The Way of a Man
by Emerson Hough
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We stood now where we had slowly advanced toward the sideboard. But Doctor Bond did not seem glad. He paused, looking strangely at me and at our host. "Harry," said he, "suppose you go look in the hall for my saddle-bags—I have left my medicine case."

The young man turned, but for no reason apparently, stopped at the door, and presently joined us again.

"May I ask for Miss Grace this morning, Doctor," I began, politely.

"Yes," interjected Colonel Sheraton. "How's the girl? She ought to be with us this minute—a moment like this, you know."

Doctor Bond looked at us still gravely. He turned from me to Colonel Sheraton, and again to Harry Sheraton. "Harry," said he, sternly. "Didn't you hear me? Get out!"

We three were left alone. "Jack, I must see you a moment alone," said Doctor Bond to me.

"What's up," demanded Colonel Sheraton. "What's the mystery? It seems to me I'm interested in everything proper here. What's wrong, Doctor? Is my girl sick?"

"Yes," said the physician.

"What's wrong?"

"She needs aid," said the old wire-hair slowly.

"Can you not give it, then? Isn't that your business?"

"No, sir. It belongs to another profession," said Doctor. Bond, dryly, taking snuff and brushing his nose with his immense red kerchief.

Colonel Sheraton looked at him for the space of a full minute, but got no further word. "Damn your soul, sir!" he thundered, "explain yourself, or I'll make you wish you had. What do you mean?" He turned fiercely upon me.

"By God, sir, there's only one meaning that I can guess. You, sir, what's wrong? Are you to blame?"

I faced him fairly now. "I am so accused by her," I answered slowly.

"What! What!" He stood as though frozen.

"I shall not lie about it. It is not necessary for me to accuse a girl of falsehood. I only say, let us have this wedding, and have it soon. I so agreed with Miss Grace last night."

The old man sprang at me like a maddened tiger now, his eyes glaring about the room for a weapon. He saw it—a long knife with ivory handle and inlaid blade, lying on the ledge where I myself had placed it when I last was there. Doctor Bond sprang between him and the knife. I also caught Colonel Sheraton and held him fast.

"Wait," I said. "Wait! Let us have it all understood plainly. Then let us take it up in any way you Sheratons prefer."

"Stop, I say," cried the stern-faced doctor—as honest a man, I think, as ever drew the breath of life. He hurled his sinewy form against Colonel Sheraton again as I released him. "That boy is lying to us both, I tell you. I say he's not to blame, and I know it. I know it, I say. I'm her physician. Listen, you, Sheraton—you shall not harm a man who has lied like this, like a gentleman, to save you and your girl."

"Damn you both," sobbed the struggling man. "Let me go! Let me alone! Didn't I hear him—didn't you hear him admit it?" He broke free and stood panting in the center of the room, we between him and the weapon. "Harry!" he called out sharply. The door burst open.

"A gun—my pistol—get me something, boy! Arm yourself—we'll kill these—"

"Harry," I called out to him in turn. "Do nothing of the sort! You'll have me to handle in this. Some things I'll endure, but not all things always—I swear I'll stand this no longer, from all of you or any of you. Listen to me. Listen I say—it is as Doctor Bond says."

So now they did listen, silently.

"I am guiltless of any harm or wish of harm to any woman of this family," I went on. "Search your own hearts. Put blame where it belongs. But don't think you can crowd me, or force me to do what I do not freely offer."

"It is true," said Doctor Bond. "I tell you, what he says could not by any possibility be anything else but true. He's just back home. He has been gone all summer."

Colonel Sheraton felt about him for a chair and sank down, his gray face dropped in his hands. He was a proud man, and one of courage. It irked him sore that revenge must wait.

"Now," said I, "I have something to add to the record. I hoped that a part of my story could be hid forever, except for Miss Grace and me alone. I have not been blameless. For that reason, I was willing, freely—not through force—to do what I could in the way of punishment to myself and salvation for her. But now as this thing comes up, I can no longer shield her, or myself, or any of you. We'll have to go to the bottom now."

I flung out on the table the roll which I had brought with me to show that morning to Grace Sheraton—the ragged hide, holding writings placed there by my hand and that of another.

"This," I said, "must be shown to you all. Colonel Sheraton, I have been very gravely at fault. I was alone for some months in the wilderness with another woman. I loved her very much. I forgot your daughter at that time, because I found I loved her less. Through force of circumstances I lived with this other woman very closely for some months. We foresaw no immediate release. I loved her, and she loved me—the only time I knew what love really meant, I admit it. We made this contract of marriage between us. It was never enforced. We never were married, because that contract was never signed by us both. Here it is. Examine it."

It lay there before us. I saw its words again stare up at me. I saw again the old pictures of the great mountains; and the cloudless sky, and the cities of peace wavering on the far horizon. I gazed once more upon that different and more happy world, when I saw, blurring before my eyes, the words—"I, John Cowles—I, Ellen Meriwether—take thee—take thee—for better, for worse—till death do us part." I saw her name, "E-l-l-e-n."

"Harry," said I, turning on him swiftly. "Your father is old. This is for you and me, I think. I shall be at your service soon."

His face paled. But that of his father was now gray, very old and gray.

"Treachery!" he murmured. "Treachery! You slighted my girl. My God, sir, she should not marry you though she died! This—" he put out his hand toward the hide scroll.

"No," I said to him. "This is mine. The record of my fault belongs to me. The question for you is only in regard to the punishment.

"We are four men here," I added, presently, "and it seems to me that first of all we owe protection to the woman who needs it. Moreover, I repeat, that though her error is not mine, it was perhaps pride or sorrow or anger with me which led her to her own fault. It was Gordon Orme who told her that I was false to her, and added lies about me and this other woman. It was Gordon Orme, Colonel Sheraton, I do not doubt—sir, I found him in your yard, here, at midnight, when I last was here. And, sir, there was a light—a light—" I tried to smile, though I fear my face was only distorted. "I agreed with your daughter that it was without question a light that some servant had left by chance at a window."

I wish never to hear again such a groan as broke from that old man's lips. He was sunken and broken when he put out his hand to me. "Boy," said he, "have mercy. Forgive. Can you—could you—"

"Can you yourself forgive this?" I answered, pointing to the scroll. "I admit to you I love Ellen Meriwether yet, and always will. Sir, if I married your daughter, it could only be to leave her within the hour."

Silence fell upon all of us. Harry set down his glass, and the clink on the silver tray sounded loud. None moved but Doctor Bond, who, glasses upon nose, bent over the blurred hide, studying it.

