The Search (Chapter 7, page 2 of 7)


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Chapter 7

And she? The promised wife of Wainwright! Could it be? She must have written him that letter merely from a fine friendly patronage. All right, of course, from her standpoint, but from his, gall and wormwood to his proud spirit. Oh, that he had not answered it! He might have known! He should have remembered that she had never been in his class. Not that his people were not as good as hers, and maybe better, so far as intellectual attainments were concerned; but his had lost their money, had lived a quiet life, and in her eyes and the eyes of her family were very likely as the mere dust of the earth. And now, just now when war had set its seal of sacrifice upon all young men in uniform, he as a soldier had risen to a kind of deified class set apart for hero worship, nothing more. It was not her fault that she had been brought up that way, and that he seemed so to her, and nothing more. She had shown her beautiful spirit in giving him the tribute that seemed worthiest to her view. He would not blame her, nor despise her, but he would hold himself aloof as he had done in the past, and show her that he wanted no favors, no patronage. He was sufficient to himself. What galled him most was to think that perhaps in the intimacy of their engagement she might show his letter to Wainwright, and they would laugh together over him, a poor soldier, presuming to write as he had done to a girl in her station. They would laugh together, half pitifully--at least the woman would be pitiful, the man was likely to sneer. He could see his hateful mustache curl now with scorn and his little eyes twinkle. And he would tell her all the lies he had tried to put upon him in the past. He would give her a wrong idea of his character. He would rejoice and triumph to do so! Oh, the bitterness of it! It overwhelmed him so that the little matter of getting into his bunk without being seen by the officer in charge was utterly overlooked by him.

Perhaps some good angel arranged the way for him so that he was able to slip past the guards without being challenged. Two of the guards were talking at the corner of the barracks with their backs to him at the particular second when he came in sight. A minute later they turned back to their monotonous march and the shadow of the vanishing corporal had just disappeared from among the other dark shadows of the night landscape. Inside the barracks another guard welcomed him eagerly without questioning his presence there at that hour: "Say, Cam, how about day after to-morrow? Are you free? Will you take my place on guard? I want to go up to Philadelphia and see my girl, and I'm sure of a pass, but I'm listed for guard duty. I'll do the same for you sometime."

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