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"My confession!" Leona Lalage cried."We are now at the Great Wall, which comes straggling over the hills that surround the city, and forms its northern boundary. It is very much in ruins, but at the town itself there is a portion of it kept in good repair, and one of the gates is regularly shut at night and opened in the morning. Some of the old towers are still in their places; but the weather is slowly wearing them away, and in time they will all be fallen.
CHAPTER XXXII. TOUCH AND GO.
The Doctor's conclusion may be taken as a fair expression of his character. Naturally, the effect of such a preposterous revelation upon a sluggish and doubting mind would be to arouse it to a kind of furious defence of all that man has been in the past, and a scarcely less spirited rejection of that grotesque possibility of the future which the Clockwork man presented to the ordinary observer. Gregg, on the other hand, may be excused, on the score of his extreme youthfulness, for the impetuosity of his actions. His attempt to persuade the editor of the Wide World Magazine that his version of the affair, put in the shape of a magazine story, was actually founded on fact, ended in grotesque failure. His narrative power was not doubted; but he was advised to work the story up and introduce a little humour before offering it as a contribution to some magazine that did not vouch for the[Pg 194] truth of its tall stories. As this was beneath Gregg's dignity, and he could find no one else to take him seriously, he shut up like an oyster, and just in time to forestall a suspicious attitude on the part of his friends. It was only years later, and after many experiences in this world of hard fact and difficult endeavour, that he began to share the Doctor's view, and to cherish the memory of the Clockwork man as a legend rich in significance.
It was a few days later before Hetty thought of her promise to Balmayne. It was a fine bright afternoon with a strong sunshine, so that even the deserted house in Lytton Avenue looked almost cheerful. With a feeling that she might have been taken for a burglar or a house-breaker, Hetty let herself in.
Ned Ferry and I never saw Squire Wall's again. When our hand-car the next morning landed us in Hazlehurst the news of Gettysburg and Vicksburg was on every tongue, in every face, and a telegram awaited Ferry which changed his destination to Meridian, a hundred miles farther to the east. He kept me with him at Hazlehurst for two days, to help him and the post-quartermaster get everything ready to be moved and saved if our cavalry should be driven east of the Jackson Railroad. But it was not, and by and by we were sundered and I went and became at length in practical and continuous reality one of Ferry's scouts--minus Ferry. Oh, the long hot toils and pains of those July and August days! the scorching suns, the stumbling night-marches, the aching knees, the groaning beasts, the scant, foul rations, the dust and sweat, the blood and the burials. To be sure, I speak of these hardships far more from sympathy than from experience, so much above the common lot of the long dust-choked column was that of our small band of scouts. After July our brigade operated mainly in the region of the Big Black, endeavoring, with others, to make the enemy confine his overflow meetings to the Vicksburg side of that unlovely stream. How busy our small troop was kept; and what fame we won! On a certain day we came out of a dried swamp in column and ambled half across a field to see if a brigade going by us at right angles in the shade of a wood at the field's edge might be ours. It was not, though they were Confederates; but one of its captains was sent out toward us with a squadron to see who we might be, in our puzzling uniform, and when, midway, he made us out and called back to his commander, "Ferry's scouts!" the whole column cheered us. I feel the thrill of it to this hour.