"Colonel Sheraton," said he at length, "it seems to me that we have no quarrel here among ourselves. We all want to do what is best done now to make amends for what has not always been best done. Mr. Cowles has given every proof we could ask—we could not ask more of any man—you have no right to ask so much. He wishes, at great cost to himself, I think, to do what he can to save your girl's happiness and honor. He admits his own fault." He looked at me, savagely shaking a finger, but went on.

"Perhaps I, a physician, unfortunately condemned to see much of the inner side of human nature, am as well equipped as any to call him more guiltless than society might call him. I say with him, let him who is without guilt first cast a stone. Few of us are all we ought to be, but why? We speak of double lives—why, we all lead double lives—the entire world leads a double life; that of sex and of society, that of nature and of property. I say to you, gentlemen, that all the world is double. So let us be careful how we adjudge punishment; and let us be as fair to our neighbor as we are to ourselves. This is only the old, old question of love and the law.

"But wait a minute—" he raised a hand as Colonel Sheraton stirred. "I have something else to say. As it chances, I am curious in other professions than my own sometimes—I read in the law sometimes, again in theology, literature. I wish to be an educated man so far as I may be, since a university education was denied me. Now, I say to you, from my reading in the law, a strong question arises whether the two who wrote this covenant of marriage are not at this moment man and wife!" He rapped a finger on the parchment.

A sigh broke in concert from all within that room. The next moment, I know not how, we were all four of us bending above the scroll. "See there," went on the old doctor. "There is a definite, mutual promise, a consideration moving from each side, the same consideration in each case, the promise from each bearing the same intent and value, and having the same qualifying clauses. The contract is definite; it is dated. It is evidently the record of a unanimous intent, an identical frame of mind between the two making it at that time. It is signed and sealed in full by one party, no doubt in his own hand. It is written and acknowledged by the other party in her own hand—"

"But not signed!" I broke in. "See, it is not signed. She said she would sign it one letter each week—weeks and weeks—until at last, this, which was only our engagement, should with the last letter make our marriage. Gentlemen," I said to them, "it was an honest contract. It was all the formality we could have, all the ceremony we could have. It was all that we could do. I stand before you promised to two women. Before God I was promised to one. I loved her. I could do no more—"

"It was enough," said Doctor Bond, dryly, taking snuff. "It was a wedding."

"Impossible!" declared Colonel Sheraton.

"Impossible? Not in the least," said the doctor. "It can be invalid only upon one ground. It might be urged that the marriage was not consummated. But in the courts that would be a matter of proof. Whatever our young friend here might say, a court would say that consummation was very probable.

"I say, as this stands, the contract is a definite one, agreeing to do a definite thing, namely, to enter into the state of marriage. The question of the uncompleted signature does not invalidate it, nor indeed come into the matter at all. It is only a question whether the signature, so far as it goes, means the identity of the Ellen Meriwether who wrote the clause preceding it. It is a question of identification solely. Nothing appears on this contract stipulating that she must sign her full name before the marriage can take place. That verbal agreement, which Mr. Cowles mentions, of signing it letter by letter, does not in law affect a written agreement. This written contract must, in the law, be construed just as It stands, and under its own phrasing, by its own inherent evidence. The obvious and apparent evidence is that the person beginning this signature was Ellen Meriwether—the same who wrote the last clause of the contract. The handwriting is the same—the supposition is that it is the same, and the burden of proof would lie on the one denying it.

"Gentlemen," he went on, taking a turn, hands behind back, his big red kerchief hanging from his coat tails, "I take Mr. Cowles' word as to acts before and after this contract. I think he has shown to us that he is a gentleman. In that world, very different from this world, he acted like a gentleman. In that life he was for the time freed of the covenant of society. Now, in this life, thrown again under the laws of society, he again shows to us that he is a gentleman, here as much as there. We cannot reason from that world to this. I say—yes, I hope I am big enough man to say—that we cannot blame him, arguing from that world to this. We can exact of a man that he shall be a gentleman in either one of those worlds; but we cannot exact it of him to be the same gentleman in both!

"Now, the question comes, to which of these worlds belongs John Cowles? The court will say that this bit of hide is a wedding ceremony. Gentlemen," he smiled grimly, "we need all the professions here to-day—medicine, ministry and law! At least, Colonel Sheraton, I think we need legal counsel before we go on with any more weddings for this young man here."

"But there is no record of this," I said. "There is no execution in duplicate."

"No," said the doctor. "It is only a question of which world you elect." I looked at him, and he added, "It is also only a question of morals. If this record here should be destroyed, you would leave the other party with no proof on her side of the case."

He brushed off his nose again, and took another short turn from the table, his head dropped in thought. "It is customary," he said as he turned to me, "to give the wife the wedding certificate. The law, the ministry, and the profession of medicine, all unite in their estimate of the relative value of marital faithfulness as between the sexes. It is the woman who needs the proof. All nature shields the woman's sex. She is the apple of Nature's eye, and even the law knows that."

I walked to the mantel and took up the knife that lay there. I returned to the table, and with a long stroke I ripped the hide in two. I threw the two pieces into the grate.

"That is my proof," said I, "that Ellen Meriwether needs no marriage certificate! I am the certificate for that, and for her!"

Colonel Sheraton staggered to me, his hand trembling, outstretched. "You're free to marry my poor girl—" he began.

"It is proof also," I went on, "that I shall never see Ellen Meriwether again, any more than I shall see Grace Sheraton again after I have married her. What happens after that is not my business. It is my business, Colonel Sheraton, and yours—possibly even your son's"—I smiled at Harry—"to find Gordon Orme. I claim him first. If I do not kill him, then you—and you last, Harry, because you are least fit."

"Gentlemen, is it all agreed?" I asked. I tossed the knife back on the mantel, and turned my back to it and them.

"Jack," said my old wire-hair, Doctor Bond, "I pray God I may never see this done again to any man. I thank God the woman I loved died years ago. She was too good—they're all too good—I, a physician, say they are all too good. Only in that gap between them and us lies any margin which permits you to lie to yourself at the altar. To care for them—to shield them—they, the apple of the Eye—that is why we men are here." He turned away, his face working.

"Is it agreed?" I asked of Colonel Sheraton, sternly.

