A Trooper Galahad
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Long before the fall set in, Barclay returned to his post of duty, eagerly welcomed by officers and men, except the Faugh-a-Ballaghs. Somebody had sent from San Antonio a marble headstone for Winn's lonely grave in the little cemetery. Somebody had secured for his widow that clerkship in the Treasury Department, which within another year she left to wed a veteran admirer of her mother, to the unappeasable wrath of that well-preserved matron and the secret joy of 'Manda Frazier, who thought that now perhaps the eyes of Galahad would open to her own many charms of mind and person. Yet they did not. Somebody in a childish, sprawling hand was writing letters every week to the doughboy trooper, who by that time had the best drilled company at Worth, owing, said the Faugh-a-Ballaghs, when forced to admit the fact, to Brayton's abilities and to an Irish sergeant. Barclay's weekly mail was bigger than that of anybody else except the commanding officer, whose missives, however, were mainly official, and the number of letters penned in feminine or childish hands seemed, like Galahad's godchildren, ever on the increase. Mrs. Blythe came back from leave, bonnier than ever, and blissful beyond compare in the possession of secrets she could not share with even her oldest cronies, yet that leaked out in ways no man could hope to stop. Ned Lawrence's children were well, happy, thriving, – little Jim at Barclay's home with other godsons, two or three, where a widowed sister cared for them as for her own, so said Mrs. Blythe when fairly cornered, while Ada was at a famous old Connecticut school not far from the Barclay homestead.
"Good heavens!" said Blythe, one day in late October, "these women have powers of divination that would be priceless at police head-quarters. Why, they've got hold of facts I thought only Mrs. Blythe and I knew, – facts that Barclay would have kept concealed from every one, but that we simply can't deny."
And so, little by little, the details of some, at least, of Galahad's benefactions became known, though no man knew how many more were held in reserve. For three long years he lived his simple, studious, dutiful life at Worth, a man the soldiers and their wives and children learned to love and look up to as their model of all that was kind and humane (they well-nigh worshipped him at Christmas times), – a man his brother officers of the better class honored as friend and comrade, worth their whole trust and esteem, and from the armor of whose reserve and tolerance the shafts of the envious and malicious glanced harmless into empty air.
There were women, old and young, who thought him lacking in more ways than one. The Fraziers said not much, but looked unutterable things when they went North on leave and people asked for Galahad. It was a family tradition that he had treated 'Manda very badly; that is, mamma said as much, but the elder sister had views of her own not entirely in harmony with those of her beloved parent.'Manda herself found consolation by marrying in the army not two years later, and her husband thinks to this very day that Barclay, with all his wealth, secretly envies him his treasure, though admitting, in those lucid intervals to which so many lords are subject, that perhaps Barclay wasn't so confoundedly unlucky after all. It was at their quarters some years later still, at a far-distant post, that in the course of an evening's call, in company with his host, Lieutenant-Colonel Brooks, the chronicler of a portion, at least, of this episode of old-time army life was favored with the most important facts of all.
"What do you think!" said the stout possessor of Mrs. 'Manda's matured and rounded charms, as he came bustling in with the Army and Navy in his hand, "Galahad Barclay's married at last. Here it is: To Ada, only daughter of the late Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Lawrence, – th U. S. Cavalry."
"Ada Lawrence! That child!" screamed madame, with eyes and drawl expansive. "Well, of all – "
But others, who have seen her in her happy wifehood, declare that Ada Lawrence grew up to be one of the loveliest of the lovely girls that married in the army, – and they are legion.
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