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A short, half-loud conversation then began, and then I heard the door open and the men going down stairs.
“Go to bed again, Maggy. I trust you will not be disturbed again," the old man said. And the door was closed.
I drew a deep breath of relief, but waited in vain for a movement on the part of my protectress. When the sound of retiring hoofs became audible outside she rose slowly and feebly, walked towards the entrance, and then clung with both hands to the door-post. Had not the painful feeling in all my limbs urged me to leave my hiding-place, my desire to help the girl, and my deep gratitude, would have made me do so. I rose to my feet as quietly as I could, the sinking moon shone right into the room, and lit up a pale, sweetly-modelled face with half-closed eyes, which could scarce be distinguished from the white night-dress carelessly folded round her limbs. She seemed to be contending against a faintness; but when, in obedience to my warm feelings, I said, half aloud, “ For Heaven's sake, miss, can I do nothing for you?” my words seemed to restore her a portion of her strength. “Nothing, sir, nothing,” she replied, drawing herself up with a slight shudder. “Go back and close the door.” She went firmly out into her bedroom, and I heard her bolt the door of it; but honouring her feelings, which I fully understood, I had already closed the small closet door and seated myself on the chest, waiting till she would release me.
I waited so long that I fell fast asleep, without having an idea of it, and it was not till I felt a gentle shake that I started up. It was perfectly dark around me, but the half loud melodious voice which now sounded in my ear restored me my perfect consciousness.
“ The moon has gone down, sir, but in an hour day will break," I heard; “ get ready to leave at once."
“I am ready," I said, noiselessly rising.
" Then give me your hand and follow me gently. Take the same road through the window, and then go through the orchard to the fence, where you will wait for me. Not a word, sir,” she added, as I tried to give vent to my feelings in a few hurried sentences.
I took her small soft hand, in which nothing revealed the farmer's daughter, in mine, but I did not even dare a pressure of thanks. She led me to the open window, and I effected my retreat almost noiselessly. Below me it was so dark that it took me a minute or two to make sure of my direction; and I had not been at the fence an instant, when a gentle rustling revealed Maggy's presence.
“ Follow now close after me,” she said. “You must not return by the direct road to the German camp, for they will be watching for you there. But, before all, not a word.”
She had cautiously opened a gate in the fence, and now walked on with light, quick steps. She went straight along a furrow in the ploughed fields. Two or three fences, which lay in our way, she climbed over with the lightness of habit, so that I could only find her again by the light of the waning stars. Then I noticed we had entered a path which ran across the plain between tall bushes, and we at length reached the skirt of the wood, which completely concealed us. The girl walked ahead of me with the same speed and certainty. I would gladly have addressed
her, but I believed that I thanked her best by punctually executing her orders, and held my tongue. Io about half an hour day began to break; but now our path ran right into the wood.
“Remain close behind me, not to lose your way,” she now spoke, for the first time. “We shall soon reach a spot where you cannot miss your road.”
I had a feeling in my heart as if a lovely fairy had appeared to me in my trouble, and, after saving me, would disappear and leave me pining for her. But the root-covered track soon brought me back to reality. I needed all my caution to escape a fall in following my guide, who walked along, forgetful of my ignorance of the locality, and it was not till the red light of dawn began to pierce through the foliage that we entered a broad highway. There she stopped, with her face still averted from me, as if reflecting on the right direction, or desirous of regaining her strength. When she at length turned to me, she was standing in the full rosy dawn in a grey summer dress, fitting tightly to her form, with her broad-brimmed straw hat thrown on her back, and gazing at me with a half shy glance from her large eyes. So maidenly, so graceful in her simplicity, I had never imagined her after the occurrences of the night.
“ This is your road, sir,” she said, slightly turning her head away as if wishing to escape my glance. “In less than half an hour you can rejoin your comrades.”
" And now, miss, tell me," I cried, under the excitement of my feel. ings,“ how can I ever thank you for what you have done for a perfect stranger this night."
She slowly turned her head : her face had again become as serious and pale as I had seen it in the moonlight.
“You have nothing to thank me for, sir," she calmly replied. “I hate this revolt against legal order, which has brought the dregs of the American population into our peaceful neighbourhood, and love the Germans and their fidelity to the Union, as I loved my own grand-parents. What I may have done for you, I did for my own satisfaction, and so let us part without further compliments."
