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XIV CORALIE ROTHVELT
The night was still and sultry. At one of the many camp-fires on the edge of the road I saw the Arkansas colonel sitting cross-legged on the ground, in trousers, socks and undershirt, playing poker.

Out in the open country how sweet was the silence. Not yet have I forgotten one bright star of that night's sky. My mother and I had studied the stars together. Lately Camille, her letter said, had learned them with her. Now the heavens dropped meanings that were for me and for this night alone. While the form of the maiden--passing fair--yet glimmered in the firmament of my own mind, behind me in the south soared the Virgin; but as some trees screened the low glare of our camp I saw, just rising into view out of the southeast, the unmistakable eyes of the Scorpion. But these fanciful oracles only flattered my moral self-assurance, and I trust that will be remembered which I forgot, that I had not yet known the damsel from one sun to the next.

I was moving briskly along, making my good steed acquainted with me, testing his education, how promptly for instance, he would respond to rein-touch and to leg-pressure, when I saw, in front, coming toward me, three riders. Two of them were very genteel chaps, though a hand of each was on the lock of his carbine. The third was a woman, veiled, and clad in some dark stuff that in the starlight seemed quite black and contrasted strongly with the paleness of her horse. Her hat, in particular, fastened my attention; if that was not the same soft-brimmed Leghorn I had seen yesterday morning, at least it was its twin sister. I halted, revolver in hand, and said, as they drew rein,--"Good-evening."

"Good-evening," replied the nearer man. "How far is it to camp--Austin's?"

"A short three miles."

"To what command do you belong?" he asked.

"Ferry's scouts. What command is yours, gentlemen?"

"Ferry's scouts." He scrutinized me. "What command do you say you--"

"Ferry's scouts," I repeated. "F-e-r-r-y-apostrophe s, Ferry's--s-k-o-w-t-s--scouts."

The trio laughed, the young woman most musically.

"How long have you belonged to Ferry's scouts?" sceptically demanded their spokesman.

"About an hour and a quarter."

"Oh! that-a-way."

"Yes," I replied, "in that direction."

The three laughed again and the men sank their carbines across their laps, while in a voice as refined as her figure their companion said, "Good-evening, Mr. Smith." She laid back her veil and even in the darkness I felt the witchery of her glance. "I was just coming to meet you," she continued, "to get the letter you're bringing me from General Austin. I feared you might try to come around by Fayette, not knowing the Yankees are there. These gentlemen didn't know it." "She just did save us!" laughed the man hitherto silent.

"I'm Miss Coralie Rothvelt," she added, and then how she sparkled in the dark as she said, "I see you remember me."

"I am but human."

"And yet you never take a lady's name for granted?"

"I am to know Miss Rothvelt by finding her in a certain place." My honeyed bow implied that her being just now very much out of place was no fault of mine.

"Nonsense!" muttered both men, and I liked them the better.

"My dear Smith," said Miss Rothvelt, "keep your trust. But if I part here with these two kind gentlemen--"

"Who don't belong to Ferry's scouts at all," I still more sweetly added.

"No," she laughed, "and if I go back with you to Wiggins--to the little white cottage, you know, opposite the blacksmith's shop,--you'll give me what you've got for me, won't you?" She dropped her head to one side and a mocking-bird chuckle rippled in her throat.

"I shall count myself honored," said I, and we went, together and alone.


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