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native State. As for country, it's nothing but a — what-you-may-call-it."
"Very true. It is in observing the terms of that what-you-may-call-it,—that federation, that bond, — in mutual concessions, in fraternal remembrances, that we gain a country. And what a country I"
"Yes, what a country, Vivia! And shall I consent to resign an atom of it while there 's a drop of blood in my body, to lose a single grain of its dust? When Beltran brought me here three years ago, I sailed day and night up a mighty river, from one zone into another,—sailed for weeks between banks that were still my own country. And if I had ever returned, we should have passed by the thundering ledges of New England, Jersey mrfs and shallows, the sand-bars of the Carolinos, the shores of Florida lying like a faint green cloud long and low upon the horizon, — sailing a thousand miles again in our own waters. Enormous borders! and throughout their vast stretch happiness and promise! And shall I give such dominion to the first traitor that demands it? No I nor to the thousandth! There she lies, bleeding, torn, prostrate, a byword I Why, Vivia, this was my country, she that made me, reared me, gladdened me! It is the new crusade. I understand none of your syllogisms. My country is in danger. Here 's my hand!"
And Ray stood erect, bristling and fiery, as some one reddening in the very light of battle.
And answering him only with flashing eyes, Vivia sang, in her triumphant, thrilling tones, —
"Hark to a wanderinjr child's appeal,
My mother Slate, to thee I kneel,
For life and death, for woe and weal,
Thy peerless chivalry reveal,
And ftird thy beauteous limbs with steel,
"You 're a wicked girl, Vivia, if you are as beautiful as Phryne I" exclaimed Ray, while little Jane picked herself up
from the table, across which she had been leaning with both arms and her dishtowel, and staring forgetfully at him.
"Well, you young fanatic," said she, "we can't convert each other. We are both incontrovertible. Let us be friends. One needs more time than we have to quarrel in."
"Yes," said Ray. "I am going this afternoon, and I shall drink of every river west of the Mississippi before I come back. It's a wild life, a royal life; I am thirsty for its excitement and adventure."
"Jane," called Mrs. Vennard from within, "did you find all the nests today?"
"All but two, Ma'am," said little Jane, as she let a tempting odor escape from the tin oven. "The black hen got over the fence last night; she 's down in the lot. And the cropple-crown laid away."
"You 'd better get tb-em."
"If you 'd just as lief."
"Oh, yes, Ma'am!"
"We 'll go, too," said Kay.
"Oh, no, you need n't."
"We 'd like to, little Jane. Are the cookies done '/ By George! don't they look like manna? They 'll last all the way to Fort Riley. And be manua in the wilderness. Smoking hot. Have somo, Vivia'/ Little Jane, I say, 't would be jolly, if you 'd go along and cook fur the regiment."
"Is that all you M want of me?"
"It 's a wonderful region for grasshoppers out there, you know ; you 'd improvise us such charming dishes of locusts and wild honey! As for cookies, a snowflake and a sunbeam, and there they are," said Ray, making inroads on the FortRiley stores; while little Jane set down a cup of beaten cream by his side.
"Janets are trumps! Vivia, don't you wish you were going to the war?"
"Yes," said Vivia.
"There is something in it, is n't there?' said Ray. "You 'll sit at home, and how your blood will boil! What keeps you women alive? Darning stockings, I suppose. There 's only one thing I dread: 't would be hard to read of other men's glory, and I lying fla-ton my back. Would you make me cookies then, little Jane?"
Little Jane only gave him one swift, shy look: there was more promise in it than in many a vow. In return, Ray tossed her the sparkle of his dancing glance an instant, and then his eager fancies caught him again.
"We read of them," said he, " those splendid scenes. What can there be like acting them? Ah, what a throb there is in it I The rush, the roar, the onslaught, the clanging trumpet, the wreathing smoke, and the mad horses. Dauntlessly defying danger. Ravishing fame from the teeth of the battery. See in what a great leap of the heart you spring with the forlorn hope up the escalade! Your soul kindles and flashes with your blade. You are nothing but a wrath. To die so, with all one's spirit at white-heat, awake, alert, aflame, must send one far up and along the heights of being. And if you live, there are other things to do; and how the women feel their fiery pulses fly, their hot tears start, as you go by, thinking of all the tumult, the din, the daring, the danger, and you a part of it!"
