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Title: The Clansman - An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan
Author: Dixon, Thomas, 1864-1946
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "The Clansman - An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan" ***

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THE CLANSMAN

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The Illustrations Shown in This Edition Are Reproductions of Scenes
from the Photo-Play of "The Birth of a Nation" Produced and
Copyrighted by The Epoch Producing Corporation, to Whom the Publishers
Desire to Express Their Thanks and Appreciation for Permission to Use
the Pictures.

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[Illustration: THE REIGN OF THE KLAN]

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THE CLANSMAN

An Historical Romance
of the Ku Klux Klan

By
THOMAS DIXON

Author Of
The Leopard's Spots, Comrades, Etc.

Illustrated With Scenes From The Photo-Play
THE BIRTH OF A NATION
Produced And Copyrighted By
Epoch Producing Corporation

GROSSET & DUNLAP
Publishers :: New York

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Copyright, 1905
BY THOMAS DIXON, JR.

The Country Life Press, Garden City, N. Y.

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TO THE MEMORY OF
A SCOTCH-IRISH LEADER OF THE SOUTH

MY UNCLE, COLONEL LEROY MCAFEE

GRAND TITAN OF THE INVISIBLE EMPIRE
KU KLUX KLAN

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TO THE READER

"The Clansman" is the second book of a series of historical novels planned
on the Race Conflict. "The Leopard's Spots" was the statement in
historical outline of the conditions from the enfranchisement of the negro
to his disfranchisement.

"The Clansman" develops the true story of the "Ku Klux Klan Conspiracy,"
which overturned the Reconstruction régime.

The organization was governed by the Grand Wizard Commander-in-Chief, who
lived at Memphis, Tennessee. The Grand Dragon commanded a State, the Grand
Titan a Congressional District, the Grand Giant a County, and the Grand
Cyclops a Township Den. The twelve volumes of Government reports on the
famous Klan refer chiefly to events which occurred after 1870, the date of
its dissolution.

The chaos of blind passion that followed Lincoln's assassination is
inconceivable to-day. The revolution it produced in our Government, and
the bold attempt of Thaddeus Stevens to Africanize ten great States of the
American Union, read now like tales from "The Arabian Nights."

I have sought to preserve in this romance both the letter and the spirit
of this remarkable period. The men who enact the drama of fierce revenge
into which I have woven a double love story are historical figures. I have
merely changed their names without taking a liberty with any essential
historic fact.

In the darkest hour of the life of the South, when her wounded people lay
helpless amid rags and ashes under the beak and talon of the Vulture,
suddenly from the mists of the mountains appeared a white cloud the size
of a man's hand. It grew until its mantle of mystery enfolded the stricken
earth and sky. An "Invisible Empire" had risen from the field of Death and
challenged the Visible to mortal combat.

How the young South, led by the reincarnated souls of the Clansmen of Old
Scotland, went forth under this cover and against overwhelming odds,
daring exile, imprisonment, and a felon's death, and saved the life of a
people, forms one of the most dramatic chapters in the history of the
Aryan race.

                                                      Thomas Dixon, Jr.

  Dixondale, Va.
    December 14, 1904.

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CONTENTS

BOOK I

THE ASSASSINATION

CHAPTER                                  PAGE
     I.  The Bruised Reed                   3
    II.  The Great Heart                   19
   III.  The Man of War                    33
    IV.  A Clash of Giants                 38
    IV.  The Battle of Love                56
    VI.  The Assassination                 61
   VII.  The Frenzy of a Nation            80

BOOK II

THE REVOLUTION

CHAPTER                                  PAGE
     I.  The First Lady of the Land        90
    II.  Sweethearts                      101
   III.  The Joy of Living                112
    IV.  Hidden Treasure                  115
     V.  Across the Chasm                 120
    VI.  The Gauge of Battle              131
   VII.  A Woman Laughs                   136
  VIII.  A Dream                          148
    IX.  The King Amuses Himself          152
     X.  Tossed by the Storm              162
    XI.  The Supreme Test                 165
   XII.  Triumph in Defeat                179

BOOK III

THE REIGN OF TERROR

CHAPTER                                  PAGE
     I.  A Fallen Slaveholder's Mansion   187
    II.  The Eyes of the Jungle           204
   III.  Augustus Cæsar                   209
    IV.  At the Point of the Bayonet      218
     V.  Forty Acres and a Mule           235
    VI.  A Whisper in the Crowd           244
   VII.  By the Light of a Torch          254
  VIII.  The Riot in the Master's Hall    263
    IX.  At Lover's Leap                  276
     X.  A Night Hawk                     284
    XI.  The Beat of a Sparrow's Wing     297
   XII.  At the Dawn of Day               305

BOOK IV

THE KU KLUX KLAN

CHAPTER                                  PAGE
     I.  The Hunt for the Animal          309
    II.  The Fiery Cross                  318
   III.  The Parting of the Ways          327
    IV.  The Banner of the Dragon         337
     V.  The Reign of the Klan            341
    VI.  The Counter Stroke               351
   VII.  The Snare of the Fowler          358
  VIII.  A Ride for a Life                362
    IX.  "Vengeance Is Mine"              369

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LEADING CHARACTERS OF THE STORY

Scene: Washington and the Foothills of the Carolinas.

Time: 1865 to 1870.

Ben Cameron              Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan
Margaret                                       His Sister
Mrs. Cameron                                   His Mother
Dr. Richard Cameron                            His Father
Hon. Austin Stoneman           Radical Leader of Congress
Phil                                              His Son
Elsie                                        His Daughter
Marion Lenoir                            Ben's First Love
Mrs. Lenoir                                    Her Mother
Jake                                       A Faithful Man
Silas Lynch                            A Negro Missionary
Uncle Aleck                        The Member from Ulster
Cindy                                            His Wife
Colonel Howle                             A Carpet-bagger
Augustus Cæsar                         Of the Black Guard
Charles Sumner                           Of Massachusetts
Gen. Benjamin F. Butler                    Of Fort Fisher
Andrew Johnson                              The President
U. S. Grant                        The Commanding General
Abraham Lincoln                   The Friend of the South

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

THE CLANSMAN

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Book I--The Assassination

CHAPTER I

THE BRUISED REED


The fair girl who was playing a banjo and singing to the wounded soldiers
suddenly stopped, and, turning to the surgeon, whispered:

"What's that?"

"It sounds like a mob----"

With a common impulse they moved to the open window of the hospital and
listened.

On the soft spring air came the roar of excited thousands sweeping down
the avenue from the Capitol toward the White House. Above all rang the
cries of struggling newsboys screaming an "Extra." One of them darted
around the corner, his shrill voice quivering with excitement:

"_Extra! Extra! Peace! Victory!_"

Windows were suddenly raised, women thrust their heads out, and others
rushed into the street and crowded around the boy, struggling to get his
papers. He threw them right and left and snatched the money--no one asked
for change. Without ceasing rose his cry:

"_Extra! Peace! Victory! Lee has surrendered!_"

At last the end had come.

The great North, with its millions of sturdy people and their exhaustless
resources, had greeted the first shot on Sumter with contempt and
incredulity. A few regiments went forward for a month's outing to settle
the trouble. The Thirteenth Brooklyn marched gayly Southward on a thirty
days' jaunt, with pieces of rope conspicuously tied to their muskets with
which to bring back each man a Southern prisoner to be led in a noose
through the streets on their early triumphant return! It would be unkind
to tell what became of those ropes when they suddenly started back home
ahead of the scheduled time from the first battle of Bull Run.

People from the South, equally wise, marched gayly North, to whip five
Yankees each before breakfast, and encountered unforeseen difficulties.

Both sides had things to learn, and learned them in a school whose logic
is final--a four years' course in the University of Hell--the scream of
eagles, the howl of wolves, the bay of tigers, the roar of lions--all
locked in Death's embrace, and each mad scene lit by the glare of
volcanoes of savage passions!

But the long agony was over.

The city bells began to ring. The guns of the forts joined the chorus, and
their deep steel throats roared until the earth trembled.

Just across the street a mother who was reading the fateful news turned
and suddenly clasped a boy to her heart, crying for joy. The last draft of
half a million had called for him.

The Capital of the Nation was shaking off the long nightmare of horror and
suspense. More than once the city had shivered at the mercy of those
daring men in gray, and the reveille of their drums had startled even the
President at his desk.

Again and again had the destiny of the Republic hung on the turning of a
hair, and in every crisis, Luck, Fate, God, had tipped the scale for the
Union.

A procession of more than five hundred Confederate deserters, who had
crossed the lines in groups, swung into view, marching past the hospital,
indifferent to the tumult. Only a nominal guard flanked them as they
shuffled along, tired, ragged, and dirty. The gray in their uniforms was
now the colour of clay. Some had on blue pantaloons, some, blue vests,
others blue coats captured on the field of blood. Some had pieces of
carpet, and others old bags around their shoulders. They had been passing
thus for weeks. Nobody paid any attention to them.

"One of the secrets of the surrender!" exclaimed Doctor Barnes. "Mr.
Lincoln has been at the front for the past weeks with offers of peace and
mercy, if they would lay down their arms. The great soul of the President,
even the genius of Lee could not resist. His smile began to melt those
gray ranks as the sun is warming the earth to-day."

"You are a great admirer of the President," said the girl, with a curious
smile.

"Yes, Miss Elsie, and so are all who know him."

She turned from the window without reply. A shadow crossed her face as she
looked past the long rows of cots, on which rested the men in blue, until
her eyes found one on which lay, alone among his enemies, a young
Confederate officer.

The surgeon turned with her toward the man.

"Will he live?" she asked.

"Yes, only to be hung."

"For what?" she cried.

"Sentenced by court-martial as a guerilla. It's a lie, but there's some
powerful hand back of it--some mysterious influence in high authority. The
boy wasn't fully conscious at the trial."

"We must appeal to Mr. Stanton."

"As well appeal to the devil. They say the order came from his office."

"A boy of nineteen!" she exclaimed. "It's a shame. I'm looking for his
mother. You told me to telegraph to Richmond for her."

"Yes, I'll never forget his cries that night, so utterly pitiful and
childlike. I've heard many a cry of pain, but in all my life nothing so
heartbreaking as that boy in fevered delirium talking to his mother. His
voice is one of peculiar tenderness, penetrating and musical. It goes
quivering into your soul, and compels you to listen until you swear it's
your brother or sweetheart or sister or mother calling you. You should
have seen him the day he fell. God of mercies, the pity and the glory of
it!"

[Illustration: "YOUR BROTHER SPRANG FORWARD AND CAUGHT HIM IN HIS ARMS."]

"Phil wrote me that he was a hero and asked me to look after him. Were you
there?"

"Yes, with the battery your brother was supporting. He was the colonel of
a shattered rebel regiment lying just in front of us before Petersburg.
Richmond was doomed, resistance was madness, but there they were, ragged
and half starved, a handful of men, not more than four hundred, but their
bayonets gleamed and flashed in the sunlight. In the face of a murderous
fire he charged and actually drove our men out of an entrenchment. We
concentrated our guns on him as he crouched behind this earthwork. Our own
men lay outside in scores, dead, dying, and wounded. When the fire
slacked, we could hear their cries for water.

"Suddenly this boy sprang on the breastwork. He was dressed in a new gray
colonel's uniform that mother of his, in the pride of her soul, had sent
him.

"He was a handsome figure--tall, slender, straight, a gorgeous yellow sash
tasselled with gold around his waist, his sword flashing in the sun, his
slouch hat cocked on one side and an eagle's feather in it.

"We thought he was going to lead another charge, but just as the battery
was making ready to fire he deliberately walked down the embankment in a
hail of musketry and began to give water to our wounded men.

"Every gun ceased firing, and we watched him. He walked back to the
trench, his naked sword flashed suddenly above that eagle's feather, and
his grizzled ragamuffins sprang forward and charged us like so many
demons.

"There were not more than three hundred of them now, but on they came,
giving that hellish rebel yell at every jump--the cry of the hunter from
the hilltop at the sight of his game! All Southern men are hunters, and
that cry was transformed in war into something unearthly when it came from
a hundred throats in chorus and the game was human.

"Of course, it was madness. We blew them down that hill like chaff before
a hurricane. When the last man had staggered back or fallen, on came this
boy alone, carrying the colours he had snatched from a falling soldier, as
if he were leading a million men to victory.

"A bullet had blown his hat from his head, and we could see the blood
streaming down the side of his face. He charged straight into the jaws of
one of our guns. And then, with a smile on his lips and a dare to death in
his big brown eyes, he rammed that flag into the cannon's mouth, reeled,
and fell! A cheer broke from our men.

"Your brother sprang forward and caught him in his arms, and as we bent
over the unconscious form, he exclaimed: 'My God, doctor, look at him! He
is so much like me I feel as if I had been shot myself!' They were as much
alike as twins--only his hair was darker. I tell you, Miss Elsie, it's a
sin to kill men like that. One such man is worth more to this nation than
every negro that ever set his flat foot on this continent!"

The girl's eyes had grown dim as she listened to the story.

"I will appeal to the President," she said firmly.

"It's the only chance. And just now he is under tremendous pressure. His
friendly order to the Virginia Legislature to return to Richmond, Stanton
forced him to cancel. A master hand has organized a conspiracy in Congress
to crush the President. They curse his policy of mercy as imbecility, and
swear to make the South a second Poland. Their watchwords are vengeance
and confiscation. Four fifths of his party in Congress are in this plot.
The President has less than a dozen real friends in either House on whom
he can depend. They say that Stanton is to be given a free hand, and that
the gallows will be busy. This cancelled order of the President looks like
it."

"I'll try my hand with Mr. Stanton," she said with slow emphasis.

"Good luck, Little Sister--let me know if I can help," the surgeon
answered cheerily as he passed on his round of work.

Elsie Stoneman took her seat beside the cot of the wounded Confederate and
began softly to sing and play.

A little farther along the same row a soldier was dying, a faint choking
just audible in his throat. An attendant sat beside him and would not
leave till the last. The ordinary chat and hum of the ward went on
indifferent to peace, victory, life, or death. Before the finality of the
hospital all other events of earth fade. Some were playing cards or
checkers, some laughing and joking, and others reading.

At the first soft note from the singer the games ceased, and the reader
put down his book.

The banjo had come to Washington with the negroes following the wake of
the army. She had laid aside her guitar and learned to play all the
stirring camp songs of the South. Her voice was low, soothing, and tender.
It held every silent listener in a spell.

As she played and sang the songs the wounded man loved, her eyes lingered
in pity on his sun-bronzed face, pinched and drawn with fever. He was
sleeping the stupid sleep that gives no rest. She could count the
irregular pounding of his heart in the throb of the big vein on his neck.
His lips were dry and burnt, and the little boyish moustache curled upward
from the row of white teeth as if scorched by the fiery breath.

He began to talk in flighty sentences, and she listened--his mother--his
sister--and yes, she was sure as she bent nearer--a little sweetheart who
lived next door. They all had sweethearts--these Southern boys. Again he
was teasing his dog--and then back in battle.

At length he opened his eyes, great dark-brown eyes, unnaturally bright,
with a strange yearning look in their depths as they rested on Elsie. He
tried to smile and feebly said:

"Here's--a--fly--on--my--left--ear--my--guns--can't--somehow--
reach--him--won't--you--"

She sprang forward and brushed the fly away.

Again he opened his eyes.

"Excuse--me--for--asking--but am I alive?"

"Yes, indeed," was the cheerful answer.

"Well, now, then, is this me, or is it not me, or has a cannon shot me, or
has the devil got me?"

"It's you. The cannon didn't shoot you, but three muskets did. The devil
hasn't got you yet, but he will unless you're good."

"I'll be good if you won't leave me----"

Elsie turned her head away smiling, and he went on slowly:

"But I'm dead, I know. I'm sleeping on a cot with a canopy over it. I
ain't hungry any more, and an angel has been hovering over me playing on a
harp of gold----"

"Only a little Yankee girl playing the banjo."

"Can't fool me--I'm in heaven."

"You're in the hospital."

"Funny hospital--look at that harp and that big trumpet hanging close by
it--that's Gabriel's trumpet----"

"No," she laughed. "This is the Patent Office building, that covers two
blocks, now a temporary hospital. There are seventy thousand wounded
soldiers in town, and more coming on every train. The thirty-five
hospitals are overcrowded."

He closed his eyes a moment in silence, and then spoke with a feeble
tremor:

"I'm afraid you don't know who I am--I can't impose on you--I'm a
rebel----"

"Yes, I know. You are Colonel Ben Cameron. It makes no difference to me
now which side you fought on."

"Well, I'm in heaven--been dead a long time. I can prove it, if you'll
play again."

"What shall I play?"

"First, '_O Jonny Booker Help dis Nigger_.'"

She played and sang it beautifully.

"Now, '_Wake Up in the Morning_.'"

Again he listened with wide, staring eyes that saw nothing except visions
within.

"Now, then, '_The Ole Gray Hoss_.'"

As the last notes died away he tried to smile again:

"One more--'_Hard Times an' Wuss er Comin'_.'"

With deft, sure touch and soft negro dialect she sang it through.

"Now, didn't I tell you that you couldn't fool me? No Yankee girl could
play and sing these songs, I'm in heaven, and you're an angel."

"Aren't you ashamed of yourself to flirt with me, with one foot in the
grave?"

"That's the time to get on good terms with the angels--but I'm done
dead----"

Elsie laughed in spite of herself.

"I know it," he went on, "because you have shining golden hair and amber
eyes instead of blue ones. I never saw a girl in my life before with such
eyes and hair."

"But you're young yet."

"Never--was--such--a--girl--on--earth--you're--an----"

She lifted her finger in warning, and his eyelids drooped In exhausted
stupor.

"You musn't talk any more," she whispered, shaking her head.

A commotion at the door caused Elsie to turn from the cot. A sweet
motherly woman of fifty, in an old faded black dress, was pleading with
the guard to be allowed to pass.

"Can't do it, m'um. It's agin the rules."

"But I must go in. I've tramped for four days through a wilderness of
hospitals, and I know he must be here."

"Special orders, m'um--wounded rebels in here that belong in prison."

"Very well, young man," said the pleading voice. "My baby boy's in this
place, wounded and about to die. I'm going in there. You can shoot me if
you like, or you can turn your head the other way."

She stepped quickly past the soldier, who merely stared with dim eyes out
the door and saw nothing.

She stood for a moment with a look of helpless bewilderment. The vast area
of the second story of the great monolithic pile was crowded with rows of
sick, wounded, and dying men--a strange, solemn, and curious sight.
Against the walls were ponderous glass cases, filled with models of every
kind of invention the genius of man had dreamed. Between these cases were
deep lateral openings, eight feet wide, crowded with the sick, and long
rows of them were stretched through the centre of the hall. A gallery ran
around above the cases, and this was filled with cots. The clatter of the
feet of passing surgeons and nurses over the marble floor added to the
weird impression.

Elsie saw the look of helpless appeal in the mother's face and hurried
forward to meet her:

"Is this Mrs. Cameron, of South Carolina?"

The trembling figure in black grasped her hand eagerly:

"Yes, yes, my dear, and I'm looking for my boy, who is wounded unto death.
Can you help me?"

"I thought I recognized you from a miniature I've seen," she answered
softly. "I'll lead you direct to his cot."

"Thank you, thank you!" came the low reply.

In a moment she was beside him, and Elsie walked away to the open window
through which came the chirp of sparrows from the lilac bushes in full
bloom below.

The mother threw one look of infinite tenderness on the drawn face, and
her hands suddenly clasped in prayer:

"I thank Thee, Lord Jesus, for this hour! Thou hast heard the cry of my
soul and led my feet!" She gently knelt, kissed the hot lips, smoothed the
dark tangled hair back from his forehead, and her hand rested over his
eyes.

A faint flush tinged his face.

"It's you,
Mamma--I--know--you--that's--your--hand--or--else--it's--God's!"

She slipped her arms about him.

"My hero, my darling, my baby!"

"I'll get well now, Mamma, never fear. You see, I had whipped them
that day as I had many a time before. I don't know how it happened--my
men seemed all to go down at once. You know--I couldn't surrender in
that new uniform of a colonel you sent me--we made a gallant fight,
and--now--I'm--just--a--little--tired--but you are here, and it's all
right."

"Yes, yes, dear. It's all over now. General Lee has surrendered, and when
you are better I'll take you home, where the sunshine and flowers will
give you strength again."

"How's my little sis?"

"Hunting in another part of the city for you. She's grown so tall and
stately you'll hardly know her. Your papa is at home, and don't know yet
that you are wounded."

"And my sweetheart, Marion Lenoir?"

"The most beautiful little girl in Piedmont--as sweet and mischievous as
ever. Mr. Lenoir is very ill, but he has written a glorious poem about one
of your charges. I'll show it to you to-morrow. He is our greatest poet.
The South worships him. Marion sent her love to you and a kiss for the
young hero of Piedmont. I'll give it to you now."

She bent again and kissed him.

"And my dogs?"

"General Sherman left them, at least."

"Well, I'm glad of that--my mare all right?"

"Yes, but we had a time to save her--Jake hid her in the woods till the
army passed."

"Bully for Jake."

"I don't know what we should have done without him."

"Old Aleck still at home and getting drunk as usual?"

"No, he ran away with the army and persuaded every negro on the Lenoir
place to go, except his wife, Aunt Cindy."

"The old rascal, when Mrs. Lenoir's mother saved him from burning to death
when he was a boy!"

"Yes, and he told the Yankees those fire scars were made with the lash,
and led a squad to the house one night to burn the barns. Jake headed them
off and told on him. The soldiers were so mad they strung him up and
thrashed him nearly to death. We haven't seen him since."

"Well, I'll take care of you, Mamma, when I get home. Of course I'll get
well. It's absurd to die at nineteen. You know I never believed the bullet
had been moulded that could hit me. In three years of battle I lived a
charmed life and never got a scratch."

His voice had grown feeble and laboured, and his face flushed. His mother
placed her hand on his lips.

"Just one more," he pleaded feebly. "Did you see the little angel who has
been playing and singing for me? You must thank her."

"Yes, I see her coming now. I must go and tell Margaret, and we will get a
pass and come every day."

She kissed him, and went to meet Elsie.

"And you are the dear girl who has been playing and singing for my boy, a
wounded stranger here alone among his foes?"

"Yes, and for all the others, too."

Mrs. Cameron seized both of her hands and looked at her tenderly.

"You will let me kiss you? I shall always love you."

She pressed Elsie to her heart. In spite of the girl's reserve, a sob
caught her breath at the touch of the warm lips. Her own mother had died
when she was a baby, and a shy, hungry heart, long hidden from the world,
leaped in tenderness and pain to meet that embrace.

Elsie walked with her to the door, wondering how the terrible truth of her
boy's doom could be told.

She tried to speak, looked into Mrs. Cameron's face, radiant with grateful
joy, and the words froze on her lips. She decided to walk a little way
with her. But the task became all the harder.

