pleasantly, as Mrs. Varney followed Lieutenant Maxwell into the hall.
“Now remember, you are to come some time when duty doesn’t call you away so soon,” she said, as he bowed himself out.
“Trust me not to forget that, Mrs. Varney,” said the Lieutenant, as he disappeared on the porch.
Captain Thorne and Edith were left alone. The girl stepped over to a small table on which stood a vase of roses, and, with somewhat nervous hands, she busied herself arranging them. The young officer watched her in silence for a little while, the moments tense with emotion.
“Shall I see Mrs. Varney again?” he began at last.
“Oh, I suppose so, but not now. I heard her go upstairs to Howard.”
“How is he?”
“I am sorry.”
“Yes,” said the girl.
“I have a very little time to stay and – ”
“Oh – not long?” asked Edith.
“No, I am sorry to say.”
“Well, do you know,” she looked at him archly, “I believe you will have more time than you really think you have. It would be odd if it came out that way, wouldn’t it?” she continued, as she played with the flower in her hand.
“Yes, but it won’t come out that way,” said Thorne, as he stepped closer to her.
“You don’t know,” she faltered, as Thorne drew the flower from her and took her hand in his. They stood there quiet a moment, and she did not draw her hand away. “Well, it makes no difference how soon you are going away; you can sit down in the meantime if you want to.”
“It is hardly worth while,” he said; “my time is so short.”
“You would better,” interrupted the girl; “I have a great many things to say to you.”
“Have you?” he asked, sitting down on the little sofa by her side in compliance with her invitation.
“But I have only one thing to say to you – Miss Varney and – that is” – Thorne took her other hand in both of his – “good-bye.”
Very different words had trembled on his lips, as he knew and as the girl knew.
“But I don’t really think you will have to say that, Captain Thorne,” said Edith slowly.
“I know I will.”
“Then,” said Edith more softly, “it will be because you want to say it.”
“No,” said Thorne, resolutely and of his own motion releasing her hands, which she had allowed him to hold without remonstrance; “it will be because I must.”
He rose to his feet and took up his hat from the table as if, the thing being settled, he had only to go. But the girl observed with secret joy that he made no other effort at departure.
“Oh, you think you must, do you, Captain Thorne?” said Edith, looking up at him mischievously. “You are a very wise person, but you don’t know all that I know.”
“I think that is more than likely, Miss Varney, but won’t you tell me some of the things that you know that I don’t, so that I can approach your knowledge in that respect?”
“I wouldn’t mind telling you one thing, and that is that it is very wrong for you to think of leaving Richmond now.”
“Oh, but you don’t know.”
“Yes, I do.”
“Well, what do you know?” asked Thorne curiously.
“Whatever you were going to say. Most likely it was that there’s something or other I don’t know about, but I do know this. You were sent here to recover, and you haven’t nearly had enough time for it yet.”
“I do look as if a high wind would blow me away, don’t I?” he laughed.
“No matter how you look, you ought not to go. You are just making fun of it, as you always do of everything. No matter, you can have all the fun you like, but the whole thing is settled; you are not going away at all, you are going to stay here,” she concluded with most decided but winning emphasis.
“Oh, I’m not going? Well, that is quite a change for me,” said Thorne composedly. He laid his hat back on the table and came closer to Edith. “Perhaps you wouldn’t mind telling me what I am going to do.”
“I don’t mind at all, and it is this. You see, I have been to see – I am almost afraid to tell you.”
“Don’t tell me,” said the man with sudden seriousness, laying aside all his pleasantry, “because it can’t be true. I have my orders, and I am leaving to-night.”
“Where – to Petersburg – to the front?”
“We can’t always tell where orders will take us,” he said evasively, again sitting down beside her on the lounge.
He could scarcely tear himself away from her, from the delicious yet painful emotion aroused by her presence. He ought to have gone long since, yet he was with her, as he supposed, for the last time. Surely he might indulge himself a little. He loved her so desperately, so hopelessly.
“But listen,” said the girl; “supposing there were other orders, orders from a higher authority, appointing you to duty here?”
“It would not make any difference.”
“You don’t mean you would go in spite of them!” cried the girl in sudden alarm.
Thorne looked at her gravely and nodded his head.
“But if it were proved that your first orders were a mistake – ”
She stretched out her hand toward him, which Thorne clasped closely again.
“But it wasn’t a mistake, and I must go,” he said slowly, rising to his feet once more, but still holding her hand.
“Is it something dangerous?” asked the girl apprehensively.
“Oh, well, enough to make it interesting.”
But Edith did not respond to his well simulated humour. She drew her hand away, and Thorne fancied with a leap of his heart that she did it with reluctance. She began softly:
“Don’t be angry with me if I ask you again about your orders. I must know.”
“But why?” asked Thorne curiously.