Little Jane was trembling and tying on her bonnet . As for Vivia, she burst into tears.
"Oh, Ray!" sobbed she, "I wish I were a man!"
"I don't!" said he. "Oh, it 's riproarious! Come, let 's follow our leader. We 'll bring you back the cropple-crown, auntie."
And so they departed, while, breaking into fresh carols, ringing and dulcet, as they went, Vivia's voice resounded till the woods pealed to the echo: —
"He waved his proud arm, and the trumpets
were blown. The kettle-drums clashed, and the horsemen
rode on, Till o'er Ravelston crags and on Clermiston
lea Died away the wild war-notes of Bonny
Pursuing the white sun-bonnet down the pasture, Ray kept springing ahead with his elastic foot, threshing the juniper-plats that little Jane had already searched, and scattering about them the pungent fragrance of the sweet - fern thickets, — the breath of summer itself; then returning for a sober pace or two, would take off his hat, thrust a hand through the masses of his hair that looked like carved ebony, and show Vivia that his shadow was exactly as long as her own. And Vivia saw that all this beating and longing and burning had loosened and shot-into manhood a nature that tmder the snow of its eightieth winter would yet be^hat of a boy. Ray could never be any taller than he was to-day, but he had broad, sturdy shoulders and a closeknit, nervous frame, while in his honest, ugly face, that, arch or grave, kept its one contrast of black eyes and brilliant teeth, there was as much to love as in the superb beauty of Beltran.
They had reached the meadow's edge at length; Ray was growing more serious, as the time hurried, when little Jane, with a smothered exclamation, prepared to cross the wall. For there they were, sleek and glossy, chattering gently to each other, pecking about, the wind blowing open their feathers till they became top-heavy, and looking for all the world, as Janet said, like pretty little old ladies dressed up to go out to tea- And near them, quite at home in the marshy domain, strutted and lunched a fine gallant of a turkey, who ruffled his redness, dropped all his plumes about him, and personated nothing less than some stately dowager sailing in flounces and brocades. Ray caught back their discoverer, launched a few stepping-stones across, and, speeding from foothold to foothold, very soon sent His Magnificence fluttering over the fence and forward before them, and returned with the two little runaway hens slung over his arm, where, after a trifle of protestation and a few subdued cackles of crestfallen acquiescence, having a great deal to tell the other hens on reaching home once more, they very contentedly enjoyed the new aspect of the world upsidedown. /
"And here 's where she 's made her nest," said little Jane, stepping aside from a tangle of blackberry-vines, herds-grass, and harebells, where lay a half-dozen pullet pearls. "A pretty mother you 'd make, Miss, gadding and gossiping down in the meadow with that naughty black hen! Who do you suppose is going to bring up your family for you? Did you speak to the butterflies to hatch them under their yellow wings? I shall just tie you to an old shoe!"
And taking the winking, blinking culprits from Ray, she ran along home to make ready his package, for which there was not more than an hour left. Vivia turned to follow, for she also wanted to help; but Ray, lingering by the wall and pointing out some object, caused her to remain.
"It will be such a long time before I see it again," said he.
They leaned upon the stone wall, interspersed, overgrown, and veiled with moss and maiden-hair and blossoming brambles. Before them lay the long meadow, sprinkled with sunbeams, green to its last ripe richness, discolored only, where the tall grass made itself hoary in the breeze, or where some trail of dun brown ran up through all intermediate tints to break in a glory of gold at the foot of the screen of woods that far away gloomed like a frowning fortress of shade, but, approaching, feathered off its tips in the glow, and let the mellow warmth of olive light gild to a lustrous depth all its darkly verdurous hollows. Near them the vireos were singing loud and sweet.
"Vivia," said Ray, after a pause. "if 1 should never come back"
"You will come back."
"But if I never did, — should you greatly care '/"
"Beginning to despond! That is good! You won't go, then?"
"If the way lay over the bottomless pit, I should go."
"And you can't get free, if you want to?"
