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“Yes; Miss Blossom is tired. I shall | old woman who made me believe I had look in in the morning,” and he began to nearly killed her.” search about for his hat. “I am glad to The
young lieutenant's voice broke. The have so good a report to carry back to strain of anxiety had made him as weak as Orme. The poor boy is inclined to take a girl. more blame than fairly belongs to him.” “But I understand it all," he went on. “ Tell him I am not hurt at all. He must
“ I've seen it coming for a long while. She's come and see me to-morrow,” said Blossom only too glad of an excuse to shut the door faintly from the sofa.
against me. They say the truth when they “You must not be tiring yourself with too declare she don't want me there, but that many visitors," Mrs. Stubbs interposed. you
Evidently the lieutenant was in disgrace " What is that?" with the sutler's widow.
The blood flew into Captain Elyot's face; “For one little moment,” pleaded Blos- the stem of the pipe snapped between his som.
teeth. Had the gossip of the garrison fastBut her mother made no reply. She was ened on him ? stirring the fire noisily and setting the room “What do they say ?” he repeated. “I'll in order. All the peaceful stillness that had take it all, Orme." hung over the place a moment before now .“I talk like a fool, but it's true all the flew up the chimney and away. It was not same,” Lieutenant Orme replied. “They say a paradise any longer, in which, as the the old woman would rather see you with her young man had thought, one could linger daughter than me. That's the whole of it, forever. The bustle of every-day life had Elyot, on my honor. Gossip, you know; but come back. It was only when he looked at the Lord's truth. Of course she'd rather you Blossom, pale and sweet and languid in her went there than I; and so would Blossom. white gown, with her cheek pressing the That's the worst of it,” the boy added, with faring roses, that the dream remained. a choke in his voice, dropping his face into
He had no excuse to linger, but he could his hands. not go without a word from her. Would “ You don't mean to say, boy -" she be angry with him for his presumption ? Captain Elyot's voice was hoarse. He Dear child! Would she know that it was wheeled suddenly round in his chair, tossed presuming? Somebody should take care of his pipe into the fire and regarded his friend. her. Oh, if
“How could I help it?" said the lieu* At least, I may tell the lieutenant you tenant. “ Such a dear little girl, and seeing forgive him ?” he said interrogatively, address- her day after day! I've been there no end ing Blossom, and stepping directly before of times when you didn't know it.” the gaudy sofa.
“ Yes; I suppose so.” “There is nothing to forgive," she answered “And she seemed always glad to see me, in a low voice, while the color flew over her and all that, you know, till sometimes I've cheeks.
thought But she did not list her eyes, or put out "Yes, yes," Captain Elyot said brusquely. her hand when he bade her good-night. Had he not been going through this same And had she forgiven him also ? He could course of reasoning to-night? not tell, he said to himself. He would see “But have you said anything of this to her in the morning. And he found himself her? You haven't been turning her head, humming a gay song—he who had no voice Orme ?” for singing—as he strode across the parade- “What do you mean? I'd ask her to ground to his quarters, where Orme was marry me to-morrow if I dared. But it's no waiting for him.
It had been a long half hour to the boy, And the lieutenant fell back into despair whose face was fairly haggard with dread.
again. “ Will she die ?” he asked in a husky “I tell you, Elyot, it-it would be differvoice.
ent if it were you,” blurted out the boy with Hallo, Orme; not tired of waiting ? something very like a sob. Have a pipe, man. Why didn't you help “Speak of yourself, man,” said Captain yourself?" Die? Who could have told you Elyot coldly.' “And that's not the way to such a story? Why, if you had seen her be talking about any woman. Consider
your own chances.
Beyond that, it's no “And why didn't I see her ? It was the concern of
“ But I am thinking of myself,” persisted “ But the old woman ! There's the the lieutenant. “Of course I know it is rub!" nothing to you, and I wouldn't have said And the lieutenant thrust both hands into that to any one else. But you have stood what would have been a mass of light curls by me like-like a trump ever since we came but for a very close cut of the day before, over the plains together, and I couldn't keep as he stared with scowling brow at the rough anything in my heart from you."
deal table on which his elbows rested. “Don't gush," Captain Elyot said, shortly. “I suppose one couldn't kill her!
Fancy “What can I do for you, boy ?"
my mother taking up Mrs. Stubbs! But don't “ You might help me, if you would, since distress yourself, old fellow. Perhaps we could it is nothing to you. Now, if you
pension her off. There'd be some way to " Please to consider yourself. I might arrange all that. There always is.” help you, and so I will; anything in the And with this cheerful, young philosophy, world.”
the conference ended, as Captain Elyot anHe had succeeded in making his voice nounced his intention of retiring. Without almost hearty and free.
some reminder of the lateness of the hour, “ If you'd-stay away."