At the corner she stopped abruptly and bade her good-bye:

"I must leave you now, Mrs. Cameron. I will call for you in the morning
and help you secure the passes to enter the hospital."

The mother stroked the girl's hand and held it lingeringly.

"How good you are," she said softly. "And you have not told me your
name?"

Elsie hesitated and said:

"That's a little secret. They call me Sister Elsie, the Banjo Maid, in the
hospitals. My father is a man of distinction. I should be annoyed if my
full name were known. I'm Elsie Stoneman. My father is the leader of the
House. I live with my aunt."

"Thank you," she whispered, pressing her hand.

Elsie watched the dark figure disappear in the crowd with a strange tumult
of feeling.

The mention of her father had revived the suspicion that he was the
mysterious power threatening the policy of the President and planning a
reign of terror for the South. Next to the President, he was the most
powerful man in Washington, and the unrelenting foe of Mr. Lincoln,
although the leader of his party in Congress, which he ruled with a rod of
iron. He was a man of fierce and terrible resentments. And yet, in his
personal life, to those he knew, he was generous and considerate. "Old
Austin Stoneman, the Great Commoner," he was called, and his name was one
to conjure with in the world of deeds. To this fair girl he was the
noblest Roman of them all, her ideal of greatness. He was an indulgent
father, and while not demonstrative, loved his children with passionate
devotion.

She paused and looked up at the huge marble columns that seemed each a
sentinel beckoning her to return within to the cot that held a wounded
foe. The twilight had deepened, and the soft light of the rising moon had
clothed the solemn majesty of the building with shimmering tenderness and
beauty.

"Why should I be distressed for one, an enemy, among these thousands who
have fallen?" she asked herself. Every detail of the scene she had passed
through with him and his mother stood out in her soul with startling
distinctness--and the horror of his doom cut with the deep sense of
personal anguish.

"He shall not die," she said, with sudden resolution. "I'll take his
mother to the President. He can't resist her. I'll send for Phil to help
me."

She hurried to the telegraph office and summoned her brother.



CHAPTER II

THE GREAT HEART


The next morning, when Elsie reached the obscure boarding-house at which
Mrs. Cameron stopped, the mother had gone to the market to buy a bunch of
roses to place beside her boy's cot.

As Elsie awaited her return, the practical little Yankee maid thought with
a pang of the tenderness and folly of such people. She knew this mother
had scarcely enough to eat, but to her bread was of small importance,
flowers necessary to life. After all, it was very sweet, this foolishness
of these Southern people, and it somehow made her homesick.

"How can I tell her!" she sighed. "And yet I must."

She had only waited a moment when Mrs. Cameron suddenly entered with her
daughter. She threw her flowers on the table, sprang forward to meet
Elsie, seized her hands and called to Margaret.

"How good of you to come so soon! This, Margaret, is our dear little
friend who has been so good to Ben and to me."

Margaret took Elsie's hand and longed to throw her arms around her neck,
but something in the quiet dignity of the Northern girl's manner held her
back. She only smiled tenderly through her big dark eyes, and softly
said:

"We love you! Ben was my last brother. We were playmates and chums. My
heart broke when he ran away to the front. How can we thank you and your
brother!"

"I'm sure we've done nothing more than you would have done for us," said
Elsie, as Mrs. Cameron left the room.

"Yes, I know, but we can never tell you how grateful we are to you. We
feel that you have saved Ben's life and ours. The war has been one long
horror to us since my first brother was killed. But now it's over, and we
have Ben left, and our hearts have been crying for joy all night."

"I hoped my brother, Captain Phil Stoneman, would be here to-day to meet
you and help me, but he can't reach Washington before Friday."

"He caught Ben in his arms!" cried Margaret. "I know he's brave, and you
must be proud of him."

"Doctor Barnes says they are as much alike as twins--only Phil is not
quite so tall and has blond hair like mine."

"You will let me see him and thank him the moment he comes?"

"Hurry, Margaret!" cheerily cried Mrs. Cameron, reëntering the parlour.
"Get ready; we must go at once to the hospital."

Margaret turned and with stately grace hurried from the room. The old
dress she wore as unconscious of its shabbiness as though it were a royal
robe.

"And now, my dear, what must I do to get the passes?" asked the mother
eagerly.

Elsie's warm amber eyes grew misty for a moment, and the fair skin with
its gorgeous rose tints of the North paled. She hesitated, tried to speak,
and was silent.

The sensitive soul of the Southern woman read the message of sorrow words
had not framed.

"Tell me, quickly! The
doctor--has--not--concealed--his--true--condition--from--me?"

"No, he is certain to recover."

"What then?"

"Worse--he is condemned to death by court-martial."

"Condemned to death--a--wounded--prisoner--of--war!" she whispered slowly,
with blanched face.

"Yes, he was accused of violating the rules of war as a guerilla raider in
the invasion of Pennsylvania."

"Absurd and monstrous! He was on General Jeb Stuart's staff and could have
acted only under his orders. He joined the infantry after Stuart's death,
and rose to be a colonel, though but a boy. There's some terrible
mistake!"

"Unless we can obtain his pardon," Elsie went on in even, restrained
tones, "there is no hope. We must appeal to the President."

The mother's lips trembled, and she seemed about to faint.

"Could I see the President?" she asked, recovering herself with an
effort.

"He has just reached Washington from the front, and is thronged by
thousands. It will be difficult."

The mother's lips were moving in silent prayer, and her eyes were tightly
closed to keep back the tears.

"Can you help me, dear?" she asked piteously.

"Yes," was the quick response.

"You see," she went on, "I feel so helpless. I have never been to the
White House or seen the President, and I don't know how to go about seeing
him or how to ask him--and--I am afraid of Mr. Lincoln! I have heard so
many harsh things said of him."

"I'll do my best, Mrs. Cameron. We must go at once to the White House and
try to see him."

The mother lifted the girl's hand and stroked it gently.

"We will not tell Margaret. Poor child! she could not endure this. When we
return, we may have better news. It can't be worse. I'll send her on an
errand."

She took up the bouquet of gorgeous roses with a sigh, buried her face in
the fresh perfume, as if to gain strength in their beauty and fragrance,
and left the room.

In a few moments she had returned and was on her way with Elsie to the
White House.

It was a beautiful spring morning, this eleventh day of April, 1865. The
glorious sunshine, the shimmering green of the grass, the warm breezes,
and the shouts of victory mocked the mother's anguish.

At the White House gates they passed the blue sentry pacing silently back
and forth, who merely glanced at them with keen eyes and said nothing. In
the steady beat of his feet the mother could hear the tramp of soldiers
leading her boy to the place of death!

A great lump rose in her throat as she caught the first view of the
Executive Mansion gleaming white and silent and ghostlike among the
budding trees. The tall columns of the great facade, spotless as snow, the
spray of the fountain, the marble walls, pure, dazzling, and cold, seemed
to her the gateway to some great tomb in which her own dead and the dead
of all the people lay! To her the fair white palace, basking there in the
sunlight and budding grass, shrub, and tree, was the Judgment House of
Fate. She thought of all the weary feet that had climbed its fateful steps
in hope to return in despair, of its fierce dramas on which the lives of
millions had hung, and her heart grew sick.

A long line of people already stretched from the entrance under the
portico far out across the park, awaiting their turn to see the
President.

Mrs. Cameron placed her hand falteringly on Elsie's shoulder.

"Look, my dear, what a crowd already! Must we wait in line?"

"No, I can get you past the throng with my father's name."

"Will it be very difficult to reach the President?"

"No, it's very easy. Guards and sentinels annoy him. He frets until they
are removed. An assassin or maniac could kill him almost any hour of the
day or night. The doors are open at all hours, very late at night. I have
often walked up to the rooms of his secretaries as late as nine o'clock
without being challenged by a soul."

"What must I call him? Must I say 'Your Excellency?'"

"By no means--he hates titles and forms. You should say 'Mr. President' in
addressing him. But you will please him best if, in your sweet, homelike
way, you will just call him by his name. You can rely on his sympathy.
Read this letter of his to a widow. I brought it to show you."

She handed Mrs. Cameron a newspaper clipping on which was printed Mr.
Lincoln's letter to Mrs. Bixby, of Boston, who had lost five sons in the
war.

Over and over she read its sentences until they echoed as solemn music in
her soul:

"I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should
attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I
cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the
thanks of the republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father
may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the
cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be
yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

"Yours very sincerely and respectfully,

"ABRAHAM LINCOLN."

"And the President paused amid a thousand cares to write that letter to a
broken-hearted woman?" the mother asked.

"Yes."

"Then he is good down to the last secret depths of a great heart! Only a
Christian father could have written that letter. I shall not be afraid to
speak to him. And they told me he was an infidel!"

Elsie led her by a private way past the crowd and into the office of Major
Hay, the President's private secretary. A word from the Great Commoner's
daughter admitted them at once to the President's room.

"Just take a seat on one side, Miss Elsie," said Major Hay; "watch your
first opportunity and introduce your friend."

On entering the room, Mrs. Cameron could not see the President, who was
seated at his desk surrounded by three men in deep consultation over a
mass of official documents.

She looked about the room nervously and felt reassured by its plain
aspect. It was a medium-sized, officelike place, with no signs of elegance
or ceremony. Mr. Lincoln was seated in an armchair beside a high
writing-desk and table combined. She noticed that his feet were large and
that they rested on a piece of simple straw matting. Around the room were
sofas and chairs covered with green worsted.

When the group about the chair parted a moment, she caught the first
glimpse of the man who held her life in the hollow of his hand. She
studied him with breathless interest. His back was still turned. Even
while seated, she saw that he was a man of enormous stature, fully six
feet four inches tall, legs and arms abnormally long, and huge broad
shoulders slightly stooped. His head was powerful and crowned with a mass
of heavy brown hair, tinged with silver.

He turned his head slightly and she saw his profile set in its short dark
beard--the broad intellectual brow, half covered by unmanageable hair, his
face marked with deep-cut lines of life and death, with great hollows in
the cheeks and under the eyes. In the lines which marked the corners of
his mouth she could see firmness, and his beetling brows and unusually
heavy eyelids looked stern and formidable. Her heart sank. She looked
again and saw goodness, tenderness, sorrow, canny shrewdness, and a
strange lurking smile all haunting his mouth and eye.

Suddenly he threw himself forward in his chair, wheeled and faced one of
his tormentors with a curious and comical expression. With one hand
patting the other, and a funny look overspreading his face, he said:

"My friend, let me tell you something----"

The man again stepped before him, and she could hear nothing. When the
story was finished, the man tried to laugh. It died in a feeble effort.
But the President laughed heartily, laughed all over, and laughed his
visitors out of the room.

Mrs. Cameron turned toward Elsie with a mute look of appeal to give her
this moment of good-humour in which to plead her cause, but before she
could move a man of military bearing suddenly stepped before the
President.

He began to speak, but seeing the look of stern decision in Mr. Lincoln's
face, turned abruptly and said:

"Mr. President, I see you are fully determined not to do me justice!"

Mr. Lincoln slightly compressed his lips, rose quietly, seized the
intruder by the arm, and led him toward the door.

"This is the third time you have forced your presence on me, sir, asking
that I reverse the just sentence of a court-martial, dismissing you from
the service. I told you my decision was carefully made and was final. Now
I give you fair warning never to show yourself in this room again. I can
bear censure, but I will not endure insult!"

In whining tones the man begged for his papers he had dropped.

"Begone, sir," said the President, as he thrust him through the door.
"Your papers will be sent to you."

The poor mother trembled at this startling act and sank back limp in her
seat.

With quick, swinging stride the President walked back to his desk,
accompanied by Major Hay and a young German girl, whose simple dress told
that she was from the Western plains.

He handed the secretary an official paper.

"Give this pardon to the boy's mother when she comes this morning," he
said kindly to the secretary, his eyes suddenly full of gentleness.

"How could I consent to shoot a boy raised on a farm, in the habit of
going to bed at dark, for falling asleep at his post when required to
watch all night? I'll never go into eternity with the blood of such a boy
on my skirts."

Again the mother's heart rose.

"You remember the young man I pardoned for a similar offence in '62, about
which Stanton made such a fuss?" he went on in softly reminiscent tones.
"Well, here is that pardon."

He drew from the lining of his silk hat a photograph, around which was
wrapped an executive pardon. Through the lower end of it was a bullet-hole
stained with blood.

"I got this in Richmond. They found him dead on the field. He fell in the
front ranks with my photograph in his pocket next to his heart, this
pardon wrapped around it, and on the back of it in his boy's scrawl, '_God
bless Abraham Lincoln_.' I love to invest in bonds like that."

The secretary returned to his room, the girl who was waiting stepped
forward, and the President rose to receive her.

The mother's quick eye noted, with surprise, the simple dignity and
chivalry of manner with which he received this humble woman of the
people.

With straightforward eloquence the girl poured out her story, begging for
the pardon of her young brother who had been sentenced to death as a
deserter. He listened in silence.

How pathetic the deep melancholy of his sad face! Yes, she was sure, the
saddest face that God ever made in all the world! Her own stricken heart
for a moment went out to him in sympathy.

The President took off his spectacles, wiped his forehead with the large
red silk handkerchief he carried, and his eyes twinkled kindly down into
the good German face.

"You seem an honest, truthful, sweet girl," he said, "and"--he
smiled--"you don't wear hoop skirts! I may be whipped for this, but I'll
trust you and your brother, too. He shall be pardoned." Elsie rose to
introduce Mrs. Cameron, when a Congressman from Massachusetts suddenly
stepped before her and pressed for the pardon of a slave trader whose ship
had been confiscated. He had spent five years in prison, but could not pay
the heavy fine in money imposed.

The President had taken his seat again, and read the eloquent appeal for
mercy. He looked up over his spectacles, fixed his eyes piercingly on the
Congressman and said:

"This is a moving appeal, sir, expressed with great eloquence. I might
pardon a murderer under the spell of such words, but a man who can make a
business of going to Africa and robbing her of her helpless children and
selling them into bondage--no, sir--he may rot in jail before he shall
have liberty by any act of mine!"

Again the mother's heart sank.

Her hour had come. She must put the issue of life or death to the test,
and as Elsie rose and stepped quickly forward, she followed; nerving
herself for the ordeal.

The President took Elsie's hand familiarly and smiled without rising.
Evidently she was well known to him.

"Will you hear the prayer of a broken-hearted mother of the South, who has
lost four sons in General Lee's army?" she asked.

Looking quietly past the girl, he caught sight, for the first time, of the
faded dress and the sorrow-shadowed face.

He was on his feet in a moment, extended his hand and led her to a chair.

"Take this seat, Madam, and then tell me in your own way what I can do for
you." In simple words, mighty with the eloquence of a mother's heart, she
told her story and asked for the pardon of her boy, promising his word of
honour and her own that he would never again take up arms against the
Union.

"The war is over now, Mr. Lincoln," she said, "and we have lost all. Can
you conceive the desolation of _my_ heart? My four boys were noble men.
They may have been wrong, but they fought for what they believed to be
right. You, too, have lost a boy."

The President's eyes grew dim.

"Yes, a beautiful boy----" he said simply.

"Well, mine are all gone but this baby. One of them sleeps in an unmarked
grave at Gettysburg. One died in a Northern prison. One fell at
Chancellorsville, one in the Wilderness, and this, my baby, before
Petersburg. Perhaps I've loved him too much, this last one--he's only a
child yet----"

"You shall have your boy, my dear Madam," the President said simply,
seating himself and writing a brief order to the Secretary of War.

The mother drew near his desk, softly crying. Through her tears she said:

"My heart is heavy, Mr. Lincoln, when I think of all the hard and bitter
things we have heard of you."

"Well, give my love to the people of South Carolina when you go home, and
tell them that I am their President, and that I have never forgotten this
fact in the darkest hours of this awful war; and I am going to do
everything in my power to help them." "You will never regret this generous
act," the mother cried with gratitude.

"I reckon not," he answered. "I'll tell you something, Madam, if you won't
tell anybody. It's a secret of my administration. I'm only too glad of an
excuse to save a life when I can. Every drop of blood shed in this war
North and South has been as if it were wrung out of my heart. A strange
fate decreed that the bloodiest war in human history should be fought
under my direction. And I--to whom the sight of blood is a sickening
horror--I have been compelled to look on in silent anguish because I could
not stop it! Now that the Union is saved, not another drop of blood shall
be spilled if I can prevent it."

"May God bless you!" the mother cried, as she received from him the
order.

She held his hand an instant as she took her leave, laughing and sobbing
in her great joy.

"I must tell you, Mr. President," she said, "how surprised and how pleased
I am to find you are a Southern man."

"Why, didn't you know that my parents were Virginians, and that I was born
in Kentucky?"

"Very few people in the South know it. I am ashamed to say I did not."

"Then, how did you know I am a Southerner?"

"By your looks, your manner of speech, your easy, kindly ways, your
tenderness and humour, your firmness in the right as you see it, and,
above all, the way you rose and bowed to a woman in an old, faded black
dress, whom you knew to be an enemy." "No, Madam, not an enemy now," he
said softly. "That word is out of date."

"If we had only known you in time----"

The President accompanied her to the door with a deference of manner that
showed he had been deeply touched.

"Take this letter to Mr. Stanton at once," he said. "Some folks complain
of my pardons, but it rests me after a hard day's work if I can save some
poor boy's life. I go to bed happy, thinking of the joy I have given to
those who love him."

As the last words were spoken, a peculiar dreaminess of expression stole
over his careworn face, as if a throng of gracious memories had lifted for
a moment the burden of his life.



CHAPTER III

THE MAN OF WAR


Elsie led Mrs. Cameron direct from the White House to the War Department.

"Well, Mrs. Cameron, what did you think of the President?" she asked.

"I hardly know," was the thoughtful answer. "He is the greatest man I ever
met. One feels this instinctively."

When Mrs. Cameron was ushered into the Secretary's Office, Mr. Stanton was
seated at his desk writing.

She handed the order of the President to a clerk, who gave it to the
Secretary.

He was a man in the full prime of life, intellectual and physical, low and
heavy set, about five feet eight inches in height and inclined to fat. His
movements, however, were quick, and as he swung in his chair the keenest
vigour marked every movement of body and every change of his countenance.

His face was swarthy and covered with a long, dark beard touched with
gray. He turned a pair of little black piercing eyes on her and without
rising said:

"So you are the woman who has a wounded son under sentence of death as a
guerilla?"

"I am so unfortunate," she answered.

"Well, I have nothing to say to you," he went on in a louder and sterner
tone, "and no time to waste on you. If you have raised up men to rebel
against the best government under the sun, you can take the
consequences----"

"But, my dear sir," broke in the mother, "he is a mere boy of nineteen,
who ran away three years ago and entered the service----"

"I don't want to hear another word from you!" he yelled in rage. "I have
no time to waste--go at once. I'll do nothing for you."

"But I bring you an order from the President," protested the mother.

"Yes, I know it," he answered with a sneer, "and I'll do with it what I've
done with many others--see that it is not executed--now go."

"But the President told me you would give me a pass to the hospital, and
that a full pardon would be issued to my boy!"

"Yes, I see. But let me give you some information. The President is a
fool--a d---- fool! Now, will you go?"

With a sinking sense of horror, Mrs. Cameron withdrew and reported to
Elsie the unexpected encounter.

"The brute!" cried the girl. "We'll go back immediately and report this
insult to the President."

"Why are such men intrusted with power?" the mother sighed.

"It's a mystery to me, I'm sure. They say he is the greatest Secretary of
War in our history. I don't believe it. Phil hates the sight of him, and
so does every army officer I know, from General Grant down. I hope Mr.
Lincoln will expel him from the Cabinet for this insult."

When, they were again ushered into the President's office, Elsie hastened
to inform him of the outrageous reply the Secretary of War had made to his
order.

"Did Stanton say that I was a fool?" he asked, with a quizzical look out
of his kindly eyes.

"Yes, he did," snapped Elsie. "And he repeated it with a blankety
prefix."

The President looked good-humouredly out of the window toward the War
Office and musingly said:

"Well, if Stanton says that I am a blankety fool, it must be so, for I
have found out that he is nearly always right, and generally means what he
says. I'll just step over and see Stanton."

As he spoke the last sentence, the humour slowly faded from his face, and
the anxious mother saw back of those patient gray eyes the sudden gleam of
the courage and conscious power of a lion.

He dismissed them with instructions to return the next day for his final
orders and walked over to the War Department alone.

The Secretary of War was in one of his ugliest moods, and made no effort
to conceal it when asked his reasons for the refusal to execute the
order.

"The grounds for my action are very simple," he said with bitter emphasis.
"The execution of this traitor is part of a carefully considered policy of
justice on which the future security of the Nation depends. If I am to
administer this office, I will not be hamstrung by constant Executive
interference. Besides, in this particular case, I was urged that justice
be promptly executed by the most powerful man in Congress. I advise you to
avoid a quarrel with old Stoneman at this crisis in our history."

The President sat on a sofa with his legs crossed, relapsed into an
attitude of resignation, and listened in silence until the last sentence,
when suddenly he sat bolt upright, fixed his deep gray eyes intently on
Stanton and said:

"Mr. Secretary, I reckon you will have to execute that order."

"I cannot do it," came the firm answer. "It is an interference with
justice, and I will not execute it."

Mr. Lincoln held his eyes steadily on Stanton and slowly said:

"Mr. Secretary, it will have to be done."

Stanton wheeled in his chair, seized a pen and wrote very rapidly a few
lines to which he fixed his signature. He rose with the paper in his hand,
walked to his chief, and with deep emotion said:

"Mr. President, I wish to thank you for your constant friendship during
the trying years I have held this office. The war is ended, and my work is
done. I hand you my resignation."

Mr. Lincoln's lips came suddenly together, he slowly rose, and looked down
with surprise into the flushed angry face.

He took the paper, tore it into pieces, slipped one of his long arms
around the Secretary, and said in low accents:

"Stanton, you have been a faithful public servant, and it is not for you
to say when you will no longer be needed. Go on with your work. I will
have my way in this matter; but I will attend to it personally."

Stanton resumed his seat, and the President returned to the White House.



CHAPTER IV

A CLASH OF GIANTS


Elsie secured from the Surgeon-General temporary passes for the day, and
sent her friends to the hospital with the promise that she would not leave
the White House until she had secured the pardon.

The President greeted her with unusual warmth. The smile that had only
haunted his sad face during four years of struggle, defeat, and
uncertainty had now burst into joy that made his powerful head radiate
light. Victory had lifted the veil from his soul, and he was girding
himself for the task of healing the Nation's wounds.

"I'll have it ready for you in a moment, Miss Elsie," he said, touching
with his sinewy hand a paper which lay on his desk, bearing on its face
the red seal of the Republic. "I am only waiting to receive the passes."

"I am very grateful to you, Mr. President," the girl said feelingly.

