A Modern Cinderella and other stories
"You see, when the Colonel--Lord keep an' send him back to us!--it a'n't certain yet, you
know, Ma'am, though it's two days ago we lost him--well, when the Colonel shouted,
'Rush on. boys, rush on!' Dane tore away as if he was goin' to take the fort alone; I was
next him, an' kept close as we went through the ditch an' up the wall. Hi! warn't that a
rusher!" and the boy flung up his well arm with a whoop, as if the mere memory of that
stirring moment came over him in a gust of irrepressible excitement.
"Were you afraid?" I said,--asking the question women often put, and receiving the
answer they seldom fail to get.
"No, Ma'am!"-- emphasis on the "Ma'am," --"I never thought of anything but the damn
Rebs, that scalp, slash, an' cut our ears off, when they git us. I was bound to let daylight
into one of 'em at least, an' I did. Hope he liked it!"
"It is evident that you did, and I don't blame you in the least. Now go on about Robert, for
I should be at work."
"He was one of the fust up; I was just behind, an' though the whole thing happened in a
minute. I remember how it was, for all I was yellin' an' knockin' round like mad. Just
where we were, some sort of an officer was wavin' his sword an' cheerin' on his men;
Dane saw him by a big flash that come by; he flung away his gun, give a leap, an' went at
that feller as if he was Jeff, Beauregard, an' Lee, all in one. I scrabbled after as quick as I
could, but was only up in time to see him git the sword straight through him an' drop into
the ditch. You needn't ask what I did next, Ma'am, for I don't quite know myself; all I 'm
clear about is, that I managed somehow to pitch that Reb into the fort as dead as Moses,
git hold of Dane, an' bring him off. Poor old feller! we said we went in to live or die; he
said he went in to die, an' he 's done it."
I had been intently watching the excited speaker; but as he regretfully added those last
words I turned again, and Robert's eyes met mine, --those melancholy eyes, so full of an
intelligence that proved he had heard, remembered, and reflected with that preternatural
power which often outlives all other faculties. He knew me, yet gave no greeting; was
glad to see a woman's face, yet had no smile wherewith to welcome it; felt that he was
dying, yet uttered no farewell. He was too far across the river to return or linger now;
departing thought, strength, breath, were spent in one grateful look, one murmur of
submission to the last pang he could ever feel. His lips moved, and, bending to them, a
whisper chilled my cheek, as it shaped the broken words,--
"I would have done it,--but it 's better so,-- I'm satisfied."
Ah! well he might be,--for, as he turned his face from the shadow of the life that was, the
sunshine of the life to be touched it with a beautiful content, and in the drawing of a
breath my contraband found wife and home, eternal liberty and God.