Lieutenant Orme would have gone on till “What?"
morning singing Blossom's praises and bal“ If you would stay away till I could try ancing his chances. His hopes grew with my chance.”
the sound of his own voice, and he went off “Yes, to be sure;" Captain Elyot answered at last entirely assured and happy. quietly, hardly knowing what he was saying. “You shall be best man," he exclaimed,
“ Not entirely, of course. You'll have to thrusting his head in at the door, when he take me round there at first, for Mrs. Stubbs had apparently taken himself away. “And, will never let me into the house until she see here, Elyot," appearing again, “ I shall has forgotten this. Even when I have made expect you to make it all right with the my peace with her, you must show yourself colonel.” occasionally, just to keep her in good humor; “Get to bed, will you !" roared Captain not staying long at a time, or saying too Elyot at this second interruption. “And much to Miss Blossom."
mind, boy, I positively decline dwelling “No, oh no; I suppose you have consid- upon this subject more than twelve hours ered this matter on every side.”
out of the twenty-four, vitally interesting "I can't think of anything else."
though it is; and now off with you !” “As far as it concerns your own happi- And he closed the door and turned the ness. But have you given a thought to key in the lock. how this fancy-I beg your pardon-this- He had the room to himself, but still he was this choice may strike-your father and in no haste to retire. He paced back and mother?"
forth, smoking one fierce pipe after another, All the vague doubts as to the wisdom of until long after every sound about him was a connection with the Stubbs family took stilled. Once, in passing his open desk, a shape, and crowded upon Captain Elyot's sealed letter, lying with face upturned, caught mind now. He remembered old Colonel his eye. It was the one he had written and Orme,--the lieutenant's father,-whom, with never sent to his Uncle Jeremy. He tore it his elegant wife, he had met a year or two up deliberately before he resumed his march. before. How would they look upon Blos- He was in no mood to-night to bind himsom, and, above all, upon Mrs. Stubbs ? self with chains of this old man's welding, Surely it was his duty, if not to warn the though what did it matter what became of lieutenant, at least to set this matter before him now! The morning, pale and grayhim. I am afraid it was one of those times clad, peered into his room before, tired out when duty is an unconscious satisfaction. at last, he went to bed.
“They might stand out at first, but they'd He acceded to all his friend had procome round.”
posed. He took him around to Mrs. Stubbs's Young Orme's doubts had faded when domicile, and assisted him to make his peace thrust into the light.
with that exacting female. Then he staid “She is so sweet, who could resist her?" | away faithfully for a fortnight. Even when
Who, indeed! thought Captain Elyot, his visits were resumed, they were at interforgetting to respond aloud, and aware of vals growing longer as the weeks went by. nothing but that he was being galloped over He held firmly to his promise, as a soldier rough-shod by this heedless boy.
and man of honor should do, he said to
himself, when the light from Blossom's win- | swiftly; and discontent or indifference to dow tempted him in passing the house. everything—except the card-table, which The brightness seemed to have dropped out still held its votaries—was slowly creeping of his life at this time. It was like an into the garrison, when news came that disilluminated picture with the sun left out. turbances had broken out down in the But he kept faithfully to his promise. He Washita country, with a report that troops
a was haunted by Blossom's face as he had were to be sent from Fort Atchison at once seen it the night after her fall on the ice- to join General Johnston there. lying against the thornless roses, with its Languor and discontent vanished like a half-shut eyes, its drooping mouth, like a puff of smoke. Anything was better than tired child. And again, he thrilled at the the mole-life they had been leading for the thought of the trembling hand he had kissed. past three months. Even death is a cup She had made no effort to draw it away. men drink greedily enough with a froth of She had flushed rosy red. Could he have excitement on the top. And not an officer mistaken the meaning of it all ? She was a at the post-unless among the married men, child, innocent, ignorant of herself, but with with whom family considerations weighed the heart of a woman. And had her heart heavily—but hoped he might be ordered to not responded to his in that one instant ? join the expedition. He asked himself this again and again,- The choice fell upon two–Captain Lutmore frequently perhaps than was quite con- trell, whose long service and good judgment sistent with the fealty he had sworn to his in military affairs made him a competent friend; for he had vowed within himself leader, and Lieutenant Orme. that he would put all thought of Blossom “ It's the best chance that could fall to out of his mind. But the thought of those me," said the boy, rushing in upon Captain we love is like ghosts and spirits; bolts nor Elyot to announce the news and talk it over. bars avail against them. And though he “If I dawdled the whole winter away here, saw the girl but seldom now, and rarely I should be good for nothing by spring; without the lieutenant by his side to divide and I want to be a soldier, first of all,” he with him her smiles and blushes, the shadow added, straightening his boyish form, while of her innocent self never left him.
a faint blush of shy pride showed for a The lieutenant, in the meanwhile, vibrated moment on his cheek. between assurance and despair; and, like a “ That's right, old fellow!” said Captain sieve, could hold neither hopes nor fears. Elyot, laying an affectionate hand upon the Reduced to infinitesimal, tormenting particu- young man's shoulder. lars by this filtering, his visits to the Stubbses, Then they were silent. Each knew of —which he had managed to make almost whom the other was thinking; but somedaily again,-Blossom's friendly greeting, thing choked the boy, and Captain Elyot her timid ways, her growing charms, were could not bring himself to utter Blossom's all spread out by the boy before his friend.