"But tell me," he said, with quaint, fatherly humour, "why you, of all our
girls, the brightest, fiercest little Yankee in town, so take to heart a
rebel boy's sorrows?"

Elsie blushed, and then looked at him frankly with a saucy smile.

"I am fulfilling the Commandments."

"Love your enemies?"

"Certainly. How could one help loving the sweet, motherly face you saw
yesterday."

The President laughed heartily. "I see--of course, of course!"

"The Honourable Austin Stoneman," suddenly announced a clerk at his
elbow.

Elsie started in surprise and whispered:

"Do not let my father know I am here. I will wait in the next room. You'll
let nothing delay the pardon, will you, Mr. President?"

Mr. Lincoln warmly pressed her hand as she disappeared through the door
leading into Major Hay's room, and turned to meet the Great Commoner who
hobbled slowly in, leaning on his crooked cane.

At this moment he was a startling and portentous figure in the drama of
the Nation, the most powerful parliamentary leader in American history,
not excepting Henry Clay.

No stranger ever passed this man without a second look. His clean-shaven
face, the massive chiselled features, his grim eagle look, and cold,
colourless eyes, with the frosts of his native Vermont sparkling in their
depths, compelled attention.

His walk was a painful hobble. He was lame in both feet, and one of them
was deformed. The left leg ended in a mere bunch of flesh, resembling more
closely an elephant's hoof than the foot of a man.

He was absolutely bald, and wore a heavy brown wig that seemed too small
to reach the edge of his enormous forehead.

He rarely visited the White House. He was the able, bold, unscrupulous
leader of leaders, and men came to see him. He rarely smiled, and when he
did it was the smile of the cynic and misanthrope. His tongue had the lash
of a scorpion. He was a greater terror to the trimmers and time-servers of
his own party than to his political foes. He had hated the President with
sullen, consistent, and unyielding venom from his first nomination at
Chicago down to the last rumour of his new proclamation.

In temperament a fanatic, in impulse a born revolutionist, the word
conservatism was to him as a red rag to a bull. The first clash of arms
was music to his soul. He laughed at the call for 75,000 volunteers, and
demanded the immediate equipment of an army of a million men. He saw it
grow to 2,000,000. From the first, his eagle eye had seen the end and all
the long, blood-marked way between. And from the first, he began to plot
the most cruel and awful vengeance in human history.

And now his time had come.

The giant figure in the White House alone had dared to brook his anger and
block the way; for old Stoneman was the Congress of the United States. The
opposition was too weak even for his contempt. Cool, deliberate, and
venomous alike in victory or defeat, the fascination of his positive faith
and revolutionary programme had drawn the rank and file of his party in
Congress to him as charmed satellites.

The President greeted him cordially, and with his habitual deference to
age and physical infirmity hastened to place for him an easy chair near
his desk.

He was breathing heavily and evidently labouring under great emotion. He
brought his cane to the floor with violence, placed both hands on its
crook, leaned his massive jaws on his hands for a moment, and then said:

"Mr. President, I have not annoyed you with many requests during the past
four years, nor am I here to-day to ask any favours. I have come to warn
you that, in the course you have mapped out, the executive and legislative
branches have come to the parting of the ways, and that your encroachments
on the functions of Congress will be tolerated, now that the Rebellion is
crushed, not for a single moment!"

Mr. Lincoln listened with dignity, and a ripple of fun played about his
eyes as he looked at his grim visitor. The two men were face to face at
last--the two men above all others who had built and were to build the
foundations of the New Nation--Lincoln's in love and wisdom to endure
forever, the Great Commoner's in hate and madness, to bear its harvest of
tragedy and death for generations yet unborn.

"Well, now, Stoneman," began the good-humoured voice, "that puts me in
mind----"

The old Commoner lifted his hand with a gesture of angry impatience:

"Save your fables for fools. Is it true that you have prepared a
proclamation restoring the conquered province of North Carolina to its
place as a State in the Union with no provision for negro suffrage or the
exile and disfranchisement of its rebels?"

The President rose and walked back and forth with his hands folded behind
him before answering.

"I have. The Constitution grants to the National Government no power to
regulate suffrage, and makes no provision for the control of 'conquered
provinces.'"

"Constitution!" thundered Stoneman. "I have a hundred constitutions in the
pigeonholes of my desk!"

"I have sworn to support but one."

"A worn-out rag----"

"Rag or silk, I've sworn to execute it, and I'll do it, so help me God!"
said the quiet voice.

"You've been doing it for the past four years, haven't you!" sneered the
Commoner. "What right had you under the Constitution to declare war
against a 'sovereign' State? To invade one for coercion? To blockade a
port? To declare slaves free? To suspend the writ of _habeas corpus_? To
create the State of West Virginia by the consent of two states, one of
which was dead, and the other one of which lived in Ohio? By what
authority have you appointed military governors in the 'sovereign' States
of Virginia, Tennessee, and Louisiana? Why trim the hedge and lie about
it? We, too, are revolutionists, and you are our executive. The
Constitution sustained and protected slavery. It _was_ 'a league with
death and a covenant with hell,' and our flag 'a polluted rag!'"

"In the stress of war," said the President, with a far-away look, "it was
necessary that I do things as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy to
save the Union which I have no right to do now that the Union is saved and
its Constitution preserved. My first duty is to re-establish the
Constitution as our supreme law over every inch of our soil."

"The Constitution be d----d!" hissed the old man. "It was the creation,
both in letter and spirit, of the slaveholders of the South."

"Then the world is their debtor, and their work is a monument of
imperishable glory to them and to their children. I have sworn to preserve
it!"

"We have outgrown the swaddling clothes of a babe. We will make new
constitutions!"

"'Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,'" softly spoke the tall,
self-contained man.

For the first time the old leader winced. He had long ago exhausted the
vocabulary of contempt on the President, his character, ability, and
policy. He felt as a shock the first impression of supreme authority with
which he spoke. The man he had despised had grown into the great
constructive statesman who would dispute with him every inch of ground in
the attainment of his sinister life purpose.

His hatred grew more intense as he realized the prestige and power with
which he was clothed by his mighty office.

With an effort he restrained his anger, and assumed an argumentative
tone.

"Can't you see that your so-called States are now but conquered provinces?
That North Carolina and other waste territories of the United States are
unfit to associate with civilized communities?"

"We fought no war of conquest," quietly urged the President, "but one of
self-preservation as an indissoluble Union. No State ever got out of it,
by the grace of God and the power of our arms. Now that we have won, and
established for all time its unity, shall we stultify ourselves by
declaring we were wrong? These States must be immediately restored to
their rights, or we shall betray the blood we have shed. There are no
'conquered provinces' for us to spoil. A nation cannot make conquest of
its own territory."

"But we are acting outside the Constitution," interrupted Stoneman.

"Congress has no existence outside the Constitution," was the quick
answer.

The old Commoner scowled, and his beetling brows hid for a moment his
eyes. His keen intellect was catching its first glimpse of the
intellectual grandeur of the man with whom he was grappling. The facility
with which he could see all sides of a question, and the vivid imagination
which lit his mental processes, were a revelation. We always underestimate
the men we despise.

"Why not out with it?" cried Stoneman, suddenly changing his tack. "You
are determined to oppose negro suffrage?"

"I have suggested to Governor Hahn of Louisiana to consider the policy of
admitting the more intelligent and those who served in the war. It is only
a suggestion. The State alone has the power to confer the ballot."

"But the truth is this little 'suggestion' of yours is only a bone thrown
to radical dogs to satisfy our howlings for the moment! In your soul of
souls you don't believe in the equality of man if the man under comparison
be a negro?"

"I believe that there is a physical difference between the white and black
races which will forever forbid their living together on terms of
political and social equality. If such be attempted, one must go to the
wall."

"Very well, pin the Southern white man to the wall. Our party and the
Nation will then be safe."

"That is to say, destroy African slavery and establish white slavery under
negro masters! That would be progress with a vengeance."

A grim smile twitched the old man's lips as he said:

"Yes, your prim conservative snobs and male waiting-maids in Congress went
into hysterics when I armed the negroes. Yet the heavens have not
fallen."

"True. Yet no more insane blunder could now be made than any further
attempt to use these negro troops. There can be no such thing as restoring
this Union to its basis of fraternal peace with armed negroes, wearing the
uniform of this Nation, tramping over the South, and rousing the basest
passions of the freedmen and their former masters. General Butler, their
old commander, is now making plans for their removal, at my request. He
expects to dig the Panama Canal with these black troops."

"Fine scheme that--on a par with your messages to Congress asking for the
colonization of the whole negro race!"

"It will come to that ultimately," said the President firmly. "The negro
has cost us $5,000,000,000, the desolation of ten great States, and rivers
of blood. We can well afford a few million dollars more to effect a
permanent settlement of the issue. This is the only policy on which Seward
and I have differed----"

"Then Seward was not an utterly hopeless fool. I'm glad to hear something
to his credit," growled the old Commoner.

"I have urged the colonization of the negroes, and I shall continue until
it is accomplished. My emancipation proclamation was linked with this
plan. Thousands of them have lived in the North for a hundred years, yet
not one is the pastor of a white church, a judge, a governor, a mayor, or
a college president. There is no room for two distinct races of white men
in America, much less for two distinct races of whites and blacks. We can
have no inferior servile class, peon or peasant. We must assimilate or
expel. The American is a citizen king or nothing. I can conceive of no
greater calamity than the assimilation of the negro into our social and
political life as our equal. A mulatto citizenship would be too dear a
price to pay even for emancipation."

"Words have no power to express my loathing for such twaddle!" cried
Stoneman, snapping his great jaws together and pursing his lips with
contempt.

"If the negro were not here would we allow him to land?" the President
went on, as if talking to himself. "The duty to exclude carries the right
to expel. Within twenty years we can peacefully colonize the negro in the
tropics, and give him our language, literature, religion, and system of
government under conditions in which he can rise to the full measure of
manhood. This he can never do here. It was the fear of the black tragedy
behind emancipation that led the South into the insanity of secession. We
can never attain the ideal Union our fathers dreamed, with millions of an
alien, inferior race among us, whose assimilation is neither possible nor
desirable. The Nation cannot now exist half white and half black, any more
than it could exist half slave and half free."

"Yet 'God hath made of one blood all races,'" quoted the cynic with a
sneer.

"Yes--but finish the sentence--'and fixed the bounds of their habitation.'
God never meant that the negro should leave his habitat or the white man
invade his home. Our violation of this law is written in two centuries of
shame and blood. And the tragedy will not be closed until the black man is
restored to his home."

"I marvel that the minions of slavery elected Jeff Davis their chief with
so much better material at hand!"

"His election was a tragic and superfluous blunder. I am the President of
the United States, North and South," was the firm reply.

"Particularly the South!" hissed Stoneman. "During all this hideous war
they have been your pets--these rebel savages who have been murdering our
sons. You have been the ever-ready champion of traitors. And you now dare
to bend this high office to their defence----"

"My God, Stoneman, are you a man or a savage!" cried the President. "Is
not the North equally responsible for slavery? Has not the South lost all?
Have not the Southern people paid the full penalty of all the crimes of
war? Are our skirts free? Was Sherman's march a picnic? This war has been
a giant conflict of principles to decide whether we are a bundle of petty
sovereignties held by a rope of sand or a mighty nation of freemen. But
for the loyalty of four border Southern States--but for Farragut and
Thomas and their two hundred thousand heroic Southern brethren who fought
for the Union against their own flesh and blood, we should have lost. You
cannot indict a people----"

"I do indict them!" muttered the old man.

"Surely," went on the even, throbbing voice, "surely, the vastness of this
war, its titanic battles, its heroism, its sublime earnestness, should
sink into oblivion all low schemes of vengeance! Before the sheer grandeur
of its history our children will walk with silent lips and uncovered
heads."

"And forget the prison pen at Andersonville!"

"Yes. We refused, as a policy of war, to exchange those prisoners,
blockaded their ports, made medicine contraband, and brought the Southern
Army itself to starvation. The prison records, when made at last for
history, will show as many deaths on our side as on theirs."

"The murderer on the gallows always wins more sympathy than his forgotten
victim," interrupted the cynic.

"The sin of vengeance is an easy one under the subtle plea of justice,"
said the sorrowful voice. "Have we not had enough bloodshed? Is not God's
vengeance enough? When Sherman's army swept to the sea, before him lay the
Garden of Eden, behind him stretched a desert! A hundred years cannot give
back to the wasted South her wealth, or two hundred years restore to her
the lost seed treasures of her young manhood----"

"The imbecility of a policy of mercy in this crisis can only mean the
reign of treason and violence," persisted the old man, ignoring the
President's words.

"I leave my policy before the judgment bar of time, content with its
verdict. In my place, radicalism would have driven the border States into
the Confederacy, every Southern man back to his kinsmen, and divided the
North itself into civil conflict. I have sought to guide and control
public opinion into the ways on which depended our life. This rational
flexibility of policy you and your fellow radicals have been pleased to
call my vacillating imbecility."

"And what is your message for the South?"

"Simply this: 'Abolish slavery, come back home, and behave yourself.' Lee
surrendered to our offers of peace and amnesty. In my last message to
Congress I told the Southern people they could have peace at any moment by
simply laying down their arms and submitting to National authority. Now
that they have taken me at my word, shall I betray them by an ignoble
revenge? Vengeance cannot heal and purify: it can only brutalize and
destroy."

Stoneman shuffled to his feet with impatience.

"I see it is useless to argue with you. I'll not waste my breath. I give
you an ultimatum. The South is conquered soil. I mean to blot it from the
map. Rather than admit one traitor to the halls of Congress from these
so-called States I will shatter the Union itself into ten thousand
fragments! I will not sit beside men whose clothes smell of the blood of
my kindred. At least dry them before they come in. Four years ago, with
yells and curses, these traitors left the halls of Congress to join the
armies of Catiline. Shall they return to rule?"

"I repeat," said the President, "you cannot indict a people. Treason is an
easy word to speak. A traitor is one who fights and loses. Washington was
a traitor to George III. Treason won, and Washington is immortal. Treason
is a word that victors hurl at those who fail."

"Listen to me," Stoneman interrupted with vehemence. "The life of our
party demands that the negro be given the ballot and made the ruler of the
South. This can be done only by the extermination of its landed
aristocracy, that their mothers shall not breed another race of traitors.
This is not vengeance. It is justice, it is patriotism, it is the highest
wisdom and humanity. Nature, at times, blots out whole communities and
races that obstruct progress. Such is the political genius of these people
that, unless you make the negro the ruler, the South will yet reconquer
the North and undo the work of this war."

"If the South in poverty and ruin can do this, we deserve to be ruled! The
North is rich and powerful--the South a land of wreck and tomb. I greet
with wonder, shame, and scorn such ignoble fear! The Nation cannot be
healed until the South is healed. Let the gulf be closed in which we bury
slavery, sectional animosity, and all strifes and hatreds. The good sense
of our people will never consent to your scheme of insane vengeance."

"The people have no sense. A new fool is born every second. They are ruled
by impulse and passion."

"I have trusted them before, and they have not failed me. The day I left
for Gettysburg to dedicate the battlefield, you were so sure of my defeat
in the approaching convention that you shouted across the street to a
friend as I passed: 'Let the dead bury the dead!' It was a brilliant sally
of wit. I laughed at it myself. And yet the people unanimously called me
again to lead them to victory."

"Yes, in the past," said Stoneman bitterly, "you have triumphed, but mark
my word: from this hour your star grows dim. The slumbering fires of
passion will be kindled. In the fight we join to-day I'll break your back
and wring the neck of every dastard and time-server who fawns at your
feet."

The President broke into a laugh that only increased the old man's wrath.

"I protest against the insult of your buffoonery!"

"Excuse me, Stoneman; I have to laugh or die beneath the burdens I bear,
surrounded by such supporters!"

"Mark my word," growled the old leader, "from the moment you publish that
North Carolina proclamation, your name will be a by-word in Congress."

"There are higher powers."

"You will need them."

"I'll have help," was the calm reply, as the dreaminess of the poet and
mystic stole over the rugged face. "I would be a presumptuous fool,
indeed, if I thought that for a day I could discharge the duties of this
great office without the aid of One who is wiser and stronger than all
others."

"You'll need the help of Almighty God in the course you've mapped out!"

"Some ships come into port that are not steered," went on the dreamy
voice. "Suppose Pickett had charged one hour earlier at Gettysburg?
Suppose the _Monitor_ had arrived one hour later at Hampton Roads? I had a
dream last night that always presages great events. I saw a white ship
passing swiftly under full sail. I have often seen her before. I have
never known her port of entry, or her destination, but I have always known
her Pilot!"

The cynic's lips curled with scorn. He leaned heavily on his cane, and
took a shambling step toward the door.

"You refuse to heed the wishes of Congress?"

"If your words voice them, yes. Force your scheme of revenge on the South,
and you sow the wind to reap the whirlwind."

"Indeed! and from what secret cave will this whirlwind come?"

"The despair of a mighty race of world-conquering men, even in defeat, is
still a force that statesmen reckon with."

"I defy them," growled the old Commoner.

Again the dreamy look returned to Lincoln's face, and he spoke as if
repeating a message of the soul caught in the clouds in an hour of
transfiguration:

"And I'll trust the honour of Lee and his people. The mystic chords of
memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every
living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the
chorus of the Union, when touched again, as they surely will be, by the
better angels of our nature."

"You'll be lucky to live to hear that chorus."

"To dream it is enough. If I fall by the hand of an assassin now, he will
not come from the South. I was safer in Richmond, this week, than I am in
Washington, to-day."

The cynic grunted and shuffled another step toward the door.

The President came closer.

"Look here, Stoneman; have you some deep personal motive in this vengeance
on the South? Come, now, I've never in my life known you to tell a lie."

The answer was silence and a scowl.

"Am I right?"

"Yes and no. I hate the South because I hate the Satanic Institution of
Slavery with consuming fury. It has long ago rotted the heart out of the
Southern people. Humanity cannot live in its tainted air, and its children
are doomed. If my personal wrongs have ordained me for a mighty task, no
matter; I am simply the chosen instrument of Justice!"

Again the mystic light clothed the rugged face, calm and patient as
Destiny, as the President slowly repeated:

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the
right, as God gives me to see the right, I shall strive to finish the work
we are in, and bind up the Nation's wounds."

"I've given you fair warning," cried the old Commoner, trembling with
rage, as he hobbled nearer the door. "From this hour your administration
is doomed."

"Stoneman," said the kindly voice, "I can't tell you how your venomous
philanthropy sickens me. You have misunderstood and abused me at every
step during the past four years. I bear you no ill will. If I have said
anything to-day to hurt your feelings, forgive me. The earnestness with
which you pressed the war was an invaluable service to me and to the
Nation. I'd rather work with you than fight you. But now that we have to
fight, I'd as well tell you I'm not afraid of you. I'll suffer my right
arm to be severed from my body before I'll sign one measure of ignoble
revenge on a brave, fallen foe, and I'll keep up this fight until I win,
die, or my country forsakes me."

"I have always known you had a sneaking admiration for the South," came
the sullen sneer.

"I love the South! It is a part of this Union. I love every foot of its
soil, every hill and valley, mountain, lake, and sea, and every man,
woman, and child that breathes beneath its skies. I am an American."

As the burning words leaped from the heart of the President the broad
shoulders of his tall form lifted, and his massive head rose in
unconscious heroic pose.

"I marvel that you ever made war upon your loved ones!" cried the cynic.

"We fought the South because we loved her and would not let her go. Now
that she is crushed and lies bleeding at our feet--you shall not make war
on the wounded, dying, and the dead!"

Again the lion gleamed in the calm gray eyes.



CHAPTER IV

THE BATTLE OF LOVE


Elsie carried Ben Cameron's pardon to the anxious mother and sister with
her mind in a tumult. The name on these fateful papers fascinated her. She
read it again and again with a curious personal joy that she had saved a
life!

She had entered on her work among the hospitals a bitter partisan of her
father's school, with the simple idea that all Southerners were savage
brutes. Yet as she had seen the wounded boys from the South among the men
in blue, more and more she had forgotten the difference between them. They
were so young, these slender, dark-haired ones from Dixie--so pitifully
young! Some of them were only fifteen, and hundreds not over sixteen. A
lad of fourteen she had kissed one day in sheer agony of pity for his
loneliness.

The part her father was playing in the drama on which Ben Cameron's life
had hung puzzled her. Was his the mysterious arm back of Stanton? Echoes
of the fierce struggle with the President had floated through the
half-open door.

She had implicit faith in her father's patriotism and pride in his giant
intellect. She knew that he was a king among men by divine right of
inherent power. His sensitive spirit, brooding over a pitiful lameness,
had hidden from the world behind a frowning brow like a wounded animal.
Yet her hand in hours of love, when no eye save God's could see, had led
his great soul out of its dark lair. She loved him with brooding
tenderness, knowing that she had gotten closer to his inner life than any
other human being--closer than her own mother, who had died while she was
a babe. Her aunt, with whom she and Phil now lived, had told her the
mother's life was not a happy one. Their natures had not proved congenial,
and her gentle Quaker spirit had died of grief in the quiet home in
southern Pennsylvania.

Yet there were times when he was a stranger even to her. Some secret, dark
and cold, stood between them. Once she had tenderly asked him what it
meant. He merely pressed her hand, smiled wearily, and said:

"Nothing, my dear, only the Blue Devils after me again."

He had always lived in Washington in a little house with black shutters,
near the Capitol, while the children had lived with his sister, near the
White House, where they had grown from babyhood.

A curious fact about this place on the Capitol hill was that his
housekeeper, Lydia Brown, was a mulatto, a woman of extraordinary animal
beauty and the fiery temper of a leopardess. Elsie had ventured there once
and got such a welcome she would never return. All sorts of gossip could
be heard in Washington about this woman, her jewels, her dresses, her
airs, her assumption of the dignity of the presiding genius of National
legislation and her domination of the old Commoner and his life. It
gradually crept into the newspapers and magazines, but he never once
condescended to notice it.

Elsie begged her father to close this house and live with them.

His reply was short and emphatic:

"Impossible, my child. This club foot must live next door to the Capitol.
My house is simply an executive office at which I sleep. Half the business
of the Nation is transacted there. Don't mention this subject again."

Elsie choked back a sob at the cold menace in the tones of this command,
and never repeated her request. It was the only wish he had ever denied
her, and, somehow, her heart would come back to it with persistence and
brood and wonder over his motive.

The nearer she drew, this morning, to the hospital door, the closer the
wounded boy's life and loved ones seemed to hers. She thought with anguish
of the storm about to break between her father and the President--the one
demanding the desolation of their land, wasted, harried, and unarmed!--the
President firm in his policy of mercy, generosity, and healing.

Her father would not mince words. His scorpion tongue, set on fires of
hell, might start a conflagration that would light the Nation with its
glare. Would not his name be a terror for every man and woman born under
Southern skies? The sickening feeling stole over her that he was wrong,
and his policy cruel and unjust.

