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Quite So
by [?]

“I believe not to-day,” Bladburn would reply, as if he had written yesterday, or would write tomorrow: but he never wrote.

He had become a great favorite with us, and with all the officers of the regiment. He talked less than any man I ever knew, but there was nothing sinister or sullen in his reticence. It was sunshine,ówarmth and brightness, but no voice. Unassuming and modest to the verge of shyness, he impressed every one as a man of singular pluck and nerve.

“Do you know,” said Curtis to me one day, “that that fellow Quite So is clear grit, and when we come to close quarters with our Palmetto brethren over yonder, he’ll do something devilish?”

“What makes you think so?”

“Well, nothing quite explainable; the exasperating coolness of the man, as much as anything. This morning the boys were teasing Muffin Fan” [a small mulatto girl who used to bring muffins into camp three times a week, óat the peril of her life!] “and Jemmy Blunt of Company Kóyou know himówas rather rough on the girl, when Quite So, who had been reading under a tree, shut one finger in his book, walked over to where the boys were skylarking, and with the smile of a juvenile angel on his face lifted Jemmy out of that and set him down gently in front of his own tent. There Blunt sat speechless, staring at Quite So, who was back again under the tree, pegging away at his little Latin grammar.”

That Latin grammar! He always had it about him, reading it or turning over its dog’s-eared pages at odd intervals and in out-of-the-way places. Half a dozen times a day he would draw it out from the bosom of his blouse, which had taken the shape of the book just over the left breast, look at it as if to assure himself it was all right, and then put the thing back. At night the volume lay beneath his pillow. The first thing in the morning, before he was well awake, his hand would go groping instinctively under his knapsack in search of it.

A devastating curiosity seized upon us boys concerning that Latin grammar, for we had discovered the nature of the book. Strong wanted to steal it one night, but concluded not to.”In the first place,” reflected Strong, “I have n’t the heart to do it, and in the next place I have n’t the moral courage. Quite So would placidly break every bone in my body.” And I believe Strong was not far out of the way.

Sometimes I was vexed with myself for allowing this tall, simple-hearted country fellow to puzzle me so much. And yet, was he a simple-hearted country fellow? City bred he certainly was not; but his manner, in spite of his awkwardness, had an indescribable air of refinement. Now and then, too, he dropped a word or a phrase that showed his familiarity with unexpected lines of reading.”The other day,” said Curtis, with the slightest elevation of eyebrow, “he had the cheek to correct my Latin for me.” In short, Quite So was a daily problem to the members of Mess 6. Whenever he was absent, and Blakely and Curtis and Strong and I got together in the tent, we discussed him, evolving various theories to explain why he never wrote to anybody and why nobody ever wrote to him. Had the man committed some terrible crime, and fled to the army to hide his guilt? Blakely suggested that he must have murdered “the old folks.” What did he mean by eternally conning that tattered Latin grammar? And was his name Bladburn, anyhow? Even his imperturbable amiability became suspicious. And then his frightful reticence! If he was the victim of any deep grief or crushing calamity, why did n’t he seem unhappy? What business had he to be cheerful?

“It’s my opinion,” said Strong, “that he’s a rival Wandering Jew; the original Jacobs, you know, was a dark fellow.”

Blakely inferred from something Bladburn had said, or something he had not said, which was more likely,óthat he had been a schoolmaster at some period of his life.

“Schoolmaster be hanged!” was Strong’s comment.”Can you fancy a schoolmaster going about conjugating baby verbs out of a dratted little spelling-book? No, Quite So has evidently been aóaóBlest if I can imagine what he’s been!”