“Speak not so,” exclaimed Alett; “it must not be.”
“Do you not love your country?” inquired the youth.
“I do, but I love Rubineau more. There are warriors enough ready for the battle. It need not be that you go. But why this alarm? We were talking of peace, and, behold, now we have the battle-field before us-war and all its panoply!”
“Pardon me, my dearest Alett, for borrowing trouble; but at times, when I am with you, and thinking of our present joy, the thought will arise that it may be taken from us.” No more words were needed to bring to the mind of Alett all that filled that of Rubineau. They embraced each the other more affectionately than ever, and silently repaired to the house of the general.
“To remain will be dishonor; to go may be death! When a Roman falls, the foe has one more arrow aimed at his heart; an arrow barbed with revenge, and sent with unerring precision. Hark! that shout is music to every soldier’s ear. Hear you that tramp of horsemen? that rumbling of chariot-wheels?”
Twelve months had passed since the time of the last chapter, and, after repeated threatening, war had actually begun. Instead of idle hours, the soldiers had busy moments, and every preparation was made to meet the opposing array in a determined manner, and with a steadiness of purpose that should insure success.
The general watched for some time the fluctuating appearance of public affairs, and it was not until war was not only certain, but actually in progress, that he called upon Rubineau to go forth.
A week hence Rubineau and Alett were to be united in marriage; and invitations had been extended far and near, in anticipation of the event. It had been postponed from week to week, with the hope that the various rumors that were circulated respecting impending danger to the country might prove untrue, or at least to have a foundation on some weak pretence, which reasonable argument might overthrow.
Day by day these rumors increased, and the gathering together of the soldiery betokened the certainty of an event which would fall as a burning meteor in the midst of the betrothed and their friends.
The call for Rubineau to depart was urgent, and its answer admitted of no delay.
“To remain,” said the general, “will be dishonor; to go may be death: which will you choose?”
It was a hard question for the young man to answer. But it must be met. The general loved him, and with equal unwillingness the question was presented and received.
“I go. If Rubineau falls—”
“If he returns,” exclaimed the general, interrupting him, “honor, and wealth, and a bride who loves and is loved, shall be his-all his.”
It was a night of unusual loveliness. The warm and sultry atmosphere of the day had given place to cool and gentle breezes. The stars were all out, shining as beacons at the gates of a paradise above; and the moon began and ended her course without the attendance of one cloud to veil her beauties from the observation of the dwellers on earth.