She had never before admired the President. It was fashionable to speak
with contempt of him in Washington. He had little following in Congress.
Nine tenths of the politicians hated or feared him, and she knew her
father had been the soul of a conspiracy at the Capitol to prevent his
second nomination and create a dictatorship, under which to carry out an
iron policy of reconstruction in the South. And now she found herself
heart and soul the champion of the President.

She was ashamed of her disloyalty, and felt a rush of impetuous anger
against Ben and his people for thrusting themselves between her and her
own. Yet how absurd to feel thus against the innocent victims of a great
tragedy! She put the thought from her. Still she must part from them now
before the brewing storm burst. It would be best for her and best for
them. This pardon delivered would end their relations. She would send the
papers by a messenger and not see them again. And then she thought with a
throb of girlish pride of the hour to come in the future when Ben's big
brown eyes would be softened with a tear when he would learn that she had
saved his life. They had concealed all from him as yet.

She was afraid to question too closely in her own heart the shadowy motive
that lay back of her joy. She read again with a lingering smile the name
"Ben Cameron" on the paper with its big red Seal of Life. She had laughed
at boys who had made love to her, dreaming a wider, nobler life of heroic
service. And she felt that she was fulfilling her ideal in the generous
hand she had extended to these who were friendless. Were they not the
children of her soul in that larger, finer world of which she had dreamed
and sung? Why should she give them up now for brutal politics? Their
sorrow had been hers, their joy should be hers, too. She would take the
papers herself and then say good-bye.

She found the mother and sister beside the cot. Ben was sleeping with
Margaret holding one of his hands. The mother was busy sewing for the
wounded Confederate boys she had found scattered through the hospital.

At the sight of Elsie holding aloft the message of life she sprang to meet
her with a cry of joy.

She clasped the girl to her breast, unable to speak. At last she released
her and said with a sob:

"My child, through good report and through evil report my love will enfold
you!"

Elsie stammered, looked away, and tried to hide her emotion. Margaret had
knelt and bowed her head on Ben's cot. She rose at length, threw her arms
around Elsie in a resistless impulse, kissed her and whispered:

"My sweet sister!"

Elsie's heart leaped at the words, as her eyes rested on the face of the
sleeping soldier.



CHAPTER VI

THE ASSASSINATION


Elsie called in the afternoon at the Camerons' lodgings, radiant with
pride, accompanied by her brother.

Captain Phil Stoneman, athletic, bronzed, a veteran of two years' service,
dressed in his full uniform, was the ideal soldier, and yet he had never
loved war. He was bubbling over with quiet joy that the end had come and
he could soon return to a rational life. Inheriting his mother's
temperament, he was generous, enterprising, quick, intelligent, modest,
and ambitious. War had seemed to him a horrible tragedy from the first. He
had early learned to respect a brave foe, and bitterness had long since
melted out of his heart.

He had laughed at his father's harsh ideas of Southern life gained as a
politician, and, while loyal to him after a boy's fashion, he took no
stock in his Radical programme.

The father, colossal egotist that he was, heard Phil's protests with mild
amusement and quiet pride in his independence, for he loved this boy with
deep tenderness.

Phil had been touched by the story of Ben's narrow escape, and was anxious
to show his mother and sister every courtesy possible in part atonement
for the wrong he felt had been done them. He was timid with girls, and yet
he wished to give Margaret a cordial greeting for Elsie's sake. He was not
prepared for the shock the first appearance of the Southern girl gave
him.

When the stately figure swept through the door to greet him, her black
eyes sparkling with welcome, her voice low and tender with genuine
feeling, he caught his breath in surprise.

Elsie noted his confusion with amusement and said:

"I must go to the hospital for a little work. Now, Phil, I'll meet you at
the door at eight o'clock."

"I'll not forget," he answered abstractedly, watching Margaret intently as
she walked with Elsie to the door.

He saw that her dress was of coarse, unbleached cotton, dyed with the
juice of walnut hulls and set with wooden hand-made buttons. The story
these things told of war and want was eloquent, yet she wore them with
unconscious dignity. She had not a pin or brooch or piece of jewellery.
Everything about her was plain and smooth, graceful and gracious. Her face
was large--the lovely oval type--and her luxuriant hair, parted in the
middle, fell downward in two great waves. Tall, stately, handsome, her
dark rare Southern beauty full of subtle languor and indolent grace, she
was to Phil a revelation.

The coarse black dress that clung closely to her figure seemed alive when
she moved, vital with her beauty. The musical cadences of her voice were
vibrant with feeling, sweet, tender, and homelike. And the odour of the
rose she wore pinned low on her breast he could swear was the perfume of
her breath.

Lingering in her eyes and echoing in the tones of her voice, he caught the
shadowy memory of tears for the loved and lost that gave a strange pathos
and haunting charm to her youth.

She had returned quickly and was talking at ease with him.

"I'm not going to tell you, Captain Stoneman, that I hope to be a sister
to you. You have already made yourself my brother in what you did for
Ben."

"Nothing, I assure you, Miss Cameron, that any soldier wouldn't do for a
brave foe."

"Perhaps; but when the foe happens to be an only brother, my chum and
playmate, brave and generous, whom I've worshipped as my beau-ideal
man--why, you know I must thank you for taking him in your arms that day.
May I, again?"

Phil felt the soft warm hand clasp his, while the black eyes sparkled and
glowed their friendly message.

He murmured something incoherently, looked at Margaret as if in a spell,
and forgot to let her hand go.

She laughed at last, and he blushed and dropped it as though it were a
live coal.

"I was about to forget, Miss Cameron. I wish to take you to the theatre
to-night, if you will go?"

"To the theatre?"

"Yes. It's to be an occasion, Elsie tells me. Laura Keene's last
appearance in 'Our American Cousin,' and her one-thousandth performance of
the play. She played it in Chicago at McVicker's, when the President was
first nominated, to hundreds of the delegates who voted for him. He is to
be present to-night, so the _Evening Star_ has announced, and General and
Mrs. Grant with him. It will be the opportunity of your life to see these
famous men--besides, I wish you to see the city illuminated on the way."

Margaret hesitated.

"I should like to go," she said with some confusion. "But you see we are
old-fashioned Scotch Presbyterians down in our village in South Carolina.
I never was in a theatre--and this is Good Friday----"

"That's a fact, sure," said Phil thoughtfully. "It never occurred to me.
War is not exactly a spiritual stimulant, and it blurs the calendar. I
believe we fight on Sundays oftener than on any other day."

"But I'm crazy to see the President since Ben's pardon. Mamma will be here
in a moment, and I'll ask her."

"You see, it's really an occasion," Phil went on. "The people are all
going there to see President Lincoln in the hour of his triumph, and his
great General fresh from the field of victory. Grant has just arrived in
town."

Mrs. Cameron entered and greeted Phil with motherly tenderness.

"Captain, you're so much like my boy! Had you noticed it, Margaret?"

"Of course, Mamma, but I was afraid I'd tire him with flattery if I tried
to tell him."

"Only his hair is light and wavy, and Ben's straight and black, or you'd
call them twins. Ben's a little taller--excuse us, Captain Stoneman, but
we've fallen so in love with your little sister we feel we've known you
all our lives."

"I assure you, Mrs. Cameron, your flattery is very sweet. Elsie and I do
not remember our mother, and all this friendly criticism is more than
welcome."

"Mamma, Captain Stoneman asks me to go with him and his sister to-night to
see the President at the theatre. May I go?"

"Will the President be there, Captain?" asked Mrs. Cameron.

"Yes, Madam, with General and Mrs. Grant--it's really a great public
function in celebration of peace and victory. To-day the flag was raised
over Fort Sumter, the anniversary of its surrender four years ago. The
city will be illuminated."

"Then, of course, you can go. I will sit with Ben. I wish you to see the
President."

At seven o'clock Phil called for Margaret. They walked to the Capitol hill
and down Pennsylvania Avenue.

The city was in a ferment. Vast crowds thronged the streets. In front of
the hotel where General Grant stopped the throng was so dense the streets
were completely blocked. Soldiers, soldiers, soldiers, at every turn, in
squads, in companies, in regimental crowds, shouting cries of victory.

The display of lights was dazzling in its splendour. Every building in
every street, in every nook and corner of the city, was lighted from attic
to cellar. The public buildings and churches vied with each other in the
magnificence of their decorations and splendour of illuminations.

They turned a corner, and suddenly the Capitol on the throne of its
imperial hill loomed a grand constellation in the heavens! Another look,
and it seemed a huge bonfire against the background of the dark skies.
Every window in its labyrinths of marble, from the massive base to its
crowning statue of Freedom, gleamed and flashed with light--more than ten
thousand jets poured their rays through its windows, besides the
innumerable lights that circled the mighty dome within and without.

Margaret stopped, and Phil felt her soft hand grip his arm with sudden
emotion.

"Isn't it sublime!" she whispered.

"Glorious!" he echoed.

But he was thinking of the pressure of her hand on his arm and the subtle
tones of her voice. Somehow he felt that the light came from her eyes. He
forgot the Capitol and the surging crowds before the sweeter creative
wonder silently growing in his soul.

"And yet," she faltered, "when I think of what all this means for our
people at home--their sorrow and poverty and ruin--you know it makes me
faint."

Phil's hand timidly sought the soft one resting on his arm and touched it
reverently.

"Believe me, Miss Margaret, it will be all for the best in the end. The
South will yet rise to a nobler life than she has ever lived in the past.
This is her victory as well as ours."

"I wish I could think so," she answered.

They passed the City Hall and saw across its front, in giant letters of
fire thirty feet deep, the words:

"UNION, SHERMAN, AND GRANT"

On Pennsylvania Avenue the hotels and stores had hung every window,
awning, cornice, and swaying tree-top with lanterns. The grand avenue was
bridged by tri-coloured balloons floating and shimmering ghostlike far up
in the dark sky. Above these, in the blacker zone toward the stars, the
heavens were flashing sheets of chameleon flames from bursting rockets.

Margaret had never dreamed such a spectacle. She walked in awed silence,
now and then suppressing a sob for the memory of those she had loved and
lost. A moment of bitterness would cloud her heart, and then with the
sense of Phil's nearness, his generous nature, the beauty and goodness of
his sister, and all they owed to her for Ben's life, the cloud would
pass.

At every public building, and in front of every great hotel, bands were
playing. The wild war strains, floating skyward, seemed part of the
changing scheme of light. The odour of burnt powder and smouldering
rockets filled the warm spring air.

The deep bay of the great fort guns now began to echo from every hilltop
commanding the city, while a thousand smaller guns barked and growled from
every square and park and crossing.

Jay Cooke & Co's. banking-house had stretched across its front, in
enormous blazing letters, the words:

"THE BUSY B'S--BALLS, BALLOTS, AND BONDS"

Every telegraph and newspaper office was a roaring whirlpool of
excitement, for the same scenes were being enacted in every centre of the
North. The whole city was now a fairy dream, its dirt and sin, shame and
crime, all wrapped in glorious light.

But above all other impressions was the contagion of the thunder shouts of
hosts of men surging through the streets--the human roar with its animal
and spiritual magnetism, wild, resistless, unlike any other force in the
universe!

Margaret's hand again and again unconsciously tightened its hold on Phil's
arm, and he felt that the whole celebration had been gotten up for his
benefit.

They passed through a little park on their way to Ford's Theatre on 10th
Street, and the eye of the Southern girl was quick to note the budding
flowers and full-blown lilacs.

"See what an early spring!" she cried. "I know the flowers at home are
gorgeous now."

"I shall hope to see you among them some day, when all the clouds have
lifted," he said.

She smiled and replied with simple earnestness:

"A warm welcome will await your coming."

And Phil resolved to lose no time in testing it.

They turned into 10th Street, and in the middle of the block stood the
plain three-story brick structure of Ford's Theatre, an enormous crowd
surging about its five doorways and spreading out on the sidewalk and half
across the driveway.

"Is that the theatre?" asked Margaret.

"Yes."

"Why, it looks like a church without a steeple."

"Exactly what it really is, Miss Margaret. It was a Baptist church. They
turned it into a playhouse, by remodelling its gallery into a dress-circle
and balcony and adding another gallery above. My grandmother Stoneman is a
devoted Baptist, and was an attendant at this church. My father never goes
to church, but he used to go here occasionally to please her. Elsie and I
frequently came."

Phil pushed his way rapidly through the crowd with a peculiar sense of
pleasure in making a way for Margaret and in defending her from the
jostling throng.

They found Elsie at the door, stamping her foot with impatience.

"Well, I must say, Phil, this is prompt for a soldier who had positive
orders," she cried. "I've been here an hour."

"Nonsense, Sis, I'm ahead of time," he protested.

Elsie held up her watch.

"It's a quarter past eight. Every seat is filled, and they've stopped
selling standing-room. I hope you have good seats."

"The best in the house to-night, the first row in the balcony
dress-circle, opposite the President's box. We can see everything on the
stage, in the box, and every nook and corner of the house."

"Then I'll forgive you for keeping me waiting."

They ascended the stairs, pushed through the throng standing, and at last
reached the seats.

What a crowd! The building was a mass of throbbing humanity, and, over
all, the hum of the thrilling wonder of peace and victory!

The women in magnificent costumes, officers in uniforms flashing with
gold, the show of wealth and power, the perfume of flowers and the music
of violin and flutes gave Margaret the impression of a dream, so sharp was
the contrast with her own life and people in the South.

The interior of the house was a billow of red, white, and blue. The
President's box was wrapped in two enormous silk flags with gold-fringed
edges gracefully draped and hanging in festoons.

Withers, the leader of the orchestra, was in high feather. He raised his
baton with quick, inspired movement. It was for him a personal triumph,
too. He had composed the music of a song for the occasion. It was
dedicated to the President, and the programme announced that it would be
rendered during the evening between the acts by a famous quartet, assisted
by the whole company in chorus. The National flag would be draped about
each singer, worn as the togas of ancient Greece and Rome.

It was already known by the crowd that General and Mrs. Grant had left the
city for the North and could not be present, but every eye was fixed on
the door through which the President and Mrs. Lincoln would enter. It was
the hour of his supreme triumph.

[Illustration: THE ASSASSINATION.]

What a romance his life! The thought of it thrilled the crowd as they
waited. A few years ago this tall, sad-faced man had floated down the
Sangamon River into a rough Illinois town, ragged, penniless, friendless,
alone, begging for work. Four years before he had entered Washington as
President of the United States--but he came under cover of the night with
a handful of personal friends, amid universal contempt for his ability and
the loud expressed conviction of his failure from within and without his
party. He faced a divided Nation and the most awful civil convulsion in
history. Through it all he had led the Nation in safety, growing each day
in power and fame, until to-night, amid the victorious shouts of millions
of a Union fixed in eternal granite, he stood forth the idol of the
people, the first great American, the foremost man of the world.

There was a stir at the door, and the tall figure suddenly loomed in view
of the crowd. With one impulse they leaped to their feet, and shout after
shout shook the building. The orchestra was playing "Hail to the Chief!"
but nobody heard it. They saw the Chief! They were crying their own
welcome in music that came from the rhythmic beat of human hearts.

As the President walked along the aisle with Mrs. Lincoln, accompanied by
Senator Harris' daughter and Major Rathbone, cheer after cheer burst from
the crowd. He turned, his face beaming with pleasure, and bowed as he
passed.

The answer of the crowd shook the building to its foundations, and the
President paused. His dark face flashed with emotion as he looked over the
sea of cheering humanity. It was a moment of supreme exaltation. The
people had grown to know and love and trust him, and it was sweet. His
face, lit with the responsive fires of emotion, was transfigured. The soul
seemed to separate itself from its dreamy, rugged dwelling-place and flash
its inspiration from the spirit world.

As around this man's personality had gathered the agony and horror of war,
so now about his head glowed and gleamed in imagination the splendours of
victory.

Margaret impulsively put her hand on Phil's arm:

"Why, how Southern he looks! How tall and dark and typical his whole
figure!"

"Yes, and his traits of character even more typical," said Phil. "On the
surface, easy friendly ways and the tenderness of a woman--beneath, an
iron will and lion heart. I like him. And what always amazes me is his
universality. A Southerner finds in him the South, the Western man the
West, even Charles Sumner, from Boston, almost loves him. You know I think
he is the first great all-round American who ever lived in the White
House."

The President's party had now entered the box, and as Mr. Lincoln took the
armchair nearest the audience, in full view of every eye in the house,
again the cheers rent the air. In vain Withers' baton flew, and the
orchestra did its best. The music was drowned as in the roar of the sea.
Again he rose and bowed and smiled, his face radiant with pleasure. The
soul beneath those deep-cut lines had long pined for the sunlight. His
love of the theatre and the humorous story were the protest of his heart
against pain and tragedy. He stood there bowing to the people, the
grandest, gentlest figure of the fiercest war of human history--a man who
was always doing merciful things stealthily as others do crimes. Little
sunlight had come into his life, yet to-night he felt that the sun of a
new day in his history and the history of the people was already tingeing
the horizon with glory.

Back of those smiles what a story! Many a night he had paced back and
forth in the telegraph office of the War Department, read its awful news
of defeat, and alone sat down and cried over the list of the dead. Many a
black hour his soul had seen when the honours of earth were forgotten and
his great heart throbbed on his sleeve. His character had grown so evenly
and silently with the burdens he had borne, working mighty deeds with such
little friction, he could not know, nor could the crowd to whom he bowed,
how deep into the core of the people's life the love of him had grown.

As he looked again over the surging crowd his tall figure seemed to
straighten, erect and buoyant, with the new dignity of conscious
triumphant leadership. He knew that he had come unto his own at last, and
his brain was teeming with dreams of mercy and healing.

The President resumed his seat, the tumult died away, and the play began
amid a low hum of whispered comment directed at the flag-draped box. The
actors struggled in vain to hold the attention of the audience, until
finally Hawk, the actor playing Dundreary, determined to catch their ear,
paused and said:

"Now, that reminds me of a little story, as Mr. Lincoln says----"

Instantly the crowd burst into a storm of applause, the President laughed,
leaned over and spoke to his wife, and the electric connection was made
between the stage, the box, and the people.

After this the play ran its smooth course, and the audience settled into
its accustomed humour of sympathetic attention.

In spite of the novelty of this, her first view of a theatre, the
President fascinated Margaret. She watched the changing lights and shadows
of his sensitive face with untiring interest, and the wonder of his life
grew upon her imagination. This man who was the idol of the North and yet
to her so purely Southern, who had come out of the West and yet was
greater than the West or the North, and yet always supremely human--this
man who sprang to his feet from the chair of State and bowed to a
sorrowing woman with the deference of a knight, every man's friend,
good-natured, sensible, masterful and clear in intellect, strong, yet
modest, kind and gentle--yes, he was more interesting than all the drama
and romance of the stage!

He held her imagination in a spell. Elsie, divining her abstraction,
looked toward the President's box and saw approaching it along the balcony
aisle the figure of John Wilkes Booth.

"Look," she cried, touching Margaret's arm. "There's John Wilkes Booth,
the actor! Isn't he handsome? They say he's in love with my chum, a
senator's daughter whose father hates Mr. Lincoln with perfect fury."

"He is handsome," Margaret answered. "But I'd be afraid of him, with that
raven hair and eyes shining like something wild."

"They say he is wild and dissipated, yet half the silly girls in town are
in love with him. He's as vain as a peacock."

Booth, accustomed to free access to the theatre, paused near the entrance
to the box and looked deliberately over the great crowd, his magnetic face
flushed with deep emotion, while his fiery inspiring eyes glittered with
excitement.

Dressed in a suit of black broadcloth of faultless fit, from the crown of
his head to the soles of his feet he was physically without blemish. A
figure of perfect symmetry and proportion, his dark eyes flashing, his
marble forehead crowned with curling black hair, agility and grace stamped
on every line of his being--beyond a doubt he was the handsomest man in
America. A flutter of feminine excitement rippled the surface of the crowd
in the balcony as his well-known figure caught the wandering eyes of the
women.

He turned and entered the door leading to the President's box, and
Margaret once more gave her attention to the stage.

Hawk, as Dundreary, was speaking his lines and looking directly at the
President instead of at the audience:

"Society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old
woman, you darned old sockdologing man trap!"

Margaret winced at the coarse words, but the galleries burst into shouts
of laughter that lingered in ripples and murmurs and the shuffling of
feet.

The muffled crack of a pistol in the President's box hushed the laughter
for an instant.

No one realized what had happened, and when the assassin suddenly leaped
from the box, with a blood-marked knife flashing in his right hand, caught
his foot in the flags and fell to his knees on the stage, many thought it
a part of the programme, and a boy, leaning over the gallery rail,
giggled. When Booth turned his face of statuesque beauty lit by eyes
flashing with insane desperation and cried, "_Sic semper tyrannis_," they
were only confirmed in this impression.

A sudden, piercing scream from Mrs. Lincoln, quivering, soul harrowing!
Leaning far out of the box, from ashen cheeks and lips leaped the piteous
cry of appeal, her hand pointing to the retreating figure:

"The President is shot! He has killed the President!"

Every heart stood still for one awful moment. The brain refused to record
the message--and then the storm burst!

A wild roar of helpless fury and despair! Men hurled themselves over the
footlights in vain pursuit of the assassin. Already the clatter of his
horse's feet could be heard in the distance. A surgeon threw himself
against the door of the box, but it had been barred within by the cunning
hand. Another leaped on the stage, and the people lifted him up in their
arms and over the fatal railing.

Women began to faint, and strong men trampled down the weak in mad rushes
from side to side.

The stage in a moment was a seething mass of crazed men, among them the
actors and actresses in costumes and painted faces, their mortal terror
shining through the rouge. They passed water up to the box, and some tried
to climb up and enter it.

The two hundred soldiers of the President's guard suddenly burst in, and,
amid screams and groans of the weak and injured, stormed the house with
fixed bayonets, cursing, yelling, and shouting at the top of their
voices:

"Clear out! Clear out! You sons of hell!"

One of them suddenly bore down with fixed bayonet toward Phil.

Margaret shrank in terror close to his side and tremblingly held his arm.

Elsie sprang forward, her face aflame, her eyes flashing fire, her little
figure tense, erect, and quivering with rage:

"How dare you, idiot, brute!"

The soldier, brought to his senses, saw Phil in full captain's uniform
before him, and suddenly drew himself up, saluting. Phil ordered him to
guard Margaret and Elsie for a moment, drew his sword, leaped between the
crazed soldiers and their victims and stopped their insane rush.

Within the box the great head lay in the surgeon's arms, the blood slowly
dripping down, and the tiny death bubbles forming on the kindly lips. They
carried him tenderly out, and another group bore after him the unconscious
wife. The people tore the seats from their fastenings and heaped them in
piles to make way for the precious burdens.

As Phil pressed forward with Margaret and Elsie through the open door came
the roar of the mob without, shouting its cries:

"The President is shot!"

"Seward is murdered!"

"Where is Grant?"

