“No one will ever see it happen,” I said to him, soberly.
“Under which flag, then, for you?” he asked quickly.
“The flag you saw on the frontier, Orme,” I answered him. “That is the flag of America, and will be. The frontier is free. It will make America free forever.”
“Oh, well,” he said, “the argument will be obvious enough by next spring—in April, I should guess. And whatever you or I may think, the game will be big, very big—the biggest until you have your real war between black and white, and your yet bigger one between yellow and white. I imagine old England will be in that with you, or with one of you, if you make two countries here. But I may be a wandering Jew on some other planet before that time.”
He sat for a time, his chin dropped on his breast. Finally he reached me his hand.
“Let me go,” he said. “I promise you to leave.”
“To leave the State?”
“No, I will not promise that.”
“To leave the County?”
“Yes, unless war should bring me here in the course of my duty. But I will promise to leave this town, this residence—this girl—in short, I must do that. And you are such an ass that I was going to ask you to promise to keep your promise—up there.” He motioned toward the window where the light lately had been.
“You do not ask that now?” I queried.
“You are a fighting man,” he said, suddenly. “Let all these questions answer themselves when their time comes. After all, I suppose a woman is a woman in the greatest of the Barnes, and one takes one’s chances. Suppose we leave the debt unsettled until we meet some time? You know, you may be claiming debt of me.”
“Will you be ready?” I asked him.
“Always. You know that. Now, may I go? Is my parole ended?”
“It ends at the gate,” I said to him, and handed him his pistol. The knife I retained, forgetfully; but when I turned to offer it to him he was gone.
A CONFUSION IN COVENANTS
During the next morning Harry Sheraton galloped down to the village after the morning’s mail. On his return he handed me two letters. One was from Captain Matthew Stevenson, dated at Fort Henry, and informed me that he had been transferred to the East from Jefferson Barracks, in company with other officers. He hinted at many changes in the disposition of the Army of late. His present purpose in writing, as he explained, was to promise us that, in case he came our way, he would certainly look us up.
This letter I put aside quickly, for the other seemed to me to have a more immediate importance. I glanced it over, and presently found occasion to request a word or so with Colonel Sheraton. We withdrew to his library, and then I handed him the letter.
“This,” I explained, “is from Jennings & Jennings, my father’s agents at Huntington, on whose advice he went into his coal speculations.”