They were soon after marshalled to the supper-room. Elsie slipped in among the others, but was so stately and demure, and with her curls brushed down so straight that you would scarcely have known her. Her father caught his pet around the waist, and was about to introduce her, when George hastened to say with the solemnity of an undertaker that Elsie and Mr. Stanhope had met before.
"I must camp here now till the fellow dies, and I can prove it, or until I can get another chance," was his conclusion as he rubbed down and fed his horse.
"What yer foun', Jeff Wobbles?"
Christmas Eve happened to be a cold, clear, star-lit night; and when Marstern drove to Miss Waldo's door, he asked himself, "Could a fellow ask for anything daintier and finer" than the red-lipped, dark-eyed girl revealed by the hall-lamp as she tripped lightly out, her anxious mamma following her with words of unheeded caution about not taking cold, and coming home early. He had not traversed the mile which intervened between the residences of the two girls before he almost wished he could continue the drive under the present auspices, and that, as in the old times, he could take toll at every bridge, and encircle his companion with his arm as they bounced over the "thank-'ee mams." The frosty air appeared to give keenness and piquancy to Miss Lottie's wit, and the chime of the bells was not merrier or more musical than her voice. But when a little later he saw blue-eyed Carrie Mitchell in her furs and hood silhouetted in the window, his old dilemma became as perplexing as ever. Nevertheless, it was the most delightful uncertainty that he had ever experienced; and he had a presentiment that he had better make the most of it, since it could not last much longer. Meanwhile, he was hedged about with blessings clearly not in disguise, and he gave utterance to this truth as they drove away.
"I reckon," replied Nichol, anxiously, for the brief experience which he could recall had taught him that the authority of the surgeon-in-chief was autocratic.
"I suppose you will have to kiss me this Thanksgiving, to make things even."
For some moments he was in doubt whether to take to his heels homeward or reconnoitre again. The soldier sat in such a lifelike attitude that while Jeff knew the man must be dead, taking the box seemed like robbing the living. Yes, worse than that, for, to the superstitious negro, the dead soldier appeared to be watching his treasure.
WHAT BRANDT SAW CHRISTMAS EVE
When Martine re-entered the ward, Yankee Blank appeared, grinned, and said affably, "Howdy." Alas! a forlorn, miserable hope that he might have been mistaken was banished from Hobart's mind now that he saw Nichol in the clear light of day. The scar across his forehead and a change of expression, denoting the eclipse of fine, cultivated manhood, could not disguise the unmistakable features. There was nothing to be done but carry out as quickly as possible the purpose which had cost him so dear.
"I hope I see what you surely see in mine. Come, Clara, you shall choose before you hear my story. Am I to be your husband or friend? for I've vowed that you shall not be without a loyal protector."
"Good gracious!" thought Marstern, "she's next to my heart. I wonder if that will give her unfair advantage;" but Carrie explained: