No, he would not; only wagons went that way, to cross the creek by a small bridge. I could cut off nearly two miles by taking the bridle-path that turned sharply down into the thick woods of the creek-bottom about a quarter of a mile from the house and crossed the stream at a sandy ford. "Ride round," he said, "and I'll show you from the front of the house."
"Yes?" said Ferry, picking at the underbrush as we sauntered, and for some time he said no more. Then he asked, "You want me to apply that to myself, in--in the present case?" and to my tender amazement, while his eyes seemed to count his slackening steps, he laid his arm across my shoulders.
I shot forward, but had hardly more than sent back my good-bye when around a bend of the road, in a wagon larger than Charlotte Oliver's, with the curtains rolled up, came the four Miss Harpers, unsooted and radiant. The aunt drove. We turned, all four, and rode with them, and while the seven chatted gaily I read to myself the Major's note. It bade me take these four ladies into my most jealous care and conduct them to a point about thirty miles west of where we then were. A dandy's task in a soldier's hour! I ground my teeth, but as I lifted my glance I found Camille's eyes resting on me and read anxiety in them before she could put on a smile of unemotional friendliness that faded rapidly into abstraction. She was as pretty as the bough of wild azaleas in her hand, yet moving forward I told her aunt the order's purport and that it implied the greatest despatch compatible with mortal endurance. The whole four seemed only delighted.
"Out on the Natchez Trace waiting for the command. I'm carrying orders to Fisher's battery, down here by the cross-roads. Haven't you seen the General this morning? What! haven't seen him in his new uniform? Whoop! he's a blaze of glory! Look here, Smith, I believe you know who brought it to him!"
Another hour wore on, another followed. The General and old Dismukes played cards and the latter began to smell of his drams, Harry and C茅cile walked and talked apart, Camille kept me in leash with three other men, and about two o'clock came another courier with another bit of Ferry's writing; Quinn had returned. He had had a brush with jayhawkers in the night, had captured all but their leader, and had sent his prisoners in to brigade headquarters at union Church, while he returned to Ferry's camp bringing with him, mortally wounded--"O--oh! Oh--oh!" exclaimed Charlotte, gazing at the missive,--"Sergeant Jim Langley!"
? British Council
. The chief-of-staff smiled, but the General darkened and pressed his questions. At length he summed up. "So, then, you wish me to believe that you did all you did, and now have come into our lines at a most extraordinary and exhausting speed and running the ugliest kinds of risks, in mere human sympathy for a dying stranger, he being a union officer and you a secessionist of"--a courtly bow--"the very elect; that's your meaning, is it not?"
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