“And you give me no hope, Miss Werner,” I said, after a short pause, in which her eye rested calmly on my excited face, " of ever seeing you
A melancholy smile played round her lips. “Do you know, sir, whether either of us will be alive to-morrow?" she replied; then added, in greater excitement, pointing in the direction of the rebel camp, “ These men care neither for age por sex when they fancy they have discovered an enemy of their senseless enterprise, and you will probably go into action this day. Do you think that, under other circumstances, I should have acted with so little self-respect?" A bright Alush suffused her cheeks at the last words, wondrously enhancing her beauty, and I seized her hand, which she granted me after a slight struggle.
“Very good, Miss Maggy; but if ever circumstances permit us to meet again, may I then address you and remind you of this night, and the gratitude of a heart whch has never before felt as it has done during the last few hours ?”
She quickly withdrew her hand and turned away, that I might not see
the vivid blush which spread over her face. “Go, sir, go! Heaven protect you !" she added, hurriedly, while making a movement to return to the wood.
• And may I not even tell you my name ?" I asked, with a feeling which was strangely divided between the sorrow of parting and a happiness I suddenly felt.
She stopped, turned slowly back, and a beaming glance, with which, however, a peculiar melancholy was blended, met me. “I know it already, sir," she said, with a smile that looked like a sunbeam forcing its way through clouds. “Your enemies told it my father when they entered the house. God protect you, Mr. Reuter,” she added, and offered me her hand. But I had scarce seized it with a firm pressure when I felt her fingers slip from my grasp again, and the girl walked slowly towards the forest without once looking back.
In less than half an hour I was in camp, and had made my report to my general. Four hours after we were standing face to face with the enemy, who, thanks to our excellent guns, soon broke and allowed us to advance.
In the battle of Springfield, fought soon after, I was wounded, and transported with other patients first to Jefferson City and then to St. Louis. I had received a bullet in the left shoulder, which missile placed me hors de combat for a long time ; still, thanks to the intercession of my friends, I had procured a situation in the post-office, which would keep me comfortably for several years. One day business took me to the railway depôt, just at the moment when a train arrived with fugitives from the interior of the state, and I suddenly saw a face which had never left my memory for a day. I looked into two dark sparkling eyes, in which a heaven seemed to open before me, and the next second-how it happened I never knew-I had both Maggy's hands in mine. “ Yes, it must be that we were to meet again,” she replied to an involuntary exclamation of surprise on my part, and then turned to an old farmer, who was evidently astounded by the whole scene. “It is Mr. Reuter, father, you know."
I will be short in my conclusion. When we drove the rebels from the neighbourhood of Werner's farm, without it being possible for me to visit the memorable house again, the old man had openly displayed his sympathy with the Federals, while his son, valuing his American citizenship more than his German origin, fled with the Secessionists; and Maggy did not hesitate to narrate her share in my flight. But both fared badly for their openness. The German forces were compelled to go to every threatened point of the State, and soon after Southern guerilla bands appeared, plundering and burning everything that belonged to the Unionists. Old Werner, who was warned betimes, did not wait for the worst, but saved his money and anything else he could, and fled with his daughter to St. Louis. It was high time to do so, for he learned on the road, from other fugitives who followed after him, that on their departure nothing remained of his house but smoking ruins.
Three months passed, in which I constantly visited the pair, who were temporarily living in a boarding-house, and my feelings for Maggy had
ripened into love. Still I noticed that old Werner was excessively reserved towards me, and evaded any opportunity of having an explanation with me. At length he recognised among the rebel prisoners brought in a young man from his neighbourhood, and learned from him that his son had fallen in one of the repeated skirmishes. When I called on him that evening, I found that a remarkable change had taken place both in him and Maggy. The girl, who tried in vain to hide her tear-swollen eyes, begged me not to ask any questions, and stay but a little while ; but when I returned next day, the old man told me with perfect calmness what had happened, and added, “He behaved wrong to his parents and grand-parents ; but still it could never have been a match between you and Maggy if he had come home again, for he would have taken to the farm. Now, though, if you like to be my son, after we have got over our heavy loss, and, so soon as the times become quieter again, go into the country with us, I have nothing to say against it; but I cannot part entirely from my last child, and wish to die at the spot where I planted nearly every tree, and which has been my home till now.”