"Ray, I could easily raise money enough upon my farm to buy"
"If you talk so," said Ray, whipping oft' the flowers, but looking up at her as he bent, and smiling, "I shall inform against you, and have your faim confiscated."
"What! I can't talk as I please in a free country? Oh, it 's not free, then! They 've discovered at length that there 's something better than freedom. They sent a woman to prison this spring for eating an orange in the street. They confiscated a girl's wedding-gown the other day, and now they 've confiscated her bridegroom. Oh, it's a great cause that can't get along without my weddinggown! ffol/lexxe oblige!"
"It takes more wedding-gowns than yours, Vivia. Dips them in mourning."
"Pray God it won't take mine yet!" cried she, with sudden fire.
"Vivia," said Ray, facing her, "I asked you a question. Why did n't you answer it? Should n't you care?"
"You know, dear child, I should, — we all should, terribly."
"But, Vivia, I mean, that you — that I"
He paused, the ardor and eagerness suspended on cheek and lip, for Vivia met his glance and understood its simple speech,—since }n some degree a dark eye lets you into the soul, where a blue one bluffs you off with its blaze, and under all its lucent splendor is as impenetrable as a turquoise. A girl of more vanity would have waited for plainer words. But Vivia only placed her warm hand on his, and said gently, —
"Ray, I love Bel Iran."
There was a moment's quiet, while Ray looked away, — supporting his chin upon ono hand, and a black cloud sweeping torridly down the stern face. One sharp struggle. A moment's quiet. Into it a wild rose kept shaking sweetness. After it a vireo broke into tremulous melody, gushing higher, fuller, stronger, clearer. Ray turned, his eyes wet, his face beaming. Said he, —
"I am more glad than if it were myself!"
Then Vivia bent, and, flushed with noble shame, she ki— > t him on the lips. A word, a grasp, she was leaning alone over the old stone wall, the birds were piping and fluting about her, and Ray was gone.
A month of rushing over land and lake, of resting at the very spots where he and Beltran had stayed together three years ago, of repeating the brief strolls they took, of reading again and again that last note, and Ray had crossed the great river of the West, and reached the headquarters of his regiment. There, induiug their uniforms, and training their horses, all of which were yet to be shod, they brushed about the country, and skirmished with guerrillas, until going into camp for thorough drill preparatory to active service.
Convoying Government-trains through a region where were assembled in their war-paint thousands of Indians from the wild tribes of the plains and hills was venturous work enough, but it was not that to which Ray aspired. He must be one of those cherubim who on God's bidding speed; he could not serve with those who only stand and wait. His hot soul grew parched and faint with longing, aud all the instincts of his battling blood began to war among themselves. At length one night there was hammering and clinking at the red field-fires, and by daybreak they were off for a mad gallop over plain and mountain, down river-banks and across deserts into New Mexico.
Fording the shallow Arkansas, trailing their way through prairie and timber,—reaching and skirting the scorching stretch, — riding all day, consumed with thirst, from green-mantling pool to pool, till the last lay sixty miles behind them, and men and horses made desperately for the stream, dashing in together to drink their fill, when they found it again foaming down the centre of its vast level plain, that receded twenty miles on either
side without shrub or hillock, — finally their path wound in among the hills, and a day dawned that Ray will never forget.
The stars were large and solemn, hovering golden out of the high, dark heaven, as the troop defiled into the canon; they glinted with a steely lustre through the roof of fallen trees that arched the gorge from side to side, then a wind of morning blew and they grew pallid and wan in a shining haze, and, towering far up above them, vaguely terrific in shadow, the horsemen saw the heights they were to climb all grayly washed in the night-dew. So they swept up the mountain-side in their gay and breezy career, on from ascent to ascent, from abutment to abutment, crossing shrunken torrents, winding along sheer precipices, up into the milky clouds of heaven itself, till the rosy flare of dawn bathed all the air about them. There they halted, while, struggling after them, the first triumphant beam struck the bosses of their harness to glittering jewelpoints, and, breaking through layer on layer of curdling vapor at their feet, suffused it to a wondrous fleece, where carnation and violet and the fire that lurks in the opal, wreathing with gorgeous involution, seethed together, until, at last, the whole resplendent mist wound itself away in silver threads on the spindles of the wind. Then boot in the stirrup again, onward, over the mountain's ridge, desolate rock defying the sun, downward, plunging through hanging forests, clearing the chasm, bridging ravines, and still at noon the eagles, circling and screaming above them, shook over them the dew from their plumes. Downward afresh in their wild ride, the rainbows of the cascades flying beside them, their afternoon shadows streaming up behind them, darkness beginning to gather in the deeps below them, the mighty mountain-masses around rearing themselves impenetrably in boding blackness and mystery against the yellow gleam, the purple breath of evening wrapping them, the dew again, again the stars, and they camped at the foot of a spur of hills with a waterfall for sentry on their left.
