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VII "I WAIT MY TIME" WHEN he returned to Winchester it was to find Virginia already there as Jack Morson's wife. Since her marriage in late summer she had followed her husband's regiment from place to place; drifting at last to a big yellow house on the edge of the fiery little town. Dan, passing along the street one day, heard his name called in a familiar voice, and turned to find her looking at him through the network of a tall, wrought-iron gate. " Virginia! Bless my soul! Where's Betty?" he exclaimed amazed. Virginia left the gate and gave him her hand over the dried creepers on the wall. "Why, you look ten years older," was her response . " Indeed! W ell, two years of beggary, to say nothing of eight months of war, isn't just the thing to insure immortal youth, is it? You see, I'm turning gray." The pallor of the long march was in his face, giving him a striking though unnatural beauty. His eyes were heavy and his hair hung dishevelled about his brow, but the change went deeper still, and the girl saw it. "You're bigger - that's it," she said, and added impulsively, "Oh, how I wish Betty could see you now." 349 The Battle-Ground Her hand was upon the wall and he gave it a quick, pleased pressure. " I wish to heaven she could," he echoed heartily. " But I shall tell her everything when I write'everything . I shall tell her that you are taller and stronger and that you have been in all the fights and haven't a scar to show. Betty loves scars, you see, and she doesn't mind even wounds - real wounds. She wanted to go into the hospitals, but I came away and mamma wouldn't let her." " For God's sake, don't let her," said Dan, with a shudder, his Southern instincts recoiling from the thought of service for the woman he loved. " There are a plenty of them in the hospitals and it's no place for Betty, anyway." "I'll tell her you think so," returned Virginia, gayly. "I'll tell her that - and what else?" He met her eyes smiling. "Tell her I wait my time," he answered, and began to talk lightly of other things. Virginia followed his lead with her old shy merriment. Her marriage had changed her but little, though she had grown a trifle stately, he thought, and her coquetry had dropped from her like a veil. As she stood there in her delicate lace cap and soft gray silk, the likeness to her mother was very marked, and looking into the future, Dan seemed to see her beauty ripen and expand with her growing womanhood. How many of her race had there been, he wondered , shaped after the same pure and formal plan. " And it is all just the same," he said, his eyes delighting in her beauty. "There is no change- "I Wait l\iy Time." 351 don't tell me there is any change, for I'll not b~lieve it. You bring it all back to me, - the lawn and the lilacs and the white pillars, and Miss Lydia's garden , with the rose leaves in the paths. Why are there always rose leaves in Miss Lydia's paths, Virginia ? " Virginia shook her head, puzzled by his whimsical tone. " Because there are so many roses," she answered seriously. "No, you're wrong, there's another reason, but I shan't tell you." " My boxes are filled with rose leaves now," said Virginia. "Betty gathered them for me." The smile leaped to his eyes. "Oh, but it makes me homesick," he returned lightly. "If I tell you a secret, don't betray me, Virginia - I am downright homesick for Betty." Virginia patted his hand. " So am I," she confessed, "and so is Mammy Riah - she's with me now, you know - and she says that I might have been married without Jack, but never without Betty. Betty made my dress and iced my cake and pinned on my veil." " Ah, is that so?" exclaimed Dan, absent-mindedly . He was thinking of Betty, and he could almost see her hands as she pinned on the wedding veil- those small white hands with the strong fingers that had closed about his own. " When you get your furlough you must go home, Dan," Virginia was saying; "the Major is very feeble...


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