“Are you fond of the sea, Mr. Marshall?”
Still gazing eastward over the deep, he replied abstractedly:
“Do you mean, am I fond of sea-life? If so, I answer most emphatically, No. There’s but one life in this world that attracts me”—and here his manner grew constrained as he continued—“but one, and that’s the life of a soldier. I love military life and service, and when my course is finished—which time is near at hand—if I am successful, as I hope to be, I shall offer myself to my country, and await impatiently her refusal or acceptance of my humble services. But I beg your pardon, if my enthusiasm has led me away from your inquiry. I only like to look upon the sea; its grandeur in a storm, and the peaceful repose that follows, excite my admiration, but that’s all. It’s something too treacherous to love.”
“You fear the water, then,” asked Lizzie smiling.
“Look to-night, if you please,” was the answer, “at the soft silver sheen that covers its beautiful blue bosom, and imagine, if you can, such peaceful water engulfing a hapless bark within its silent depths! Oh no; I only admire the sea as a part of God’s wonderful creation. But, Miss Heartwell, there’s something just visible in the hazy distance that I do love; it’s old Defiance. You see the lights of the old fort twinkling far off on the water? They stir within me the martial spirit, and seem to beckon me on to an unknown, but longed-for destiny. It may be fancy, yet there has been a peculiar feeling toward that old fort ever since I first became a cadet at the Citadel. Why do you frown? Do you object to my enthusiasm?”
“By no means,” replied Lizzie quickly; “but, strangely as it seems to fascinate you, it has always repelled, and even terrified me. It’s the only object of the beautiful harbor that has ever cast a shadow across the loveliness of the sea. I hate it; and I have often wished the sea would draw it silently into its hungry depths, and leave no trace of it behind.”
“Your fancy amuses me,” he said. “It would never do to obliterate old Defiance, for then the enemy, should they ever come, would find easy access to the Queen City, and ruin and destruction might follow.”
“Well, I guess my wishes will be unavailing in the future, as they have been in the past; and as I leave the Queen City to-morrow, old Defiance will fade from my sight though not from my memory, for a long, long time. So for the present I wish it no ill.”
“Indeed,” replied George Marshall in surprise, “do you leave the Queen City to-morrow—so soon?”
“Yes, I go by steamer—by the Firefly, that leaves to-morrow for the port of —, in my native State, and from there to Melrose, where I live.”
“At what hour does the steamer leave?” inquired the young man thoughtfully.
“At six P.M., uncle tells me.”
“And you leave so soon—six P.M. to-morrow?” he asked. “Maybe I am selfish in monopolizing you so long, Miss Heartwell. I have two friends you must know before the evening closes—Edwin Calhoun and Emile Le Grande. Have you met them? The dancing has ceased again, and we’ll look them up.”