"Where is Stanton?"

"To arms! To arms!"

The peal of signal guns could now be heard, the roll of drums and the
hurried tramp of soldiers' feet. They marched none too soon. The mob had
attacked the stockade holding ten thousand unarmed Confederate prisoners.

At the corner of the block in which the theatre stood they seized a man
who looked like a Southerner and hung him to the lamp-post. Two heroic
policemen fought their way to his side and rescued him.

If the temper of the people during the war had been convulsive, now it was
insane--with one mad impulse and one thought--vengeance! Horror, anger,
terror, uncertainty, each passion fanned the one animal instinct into
fury.

Through this awful night, with the lights still gleaming as if to mock the
celebration of victory, the crowds swayed in impotent rage through the
streets, while the telegraph bore on the wings of lightning the
awe-inspiring news. Men caught it from the wires, and stood in silent
groups weeping, and their wrath against the fallen South began to rise as
the moaning of the sea under a coming storm.

At dawn black clouds hung threatening on the eastern horizon. As the sun
rose, tingeing them for a moment with scarlet and purple glory, Abraham
Lincoln breathed his last.

Even grim Stanton, the iron-hearted, stood by his bedside and through
blinding tears exclaimed:

"Now he belongs to the ages!"

The deed was done. The wheel of things had moved. Vice-President Johnson
took the oath of office, and men hailed him Chief; but the seat of Empire
had moved from the White House to a little dark house on the Capitol hill,
where dwelt an old club-footed man, alone, attended by a strange brown
woman of sinister animal beauty and the restless eyes of a leopardess.



CHAPTER VII

THE FRENZY OF A NATION


Phil hurried through the excited crowds with Margaret and Elsie, left them
at the hospital door, and ran to the War Department to report for duty.
Already the tramp of regiments echoed down every great avenue.

Even as he ran, his heart beat with a strange new stroke when he recalled
the look of appeal in Margaret's dark eyes as she nestled close to his
side and clung to his arm for protection. He remembered with a smile the
almost resistless impulse of the moment to slip his arm around her and
assure her of safety. If he had only dared!

Elsie begged Mrs. Cameron and Margaret to go home with her until the city
was quiet.

"No," said the mother. "I am not afraid. Death has no terrors for me any
longer. We will not leave Ben a moment now, day or night. My soul is sick
with dread for what this awful tragedy will mean for the South! I can't
think of my own safety. Can any one undo this pardon now?" she asked
anxiously.

"I am sure they cannot. The name on that paper should be mightier dead
than living."

"Ah, but will it be? Do you know Mr. Johnson? Can he control Stanton? He
seemed to be more powerful than the President himself. What will that man
do now with those who fall into his hands."

"He can do nothing with your son, rest assured."

"I wish I knew it," said the mother wistfully.

                    *       *       *       *       *

A few moments after the President died on Saturday morning, the rain began
to pour in torrents. The flags that flew from a thousand gilt-tipped peaks
in celebration of victory drooped to half-mast and hung weeping around
their staffs. The litter of burnt fireworks, limp and crumbling, strewed
the streets, and the tri-coloured lanterns and balloons, hanging
pathetically from their wires, began to fall to pieces.

Never in all the history of man had such a conjunction of events befallen
a nation. From the heights of heaven's rejoicing to be suddenly hurled to
the depths of hell in piteous helpless grief! Noon to midnight without a
moment between. A pall of voiceless horror spread its shadows over the
land. Nothing short of an earthquake or the sound of the archangel's
trumpet could have produced the sense of helpless consternation, the black
and speechless despair. The people read their papers in tears. The morning
meal was untouched. By no other single feat could death have carried such
peculiar horror to every home. Around this giant figure the heartstrings
of the people had been unconsciously knit. Even his political enemies had
come to love him.

Above all, in just this moment he was the incarnation of the Triumphant
Union on the altar of whose life every house had laid the offering of its
first-born. The tragedy was stupefying--it was unthinkable--it was the
mockery of Fate!

Men walked the streets of the cities, dazed with the sense of blind grief.
Every note of music and rejoicing became a dirge. All business ceased.
Every wheel in every mill stopped. The roar of the great city was hushed,
and Greed for a moment forgot his cunning.

The army only moved with swifter spring, tightening its mighty grip on the
throat of the bleeding prostrate South.

As the day wore on its gloomy hours, and men began to find speech, they
spoke to each other at first in low tones of Fate, of Life, of Death, of
Immortality, of God--and then as grief found words the measureless rage of
baffled strength grew slowly to madness.

On every breeze from the North came the deep-muttered curses.

Easter Sunday dawned after the storm, clear and beautiful in a flood of
glorious sunshine. The churches were thronged as never in their history.
All had been decorated for the double celebration of Easter and the
triumph of the Union. The preachers had prepared sermons pitched in the
highest anthem key of victory--victory over death and the grave of
Calvary, and victory for the Nation opening a future of boundless glory.
The churches were labyrinths of flowers, and around every pulpit and from
every Gothic arch hung the red, white, and blue flags of the Republic.

And now, as if to mock this gorgeous pageant, Death had in the night flung
a black mantle over every flag and wound a strangling web of crape round
every Easter flower.

When the preachers faced the silent crowds before them, looking into the
faces of fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and lovers whose dear ones
had been slain in battle or died in prison pens, the tide of grief and
rage rose and swept them from their feet! The Easter sermon was laid
aside. Fifty thousand Christian ministers, stunned and crazed by insane
passion, standing before the altars of God, hurled into the broken hearts
before them the wildest cries of vengeance--cries incoherent, chaotic,
unreasoning, blind in their awful fury!

The pulpits of New York and Brooklyn led in the madness.

Next morning old Stoneman read his paper with a cold smile playing about
his big stern mouth, while his furrowed brow flushed with triumph, as
again and again he exclaimed: "At last! At last!"

Even Beecher, who had just spoken his generous words at Fort Sumter,
declared:

"Never while time lasts, while heaven lasts, while hell rocks and groans,
will it be forgotten that Slavery, by its minions, slew him, and slaying
him made manifest its whole nature. A man cannot be bred in its tainted
air. I shall find saints in hell sooner than I shall find true manhood
under its accursed influences. The breeding-ground of such monsters must
be utterly and forever destroyed."

Dr. Stephen Tyng said:

"The leaders of this rebellion deserve no pity from any human being. Now
let them go. Some other land must be their home. Their property is justly
forfeited to the Nation they have attempted to destroy!"

In big black-faced type stood Dr. Charles S. Robinson's bitter words:

"This is the earliest reply which chivalry makes to our forbearance. Talk
to me no more of the same race, of the same blood. He is no brother of
mine and of no race of mine who crowns the barbarism of treason with the
murder of an unarmed husband in the sight of his wife. On the villains who
led this rebellion let justice fall swift and relentless. Death to every
traitor of the South! Pursue them one by one! Let every door be closed
upon them and judgment follow swift and implacable as death!"

Dr. Theodore Cuyler exclaimed:

"This is no time to talk of leniency and conciliation! I say before God,
make no terms with rebellion short of extinction. Booth wielding the
assassin's weapon is but the embodiment of the bowie-knife barbarism of a
slaveholding oligarchy."

Dr. J. P. Thompson said:

"Blot every Southern State from the map. Strip every rebel of property and
citizenship, and send them into exile beggared and infamous outcasts."

Bishop Littlejohn, in his impassioned appeal, declared:

"The deed is worthy of the Southern cause which was conceived in sin,
brought forth in iniquity, and consummated in crime. This murderous hand
is the same hand which lashed the slave's bared back, struck down New
England's senator for daring to speak, lifted the torch of rebellion,
slaughtered in cold blood its thousands, and starved our helpless
prisoners. Its end is not martyrdom, but dishonour."

Bishop Simpson said:

"Let every man who was a member of Congress and aided this rebellion be
brought to speedy punishment. Let every officer educated at public
expense, who turned his sword against his country, be doomed to a
traitor's death!"

With the last note of this wild music lingering in the old Commoner's
soul, he sat as if dreaming, laughed cynically, turned to the brown woman
and said:

"My speeches have not been lost after all. Prepare dinner for six. My
cabinet will meet here to-night."

While the press was reëchoing these sermons, gathering strength as they
were caught and repeated in every town, village, and hamlet in the North,
the funeral procession started westward. It passed in grandeur through the
great cities on its journey of one thousand six hundred miles to the tomb.
By day, by night, by dawn, by sunlight, by twilight, and lit by solemn
torches, millions of silent men and women looked on his dead face. Around
the person of this tall, lonely man, rugged, yet full of sombre dignity
and spiritual beauty, the thoughts, hopes, dreams, and ideals of the
people had gathered in four years of agony and death, until they had come
to feel their own hearts beat in his breast and their own life throb in
his life. The assassin's bullet had crashed into their own brains, and
torn their souls and bodies asunder.

The masses were swept from their moorings, and reason destroyed. All
historic perspective was lost. Our first assassination, there was no
precedent for comparison. It had been over two hundred years in the
world's history since the last murder of a great ruler, when William of
Orange fell.

On the day set for the public funeral twenty million people bowed at the
same hour.

When the procession reached New York the streets were lined with a million
people. Not a sound could be heard save the tramp of soldiers' feet and
the muffled cry of the dirge. Though on every foot of earth stood a human
being, the silence of the desert and of death! The Nation's living heroes
rode in that procession, and passed without a sign from the people.

Four years ago he drove down Broadway as President-elect, unnoticed and
with soldiers in disguise attending him lest the mob should stone him.

To-day, at the mention of his name in the churches, the preachers' voices
in prayer wavered and broke into silence while strong men among the crowd
burst into sobs. Flags flew at half-mast from their steeples, and their
bells tolled in grief.

Every house that flew but yesterday its banner of victory was shrouded in
mourning. The flags and pennants of a thousand ships in the harbour
drooped at half-mast, and from every staff in the city streamed across the
sky the black mists of crape like strange meteors in the troubled
heavens.

For three days every theatre, school, court, bank, shop, and mill was
closed.

And with muttered curses men looked Southward.

Across Broadway the cortège passed under a huge transparency on which
appeared the words:

                        "A Nation bowed in grief
                    Will rise in might to exterminate
                The leaders of this accursed Rebellion."

Farther along swung the black-draped banner:

                          "Justice to Traitors
                                   is
                          Mercy to the People."

Another flapped its grim message:

                       "The Barbarism of Slavery.
                       Can Barbarism go Further?"

Across the Ninth Regiment Armoury, in gigantic letters, were the words:

                            "Time for Weeping
                     But Vengeance is not Sleeping!"

When the procession reached Buffalo, the house of Millard Fillmore was
mobbed because the ex-President, stricken on a bed of illness, had
neglected to drape his house in mourning. The procession passed to
Springfield through miles of bowed heads dumb with grief. The plough
stopped in the furrow, the smith dropped his hammer, the carpenter his
plane, the merchant closed his door, the clink of coin ceased, and over
all hung brooding silence with low-muttered curses, fierce and
incoherent.

No man who walked the earth ever passed to his tomb through such a storm
of human tears. The pageants of Alexander, Cæsar, and Wellington were
tinsel to this. Nor did the spirit of Napoleon, the Corsican Lieutenant of
Artillery who once presided over a congress of kings whom he had
conquered, look down on its like even in France.

And now that its pomp was done and its memory but bitterness and ashes,
but one man knew exactly what he wanted and what he meant to do. Others
were stunned by the blow. But the cold eyes of the Great Commoner, leader
of leaders, sparkled, and his grim lips smiled. From him not a word of
praise or fawning sorrow for the dead. Whatever he might be, he was not a
liar: when he hated, he hated.

The drooping flags, the city's black shrouds, processions, torches, silent
seas of faces and bared heads, the dirges and the bells, the dim-lit
churches, wailing organs, fierce invectives from the altar, and the
perfume of flowers piled in heaps by silent hearts--to all these was he
heir.

And more--the fierce unwritten, unspoken, and unspeakable horrors of the
war itself, its passions, its cruelties, its hideous crimes and
sufferings, the wailing of its women, the graves of its men--all these now
were his.

The new President bowed to the storm. In one breath he promised to fulfil
the plans of Lincoln. In the next he, too, breathed threats of vengeance.

The edict went forth for the arrest of General Lee.

Would Grant, the Commanding General of the Army, dare protest? There were
those who said that if Lee were arrested and Grant's plighted word at
Appomattox smirched, the silent soldier would not only protest, but draw
his sword, if need be, to defend his honour and the honour of the Nation.
Yet--would he dare? It remained to be seen.

The jails were now packed with Southern men, taken unarmed from their
homes. The old Capitol Prison was full, and every cell of every grated
building in the city, and they were filling the rooms of the Capitol
itself.

Margaret, hurrying from the market in the early morning with her flowers,
was startled to find her mother bowed in anguish over a paragraph in the
morning paper.

She rose and handed it to the daughter, who read:

  "Dr. Richard Cameron, of South Carolina, arrived in Washington and was
  placed in jail last night, charged with complicity in the murder of
  President Lincoln. It was discovered that Jeff Davis spent the night
  at his home in Piedmont, under the pretence of needing medical
  attention. Beyond all doubt, Booth, the assassin, merely acted under
  orders from the Arch Traitor. May the gallows have a rich and early
  harvest!"

Margaret tremblingly wound her arms around her mother's neck. No words
broke the pitiful silence--only blinding tears and broken sobs.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Book II--The Revolution



CHAPTER I

THE FIRST LADY OF THE LAND


The little house on the Capitol hill now became the centre of fevered
activity. This house, selected by its grim master to become the executive
mansion of the Nation, was perhaps the most modest structure ever chosen
for such high uses.

It stood, a small, two-story brick building, in an unpretentious street.
Seven windows opened on the front with black solid-panelled shutters. The
front parlour was scantily furnished. A huge mirror covered one wall, and
on the other hung a life-size oil portrait of Stoneman, and between the
windows were a portrait of Washington Irving and a picture of a nun. Among
his many charities he had always given liberally to an orphanage conducted
by a Roman Catholic sisterhood.

The back parlour, whose single window looked out on a small garden, he had
fitted up as a library, with leather-upholstered furniture, a large desk
and table, and scattered on the mantel and about its walls were the
photographs of his personal friends and a few costly prints. This room he
used as his executive office, and no person was allowed to enter it
without first stating his business or presenting a petition to the tawny
brown woman with restless eyes who sat in state in the front parlour and
received his visitors. The books in their cases gave evidence of little
use for many years, although their character indicated the tastes of a man
of culture. His Pliny, Cæsar, Cicero, Tacitus, Sophocles, and Homer had
evidently been read by a man who knew their beauties and loved them for
their own sake.

This house was now the Mecca of the party in power and the storm-centre of
the forces destined to shape the Nation's life. Senators, representatives,
politicians of low and high degree, artists, correspondents, foreign
ministers, and cabinet officers hurried to acknowledge their fealty to the
uncrowned king, and hail the strange brown woman who held the keys of his
house as the first lady of the land.

When Charles Sumner called, a curious thing happened. By a code agreed on
between them, Lydia Brown touched an electric signal which informed the
old Commoner of his appearance. Stoneman hobbled to the folding-doors and
watched through the slight opening the manner in which the icy senator
greeted the negress whom he was compelled to meet thus as his social
equal, though she was always particular to pose as the superior of all who
bowed the knee to the old man whose house she kept.

Sumner at this time was supposed to be the most powerful man in Congress.
It was a harmless fiction which pleased him, and at which Stoneman loved
to laugh.

The senator from Massachusetts had just made a speech in Boston expounding
the "Equality of Man," yet he could not endure personal contact with a
negro. He would go secretly miles out of the way to avoid it.

Stoneman watched him slowly and daintily approach this negress and touch
her jewelled hand gingerly with the tips of his classic fingers as if she
were a toad. Convulsed, he scrambled back to his desk and hugged himself
while he listened to the flow of Lydia's condescending patronage in the
next room.

"This world's too good a thing to lose!" he chuckled. "I think I'll live
always."

When Sumner left, the hour for dinner had arrived, and by special
invitation two men dined with him.

On his right sat an army officer who had been dismissed from the service,
a victim of the mania for gambling. His ruddy face, iron-gray hair, and
jovial mien indicated that he enjoyed life in spite of troubles.

There were no clubs in Washington at this time except the regular
gambling-houses, of which there were more than one hundred in full blast.

Stoneman was himself a gambler, and spent a part of almost every night at
Hall & Pemberton's Faro Palace on Pennsylvania Avenue, a place noted for
its famous restaurant. It was here that he met Colonel Howle and learned
to like him. He was a man of talent, cool and audacious, and a liar of
such singular fluency that he quite captivated the old Commoner's
imagination.

"Upon my soul, Howle," he declared soon after they met, "you made the
mistake of your life going into the army. You're a born politician. You're
what I call a natural liar, just as a horse is a pacer, a dog a setter.
You lie without effort, with an ease and grace that excels all art. Had
you gone into politics, you could easily have been Secretary of State, to
say nothing of the vice-presidency. I would say President but for the fact
that men of the highest genius never attain it."

From that moment Colonel Howle had become his charmed henchman. Stoneman
owned this man body and soul, not merely because he had befriended him
when he was in trouble and friendless, but because the colonel recognized
the power of the leader's daring spirit and revolutionary genius.

On his left sat a negro of perhaps forty years, a man of charming features
for a mulatto, who had evidently inherited the full physical
characteristics of the Aryan race, while his dark yellowish eyes beneath
his heavy brows glowed with the brightness of the African jungle. It was
impossible to look at his superb face, with its large, finely chiselled
lips and massive nose, his big neck and broad shoulders, and watch his
eyes gleam beneath the projecting forehead, without seeing pictures of the
primeval forest. "The head of a Cæsar and the eyes of the jungle" was the
phrase coined by an artist who painted his portrait.

His hair was black and glossy and stood in dishevelled profusion on his
head between a kink and a curl. He was an orator of great power, and
stirred a negro audience as by magic.

Lydia Brown had called Stoneman's attention to this man, Silas Lynch, and
induced the statesman to send him to college. He had graduated with credit
and had entered the Methodist ministry. In his preaching to the freedmen
he had already become a marked man. No house could hold his audiences.

As he stepped briskly into the dining-room and passed the brown woman, a
close observer might have seen him suddenly press her hand and caught her
sly answering smile, but the old man waiting at the head of the table saw
nothing.

The woman took her seat opposite Stoneman and presided over this curious
group with the easy assurance of conscious power. Whatever her real
position, she knew how to play the role she had chosen to assume.

No more curious or sinister figure ever cast a shadow across the history
of a great nation than did this mulatto woman in the most corrupt hour of
American life. The grim old man who looked into her sleek tawny face and
followed her catlike eyes was steadily gripping the Nation by the throat.
Did he aim to make this woman the arbiter of its social life, and her
ethics the limit of its moral laws?

Even the white satellite who sat opposite Lynch flushed for a moment as
the thought flashed through his brain.

The old cynic, who alone knew his real purpose, was in his most genial
mood to-night, and the grim lines of his powerful face relaxed into
something like a smile as they ate and chatted and told good stories.

Lynch watched him with keen interest. He knew his history and character,
and had built on his genius a brilliant scheme of life.

This man who meant to become the dictator of the Republic had come from
the humblest early conditions. His father was a worthless character, from
whom he had learned the trade of a shoemaker, but his mother, a woman of
vigorous intellect and indomitable will, had succeeded in giving her lame
boy a college education. He had early sworn to be a man of wealth, and to
this purpose he had throttled the dreams and ideals of a wayward
imagination.

His hope of great wealth had not been realized. His iron mills in
Pennsylvania had been destroyed by Lee's army. He had developed the habit
of gambling, which brought its train of extravagant habits, tastes, and
inevitable debts. In his vigorous manhood, in spite of his lameness, he
had kept a pack of hounds and a stable of fine horses. He had used his
skill in shoemaking to construct a set of stirrups to fit his lame feet,
and had become an expert hunter to hounds.

One thing he never neglected--to be in his seat in the House of
Representatives and wear its royal crown of leadership, sick or well, day
or night. The love of power was the breath of his nostrils, and his
ambitions had at one time been boundless. His enormous power to-day was
due to the fact that he had given up all hope of office beyond the robes
of the king of his party. He had been offered a cabinet position by the
elder Harrison and for some reason it had been withdrawn. He had been
promised a place in Lincoln's cabinet, but some mysterious power had
snatched it away. He was the one great man who had now no ambition for
which to trim and fawn and lie, and for the very reason that he had
abolished himself he was the most powerful leader who ever walked the
halls of Congress.

His contempt for public opinion was boundless. Bold, original, scornful of
advice, of all the men who ever lived in our history he was the one man
born to rule in the chaos which followed the assassination of the chief
magistrate.

Audacity was stamped in every line of his magnificent head. His choicest
curses were for the cowards of his own party before whose blanched faces
he shouted out the hidden things until they sank back in helpless silence
and dismay. His speech was curt, his humour sardonic, his wit biting,
cruel, and coarse.

The incarnate soul of revolution, he despised convention and ridiculed
respectability.

There was but one weak spot in his armour--and the world never suspected
it: the consuming passion with which he loved his two children. This was
the side of his nature he had hidden from the eyes of man. A refined
egotism, this passion, perhaps--for he meant to live his own life over in
them--yet it was the one utterly human and lovable thing about him. And if
his public policy was one of stupendous avarice, this dream of millions of
confiscated wealth he meant to seize, it was not for himself but for his
children.

As he looked at Howle and Lynch seated in his library after dinner, with
his great plans seething in his brain, his eyes were flashing, intense,
and fiery, yet without colour--simply two centres of cold light.

"Gentlemen," he said at length. "I am going to ask you to undertake for
the Government, the Nation, and yourselves a dangerous and important
mission. I say yourselves, because, in spite of all our beautiful lies,
self is the centre of all human action. Mr. Lincoln has fortunately gone
to his reward--fortunately for him and for his country. His death was
necessary to save his life. He was a useful man living, more useful dead.
Our party has lost its first President, but gained a god--why mourn?"

"We will recover from our grief," said Howle.

The old man went on, ignoring the interruption:

"Things have somehow come my way. I am almost persuaded late in life that
the gods love me. The insane fury of the North against the South for a
crime which they were the last people on earth to dream of committing is,
of course, a power to be used--but with caution. The first execution of a
Southern leader on such an idiotic charge would produce a revolution of
sentiment. The people are an aggregation of hysterical fools."

"I thought you favoured the execution of the leaders of the rebellion?"
said Lynch with surprise.

"I did, but it is too late. Had they been tried by drum-head court-martial
and shot dead red-handed as they stood on the field in their uniforms, all
would have been well. Now sentiment is too strong. Grant showed his teeth
to Stanton and he backed down from Lee's arrest. Sherman refused to shake
hands with Stanton on the grandstand the day his army passed in review,
and it's a wonder he didn't knock him down. Sherman was denounced as a
renegade and traitor for giving Joseph E. Johnston the terms Lincoln
ordered him to give. Lincoln dead, his terms are treason! Yet had he
lived, we should have been called upon to applaud his mercy and
patriotism. How can a man live in this world and keep his face straight?"

"I believe God permitted Mr. Lincoln's death to give the great Commoner,
the Leader of Leaders, the right of way," cried Lynch with enthusiasm.

The old man smiled. With all his fierce spirit he was as susceptible to
flattery as a woman--far more so than the sleek brown woman who carried
the keys of his house.

"The man at the other end of the avenue, who pretends to be President, in
reality an alien of the conquered province of Tennessee, is pressing
Lincoln's plan of 'restoring' the Union. He has organized State
governments in the South, and their senators and representatives will
appear at the Capitol in December for admission to Congress. He thinks
they will enter----"

The old man broke into a low laugh and rubbed his hands.

"My full plans are not for discussion at this juncture. Suffice it to say,
I mean to secure the future of our party and the safety of this nation.
The one thing on which the success of my plan absolutely depends is the
confiscation of the millions of acres of land owned by the white people of
the South and its division among the negroes and those who fought and
suffered in this war----"

The old Commoner paused, pursed his lips, and fumbled his hands a moment,
the nostrils of his eagle-beaked nose breathing rapacity, sensuality
throbbing in his massive jaws, and despotism frowning from his heavy
brows.

"Stanton will probably add to the hilarity of nations, and amuse himself
by hanging a few rebels," he went on, "but we will address ourselves to
serious work. All men have their price, including the present company,
with due apologies to the speaker----"

Howle's eyes danced, and he licked his lips.

"If I haven't suffered in this war, who has?"

"Your reward will not be in accordance with your sufferings. It will be
based on the efficiency with which you obey my orders. Read that----"

He handed to him a piece of paper on which he had scrawled his secret
instructions.

Another he gave to Lynch.

"Hand them back to me when you read them, and I will burn them. These
instructions are not to pass the lips of any man until the time is
ripe--four bare walls are not to hear them whispered."

Both men handed to the leader the slips of paper simultaneously.

"Are we agreed, gentlemen?"

"Perfectly," answered Howle.

"Your word is law to me, sir," said Lynch.

"Then you will draw on me personally for your expenses, and leave for the
South within forty-eight hours. I wish your reports delivered to me two
weeks before the meeting of Congress."

As Lynch passed through the hall on his way to the door, the brown woman
bade him good-night and pressed into his hand a letter.

As his yellow fingers closed on the missive, his eyes flashed for a moment
with catlike humour.

The woman's face wore the mask of a sphinx.



CHAPTER II

SWEETHEARTS


When the first shock of horror at her husband's peril passed, it left a
strange new light in Mrs. Cameron's eyes.

The heritage of centuries of heroic blood from the martyrs of old Scotland
began to flash its inspiration from the past. Her heart beat with the
unconscious life of men and women who had stood in the stocks, and walked
in chains to the stake with songs on their lips.

The threat against the life of Doctor Cameron had not only stirred her
martyr blood: it had roused the latent heroism of a beautiful girlhood. To
her he had ever been the lover and the undimmed hero of her girlish
dreams. She spent whole hours locked in her room alone. Margaret knew that
she was on her knees. She always came forth with shining face and with
soft words on her lips.

She struggled for two months in vain efforts to obtain a single interview
with him, or to obtain a copy of the charges. Doctor Cameron had been
placed in the old Capitol Prison, already crowded to the utmost. He was in
delicate health, and so ill when she had left home he could not accompany
her to Richmond.

Not a written or spoken word was allowed to pass those prison doors. She
could communicate with him only through the officers in charge. Every
message from him was the same. "I love you always. Do not worry. Go home
the moment you can leave Ben. I fear the worst at Piedmont."

When he had sent this message, he would sit down and write the truth in a
little diary he kept:

"Another day of anguish. How long, O Lord? Just one touch of her hand, one
last pressure of her lips, and I am content. I have no desire to live--I
am tired."

The officers repeated the verbal messages, but they made no impression on
Mrs. Cameron. By a mental telepathy which had always linked her life with
his her soul had passed those prison bars. If he had written the pitiful
record with a dagger's point on her heart, she could not have felt it more
keenly.

At times overwhelmed, she lay prostrate and sobbed in half-articulate
cries. And then from the silence and mystery of the spirit world in which
she felt the beat of the heart of Eternal Love would come again the
strange peace that passeth understanding. She would rise and go forth to
her task with a smile.

In July she saw Mrs. Surratt taken from this old Capitol Prison to be hung
with Payne, Herold, and Atzerodt for complicity in the assassination. The
military commission before whom this farce of justice was enacted,
suspicious of the testimony of the perjured wretches who had sworn her
life away, had filed a memorandum with their verdict asking the President
for mercy.

President Johnson never saw this memorandum. It was secretly removed in
the War Department, and only replaced after he had signed the death
warrant.

In vain Annie Surratt, the weeping daughter, flung herself on the steps of
the White House on the fatal day, begging and praying to see the
President. She could not believe they would allow her mother to be
murdered in the face of a recommendation of mercy. The fatal hour struck
at last, and the girl left the White House with set eyes and blanched
face, muttering incoherent curses.

The Chief Magistrate sat within, unconscious of the hideous tragedy that
was being enacted in his name. When he discovered the infamy by which he
had been made the executioner of an innocent woman, he made his first
demand that Edwin M. Stanton resign from his cabinet as Secretary of War.
And for the first time in the history of America, a cabinet officer waived
the question of honour and refused to resign.

With a shudder and blush of shame, strong men saw that day the executioner
gather the ropes tightly three times around the dress of an innocent
American mother and bind her ankles with cords. She fainted and sank
backward upon the attendants, the poor limbs yielding at last to the
mortal terror of death. But they propped her up and sprung the fatal
trap.

A feeling of uncertainty and horror crept over the city and the Nation, as
rumours of the strange doings of the "Bureau of Military Justice," with
its secret factory of testimony and powers of tampering with verdicts,
began to find their way in whispered stories among the people.

Public opinion, however, had as yet no power of adjustment. It was an hour
of lapse to tribal insanity. Things had gone wrong. The demand for a
scapegoat, blind, savage, and unreasoning, had not spent itself. The
Government could do anything as yet, and the people would applaud.

Mrs. Cameron had tried in vain to gain a hearing before the President.
Each time she was directed to apply to Mr. Stanton. She refused to attempt
to see him, and again turned to Elsie for help. She had learned that the
same witnesses who had testified against Mrs. Surratt were being used to
convict Doctor Cameron, and her heart was sick with fear.

"Ask your father," she pleaded, "to write President Johnson a letter in my
behalf. Whatever his politics, he can't be _your_ father and not be good
at heart."

Elsie paled for a moment. It was the one request she had dreaded. She
thought of her father and Stanton with dread. How far he was supporting
the Secretary of War she could only vaguely guess. He rarely spoke of
politics to her, much as he loved her.

"I'll try, Mrs. Cameron," she faltered. "My father is in town to-day and
takes dinner with us before he leaves for Pennsylvania to-night. I'll go
at once."

With fear, and yet boldly, she went straight home to present her request.
She knew he was a man who never cherished small resentments, however cruel
and implacable might be his public policies. And yet she dreaded to put it
to the test.

"Father, I've a very important request to make of you," she said gravely.

"Very well, my child, you need not be so solemn. What is it?"

"I've some friends in great distress--Mrs. Cameron, of South Carolina, and
her daughter Margaret."

"Friends of yours?" he asked with an incredulous smile. "Where on earth
did you find them?"

"In the hospital, of course. Mrs. Cameron is not allowed to see her
husband, who has been here in jail for over two months. He cannot write to
her, nor can he receive a letter from her. He is on trial for his life, is
ill and helpless, and is not allowed to know the charges against him,
while hired witnesses and detectives have broken open his house, searched
his papers, and are ransacking heaven and earth to convict him of a crime
of which he never dreamed. It's a shame. You don't approve of such things,
I know?"

"What's the use of my expressing an opinion when you have already settled
it?" he answered good-humouredly.

"You _don't_ approve of such injustice?"

"Certainly not, my child. Stanton's frantic efforts to hang a lot of
prominent Southern men for complicity in Booth's crime is sheer insanity.
Nobody who has any sense believes them guilty. As a politician I use
popular clamour for my purposes, but I am not an idiot. When I go gunning,
I never use a popgun or hunt small game."

"Then you will write the President a letter asking that they be allowed to
see Doctor Cameron?"

The old man frowned.

"Think, father, if you were in jail and friendless, and I were trying to
see you----"

"Tut, tut, my dear, it's not that I am unwilling--I was only thinking of
the unconscious humour of _my_ making a request of the man who at present
accidentally occupies the White House. Of all the men on earth, this alien
from the province of Tennessee! But I'll do it for you. When did you ever
know me to deny my help to a weak man or woman in distress?"

"Never, father. I was sure you would do it," she answered warmly.

He wrote the letter at once and handed it to her.

She bent and kissed him.

"I can't tell you how glad I am to know that you have no part in such
injustice."

"You should not have believed me such a fool, but I'll forgive you for the
kiss. Run now with this letter to your rebel friends, you little traitor!
Wait a minute----"

He shuffled to his feet, placed his hand tenderly on her head, and stooped
and kissed the shining hair.

"I wonder if you know how I love you? How I've dreamed of your future? I
may not see you every day as I wish; I'm absorbed in great affairs. But
more and more I think of you and Phil. I'll have a big surprise for you
both some day."

"Your love is all I ask," she answered simply.

Within an hour, Mrs. Cameron found herself before the new President. The
letter had opened the door as by magic. She poured out her story with
impetuous eloquence while Mr. Johnson listened in uneasy silence. His
ruddy face, his hesitating manner, and restless eyes were in striking
contrast to the conscious power of the tall dark man who had listened so
tenderly and sympathetically to her story of Ben but a few weeks before.

The President asked:

"Have you seen Mr. Stanton?"

"I have seen him once," she cried with sudden passion. "It is enough. If
that man were God on His throne, I would swear allegiance to the devil and
fight him!"

The President lifted his eyebrows and his lips twitched with a smile:

"I shouldn't say that your spirits are exactly drooping! I'd like to be
near and hear you make that remark to the distinguished Secretary of
War."

"Will you grant my prayer?" she pleaded.

"I will consider the matter," he promised evasively.

Mrs. Cameron's heart sank.

"Mr. President," she cried bitterly, "I have felt sure that I had but to
see you face to face and you could not deny me. Surely it is but justice
that he have the right to see his loved ones, to consult with counsel, to
know the charges against him, and defend his life when attacked in his
poverty and ruin by all the power of a mighty government? He is feeble and
broken in health and suffering from wounds received carrying the flag of
the Union to victory in Mexico. Whatever his errors of judgment in this
war, it is a shame that a Nation for which he once bared his breast in
battle should treat him as an outlaw without a trial."

"You must remember, madam," interrupted the President, "that these are
extraordinary times, and that popular clamour, however unjust, will make
itself felt and must be heeded by those in power. I am sorry for you, and
I trust it may be possible for me to grant your request."

"But I wish it now," she urged. "He sends me word I must go home. I can't
leave without seeing him. I will die first."

She drew closer and continued in throbbing tones:

"Mr. President, you are a native Carolinian--you are of Scotch Covenanter
blood. You are of my own people of the great past, whose tears and
sufferings are our common glory and birthright. Come, you must hear me--I
will take no denial. Give me now the order to see my husband!"

The President hesitated, struggling with deep emotion, called his
secretary, and gave the order.

As she hurried away with Elsie, who insisted on accompanying her to the
jail door, the girl said:

"Mrs. Cameron, I fear you are without money. You must let me help you
until you can return it."

"You are the dearest little heart I've met in all the world, I think
sometimes," said the older woman, looking at her tenderly. "I wonder how I
can ever pay you for half you've done already."

"The doing of it has been its own reward," was the soft reply. "May I help
you?"

"If I need it, yes. But I trust it will not be necessary. I still have a
little store of gold Doctor Cameron was wise enough to hoard during the
war. I brought half of it with me when I left home, and we buried the
rest. I hope to find it on my return. And if we can save the twenty bales
of cotton we have hidden we shall be relieved of want."

"I'm ashamed of my country when I think of such ignoble methods as have
been used against Doctor Cameron. My father is indignant, too."

The last sentence Elsie spoke with eager girlish pride.

"I am very grateful to your father for his letter. I am sorry he has left
the city before I could meet and thank him personally. You must tell him
for me."

At the jail the order of the President was not honoured for three hours,
and Mrs. Cameron paced the street in angry impatience at first and then in
dull despair.

"Do you think that man Stanton would dare defy the President?" she asked
anxiously.

"No," said Elsie, "but he is delaying as long as possible as an act of
petty tyranny."

At last the messenger arrived from the War Department permitting an order
of the Chief Magistrate of the nation, the Commander-in-Chief of its Army
and Navy, to be executed.

The grated door swung on its heavy hinges, and the wife and mother lay
sobbing in the arms of the lover of her youth.

For two hours they poured into each other's hearts the story of their
sorrows and struggles during the six fateful months that had passed. When
she would return from every theme back to his danger, he would laugh her
fears to scorn.

"Nonsense, my dear, I'm as innocent as a babe. Mr. Davis was suffering
from erysipelas, and I kept him in my house that night to relieve his
pain. It will all blow over. I'm happy now that I have seen you. Ben will
be up in a few days. You must return at once. You have no idea of the wild
chaos at home. I left Jake in charge. I have implicit faith in him, but
there's no telling what may happen. I will not spend another moment in
peace until you go."

The proud old man spoke of his own danger with easy assurance. He was
absolutely certain, since the day of Mrs. Surratt's execution, that he
would be railroaded to the gallows by the same methods. He had long looked
on the end with indifference, and had ceased to desire to live except to
see his loved ones again.

In vain she warned him of danger.

"My peril is nothing, my love," he answered quietly. "At home, the horrors
of a servile reign of terror have become a reality. These prison walls do
not interest me. My heart is with our stricken people. You must go home.
Our neighbour, Mr. Lenoir, is slowly dying. His wife will always be a
child. Little Marion is older and more self-reliant. I feel as if they are
our own children. There are so many who need us. They have always looked
to me for guidance and help. You can do more for them than any one else.
My calling is to heal others. You have always helped me. Do now as I ask
you."

At last she consented to leave for Piedmont on the following day, and he
smiled.

"Kiss Ben and Margaret for me and tell them that I'll be with them soon,"
he said cheerily. He meant in the spirit, not the flesh. Not the faintest
hope of life even flickered in his mind.

In the last farewell embrace a faint tremor of the soul, half sigh, half
groan, escaped his lips, and he drew her again to his breast, whispering:

"Always my sweetheart, good, beautiful, brave, and true!"



CHAPTER III

THE JOY OF LIVING


Within two weeks after the departure of Mrs. Cameron and Margaret, the
wounded soldier had left the hospital with Elsie's hand resting on his arm
and her keen eyes watching his faltering steps. She had promised Margaret
to take her place until he was strong again. She was afraid to ask herself
the meaning of the songs that were welling up from the depth of her own
soul. She told herself again and again that she was fulfilling her ideal
of unselfish human service.

Ben's recovery was rapid, and he soon began to give evidence of his
boundless joy in the mere fact of life.

He utterly refused to believe his father in danger.

"What, my dad a conspirator, an assassin!" he cried, with a laugh. "Why,
he wouldn't kill a flea without apologising to it. And as for plots and
dark secrets, he never had a secret in his life and couldn't keep one if
he had it. My mother keeps all the family secrets. Crime couldn't stick to
him any more than dirty water to a duck's back!"

"But we must secure his release on parole, that he may defend himself."

"Of course. But we won't cross any bridges till we come to them. I never
saw things so bad they couldn't be worse. Just think what I've been
through. The war's over. Don't worry."

He looked at her tenderly.

"Get that banjo and play 'Get out of the Wilderness!'"

His spirit was contagious and his good humour resistless. Elsie spent the
days of his convalescence in an unconscious glow of pleasure in his
companionship. His handsome boyish face, his bearing, his whole
personality, invited frankness and intimacy. It was a divine gift, this
magnetism, the subtle meeting of quick intelligence, tact, and sympathy.
His voice was tender and penetrating, with soft caresses in its tones. His
vision of life was large and generous, with a splendid carelessness about
little things that didn't count. Each day Elsie saw new and striking
traits of his character which drew her.

"What will we do if Stanton arrests you one of these fine days?" she asked
him one day.

"Afraid they'll nab me for something?" he exclaimed. "Well, that is a
joke. Don't you worry. The Yankees know who to fool with. I licked 'em too
many times for them to bother me any more."

"I was under the impression that you got licked," Elsie observed.

"Don't you believe it. We wore ourselves out whipping the other fellows."

Elsie smiled, took up the banjo, and asked him to sing while she played.

She had no idea that he could sing, yet to her surprise he sang his camp
songs boldly, tenderly, and with deep, expressive feeling.

As the girl listened, the memory of the horrible hours of suspense she had
spent with his mother when his unconscious life hung on a thread came
trooping back into her heart and a tear dimmed her eyes.

And he began to look at her with a new wonder and joy slowly growing in
his soul.



CHAPTER IV

HIDDEN TREASURE


Ben had spent a month of vain effort to secure his father's release. He
had succeeded in obtaining for him a removal to more comfortable quarters,
books to read, and the privilege of a daily walk under guard and parole.
The doctor's genial temper, the wide range of his knowledge, the charm of
his personality, and his heroism in suffering had captivated the surgeons
who attended him and made friends of every jailer and guard.

Elsie was now using all her woman's wit to secure a copy of the charges
against him as formulated by the Judge Advocate General, who, in defiance
of civil law, still claimed control of these cases.

To the boy's sanguine temperament the whole proceeding had been a huge
farce from the beginning, and at the last interview with his father he had
literally laughed him into good humour.

"Look here, pa," he cried. "I believe you're trying to slip off and leave
us in this mess. It's not fair. It's easy to die."

"Who said I was going to die?"

"I heard you were trying to crawl out that way."

"Well, it's a mistake. I'm going to live just for the fun of disappointing
my enemies and to keep you company. But you'd better get hold of a copy of
these charges against me--if you don't want me to escape."

"It's a funny world if a man can be condemned to death without any
information on the subject."

"My son, we are now in the hands of the revolutionists, army sutlers,
contractors, and adventurers. The Nation will touch the lowest tide-mud of
its degradation within the next few years. No man can predict the end."

"Oh, go 'long!" said Ben. "You've got jail cobwebs in your eyes."

"I'm depending on you."

"I'll pull you through if you don't lie down on me and die to get out of
trouble. You know you _can_ die if you try hard enough."

"I promise you, my boy," he said with a laugh.

"Then I'll let you read this letter from home," Ben said, suddenly
thrusting it before him.

The doctor's hand trembled a little as he put on his glasses and read:

  _My Dear Boy_: I cannot tell you how much good your bright letters
  have done us. It's like opening the window and letting in the sunlight
  while fresh breezes blow through one's soul.

  Margaret and I have had stirring times. I send you enclosed an order
  for the last dollar of money we have left. You must hoard it. Make it
  last until your father is safe at home. I dare not leave it here.
  Nothing is safe. Every piece of silver and everything that could be
  carried has been stolen since we returned.

  Uncle Aleck betrayed the place Jake had hidden our twenty precious
  bales of cotton. The war is long since over, but the "Treasury Agent"
  declared them confiscated, and then offered to relieve us of his order
  if we gave him five bales, each worth three hundred dollars in gold. I
  agreed, and within a week another thief came and declared the other
  fifteen bales confiscated. They steal it, and the Government never
  gets a cent. We dared not try to sell it in open market, as every bale
  exposed for sale is "confiscated" at once.

  No crop was planted this summer. The negroes are all drawing rations
  at the Freedman's Bureau.

  We have turned our house into a hotel, and our table has become
  famous. Margaret is a treasure. She has learned to do everything. We
  tried to raise a crop on the farm when we came home, but the negroes
  stopped work. The Agent of the Bureau came to us and said he could
  send them back for a fee of $50. We paid it, and they worked a week.
  We found it easier to run a hotel. We hope to start the farm next
  year.

  Our new minister at the Presbyterian Church is young, handsome, and
  eloquent--Rev. Hugh McAlpin.

  Mr. Lenoir died last week--but his end was so beautiful, our tears
  were half joy. He talked incessantly of your father and how the
  country missed him. He seemed much better the day before the end came,
  and we took him for a little drive to Lovers' Leap. It was there,
  sixteen years ago, he made love to Jeannie. When we propped him up on
  the rustic seat, and he looked out over the cliff and the river below,
  I have never seen a face so transfigured with peace and joy.

  "What a beautiful world it is, my dears!" he exclaimed, taking Jeannie
  and Marion both by the hand.

  They began to cry, and he said with a smile:

  "Come now--do you love me?"

  And they covered his hands with kisses.

  "Well, then you must promise me two things faithfully here, with Mrs.
  Cameron to witness!"

  "We promise," they both said in a breath.

  "That when I fall asleep, not one thread of black shall ever cloud the
  sunlight of our little home, that you will never wear it, and that you
  will show your love for me by making my flowers grow richer, that you
  will keep my memory green by always being as beautiful as you are
  to-day, and make this old world a sweeter place to live in. I wish
  you, Jeannie, my mate, to keep on making the young people glad. Don't
  let their joys be less even for a month because I have laid down to
  rest. Let them sing and dance----"

  "Oh, Papa!" cried Marion.

  "Certainly, my little serious beauty--I'll not be far away, I'll be
  near and breathe my songs into their hearts, and into yours--you both
  promise?"

  "Yes, yes!" they both cried.

  As we drove back through the woods, he smiled tenderly and said to
  me:

  "My neighbour, Doctor Cameron, pays taxes on these woods, but I own
  them! Their sighing boughs, stirred by the breezes, have played for me
  oratorios grander than all the scores of human genius. I'll hear the
  Choir Invisible play them when I sleep."

  He died that night suddenly. With his last breath he sighed:

  "Draw the curtains and let me see again the moonlit woods!"

  They are trying to carry out his wishes. I found they had nothing to
  eat, and that he had really died from insufficient nourishment--a
  polite expression meaning starvation. I've divided half our little
  store with them and send the rest to you. I think Marion more and more
  the incarnate soul of her father. I feel as if they are both my
  children.

  My little grandchick, Hugh, is the sweetest youngster alive. He was a
  wee thing when you left. Mrs. Lenoir kept him when they arrested your
  father. He is so much like your brother Hugh I feel as if he has come
  to life again. You should hear him say grace, so solemnly and
  tenderly, we can't help crying. He made it up himself. This is what he
  says at every meal:

  "God, please give my grandpa something good to eat in jail, keep him
  well, don't let the pains hurt him any more, and bring him home to me
  quick, for Jesus' sake. Amen."

  I never knew before how the people loved the doctor, nor how dependent
  they were on him for help and guidance. Men, both white and coloured,
  come here every day to ask about him. Some of them come from far up in
  the mountains.

  God alone knows how lonely our home and the world has seemed without
  him. They say that those who love and live the close sweet home life
  for years grow alike in soul and body, in tastes, ways, and habits. I
  find it so. People have told me that your father and I are more alike
  than brother and sister of the same blood. In spirit I'm sure it's
  true. I know you love him and that you will leave nothing undone for
  his health and safety. Tell him that my only cure for loneliness in
  his absence is my fight to keep the wolf from the door, and save our
  home against his coming.

                                               Lovingly, your Mother.

When the doctor had finished the reading, he looked out the window of the
jail at the shining dome of the Capitol for a moment in silence.

"Do you know, my boy, that you have the heritage of royal blood? You are
the child of a wonderful mother. I'm ashamed when I think of the helpless
stupor under which I have given up, and then remember the deathless
courage with which she has braved it all--the loss of her boys, her
property, your troubles and mine. She has faced the world alone like a
wounded lioness standing over her cubs. And now she turns her home into a
hotel, and begins life in a strange new world without one doubt of her
success. The South is yet rich even in its ruin."

"Then you'll fight and go back to her with me?"

"Yes, never fear."

"Good! You see, we're so poor now, pa, you're lucky to be saving a board
bill here. I'd 'conspire' myself and come in with you but for the fact it
would hamper me a little in helping you."



CHAPTER V

ACROSS THE CHASM


When Ben had fully recovered and his father's case looked hopeful, Elsie
turned to her study of music, and the Southern boy suddenly waked to the
fact that the great mystery of life was upon him. He was in love at
last--genuinely, deeply, without one reservation. He had from habit
flirted in a harmless way with every girl he knew. He left home with
little Marion Lenoir's girlish kiss warm on his lips. He had made love to
many a pretty girl in old Virginia as the red tide of war had ebbed and
flowed around Stuart's magic camps.

But now the great hour of the soul had struck. No sooner had he dropped
the first tender words that might have their double meaning, feeling his
way cautiously toward her, than she had placed a gulf of dignity between
them, and attempted to cut every tie that bound her life to his.

It had been so sudden it took his breath away. Could he win her? The word
"fail" had never been in his vocabulary. It had never run in the speech of
his people.

Yes, he would win if it was the only thing he did in this world. And
forthwith he set about it. Life took on new meaning and new glory. What
mattered war or wounds, pain or poverty, jails and revolutions--it was the
dawn of life!

He sent her a flower every day and pinned one just like it on his coat.
And every night found him seated by her side. She greeted him cordially,
but the gulf yawned between them. His courtesy and self-control struck her
with surprise and admiration. In the face of her coldness he carried about
him an air of smiling deference and gallantry.

She finally told him of her determination to go to New York to pursue her
studies until Phil had finished the term of his enlistment in his
regiment, which had been ordered on permanent duty in the West.

He laughed with his eyes at this announcement, blinking the lashes rapidly
without moving his lips. It was a peculiar habit of his when deeply moved
by a sudden thought. It had flashed over him like lightning that she was
trying to get away from him. She would not do that unless she cared.

"When are you going?" he asked quietly.

"Day after to-morrow."

"Then you will give me one afternoon for a sail on the river to say
good-bye and thank you for what you have done for me and mine?"

She hesitated, laughed, and refused.

"To-morrow at four o'clock I'll call for you," he said firmly. "If there's
no wind, we can drift with the tide."

"I will not have time to go."

"Promptly at four," he repeated as he left.

Ben spent hours that night weighing the question of how far he should dare
to speak his love. It had been such an easy thing before. Now it seemed a
question of life and death. Twice the magic words had been on his lips,
and each time something in her manner chilled him into silence.

Was she cold and incapable of love? No; this manner of the North was on
the surface. He knew that deep down within her nature lay banked and
smouldering fires of passion for the one man whose breath could stir it
into flame. He felt this all the keener now that the spell of her
companionship and the sweet intimacy of her daily ministry to him had been
broken. The memory of little movements of her petite figure, the glance of
her warm amber eyes, and the touch of her hand--all had their tongues of
revelation to his eager spirit.

He found her ready at four o'clock.

"You see I decided to go after all," she said.

"Yes, I knew you would," he answered.

She was dressed in a simple suit of navy-blue cloth cut V-shaped at the
throat, showing the graceful lines of her exquisite neck as it melted into
the plump shoulders. She had scorned hoop skirts.

He admired her for this, and yet it made him uneasy. A woman who could
defy an edict of fashion was a new thing under the sun, and it scared
him.

They were seated in the little sailboat now, drifting out with the tide.
It was a perfect day in October, one of those matchless days of Indian
summer in the Virginia climate when an infinite peace and vast brooding
silence fill the earth and sky until one feels that words are a
sacrilege.

Neither of them spoke for minutes, and his heart grew bold in the
stillness. No girl could be still who was unmoved.

She was seated just in front of him on the left, with her hand idly
rippling the surface of the silvery waters, gazing at the wooded cliff on
the river banks clothed now in their gorgeous robes of yellow, purple,
scarlet, and gold.

The soft strains of distant music came from a band in the fort, and her
hand in the rippling water seemed its accompaniment.

Ben was conscious only of her presence. Every sight and sound of nature
seemed to be blended in her presence. Never in all his life had he seen
anything so delicately beautiful as the ripe rose colour of her cheeks,
and all the tints of autumn's glory seemed to melt into the gold of her
hair.

And those eyes he felt that God had never set in such a face before--rich
amber, warm and glowing, big and candid, courageous and truthful.

"Are you dead again?" she asked demurely.

"Well, as the Irishman said in answer to his mate's question when he fell
off the house, 'not dead--but spacheless.'"

He was quick to see the opening her question with its memories had made,
and took advantage of it.

"Look here, Miss Elsie, you're too honest, independent, and candid to play
hide-and-seek with me. I want to ask you a plain question. You've been
trying to pick a quarrel of late. What have I done?"

"Nothing. It has simply come to me that our lives are far apart. The gulf
between us is real and very deep. Your father was but yesterday a
slaveholder----"

Ben grinned:

"Yes, your slave-trading grandfather sold them to us the day before."

Elsie blushed and bristled for a fight.

"You won't mind if I give you a few lessons in history, will you?" Ben
asked softly.

"Not in the least. I didn't know that Southerners studied history," she
answered, with a toss of her head.

"We made a specialty of the history of slavery, at least. I had a dear old
teacher at home who fairly blazed with light on this subject. He is one of
the best-read men in America. He happens to be in jail just now. But I
haven't forgotten--I know it by heart."

"I am waiting for light," she interrupted cynically.

"The South is no more to blame for negro slavery than the North. Our
slaves were stolen from Africa by Yankee skippers. When a slaver arrived
at Boston, your pious Puritan clergyman offered public prayer of thanks
that 'A gracious and overruling Providence had been pleased to bring to
this land of freedom another cargo of benighted heathen to enjoy the
blessings of a gospel dispensation----'"

She looked at him with angry incredulity and cried:

"Go on."

"Twenty-three times the Legislature of Virginia passed acts against the
importation of slaves, which the king vetoed on petition of the
Massachusetts slave traders. Jefferson made these acts of the king one of
the grievances of the Declaration of Independence, but a Massachusetts
member succeeded in striking it out. The Southern men in the convention
which framed the Constitution put into it a clause abolishing the slave
trade, but the Massachusetts men succeeded in adding a clause extending
the trade twenty years----"

He smiled and paused.

"Go on," she said, with impatience.

"In Colonial days a negro woman was publicly burned to death in Boston.
The first Abolition paper was published in Tennessee by Embree. Benjamin
Lundy, his successor, could not find a single Abolitionist in Boston. In
1828 over half the people of Tennessee favoured Abolition. At this time
there were one hundred and forty Abolition Societies in America--one
hundred and three in the South, and not one in Massachusetts. It was not
until 1836 that Massachusetts led in Abolition--not until all her own
slaves had been sold to us at a profit and the slave trade had been
destroyed----"

She looked at Ben with anger for a moment and met his tantalizing look of
good humour.

"Can you stand any more?"

"Certainly, I enjoy it."

"I'm just breaking down the barriers--so to speak," he said, with the
laughter still lurking in his eyes, as he looked steadily ahead.

"By all means go on," she said soberly. "I thought at first you were
trying to tease me. I see that you are in earnest."

"Never more so. This is about the only little path of history I'm at home
in--I love to show off in it. I heard a cheerful idiot say the other day
that your father meant to carry the civilization of Massachusetts to the
Rio Grande until we had a Democracy in America. I smiled. While
Massachusetts was enforcing laws about the dress of the rich and the poor,
founding a church with a whipping-post, jail, and gibbet, and limiting the
right to vote to a church membership fixed by pew rents, Carolina was the
home of freedom where first the equal rights of men were proclaimed. New
England people worth less than one thousand dollars were prohibited by law
from wearing the garb of a gentleman, gold or silver lace, buttons on the
knees, or to walk in great boots, or their women to wear silk or scarfs,
while the Quakers, Maryland Catholics, Baptists, and Scotch-Irish
Presbyterians were everywhere in the South the heralds of man's equality
before the law."

"But barring our ancestors, I have some things against the men of this
generation."

"Have I, too, sinned and come short?" he asked with mock gravity.

"Our ideals of life are far apart," she firmly declared.

"What ails my ideal?"

"Your egotism, for one thing. The air with which you calmly select what
pleases your fancy. Northern men are bad enough--the insolence of a
Southerner is beyond words!"

[Illustration: LILLIAN GISH AS ELSIE, AND THE SENTINEL.]

"You don't say so!" cried Ben, bursting into a hearty laugh. "Isn't your
aunt, Mrs. Farnham, the president of a club?"

"Yes, and she is a very brilliant woman."

"Enlighten me further."

"I deny your heaven-born male kingship. The lord of creation is after all
a very inferior animal--nearer the brute creation, weaker in infancy,
shorter lived, more imperfectly developed, given to fighting, and addicted
to idiocy. I never saw a female idiot in my life--did you?"

"Come to think of it, I never did," acknowledged Ben with comic gravity.
"What else?"

"Isn't that enough?"

"It's nothing. I agree with everything you say, but it is irrelevant. I'm
studying law, you know."

"I have a personality of my own. You and your kind assume the right to
absorb all lesser lights."

"Certainly, I'm a man."

"I don't care to be absorbed by a mere man."

"Don't wish to be protected, sheltered, and cared for?"

"I dream of a life that shall be larger than the four walls of a home. I
have never gone into hysterics over the idea of becoming a cook and
housekeeper without wages, and snuffing my life out while another grows,
expands, and claims the lordship of the world. I can sing. My voice is to
me what eloquence is to man. My ideal is an intellectual companion who
will inspire and lead me to develop all that I feel within to its highest
reach."

She paused a moment and looked defiantly into Ben's brown eyes, about
which a smile was constantly playing. He looked away, and again the river
echoed with his contagious laughter. She had to join in spite of herself.
He laughed with boyish gayety. It danced in his eyes, and gave spring to
every movement of his slender wiry body. She felt its contagion enfold
her.

His laughter melted into a song. In a voice vibrant with joy he sang, "If
you get there before I do, tell 'em I'm comin' too!"

As Elsie listened, her anger grew as she recalled the amazing folly that
had induced her to tell the secret feelings of her inmost soul to this man
almost a stranger. Whence came this miracle of influence about him, this
gift of intimacy? She felt a shock as if she had been immodest. She was in
an agony of doubt as to what he was thinking of her, and dreaded to meet
his gaze.

And yet, when he turned toward her, his whole being a smiling compound of
dark Southern blood and bone and fire, at the sound of his voice all doubt
and questioning melted.

"Do you know," he said earnestly, "that you are the funniest, most
charming girl I ever met?"

"Thanks. I've heard your experience has been large for one of your age."

Ben's eyes danced.

"Perhaps, yes. You appeal to things in me that I didn't know were
there--to all the senses of body and soul at once. Your strength of mind,
with its conceits, and your quick little temper seem so odd and out of
place, clothed in the gentleness of your beauty."

"I was never more serious in my life. There are other things more personal
about you that I do not like."

"What?"

"Your cavalier habits."

"Cavalier fiddlesticks. There are no Cavaliers in my country. We are all
Covenanter and Huguenot folks. The idea that Southern boys are lazy
loafing dreamers is a myth. I was raised on the catechism."

"You love to fish and hunt and frolic--you flirt with every girl you meet,
and you drink sometimes. I often feel that you are cruel and that I do not
know you."

Ben's face grew serious, and the red scar in the edge of his hair suddenly
became livid with the rush of blood.

"Perhaps I don't mean that you shall know all yet," he said slowly. "My
ideal of a man is one that leads, charms, dominates, and yet eludes. I
confess that I'm close kin to an angel and a devil, and that I await a
woman's hand to lead me into the ways of peace and life."

The spiritual earnestness of the girl was quick to catch the subtle appeal
of his last words. His broad, high forehead, straight, masterly nose, with
its mobile nostrils, seemed to her very manly at just that moment and very
appealing. A soft answer was on her lips.

He saw it, and leaned toward her in impulsive tenderness. A timid look on
her face caused him to sink back in silence.

They had now drifted near the city. The sun was slowly sinking in a
smother of fiery splendour that mirrored its changing hues in the still
water. The hush of the harvest fullness of autumn life was over all
nature. They passed a camp of soldiers and then a big hospital on the
banks above. A gun flashed from the hill, and the flag dropped from its
staff.

The girl's eyes lingered on the flower in his coat a moment and then on
the red scar in the edge of his dark hair, and somehow the difference
between them seemed to melt into the falling twilight. Only his nearness
was real. Again a strange joy held her.

He threw her a look of tenderness, and she began to tremble. A sea gull
poised a moment above them and broke into a laugh.

Bending nearer, he gently took her hand, and said:

"I love you!"

A sob caught her breath and she buried her face on her arm.

"I am for you, and you are for me. Why beat your wings against the thing
that is and must be? What else matters? With all my sins and faults my
land is yours--a land of sunshine, eternal harvests, and everlasting song,
old-fashioned and provincial perhaps, but kind and hospitable. Around its
humblest cottage song birds live and mate and nest and never leave. The
winged ones of your own cold fields have heard their call, and the sky
to-night will echo with their chatter as they hurry southward. Elsie, my
own, I too have called--come; I love you!"

She lifted her face to him full of tender spiritual charm, her eyes
burning their passionate answer.

He bent and kissed her.

"Say it! Say it!" he whispered.

"I love you!" she sighed.



CHAPTER VI

THE GAUGE OF BATTLE


The day of the first meeting of the National Congress after the war was
one of intense excitement. The galleries of the House were packed. Elsie
was there with Ben in a fever of secret anxiety lest the stirring drama
should cloud her own life. She watched her father limp to his seat with
every eye fixed on him.

The President had pursued with persistence the plan of Lincoln for the
immediate restoration of the Union. Would Congress follow the lead of the
President or challenge him to mortal combat?

Civil governments had been restored in all the Southern States, with men
of the highest ability chosen as governors and lawmakers. Their
legislatures had unanimously voted for the Thirteenth Amendment of the
Constitution abolishing slavery, and elected senators and representatives
to Congress. Mr. Seward, the Secretary of State, had declared the new
amendment a part of the organic law of the Nation by the vote of these
States.

General Grant went to the South to report its condition and boldly
declared:

"I am satisfied that the mass of thinking people of the South accept the
situation in good faith. Slavery and secession they regard as settled
forever by the highest known tribunal, and consider this decision a
fortunate one for the whole country."

Would the Southerners be allowed to enter?

Amid breathless silence the clerk rose to call the roll of members-elect.
Every ear was bent to hear the name of the first Southern man. Not one was
called! The Master had spoken. His clerk knew how to play his part.

The next business of the House was to receive the message of the Chief
Magistrate of the Nation.

The message came, but not from the White House. It came from the seat of
the Great Commoner.

As the first thrill of excitement over the challenge to the President
slowly subsided, Stoneman rose, planted his big club foot in the middle of
the aisle, and delivered to Congress the word of its new master.

It was Ben's first view of the man of all the world just now of most
interest. From his position he could see his full face and figure.

He began speaking in a careless, desultory way. His tone was loud yet not
declamatory, at first in a grumbling, grandfatherly, half-humorous,
querulous accent that riveted every ear instantly. A sort of drollery of a
contagious kind haunted it. Here and there a member tittered in
expectation of a flash of wit.

His figure was taller than the average, slightly bent, with a dignity
which suggested reserve power and contempt for his audience. One knew
instinctively that back of the boldest word this man might say there was a
bolder unspoken word he had chosen not to speak.

His limbs were long, and their movements slow, yet nervous as from some
internal fiery force. His hands were big and ugly, and always in
ungraceful fumbling motion as though a separate soul dwelt within them.

The heaped-up curly profusion of his brown wig gave a weird impression to
the spread of his mobile features. His eagle-beaked nose had three
distinct lines and angles. His chin was broad and bold, and his brows
beetling and projecting. His mouth was wide, marked, and grim; when
opened, deep and cavernous; when closed, it seemed to snap so tightly that
the lower lip protruded.

Of all his make-up, his eye was the most fascinating, and it held Ben
spellbound. It could thrill to the deepest fibre of the soul that looked
into it, yet it did not gleam. It could dominate, awe, and confound, yet
it seemed to have no colour or fire. He could easily see it across the
vast hall from the galleries, yet it was not large. Two bold, colourless
dagger-points of light they seemed. As he grew excited, they darkened as
if passing under a cloud.

A sudden sweep of his huge apelike arm in an angular gesture, and the
drollery and carelessness of his voice were riven from it as by a bolt of
lightning.

He was driving home his message now in brutal frankness. Yet in the height
of his fiercest invective he never seemed to strengthen himself or call on
his resources. In its climax he was careless, conscious of power, and
contemptuous of results, as though as a gambler he had staked and lost all
and in the moment of losing suddenly become the master of those who had
beaten him.

His speech never once bent to persuade or convince. He meant to brain the
opposition with a single blow, and he did it. For he suddenly took the
breath from his foes by shouting in their faces the hidden motive of which
they were hoping to accuse him!

"Admit these Southern Representatives," he cried, "and with the Democrats
elected from the North, within one term they will have a majority in
Congress and the Electoral College. The supremacy of our party's life is
at stake. The man who dares palter with such a measure is a rebel, a
traitor to his party and his people."

A cheer burst from his henchmen, and his foes sat in dazed stupor at his
audacity. He moved the appointment of a "Committee on Reconstruction" to
whom the entire government of the "conquered provinces of the South"
should be committed, and to whom all credentials of their pretended
representatives should be referred.

He sat down as the Speaker put his motion, declared it carried, and
quickly announced the names of this Imperial Committee with the Hon.
Austin Stoneman as its chairman.

He then permitted the message of the President of the United States to be
read by his clerk.

"Well, upon my soul," said Ben, taking a deep breath and looking at Elsie,
"he's the whole thing, isn't he?"

The girl smiled with pride.

"Yes; he is a genius. He was born to command and yet never could resist
the cry of a child or the plea of a woman. He hates, but he hates ideas
and systems. He makes threats, yet when he meets the man who stands for
all he hates he falls in love with his enemy."

"Then there's hope for me?"

"Yes, but I must be the judge of the time to speak."

"Well, if he looks at me as he did once to-day, you may have to do the
speaking also."

"You will like him when you know him. He is one of the greatest men in
America."

"At least he's the father of the greatest girl in the world, which is far
more important."

"I wonder if you know how important?" she asked seriously. "He is the
apple of my eye. His bitter words, his cynicism and sarcasm, are all on
the surface--masks that hide a great sensitive spirit. You can't know with
what brooding tenderness I have always loved and worshipped him. I will
never marry against his wishes."

"I hope he and I will always be good friends," said Ben doubtfully.

"You must," she replied, eagerly pressing his hand.



CHAPTER VII

A WOMAN LAUGHS


Each day the conflict waxed warmer between the President and the
Commoner.

The first bill sent to the White House to Africanize the "conquered
provinces" the President vetoed in a message of such logic, dignity, and
power, the old leader found to his amazement it was impossible to rally
the two-thirds majority to pass it over his head.

At first, all had gone as planned. Lynch and Howle brought to him a report
on "Southern Atrocities," secured through the councils of the secret
oath-bound Union League, which had destroyed the impression of General
Grant's words and prepared his followers for blind submission to his
Committee.

Yet the rally of a group of men in defence of the Constitution had given
the President unexpected strength.

Stoneman saw that he must hold his hand on the throat of the South and
fight another campaign. Howle and Lynch furnished the publication
committee of the Union League the matter, and they printed four million
five hundred thousand pamphlets on "Southern Atrocities."

The Northern States were hostile to negro suffrage, the first step of his
revolutionary programme, and not a dozen men in Congress had yet dared to
favour it. Ohio, Michigan, New York, and Kansas had rejected it by
overwhelming majorities. But he could appeal to their passions and
prejudices against the "Barbarism" of the South. It would work like magic.
When he had the South where he wanted it, he would turn and ram negro
suffrage and negro equality down the throats of the reluctant North.

His energies were now bent to prevent any effective legislation in
Congress until his strength should be omnipotent.

A cloud disturbed the sky for a moment in the Senate. John Sherman, of
Ohio, began to loom on the horizon as a constructive statesman, and
without consulting him was quietly forcing over Sumner's classic oratory a
Reconstruction Bill restoring the Southern States to the Union on the
basis of Lincoln's plan, with no provision for interference with the
suffrage. It had gone to its last reading, and the final vote was
pending.

The house was in session at 3 a. m., waiting in feverish anxiety the
outcome of this struggle in the Senate.

Old Stoneman was in his seat, fast asleep from the exhaustion of an
unbroken session of forty hours. His meals he had sent to his desk from
the Capitol restaurant. He was seventy-four years old and not in good
health, yet his energy was tireless, his resources inexhaustible, and his
audacity matchless.

Sunset Cox, the wag of the House, an opponent but personal friend of the
old Commoner, passing his seat and seeing the great head sunk on his
breast in sleep, laughed softly and said:

"Mr. Speaker!"

The presiding officer recognized the young Democrat with a nod of
answering humour and responded:

"The gentleman from New York."

"I move you, sir," said Cox, "that, in view of the advanced age and
eminent services of the distinguished gentleman from Pennsylvania, the
Sergeant-at-Arms be instructed to furnish him with enough poker chips to
last till morning!"

The scattered members who were awake roared with laughter, the Speaker
pounded furiously with his gavel, the sleepy little pages jumped up,
rubbing their eyes, and ran here and there answering imaginary calls, and
the whole House waked to its usual noise and confusion.

The old man raised his massive head and looked to the door leading toward
the Senate just as Sumner rushed through. He had slept for a moment, but
his keen intellect had taken up the fight at precisely the point at which
he left it.

