Jack lay quite still and raised his eyes. Above him stood a trooper, with a revolver leveled at and within ten feet of him. Figure to yourself any predicament in life in which vital stakes hang on the issue; figure to yourself the shipwrecked seizing ice where he had hoped for timber; the condemned criminal walking into the jailer’s toils where he had laboriously dug through solid walls; the captain of an army leaving the field victor, to find his legions rushing upon him in rout; figure any monstrous overturn in well-laid schemes, and you have but a faint reflex of poor Jack’s heart-breaking anguish when this jocular fate stood above him, with the five gaping barrels pointed at his miserable head. Oh, if Dick had only been there! His quick eye and keen activity would have discovered this lurking devil; perhaps, between them, they would have averted the disaster. Where could Dick be?
BETWEEN THE LINES.
On quitting Jack, Dick had but one thought in mind—to make his departure less abrupt for Rosa. If he left her without a word, what would she think? Then, with an officer’s uniform, he could be of much more help to Jack and the party than in the rough civilian homespun furnished at the cabin. Besides, he knew of certain blank headquarter passes lying on Vincent’s desk. He would get a few of these; they might extricate the party in the event of a surprise.
He tore over the solemn roadway, under the spectral foliage, and in twenty minutes he was in his room in the Atterburys’. Vincent’s old uniform he had often noticed in a spare closet adjoining his own sleeping-room. In an instant he was in it, and, though it was not a fit, he soon put it in order to pass casual inspection. The line for Rosa was the next delay. What should he say? He had had his mind full for days of the most tender sentiments and prettily turned phrases, but the turmoil of the last hour, the vital value of every moment to Jack’s plans, left him no time to compose the poem he had meditated so long. Rosa’s own pretty desk was open, and on a sheet of her own paper he wrote, in a scrawling, school-boy hand:
“DARLING ROSA: You’ve often said that you would disown Vincent if he were not true to the South. Think of Vincent in my place—dawdling in Acredale or Washington while battles were going on. You would not hold him less contemptible that he was in love; that he let his love, or his life, for you are both to me, stand as a barrier to his duty. You can’t love where you can’t honor, and you can’t hate where you know conscience rules. I go to my duty, that in the end I may come to you without shame. I ask no pledge other than comes to your heart when you read this; but whatever you may say, whatever you may decide, I am now and always shall be your devoted