His trembling hand sought mine. "Yes," he said. "Our quarrel is discharged, and more than so. Harry, shake hands with Mr. Cowles. By God! men, our quarrel now runs to Gordon Orme. To-morrow we start for Carolina, where we had his last address. Mr. Cowles, my heart bleeds, it bleeds, sir, for you. But for her also—for her up there. The courts shall free you quickly and quietly, as soon as it can be done. It is you who have freed us all. You have been tried hard. You have proved yourself a man."

But it was not the courts that freed us. None of us ever sought actual knowledge of what agency really freed us. Indeed, the time came swiftly for us all to draw the cloak of secrecy about one figure of this story, and to shield her in it forever.

Again we were interrupted. The door at the stair burst open. A black maid, breathless, broke into the room.

"She's a-settin' there—Miss Grace just a-settin' there—" she began, and choked and stammered.

"What is it?" cried Doctor Bond, sharply, and sprang at the door. I heard him go up the stairs lightly as though he were a boy. We all followed, plying the girl with questions.

"I went in to make up the room," blubbered she, "an' she was just settin' there, an' I spoke to her an' she didn't answer—an' I called to her, an' she didn't answer—she's just a-settin' there right now."

As a cloud sweeps over a gray, broken moor, so now horror swept upon us in our distress and grief. We paused one moment to listen, then went on to see what we knew we must see.

I say that we men of Virginia were slow to suspect a woman. I hope we are still slower to gossip regarding one. Not one of us ever asked Doctor Bond a question, fearing lest we might learn what perhaps he knew.

He stood beyond her now, his head bowed, his hand touching her wrist, feeling for the pulse that was no longer there. The solemnity of his face was louder than speech. It seemed to me that I heard his silent demand that we should all hold our peace forever.

Grace Sheraton, her lips just parted in a little crooked smile, such as she might have worn when she was a child, sat at a low dressing table, staring directly into the wide mirror which swung before her at its back. Her left arm lay at length along the table. Her right, with its hand under her cheek and chin, supported her head, which leaned but slightly to one side. She gazed into her own face, into her own heart, into the mystery of human life and its double worlds, I doubt not. She could not tell us what she had learned.

Her father stepped to her side, opposite the old doctor. I heard sobs as they placed her upon her little white bed, still with that little crooked smile upon her face, as though, she were young, very young again.

I went to the window, and Harry, I think, was close behind me. Before me lay the long reaches of our valley, shimmering in the midday autumn sun. It seemed a scene of peace and not of tragedy.

But even as I looked, there came rolling up our valley, slowly, almost as though visible, the low, deep boom of the signal gun from the village below. It carried news, the news from America!

We started, all of us. I saw Colonel Sheraton half look up as he stood, bent over the bed. Thus, stunned by horror as we were, we waited. It was a long time, an interminable time, moments, minutes, it seemed to me, until there must have been thrice time for the repetition of the signal, if there was to be one.

There was no second sound. The signal was alone, single; ominous.

"Thank God! Thank God!" cried Colonel Sheraton; swinging his hands aloft, tears rolling down his old gray cheeks. "It is war! Now we may find forgetfulness!"



So it was war. We drew apart into hostile camps. By midwinter South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, had withdrawn from the Union. There arose two capitals, each claiming a government, each planning war: Washington and Richmond.

As for me, I had seen the flag on our far frontiers, in wide, free lands. It was a time when each must choose for himself. I knew with whom my own lot must be cast. I pledged myself to follow the flag of the frontier, wherever it might go.

During the winter I busied myself, and when the gun of Sumpter came on that sad day of April, I was ready with a company of volunteers who had known some months of drill, at least, and who had been good enough to elect me for their captain. Most of my men came from the mountains of Western Virginia, where geography made loyalty, and loyalty later made a State. I heard, remotely, that Colonel Meriwether would not join the Confederacy. Some men of Western Virginia and Eastern Kentucky remained with the older flag. Both the Sheratons, the old Colonel and his son Harry, were of course for the South, and early in January they both left home for Richmond. On the other hand, again, our friend Captain Stevenson stood for the Federal government; and so I heard, also indirectly, did young Belknap of the Ninth Dragoons, Regulars, a gallant boy who swiftly reached distinction, and died a gallant man's death at Shiloh later on.

My mother, all for peace, was gray and silent over these hurrying events. She wept when she saw me in uniform and belt. "See," she said, "we freed our slaves long ago. We thought as the North thinks. This war is not for the Society of Friends." But she saw my father's blood in me again, and sighed. "Go, then," she said.

All over the country, North and South, came the same sighed consent of the women, "Go, then." And so we went out to kill each other, we who should all have been brothers. None of us would listen. The armies formed, facing each other on Virginia soil. Soon in our trampled fields, and broken herds, and ruined crops, in our desolated homes and hearts, we, brothers in America, learned the significance of war.

They crossed our little valley, passing through Alexandria, coming from Harper's Ferry, these raw ninety-day men of McDowell and Patterson, who thought to end the Confederacy that spring. Northern politics drove them into battle before they had learned arms. By midsummer all the world knew that they would presently encounter, somewhere near Manassas, to the south and west, the forces of Beauregard and Johnston, then lying within practical touch of each other by rail.

My men, most of them young fellows used to horse and arms, were brigaded as infantry with one of the four divisions of McDowell's men, who converged along different lines toward Fairfax. For nearly a week we lay near the front of the advance, moving on in snail-like fashion, which ill-suited most of us Virginians, who saw no virtue in postponing fight, since we were there for fighting. We scattered our forces, we did not unite, we did not entrench, we did not advance; we made all the mistakes a young army could, worst of all the mistake of hesitancy.

It was not until the twentieth of July that our leaders determined upon a flanking movement to our right, which was to cross Bull Run at the Sudley Ford. Even so, we dallied along until every one knew our plans. Back of us, the battle opened on the following day, a regiment at a time, with no concert, no plan. My men were with this right wing, which made the turning movement, but four brigades in all. Four other brigades, those of Howard, Burnside, Keyes and Schenck, were lost somewhere to the rear of us. Finally, we crossed and reached the left flank of the Confederates under Beauregard, and swung south along Bull Run. Our attack was scattering and ill-planned, but by three o'clock of the next day we were in the thickest of the fighting around the slopes which led up to the Henry House, back of which lay the Confederate headquarters.

