Of the meeting between the general and his secretary, who relates an affair of gallantry that had well-nigh cost him his life; also, of the departure for Kalorama.
“Tickler! my faithful secretary, the friend and companion of my future fortunes!” exclaimed the general, embracing the trembling Tickler as he entered the room somewhat timidly. And after shaking him warmly by the hand he ordered two punches, over which he promised to give him an account of the anxiety he had suffered at his absence, and which might have proved a serious affair to the nation.
“By my honor, general,” replied Tickler, fingering his beard, and looking somewhat confused, “your kindness is as unexpected as I know it is sincere. And if you say the punches, it is as you say. It is to ask your forgiveness I came, and here you offer me proofs that I have not even incurred your displeasure.”
“Mercy and courtesy, friend Tickler, belong to our profession,” interrupted the general, elongating his body, placing his thumbs in the arm-holes of his waistcoat, and striding twice or thrice across the room. “I feared you were dead, friend Tickler. And it might look suspicious,” he resumed. “But you are alive, and I am glad enough of it.” The punches now smoked upon the table; and as the general drew up his chair beside the secretary, that functionary began to relate the cause of his absence. “I got safe into Baltimore, you see, and having no more fears of the finger-taps of sheriffs, was quietly wending my way for the Gilmore House, and had reached a fine old mansion that stood a little from the street, when my attention was attracted by a voice singing so sweetly that I became like one transfixed, for the strains seemed melting my very heart. And you know, general, that it’s no hard matter to melt the heart of an Irish gentleman. The voice sounded like one I had heard before, and I paused, and listened, and wondered whose it could be, and suddenly it ceased. I turned to gaze in the direction from whence the music came, and there saw, through an open window, a girl of such exquisite beauty that I felt like getting upon my knees and worshipping her as the idol of love. During the pause she sat at a piano motioning her fan, and with so much grace and delicacy that even a Castilian could not have excelled it. Her complexion was like alabaster, her features of Grecian cast, and as regular as if they had been chiseled. And these charms were made more bewitching by the luxuriant tresses of black hair that hung carelessly down upon her broad, white shoulders. The thought that I had seen her before almost crazed me. Then suddenly her delicate fingers tripped over the keys of the piano, and she struck up a song, the words of which I have not now at my tongue’s end, but which I remember said a deal about hope, anguish, and hearts that were true. Something also was said about the cold marble, and withered hopes. I may say, sir, that it bore a strong resemblance to songs I have heard sung by lovers in my own country,-”