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II LIEUTENANT FERRY
I passed on, flattered but scandalized, wasting no guesses on how she knew me--if she really knew me at all--but taking my revenge by moralizing on her, to myself, as a sign of the times, until brigade headquarters were in full view, a few rods off the road; four or five good, white wall-tents in a green bit of old field backed by a thicket of young pines.

Midway of this space I met Scott Gholson, clerk to the Adjutant-general. It was Gholson who had first spoken of me for this detail. He was an East Louisianian, of Tangipahoa; aged maybe twenty-six, but in effect older, having from birth eaten only ill-cooked food, and looking it; profoundly unconscious of any shortcoming in his education, which he had got from a small church-pecked college of the pelican sort that feed it raw from their own bosoms. One of his smallest deficiencies was that he had never seen as much art as there is in one handsome dinner-plate. Now, here he was, riding forth to learn for himself, privately, he said, why I did not appear. Yet he halted without turning, and seemed to wish he had not found me.

"Did you"--he began, and stopped; "did you notice a"--he stopped again.

"What, a leather-curtained spring-wagon?"

"No-o!" he said, as if nobody but a gaping idiot would expect anybody not a gaping idiot to notice a leather-curtained spring-wagon. "No-o! did you notice the brown horse that man was riding who just now passed you as you turned off the road?"

No, I barely remembered the rider had generously moved aside to let me go by. In pure sourness at the poverty of my dress and the perfection of his, I had avoided looking at him higher than his hundred-dollar boots. My feet were in uncolored cowhide, except the toes.

"He noticed you," said Gholson; "he looked back at you and your bay. Wouldn't you like to turn back and see his horse?"

"Why, hardly, if I'm behindhand now. Is it so fine as that?"

"Well, no. It's the horse he captured the time he got the Yankee who had him prisoner."

"Who?" I cried. "What! You don't mean to say--was that Lieutenant Ferry?"

"Yes, so called. He wa'n't a lieutenant then, he was a clerk, like you or me."

"Oh, I wish I had noticed him!"

"We can see him yet if you--"

"Do you want to see him?" I gathered my horse.

"Me!--No, sir. But you spoke as if--"

I shook my head and we moved toward the tents. This was worse than the dream; the rat had not seen the cockerel, but the cockerel had observed the rat--dropping into the barrel: the cockerel, yes, and not the cockerel alone, for I saw that Gholson was associating him with her of the curtained wagon. By now they were side and side. I asked if Ferry came often to headquarters. "Yes, quite as often as he's any business to." "Ah, ha!" thought I, and presently said I had heard he was a great favorite.

"Well,--yes,--he--he is,--with some."

"Don't you like him?"

"Who, me? Oh!--I--I admire Ned Ferry--for a number of things. He's more foolhardy than brave; he's confessed as much to me. Women call him handsome. He sings; beautifully, I suppose; I can't sing a note; and wouldn't if I could. Still, if he only wouldn't sing drinking-songs --but, Smith, I think that to sing drinking-songs--and all the more to sing them as well as some folks think he does--is to advocate drinking, and to advocate drinking is next door to excusing drunkenness!"

"Then Ned Ferry doesn't drink?"

"Indeed he does! I don't like to say it, and I don't say he drinks 'too much', as they call it; but, Smith, he drinks with men who do! Oh, I admire him; only I do wish--"

"Wish what?"

"Oh, I--I wish he wouldn't play cards. Smith, I've seen him play cards with the shells bursting over us!"

For my part I privately wished this saint wouldn't rub my uninteresting surname into me every time he spoke. As we dismounted near the tents I leaned against my saddle and asked further concerning the object of his loving anxiety. Was Ned Ferry generous, pleasant, frank?

"Why, in outward manner, yes; but, Smith, he was raised to be a Catholic priest. I could a heap-sight easier trust him if he'd sometimes show distrust, himself. If he ever does I've never seen it. And yet--Oh, we're the best of friends, and I'm speaking now only as a friend and toe a friend. Oh, if it wa'n't for just one thing, I could admit what Major Harper said of him not ten minutes ago to me; that you never finish talking to Ned Ferry without feeling a little brighter, happier and cleaner than when you began; whereas talking with some men it's just the reverse."

I looked carefully at my companion and asked him if the Major had said all of that. He had, and Gholson's hide had turned it without taking a scratch. "That's fine!--as to Ferry," I said.

"Oh, yes,--it would be--if it was only iso. Trouble is, you keep remembering he's such a stumbling-block to any real spiritual inquirer. Yes, and to himself; for, you know, spiritually there's so much less hope for the moralist than what there is for the up-and-down reprobate! You know that,--Smith."

My silence implied that I knew it, though I did not feel any brighter, happier or cleaner.

"Smith, Ned Ferry is not only a Romanist, he's a romanticist. We--you and me--are religionists. Our brightness and happiness air the brightness and happiness of faith; our cleanness is the cleanness of religious scruples. Worst of it with Ned is he's satisfied with the difference, I'm afraid! That's what makes him so pleasant to fellows who don't care a sou marquee about religion."

I said one might respect religion even if he did not--

"Oh, he's always polite to it; but he's--he's read Voltaire! Oh, yes, Voltaire, George Sand, all those men. He questions the Bible, Smith. Not to me, though; hah, he knows better! Smith, I can discuss religion and not get mad, with any one who don't question the Bible; but if he does that, I just tell you, I wouldn't risk my soul in such a discussion! Would you?"

I could hardly say, and we moved pensively toward Major Harper's tent. Evidently the main poison was still in Gholson's stomach, and when I glanced at him he asked, "What d'you reckon brought Ned Ferry here just at this time?"

I made no reply. He looked momentous, leaned to me sidewise with a hand horizontally across his mouth, and whispered a name. It was new to me. "Charlie Toliver?" I murmured, for we were at the tent door.

"The war-correspondent," whispered Gholson; "don't you know?" But the flap of the tent lifted and I could not reply.


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