I saw the batteries of Rickett and Griffin of our Regulars advance and take this height against the steadily thickening line of the Confederates, who had now had full time to concentrate. There came a hot cavalry charge upon the Zouave regiment on my left, and I saw the Zouaves lie down in the woods and melt the line of that charge with their fire, and save the battery for a time. Then in turn I saw that blunder by which the battery commander allowed Cummings' men—the Thirty-third Virginia, I think it was—deliberately to march within stone's throw of them, mistaken for Federal troops. I saw them pour a volley at short range into the guns, which wiped out their handlers, and let through the charging lines now converging rapidly upon us. Then, though it was but my first battle, I knew that our movement must fail, that our extended line, lying upon nothing, supported by nothing, must roll back in retreat along a trough road, where the horses and guns would mow us down.

Stuart's men came on, riding through us as we broke and scattered. Wheat's Louisiana Tigers came through our remnants as well. We had no support. We did not know that back of the hill the Confederate recruits were breaking badly as ourselves, and running to the rear. We were all new in war. We of the invading forces caught the full terror of that awful panic which the next day set the North in mourning, and the South aflame with a red exultation.

All around us our lines wavered, turned and fled. But to some, who knew the danger of the country back of us, it seemed safer to stay than to run. To that fact I owe my life, and at least a little satisfaction that some of us Virginians held our line for a time, even against those other Virginians who came on at us.

We were scattered in a thin line in cover of heavy timber, and when the pursuit came over us we killed a score of their men after they had passed. Such was the confusion and the madness of the pursuit, that they rolled beyond our broken line like a wave, scarce knowing we were there. Why I escaped I do not know, for I was now easily visible, mounted on a horse which I had caught as it came through the wood riderless. I was passing along our little front, up and down, as best I could in the tangle.

The pursuit went through us strung out, scattered, as disorganized as our own flight. They were practically over us and gone when, as I rode to the right flank of the remaining splinter of my little company, I saw, riding down upon us, a splendid soldier, almost alone, and apparently endeavoring to reach his command after some delay at the rear. He was mounted on a fine horse—a great black animal. His tall figure was clad in the gray uniform of the Confederates, with a black hat sweeping back from his forehead. He wore cavalry boots and deep gauntleted gloves, and in all made a gallant martial figure as he rode. A few of our men, half witless with their terror, crossed his path. I saw him half rise, once, twice, four times, standing in the stirrups to enforce his saber cuts, each one of which dropped a man. He and his horse moved together, a splendid engine of ruthless, butchery.

"Look out, Cap!" I heard a squeaking voice behind me call, and looking down, I saw one of my men, his left arm hanging loose, resting his gun across a log with his right. "Git out 'o the way," he repeated. "I'm goin' to kill him." It was that new-made warrior, Andrew Jackson McGovern, who had drifted back into our valley from some place, and joined my company soon after its organization. I ordered the boy now to drop his gun. "Leave him alone!" I cried. "He belongs to me."

It was Gordon Orme. At last, fate had relented for me. My enemy was at hand. No man but Orme could thus ride my old horse, Satan. Now I saw where the horse had gone, and who it was that owned him, and why Orme was here.

I rode out to meet him. The keenness of the coming, encounter for the time almost caused me to forget my anger. I seem never to have thought but that fate had brought me there for that one purpose. He saw me advance, and whirled in my direction, eager as myself; and presently I saw also that he recognized me, as I did him.

This is to be said of Gordon Orme, that he feared no man or thing on earth. He smiled at me now, showing his long, narrow teeth, as he came, lightly twirling his long blade. Two pistols lay in my holsters, and both were freshly loaded, but without thought I had drawn my sword for a weapon, I suppose because he was using his. He was a master of the sword, I but a beginner with it.

We rode straight in, and I heard the whistle of his blade as he circled it about his head like a band of light. As we joined he made a cut to the left, easily, gently, as he leaned forward; but it came with such swiftness that had it landed I doubt not my neck would have been shorn like a robin's. But at least I could ride as well as he or any other man. I dropped and swerved, pulling out of line a few inches as we passed. My own blow, back-handed, was fruitless as his.

We wheeled and came on again, and yet again, and each time he put me on defense, and each time I learned more of what was before me to do. My old servant, Satan, was now his servant, and the great black horse was savage against me as was his rider. Wishing nothing so much as to kill his own rival, he came each time with his ears back and his mouth open, wicked in the old blood lust that I knew. It was the fury of his horse that saved me, I suppose, for as that mad beast bored in, striving to overthrow my own horse, the latter would flinch away in spite of all I could do, so that I needed to give him small attention when we met in these short, desperate charges. I escaped with nothing more than a rip across the shoulder, a touch on the cheek, on the arm, where his point reached me lightly, as my horse swerved away from the encounters. I could not reach Orme at all.

At last, I know not how, we clashed front on, and his horse bore mine back, with a scream fastening his teeth in the crest of my mount, as a dog seizes his prey. I saw Orme's sword turn lightly, easily again around his head, saw his wrist turn gently, smoothly down and extend in a cut which was aimed to catch me full across the head. There was no parry I could think, but the full counter in kind. My blade met his with a shock that jarred my arm to the shoulder.

I saw him give back, pull off his mad horse and look at his hand, where his own sword was broken off, a foot above the hilt. Smiling, he saluted with it, reigning back his horse, and no more afraid of me than if I were a child. He did not speak, nor did I. I pulled up my own horse, not wishing to take the advantage that now was mine, but knowing that he would not yield—that I must kill him.

He did so at his own peril who took Orme for a dullard. I watched him closely. He saluted again with his broken sword, and made as though to toss it from him, as indeed he did. Then like a flash his hand dropped to his holster.

I read his thought, I presume, when he made his second salute. His motion of tossing away the sword hilt gave me the fraction of time which sometimes is the difference between life and death. Our fire was almost at the same instant, but not quite. His bullet cut the epaulet clean from my left shoulder; but he did not fire again, nor did I. I saw him straighten up in his saddle, precisely as I had once seen an Indian chieftain do under Orme's own fire. He looked at me with a startled expression on his face.

At that moment there came from the edge of the woods the crack of a musket. The great horse Satan pitched his head forward and dropped limp, sinking to his knees. As he rolled he caught his rider under him. I myself sprung down, shouting out some command toward the edge of the wood, that they should leave this man to me.

Whether my men heard me or not I do not know. Perhaps they heard rather the hoarse shouts of a fresh column in gray which came up in the pursuit, fagged with its own running. When these new men passed me all they saw was a bit of wood torn with shot and ball, and in the open two figures, both dusty and gray, one helping the other from what seemed to be a fall of his horse. Scenes like that were common. We were not disturbed by the men of either side. We were alone presently, Gordon Orme and I.

