And where the while was Wilford? Fortunate, indeed, is it for the disappointed, desperate men of the present day that when their horizon is blackest and life seems not worth preserving, they can leave the past behind and find a refuge in the army. To Wilford it presented itself at once as the place of all others. Anything which could divert his mind was welcome, and ere the close of that first day of Katy’s return from Yonkers, his name was enrolled in the service of his country. He had gone directly to Washington, stumbling accidentally upon an old college acquaintance who was getting up a company, and whose first lieutenant had disappointed him. Learning Wilford’s wishes he offered him the post, which was readily accepted, and ere four days were gone Lieutenant Wilford Cameron, with no regret as yet for the past, marched away to swell the ranks of men who, led by General McClellan, were pressing on, as they believed, to Richmond and victory. A week of terrible suspense went by and then there came a note to Mr. Cameron from his son, requesting him to care for Katy, but asking no forgiveness for himself.
“I have disgraced you all,” he wrote, “and I know just how you feel, but I am not sorry for the step I’ve taken. When I am I shall probably come back, provided that day finds me alive.”
And that was all the proud man wrote. Not one word was there for Katy, whose eyes, which had not wept since she knew she was deserted, moved slowly over the short letter, weighing every word, and then were lifted sadly to her father’s face as she said: “I will write and tell him all the truth, and on his answer will depend my future course.”
This she said referring to the question she had raised as to whether in case Wilford did not come back she should remain in New York or go to Silverton, where as yet they were ignorant of her affliction, for Uncle Ephraim had not told of the telegram, and Katy would not alarm them until she knew something definite.
And so the days went by, while Katy’s letter was sent to Wilford, together with another from his father, who confirmed all Katy had protested of her innocence and ended by calling his son a “confounded fool” and telling him to throw up his shoulder straps, which “only honest men had a right to wear, and come home where he belonged.”
To this there came an angry, indignant answer, bidding the father attend to his own business, and allow the son to attend to his. To Katy, however, Wilford wrote in a different strain, showing here and there marks of tenderness and relenting, but saying what he had done could not now be helped—he was in for a soldier’s life of two years, and should abide his choice. At the idea of Genevra’s being alive he scoffed; he knew better than that, and even if she were why need Katy have gone with it to Morris. Surely she should have had the discretion to keep something to herself.
This was the purport of Wilford’s letter to Katy, who when she had finished reading said, sorrowfully: