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Title: Crisis, the — Volume 07
Author: Churchill, Winston, 1871-1947
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Crisis, the — Volume 07" ***

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THE CRISIS

By Winston Churchill


Volume 7.



CHAPTER VII

WITH THE ARMIES OF THE WEST

We are at Memphis,--for a while,--and the Christmas season is approaching
once more. And yet we must remember that war recognizes no Christmas, nor
Sunday, nor holiday. The brown river, excited by rains, whirled seaward
between his banks of yellow clay. Now the weather was crisp and cold, now
hazy and depressing, and again a downpour. Memphis had never seen such
activity. A spirit possessed the place, a restless spirit called William
T. Sherman. He prodded Memphis and laid violent hold of her. She groaned,
protested, turned over, and woke up, peopled by a new people. When these
walked, they ran, and they wore a blue uniform. They spoke rapidly and
were impatient. Rain nor heat nor tempest kept them in. And yet they
joked, and Memphis laughed (what was left of her), and recognized a bond
of fellowship. The General joked, and the Colonels and the Commissary and
the doctors, down to the sutlers and teamsters and the salt tars under
Porter, who cursed the dishwater Mississippi, and also a man named Eads,
who had built the new-fangled iron boxes officially known as gunboats.
The like of these had never before been seen in the waters under the
earth. The loyal citizens--loyal to the South--had been given permission
to leave the city. The General told the assistant quartermaster to hire
their houses and slaves for the benefit of the Federal Government.
Likewise he laid down certain laws to the Memphis papers defining
treason. He gave out his mind freely to that other army of occupation,
the army of speculation, that flocked thither with permits to trade in
cotton. The speculators gave the Confederates gold, which they needed
most, for the bales, which they could not use at all.

The forefathers of some of these gentlemen were in old Egypt under
Pharaoh--for whom they could have had no greater respect and fear than
their descendants had in New Egypt for Grant or Sherman. Yankees were
there likewise in abundance. And a certain acquaintance of ours
materially added to his fortune by selling in Boston the cotton which
cost him fourteen cents, at thirty cents.

One day the shouting and the swearing and the running to and fro came to
a climax. Those floating freaks which were all top and drew nothing, were
loaded down to the guards with army stores and animals and wood and men,
--men who came from every walk in life.

Whistles bellowed, horses neighed. The gunboats chased hither and
thither, and at length the vast processions paddled down the stream with
naval precision, under the watchful eyes of a real admiral.

Residents of Memphis from the river's bank watched the pillar of smoke
fade to the southward and ruminated on the fate of Vicksburg. The General
paced the deck in thought. A little later he wrote to the
Commander-in-Chief at Washington, "The valley of the Mississippi is
America."

Vicksburg taken, this vast Confederacy would be chopped in two.

Night fell to the music of the paddles, to the scent of the officers'
cigars, to the blood-red vomit of the tall stacks and the smoky flame of
the torches. Then Christmas Day dawned, and there was Vicksburg lifted
two hundred feet above the fever swamps, her court-house shining in the
morning sun. Vicksburg, the well-nigh impregnable key to America's
highway. When old Vick made his plantation on the Walnut Hills, he chose
a site for a fortress of the future Confederacy that Vauban would have
delighted in.

Yes, there were the Walnut Hills, high bluffs separated from the
Mississippi by tangled streams and bayous, and on their crests the
Parrotts scowled. It was a queer Christmas Day indeed, bright and warm;
no snow, no turkeys nor mince pies, no wine, but just hardtack and bacon
and foaming brown water.

On the morrow the ill-assorted fleet struggled up the sluggish Yazoo,
past impenetrable forests where the cypress clutched at the keels, past
long-deserted cotton fields, until it came at last to the black ruins of
a home. In due time the great army was landed. It spread out by brigade
and division and regiment and company, the men splashing and paddling
through the Chickasaw and the swamps toward the bluffs. The Parrotts
began to roar. A certain regiment, boldly led, crossed the bayou at a
narrow place and swept resistless across the sodden fields to where the
bank was steepest. The fire from the battery scorched the hair of their
heads. But there they stayed, scooping out the yellow clay with torn
hands, while the Parrotts, with lowered muzzles, ploughed the slope with
shells. There they stayed, while the blue lines quivered and fell back
through the forests on that short winter's afternoon, dragging their
wounded from the stagnant waters. But many were left to die in agony in
the solitude.

Like a tall emblem of energy, General Sherman stood watching the attack
and repulse, his eyes ever alert. He paid no heed to the shells which
tore the limbs from the trees about him, or sent the swamp water in thick
spray over his staff. Now and again a sharp word broke from his lips, a
forceful home thrust at one of the leaders of his columns.

"What regiment stayed under the bank?"

"Sixth Missouri, General," said an aide, promptly.

The General sat late in the Admiral's gunboat that night, but when he
returned to his cabin in the Forest Queen, he called for a list of
officers of the Sixth Missouri. His finger slipping down the roll paused
at a name among the new second lieutenants.

"Did the boys get back?" he asked. "Yes, General, when it fell dark."

"Let me see the casualties,--quick."

That night a fog rolled up from the swamps, and in the morning jack-staff
was hid from pilot-house. Before the attack could be renewed, a political
general came down the river with a letter in his pocket from Washington,
by virtue of which he took possession of the three army core, and their
chief, subpoenaed the fleet and the Admiral, and went off to capture
Arkansas Post.

Vicksburg had a breathing spell.

Three weeks later, when the army was resting at Napoleon, Arkansas, a
self-contained man, with a brown beard arrived from Memphis, and took
command. This way General U. S. Grant. He smoked incessantly in his
cabin. He listened. He spoke but seldom. He had look in his face that
boded ill to any that might oppose him. Time and labor be counted as
nothing, compared with the accomplishment of an object. Back to Vicksburg
paddled the fleet and transports. Across the river from the city, on the
pasty mud behind the levee's bank were dumped Sherman's regiments,
condemned to week of ditch-digging, that the gunboats might arrive at the
bend of the Mississippi below by a canal, out of reach of the batteries.
Day in and day out they labored, officer and men. Sawing off stumps under
the water, knocking poisonous snakes by scores from the branches, while
the river rose and rose and rose, and the rain crept by inches under
their tent flies, and the enemy walked the parapet of Vicksburg and
laughed. Two gunboats accomplished the feat of running the batteries,
that their smiles might be sobered.

To the young officers who were soiling their uniform with the grease of
saws, whose only fighting was against fever and water snakes, the news of
an expedition into the Vicksburg side of the river was hailed with caps
in the air. To be sure, the saw and axe, and likewise the levee and the
snakes, were to be there, too. But there was likely to be a little
fighting. The rest of the corps that was to stay watched grimly as the
detachment put off in the little 'Diligence' and 'Silver Wave'.

All the night the smoke-pipes were batting against the boughs of oak and
cottonwood, and snapping the trailing vines. Some other regiments went by
another route. The ironclads, followed in hot haste by General Sherman in
a navy tug, had gone ahead, and were even then shoving with their noses
great trunks of trees in their eagerness to get behind the Rebels. The
Missouri regiment spread out along the waters, and were soon waist deep,
hewing a path for the heavier transports to come. Presently the General
came back to a plantation half under water, where Black Bayou joins Deer
Creek, to hurry the work in cleaning out that Bayou. The light transports
meanwhile were bringing up more troops from a second detachment. All
through the Friday the navy great guns were heard booming in the
distance, growing quicker and quicker, until the quivering air shook the
hanging things in that vast jungle. Saws stopped, and axes were poised
over shoulders, and many times that day the General lifted his head
anxiously. As he sat down in the evening in a slave cabin redolent with
corn pone and bacon, the sound still hovered among the trees and rolled
along the still waters.

The General slept lightly. It was three o'clock Saturday morning when the
sharp challenge of a sentry broke the silence. A negro, white eyed,
bedraggled, and muddy, stood in the candle light under the charge of a
young lieutenant. The officer saluted, and handed the General a roll of
tobacco.

"I found this man in the swamp, sir. He has a message from the Admiral--"

The General tore open the roll and took from it a piece of tissue paper
which he spread out and held under the candle. He turned to a staff
officer who had jumped from his bed and was hurrying into his coat.

"Porter's surrounded," he said. The order came in a flash. "Kilby Smith
and all men here across creek to relief at once. I'll take canoe through
bayou to Hill's and hurry reenforcements."

The staff officer paused, his hand on the latch of the door.

"But your escort, General. You're not going through that sewer in a canoe
without an escort!"

"I guess they won't look for a needle in that haystack," the General
answered. For a brief second he eyed the lieutenant. "Get back to your
regiment, Brice, if you want to go," he said.

Stephen saluted and went out. All through the painful march that
followed, though soaked in swamp water and bruised by cypress knees, he
thought of Sherman in his canoe, winding unprotected through the black
labyrinth, risking his life that more men might be brought to the rescue
of the gunboats.

The story of that rescue has been told most graphically by Sherman
himself. How he picked up the men at work on the bayou and marched them
on a coal barge; how he hitched the barge to a navy tug; how he met the
little transport with a fresh load of troops, and Captain Elijah Brent's
reply when the General asked if he would follow him. "As long as the boat
holds together, General." And he kept his word. The boughs hammered at
the smoke-pipes until they went by the board, and the pilothouse fell
like a pack of cards on the deck before they had gone three miles and a
half. Then the indomitable Sherman disembarked, a lighted candle in his
hand, and led a stiff march through thicket and swamp and breast-deep
backwater, where the little drummer boys carried their drums on their
heads. At length, when they were come to some Indian mounds, they found a
picket of three, companies of the force which had reached the flat the
day before, and had been sent down to prevent the enemy from obstructing
further the stream below the fleet.

"The Admiral's in a bad way, sir," said the Colonel who rode up to meet
the General. "He's landlocked. Those clumsy ironclads of his can't move
backward or forward, and the Rebs have been peppering him for two days."

Just then a fusillade broke from the thickets, nipping the branches from
the cottonwoods about them.

"Form your line," said the General. "Drive 'em out."

The force swept forward, with the three picket companies in the swamp on
the right. And presently they came in sight of the shapeless ironclads
with their funnels belching smoke, a most remarkable spectacle. How
Porter had pushed them there was one of the miracles of the war.

Then followed one of a thousand memorable incidents in the life of a
memorable man. General Sherman, jumping on the bare back of a scrawny
horse, cantered through the fields. And the bluejackets, at sight of that
familiar figure, roared out a cheer that might have shaken the drops from
the wet boughs. The Admiral and the General stood together on the deck,
their hands clasped. And the Colonel astutely remarked, as he rode up in
answer to a summons, that if Porter was the only man whose daring could
have pushed a fleet to that position, Sherman was certainly the only man
who could have got him out of it.

"Colonel," said the General, "that move was well executed, sir. Admiral,
did the Rebs put a bullet through your rum casks? We're just a little
tired. And now," he added, wheeling on the Colonel when each had a glass
in his hand, "who was in command of that company on the right, in the
swamp? He handled them like a regular."

"He's a second lieutenant, General, in the Sixth Missouri. Captain
wounded at Hindman, and first lieutenant fell out down below. His name is
Brice, I believe."

"I thought so," said the General.

Some few days afterward, when the troops were slopping around again at
Young's Point, opposite Vicksburg, a gentleman arrived on a boat from St.
Louis. He paused on the levee to survey with concern and astonishment the
flood of waters behind it, and then asked an officer the way to General
Sherman's headquarters. The officer, who was greatly impressed by the
gentleman's looks, led him at once to a trestle bridge which spanned the
distance from the levee bank over the flood to a house up to its first
floor in the backwaters. The orderly saluted.

"Who shall I say, sir?"

The officer looked inquiringly at the gentleman, who gave his name.

The officer could not repress a smile at the next thing that happened.
Out hurried the General himself, with both hands outstretched.

"Bless my soul!" he cried, "if it isn't Brinsmade. Come right in, come
right in and take dinner. The boys will be glad to see you. I'll send and
tell Grant you're here. Brinsmade, if it wasn't for you and your friends
on the Western Sanitary Commission, we'd all have been dead of fever and
bad food long ago." The General sobered abruptly. "I guess a good many of
the boys are laid up now," he added.

"I've come down to do what I can, General," responded Mr. Brinsmade,
gravely. "I want to go through all the hospitals to see that our nurses
are doing their duty and that the stores are properly distributed."

"You shall, sir, this minute," said the General. He dropped instantly the
affairs which he had on hand, and without waiting for dinner the two
gentlemen went together through the wards where the fever raged. The
General surprised his visitor by recognizing private after private in the
cots, and he always had a brief word of cheer to brighten their faces, to
make them follow him with wistful eyes as he passed beyond them. "That's
poor Craig," he would say, "corporal, Third Michigan. They tell me he
can't live," and "That's Olcott, Eleventh Indiana. Good God!" cried the
General, when they were out in the air again, "how I wish some of these
cotton traders could get a taste of this fever. They keep well--the
vultures--And by the way, Brinsmade, the man who gave me no peace at all
at Memphis was from your city. Why, I had to keep a whole corps on duty
to watch him."

"What was his name, sir?" Mr. Brinsmade asked.

"Hopper!" cried the General, with feeling. "Eliphalet Hopper. As long as
I live I shall never forget it. How the devil did he get a permit? What
are they about at Washington?"

"You surprise me," said Mr. Brinsmade. "He has always seemed inoffensive,
and I believe he is a prominent member of one of our churches."

"I guess that's so," answered the General, dryly. "I ever I set eyes on
him again, he's clapped into the guardhouse. He knows it, too."

"Speaking of St. Louis, General," said Mr. Brinsmade, presently, "have
you ever heard of Stephen Brice? joined your army last autumn. You may
remember talking to him one evening at my house."

"He's one of my boys!" cried the General. "Remember him? Guess I do!" He
paused on the very brink of relating again the incident at Camp Jackson,
when Stephen had saved the life of Mr. Brinsmade's own son. "Brinsmade,
for three days I've had it on my mind to send for that boy. I'll have him
at headquarters now. I like him," cried General Sherman, with tone and
gesture there was no mistaking. And good Mr. Brinsmade, who liked
Stephen, too, rejoiced at the story he would have to tell the widow. "He
has spirit, Brinsmade. I told him to let me know when he was ready to go
to war. No such thing. He never came near me. The first thing I hear of
him is that he's digging holes in the clay of Chickasaw Bluff, and his
cap is fanned off by the blast of a Parrott six feet above his head. Next
thing he turns up on that little expedition we took to get Porter to sea
again. When we got to the gunboats, there was Brice's company on the
flank. He handled those men surprisingly, sir--surprisingly. I shouldn't
have blamed the boy if one or two Rebs got by him. But no, he swept the
place clean." By this time they had come back to the bridge leading to
headquarters, and the General beckoned quickly to an orderly.

"My compliments to Lieutenant Stephen Brice, Sixth Missouri, and ask him
to report here at once. At once, you understand!"

"Yes, General."

It so happened that Mr. Brice's company were swinging axes when the
orderly arrived, and Mr. Brice had an axe himself, and was up to his boot
tops in yellow mud.

The orderly, who had once been an Iowa farmer, was near grinning when he
gave the General's message and saw the lieutenant gazing ruefully at his
clothes.

Entering headquarters, Stephen paused at the doorway of the big room
where the officers of the different staffs were scattered about, smoking,
while the negro servants were removing the dishes from the table. The
sunlight, reflected from the rippling water outside, danced on the
ceiling. At the end of the room sat General Sherman, his uniform, as
always, a trifle awry. His soft felt hat with the gold braid was tilted
forward, and his feet, booted and spurred, were crossed. Small wonder
that the Englishman who sought the typical American found him in Sherman.

The sound that had caught Stephen's attention was the General's voice,
somewhat high-pitched, in the key that he used in telling a story. These
were his closing words.

"Sin gives you a pretty square deal, boys, after all. Generally a man
says, 'Well, I can resist, but I'll have my fun just this once.' That's
the way it happens. They tell you that temptation comes irresistibly.
Don't believe it. Do you, Mr. Brice? Come over here, sir. Here's a friend
of yours."

Stephen made his way to the General, whose bright eyes wandered rapidly
over him as he added:

"This is the condition my officers report in, Brinsmade,--mud from head
to heel."

Stephen had sense enough to say nothing, but the staff officers laughed,
and Mr. Brinsmade smiled as he rose and took Stephen's hand.

"I am delighted to see that you are well, sir," said he, with that formal
kindliness which endeared him to all. "Your mother will be rejoiced at my
news of you. You will be glad to hear that I left her well, Stephen."

Stephen inquired for Mrs. Brinsmade and Anne.

"They are well, sir, and took pleasure in adding to a little box which
your mother sent. Judge Whipple put in a box of fine cigars, although he
deplores the use of tobacco."

"And the Judge, Mr. Brinsmade--how is he?"

The good gentleman's face fell.

"He is ailing, sir, it grieves me to say. He is in bed, sir. But he is
ably looked after. Your mother desired to have him moved to her house,
but he is difficult to stir from his ways, and he would not leave his
little room. He is ably nursed. We have got old Nancy, Hester's mother,
to stay with him at night, and Mrs. Brice divides the day with Miss Jinny
Carvel, who comes in from Bellegarde every afternoon."

"Miss Carvel?" exclaimed Stephen, wondering if he heard aright. And at
the mention of her name he tingled.

"None other, sir," answered Mr. Brinsmade. "She has been much honored for
it. You may remember that the Judge was a close friend of her father's
before the war. And--well, they quarrelled, sir. The Colonel went South,
you know."

"When--when was the Judge taken ill, Mr. Brinsmade?" Stephen asked. The
thought of Virginia and his mother caring for him together was strangely
sweet.

"Two days before I left, sir, Dr. Polk had warned him not to do so much.
But the Doctor tells me that he can see no dangerous symptoms."

Stephen inquired now of Mr. Brinsmade how long he was to be with them.

"I am going on to the other camps this afternoon," said he. "But I should
like a glimpse of your quarters, Stephen, if you will invite me. Your
mother would like a careful account of you, and Mr. Whipple, and--your
many friends in St. Louis."

"You will find my tent a little wet, air," replied Stephen, touched.

Here the General, who had been sitting by watching them with a very
curious expression, spoke up.

"That's hospitality for you, Brinsmade!"

Stephen and Mr. Brinsmade made their way across plank and bridge to
Stephen's tent, and his mess servant arrived in due time with the package
from home. But presently, while they sat talking of many things, the
canvas of the fly was thrust back with a quick movement, and who should
come stooping in but General Sherman himself. He sat down on a cracker
box. Stephen rose confusedly.

"Well, well, Brice," said the General, winking at Mr. Brinsmade, "I think
you might have invited me to the feast. Where are those cigars Mr.
Brinsmade was talking about?"

Stephen opened the box with alacrity. The General chose one and lighted
it.

"Don't smoke, eh?" he inquired. "Why, yes, sir, when I can."

"Then light up, sir," said the General, "and sit down, I've been thinking
lately of court-martialing you, but I decided to come 'round and talk it
over with you first. That isn't strictly according to the rules of the
service. Look here, Mr. Brice, why did you leave St. Louis?"

"They began to draft, sir, and I couldn't stand it any longer."

"But you wouldn't have been drafted. You were in the Home Guards, if I
remember right. And Mr. Brinsmade tells me you were useful in many ways
What was your rank in the Home Guards?"

"Lieutenant colonel, sir."

"And what are you here?"

"A second lieutenant in temporary command, General."  "You have commanded
men?"

"Not in action, sir. I felt that that was different."

"Couldn't they do better for you than a second-lieutenancy?"

Stephen did not reply at once, Mr. Brinsmade spoke up, "They offered him
a lieutenant-colonelcy."

The General was silent a moment: Then he said "Do you remember meeting me
on the boat when I was leaving St. Louis, after the capture of Fort
Henry?"

Stephen smiled. "Very well, General," he replied, General Sherman leaned
forward.

"And do you remember I said to you, 'Brice, when you get ready to come
into this war, let me know.' Why didn't you do it?"

Stephen thought a minute. Then he said gravely, but with just a suspicion
of humor about his mouth:-- "General, if I had done that, you wouldn't be
here in my tent to-day."

Like lightning the General was on his feet, his hand on Stephen's
shoulder.

"By gad, sir," he cried, delighted, "so I wouldn't."



CHAPTER VIII

A STRANGE MEETING

The story of the capture of Vicksburg is the old, old story of failure
turned into success, by which man is made immortal. It involves the
history of a general who never retraced his steps, who cared neither for
mugwump murmurs nor political cabals, who took both blame and praise with
equanimity. Through month after month of discouragement, and work gone
for naught, and fever and death, his eyes never left his goal. And by
grace of the wisdom of that President who himself knew sorrow and
suffering and defeat and unjust censure, General Grant won.

Boldness did it. The canal abandoned, one red night fleet and transports
swept around the bend and passed the city's heights, on a red river. The
Parrotts and the Dahlgrens roared, and the high bluffs flung out the
sound over the empty swamp land.

Then there came the landing below, and the cutting loose from a base
--unheard of. Corps behind cursed corps ahead for sweeping the country
clear of forage. Battles were fought. Confederate generals in Mississippi
were bewildered.

One night, while crossing with his regiment a pontoon bridge, Stephen
Brice heard a shout raised on the farther shore. Sitting together on a
log under a torch, two men in slouch hats were silhouetted. That one
talking with rapid gestures was General Sherman. The impassive profile of
the other, the close-cropped beard and the firmly held cigar that seemed
to go with it,--Stephen recognized as that of the strange Captain Grant
who had stood beside him in the street by the Arsenal He had not changed
a whit. Motionless, he watched corps after corps splash by, artillery,
cavalry, and infantry, nor gave any sign that he heard their plaudits.

At length the army came up behind the city to a place primeval, where the
face of the earth was sore and tortured, worn into deep gorges by the
rains, and flung up in great mounds. Stripped of the green magnolias and
the cane, the banks of clay stood forth in hideous yellow nakedness, save
for a lonely stunted growth, or a bare trunk that still stood tottering
on the edge of a banks its pitiful withered roots reaching out below. The
May weather was already sickly hot.

First of all there was a murderous assault, and a still more murderous
repulse. Three times the besiegers charged, sank their color staffs into
the redoubts, and three times were driven back. Then the blue army
settled into the earth and folded into the ravines. Three days in that
narrow space between the lines lay the dead and wounded suffering untold
agonies in the moist heat. Then came a truce to bury the dead, to bring
back what was left of the living.

The doomed city had no rest. Like clockwork from the Mississippi's banks
beyond came the boom and shriek of the coehorns on the barges. The big
shells hung for an instant in the air like birds of prey, and then could
be seen swooping down here and there, while now and anon a shaft of smoke
rose straight to the sky, the black monument of a home.

Here was work in the trenches, digging the flying sap by night and
deepening it by day, for officers and men alike. From heaven a host of
blue ants could be seen toiling in zigzags forward, ever forward, along
the rude water-cuts and through the hills. A waiting carrion from her
vantage point on high marked one spot then another where the blue ants
disappeared, and again one by one came out of the burrow to hurry down
the trench,--each with his ball of clay.

In due time the ring of metal and sepulchred voices rumbled in the ground
beneath the besieged. Counter mines were started, and through the narrow
walls of earth commands and curses came. Above ground the saps were so
near that a strange converse became the rule. It was "Hello, Reb!"
"Howdy, Yank!" Both sides were starving, the one for tobacco and the
other for hardtack and bacon. These necessities were tossed across,
sometimes wrapped in the Vicksburg news-sheet printed on the white side
of a homely green wall paper. At other times other amenities were
indulged in. Hand-grenades were thrown and shells with lighted fuses
rolled down on the heads of acquaintances of the night before, who
replied from wooden coehorns hooped with iron.

The Union generals learned (common item in a siege) that the citizens of
Vicksburg were eating mule meat. Not an officer or private in the
Vicksburg armies who does not remember the 25th of June, and the hour of
three in an afternoon of pitiless heat. Silently the long blue files
wound into position behind the earth barriers which hid them from the
enemy, coiled and ready to strike when the towering redoubt on the
Jackson road should rise heavenwards. By common consent the rifle crack
of day and night was hushed, and even the Parrotts were silent. Stillness
closed around the white house of Shirley once more, but not the stillness
it had known in its peaceful homestead days. This was the stillness of
the death prayer. Eyes staring at the big redoubt were dimmed. At last,
to those near, a little wisp of blue smoke crept out.

Then the earth opened with a quake. The sun was darkened, and a hot blast
fanned the upturned faces. In the sky, through the film of shattered
clay, little black dots scurried, poised, and fell again as arms and legs
and head less trunks and shapeless bits of wood and iron. Scarcely had
the dust settled when the sun caught the light of fifty thousand
bayonets, and a hundred shells were shrieking across the crater's edge.
Earth to earth, alas, and dust to dust! Men who ran across that rim of a
summer's after-noon died in torture under tier upon tier of their
comrades,--and so the hole was filled.

An upright cannon marks the spot where a scrawny oak once stood on a
scarred and baked hillside, outside of the Confederate lines at
Vicksburg. Under the scanty shade of that tree, on the eve of the
Nation's birthday, stood two men who typified the future and the past. As
at Donelson, a trick of Fortune's had delivered one comrade of old into
the hands of another. Now she chose to kiss the one upon whom she had
heaped obscurity and poverty and contumely. He had ceased to think or
care about Fortune. And hence, being born a woman, she favored him.

The two armies watched and were still. They noted the friendly greeting
of old comrades, and after that they saw the self-contained Northerner
biting his cigar, as one to whom the pleasantries of life were past and
gone. The South saw her General turn on his heel. The bitterness of his
life was come. Both sides honored him for the fight he had made. But war
does not reward a man according to his deserts.

The next day--the day our sundered nation was born Vicksburg surrendered:
the obstinate man with the mighty force had conquered. See the gray
regiments marching silently in the tropic heat into the folds of that
blue army whose grip has choked them at last. Silently, too, the blue
coats stand, pity and admiration on the brick-red faces. The arms are
stacked and surrendered, officers and men are to be parolled when the
counting is finished. The formations melt away, and those who for months
have sought each other's lives are grouped in friendly talk. The coarse
army bread is drawn eagerly from the knapsacks of the blue, smoke quivers
above a hundred fires, and the smell of frying bacon brings a wistful
look into the gaunt faces. Tears stand in the eyes of many a man as he
eats the food his Yankee brothers have given him on the birthday of their
country.

Within the city it is the same. Stephen Brice, now a captain in General
Lauman's brigade, sees with thanksgiving the stars and stripes flutter
from the dome of that court-house which he had so long watched from afar.

Later on, down a side street, he pauses before a house with its face
blown away. On the verge of one of its jagged floors is an old
four-posted bed, and beside it a child's cot is standing pitifully,--the
tiny pillow still at the head and the little sheets thrown across the
foot. So much for one of the navy's shells.

While he was thinking of the sadness of it all, a little scene was acted:
the side door of the house opened, a weeping woman came out, and with her
was a tall Confederate Colonel of cavalry. Gallantly giving her his arm,
he escorted her as far as the little gate, where she bade him good by
with much feeling. With an impulsive movement he drew some money from his
pocket, thrust it upon her, and started hurriedly away that he might not
listen to her thanks. Such was his preoccupation that he actually brushed
into Stephen, who was standing beside a tree. He stopped and bowed.

"Excuse me, seh," he said contritely. "I beg your pardon, seh."

"Certainly," said Stephen, smiling; it was my fault for getting in your
way."

"Not at all, seh," said the cavalry Colonel; "my clumsiness, seh." He did
not pass on, but stood pulling with some violence a very long mustache.
"Damn you Yankees," he continued, in the same amiable tone, "you've
brought us a heap of misfortune. Why, seh, in another week we'd been
fo'ced to eat niggers."

The Colonel made such a wry face that Stephen laughed in spite of
himself. He had marked the man's charitable action, and admired his
attempt to cover it. The Colonel seemed to be all breadth, like a card.
His shoulders were incredible. The face was scant, perchance from lack of
food, the nose large, with a curved rim, and the eyes blue gray. He wore
clay-flecked cavalry boots, and was six feet five if an inch, so that
Stephen's six seemed insignificant beside him.

"Captain," he said, taking in Stephen's rank, "so we won't qua'l as to
who's host heah. One thing's suah," he added, with a twinkle, "I've been
heah longest. Seems like ten yeahs since I saw the wife and children down
in the Palmetto State. I can't offer you a dinner, seh. We've eaten all
the mules and rats and sugar cane in town." (His eye seemed to
interpolate that Stephen wouldn't be there otherwise.) "But I can offer
you something choicer than you have in the No'th."

Whereupon he drew from his hip a dented silver flask. The Colonel
remarked that Stephen's eyes fell on the coat of arms.

"Prope'ty of my grandfather, seh, of Washington's Army. My name is
Jennison,--Catesby Jennison, at your service, seh," he said. "You have
the advantage of me, Captain."

"My name is Brice," said Stephen.

The big Colonel bowed decorously, held out a great, wide hand, and
thereupon unscrewed the flask. Now Stephen had never learned to like
straight whiskey, but he took down his share without a face. The exploit
seemed to please the Colonel, who, after he likewise had done the liquor
justice, screwed on the lid with ceremony, offered Stephen his arm with
still greater ceremony, and they walked off down the street together.
Stephen drew from his pocket several of Judge Whipple's cigars, to which
his new friend gave unqualified praise.

On every hand Vicksburg showed signs of hard usage. Houses with gaping
chasms in their sides, others mere heaps of black ruins; great trees
felled, cabins demolished, and here and there the sidewalk ploughed
across from curb to fence.

"Lordy," exclaimed the Colonel. "Lordy I how my ears ache since your
damned coehorns have stopped. The noise got to be silence with us, seh,
and yesterday I reckoned a hundred volcanoes had bust. Tell me," said he
"when the redoubt over the Jackson road was blown up, they said a nigger
came down in your lines alive. Is that so?"

"Yes," said Stephen, smiling; "he struck near the place where my company
was stationed. His head ached a mite. That seemed to be all."

"I reckon he fell on it," said Colonel Catesby Jennison, as if it were a
matter of no special note.

"And now tell me something," said Stephen. "How did you burn our
sap-rollers?"

This time the Colonel stopped, and gave himself up to hearty laughter.

"Why, that was a Yankee trick, sure enough," he cried. "Some ingenious
cuss soaked port fire in turpentine, and shot the wad in a large-bore
musket."

"We thought you used explosive bullets."

The Colonel laughed again, still more heartily. "Explosive bullets!
--Good Lord, it was all we could do to get percussion caps. Do you know how
we got percussion caps, seh? Three of our officers--dare-devils, seh
--floated down the Mississippi on logs. One fellow made his way back with
two hundred thousand. He's the pride of our Vicksburg army. Not afraid of
hell. A chivalrous man, a forlorn-hope man. The night you ran the
batteries he and some others went across to your side in skiffs--in
skiffs, seh, I say--and set fire to the houses in De Soto, that we might
see to shoot. And then he came back in the face of our own batteries and
your guns. That man was wounded by a trick of fate, by a cussed bit of
shell from your coehorns while eating his dinner in Vicksburg. He's
pretty low, now, poor fellow," added the Colonel, sadly.

"Where is he?" demanded Stephen, fired with a desire to see the man.

"Well, he ain't a great ways from here," said the Colonel. "Perhaps you
might be able to do something for him," he continued thoughtfully. "I'd
hate to see him die. The doctor says he'll pull through if he can get
care and good air and good food." He seized Stephen's arm in a fierce
grip. "You ain't fooling?" he said.

"Indeed I am not," said Stephen.

"No," said the Colonel, thoughtfully, as to himself, "you don't look like
the man to fool."

Whereupon he set out with great strides, in marked contrast to his former
languorous gait, and after a while they came to a sort of gorge, where
the street ran between high banks of clay. There Stephen saw the
magazines which the Confederates had dug out, and of which he had heard.
But he saw something, too, of which he had not heard, Colonel Catesby
Jennison stopped before an open doorway in the yellow bank and knocked. A
woman's voice called softly to him to enter.

They went into a room hewn out of the solid clay. Carpet was stretched on
the floor, paper was on the walls, and even a picture. There was a little
window cut like a port in a prison cell, and under it a bed, beside which
a middle-aged lady was seated. She had a kindly face which seemed to
Stephen a little pinched as she turned to them with a gesture of
restraint. She pointed to the bed, where a sheet lay limply over the
angles of a wasted frame. The face was to the wall.

"Hush!" said the lady,--"it is the first time in two days that he has
slept."

But the sleeper stirred wearily, and woke with a start. He turned over.
The face, so yellow and peaked, was of the type that grows even more
handsome in sickness, and in the great fever-stricken eyes a high spirit
burned. For an instant only the man stared at Stephen, and then he
dragged himself to the wall.

The eyes of the other two were both fixed on the young Union Captain.

"My God!" cried Jennison, seizing Stephen's rigid arm, "does he look as
bad as that? We've seen him every day."

"I--I know him," answered Stephen. He stepped quickly to the bedside, and
bent over it. "Colfax!" he said. "Colfax!"

"This is too much, Jennison," came from the bed a voice that was
pitifully weak; "why do you bring Yankees in here?"

"Captain Brice is a friend of yours, Colfax," said the Colonel, tugging
at his mustache.

"Brice?" repeated Clarence, "Brice? Does he come from St. Louis?"

"Do you come from St. Louis, sir?"

"Yes. I have met Captain Colfax--"

"Colonel, sir."

"Colonel Colfax, before the war! And if he would like to go to St. Louis,
I think I can have it arranged at once."

In silence they waited for Clarence's answer Stephen well knew what was
passing in his mind, and guessed at his repugnance to accept a favor from
a Yankee. He wondered whether there was in this case a special
detestation. And so his mind was carried far to the northward to the
memory of that day in the summer-house on the Meramee heights. Virginia
had not loved her cousin then--of that Stephen was sure. But now,--now
that the Vicksburg army was ringing with his praise, now that he was
unfortunate--Stephen sighed. His comfort was that he would be the
instrument.

The lady in her uneasiness smoothed the single sheen that covered the
sick man. From afar came the sound of cheering, and it was this that
seemed to rouse him. He faced them again, impatiently.

"I have reason to remember Mr. Brice," he said steadily. And then, with
some vehemence, "What is he doing in Vicksburg?"

Stephen looked at Jennison, who winced.

"The city has surrendered," said that officer.

They counted on a burst of anger. Colfax only groaned.

"Then you can afford to be generous," he said, with a bitter laugh. "But
you haven't whipped us yet, by a good deal. Jennison," he cried,
"Jennison, why in hell did you give up?"

"Colfax," said Stephen, coming forward, "you're too sick a man to talk.
I'll look up the General. It may be that I can have you sent North
to-day."

"You can do as you please," said Clarence, coldly, "with a--prisoner."

The blood rushed to Stephen's face. Bowing to the lady, he strode out of
the room. Colonel Jennison, running after him, caught him in the street.

"You're not offended, Brice?" he said. "He's sick--and God Almighty, he's
proud--I reckon," he added with a touch of humility that went straight to
Stephen's heart. "I reckon that some of us are too derned proud--But we
ain't cold."

Stephen grasped his hand.

"Offended!" he said. "I admire the man. I'll go to the General directly.
But just let me thank you. And I hope, Colonel, that we may meet again
--as friends." "Hold on, seh," said Colonel Catesby Jennison; "we may as
well drink to that."

Fortunately, as Stephen drew near the Court House, he caught sight of a
group of officers seated on its steps, and among them he was quick to
recognize General Sherman.

"Brice," said the General, returning his salute, "been celebrating this
glorious Fourth with some of our Rebel friends?"

"Yes, sir," answered Stephen, "and I came to ask a favor for one of
them." Seeing that the General's genial, interested expression did not
change, he was emboldened to go on. "This is one of their colonels, sir.
You may have heard of him. He is the man who floated down the river on a
log and brought back two hundred thousand percussion caps--"

"Good Lord," interrupted the General, "I guess we all heard of him after
that. What else has he done to endear himself?" he asked, with a smile.

"Well, General, he rowed across the river in a skiff the night we ran
these batteries, and set fire to De Soto to make targets for their
gunners."

"I'd like to see that man," said the General, in his eager way. "Where is
he?"

"What I was going to tell you, sir. After he went through all this, he
was hit by a piece of mortar shell, while sitting at his dinner. He's
rather far gone now, General, and they say he can't live unless he can be
sent North. I--I know who he is in St. Louis. And I thought that as long
as the officers are to be paroled I might get your permission to send him
up to-day."

"What's his name?"

"Colfax, sir."

The General laughed. "I know the breed," said he, "I'll bet he didn't
thank you."

"No, sir, he didn't."

"I like his grit," said the General, emphatically, "These young bloods
are the backbone of this rebellion, Brice. They were made for war. They
never did anything except horse-racing and cock-fighting. They ride like
the devil, fight like the devil, but don't care a picayune for anything.
Walker had some of 'em. Crittenden had some. And, good Lord, how they
hate a Yankee! I know this Colfax, too. He's a cousin of that
fine-looking girl Brinsmade spoke of. They say he's engaged to her. Be a
pity to disappoint her--eh?"

"Yes, General."

"Why, Captain, I believe you would like to marry her yourself! Take my
advice, sir, and don't try to tame any wildcats."

"I'm glad to do a favor for that young man," said the General, when
Stephen had gone off with the slip of paper he had given him. "I like to
do that kind of a favor for any officer, when I can. Did you notice how
he flared up when I mentioned the girl?"

This is why Clarence Colfax found himself that evening on a hospital
steamer of the Sanitary Commission, bound north for St. Louis.



CHAPTER XI

BELLEGARDE ONCE MORE

Supper at Bellegarde was not the simple meal it had been for a year past
at Colonel Carvel's house in town. Mrs. Colfax was proud of her table,
proud of her fried chickens and corn fritters and her desserts. How
Virginia chafed at those suppers, and how she despised the guests whom
her aunt was in the habit of inviting to some of them! And when none was
present, she was forced to listen to Mrs. Colfax's prattle about the
fashions, her tirades against the Yankees.

"I'm sure he must be dead," said that lady, one sultry evening in July.
Her tone, however, was not one of conviction. A lazy wind from the river
stirred the lawn of Virginia's gown. The girl, with her hand on the
wicker back of the chair, was watching a storm gather to the eastward,
across the Illinois prairie.

"I don't see why you say that, Aunt Lillian," she replied. "Bad news
travels faster than good."

"And not a word from Comyn. It is cruel of him not to send us a line,
telling us where his regiment is."

Virginia did not reply. She had long since learned that the wisdom of
silence was the best for her aunt's unreasonableness. Certainly, if
Clarence's letters could not pass the close lines of the Federal troops,
news of her father's Texas regiment could not come from Red River.

"How was Judge Whipple to-day?" asked Mrs. Colfax presently.

"Very weak. He doesn't seem to improve much."

"I can't see why Mrs. Brice,--isn't that her name?--doesn't take him to
her house. Yankee women are such prudes."

Virginia began to rock slowly, and her foot tapped the porch.

"Mrs. Brice has begged the Judge to come to her. But he says he has lived
in those rooms, and that he will die there,--when the time comes."

"How you worship that woman, Virginia! You have become quite a Yankee
yourself, I believe, spending whole days with her, nursing that old man."

"The Judge is an old friend of my father's; I think he would wish it,"
replied the girl, in a lifeless voice.

Her speech did not reveal all the pain and resentment she felt. She
thought of the old man racked with pain and suffering in the heat, lying
patient on his narrow bed, the only light of life remaining the presence
of the two women. They came day by day, and often Margaret Brice had
taken the place of the old negress who sat with him at night. Worship
Margaret Brice! Yes, it was worship; it had been worship since the day
she and her father had gone to the little whitewashed hospital.
Providence had brought them together at the Judge's bedside. The
marvellous quiet power of the older woman had laid hold of the girl in
spite of all barriers.

Often when the Judge's pain was eased sufficiently for him to talk, he
would speak of Stephen. The mother never spoke of her son, but a light
would come into her eyes at this praise of him which thrilled Virginia to
see. And when the good lady was gone, and the Judge had fallen into
slumber, it would still haunt her.

Was it out of consideration for her that Mrs. Brice would turn the Judge
from this topic which he seemed to love best? Virginia could not admit to
herself that she resented this. She had heard Stephen's letters to the
Judge. They came every week. Strong and manly they were, with plenty of
praises for the Southern defenders of Vicksburg. Only yesterday Virginia
had read one of these to Mr. Whipple, her face burning. Well that his
face was turned to the window, and that Stephen's mother was not there!

"He says very little about himself," Mr. Whipple complained. "Had it not
been for Brinsmade, we should never know that Sherman had his eye on him,
and had promoted him. We should never have known of that exploit at
Chickasaw Bluff. But what a glorious victory was Grant's capture of
Vicksburg, on the Fourth of July! I guess we'll make short work of the
Rebels now."

No, the Judge had not changed much, even in illness. He would never
change. Virginia laid the letter down, and tears started to her eyes as
she repressed a retort. It was not the first time this had happened. At
every Union victory Mr. Whipple would loose his tongue. How strange that,
with all his thought of others, he should fall short here!

One day, after unusual forbearance, Mrs. Brice had overtaken Virginia on
the stairway. Well she knew the girl's nature, and how difficult she must
have found repression. Margaret Brice had taken her hand.

"My dear," she had said, "you are a wonderful woman." That was all. But
Virginia had driven back to Belle. garde with a strange elation in her
heart.

Some things the Judge had forborne to mention, and for this Virginia was
thankful. One was the piano. But she had overheard Shadrach telling old
Nancy how Mrs. Brice had pleaded with him to move it, that he might have
more room and air. He had been obdurate. And Colonel Carvel's name had
never once passed his lips.

Many a night the girl had lain awake listening to the steamboats as they
toiled against the river's current, while horror held her. Horror lest
her father at that moment be in mortal agony amongst the heaps left by
the battle's surges; heaps in which, like mounds of ashes, the fire was
not yet dead. Fearful tales she had heard in the prison hospitals of
wounded men lying for days in the Southern sun between the trenches at
Vicksburg, or freezing amidst the snow and sleet at Donelson.

Was her bitterness against the North not just? What a life had been
Colonel Carvel's! It had dawned brightly. One war had cost him his wife.
Another, and he had lost his fortune, his home, his friends, all that was
dear to him. And that daughter, whom he loved best in all the world, he
was perchance to see no more.

Mrs. Colfax, yawning, had taken a book and gone to bed. Still Virginia
sat on the porch, while the frogs sang of rain, and the lightning
quivered across the eastern sky. She heard the crunch of wheels in the
gravel.

A bar of light, peopled by moths, slanted out of the doorway and fell on
a closed carriage. A gentleman slowly ascended the steps. Virginia
recognized him as Mr. Brinsmade.

"Your cousin Clarence has come home, my dear," he said. "He was among the
captured at Vicksburg, and is paroled by General Grant."

Virginia gave a little cry and started forward. But he held her hands.

"He has been wounded!"

"Yes," she exclaimed, "yes. Oh, tell me, Mr. Brinsmade, tell me--all--"

"No, he is not dead, but he is very low. Mr. Russell has been kind enough
to come with me."

She hurried to call the servants. But they were all there in the light,
in African postures of terror,--Alfred, and Sambo, and Mammy Easter, and
Ned. They lifted the limp figure in gray, and carried it into the hall
chamber, his eyes closed, his face waxen under a beard brown and shaggy.
Heavily, Virginia climbed the stairs to break the news to her aunt.

There is little need to dwell on the dark days which followed--Clarence
hanging between life and death. That his life was saved was due to
Virginia and to Mammy Easter, and in no particle to his mother. Mrs.
Colfax flew in the face of all the known laws of nursing, until Virginia
was driven to desperation, and held a council of war with Dr. Polk. Then
her aunt grew jealous, talked of a conspiracy, and threatened to send for
Dr. Brown--which Dr. Polk implored her to do. By spells she wept, when
they quietly pushed her from the room and locked the door. She would
creep in to him in the night during Mammy Easter's watches and talk him
into a raging fever. But Virginia slept lightly and took the alarm. More
than one scene these two had in the small hours, while Ned was riding
post haste over the black road to town for the Doctor.

By the same trusty messenger did Virginia contrive to send a note to Mrs.
Brice, begging her to explain her absence to Judge Whipple. By day or
night Virginia did not leave Bellegarde. And once Dr. Polk, while walking
in the garden, found the girl fast asleep on a bench, her sewing on her
lap. Would that a master had painted his face as he looked down at her!

'Twas he who brought Virginia daily news of Judge Whipple. Bad news,
alas! for he seemed to miss her greatly. He had become more querulous and
exacting with patient Mrs. Brice, and inquired for her continually.

She would not go. But often, when he got into his buggy the Doctor found
the seat filled with roses and fresh fruit. Well he knew where to carry
them.

What Virginia's feelings were at this time no one will ever know. God had
mercifully given her occupation, first with the Judge, and later, when
she needed it more, with Clarence. It was she whom he recognized first of
all, whose name was on his lips in his waking moments. With the petulance
of returning reason, he pushed his mother away. Unless Virginia was at
his bedside when he awoke, his fever rose. He put his hot hand into her
cool one, and it rested there sometimes for hours. Then, and only then,
did he seem contented.

The wonder was that her health did not fail. People who saw her during
that fearful summer, fresh and with color in her cheeks, marvelled.
Great-hearted Puss Russell, who came frequently to inquire, was quieted
before her friend, and the frank and jesting tongue was silent in that
presence. Anne Brinsmade came with her father and wondered. A miracle had
changed Virginia. Her poise, her gentleness, her dignity, were the
effects which people saw. Her force people felt. And this is why we
cannot of ourselves add one cubit to our stature. It is God who changes,
--who cleanses us of our levity with the fire of trial. Happy, thrice
happy, those whom He chasteneth. And yet how many are there who could not
bear the fire--who would cry out at the flame.

Little by little Clarence mended, until he came to sit out on the porch
in the cool of the afternoon. Then he would watch for hours the tassels
stirring over the green fields of corn and the river running beyond,
while the two women sat by. At times, when Mrs. Colfax's headaches came
on, and Virginia was alone with him, he would talk of the war; sometimes
of their childhood, of the mad pranks they played here at Bellegarde, of
their friends. Only when Virginia read to him the Northern account of the
battles would he emerge from a calm sadness into excitement; and he
clenched his fists and tried to rise when he heard of the capture of
Jackson and the fall of Port Hudson. Of love he spoke not a word, and now
that he was better he ceased to hold her hand. But often when she looked
up from her book, she would surprise his dark eyes fixed upon her, and a
look in them of but one interpretation. She was troubled.

The Doctor came but every other day now, in the afternoon. It was his
custom to sit for a while on the porch chatting cheerily with Virginia,
his stout frame filling the rocking-chair. Dr. Polk's indulgence was
gossip--though always of a harmless nature: how Mr. Cluyme always managed
to squirm over to the side which was in favor, and how Maude Catherwood's
love-letter to a certain dashing officer of the Confederate army had been
captured and ruthlessly published in the hateful Democrat. It was the
Doctor who gave Virginia news of the Judge, and sometimes he would
mention Mrs. Brice. Then Clarence would raise his head; and once (she saw
with trepidation) he had opened his lips to speak.

One day the Doctor came, and Virginia looked into his face and divined
that he had something to tell her. He sat but a few moments, and when he
arose to go he took her hand.

"I have a favor to beg of you, Jinny," he said, "Judge has lost his nurse.
Do you think Clarence could spare you for a little while every day? I
shouldn't ask it," Dr. Polk continued, somewhat hurriedly for him, "but
the Judge cannot bear a stranger near him, and I am afraid to have him
excited while in this condition."

"Mrs. Brice is ill?" she cried. And Clarence, watching, saw her color go.

"No," replied Dr. Polk, "but her son Stephen has come home from the army.
He was transferred to Lauman's brigade, and then he was wounded." He
jangled the keys in his pocket and continued "It seems that he had no
business in the battle. Johnston in his retreat had driven animals into
all the ponds and shot them, and in the hot weather the water was soon
poisoned. Mr. Brice was scarcely well enough to stand when they made the
charge, and he is now in a dreadful condition He is a fine fellow," added
the Doctor, with a sigh, "General Sherman sent a special physician to the
boat with him. He is--" Subconsciously the Doctor's arm sought Virginia's
back, as though he felt her swaying. But he was looking at Clarence, who
had jerked himself forward in his chair, his thin hands convulsively
clutching at the arms of it. He did not appear to see Virginia.

"Stephen Brice, did you say?" he cried, "will he die?"

In his astonishment the Doctor passed his palm across his brow, and for a
moment he did not answer. Virginia had taken a step from him, and was
standing motionless, almost rigid, her eyes on his face.

"Die?" he said, repeating the word mechanically; "my God, I hope not. The
danger is over, and he is resting easily. If he were not," he said
quickly and forcibly, "I should not be here."

The Doctor's mare passed more than one fleet--footed trotter on the road.
to town that day. And the Doctor's black servant heard his master utter
the word "fool" twice, and with great emphasis.

For a long time Virginia stood on the end of the porch, until the heaving
of the buggy harness died on the soft road, She felt Clarence gaze upon
her before she turned to face him.

"Virginia!" He had called her so of late. "Yes, dear."

"Virginia, sit here a moment; I have something to tell you."

She came and took the chair beside him, her heart beating, her breast
rising and falling. She looked into his eyes, and her own lashes fell
before the hopelessness there But he put out his fingers wasted by
illness, and she took them in her own.

He began slowly, as if every word cost him pain.

"Virginia, we were children together here. I cannot remember the time
when I did not love you, when I did not think of you as my wife. All I
did when we played together was to try to win your applause. That was my
nature I could not help it. Do you remember the day I climbed out on the
rotten branch of the big pear tree yonder to get you that pear--when I
fell on the roof of Alfred's cabin? I did not feel the pain. It was
because you kissed it and cried over me. You are crying now," he said
tenderly. "Don't, Jinny. It isn't to make you sad that I am saying this.

"I have had a great deal of time to think lately, Jinny, I was not
brought up seriously,--to be a man. I have been thinking of that day just
before you were eighteen, when you rode out here. How well I remember it.
It was a purple day. The grapes were purple, and a purple haze was over
there across the river. You had been cruel to me. You were grown a woman
then, and I was still nothing but a boy. Do you remember the doe coming
out of the forest, and how she ran screaming when I tried to kiss you?
You told me I was good for nothing. Please don't interrupt me. It was
true what you said, that I was wild and utterly useless, I had never
served or pleased any but myself,--and you. I had never studied or
worked, You were right when you told me I must learn something,--do
something,--become of some account in the world. I am just as useless to
day."

"Clarence, after what you have done for the South?"

He smiled with peculiar bitterness.

"What have I done for her?" he added. "Crossed the river and burned
houses. I could not build them again. Floated down the river on a log
after a few percussion caps. That did not save Vicksburg."

"And how many had the courage to do that?" she exclaimed.

"Pooh," he said, "courage! the whole South has it, Courage! If I did not
have that, I would send Sambo to my father's room for his ebony box and
blow my brains out. No, Jinny, I am nothing but a soldier of fortune. I
never possessed any quality but a wild spirit for adventure, to shirk
work. I wanted to go with Walker, you remember. I wanted to go to Kansas.
I wanted to distinguish myself," he added with a gesture. "But that is
all gone now, Jinny. I wanted to distinguish myself for you. Now I see
how an earnest life might have won you. No, I have not done yet."

She raised her head, frightened, and looked at him searchingly.

"One day," he said, "one day a good many years ago you and I and Uncle
Comyn were walking along Market Street in front of Judge Whipple's
office, and a slave auction was going on. A girl was being sold on whom
you had set your heart. There was some one in the crowd, a Yankee, who
bid her in and set her free. Do you remember him?"

He saw her profile, her lips parted, her look far away, She inclined her
head.

"Yes," said her cousin, "so do I remember him. He has crossed my path
many times since, Virginia. And mark what I say--it was he whom you had
in mind on that birthday when you implored me to make something of
myself, It was Stephen Brice."

Her eyes flashed upon him quickly.

"Oh, how dare you?" she cried.

"I dare anything, Virginia," he answered quietly. "I am not blaming you.
And I am sure that you did not realize that he was the ideal which you
had in mind."

The impression of him has never left it. Fate is in it. Again, that night
at the Brinsmades', when we were in fancy dress, I felt that I had lost
you when I got back. He had been there when I was away, and gone again.
And--and--you never told me."

"It was a horrible mistake, Max," she faltered. "I was waiting for you
down the road, and stopped his horse instead. It--it was nothing--"

"It was fate, Jinny. In that half-hour I lost you. How I hated that man,"
he cried, "how I hated him?"

"Hated!" exclaimed Virginia, involuntarily. "Oh, no!"

"Yes," he said, "hated! I would have killed him if I could. But now--"

"But now?"

"Now he has saved my life. I have not--I could not tell you before: He
came into the place where I was lying in Vicksburg, and they told him
that my only chance was to come North, I turned my back upon him,
insulted him. Yet he went to Sherman and had me brought home--to you,
Virginia. If he loves you,--and I have long suspected that he does--"

"Oh, no," she cried, hiding her face "No."

"I know he loves you, Jinny," her cousin continued calmly, inexorably.
"And you know that he does. You must feel that he does. It was a brave
thing to do, and a generous. He knew that you were engaged to me. He
thought that he was saving me for you. He was giving up the hope of
marrying you himself."

Virginia sprang to her feet. Unless you had seen her then, you had never
known the woman in her glory.

"Marry a Yankee!" she cried. "Clarence Colfax, have you known and loved
me all my life that you might accuse me of this? Never, never, never!"
Transformed, he looked incredulous admiration.

"Jinny, do you mean it?" he cried.

In answer she bent down with all that gentleness and grace that was hers,
and pressed her lips to his forehead. Long after she had disappeared in
the door he sat staring after her.

But later, when Mammy Easter went to call her mistress for supper, she
found her with her face buried in the pillows.



CHAPTER X

IN JUDGE WHIPPLE'S OFFICE

After this Virginia went to the Judge's bedside every day, in the
morning, when Clarence took his sleep. She read his newspapers to him
when he was well enough. She read the detested Missouri Democrat, which I
think was the greatest trial Virginia ever had to put up with. To have
her beloved South abused, to have her heroes ridiculed, was more than she
could bear. Once, when the Judge was perceptibly better, she flung the
paper out of the window, and left the room. He called her back
penitently.

"My dear," he said, smiling admiration, "forgive an old bear. A selfish
old bear, Jinny; my only excuse is my love for the Union. When you are
not here, I lie in agony, lest she has suffered some mortal blow unknown
to me, Jinny. And if God sees fit to spare our great country, the day
will come when you will go down on your knees and thank Him for the
inheritance which He saved for your children. You are a good woman, my
dear, and a strong one. I have hoped that you will see the right. That
you will marry a great citizen, one unwavering in his service and
devotion to our Republic." The Judge's voice trembled with earnestness as
he spoke. And the gray eyes under the shaggy brows were alight with the
sacred fire of his life's purpose. Undaunted as her spirit was, she could
not answer him then.

Once, only once, he said to her: "Virginia, I loved your father better
than any man I ever knew. Please God I may see him again before I die."

He never spoke of the piano. But sometimes at twilight his eyes would
rest on the black cloth that hid it.

Virginia herself never touched that cloth to her it seemed the shroud
upon a life of happiness that was dead and gone.

Virginia had not been with Judge Whipple during the critical week after
Stephen was brought home. But Anne had told her that his anxiety was a
pitiful thing to see, and that it had left him perceptibly weaker.
Certain it was that he was failing fast. So fast that on some days
Virginia, watching him, would send Ned or Shadrach in hot haste for Dr.
Polk.

At noon Anne would relieve Virginia,--Anne or her mother,--and frequently
Mr. Brinsmade would come likewise. For it is those who have the most to
do who find the most time for charitable deeds. As the hour for their
coming drew near, the Judge would be seeking the clock, and scarce did
Anne's figure appear in the doorway before the question had arisen to his
lips--"And how is my young Captain to-day?"

That is what he called him,--"My young Captain." Virginia's choice of her
cousin, and her devotion to him, while seemingly natural enough, had
drawn many a sigh from Anne. She thought it strange that Virginia herself
had never once asked her about Stephen's condition and she spoke of this
one day to the Judge with as much warmth as she was capable of.

"Jinny's heart is like steel where a Yankee is concerned. If her best
friend were a Yankee--"

Judge Whipple checked her, smiling.

"She has been very good to one Yankee I know of," he said. "And as for
Mrs. Brice, I believe she worships her."

"But when I said that Stephen was much better to-day, she swept out of
the room as if she did not care whether he lived or died."

"Well, Anne," the Judge had answered, "you women are a puzzle to me. I
guess you don't understand yourselves," he added.

That was a strange month in the life of Clarence Colfax,--the last of his
recovery, while he was waiting for the news of his exchange. Bellegarde
was never more beautiful, for Mrs. Colfax had no whim of letting the
place run down because a great war was in progress. Though devoted to the
South, she did not consecrate her fortune to it. Clarence gave as much as
he could.

Whole afternoons Virginia and he would sit in the shaded arbor seat; or
at the cool of the day descend to the bench on the lower tier of the
summer garden, to steep, as it were, in the blended perfumes of the roses
and the mignonettes and the pinks. He was soberer than of old. Often
through the night he pondered on the change in her. She, too, was grave.
But he was troubled to analyze her gravity, her dignity. Was this merely
strength of character, the natural result of the trials through which she
had passed, the habit acquired of being the Helper and comforter instead
of the helped and comforted? Long years afterward the brightly colored
portrait of her remained in his eye,--the simple linen gown of pink or
white, the brown hair shining in the sunlight, the graceful poise of the
head. And the background of flowers--flowers everywhere, far from the
field of war.

Sometimes, when she brought his breakfast on a tray in the morning, there
was laughter in her eyes. In the days gone by they had been all laughter.

They were engaged. She was to be his wife. He said it over to himself
many, many times in the day. He would sit for a space, feasting his eyes
upon her until she lifted her look to his, and the rich color flooded her
face. He was not a lover to sit quietly by, was Clarence. And yet, as the
winged days flew on, that is what he did, It was not that she did not
respond to his advances, he did not make them. Nor could he have told
why. Was it the chivalry inherited from a long life of Colfaxes who were
gentlemen? Not wholly. Something of awe had crept into his feeling for
her.

As the month wore on, and the time drew near for him to go back to the
war, a state that was not quite estrangement, and yet something very like
it, set in. Poor Clarence. Doubts bothered him, and he dared not give
them voice. By night he would plan his speeches,--impassioned, imploring.
To see her in her marvellous severity was to strike him dumb. Horrible
thought! Whether she loved him, whether she did not love him, she would
not give him up. Through the long years of their lives together, he would
never know. He was not a weak man now, was Clarence Colfax. He was merely
a man possessed of a devil, enchained by the power of self-repression
come upon her whom he loved.

And day by day that power seemed to grow more intense,--invulnerable.
Among her friends and in the little household it had raised Virginia to
heights which she herself did not seem to realize. She was become the
mistress of Bellegarde. Mrs. Colfax was under its sway, and doubly
miserable because Clarence would listen to her tirades no more.

"When are you to be married?" she had ventured to ask him once. Nor had
she taken pains to hide the sarcasm in her voice.

His answer, bringing with it her remembrance of her husband at certain
times when it was not safe to question him, had silenced her. Addison
Colfax had not been a quiet man. When he was quiet he was dangerous.

"Whenever Virginia is ready, mother," he had replied. Whenever Virginia
was ready! He knew in his heart that if he were to ask her permission to
send for Dr, Posthelwaite to-morrow that she would say yes. Tomorrow
came,--and with it a great envelope, an official, answer to Clarence's
report that he was fit for duty once more. He had been exchanged. He was
to proceed to Cairo, there to await the arrival of the transport
Indianapolis, which was to carry five hundred officers and men from
Sandusky Prison, who were going back to fight once more for the
Confederacy. O that they might have seen the North, all those brave men
who made that sacrifice. That they might have realized the numbers and
the resources and the wealth arrayed against them!

It was a cool day for September, a perfect day, an auspicious day, and
yet it went the way of the others before it. This was the very fulness of
the year, the earth giving out the sweetness of her maturity, the corn in
martial ranks, with golden plumes nodding. The forest still in its glory
of green. They walked in silence the familiar paths, and Alfred, clipping
the late roses for the supper table, shook his white head as they passed
him. The sun, who had begun to hurry on his southward journey, went to
bed at six. The few clothes Clarence was to take with him had been packed
by Virginia in his bag, and the two were standing in the twilight on the
steps of the house, when Ned came around the corner. He called his young
mistress by name, but she did not hear him. He called again.

"Miss Jinny!"

She started as from a sleep, and paused.

"Yes, Mr. Johnson," said she, and smiled. He wore that air of mystery so
dear to darkeys.

"Gemmen to see you, Miss Jinny."

"A gentleman!" she said in surprise. "Where?"

The negro pointed to the lilac shrubbery.

"Thar!"

"What's all this nonsense, Ned?" said Clarence, sharply: "If a man is
there, bring him here at once."

"Reckon he won't come, Marse Clarence." said Ned, "He fearful skeered ob
de light ob day. He got suthin very pertickler fo' Miss Jinny."

"Do you know him?" Clarence demanded.

"No sah--yessah--leastwise I'be seed 'um. Name's Robimson."

The word was hardly out of his mouth before Virginia had leaped down the
four feet from the porch to the flower-bed and was running across the
lawn toward the shrubbery. Parting the bushes after her, Clarence found
his cousin confronting a large man, whom he recognized as the carrier who
brought messages from the South.

"What's the matter, Jinny?" he demanded.

"Pa has got through the lines," she said breathlessly. "He--he came up to
see me. Where is he, Robinson?"

"He went to Judge Whipple's rooms, ma'am. They say the Judge is dying. I
reckoned you knew it, Miss Jinny," Robinson added contritely.

"Clarence," she said, "I must go at once."

"I will go with you," he said; "you cannot go alone." In a twinkling Ned
and Sambo had the swift pair of horses harnessed, and the light carriage
was flying over the soft clay road toward the city. As they passed Mr.
Brinsmade's place, the moon hung like a great round lantern under the
spreading trees about the house. Clarence caught a glimpse of his
cousin's face in the light. She was leaning forward, her gaze fixed
intently on the stone posts which stood like monuments between the bushes
at the entrance. Then she drew back again into the dark corner of the
barouche. She was startled by a sharp challenge, and the carriage
stopped. Looking out, she saw the provost's guard like black card figures
on the road, and Ned fumbling for his pass.

On they drove into the city streets until the dark bulk of the Court
House loomed in front of them, and Ned drew rein at the little stairway
which led to the Judge's rooms. Virginia, leaping out of the carriage,
flew up the steps and into the outer office, and landed in the Colonel's
arms.

"Jinny!"

"Oh, Pa!" she cried. "Why do you risk your life in this way? If the
Yankees catch you--"

"They won't catch me, honey," he answered, kissing her. Then he held her
out at arm's length and gazed earnestly into her face. Trembling, she
searched his own. "Pa, how old you look!"

"I'm not precisely young, my dear," he said, smiling. His hair was nearly
white, and his face scared. But he was a fine erect figure of a man,
despite the shabby clothes he wore, and the mud-bespattered boots.

"Pa," she whispered, "it was foolhardy to come here. Why did you come to
St. Louis at all?"

"I came to see you, Jinny, I reckon. And when I got home to-night and
heard Silas was dying, I just couldn't resist. He's the oldest friend
I've got in St. Louis, honey and now--now--"

"Pa, you've been in battle?"

"Yes," he said.

"And you weren't hurt; I thank God for that," she whispered. After a
while: "Is Uncle Silas dying?"

"Yes, Jinny; Dr. Polk is in there now, and says that he can't last
through the night. Silas has been asking for you, honey, over and over.
He says you were very good to him,--that you and Mrs. Brice gave up
everything to nurse him."

"She did," Virginia faltered. "She was here night and day until her son
came home. She is a noble woman--"

"Her son?" repeated the Colonel. "Stephen Brice? Silas has done nothing
the last half-hour but call his name. He says he must see the boy before
he dies. Polk says he is not strong enough to come."

"Oh, no, he is not strong enough," cried Virginia. The Colonel looked
down at her queerly. "Where is Clarence?" he asked.

She had not thought of Clarence. She turned hurriedly, glanced around the
room, and then peered down the dark stairway.

"Why, he came in with me. I wonder why he did not follow me up?"

"Virginia."

"Yes, Pa."

"Virginia, are you happy?"

"Why, yes, Pa."

"Are you going to marry Clarence?" he asked.

"I have promised," she said simply.

Then after a long pause, seeing her father said nothing, she added,
"Perhaps he was waiting for you to see me alone. I will go down to see if
he is in the carriage."

The Colonel started with her, but she pulled him back in alarm.

"You will be seen, Pa," she cried. "How can you be so reckless?"

He stayed at the top of the passage, holding open the door that she might
have light. When she reached the sidewalk, there was Ned standing beside
the horses, and the carriage empty.

"Ned!"

"Yass'm, Miss Jinny."

"Where's Mr. Clarence?"

"He done gone, Miss Tinny."

"Gone?"

"Yass'm. Fust I seed was a man plump out'n Willums's, Miss Jinny. He was
a-gwine shufflin' up de street when Marse Clarence put out after him,
pos' has'e. Den he run."

She stood for a moment on the pavement in thought, and paused on the
stairs again, wondering whether it were best to tell her father. Perhaps
Clarence had seen--she caught her breath at the thought and pushed open
the door.

"Oh, Pa, do you think you are safe here?" she cried. "Why, yes, honey, I
reckon so," he answered. "Where's Clarence?"

"Ned says he ran after a man who was hiding in an entrance. Pa, I am
afraid they are watching the place."

"I don't think so, Jinny. I came here with Polk, in his buggy, after
dark."

Virginia, listening, heard footsteps on the stairs, and seized her
father's sleeve.

"Think of the risk you are running, Pa," she whispered. She would have
dragged him to the closet. But it was too late. The door opened, and Mr.
Brinsmade entered, and with him a lady veiled.

At sight of Mr. Carvel Mr. Brinsmade started back in surprise. How long
he stared at his old friend Virginia could not say. It seemed to her an
eternity. But Mrs. Brice has often told since how straight the Colonel
stood, his fine head thrown back, as he returned the glance. Then Mr.
Brinsmade came forward, with his hand outstretched.

"Comyn," said he, his voice breaking a little, "I have known you these
many years as a man of unstained honor. You are safe with me. I ask no
questions. God will judge whether I have done my duty."

Mr. Carvel took his friend's hand. "Thank you, Calvin," he said. "I give
you my word of honor as a gentleman that I came into this city for no
other reason than to see my daughter. And hearing that my old friend was
dying, I could not resist the temptation, sir--"

Mr. Brinsmade finished for him. And his voice shook.

"To come to his bedside. How many men do you think would risk their lives
so, Mrs. Brice?"

"Not many, indeed, Mr. Brinsmade," she answered. "Thank God he will now
die happy. I know it has been much on his mind."

The Colonel bowed over her hand.

"And in his name, madam,--in the name of my oldest and best friend,--I
thank you for what you have done for him. I trust that you will allow me
to add that I have learned from my daughter to respect and admire you. I
hope that your son is doing well."

"He is, thank you, Colonel Carvel. If he but knew that the Judge were
dying, I could not have kept him at home. Dr. Polk says that he must not
leave the house, or undergo any excitement."

Just then the door of the inner room opened, and Dr. Polk came out. He
bowed gravely to Mrs. Brice and Mr. Brinsmade, and he patted Virginia.

"The Judge is still asleep," he said gently. "And--he may not wake up in
this world."

Silently, sadly, they went together into that little room where so much
of Judge Whipple's life had been spent. How little it was! And how
completely they filled it,--these five people and the big Rothfield
covered with the black cloth. Virginia pressed her father's arm as they
leaned against it, and brushed her eyes. The Doctor turned the wick of
the night-lamp.

What was that upon the sleeper's face from which they drew back? A smile?
Yes, and a light. The divine light which is shed upon those who have
lived for others, who have denied themselves the lusts of the flesh, For
a long space, perhaps an hour, they stayed, silent save for a low word
now and again from the Doctor as he felt the Judge's heart. Tableaux from
the past floated before Virginia's eyes. Of the old days, of the happy
days in Locust Street, of the Judge quarrelling with her father, and she
and Captain Lige smiling nearby. And she remembered how sometimes when
the controversy was finished the Judge would rub his nose and say:

"It's my turn now, Lige."

Whereupon the Captain would open the piano, and she would play the hymn
that he liked best. It was "Lead, Kindly Light."

What was it in Silas Whipple's nature that courted the pain of memories?
What pleasure could it have been all through his illness to look upon
this silent and cruel reminder of days gone by forever? She had heard
that Stephen Brice had been with the Judge when he had bid it in. She
wondered that he had allowed it, for they said that he was the only one
who had ever been known to break the Judge's will. Virginia's eyes rested
on Margaret Brice, who was seated at the head of the bed, smoothing the
pillows The strength of Stephen's features were in hers, but not the
ruggedness. Her features were large, indeed, yet stanch and softened. The
widow, as if feeling Virginia's look upon her, glanced up from the
Judge's face and smiled at her. The girl colored with pleasure, and again
at the thought which she had had of the likeness between mother and son.

Still the Judge slept on, while they watched. And at length the thought
of Clarence crossed Virginia's mind.

Why had he not returned? Perhaps he was in the office without. Whispering
to her father, she stole out on tiptoe. The office was empty. Descending
to the street, she was unable to gain any news of Clarence from Ned, who
was becoming alarmed likewise.

Perplexed and troubled, she climbed the stairs again. No sound came from
the Judge's room Perhaps Clarence would be back at any moment. Perhaps
her father was in danger. She sat down to think,--her elbows on the desk
in front of her, her chin in her hand, her eyes at the level of a line of
books which stood on end.--Chitty's Pleadings, Blackstone, Greenleaf on
Evidence. Absently; as a person whose mind is in trouble, she reached out
and took one of them down and opened it. Across the flyleaf, in a high
and bold hand, was written the name, Stephen Atterbury Brice.

It was his desk! She was sitting in his chair!

She dropped the book, and, rising abruptly, crossed quickly to the other
side of the room. Then she turned, hesitatingly, and went back. This was
his desk--his chair, in which he had worked so faithfully for the man who
lay dying beyond the door. For him whom they all loved--whose last hours
they were were to soothe. Wars and schisms may part our bodies, but
stronger ties unite our souls. Through Silas Whipple, through his mother,
Virginia knew that she was woven of one piece with Stephen Brice. In a
thousand ways she was reminded, lest she drive it from her belief. She
might marry another, and that would not matter.

She sank again into his chair, and gave herself over to the thoughts
crowding in her heart. How the threads of his life ran next to hers, and
crossed and recrossed them. The slave auction, her dance with him, the
Fair, the meeting at Mr. Brinsmade's gate,--she knew them all. Her love
and admiration for his mother. Her dreams of him--for she did dream of
him. And now he had saved Clarence's life that she might marry her
cousin. Was it true that she would marry Clarence? That seemed to her
only a dream. It had never seemed real. Again she glanced at the
signature in the book, as if fascinated by the very strength of it. She
turned over a few pages of the book, "Supposing the defendant's counsel
essays to prove by means of--" that was his writing again, a marginal,
note. There were marginal notes on every page--even the last was covered
with them, And then at the end, "First reading, February, 1858. Second
reading, July, 1858. Bought with some of money obtained by first article
for M. D." That capacity for work, incomparable gift, was what she had
always coveted the most. Again she rested her elbows on the desk and her
chin on her hands, and sighed unconsciously.

She had not heard the step on the stair. She had not seen the door open.
She did not know that any one wage in the room until she heard his voice,
and then she thought that she was dreaming.

"Miss Carvel!"

"Yes?" Her head did not move. He took a step toward her.

"Miss Carvel!"

Slowly she raised her face to his, unbelief and wonder in her eyes,
--unbelief and wonder and fright. No; it could not be he. But when she met
the quality of his look, the grave tenderness of it, she trembled, and
our rendered her own to the page where his handwriting quivered and
became a blur.

He never knew the effort it cost her to rise and confront him. She
herself had not measured or fathomed the power which his very person
exhaled. It seemed to have come upon him suddenly. He needed not to have
spoken for her to have felt that. What it was she could not tell. She
knew alone that it was nigh irresistible, and she grasped the back of the
chair as though material support might sustain her.

"Is he--dead?"

She was breathing hard.

"No," she said. "Not--not yet, They are waiting for the end."

"And you?" he asked in grave surprise, glancing at the door of the
Judge's room.

Then she remembered Clarence.

"I am waiting for my cousin," she said.

Even as she spoke she was with this man again at the Brinsmade gate.
Those had been her very words! Intuition told her that he, too, was
thinking of that time. Now he had found her at his desk, and, as if that
were not humiliation enough, with one of his books taken down and laid
open at his signature. Suffused, she groped for words to carry her on.

"I am waiting for Clarence, Mr. Brice. He was here, and is gone
somewhere."

He did not seem to take account of the speech. And his silence--goad to
indiscretion--pressed her to add:-- "You saved him, Mr. Brice. I--we all
--thank you so much. And that is not all I want to say. It is a poor
enough acknowledgment of what you did,--for we have not always treated
you well." Her voice faltered almost to faintness, as he raised his hand
in pained protest. But she continued: "I shall regard it as a debt I can
never repay. It is not likely that in my life to come I can ever help
you, but I shall pray for that opportunity."

He interrupted her.

"I did nothing, Miss Carvel, nothing that the most unfeeling man in our
army would not do. Nothing that I would not have done for the merest
stranger."

"You saved him for me," she said.

O fateful words that spoke of themselves! She turned away from him for
very shame, and yet she heard him saying:-- "Yes, I saved him for you."

His voice was in the very note of the sadness which has the strength to
suffer, to put aside the thought of self. A note to which her soul
responded with anguish when she turned to him with the natural cry of
woman.

"Oh, you ought not to have come here to-night. Why did you come? The
Doctor forbade it. The consequences may kill you."

"It does not matter much," he answered. "The Judge was dying."

"How did you know?"

"I guessed it,--because my mother had left me."

"Oh, you ought not to have come!" she said again.

"The Judge has been my benefactor," he answered quietly. I could walk,
and it was my duty to come."

"You did not walk!" she gasped.

He smiled, "I had no carriage," he said.

With the instinct of her sex she seized the chair and placed it under
him. "You must sit down at once," she cried.

"But I am not tired," he replied.

"Oh, you must sit down, you must, Captain Brice." He started at the
title, which came so prettily from her lips, "Won't you please!" she said
pleadingly.

He sat down. And, as the sun peeps out of a troubled sky, she smiled.

"It is your chair," she said.

He glanced at the book, and the bit of sky was crimson. But still he said
nothing.

"It is your book," she stammered. "I did not know that it was yours when
I took it down. I--I was looking at it while I was waiting for Clarence."

"It is dry reading," he remarked, which was not what he wished to say.

"And yet--"

"Yes?"

"And yet you have read it twice." The confession had slipped to her lips.

She was sitting on the edge of his desk, looking down at him. Still he
did not look at her. All the will that was left him averted his head. And
the seal of honor was upon his speech. And he wondered if man were ever
more tempted.

Then the evil spread its wings, and soared away into the night. And the
moment was past. Peace seemed to come upon them both, quieting the tumult
in their hearts, and giving them back their reason. Respect like wise
came to the girl,--respect that was akin to awe. It was he who spoke
first.

"My mother has me how faithfully you nursed the Judge, Miss Carvel. It
was a very noble thing to do."

"Not noble at all," she replied hastily, "your mother did the most of it,
And he is an old friend of my father--"

"It was none the less noble," said Stephen, warmly, "And he quarrelled
with Colonel Carvel."

"My father quarrelled with him," she corrected. "It was well that I
should make some atonement. And yet mine was no atonement, I love Judge
Whipple. It was a--a privilege to see your mother every day--oh, how he
would talk of you! I think he loves you better than any one on this
earth."

"Tell me about him," said Stephen, gently.

Virginia told him, and into the narrative she threw the whole of her
pent-up self. How patient the Judge had been, and the joy he had derived
from Stephen's letters. "You were very good to write to him so often,"
she said. It seemed like a dream to Stephen, like one of the many dreams
of her, the mystery of which was of the inner life beyond our ken. He
could not recall a time when she had not been rebellious, antagonistic.
And now--as he listened to her voice, with its exquisite low tones and
modulations, as he sat there in this sacred intimacy, perchance to be the
last in his life, he became dazed. His eyes, softened, with supreme
eloquence cried out that she, was his, forever and forever. The magnetic
force which God uses to tie the worlds together was pulling him to her.
And yet the Puritan resisted.

Then the door swung open, and Clarence Colfax, out of breath, ran into
the room. He stopped short when he saw them, his hand fell to his sides,
and his words died on his lips. Virginia did not stir.

It was Stephen who rose to meet him, and with her eyes the girl followed
his motions. The broad and loosely built frame of the Northerner, his
shoulders slightly stooping, contrasted with Clarence's slighter figure,
erect, compact, springy. The Southerner's eye, for that moment, was flint
struck with the spark from the steel. Stephen's face, thinned by illness,
was grave. The eyes kindly, yet penetrating. For an instant they stood
thus regarding each other, neither offering a hand. It was Stephen who
spoke first, and if there was a trace of emotion in his voice, one who
was listening intently failed to mark it.

"I am glad to see that you have recovered, Colonel Colfax," he said.

"I should indeed be without gratitude if I did not thank Captain Brice
for my life," answered Clarence. Virginia flushed. She had detected the
undue accent on her cousin's last words, and she glanced apprehensively
at Stephen. His forceful reply surprised them both.

"Miss Carvel has already thanked me sufficiently, sir," he said. "I am
happy to have been able to have done you a good turn, and at the same
time to have served her so well. It was she who saved your life. It is to
her your thanks are chiefly due. I believe that I am not going too far,
Colonel Colfax," he added, "when I congratulate you both."

Before her cousin could recover, Virginia slid down from the desk and had
come between them. How her eyes shone and her lip trembled as she gazed
at him, Stephen has never forgotten. What a woman she was as she took her
cousin's arm and made him a curtsey.

"What you have done may seem a light thing to you, Captain Brice," she
said. "That is apt to be the way with those who have big hearts. You have
put upon Colonel Colfax, and upon me, a life's obligation."

When she began to speak, Clarence raised his head. As he glanced,
incredulous, from her to Stephen, his look gradually softened, and when
she had finished, his manner had become again frank, boyish, impetuous
--nay, penitent. He seized Stephen's hand.

"Forgive me, Brice," he cried. "Forgive me. I should have known better.
I--I did you an injustice, and you, Virginia. I was a fool--a scoundrel."
Stephen shook his head.

"No, you were neither," he said. Then upon his face came the smile of one
who has the strength to renounce, all that is dearest to him--that smile
of the unselfish, sweetest of all. It brought tears to Virginia. She was
to see it once again, upon the features of one who bore a cross,
--Abraham Lincoln. Clarence looked, and then he turned away toward the door
to the stairway, as one who walks blindly, in a sorrow.

His hand was on the knob when Virginia seemed to awake. She flew after
him:

"Wait!" she whispered.

Then she raised her eyes, slowly, to Stephen, who was standing motionless
beside his chair.

"Captain Brice!"

"Yes," he answered.

"My father is in the Judge's room," she said.

"Your father!" he exclaimed. "I thought--"

"That he was an officer in the Confederate Army. So he is." Her head went
up as she spoke.

Stephen stared at her, troubled. Suddenly her manner, changed. She took a
step toward him, appealingly.

"Oh, he is not a spy," she cried. "He has given Mr Brinsmade his word
that he came here for no other purpose than to see me. Then he heard that
the Judge was dying--"

"He has given his word to Mr. Brinsmade?

"Yes."

"Then," said Stephen, "what Mr. Brinsmade sanctions is not for me to
question."

She gave him yet another look, a fleeting one which he did not see. Then
she softly opened the door and passed into the room of the dying man.
Stephen followed her. As for Clarence, he stood for a space staring after
them. Then he went noiselessly down the stairs into the street.



CHAPTER XI

LEAD, KINDLY LIGHT

When the Judge opened his eyes for the last time in this world, they fell
first upon the face of his old friend, Colonel Carvel. Twice he tried to
speak his name, and twice he failed. The third time he said it faintly.

"Comyn!"

"Yes, Silas."

"Comyn, what are you doing here?

"I reckon I came to see you, Silas," answered the Colonel.

"To see me die," said the Judge, grimly.

Colonel Carvel's face twitched, and the silence in that little room
seemed to throb.

"Comyn," said the Judge again, "I heard that you had gone South to fight
against your country. I see you here. Can it be that you have at last
returned in your allegiances to the flag for which your forefathers
died?"

Poor Colonel Carvel

"I am still of the same mind, Silas," he said.

The Judge turned his face away, his thin lips moving as in prayer. But
they knew that he was not praying, "Silas," said Mr. Carvel, "we were
friends for twenty years. Let us be friends again, before--"

"Before I die," the Judge interrupted, "I am ready to die. Yes, I am
ready. I have had a hard life, Comyn, and few friends. It was my fault.
I--I did not know how to make them. Yet no man ever valued those few more
than! But," he cried, the stern fire unquenched to the last, "I would
that God had spared me to see this Rebellion stamped out. For it will be
stamped out." To those watching, his eyes seemed fixed on a distant
point, and the light of prophecy was in them. "I would that God had
spared me to see this Union supreme once more. Yes, it will be supreme. A
high destiny is reserved for this nation--! I think the highest of all on
this earth." Amid profound silence he leaned back on the pillows from
which he had risen, his breath coming fast. None dared look at the
neighbor beside them.

It was Stephen's mother who spoke. "Would you not like to see a
clergyman, Judge?" she asked.

The look on his face softened as he turned to her.

"No, madam," he answered; "you are clergyman enough for me. You are near
enough to God--there is no one in this room who is not worthy to stand in
the presence of death. Yet I wish that a clergyman were here, that he
might listen to one thing I have to say. When I was a boy I worked my way
down the river to New York, to see the city. I met a bishop there. He
said to me, 'Sit down, my son, I want to talk to you. I know your father
in Albany. You are Senator Whipple's son.' I said to him, 'No, sir, I am
not Senator Whipple's son. I am no relation of his.' If the bishop had
wished to talk to me after that, Mrs. Brice, he might have made my life a
little easier--a little sweeter. I know that they are not all like that.
But it was by just such things that I was embittered when I was a boy."
He stopped, and when he spoke again, it was more slowly, more gently,
than any of them had heard him speak in all his life before. "I wish that
some of the blessings which I am leaving now had come to me then--when I
was a boy. I might have done my little share in making the world a
brighter place to live in, as all of you have done. Yes, as all of you
are now doing for me. I am leaving the world with a better opinion of it
than I ever held in life. God hid the sun from me when I was a little
child. Margaret Brice," he said, "if I had had such a mother as you, I
would have been softened then. I thank God that He sent you when He did."

The widow bowed her head, and a tear fell upon his pillow.

"I have done nothing," she murmured, "nothing."

"So shall they answer at the last whom He has chosen," said the Judge. "I
was sick, and ye visited me. He has promised to remember those who do
that. Hold up your head, my daughter. God has been good to you. He has
given you a son whom all men may look in the face, of whom you need never
be ashamed. Stephen," said the Judge, "come here."

Stephen made his way to the bedside, but because of the moisture in his
eyes he saw but dimly the gaunt face. And yet he shrank back in awe at
the change in it. So must all of the martyrs have looked when the fire of
the faggots licked their feet. So must John Bunyan have stared through
his prison bars at the sky.

"Stephen," he said, "you have been faithful in a few things. So shall you
be made ruler over many things. The little I have I leave to you, and the
chief of this is an untarnished name. I know that you will be true to it
because I have tried your strength. Listen carefully to what I have to
say, for I have thought over it long. In the days gone by our fathers
worked for the good of the people, and they had no thought of gain. A
time is coming when we shall need that blood and that bone in this
Republic. Wealth not yet dreamed of will flow out of this land, and the
waters of it will rot all save the pure, and corrupt all save the
incorruptible. Half-tried men wilt go down before that flood. You and
those like you will remember how your fathers governed,--strongly,
sternly, justly. It was so that they governed themselves.

"Be vigilant. Serve your city, serve your state, but above all serve your
country."

He paused to catch his breath, which was coming painfully now, and
reached out his bony hand to seek Stephen's. "I was harsh with you at
first, my son," he went on. "I wished to try you. And when I had tried
you I wished your mind to open, to keep pace with the growth of this
nation. I sent you to see Abraham Lincoln that you might be born again
--in the West. You were born again. I saw it when you came back--I saw it
in your face. O God," he cried, with sudden eloquence. "I would that his
hands--Abraham Lincoln's hands--might be laid upon all who complain and
cavil and criticise, and think of the little things in life: I would that
his spirit might possess their spirit!"

He stopped again. They marvelled and were awed, for never in all his days
had such speech broken from this man. "Good-by, Stephen," he said, when
they thought he was not to speak again. "Hold the image of Abraham
Lincoln in front of you. Never forget him. You--you are a man after his
own heart--and--and mine."

The last word was scarcely audible. They started for ward, for his eyes
were closed. But presently he stirred again, and opened them.

"Brinsmade," he said, "Brinsmade, take care of my orphan girls. Send
Shadrach here."

The negro came forth, shuffling and sobbing, from the doorway.

"You ain't gwine away, Marse Judge?"

"Yes, Shadrach, good-by. You have served me well, I have left you
provided for."

Shadrach kissed the hand of whose secret charity he knew so much. Then
the Judge withdrew it, and motioned to him to rise. He called his oldest
friend by name. And Colonel Carvel came from the corner where he had been
listening, with his face drawn.

"Good-by, Comyn. You were my friend when there was none other. You were
true to me when the hand of every man was against me. You--you have
risked your life to come to me here, May God spare it for Virginia."

At the sound of her name, the girl started. She came and bent over him.
And when she kissed him on the forehead, he trembled.

"Uncle Silas!" she faltered.

Weakly he reached up and put his hands on her shoulders. He whispered in
her ear. The tears came and lay wet upon her lashes as she undid the
button at his throat.

There, on a piece of cotton twine, hung a little key, She took it off,
but still his hands held her.

"I have saved it for you, my dear," he said. "God bless you--" why did
his eyes seek Stephen's?--"and make your life happy. Virginia--will you
play my hymn--once more--once more?"

They lifted the night lamp from the piano, and the medicine. It was
Stephen who stripped it of the black cloth it had worn, who stood by
Virginia ready to lift the lid when she had turned the lock. The girl's
exaltation gave a trembling touch divine to the well-remembered chords,
and those who heard were lifted, lifted far above and beyond the power of
earthly spell.

       "Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
        Lead Thou me on
        The night is dark, and I am far from home;
        Lead Thou me on.
        Keep Thou my feet! I do not ask to see
        The distant scene; one step enough for me."

A sigh shook Silas Whipple's wasted frame, and he died.





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