I stooped and caught hold of the hind leg of the great black horse, and even as I had once turned a dead bull, so now I turned this carcass on its back. I picked up the fallen rider and carried him to the woods, and there I propped his body against a tree. Slowly he opened his eyes, even pulled himself up more fully against the support.

"Thank you, old man," he said. "The horse was deucedly heavy—spoiled that leg, I think." He pointed to his boot, where his foot lay turned to one side. "I suffer badly. Be a good fellow and end it."

I answered him by tossing down one of his own pistols, both of which I had secured against need. He looked at it, but shook his head.

"Let's talk it over a bit first," he said. "I'm done. I'll not make any trouble. Did you ever know me to break parole?"

"No," said I, and I threw down the other weapon on the ground. "In mercy to us both, Orme, die. I do not want to kill you now; and you shall not live."

"I'm safe enough," he said. "It's through the liver and stomach. I can't possibly get over it."

He stared straight ahead of him, as though summoning his will. "Swami!" I heard him mutter, as though addressing some one.

"There, that's better," he said finally. He sat almost erect, smiling at me. "It is Asana, the art of posture," he said. "I rest my body on my ribs, my soul on the air. Feel my heart."

I did so, and drew away my hand almost in terror. It stopped beating at his will, and began again! His uncanny art was still under his control!

"I shall be master here for a little while," he said. "So—I move those hurt organs to ease the flow. But I can't stop the holes, nor mend them. We can't get at the tissues to sew them fast. After a while I shall die." He spoke clearly, with utter calmness, dispassionately. I never saw his like among men.

I stood by him silently. He put his own hand on his chest. "Poor old heart," he said. "Feel it work! Enormous pumping engine, tremendous thing, the heart. Think what it does in seventy years—and all for what—that we may live and enjoy, and so maybe die. What few minutes I have now I owe to having trained what most folk call an involuntary muscle. I command my heart to beat, and so it does."

I looked down at a strange, fascinating soul, a fearsome personality, whose like I never knew in all my life.

"Will you make me a promise?" he said, smiling at me, mocking at me.

"No," I answered.

"I was going to ask you, after my death to take my heart and send it back to my people at Orme Castle, Gordon Arms, in England—you know where. It would be a kindness to the family." I gazed at him in a sort of horror, but he smiled and went on. "We're mediaeval to-day as ever we were. Some of us are always making trouble, one corner or the other of the world, and until the last Gordon heart comes home to rest, there's no peace for that generation. Hundreds of years, they've traveled all over the world, and been lost, and stolen, and hidden. My father's is lost now, somewhere. Had it come back home to rest, my own life might have been different. I say, Cowles, couldn't you do that for me? We've nearly always had some last friend that would—we Gordons."

"I would do nothing for you as a favor," I answered.

"Then do it because it is right. I'd rather it should be you. You've a wrist like steel, and a mind like steel when you set yourself to do a thing."

"I say, old man," he went on, a trifle weary now, "you've won. I'm jolly well accounted for, and it was fair. I hope they'll not bag you when you try to get out of this. But won't you promise what I've asked? Won't you promise?"

It is not for me to say whether or not I made a promise to Gordon Orme, or to say whether or not things mediaeval or occult belong with us to-day. Neither do I expect many to believe the strange truth about Gordon Orme. I only say it is hard to deny those about to die.

"Orme," I said, "I wish you had laid out your life differently. You are a wonderful man."

"The great games," he smiled—"sport, love, war!" Then his face saddened. "I say, have you kept your other promise to me?" he asked. "Did you marry that girl—what was her name—Miss Sheraton?"

"Miss Sheraton is dead."

"Married?" he asked.

"No. She died within two months after the night I caught you in the yard. I should have killed you then, Orme."

He nodded. "Yes, but at least I showed some sort of remorse—the first time, I think. Not a bad sort, that girl, but madly jealous. Fighting blood, I imagine, in that family!"

"Yes," I said, "her father and brother and I, all three, swore the same oath."

"The same spirit was in the girl," he said, nodding again. "Revenge—that was what she wanted. That's why it all happened. It was what I wanted, too! You blocked me with the only woman—"

"Do not speak her name," I said to him, quietly. "The nails on your fingers are growing blue, Orme. Go with some sort of squaring of your own accounts. Try to think."

He shrugged a shoulder. "My Swami said we do not die—we only change worlds or forms. What! I, Gordon Orme, to be blotted out—to lose my mind and soul and body and senses—not to be able to enjoy. No, Cowles, somewhere there are other worlds, with women in them. I do not die—I transfer." But sweat stood on his forehead.

"As to going, no ways are better than this," he mused, presently. "I swear I'm rather comfortable now; a trifle numb—but we—I say, we must all—all go some time, you know. Did you hear me?" he repeated, smiling. "I was just saying that we must all go, one way or another, you know."

"I heard you," I said. "You are going now."

"Yes," he admitted, "one can't hold together forever under a pull like this. You're an awfully decent sort. Give me a bit of paper. I want to write." I found him a pencil and some pages of my notebook.

"To please you, I'll try to square some things," he said. "You've been so deuced square and straight with me, all along. I'm—I'm Gordon, now, I'm English. Word of a fighting man, my—my friend."

He leaned forward, peering down at the paper as though he did not clearly see; but he wrote slowly for a time, absorbed in thought.

In all the death scenes which our country knew in thousands during those years, I doubt if any more unbelievable than this ever had occurrence. I saw the blood soaking all his garments, lying black on the ground about him. I saw his face grow gray and his nails grow blue, his pallor deepen as the veins lost their contents. I saw him die. But I swear that he still sat there, calm as though he did not suffer, and forced his body to do his will. And—though I ask a rough man's pardon for intruding my own beliefs—since he used his last superb reserves to leave the truth behind him, I myself thought that there must be somewhere an undying instinct of truth and justice, governing even such as Gordon Orme; yes, I hope, governing such as myself as well. Since then I have felt that somewhere there must be a great religion written on the earth and in the sky. As to what this could offer in peace to Gordon Orme I do not say. His was a vast debt. Perhaps Truth never accepted it as paid. I do not know.

There he sat, at last smiling again as he looked up. "Fingers getting dreadfully stiff. Tongue will go next. Muscles still under the power for a little time. Here, take this. You're going to live, and this is the only thing—it'll make you miserable, but happy, too. Good-by. I'll not stop longer, I think."

Like a flash his hand shot out to the weapon that lay near him on the ground. I shrank back, expecting the ball full in my face. Instead, it passed through his own brain!

