“Now, I wonder who is this Ellen?” mused I to myself.
[Illustration: Gordon Orme laughs at Ellen’s accusation of his treachery]
THE GIRL WITH THE HEART
Captain Stevenson left us soon after dinner, he being one of the officers’ committee on preparations for the ball, so that I spent a little time alone at his quarters, Orme and Major Williams having gone over to the Officers’ Club at the conclusion of their call. I was aroused from the brown study into which I had fallen by the sound of a loud voice at the rear of Number 16, and presently heard also Kitty’s summons for me to come. I found her undertaking to remove from the hands of Annie, her ponderous black cook, a musket which the latter was attempting to rest over the window sill of the kitchen.
“Thar he goes now, the brack rascal!” cried Annie, down whose sable countenance large tears were coursing. “Lemme get one good shot at him. I can shore hit him that clost.”
“Be silent! Annie,” commanded Kitty, “and give me this gun. If I hear of your shooting at Benjie any more I’ll certainly discharge you.
“You see,” explained Kitty to me, “Annie used to be married to Benjie Martin, who works for Colonel Meriwether, at the house just beyond the trees there.”
“I’se married to him yit,” said Annie, between sobs. “Heap more’n that taller-faced yaller girl he done taken up with now.”
“I think myself,” said Kitty, judicially, “that Benjie might at least bow to his former wife when he passes by.”
“That’d be all I wanted,” said Annie; “but I kaint stand them horty ways. Why, I mended the very shirt he’s got on his back right now; and I bought them shoes fer him.”
“Annie’s such a poor shot!” explained Kitty. “She has taken a pot-shot at Benjie I don’t know how many times, but she always misses. Colonel Meriwether sent a file down to see what was going on, the first time, but when I explained it was my cook, he said it was all right, and that if she missed Benjie it harmed no one, and if she happened to kill him it would be only what he deserved. Annie’s the best cook in the Army, and the Colonel knows it. Aren’t you, Annie?”
“Ef I could only shoot as good as I ken cook,” remarked Annie, “it would be a powerful sight o’ res’ to my soul. I shorely will git that nigger yet.”
“Of course you will,” said Kitty. “Just wait till to-morrow morning, Annie, and when he starts around in the yard, you take a rest over the window sill. You see,” she resumed to me, “we try to do everything in the world to keep our servants happy and comfortable, Mr. Cowles.
“But now, as to you, sir, it is time you were getting ready for the serious business of the evening. Go into Matt’s room, there, and Johnson will bring you your disguise.”