“No matter, tell me.”
“I can’t do that. I wish I could,” he answered with a slight sigh.
“You needn’t,” said the girl triumphantly; “I do know.”
The Captain started and, in spite of his control, a look of dismay and apprehension flitted across his face as the girl went on:
“They’re sending you on some mission where death is almost certain. They will sacrifice your life, because they know you are fearless and will do anything. There is a chance for you to stay here, and be just as much use, and I am going to ask you to take it. It isn’t your life alone – there are – others to think of and – that’s why I ask you. It may not sound well, perhaps I ought not – you won’t understand, but you – ”
As she spoke she rose to her feet, confronting him, while she impulsively thrust out her hand toward him again. Once more he took that beloved hand in his own, holding it close against him. Burning avowals sprang to his lips, and the colour flamed into her face as she stood motionless and expectant, looking at him. She had gone as far as a modest woman might. Now the initiative was his. She could only wait.
“No,” said the man at last, by the exercise of the most iron self-control and repression, “you shall not have this against me, too.”
Edith drew closer to him, leaving her hand in his as she placed her other on his shoulder. She thought she knew what he would have said. And love gave her courage. The frankness of war was in the air. If this man left her now, she might never see him again. She was a woman, but she could not let him go without an effort.
“Against you! What against you? What do you mean?” she asked softly.
The witchery of the hour was upon him, too, and the sweetness of her presence. He knew he had but to speak to receive his answer, to summon the fortress and receive the surrender. Her eyes dropped before his passionately searching look, her colour came and went, her bosom rose and fell. She thought he must certainly hear the wild beating of her heart. He pressed her hands closely to his breast for a moment, but quickly pulled himself together again.
“I must go,” he said hoarsely; “my business is – elsewhere. I ought never to have seen you or spoken to you, but I had to come to this house and you were here, and how could I help it? Oh – I couldn’t for my whole – it’s only you in this – ” He stopped and thrust her hands away from him blindly and turned away. As there was a God above him he would not do it. “Your mother – I would like to say good-bye to her.”
“No, you are not going,” cried the girl desperately, playing her last card. “Listen, they need you in Richmond: the President told me so himself – your orders are to stay here. You are to be given a special commission on the War Department Telegraph Service, and you – ”
“No, no, I won’t take it – I can’t take it, Miss Varney.”
“Can’t you do that much for – me?” said the girl with winning sweetness, and again she put out her hands to him.
“It is for you that I will do nothing of the kind,” he answered quickly; “if you ever think of me again after – well, when I am gone, remember that I refused.”
“But you can’t refuse; it is the President’s desire, it is his order, you have got to obey. Wait a moment, I left it upstairs. I will fetch it for you and you will see.”
She turned toward the door.
“No,” said Thorne, “don’t get it, I won’t look at it.”
“But you must see what it is. It puts you at the head of everything. You have entire control. When you see it I know you will accept it. Please wait.”
“No, Miss Varney, I can’t – ”
“Oh, yes, you can,” cried Edith, who would hear no denial as she ran swiftly toward the door.
The Captain stared after her departing figure; he listened to her footfalls on the stair, and then came to an instant resolution. He would take advantage of her opportune withdrawal. He turned back to the table, seized his hat, and started for the door, only to come face to face with another charming young woman, who stood breathless before him to his great and ill-concealed annoyance. Yet the newcomer was pretty enough and young enough and sweet enough to give any man pause for the sheer pleasure of looking at her, to say nothing of speaking to her.
The resources of an ancient wardrobe, that looked as though it had belonged to her great-grandmother, had been called upon for a costume which was quaint and old-fashioned and altogether lovely. She was evidently much younger than Edith Varney, perhaps just sixteen, Wilfred’s age. With outstretched arms she barred the door completely, and Thorne, of course, came to an abrupt stop.
“Oh, good-evening,” she panted, as soon as she found speech; she had run without stopping from her house across the street.
“Good-evening, Miss Mitford,” he answered, stepping to one side to let her pass, but through calculation or chance she kept her position at the door.
“How lucky this is!” she continued. “You are the very person I wanted to see. Let’s sit down and then I’ll tell you all about it. Goodness me, I am all out of breath just running over from our house.”
Thorne did not accept her invitation, but stood looking at her. An idea came to him.
“Miss Mitford,” he said at last, stepping toward her, “will you do something for me?”
“Of course I will.”
“Thank you very much, indeed. Just tell Miss Varney when she comes down – just say good-night for me and tell her that I’ve gone.”
“I wouldn’t do such a thing for the wide, wide world,” returned Caroline Mitford in pretended astonishment.
“It would be a wicked, dreadful story, because you wouldn’t be gone.”
“I am sorry you look at it that way,” said Thorne, “because I am going. Good-night, Miss Mitford.”