His will was broken as that physical instrument, the brain, wonder seat of the mysteries of the mind, was rent apart. His splendid mind no longer ruled his splendid body. His body itself, relaxing, sank forward, his head at one side, his hand dropping limp. A smile drew down the corner of his mouth—a smile horrible in its pathos; mocking, and yet beseeching.

* * * * *

At last I rubbed the blood from my own face and stooped to read what he had written. Then I thanked God that he was dead, knowing how impossible it would have been elsewise for me to stay my hand. These were the words:

"I, Gordon Orme, dying July 21, 1861, confess that I killed John Cowles, Senior, in the month of April, 1860, at the road near Wallingford. I wanted the horse, but had to kill Cowles. Later took the money. I was a secret agent, detailed for work among U.S. Army men.

"I, Gordon Orme, having seduced Grace Sheraton, asked John Cowles to marry her to cover up that act.

"I, Gordon Orme, appoint John Cowles my executor. I ask him to fulfill last request. I give him what property I have on my person for his own. Further, I say not; and being long ago held as dead, I make no bequests as to other property whatsoever.—Gordon Orme. In Virginia, U.S.A."

It was he, then, who had in cold blood killed my father! That horrid riddle at last was read. In that confession I saw only his intent to give me his last touch of misery and pain. It was some moments before I could read all the puzzle of his speech, half of which had promised me wretchedness, and half happiness. Then slowly I realized what I held in my hand. It was the proof of his guilt, of my innocence. He had robbed me of my father. He had given me—what? At least he had given me a chance. Perhaps Ellen Meriwether would believe!

* * * * *

It was my duty to care for the personal belongings of Gordon Orme; but regarding these matters a soldier does not care to speak. I took from his coat a long, folded leather book. It was hours later, indeed late the following morning, before I looked into it. During the night I was busy making my escape from that fated field. As I came from the rear, mounted, I was supposed to be of the Confederate forces, and so I got through the weary and scattered columns of pursuit, already overloaded with prisoners. By morning I was far on my way toward the Potomac. Then I felt in my pockets, and opened the wallet I had found en Orme's body.

It held various memoranda, certain writings in cipher, others in foreign characters, pieces of drawings, maps and the like, all of which I destroyed. It contained also, in thin foreign notes, a sum large beyond the belief of what an ordinary officer would carry into battle; and this money, for the time, I felt justified in retaining.

Orme was no ordinary officer. He had his own ways, and his own errand. His secret, however great it was—and at different times I have had reason to believe that men high in power on both sides knew how great it was, and how important to be kept a secret—never became fully known. In all likelihood it was not his business actually to join in the fighting ranks. But so at least it happened that his secret went into the unknown with himself. He was lost as utterly as though he were a dark vision passing into a darker and engulfing night. If I learned more than most regarding him, I am not free to speak. He named no heirs beyond myself. I doubt not it was his wish that he should indeed be held as one who long ago had died.

Should Gordon Orme arise from his grave and front me now, I should hardly feel surprise, for mortal conditions scarce seem to give his dimensions. But should I see him now, I should fear him no more than when I saw him last. His page then was closed in my life forever. It was not for me to understand him. It is not for me to judge him.



Within the few days following the battle, the newspapers paused in their warnings and rebukes on the one side, their paeans of victory on the other, and turned to the sober business of printing the long lists of the dead. Then, presently, each section but the more resolved, the North and South again joined issue, and the war went on.

As for myself, I was busy with my work, for now my superiors were good enough to advance me for what they called valor on the field. Before autumn ended I was one of the youngest colonels of volunteers in the Federal Army. Thus it was easy for me to find a brief furlough when we passed near Leesburg on our way to the Blue Ridge Gap, and I then ran down for a look at our little valley.

The women now were taking ranks steadfastly as the men. My mother greeted me, and in spite of all her sorrow, in spite of all the ruin that lay around us there, I think she felt a certain pride. I doubt if she would have suffered me to lay aside my uniform. It hung in our home long after the war was ended, and my Quaker mother, bless her! kept it whole and clean.

There were some business matters to be attended to with our friend Dr. Samuel Bond, who had been charged to handle our estate matters during my absence. He himself, too old and too busy to serve in either army, had remained at home, where certainly he had enough to do before the end of the war, as first one army and then the other swept across Wallingford.

I found Doctor Bond in his little brick office at the top of the hill overlooking the village. It was he who first showed me the Richmond papers with lists of the Confederate dead. Colonel Sheraton's name was among the first I saw. He had been with Cumming's forces, closely opposed to my own position at Bull Run. He himself was instantly killed, and his son Harry, practically at his side, seriously, possibly fatally wounded, was now in hospital at Richmond. Even by this time we were learning the dullness to surprise and shock which war always brings. We had not time to grieve.

I showed Doctor Bond the last writing of Gordon Orme, and put before him the Bank of England notes which I had found on Orme's person, and which, by the terms of his testament, I thought might perhaps belong to me.

"Could I use any of this money with clean conscience?" I asked. "Could it honorably be employed in the discharging of the debt Orme left on my family?"

"A part of that debt you have already caused him to discharge," the old doctor answered, slowly. "You would be doing a wrong if you did not oblige him to discharge the rest."

I counted out and laid on the desk before him the amount of the funds which my father's memoranda showed had been taken from him by Orme that fatal night more than a year ago. The balance of the notes I tossed into the little grate, and with no more ado we burned them there.

We concluded our conference in regard to my business matters. I learned that the coal lands had been redeemed from foreclosure, Colonel Meriwether having advanced the necessary funds; and as this now left our debt running to him, I instructed Doctor Bond to take steps to cancel it immediately, and to have the property partitioned as Colonel Meriwether should determine.

"And now, Jack," said my wire-haired old friend to me at last, "when do you ride to Albemarle? There is something in this slip of paper"—he pointed to Orme's last will and confession—"which a certain person ought to see."

"My duties do not permit me to go and come as I like these days," I answered evasively. But Dr. Samuel Bond was a hard man to evade.

"Jack," said he, fumbling in his dusty desk, "here's something you ought to see. I saved it for you, over there, the morning you threw it into the fireplace."

He spread out on the top of the desk a folded bit of hide. Familiar enough it was to me.

"You saved but half," I said. "The other half is gone!"

He pushed a flake of snuff far up his long nose. "Yes," said he quietly. "I sent it to her some three months ago."

"What did she say?"

"Nothing, you fool. What did you expect?"

