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- Taken Alive - 60/66 -


"But the tide is going out. My own boat will soon be fast. Dinner will grow cold at the hotel, and you are only the longer in dispensing with me. You must consider the other dire alternatives."

"Ob, I forgot that you were in danger of losing a warm dinner."

"You know I have lost too much to think of that or much else. But there is no need of satire, Miss Madison. I will do whatever you wish. That truly is carte blanche enough even for this occasion."

"I didn't mean to be satirical. I--I--Well, have your own way."

"Not if you prefer some other way."

"You have shown that practically there isn't any other way. I'm sorry that my misfortune, or fault rather, should also be your misfortune. You don't know how heavy--"

"I soon will, and you must endure it all with such grace as you can. Put your arm round my neck, so--oh, that will never do! Well, you'll hold tight enough when I'm floundering in the mud."

Without further ado he picked her up, and started rapidly for his boat. Stepping on a smooth stone he nearly fell, and her arm did tighten decidedly.

"If you try to go so fast," she said, "you will fall."

"I was only seeking to shorten your ordeal, but for obvious reasons must go slowly;" and he began feeling his way.

"Mr. Scofield, am I not very heavy?" she asked softly.

"Not as heavy as my heart, and you know it."

"I'm sure I--"

"No, you are not to blame. Moths have scorched their wings before now, and will always continue to do so."

Her head rested slightly against his shoulder; her breath fanned his cheek; her eyes, soft and lustrous, sought his. But he looked away gloomy and defiant, and she felt his grasp tighten vise-like around her. "I shall not affect any concealment of the feelings which she has recognized so often, nor shall I ask any favors," he thought. "There," he said, as he placed her in his boat, "you are safe enough now. Now go aft while I push off."

When she was seated he exerted himself almost as greatly as before, and the boat gradually slid into the water. He sprang in and took the oars.

"Aren't you going to put on your shoes and stockings?"

"Certainly, when I put you ashore."

"Won't that be a pretty certain way of revealing the plight in which you found me?"

"Pardon my stupidity; I was preoccupied with the thought of relieving you from the society which you have hitherto avoided so successfully;" and bending over his shoes he tied them almost savagely.

There was a wonderful degree of mirth and tenderness in her eyes as she watched him. They had floated by a little point; and as he raised his head he saw a form which he recognized as Mr. Merriweather rowing toward them. "There comes one of your shadows," he said mockingly. "Be careful how you exchange boats when he comes along-side. I will give you no help in such a case."

She looked hastily over her shoulder at the approaching oarsman. "I think it will be safer to remain in your boat," she said.

"Oh, it will be entirely safe," he replied bitterly.

"Mr. Merriweather must have seen you carrying me."

"That's another thing which I can't help."

"Mr. Scofield," she began softly.

He arrested his oars, and turned wondering eyes to hers. They were sparkling with mirth as she continued, "Are you satisfied that a certain young woman whom you once watched very narrowly is entirely to your mind?"

He caught her mirthful glance and misunderstood her. With dignity he answered, "I'm not the first man who blundered to his cost, though probably it would have made no difference. You must do me the justice, however, to admit that I did not maintain the role of observer very long--that I wooed you so openly that every one was aware of my suit. Is it not a trifle cruel to taunt me after I had made such ample amends?"

"I was thinking of Mr. Merriweather--"

"Undoubtedly"

"Since he has seen me with my arm around your neck--you know I couldn't help it--perhaps he might row the other way if--if--well, if he saw you--what shall I say--sitting over here--by me--or-- Somehow I don't feel very hungry, and I wouldn't mind spending another hour--"

Scofield nearly upset the boat in his precipitous effort to gain a seat beside her--and Mr. Merriweather did row another way.

CHRISTMAS EVE IN WAR TIMES

It was the beginning of a battle. The skirmish line of the Union advance was sweeping rapidly over a rough mountainous region in the South, and in his place on the extreme left of this line was Private Anson Marlow. Tall trees rising from underbrush, rocks, bowlders, gulches worn by spring torrents, were the characteristics of the field, which was in wild contrast with the parade-grounds on which the combatants had first learned the tactics of war. The majority, however, of those now in the ranks had since been drilled too often under like circumstances, and with lead and iron shotted guns, not to know their duty, and the lines of battle were as regular as the broken country allowed. So far as many obstacles permitted, Marlow kept his proper distance from the others on the line and fired coolly when he caught glimpses of the retreating Confederate skirmishers. They were retiring with ominous readiness toward a wooded height which the enemy occupied with a force of unknown strength. That strength was soon manifested in temporary disaster to the Union forces, which were driven back with heavy loss.

Neither the battle nor its fortunes are the objects of our present concern, but rather the fate of Private Marlow. The tide of battle drifted away and left the soldier desperately wounded in a narrow ravine, through which babbled a small stream. Excepting the voices of his wife and children no music had ever sounded so sweetly in his ears. With great difficulty he crawled to a little bubbling pool formed by a tiny cascade and encircling stones, and partially slaked his intolerable thirst.

He believed he was dying--bleeding to death. The very thought blunted his faculties for a time; and he was conscious of little beyond a dull wonder. Could it be possible that the tragedy of his death was enacting in that peaceful, secluded nook? Could Nature be so indifferent or so unconscious if it were true that he was soon to lie there DEAD? He saw the speckled trout lying motionless at the bottom of the pool, the gray squirrels sporting in the boughs over his head. The sunlight shimmered and glinted through the leaves, flecking with light his prostrate form. He dipped his hand in the blood that had welled from his side, and it fell in rubies from his fingers. Could that be his blood--his life-blood; and would it soon all ooze away? Could it be that death was coming through all the brightness of that summer afternoon?

From a shadowed tree further up the glen, a wood-thrush suddenly began its almost unrivalled song. The familiar melody, heard so often from his cottage-porch in the June twilight, awoke him to the bitter truth. His wife had then sat beside him, while his little ones played here and there among the trees and shrubbery. They would hear the same song to-day; he would never hear it again. That counted for little; but the thought of their sitting behind the vines and listening to their favorite bird, spring after spring and summer after summer, and he ever absent, overwhelmed him.

"Oh, Gertrude, my wife, my wife! Oh, my children!" he groaned.

His breast heaved with a great sigh; the blood welled afresh from his wound; what seemed a mortal weakness crept over him; and he thought he died.

* * * * * * *

"Say, Eb, is he done gone?"

"'Clar to grashus if I know. 'Pears mighty like it." These words were spoken by two stout negroes, who had stolen to the battlefield as the sounds of conflict died away.

"I'm doggoned if I tink dat he's dead. He's only swoonded," asserted the man addressed as Eb. "'Twon't do to lebe 'im here to die, Zack."

"Sartin not; we'd hab bad luck all our days."

"I reckon ole man Pearson will keep him; and his wife's a po'ful nuss."

"Pearson orter; he's a Unioner."

"S'pose we try him; 'tain't so bery fur off."

* * * * * * *

On the morning of the 24th of December, Mrs. Anson Marlow sat in


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