But before he could leave the room, the girl, who was as light on her feet as a fairy, caught him by the arm.
“No – you don’t seem to understand. I’ve got something to say to you.”
“Yes, I know,” said Thorne; “but some other time.”
Of course, he could have freed himself by the use of a little force, but such a thing was not to be thought of. Everything conspired to keep him when his duty called him away, he thought quickly.
“There isn’t any other time,” said Caroline, “it is to-night. We are going to have a Starvation party.”
“Good Heavens!” exclaimed Thorne; “another!”
“Yes, we are.”
“I can’t see how it concerns me.”
“It is going to be over at our house, and we expect you in half an hour.”
“I shouldn’t think you would want to play at this time.”
“We are not going to play. We are going to make bandages and sandbags and – ”
“You won’t need me.”
“Yes, you can tell us the best way to – ”
“Thank you, Miss Mitford, I can’t come. I have my orders and I am leaving to-night.”
“Now, that won’t do at all,” said the girl, pouting. “You went to Mamie Jones’ party; I don’t see why you should treat me like this.”
“Mamie Jones!” said Thorne. “Why, that was last Thursday, and now I have got orders, I tell you, and – ”
But Caroline was not to be put off.
“Now, there’s no use talking about it,” she said vehemently.
“Yes, I see that.”
“Didn’t you promise to obey orders when I gave them? Well, these are orders.”
“Another set,” laughed Thorne.
“I don’t know anything about any others. These are mine.”
“Well, but this time – ”
“This time is just the same as all the other times, only worse; besides I told her you would be there.”
“I say she expects you, that’s all.”
“Who expects me?”
“Why, Edith, of course; who do you suppose I was talking about all this time?”
“Oh, she expects me to – ”
“Why, of course, she does. You are to take her over. You needn’t stay if you don’t want to. Now I will go and tell her you are waiting.”
“Oh, very well,” said Thorne, smiling; “if she expects me to take her over I will do so, of course, but I can’t stay a moment.”
“Well,” said Caroline, “I thought you would come to your senses some time or another. See here, Mr. Captain, was she ’most ready?”
“Well, how do I know.”
“What dress did she have on?”
“Oh, you men! Why, she’s only got two.”
“Yes; well, very likely, this was one of them, Miss Mitford.”
“No matter, I am going upstairs to see, anyway. Captain Thorne, you can wait out there on the veranda or, perhaps, it would be pleasanter if you were to smoke a cigar out in the summerhouse at the side of the garden. It is lovely there in the moonlight, and – ”
“I know, but if I wait right here – ”
“Those are my orders. It’s cooler outside, you know, anyway, and – ”
“Pardon me, Miss Mitford, orders never have to be explained, you know,” interrupted the Captain, smiling at the charming girl.
“That’s right; I take back the explanation,” she said, as Thorne stepped toward the window; “and, Captain,” cried the girl.
“Be sure and smoke.”
Thorne laughed, as he lighted his cigar and stepped out onto the porch, and thence into the darkness of the garden path.
“Oh,” said Caroline to herself, “he is splendid. If Wilfred were only like that!” she pouted. “But then – our engagement’s broken off anyway, so what’s the difference. If he were like that – I’d – No! – I don’t think I’d – ”
Her soliloquy was broken by the entrance of Mrs. Varney, who came slowly down the room.
“Why, Caroline dear! What are you talking about, all to yourself?”
“Oh – just – I was just saying, you know – that – why, I don’t know what I was – Do you think it is going to rain?” she returned in great confusion.
“Dear me, child; I haven’t thought about it. Why, what have you got on? Is that a new dress, and in Richmond?”
“A new dress? Well, I should think so. These are my great-grandmother’s mother’s wedding clothes. Aren’t they lovely? Just in the nick of time, too. I was on my very last rags, or, rather, they were on me, and I didn’t know what to do. Mother gave me a key and told me to open an old horsehair trunk in the attic, and these were in it.” She seized the corners of her dress and pirouetted a step or two forward to show it off, and then dropped the older woman an elaborate, old-fashioned courtesy. “I ran over to show them to Edith,” she resumed. “Where is she? I want her to come over to my house.”
“Upstairs, I think. I am afraid she can’t come. I have just come from her room,” Mrs. Varney continued as Caroline started to interrupt, “and she means to stay here.”
“I will see about that,” said Caroline, running out of the room.
Mrs. Varney turned and sat down at her desk to write a letter which evidently, from her sighs, was not an easy task. In a short time the girl was back again. Mrs. Varney looked up from writing and smiled at her.
“You see it was no use, Caroline,” she began.
“No use,” laughed the girl; “well, you will see. I didn’t try to persuade her or argue with her. I just told her that Captain Thorne was waiting for her in the summerhouse. Yes,” she continued, as Mrs. Varney looked her astonishment; “he is still here, and he said he would take her over. You just watch which dress she has on when she comes down. Now I will go out there and tell him she’ll be down in a minute. I have more trouble getting people fixed so that they can come to my party than it would take to run a blockade into Savannah every fifteen minutes.”