"Listen," he went on presently. "Your brain is dull. What say the words of the law? 'This Indenture Witnesseth!' Now what is an 'indenture'? The old Romans and the old English knew. They wrote a contract on parchment, and cut it in two with an indented line, and they gave each party a half. When the court saw that these two halves fitted—as no other portions could—then indeed the indenture witnessed. It was its own proof.

"Now, my son," he concluded savagely, "if you ever dreamed of marrying any other woman, damn me if I wouldn't come into court and make this indenture witness for you both—for her as well as you! Go on away now, and don't bother me any more."



Our forces passed up the valley of Virginia and rolled through the old Rockfish Gap—where once the Knights of the Golden Horn paused and took possession, in the name of King Charles, of all the land thence to the South Sea. We overspread all the Piedmont Valley and passed down to the old town of Charlottesville. It was nearly deserted now. The gay Southern boys who in the past rode there with their negro servants, and set at naught good Thomas Jefferson's intent of simplicity in the narrow little chambers of the old University of Virginia, now were gone with their horses and their servants. To-day you may see their names in bronze on the tablets at the University doors.

I quartered my men about the quiet old place, and myself hunted up an office-room on one of the rambling streets that wandered beneath the trees. I was well toward the finish of my morning's work when I heard the voice of my sentry challenge, and caught an answering word of indignation in a woman's voice. I stepped to the door.

A low, single-seated cart was halted near the curb, and one of its occupants was apparently much angered. I saw heir clutch the long brown rifle barrel which extended out at the rear over the top of the seat. "You git out'n the road, man," repeated she, "or I'll take a shot at you for luck! We done come this fur, and I reckon we c'n go the rest the way."

That could be no one but old Mandy McGovern! For the sake of amusement I should have left her to make her own argument with the guard, had I not in the same glance caught sight of her companion, a trim figure in close fitting corduroy of golden brown, a wide hat of russet straw shading her face, wide gauntlet gloves drawn over her little hands.

Women were not usual within the Army lines. Women such as this were not usual anywhere. It was Ellen!

Her face went rosy red as I hastened to the side of the cart and put down Mandy's arm. She stammered, unable to speak more connectedly than I myself. Mandy could not forget her anger, and insisted that she wanted to see the "boss."

"I am the Colonel in command right here, Aunt Mandy," I said. "Won't I do?"

"You a kunnel?" she retorted. "Looks to me like kunnels is mighty easy made if you'll do. No, we're atter Ginral Meriwether, who's comin' here to be the real boss of all you folks. Say, man, you taken away my man and my boy. Where they at?"

"With me here," I was glad to answer, "safe, and somewhere not far away. The boy is wounded, but his arm is nearly well."

"Ain't got his bellyful o' fightin' yit?"

"No, both he and Auberry seem to be just beginning."

"Humph! Reackon they're happy, then. If a man's gettin' three squares a day and plenty o' fightin', don't see whut more he kin ask."

"Corporal," I called to my sentry, who was now pacing back and forth before the door, hiding his mouth behind his hand, "put this woman under arrest, and hold her until I return. She's looking for privates Auberry and McGovern, G Company, First Virginia Volunteers. Keep her in my office while they're sent for. Bring me my bag from the table."

It was really a pretty fight, that between Mandy and the corporal. The latter was obliged to call out the guard for aid. "Sick 'em, Pete!" cried Mandy, when she found her arms pinioned; and at once there darted out from under the cart a hairy little demon of a dog, mute, mongrelish, pink-eared, which began silent havoc with the corporal's legs.

I looked again at that dog. I was ready to take it in my arms and cry out that it was my friend! It was the little Indian dog that Ellen and I had tamed! Why, then, had she kept it, why had she brought it home with her? I doubt which way the contest would have gone, had not Mandy seen me climb into her vacated seat and take up the reins. "Pete" then stolidly took up his place under the cart.

We turned and drove back up the shady street, Ellen and I. I saw her fingers twisting together in her lap, but as yet she had not spoken. The flush on her cheek was deeper now. She beat her hands together softly, confused, half frightened; but she did not beg me to leave her.

"If you could get away," she began at last, "I would ask you to drive me back home. Aunt Mandy and I are living there together. Kitty Stevenson's visiting me—you'll—you'll want to call on Kitty. My father has been in East Kentucky, but I understand he's ordered here this week. Major Stevenson is with him. We thought we might get word, and so came on through the lines."

"You had no right to do so. The pickets should have stopped you," I said. "At the same time, I am very glad they didn't."

"So you are a Colonel," she said after a time, with an Army girl's nice reading of insignia.

"Yes," I answered, "I am an officer. Now if I could only be a gentleman!"

"Don't!" she whispered. "Don't talk in that way, please."

"Do you think I could be?"

"I think you have been," she whispered, all her face rosy now.

We were now near the line of our own pickets on this edge of the town. Making myself known, I passed through and drove out into the country roads, along the edge of the hills, now glorious in their autumn hues. It was a scene fair as Paradise to me. Presently Ellen pointed to a mansion house on a far off hill—such a house as can be found nowhere in America but in this very valley; an old family seat, lying, reserved and full of dignity, at a hilltop shielded with great oaks. I bethought me again of the cities of peace I had seen on the far horizons of another land than this.

"That is our home," she said. "We have not often been here since grandfather died, and then my mother. But this is the place that we Meriwethers all call home."

Then I saw again what appeal the profession of arms makes to a man—how strong is its fascination. It had taken the master of a home like this from a life like this, and plunged him into the hardships and dangers of frontier war, again into the still more difficult and dangerous conflicts between great armies. Not for months, for years, had he set foot on his own sod—sod like ours in Loudoun, never broken by a plow.

As we approached the gate I heard behind us the sound of galloping horses. There came up the road a mounted officer, with his personal escort, an orderly, several troopers, and a grinning body servant.

"Look—there he comes—it is my father!" exclaimed Ellen; and in a moment she was out of the cart and running down the road to meet him, taking his hand, resting her cheek against his dusty thigh, as he sat in saddle.

The officer saluted me sharply. "You are outside the lines," said he. "Have you leave?"

I saluted also, and caught the twinkle in his eye as I looked into his face.

"On detached service this morning, General," I said. "If you please, I shall report to you within the hour."

He wheeled his horse and spurred on up along his own grounds, fit master for their stateliness. But he entered, leaving the gate wide open for us to pass.

"Shut the gate, Benjie," said Ellen as I tossed down a coin to the grinning black. And then to me, "You don't know Benjie? Yes, he's married again to Kitty's old cook, Annie. They're both here."