He was ashamed to feel that his To listen was like rubbing an inflamed heart had leaped in him when he found that wound, and yet Captain Elyot could not his friend was to go; that the way would turn his ear away. Unconsciously, while he be open for him now if he chose to walk argued aloud for his friend, or mechanically in it. He fought it out with himself in that concurred in the lieutenant's hopes, he was brief moment, while the lieutenant was dearguing mentally in his own favor, and feed-claring his ambition. He put self under his ing little by little the flame he honestly feet with a struggle; the boy should have intended to extinguish. At times he was his chance. tempted to throw up his commission, return “ But all the same," he went on. “ If to the states, and even submit himself to you prefer to stay, I fancy I have a little inUncle Jeremy's wishes. But the last was fluence at head-quarters, and could persuade only the indifference of despair, and this state the major to let me go in your place. I'm was never of long continuance. More often, rather rusty with lying by so long,” he said the increasing fascination of Blossom's vicin- | carelessly. ity, even though he saw her so seldom now, “ Yes, I thought of that,” the boy replied held him to the fort.
coolly. “I knew you would, and I don't The winter was wearing away. There mind telling you that I was tempted at first had been no excitement of action, and but to stay." little social gayety to make the long, dull A bright blush glowed all over the young days, or still duller evenings, pass more face as he went on :
“ But you see, Elyot, I'd better go. I've But Blossom did not tremble, nor did the thought sometimes that she looked on me as pretty color leave her face. She had heard a boy; and I want to show her that I'm not the news before he reached her, and opened afraid of any of it!” he burst out, and, throw- the subject herself. ing himself down into a chair, he covered his “ So you are going away !” she said; face and sobbed like a girl.
“and down into that dreadful country where “What must you think of me?” he said, the Indians are murdering the women and after a moment.
children !" “I think too well of you to want you sent She did shudder as she spoke, and her off on a winter campaign like this,” Captain face may have paled, for there came to her Elyot replied under his breath.
a recollection, vivid and piercing, of that He was more moved by the boy's reliance one time of horror in her own life not many upon him, and the confidence he felt him- months past. This was not the emotion self but half to deserve, than he chose to Orme had hoped for. It had little to do with show.
himself, the lieutenant felt, and his heart "You'd better let me try for your place," suddenly dragged like an anchor wrenched he said aloud. “ Nobody would be the from its hold. But despair catches at straws. wiser; and I'm used to it. It would only Might it not have been different if she had be play to me,”—though he knew full well been alone ? There sat Mrs. Stubbs, prim, that the only play would be cold and fight- black and silent, with some stiff, ugly kniting, and perhaps death. “Come, say the ting in her hand, casting a shadow over the word, and I'll go up to head-quarters at once.” whole bright room lying open to the winter But the lieutenant refused.
sunlight. “I should feel like a coward. Besides, " I hope you'll think of us sometimes, Miss I've been waiting for something like this. I Blossom,” said Orme, twirling his cap, and
, could speak to her perhaps if I knew I were forgetting all the fine things he hoped to say. going away. Suppose we go down there In spite of his efforts at self-command, the now? She can't have heard it so soon. I tears would rush into his eyes. Blossom did believe I would like to tell her myself.” not see them. He could not have borne
“Then you don't want me?” said Cap- that humiliation; but she was struck by the tain Elyot hastily, pleading an engage- dejected air of her friend and was truly disment and hurrying away from his friend. tressed over his departure.
He believed that the lieutenant was about “ I shall think of you a great many times; to try his fate, and he could not sit quietly every day, and—and more," she replied. and wait to know the result. He started Indeed, I shall miss you more than I can off upon a solitary walk, conscious that re
say." nunciation leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. And there was a catch in the voice which He had done his duty; he had behaved as suddenly ceased. I am not sure that a scene a man of honor should do, but he was neither would not have ensued but for Mrs. Stubbs's glad nor at peace with himself.
presence, though hardly of so tender a nature But the lieutenant had no intention of as the boy had pictured to himself. As it declaring his feelings to Blossom at once was, Mrs. Stubbs thought it time to interfere. unless some particularly fortunate chance She had not left the store and donned a should occur.
