"Yes, he tole me las' night, Hob't Ma'tine. He took on mighty cur'ous after seein' me."
"Oh, ho! I see now. My wild little sister kissed before she looked. Well, that was your good-fortune. I could keep two Thanksgiving days on the strength of such a kiss as that," cried the light-hearted student, shaking the diffident, shrinking Mr. Stanhope warmly by the hand. "You will hardly need a formal introduction now. But, bless me, where is she? Has the November wind blown her away?"
Picnicking in December would be a dreary experience even if one could command all the appliances of comfort which outdoor life permitted. This would be especially true in the latitude of Boston and on the bleak hills overlooking that city and its environing waters. Dreary business indeed Ezekiel Watkins regarded it as he shivered over the smoky camp-fire which he maintained with difficulty. The sun was sinking into the southwest so early in the day that he remarked irritably: "Durned if it was worth while for it to rise at all."
"You have been giving reason for it every day since you came here," she resumed hotly. "I always heard it said that you had no heart; but I defended you and declared that your course toward your mother even when a boy showed that you had, and that you would prove it some day. But I now believe that you are unnaturally cold, heartless, and unfeeling. I had no objection to your wounding Miss Van Tyne's vanity and encouraged you when that alone bid fair to suffer. But when she proved she had a heart and that you had awakened it, she deserved at least kindness and consideration on your part. If you could not return her affection, you should have gone away at once; but I believe that you have stayed for the sole and cruel purpose of gloating over her suffering."
It was most fortunate that my wife had not come. I had recently been appointed chaplain of Hampton Hospital, Virginia, by President Lincoln, and was daily expecting my confirmation by the Senate. I had fully expected to give my wife a glimpse of army life in the field, and then to enter on my new duties. To go or not to go was a question with me that night. The raid certainly offered a sharp contrast with the anticipated week's outing with my bride. I did not possess by nature that kind of courage which is indifferent to danger; and life had never offered more attractions than at that time. I have since enjoyed Southern hospitality abundantly, and hope to again, but then its prospect was not alluring. Before morning, however, I reached the decision that I would go, and during the Sunday forenoon held my last service in the regiment. I had disposed of my horse, and so had to take a sorry beast at the last moment, the only one I could obtain.
"Great Scott! you here?" exclaimed Mr. Alford.
The rapid and peculiar utterance, the seemingly unfeeling words of his son, stung the father into an ecstasy of grief akin to anger. A man stood before him, as clearly recognized as his own image in a mirror. The captain was not out of his mind in any familiar sense of the word; he remembered distinctly what had happened for months past. He must recall, he must be MADE to recollect the vital truths of his life on which not only his happiness but that of others depended. Although totally ignorant of what the wisest can explain but vaguely, Mr. Nichol was bent on restoring his son by the sheer force of will, making him remember by telling him what he should and must recall. This he tried to do with strong, eager insistence. "Why, Albert," he urged, "I'm your father; and that's your mother."
A few moments later the birds fled to the closest cover, startled by the innumerable bugles sounding the note of preparation. Soon the different corps, divisions, and brigades were upon their prescribed lines of march. No movement could be made without revealing the close proximity of the enemy. Rifle-reports from skirmish lines and reconnoitring parties speedily followed. A Confederate force was developed on the turnpike leading southwest from the old Wilderness Tavern; and the fighting began. At about eight o'clock Grant and Meade came up and made their headquarters beneath some pine-trees near the tavern. General Grant could scarcely believe at first that Lee had left his strong intrenchments to give battle in a region little better than a jungle; but he soon had ample and awful proof of the fact. Practically unseen by each other, the two armies grappled like giants in the dark. So thick were the trees and undergrowth that a soldier on a battle line could rarely see a thousand men on either side of him, yet nearly two hundred thousand men matched their deadly strength that day. Hundreds fell, died, and were hidden forever from human eyes.