An orderly took our horse when finally we drove up; but at the time I did not go into the house. I did not ask for Mrs. Kitty Stevenson. A wide seat lay beneath one of the oaks. We wandered thither, Ellen and I. The little dog, mute, watchful, kept close at her side.

"Ellen," said I to her, "the time has come now. I am not going to wait any longer. Read this." I put into her hand Gordon Orme's confession.

She read, with horror starting on her face. "What a scoundrel—what a criminal!" she said. "The man was a demon. He killed your father!"

"Yes, and in turn I killed him," I said, slowly. Her eyes flashed. She was savage again, as I had seen her. My soul leaped out to see her fierce, relentless, exulting that I had fought and won, careless that I had slain.

"Orme did all he could to ruin me in every way," I added. "Read on." Then I saw her face change to pity as she came to the next clause. So now she knew the truth about Grace Sheraton, and, I hoped, the truth about John Cowles.

"Can you forgive me?" she said, brokenly, her dark eyes swimming in tears, as she turned toward me.

"That is not the question," I answered, slowly. "It is, can you forgive me?" Her hand fell on my arm imploringly.

"I have no doubt that I was much to blame for that poor girl's act," I continued. "The question only is, has my punishment been enough, or can it be enough? Do you forgive me? We all make mistakes. Am I good enough for you, Ellen? answer me."

But she would not yet answer. So I went on.

"I killed Gordon Orme myself, in fair fight; but he wrote this of his own free will. He himself told me it would be proof. Is it proof?"

She put the paper gently to one side of her on the long seat. "I do not need it," she said. "If it came to question of proof, we have learned much of these matters, my father and I, since we last met you. But I have never needed it; not even that night we said good-by. Ah! how I wanted you back after you had gone!"

"And your father?" I asked of her, my hand falling on hers.

"He knows as much as I. Lately he has heard from your friend, Doctor Bond—we have both learned a great many things. We are sorry. I am sorry. I have always been sorry."

"But what more?" I asked. "Ellen!"

She put out her hands in a sort of terror. "Don't," she said. "I have put all this away for so long that now—I can't begin again. I can't! I can't! I am afraid. Do not ask me. Do not. No—no!"

She started from the seat as though she would have fled in a swift panic. But now I caught her.

"Stop!" I exclaimed, rage in all my heart. "I've been a fool long enough, and now I will have no more of foolishness. I will try no more to figure niceties. I'll not try to understand a woman. But gentleman or not, I swear by God! if we were alone again, we two, out there—then I'd not use you the same the second time whatever you said, or asked, or pleaded, or argued, I would not listen—not a word would I listen to—you should do as I said, as I desired. And I say now you must, you shall!"

Anger may have been in my face—I do not know. I crushed her back into the seat.

And she—Ellen—the girl I had seen and loved in the desert silences?

She sank back against the rail with a little sigh as of content, a little smile as of a child caught in mischief and barred from escape. Oh, though I lived a thousand years, never would I say I understood a woman!

"Now we will end all this," I said, frowning. I caught her by the arm and led her to the gallery, where I picked up the bag I had left at the driveway. I myself rang at the door, not allowing her to lead me in. The orderly came.

"My compliments to General Meriwether," I said, "and Colonel Cowles would like to speak with him."

He came, that tall man, master of the mansion, dusty with his travel, stern of face, maned like a gray bear of the hills; but he smiled and reached out his hand. "Come in, sir," he said. And now we entered.

"It seems you have brought back my girl again. I hope my welcome will be warmer than it was at Laramie!" He looked at us, from one to the other, the brown skin about his keen eyes wrinkling.

"I have certain things to say, General," I began. We were walking into the hall. As soon as I might, I handed to him the confession of Gordon Orme. He read it with shut lips.

"Part of this I knew already," he said, finally, "but not this as to your father. You have my sympathy—and, sir, my congratulations on your accounting for such a fiend. There, at least, justice has been served." He hesitated before continuing.

"As to some details, I regret that my daughter has been brought into such matters," he said, slowly. "I regret also that I have made many other matters worse; but I am very glad that they have now been made plain. Dr. Samuel Bond, of Wallingford, your father's friend, has cleared up much of all this. I infer that he has advised you of the condition of our joint business matters?"

"Our estate is in your debt General," I said, "but I can now adjust that. We shall pay our share. After that, the lands shall be divided, or held jointly as yourself shall say."

"Why could they not remain as they are?" He smiled at me. "Let me hope so."

I turned to Ellen. "Please," I said, "bring me the other half of this."

I flung open my bag and spread upon the nearest table my half of the record of our covenant, done, as it had seemed to me, long years ago. Colonel Meriwether and I bent over the half rigid parchment. I saw that Ellen had gone; but presently she came again, hesitating, flushing red, and put into my hands the other half of our indenture. She carried Pete, the little dog, under her arm, his legs projecting stiffly; and now a wail of protest broke from Pete, squeezed too tightly in her unconscious clasp.

I placed the pieces edge to edge upon the table. The old familiar words looked up at me again, solemnly. Again I felt my heart choke my throat as I read: "I, John Cowles—I, Ellen Meriwether—take thee—take thee—until death do us part."

I handed her a pencil. She wrote slowly, freakishly, having her maiden will; and it seemed to me still a week to a letter as she signed. But at last her name stood in full—E-l-l-e-n M-e-r-i-w-e-t-h-e-r.

"General," I said, "this indenture witnesseth! We two are bound by it. We have 'consented together in holy wedlock.' We have 'witnessed the same before God.' We have 'pledged our faith, either to other.'"

He dashed his hand across his eyes; then, with a swift motion, he placed our hands together. "My boy," said he, "I've always wanted my girl to be taken by an Army man—an officer and a gentleman. Damn it, sir! I beg your pardon, Ellen—give me that pencil. I'll sign my own name—I'll witness this myself! There's a regimental chaplain with our command—if we can't find a preacher left in Charlottesville."

"Orderly!" I called, with a gesture asking permission of my superior.

"Yes, orderly," he finished for me, "get ready to ride to town. We have an errand there." He turned to us and motioned us as though to ownership, bowing with grave courtesy as he himself left the room. I heard the chatter of Mrs. Kitty greet him. I was conscious of a grinning black face peering in at a window—Annie, perhaps. They all loved Ellen.

But Ellen and I, as though by instinct, stepped toward the open door, so that we might again see the mountain tops.

I admit I kissed her!

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