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Vln THE ALTAR OF THE WAR GOD WITH the opening spring Virginia went down to Richmond, where Jack Morson had taken rooms for her in the house of an invalid widow whose three sons were at the front. The town was filled to overflowing with refugees from the North and representatives from the South, and as the girl drove through the crowded streets, she exclaimed wonderingly at the festive air the houses wore. "Why, the doors are all open," she observed. " It looks like one big family." "That's about what it is," replied Jack. " The whole South is here and there's not a room to be had for love or money. Food is getting dear, too, they say, and the stranger within the gates has the best of everything." He stopped short and laughed from sheer surprise at Virginia's loveliness. "Well, I'm glad I'm here, anyway," said the girl, pressing his arm, "and Mammy Riah's glad, too, though she won't confess it. - Aren't you just delighted to see Jack again, Mammy?" The old negress grunted in her corner of the carriage . "I ain' seed no use in all dis yer fittin'," she responded. "W'at's de use er fittin' ef dar ain' sumpen' ter fit fer dat you ain' got a'ready? " "That's it, Mammy," replied Jack, gayly, "we're 357 The Battle-Ground fighting for freedom, and we haven't had it yet, you see." " Is dat ar freedom vittles?" scornfully retorted the old woman. "Is it close? is it wood ter bu'n? '.' " Oh, it will soon be here and you'll find out," said Virginia, cheerfully, and when a little later she settled herself in her pleasant rooms, she returned to her assurances. "Aren't you glad you're here, Mammy, aren't you glad?" she insisted, with her arm about the old woman's neck. " I'd des like ter git a good look at ole Miss agin," returned Mammy Riah, softening, "caze ef you en ole Miss ain' des like two peas in a pod, my eyes hev done crack wid de sight er you. Dar ain' been nuttin' so pretty es you sence de day I dressed ole Miss in 'er weddin' veil." "You're right," exclaimed Jack, heartily. "But look at this, Virginia, here's a regular corn field at the back. Mrs. Minor tells me that vegetables have grown so scarce she has been obligeq to turn her flower beds into garden patches." He threw open the window, and they went out upon the wide piazza which hung above the young corn rows. During the next few weeks, when Jack was often in the city, an almost feverish gayety possessed the girl. In the war-time parties, where the women wore last year's dresses, and the wit served for refreshment , her gentle beauty became, for a little while, the fashion. The smooth bands of her nair were copied, the curve of her eyelashes was made the subject of some verses which The Examiner printed and the English papers quoted later on. It The Altar of the War God 359 was a bright and stately society that filled the capital that year; and on pleasant Sundays when Virginia walked from church, in her Leghorn bonnet and white ruffles flaring over crinoline as they neared the ground, men, who had bled on fields of honour for the famous beauties of the South, would drop their talk to follow her with warming eyes. Cities might fall and battles might be lost and won, but their joy in a beautiful woman would endure until a great age. At last Jack Morson rode away to service, and the girl kept to the quiet house and worked -on the little garments which the child would need in the summer . She was much alone, but the delicate widow, who had left her couch to care for the sick and wounded soldiers, would sometimes come and sit near her while she sewed. "This is the happiest time - before the child comes," she said one day, and added, with the observant eye of mothers, " it will be a boy; there is a pink lining to the basket." " Yes, it will be a boy," replied Virginia, wistfully . " I have had six," pursued the woman, " six sons, and yet I am alone now. Three are dead, and three are in the army. I am always listening for the summons that means another...


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