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Enter A Dragoon
by [?]

‘Yes–it is he,’ said Selina constrainedly advancing.

‘What–were you all talking about me, my dear?’ said the genial young man when he had finished his crowing and resumed human manners. ‘Why what’s the matter,’ he went on. ‘You look struck all of a heap.’ Mr. Miller spread an aspect of concern over his own face, and drew a chair up to the fire.

‘O mother, would you tell Mr. Miller, if he don’t know?’

‘Mister Miller! and going to be married in six days!’ he interposed.

‘Ah–he don’t know it yet!’ murmured Mrs. Paddock.

‘Know what?’

‘Well–John Clark–now Sergeant-Major Clark–wasn’t shot at Alma after all. ‘Twas another of almost the same name.’

‘Now that’s interesting! There were several cases like that.’

‘And he’s home again; and he’s coming here to-night to see her.’

‘Whatever shall I say, that he may not be offended with what I’ve done?’ interposed Selina.

‘But why should it matter if he be?’

‘O! I must agree to be his wife if he forgives me–of course I must.’

‘Must! But why not say nay, Selina, even if he do forgive ‘ee?’

‘O no! How can I without being wicked? You were very very kind, Mr. Miller, to ask me to have you; no other man would have done it after what had happened; and I agreed, even though I did not feel half so warm as I ought. Yet it was entirely owing to my believing him in the grave, as I knew that if he were not he would carry out his promise; and this shows that I was right in trusting him.’

‘Yes . . . He must be a goodish sort of fellow,’ said Mr. Miller, for a moment so impressed with the excellently faithful conduct of the sergeant- major of dragoons that he disregarded its effect upon his own position. He sighed slowly and added, ‘Well, Selina, ’tis for you to say. I love you, and I love the boy; and there’s my chimney-corner and sticks o’ furniture ready for ‘ee both.’

‘Yes, I know! But I mustn’t hear it any more now,’ murmured Selina quickly. ‘John will be here soon. I hope he’ll see how it all was when I tell him. If so be I could have written it to him it would have been better.’

‘You think he doesn’t know a single word about our having been on the brink o’t. But perhaps it’s the other way–he’s heard of it and that may have brought him.

‘Ah–perhaps he has!’ she said brightening. ‘And already forgives me.’

‘If not, speak out straight and fair, and tell him exactly how it fell out. If he’s a man he’ll see it.’

‘O he’s a man true enough. But I really do think I shan’t have to tell him at all, since you’ve put it to me that way!’

As it was now Johnny’s bedtime he was carried upstairs, and when Selina came down again her mother observed with some anxiety, ‘I fancy Mr. Clark must be here soon if he’s coming; and that being so, perhaps Mr. Miller wouldn’t mind–wishing us good-night! since you are so determined to stick to your sergeant-major.’ A little bitterness bubbled amid the closing words. ‘It would be less awkward, Mr. Miller not being here–if he will allow me to say it.’

‘To be sure; to be sure,’ the master-wheelwright exclaimed with instant conviction, rising alertly from his chair. ‘Lord bless my soul,’ he said, taking up his hat and stick, ‘and we to have been married in six days! But Selina–you’re right. You do belong to the child’s father since he’s alive. I’ll try to make the best of it.’

Before the generous Miller had got further there came a knock to the door accompanied by the noise of wheels.

‘I thought I heard something driving up!’ said Mrs Paddock.

They heard Mr. Paddock, who had been smoking in the room opposite, rise and go to the door, and in a moment a voice familiar enough to Selina was audibly saying, ‘At last I am here again–not without many interruptions! How is it with ‘ee, Mr. Paddock? And how is she? Thought never to see me again, I suppose?’