“You can trust me, sir,” said Harry.
“I know it, and now unlock the door. We’ve held ourselves prisoners long enough, and they’ll be wondering about us in the ballroom.”
Harry turned the key promptly enough and he was glad to escape from the room. He felt that he had left behind a sinister atmosphere. He had not mentioned to the older men the faint shadow that he thought he had seen crossing the courtyard. But then it was only fancy, nothing more, an idle figment of the brain! There was the music now, softer and more tempting than ever, an irresistible call to flying feet, and another dance with Rosamond Lawrence was due.
“I thought you weren’t coming, Lieutenant Kenton,” she said. “Some one said that you had gone into the smoking-room and that you were talking war with middle-aged generals and colonels.”
“But I escaped as soon as I could, Miss Rosamond,” he said—he was thinking of the locked door and the universal search.
“Well, you came just in time. The band is beginning and I was about to give your dance to that good-looking Lieutenant Dalton.”
“You wouldn’t treat me like that! Throw over your cousin in such a manner! I can’t think it!”
“No, I wouldn’t!”
Then the full swell of the music caught them both, and they glided away, as light and swift as the melody that bore them on.
A VAIN PURSUIT
Youth was strong in Harry, and, while he danced and the music played, he forgot all about the incident in the smoking-room. With him it was just one pretty girl after another. He had heart enough for them all, and only one who was so young and who had been so long on battlefields could well understand what a keen, even poignant, pleasure it was to be with them.
Those were the days when a ball lasted long. Pleasures did not come often, but when they came they were to be enjoyed to the full. But as the morning hours grew the manner of the older people became slightly feverish and unnatural. They were pursuing pleasure and forgetfulness with so much zeal and energy that it bore the aspect of force rather than spontaneity. Harry noticed it and divined the cause. Beneath his high spirits he now felt it himself. It was that looming shadow in the North and that other in that far Southwest hovering over lost Vicksburg. Serious men and serious women could not keep these shadows from their eyes long.
The incident of the smoking-room and the missing map came back to him with renewed force. It could not have walked away. They had searched the room and the court so thoroughly that they would have found it, had it been there. The disappearance of a document, which men of authority and knowledge had built up almost unconsciously, puzzled and alarmed him.
It was almost day when he and Dalton left. They paid their respects to Mr. and Mrs. Curtis, and said many good-bys to “the girls they left behind them.” Then they went out into the street, and inhaled great draughts of the cool night air.