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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Cavalier - Chapter 11. Captain Jewett
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The Cavalier - Chapter 11. Captain Jewett Post by :deltadawnw Category :Long Stories Author :George Washington Cable Date :May 2012 Read :926

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The Cavalier - Chapter 11. Captain Jewett


Once more we were in the by-road which had brought us westward parallel with the highway. The prisoner drove. Aunt Martha sat beside him, slim, dark, black-eyed, stately, her silver-gray hair rolled high a la Pompadour. With a magnanimity rare in those bitter days she incited him to talk, first of New Orleans, where he had spent a month in camp on one of the public squares, and then of his far northern home, and of loved ones there, mother, wife and child. The nieces, too, gave a generous attention. Only I, riding beside the hind wheels, held solemnly aloof.

"Front!" I once snapped out with a ring that made the trees reply and the ladies catch their breath. "If you steal one more look back here I'll put a ball into your leg."

He smiled, chirped the horses up and resumed his chat. I heard him praise my horse and compare him not unfavorably with his own which he had lost that morning'. He and a few picked men had been surprised in a farmhouse at breakfast. They had made a leap and a dash, he said, but one horse and rider falling dead, his horse, unhurt, had tumbled over them, and here was his rider.

I prompted Camille to ask if he had ever encountered Ned Ferry, and he laughed.

"No," he said, but Ned Ferry had lately restored to him, by proxy, some lost letters, with an invitation to _come and see him_.

I laughed insolently. The young ladies sparkled, and so did Miss Harper, as she asked him who had been the proxy.

He said the proxy was a young woman who had a knack of getting passes through the lines, and the three girls exchanged looks as knowing as they were delighted.

"I tell her as a friend," he said, "she'll get one into Fortress Monroe yet!"

Miss Harper's keen eyes glittered. "You northerners hardly realize our feelings concerning the imprisonment of women, I think."

"My dear madam, you don't realize ours. We don't want to imprison women."

So there came a silence, and then a gay laugh as three of us at once asked if he had ever heard of Lieutenant Durand. "Durand!" he cried, and looked squarely around at me. I lifted the cocked revolver, but he kept his fine eyes on mine and I rubbed my ear with my wrist. "What?" he said, "an elegant, Creole-seeming young fellow, very handsome? Why, that fellow saved my life this very afternoon."

The young ladies were in rapture. Miss Harper asked how he had done it.

"If I tell you that," said the Captain, "you won't like me the least bit."

Whereat Cecile replied, "Ah--well! we cou'n' like you the leaz bit any-'ow."

"I suppose that's so," laughed the officer. "I'll tell you how it was. My guard were just about to hang me for saying I thought we had a right to make soldiers of the darkies, when your friend came galloping along, saw the thing, and rushed in and cut the halter with his sword. And when they demanded to know who and what he was, he told them Durand, and that they'd hear it again, for he should report them."

"Oh, sir," cried Estelle, whose eyes, brows, lashes and hair were all of the same luminous red-brown, and in whose cheeks the rose seemed always to burn through the olive, "how can you and your people seek to kill such men as that?"

"Such as which?" asked the Yankee, with a twinkle. "There were two kinds."

"But, o-oh! sir!" exclaimed the trio, when Miss Harper waved them to forbear. There was yet some daylight left as we trundled into a broad highroad and turned northward. We passed a picket guard and then a whole regiment of cavalry going into camp. They scrambled to the sides of the road and stormed us with questions, chaffing us cruelly when I remained silent. "Lawd! look a' this-yeh Yank a-bringin' in ow desertehs!" "Hey, you big Yank, you jest let that po' little conscrip' go!"

Headquarters, we heard from a courier who said he was the third sent out to find us, were at the "Sessions house" two miles further on. We sent him galloping back there, and after a while here came Major Harper and three or four others of the staff, including Harry Helm. What a flood of mirthful compliment there was at sight of us and our captive; Harry was positively silly. In the series of introductions that followed he was left paired with Camille, and I said things to myself. Major Harper rode by the prisoner. "Well, Captain," he said, "you've had some experiences since you left me this morning. Don't you want to give us your parole this time, temporarily, for an hour or so, and be more comfortable?"

"Thank you, Major," the Federal affably replied, "that would be a great relief to this most extraordinary youngster that I've brought with me." He gave it and we turned into a lofty grove whitened with our headquarters tents.

"Smith," said the Major, "your part is done, and well done. You needn't report to me again to-night; the General wishes to see you a moment. Captain, will you go with this young man to General Austin's tent?"

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CHAPTER XII. IN THE GENERAL'S TENTI went to Gholson. He told me I was relieved of my captive and bade me go care for my horse and return in half an hour. In going I passed close by the Sessions plantation house. Every door and window was thrown wide to the night air, and preparations were in progress for a dance; and as I returned, a slave boy ran across my path, toward the house, bearing a flaming pine torch and followed by two ambulances filled with daughters of the neighborhood in clouds of white gauze. I found the General in

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CHAPTER X. THE SOLDIER'S HOURTo regain the highroad we had turned into a northerly fork, and were in as lovely a spot as we had seen all day. Before us and close on our right were the dense woods of magnolia, water-oak, tupelo and a hundred other affluent things that towered and spread or clambered and hung. On the left lay the old field, tawny with bending sedge and teeming with the yellow rays of the sun's last hour. This field we overlooked through a fence-row of persimmon and wild plum. Among these bushes, half fallen into a rain-gully, a catalpa,