Mrs. Varney looked at her departing figure pleasantly for a moment, and then, with a deep sigh, resumed her writing, but she evidently was not to conclude her letter without further interruption, for she had scarcely begun again when Wilfred came into the room with a bundle very loosely done up in heavy brown paper. As his mother glanced toward him he made a violent effort to conceal it under his coat.
“What have you got there, Wilfred?” she asked incuriously.
“That? Oh, nothing; it is only – say, mother, have you written that letter yet?”
“No, my dear, I have been too busy. I have been trying to write it, though, since I came down, but I have had one interruption after another. I think I will go into your father’s office and do it there.” She gathered up her paper and turned to leave the room. “It is a hard letter for me to write, you know,” she added as she went away.
Wilfred, evidently much relieved at his mother’s departure, took the package from under his coat, put it on the table, and began to undo it. He took from it a pair of very soiled, dilapidated, grey uniform trousers. He had just lifted them up when he heard Caroline’s step on the porch, and the next moment she came into the room through the long French window. Wilfred stood petrified with astonishment at the sudden and unexpected appearance of his young beloved, but soon recovered himself and began rolling the package together again, hastily and awkwardly, while Caroline watched him from the window. She coldly scrutinised his confusion while he made his ungainly roll, and, as he moved toward the door, she broke the silence.
“Ah, good-evening, Mr. Varney,” she said coolly.
“Good-evening,” he said, his voice as cold as her own.
They both of them had started for the hall door and in another second they would have met.
“Excuse me,” said Caroline, “I’m in a hurry.”
“That’s plain enough. Another party, I suppose, and dancing.”
“What of it? What’s the matter with dancing, I’d like to know.”
“Nothing is the matter with dancing if you want to, but I must say that it is a pretty way of going on, with the cannon roaring not six miles away.”
“Well, what do you want us to do? Cry about it! I have cried my eyes out already; that would do a heap of good now, wouldn’t it?”
“Oh, I haven’t time to talk about such petty details. I have some important matters to attend to,” he returned loftily.
“It was you that started it,” said the girl.
Wilfred turned suddenly, his manner at once losing its badly assumed lightness.
“Oh, you needn’t try to fool me,” he reproached her; “I know well enough how you have been carrying on since our engagement was broken off. Half a dozen officers proposing to you – a dozen for all I know.”
“What difference does it make?” she retorted pertly. “I haven’t got to marry them all, have I?”
“Well, it isn’t very nice to go on like that,” said Wilfred with an air into which he in vain sought to infuse a detached, judicial, and indifferent appearance. “Proposals by the wholesale!”
“Goodness me!” exclaimed Caroline, “what’s the use of talking about it to me. They’re the ones that propose, I don’t. How can I help it?”
“Oh,” said Wilfred loftily, “you can help it all right. You helped it with me.”
“Well,” she answered, with a queer look at him, “that was different.”
“And ever since you threw me over – ” he began.
“I didn’t throw you over, you just went over,” she interrupted.
“I went over because you walked off with Major Sillsby that night we were at Drury’s Bluff,” said the boy, “and you encouraged him to propose. You admit it,” he said, as the girl nodded her head.
“Of course I did. I didn’t want him hanging around forever, did I? That’s the only way to finish them off. What do you want me to do – string a placard around my neck, saying, ‘No proposals received here. Apply at the office’? Would that make you feel any better? Well,” she continued, as the boy shrugged his shoulders, “if it doesn’t make any difference to you what I do, it doesn’t even make as much as that to me.”
“Oh, it doesn’t? I think it does, though. You looked as if you enjoyed it pretty well while the Third Virginia was in the city.”
“I should think I did,” said Caroline ecstatically. “I just love every one of them. They are going to fight for us and die for us, and I love them.”
“Why don’t you accept one of them before he dies, then, and have done with it? I suppose it will be one of those smart young fellows with a cavalry uniform.”
“It will be some kind of a uniform, I can tell you that. It won’t be any one that stays in Richmond.”
“Now I see what it was,” said Wilfred, looking at her gloomily. “I had to stay in Richmond, and – ”
The boy choked up and would not finish.
“Well,” said Caroline, “that made a heap of difference. Why, I was the only girl on Franklin Street that didn’t have a – some one she was engaged to – at the front. Just think what it was to be out of it like that! You have no idea how I suffered; besides, it is our duty to help all we can. There aren’t many things a girl can do, but Colonel Woolbridge – he’s one of Morgan’s new men, you know – said that the boys fight twice as well when they have a – sweetheart at home. I couldn’t waste an engagement on – ”