Through all the dash of the day, Ray had been in sparkling spirits, a very ecstasy of excitement, brimmed with an exuberance of valiant glee that played itself away in boyish freaks of daring and reckless acts of horsemanship. Now a loftier mood had followed, and, still wrought to some extreme tension, full of blind anticipation and awful assurance, he sat between the camp-fires, his hands clasped over his knees, and watched the evening star where it hung in a cleft of the rocks and seemed like the advent of some great spirit of annunciation. The tired horses had been staked out to graze, a temporary abatis erected, scouting-parties . sent off in opposite directions, and at last the frosty air grew mild and mellow over the savory steam of broiling steaks and coffee smoking on beds of coals. There was a moment's lull in the hum of the little encampment, in all the jest and song and jingling stir of this scornfully intrepid company; perhaps for an instant the sense of the wilderness overawed them; perhaps it was only the customary precursor of increasing murmur ; — before leaving his place, Ray suddenly stooped and laid his ear on the earth. There it was! Far off, far off, the phantasmal stroke of hoofs, rapid, many, unswerving. It had come, — all that he had awaited, — fate, or something else. Low and clear in the distance one bugle blew blast of warning. When he rose, the great yellow planet, wheeling slowly down the giant cleft in the rock, had vanished from sight.
Every man was on his feet, the place in alarum. Behind and beside them loomed the precipice and the waterfall; — there was surrender, there was conquest; there was no retreat. The fires were extinguished, the breastworks strengthened, weapons adjusted, and all the ireful preparations for hasty battle made. Then they expected their foe. Slowly over the crown of the mountain above them an aurora crept and brandished its spears.
As they waited there those few breathless moments, Ray examined his rifle coolly enough, and listened to the chirp of a solitary cricket that sung its thin strain so unbrokenly on the edge of strife as to represent something sublime in its petty indifference He was stationed on the extreme left; near him the tumute of the torrent drowned much discordant noise, its fairy scarf forever forming and falling and floating on the evening air. He thought of Vivia sitting far away and looking out upon the quiet starlight night; then he thought of swampy midnight lairs, with maddened men in fevered covert there, — of little children crying for their mothers,—of girls betrayed to hell, — of flesh and blood at price, — of blistering, crisping fagot and stake to-day, — of all the anguish and despair down there before him. And with the vivid sting of it such a wrath raged along his veins, such a holy fire, that it seemed there were no arms tremendous enough for his handling, through his shut teeth darted imprecatory prayers for the power of some almighty vengeance, his soul leaped up in impatient fury, his limbs tingled for the deathgrapple, when suddenly sound surged everywhere about them and they were in the midst of conflict. Silver trumpetpeals and clash and clang of iron, crying voices, whistling, singing, screaming shot, thunderous drum-rolls, sharp sheet of flame and instant abyss of blackness, horses' heads vaulting into sight, spurts of warm blood upon the brow, the bullet rushing like a blast beside the car, all the terrible tempest of attack, trampled-under the flashing hoof, climbing, clinching, slashing, back-falling beneath cracking revolvers, hand to hand in the night, both bands welded in one like hot and fusing metal, a spectral struggle of shuddering horror only half guessed by lurid gleams and under the light cloud flying across the stars. Clearly and remotely over the plain the hidden east sent up a glow into the sky; its reflection lay on Ray; he fought like one possessed of a demon, scattering destruction broadeast, so fiercely his anger wrapped him, white and for