Maggy is now my darling wife, in whom I discover fresh treasures every day; but we are still waiting for the time the old man is longing for, and which will render me a prosperous farmer. Unfortunate Missouri is still rent by civil war, and when we offer thanks to Heaven, it is, before all, because we are in a safe asylum, and have a more endurable lot than the many thousands whose welfare has been utterly and eternally ruined in this hapless war.
A MODERN FRENCH DUEL.
OUR way lay in the direction of the Porte Maillot, in the Bois de Boulogne (Jules Janin is the narrator; if Dumas père can best describe the more stirring aspects of a French duel in the olden time, the veteran feuilletonist is unsurpassed in his own account of this same proceeding, as enacted in our own days). I was going to fight my best friend Bernard; he had asked me to make amends for something I had done to offend him, and the offence was so grievous that I really do not remember what it was. Each went his own way, as the autumnal leaves cracked under our feet. Bernard walked on one side of the road, with his hands behind his back. Bernard walked sedately; he had made up his mind to kill me. As to me, I went along without troubling myself with reflections ; I really did not care to kill Bernard, although it was I who had given him offence.
Our witnesses-good fellows enough—kept at a respectful distance, and followed in silence; they liked us both, and anticipated only with feelings of deep concern the fatal moment when one of us should be tumbled on the ground with a ball in his body. They thought of our old parents, whom we ourselves had forgotten; of our gay autumnal evenings, never to come back again ; and they thought even of the grief of Augustine and Elise. Still we kept on, and was not the road long! I have always despised those who go to fight in a carriage; the least shake gives them a shudder. To walk to a combat is quite another thing; the blood circulates; there is a positive pleasure in contemplating, probably for the last time, the sunshine and the vast firmament. It is a pleasure to trip by the side of a cataract, which there are but faint hopes of getting across.
Once at the Porte Maillot, we pretended to separate.
And there we were, trying to get into gloomy alleys, whilst the central avenues were furrowed in every direction by English horses, carriages full of ladies, and light tilburys, favourable for a little firtation in public. Capital invention! You are alone by the side of her, close to her, you see her, feel her, love her, and she, trembling, lets her veil and hair float against your face. The horse knows how happy you are, and goes all the quicker.
I had got to the extremity of the shady pathway that opens upon La Muette, and, totally forgetting what had brought me to the wood, was peering out from beneath the overhanging tapestry of leaves, when I saw some one go by. Oh, what luck! She was alone in her berline La Julietta. I rather guessed her than saw her. I guessed her by her scarf, by the black muzzle of her little dog peering over the doorway, leaning on the scarf, and watching autumn go by.
I had entered the lists without having any real interest in the matter, and now I only thought of my love, and seeing her so near me—the beautiful artiste--" Stop !" I shouted ; “stop a moment, Julietta!" And I was going to run after the carriage, but Bernard took hold of me with his great hand, and with his grave look be said :
“It is not there that you have to go, but there !" And he pointed with his finger to an obscure and repulsive part of the forest.
“Oh yes, I know it all,” I said ; “but wait a moment, Bernard. I will kill you presently or you may kill me, no matter which, but let me say to her for the last time what I said to her yesterday, my Julietta ! She sang Don Juan to me; you know her; you supped with her at my house only a fortnight ago ; you accompanied her on the piano when she sang; you spoke to her in Italian and in Spanish ; you whispered to her as long as you liked ; now let me go and bid farewell to the fascinating creature."
At this very moment Julietta's carriage had turned round, and, coming back, drew up before us. She put the dog on one side with her hand, and advancing ber beautiful face :
“Good morning, Bernard ; good morning, Gabriel,” she said to me; " always friends, chers seigneurs, always inseparable. Whither are you going, then?” At the same time she held out her hand to me with her charming Neapolitan smile, browned by the sun. She was holding out her hand to me, but it was Bernard who took it and kissed it.
“Signorina,” he said to her, with a familiarity that surprised me not a little, " if you would only take a turn or two in the woods, I and Gabriel have a little business matter to settle here, after which we shall be at your service, and, if you like, we will sing together this evening the duo of • Matilda di Sabran.'"