He would tell her, first, that clean apron at this hour of the day to have he was to go away, and watch the effect of this young man make love to her daughter these tidings upon her. He had read of before her eyes. girls who trembled and turned pale when “You'll soon be coming back," she broke their lovers were sent into danger and possi- in, warming wonderfully, to all appearance, ble death. Would she thus unconsciously toward the young man, and speaking in a declare her tender interest in him ? If she cheery voice, for which Blossom blessed her did, he would assure her that he should hold in her heart. All her hopeful words of his life as something precious indeed, since encouragement were drowned in a she valued it.
of tears, welling behind her eyes at the He burned with excitement as he hastened moment. toward the sutler's quarters, while he planned “It wont be long before you
an' Blossom all this scene in his mind, giving to it the 'll be singing your pretty songs again, I'll happiest termination. It was too wonderful warrant ye.” to be true! And yet it had been realized “But not with my leave or consent,” for others; might it not be for him ? she added, to herself. There had been folly
enough already, she thought, watching the this boy haunt the house and even obtain boy's changing countenance, which any one entrance in her absence. There was safety might read. She blessed her stars that she in a crowd. And then Captain Elyot would had left her work and taken up her position be there. He had absented himself of late, in the parlor, anticipating some such visit in a way that both puzzled and annoyed as this. It had been inconvenient, and at the woman. Were her schemes to be foiled the time seemed almost impossible. Officers after all ? of distinction from other posts were here on “ Blossom could not go alone,” she began, their way south. They were to leave with revolving the matter in her mind. the detachment from Fort Atchison early “If I might—"suggested the lieutenthe next morning, and the ladies, perhaps ant eagerly. But he checked himself, for to banish dismal thoughts, had planned a he saw that he had made a mistake. “Come ball for this night. The band were blowing yourself, Mrs. Stubbs," he said, as cordially themselves faint in preparation for so unusual as he could, considering that he did not in an event. The store had been ransacked, the least desire her presence.
“ You'll enjoy and Mrs. Stubbs driven wild by the impos- looking on. Everybody is to be there.” sible demands upon her. And in the midst “We might look in for a while,” the of it all, she had taken up her position in woman said doubtfully. her own parlor as though she had nothing "Do, Mrs. Stubbs, mind that you come to do but complete the endless round of the now; I'll be on the watch for you. And I ugly blue stocking in her hand.
wont say good-bye or take any of your At this moment a summons came to her good wishes, since we are to meet again;" from the store.
and the lieutenant went off in high spirits Well, good luck t ye, and you must tell to report his success to his friend, sure, from us all about it when you come back," she said the remembrance of Blossom's glowing face with a cheerful air of dismissal, rolling up as he turned away from the door, that it her work and waiting for the young man to needed but one undisturbed moment by her take his leave.
side to make him entirely happy. And was it to end like this? Was he not to see Blossom again ? The woman's
CHAPTER XIV. rough, cheerful, parting words went on in his ears, and still he did not rise, or offer to make reply. He was struck dumb and The festivities were well under way before motionless. It had all proved so different Mrs. Stubbs and Blossom approached the from his dream. At last, by an effort, he ball-room. The woman could fight, both got upon his feet. Some suspicion of Mrs. for her daughter and herself, valiantly and Stubbs's scheming had struggled in upon his victoriously, upon her own ground; but to mind and gave him strength. “But I shall appear here was like carrying the war into see you again before we set off.” Then like Africa. To put oneself deliberately into an a ray of light out of the darkness a thought unwelcome position can never be agreeable, crossed his mind. “I shall see you to- even to the most calloused feelings; and night,” he said hastily. “Surely, Miss Blos- Mrs. Stubbs's sensibilities had become more som, you will be at the ball ? "
and more acute each day as she fancied Blossom looked to her mother, her face herself browbeaten and “put upon," as she flushed and glowing with sudden heat. On, expressed it to herself. She was rich, rich; if she could, if it were possible that this un- day and night this rang in her inner ears known delight were in store for her! The like a call to worship, yet no one came to boy did not notice how soon she had for-bow down before her. She was astonished gotten his going away. He was intent only at the extent of her wealth. Stubbs had upon his hope of seeing her once more; of been a careful man, a man not given to having an opportunity to whisper one ten- boasting, even in the presence of his own der word in her ear.
wife; and though she knew that each visit Mrs. Stubbs hesitated. But why should to the states augmented the store laid by she deny the child the sight, the like of there against future need, she did not dream which would not occur again for a long of its having reached the sum she found it time. And yet she shrank from putting to be when death revealed all of Stubbs's herself forward, from thrusting herself into secrets. It seemed limitless to her, as she a company where she knew she would be fingered notes and bonds and deeds. She unwelcome. Still if she refused might not regarded herself with awe as the possessor