A fortnight after the quiet wedding in Melrose, late one afternoon, George Marshall and his wife were walking slowly along the ever-thronged battery of the Queen City, whither they had come on a visit to Captain Marshall’s uncle, Dr. Thornwell. A serious expression rested upon the young captain’s face, as he surveyed the long lines of tents that dotted the open square and bordered the broad street-so serious indeed, that he scarcely heeded the passers-by who were bowing salutations to him and his fair bride.
“George, you seem so abstracted; you scarcely noticed Frank Brewster as he passed just now in the brett with Florence Dale. What’s the matter, dear?”
“I’m troubled, perplexed, pondering, my dear. Yet I did not mean to be so abstracted. I must beg your forgiveness, as well as that of my friends.”
“Oh! never mind me, George; only tell me what troubles you.”
“Nothing more than the perplexing question that has harassed me ever since I came home, and saw beyond a doubt that we should have war-the question that I must soon decide, whether I shall desert my State in time of peril, or my country. In either course of acting, I shall be branded as a traitor, or a rebel. It’s a serious dilemma to be placed in, dear Eliza, and I must act wisely, and like a man. My heart is dreadfully divided: duty calls me to my country, and love calls me to my home. My forebodings, too, whisper that this war will be no trifling affair.”
“Well, for my part, George, and you already know it, I am opposed to secession. Fred Pinckney says it’s on account of the Whig blood that flows in my veins. I told him that my father, and my grandfather before him, were uncompromising Whigs. It may be so; I don’t know. I abhor the idea of bloodshed, and as yet, I think we have had little cause to declare war.”
“You are a sage little woman, and your argument sound, but these sentiments won’t do to promulgate in the Queen City. Remember, I am still a commissioned officer in the United States army. Be careful.”
“Oh! I am not afraid of my sentiments, or of being deemed traitorous. Only this morning, Colonel Legare asked me if I would present the Palmetto Rifles with the new flag he had made for them. But to return. War is war, George, and should be entered into with caution.”
“Yes; you are right. I feel at times as though I could not fight against the flag of my country; and then, on the other hand, I would not fight against my home and kindred. There seems but one alternative left to me-to resign my commission in the army and not take up arms at all,” replied the young officer sadly.
“Well, cheer up. Don’t grow despondent. I hope wisdom will direct your decision; and remember, if the thought will give you any comfort, that I have sworn to follow your footsteps and your fortune, wheresoever they may lead, be it from craggy Maine to wild Colorado,” said the young wife with forced pleasantry.