“I shall be most happy to do so, if it will tend to dispel my prejudice, or rather, my dread of the place. At what hour?”
“At six P. M. precisely, the Sea-Foam leaves pier number three for the fort. I’ll return in time for us to leave at that hour. Be ready. Adieu. I must hasten!” He kissed her, and was gone.
When Eliza was once again alone in her quiet chamber, the skilful fingers were busy with her work, and the perplexed brain was busy with its thoughts. At length she said, half audibly, “I may be foolish. God only knows how dreadfully I feel about this wretched war.”
At the appointed time George Marshall returned, to find his wife awaiting him; and without delay they sought the Sea-Foam’s pier. As the young colonel walked beside his wife, so modestly yet becomingly attired in simple white muslin, with a blue scarf round her faultless figure, he thought her a paragon of beauty, and passed on in silent admiration, till the pier was reached.
“What does this embarkation recall to your mind, George?” said the young wife pleasantly, as her husband seated himself beside her on the deck of the Sea-Foam.
“Nothing in particular, that I remember. What is it?”
“Oh, I was vain enough to suppose it might recall to you an occasion that has ever been memorable to me,” she replied archly. But I see you have forgotten that sunny June evening, five years ago, when I embarked, from this very pier-embarked, leaving you behind, and thinking I should never see you again.”
“Oh, forgive my want of memory and sentimentality. The war has well-nigh crushed the latter out of my nature. I thank God though, that we have now embarked together on the ocean of life, with no fear of separation, and with the hope, too, that storms, if they come, may not wreck our bark. Isn’t the sea lovely? And how delicious the breeze!”
“Yes, the flags float airily; but the fort, though seemingly so near, is yet quite far away. How deceptive is water!” The boat sped on toward the fortress like a feather on the breeze.
“Here we come,” said the colonel, “nearer, nearer, nearer, to the huge pile of sea-washed brick and mortar; nearer to your dreaded enemy, my love; slower, slower, slower, to the land. Here we are!” And the Sea-Foam safely cast her anchor once again.
Event crowded upon event as the first two long years of the war glided by-years that seemed to calendar twenty-four, instead of twelve months each. The strife hadn’t yet reached its climax, but blood was flowing fearfully. From Maine to the Gulf was one vast beleaguered sea-coast, for at every sea-port city, grim monsters of war stood guarding the entrance to the harbor. Already the central, though despised Queen City, was feeling the fire of a fierce and cruel bombardment. Refugees were flitting hither and thither about the country, seeking peace and security, but finding none. Want and privation were even now beginning to menace a once luxurious people, and gloom and despair to enshroud the hopes of those who had fondly dreamed of a successful dismemberment of the Union. Such was the record of the years preceding the memorable seven days’ fighting at “Merry Oaks.”