Not slow-spoken did we find the command when we reached the road where they were falling into line. After a brief but vain pursuit, here were almost the haste and tumult of the onset; the sweat of it still reeked on everyone; the ground was strewn with its wreckage and its brute and human dead, and the pools of their blood were still warm. Squarely across the middle of the road, begrimed with dust, and with a dead Federal under him and another on top, lay the big white-footed pacer. At one side the enemy's fallen wounded were being laid in the shade to be left behind. In our ranks, here was a man with an arm in a bloody handkerchief, there one with his head so bound, and yonder a young fellow jesting wildly while he let his garments be cut and a flesh-wound in his side be rudely stanched. Here there was laughter at one who had been saved by his belt-buckle, and here at one who had dropped like dead from his horse, but had caught another horse and charged on. But these details imply a delay where in fact there was none; the moment Ferry spied me he asked "Did he get across?" and while I answered he motioned me into the line. Then he changed it into a column, commanded silence, and led us across country eastward. For those few wounded who would not give up their places in the ranks it was a weary ten miles that brought us swiftly back to a point within five miles of that Clifton which we had left in the morning. And yet a lovely ten miles it was, withal. You would hardly have known this tousled crowd for the same dandy crew that had smiled so flippantly upon me at sunrise, though they smiled as flippantly now with faces powder-blackened, hair and eyelashes matted and gummed with sweat and dust, and shoulders and thighs caked with grime. Yet to Ned Ferry as well as to me--I saw it in his eye every time he looked at them--these grimy fellows did more to beautify those ten miles than did June woods beflowered and perfumed with magnolia, bay and muscadine, or than slant sunlight in glade or grove.
Harry was openly vexed. "Well, either way! would any true man leave that woman behind?" and I tried to put in that that was what I had been leading up to; but it makes me smile yet, to recall how jauntily she discomfited us both. She triumphed with the airy ease of a king-bird routing a crow in the upper blue. Camille had more than once told me that C茅cile was wise beyond the hope of her two cousins to emulate her; which had only increased my admiration for Camille; yet now I began to see how the sisters came by their belief. In the present discussion she was easily first among the four of us. At the same time her sensuous graces also took unquestionable pre?minence; city-bred though she was, she had the guise of belonging to the landscape, or, rather, of the landscape's belonging, by some fairy prerogative, to her. She seemed just let loose into the world, yet as ready and swift to make right use of it as any humming-bird let into a garden; as untimorous as any such, and as elusive. In this sultry June air she had all the animation both of mind and of frame that might have been expected of her on a keen, clear winter day. Her face never bore the same expression at the beginning and middle, or at either of these and the close, of any of her speeches, yet every change was lovely, the sign of a happy play of feeling, and proof of a mercurial intelligence. No report of them by this untrained pen would fully bear me out, and the best tribute I can offer is to avoid the task.
We left the table all laughing but Gholson. He tried to say something to Harry, which the latter waved away with mock gaiety until on the side veranda we got beyond view of the ladies, when the aide-de-camp reddened angrily and turned his back. As the two lieutenants were lighting cigarettes together, Harry, thinking Gholson had left us, blurted out, "Oh, that's all very well for you to say, Ned, but, damn him, he's not the sort of man that has the right to 'suspicion' me of anything; slang-whanging, backbiting sneak, I know what he's here for."
"Oh, hang him and the horse! you've told me that three times; what of it?"
I waited on. So absorbed was I that I did not hear the coming of a horseman in the fields beyond the grove, nor the click of a field gate; but when the strange quietude of Ferry and the dogs had begun to reassure me I became aware of this new-comer approaching the dooryard. There he reined in and hallooed. I knew the voice. An answer came from an upper window. "Is this Squire Wall's?" asked the traveller. "Well, Squire, I'm from General Austin's headquarters, with orders to Captain Ferry."
"It means the Yankees,--love," I said, and when she gasped her dismay without letting on to have heard the last word, I felt that fires were cheap at any price.