Sumner approached his desk rapidly, leaned over, and reported his defeat
and Sherman's triumph.

"For God's sake throttle this measure in the House or we are ruined!" he
exclaimed.

"Don't be alarmed," replied the cynic. "I'll be here with stronger weapons
than articulated wind."

"You have not a moment to lose. The bill is on its way to the Speaker's
desk, and Sherman's men are going to force its passage to-night."

The Senator returned to the other end of the Capitol wrapped in the mantle
of his outraged dignity, and in thirty minutes the bill was defeated, and
the House adjourned.

As the old Commoner hobbled through the door, his crooked cane thumping
the marble floor, Sumner seized and pressed his hand:

"How did you do it?"

Stoneman's huge jaws snapped together and his lower lip protruded:

"I sent for Cox and summoned the leader of the Democrats. I told them if
they would join with me and defeat this bill, I'd give them a better one
the next session. And I will--negro suffrage! The gudgeons swallowed it
whole!"

Sumner lifted his eyebrows and wrapped his cloak a little closer.

The Great Commoner laughed as he departed:

"He is yet too good for this world, but he'll forget it before we're done
this fight."

On the steps a beggar asked him for a night's lodging, and he tossed him a
gold eagle.

                    *       *       *       *       *

The North, which had rejected negro suffrage for itself with scorn,
answered Stoneman's fierce appeal to their passions against the South, and
sent him a delegation of radicals eager to do his will.

So fierce had waxed the combat between the President and Congress that the
very existence of Stanton's prisoners languishing in jail was forgotten,
and the Secretary of War himself became a football to be kicked back and
forth in this conflict of giants. The fact that Andrew Johnson was from
Tennessee, and had been an old-line Democrat before his election as a
Unionist with Lincoln, was now a fatal weakness in his position. Under
Stoneman's assaults he became at once an executive without a party, and
every word of amnesty and pardon he proclaimed for the South in accordance
with Lincoln's plan was denounced as the act of a renegade courting favour
of traitors and rebels.

Stanton remained in his cabinet against his wishes to insult and defy him,
and Stoneman, quick to see the way by which the President of the Nation
could be degraded and made ridiculous, introduced a bill depriving him of
the power to remove his own cabinet officers. The act was not only meant
to degrade the President; it was a trap set for his ruin. The penalties
were so fixed that its violation would give specific ground for his trial,
impeachment, and removal from office.

Again Stoneman passed his first act to reduce the "conquered provinces" of
the South to negro rule.

President Johnson vetoed it with a message of such logic in defence of the
constitutional rights of the States that it failed by one vote to find the
two-thirds majority needed to become a law without his approval.

The old Commoner's eyes froze into two dagger-points of icy light when
this vote was announced.

With fury he cursed the President, but above all he cursed the men of his
own party who had faltered.

As he fumbled his big hands nervously, he growled:

"If I only had five men of genuine courage in Congress, I'd hang the man
at the other end of the avenue from the porch of the White House! But I
haven't got them--cowards, dastards, dolts, and snivelling fools----"

His decision was instantly made. He would expel enough Democrats from the
Senate and the House to place his two-thirds majority beyond question. The
name of the President never passed his lips. He referred to him always,
even in public debate, as "the man at the other end of the avenue," or
"the former Governor of Tennessee who once threatened rebels--the late
lamented Andrew Johnson, of blessed memory."

He ordered the expulsion of the new member of the House from Indiana,
Daniel W. Voorhees, and the new Senator from New Jersey, John P. Stockton.
This would give him a majority of two thirds composed of men who would
obey his word without a question.

Voorhees heard of the edict with indignant wrath. He had met Stoneman in
the lobbies, where he was often the centre of admiring groups of friends.
His wit and audacity, and, above all, his brutal frankness, had won the
admiration of the "Tall Sycamore of the Wabash." He could not believe such
a man would be a party to a palpable fraud. He appealed to him
personally:

"Look here, Stoneman," the young orator cried with wrath, "I appeal to
your sense of honour and decency. My credentials have been accepted by
your own committee, and my seat been awarded me. My majority is
unquestioned. This is a high-handed outrage. You cannot permit this
crime."

The old man thrust his deformed foot out before him, struck it
meditatively with his cane, and looking Voorhees straight in the eye,
boldly said:

"There's nothing the matter with your majority, young man. I've no doubt
it's all right. Unfortunately, you are a Democrat, and happen to be the
odd man in the way of the two-thirds majority on which the supremacy of my
party depends. You will have to go. Come back some other time." And he
did.

In the Senate there was a hitch. When the vote was taken on the expulsion
of Stockton, to the amazement of the leader it was a tie.

He hobbled into the Senate Chamber, with the steel point of his cane
ringing on the marble flags as though he were thrusting it through the
vitals of the weakling who had sneaked and hedged and trimmed at the
crucial moment.

He met Howle at the door.

"What's the matter in there?" he asked.

"They're trying to compromise."

"Compromise--the Devil of American politics," he muttered. "But how did
the vote fail--it was all fixed before the roll-call?"

"Roman, of Maine, has trouble with his conscience! He is paired not to
vote on this question with Stockton's colleague, who is sick in Trenton.
His 'honour' is involved, and he refuses to break his word."

"I see," said Stoneman, pulling his bristling brows down until his eyes
were two beads of white gleaming through them. "Tell Wade to summon every
member of the party in his room immediately and hold the Senate in
session."

When the group of Senators crowded into the Vice-president's room the old
man faced them leaning on his cane and delivered an address of five
minutes they never forgot.

His speech had a nameless fascination. The man himself with his elemental
passions was a wonder. He left on public record no speech worth reading,
and yet these powerful men shrank under his glance. As the nostrils of his
big three-angled nose dilated, the scream of an eagle rang in his voice,
his huge ugly hand held the crook of his cane with the clutch of a tiger,
his tongue flew with the hiss of an adder, and his big deformed foot
seemed to grip the floor as the claw of a beast.

"The life of a political party, gentlemen," he growled in conclusion, "is
maintained by a scheme of subterfuges in which the moral law cuts no
figure. As your leader, I know but one law--success. The world is full of
fools who must have toys with which to play. A belief in politics is the
favourite delusion of shallow American minds. But you and I have no
delusions. Your life depends on this vote. If any man thinks the
abstraction called 'honour' is involved, let him choose between his honour
and his life! I call no names. This issue must be settled now before the
Senate adjourns. There can be no to-morrow. It is life or death. Let the
roll be called again immediately."

The grave Senators resumed their seats, and Wade, the acting
Vice-president, again put the question to Stockton's expulsion.

The member from New England sat pale and trembling, in his soul the
anguish of the mortal combat between his Puritan conscience, the iron
heritage of centuries, and the order of his captain.

When the Clerk of the Senate called his name, still the battle raged. He
sat in silence, the whiteness of death about his lips, while the clerk at
a signal from the Chair paused.

And then a scene the like of which was never known in American history!
August Senators crowded around his desk, begging, shouting, imploring, and
demanding that a fellow Senator break his solemn word of honour!

For a moment pandemonium reigned.

"Vote! Vote! Call his name again!" they shouted.

High above all rang the voice of Charles Sumner, leading the wild chorus,
crying:

"Vote! Vote! Vote!"

The galleries hissed and cheered--the cheers at last drowning every hiss.

Stoneman pushed his way among the mob which surrounded the badgered
Puritan as he attempted to retreat into the cloakroom.

"Will you vote?" he hissed, his eyes flashing poison.

"My conscience will not permit it," he faltered.

"To hell with your conscience!" the old leader thundered. "Go back to your
seat, ask the clerk to call your name, and vote, or by the living God I'll
read you out of the party to-night and brand you a snivelling coward, a
copperhead, a renegade, and traitor!"

Trembling from head to foot, he staggered back to his seat, the cold sweat
standing in beads on his forehead, and gasped:

"Call my name!"

The shrill voice of the clerk rang out in the stillness like the peal of a
trumpet:

"Mr. Roman!"

And the deed was done.

A cheer burst from his colleagues, and the roll-call proceeded.

When Stockton's name was reached he sprang to his feet, voted for himself,
and made a second tie!

With blank faces they turned to the leader, who ordered Charles Sumner to
move that the Senator from New Jersey be not allowed to answer his name on
an issue involving his own seat.

It was carried. Again the roll was called, and Stockton expelled by a
majority of one.

In the moment of ominous silence which followed, a yellow woman of sleek
animal beauty leaned far over the gallery rail and laughed aloud.

The passage of each act of the Revolutionary programme over the veto of
the President was now but a matter of form. The act to degrade his office
by forcing him to keep a cabinet officer who daily insulted him, the Civil
Rights Bill, and the Freedman's Bureau Bill followed in rapid succession.

Stoneman's crowning Reconstruction Act was passed, two years after the war
had closed, shattering the Union again into fragments, blotting the names
of ten great Southern States from its roll, and dividing their territory
into five Military Districts under the control of belted satraps.

When this measure was vetoed by the President, it came accompanied by a
message whose words will be forever etched in fire on the darkest page of
the Nation's life.

Amid hisses, curses, jeers, and cat-calls, the Clerk of the House read its
burning words:

"_The power thus given to the commanding officer over the people of each
district is that of an absolute monarch. His mere will is to take the
place of law. He may make a criminal code of his own; he can make it as
bloody as any recorded in history, or he can reserve the privilege of
acting on the impulse of his private passions in each case that arises._

"_Here is a bill of attainer against nine millions of people at once. It
is based upon an accusation so vague as to be scarcely intelligible, and
found to be true upon no credible evidence. Not one of the nine millions
was heard in his own defence. The representatives even of the doomed
parties were excluded from all participation in the trial. The conviction
is to be followed by the most ignominious punishment ever inflicted on
large masses of men. It disfranchises them by hundreds of thousands and
degrades them all--even those who are admitted to be guiltless--from the
rank of freemen to the condition of slaves._

"_Such power has not been wielded by any monarch in England for more than
five hundred years, and in all that time no people who speak the English
tongue have borne such servitude._"

When the last jeering cat-call which greeted this message of the Chief
Magistrate had died away on the floor and in the galleries, old Stoneman
rose, with a smile playing about his grim mouth, and introduced his bill
to impeach the President of the United States and remove him from office.



CHAPTER VIII

A DREAM


Elsie spent weeks of happiness in an abandonment of joy to the spell of
her lover. His charm was resistless. His gift of delicate intimacy, the
eloquence with which he expressed his love, and yet the manly dignity with
which he did it, threw a spell no woman could resist.

Each day's working hours were given to his father's case and to the study
of law. If there was work to do, he did it, and then struck the word care
from his life, giving himself body and soul to his love. Great events were
moving. The shock of the battle between Congress and the President began
to shake the Republic to its foundations. He heard nothing, felt nothing,
save the music of Elsie's voice.

And she knew it. She had only played with lovers before. She had never
seen one of Ben's kind, and he took her by storm. His creed was simple.
The chief end of life is to glorify the girl you love. Other things could
wait. And he let them wait. He ignored their existence.

But one cloud cast its shadow over the girl's heart during these
red-letter days of life--the fear of what her father would do to her
lover's people. Ben had asked her whether he must speak to him. When she
said "No, not yet," he forgot that such a man lived. As for his politics,
he knew nothing and cared less.

But the girl knew and thought with sickening dread, until she forgot her
fears in the joy of his laughter. Ben laughed so heartily, so
insinuatingly, the contagion of his fun could not be resisted.

He would sit for hours and confess to her the secrets of his boyish dreams
of glory in war, recount his thrilling adventures and daring deeds with
such enthusiasm that his cause seemed her own, and the pity and the
anguish of the ruin of his people hurt her with the keen sense of personal
pain. His love for his native State was so genuine, his pride in the
bravery and goodness of its people so chivalrous, she began to see for the
first time how the cords which bound the Southerner to his soil were of
the heart's red blood.

She began to understand why the war, which had seemed to her a wicked,
cruel, and causeless rebellion, was the one inevitable thing in our growth
from a loose group of sovereign States to a United Nation. Love had given
her his point of view.

Secret grief over her father's course began to grow into conscious fear.
With unerring instinct she felt the fatal day drawing nearer when these
two men, now of her inmost life, must clash in mortal enmity.

She saw little of her father. He was absorbed with fevered activity and
deadly hate in his struggle with the President.

Brooding over her fears one night, she had tried to interest Ben in
politics. To her surprise she found that he knew nothing of her father's
real position or power as leader of his party. The stunning tragedy of the
war had for the time crushed out of his consciousness all political ideas,
as it had for most young Southerners. He took her hand while a dreamy look
overspread his swarthy face:

"Don't cross a bridge till you come to it. I learned that in the war.
Politics are a mess. Let me tell you something that counts----"

He felt her hand's soft pressure and reverently kissed it. "Listen," he
whispered. "I was dreaming last night after I left you of the home we'll
build. Just back of our place, on the hill overlooking the river, my
father and mother planted trees in exact duplicate of the ones they placed
around our house when they were married. They set these trees in honour of
the first-born of their love, that he should make his nest there when
grown. But it was not for him. He had pitched his tent on higher ground,
and the others with him. This place will be mine. There are forty
varieties of trees, all grown--elm, maple, oak, holly, pine, cedar,
magnolia, and every fruit and flowering stem that grows in our friendly
soil. A little house, built near the vacant space reserved for the
homestead, is nicely kept by a farmer, and birds have learned to build in
every shrub and tree. All the year their music rings its chorus--one long
overture awaiting the coming of my bride----"

Elsie sighed.

"Listen, dear," he went on eagerly. "Last night I dreamed the South had
risen from her ruins. I saw you there. I saw our home standing amid a
bower of roses your hands had planted. The full moon wrapped it in soft
light, while you and I walked hand in hand in silence beneath our trees.
But fairer and brighter than the moon was the face of her I loved, and
sweeter than all the songs of birds the music of her voice!"

A tear dimmed the girl's warm eyes, and a deeper flush mantled her cheeks,
as she lifted her face and whispered:

"Kiss me."



CHAPTER IX

THE KING AMUSES HIMSELF


With savage energy the Great Commoner pressed to trial the first
impeachment of a President of the United States for high crimes and
misdemeanours.

His bill to confiscate the property of the Southern people was already
pending on the calendar of the House. This bill was the most remarkable
ever written in the English language or introduced into a legislative body
of the Aryan race. It provided for the confiscation of ninety per cent. of
the land of ten great States of the American Union. To each negro in the
South was allotted forty acres from the estate of his former master, and
the remaining millions of acres were to be divided among the "loyal who
had suffered by reason of the Rebellion."

The execution of this, the most stupendous crime ever conceived by an
English lawmaker, involving the exile and ruin of millions of innocent
men, women, and children, could not be intrusted to Andrew Johnson.

No such measure could be enforced so long as any man was President and
Commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy who claimed his title under the
Constitution. Hence the absolute necessity of his removal.

The conditions of society were ripe for this daring enterprise.

Not only was the Ship of State in the hands of revolutionists who had
boarded her in the storm stress of a civic convulsion, but among them
swarmed the pirate captains of the boldest criminals who ever figured in
the story of a nation.

The first great Railroad Lobby, with continental empires at stake,
thronged the Capitol with its lawyers, agents, barkers, and hired
courtesans.

The Cotton Thieves, who operated through a ring of Treasury agents, had
confiscated unlawfully three million bales of cotton hidden in the South
during the war and at its close, the last resource of a ruined people. The
Treasury had received a paltry twenty thousand bales for the use of its
name with which to seize alleged "property of the Confederate Government."
The value of this cotton, stolen from the widows and orphans, the maimed
and crippled, of the South was over $700,000,000 in gold--a capital
sufficient to have started an impoverished people again on the road to
prosperity. The agents of this ring surrounded the halls of legislation,
guarding their booty from envious eyes, and demanding the enactment of
vaster schemes of legal confiscation.

The Whiskey Ring had just been formed, and began its system of gigantic
frauds by which it scuttled the Treasury.

Above them all towered the figure of Oakes Ames, whose master mind had
organized the _Crédit Mobilier_ steal. This vast infamy had already eaten
its way into the heart of Congress and dug the graves of many illustrious
men.

So open had become the shame that Stoneman was compelled to increase his
committees in the morning, when a corrupt majority had been bought the
night before.

He arose one day, and looking at the distinguished Speaker, who was
himself the secret associate of Oakes Ames, said:

"Mr. Speaker: while the House slept, the enemy has sown tares among our
wheat. The corporations of this country, having neither bodies to be
kicked nor souls to be lost, have, _perhaps_ by the power of argument
alone, beguiled from the majority of my Committee the member from
Connecticut. The enemy have now a majority of one. I move to increase the
Committee to twelve."

Speaker Colfax, soon to be hurled from the Vice-president's chair for his
part with those thieves, increased his Committee.

Everybody knew that "the power of argument alone" meant ten thousand
dollars cash for the gentleman from Connecticut, who did not appear on the
floor for a week, fearing the scorpion tongue of the old Commoner.

A Congress which found it could make and unmake laws in defiance of the
Executive went mad. Taxation soared to undreamed heights, while the
currency was depreciated and subject to the wildest fluctuations.

The statute books were loaded with laws that shackled chains of monopoly
on generations yet unborn. Public lands wide as the reach of empires were
voted as gifts to private corporations, and subsidies of untold millions
fixed as a charge upon the people and their children's children.

The demoralization incident to a great war, the waste of unheard-of sums
of money, the giving of contracts involving millions by which fortunes
were made in a night, the riot of speculation and debauchery by those who
tried to get rich suddenly without labour, had created a new Capital of
the Nation. The vulture army of the base, venal, unpatriotic, and corrupt,
which had swept down, a black cloud, in wartime to take advantage of the
misfortunes of the Nation, had settled in Washington and gave new tone to
its life.

Prior to the Civil War the Capital was ruled, and the standards of its
social and political life fixed, by an aristocracy founded on brains,
culture, and blood. Power was with few exceptions intrusted to an
honourable body of high-spirited public officials. Now a negro electorate
controlled the city government, and gangs of drunken negroes, its
sovereign citizens, paraded the streets at night firing their muskets
unchallenged and unmolested.

A new mob of onion-laden breath, mixed with perspiring African odour,
became the symbol of American Democracy.

A new order of society sprouted in this corruption. The old high-bred
ways, tastes, and enthusiasms were driven into the hiding-places of a few
families and cherished as relics of the past.

Washington, choked with scrofulous wealth, bowed the knee to the Almighty
Dollar. The new altar was covered with a black mould of human blood--but
no questions were asked.

A mulatto woman kept the house of the foremost man of the Nation and
received his guests with condescension.

In this atmosphere of festering vice and gangrene passions, the struggle
between the Great Commoner and the President on which hung the fate of the
South approached its climax.

The whole Nation was swept into the whirlpool, and business was paralyzed.
Two years after the close of a victorious war the credit of the Republic
dropped until its six per cent. bonds sold in the open market for
seventy-three cents on the dollar.

The revolutionary junta in control of the Capital was within a single step
of the subversion of the Government and the establishment of a Dictator in
the White House.

A convention was called in Philadelphia to restore fraternal feeling, heal
the wounds of war, preserve the Constitution, and restore the Union of the
fathers. It was a grand assemblage representing the heart and brain of the
Nation. Members of Lincoln's first Cabinet, protesting Senators and
Congressmen, editors of great Republican and Democratic newspapers, heroes
of both armies, long estranged, met for a common purpose. When a group of
famous negro worshippers from Boston suddenly entered the hall, arm in arm
with ex-slaveholders from South Carolina, the great meeting rose and walls
and roof rang with thunder peals of applause.

Their committee, headed by a famous editor, journeyed to Washington to
appeal to the Master at the Capitol. They sought him not in the White
House, but in the little Black House in an obscure street on the hill.

The brown woman received them with haughty dignity, and said:

"Mr. Stoneman cannot be seen at this hour. It is after nine o'clock. I
will submit to him your request for an audience to-morrow morning."

"We must see him to-night," replied the editor, with rising anger.

"The king is amusing himself," said the yellow woman, with a touch of
malice.

"Where is he?"

Her catlike eyes rolled from side to side, and a smile played about her
full lips as she said:

"You will find him at Hall & Pemberton's gambling hell--you've lived in
Washington. You know the way."

With a muttered oath the editor turned on his heel and led his two
companions to the old Commoner's favourite haunt. There could be no better
time or place to approach him than seated at one of its tables laden with
rare wines and savoury dishes.

On reaching the well-known number of Hall & Pemberton's place, the editor
entered the unlocked door, passed with his friends along the soft-carpeted
hall, and ascended the stairs. Here the door was locked. A sudden pull of
the bell, and a pair of bright eyes peeped through a small grating in the
centre of the door revealed by the sliding of its panel.

The keen eyes glanced at the proffered card, the door flew open, and a
well-dressed mulatto invited them with cordial welcome to enter.

Passing along another hall, they were ushered into a palatial suite of
rooms furnished in princely state. The floors were covered with the
richest and softest carpets--so soft and yielding that the tramp of a
thousand feet could not make the faintest echo. The walls and ceilings
were frescoed by the brush of a great master, and hung with works of art
worth a king's ransom. Heavy curtains, in colours of exquisite taste,
masked each window, excluding all sound from within or without.

The rooms blazed with light from gorgeous chandeliers of trembling
crystals, shimmering and flashing from the ceilings like bouquets of
diamonds.

Negro servants, faultlessly dressed, attended the slightest want of every
guest with the quiet grace and courtesy of the lost splendours of the old
South.

The proprietor, with courtly manners, extended his hand:

"Welcome, gentlemen; you are my guests. The tables and the wines are at
your service without price. Eat, drink, and be merry--play or not, as you
please."

A smile lighted his dark eyes, but faded out near his mouth--cold and
rigid.

At the farther end of the last room hung the huge painting of a leopard,
so vivid and real its black and tawny colours, so furtive and wild its
restless eyes, it seemed alive and moving behind invisible bars.

Just under it, gorgeously set in its jewel-studded frame, stood the magic
green table on which men staked their gold and lost their souls.

The rooms were crowded with Congressmen, Government officials, officers of
the Army and Navy, clerks, contractors, paymasters, lobbyists, and
professional gamblers.

The centre of an admiring group was a Congressman who had during the last
session of the House broken the "bank" in a single night, winning more
than a hundred thousand dollars. He had lost it all and more in two weeks,
and the courteous proprietor now held orders for the lion's share of the
total pay and mileage of nearly every member of the House of
Representatives.

Over that table thousands of dollars of the people's money had been staked
and lost during the war by quartermasters, paymasters, and agents in
charge of public funds. Many a man had approached that green table with a
stainless name and left it a perjured thief. Some had been carried out by
those handsomely dressed waiters, and the man with the cold mouth could
point out, if he would, more than one stain on the soft carpet which
marked the end of a tragedy deeper than the pen of romancer has ever
sounded.

Stoneman at the moment was playing. He was rarely a heavy player, but he
had just staked a twenty-dollar gold piece and won fourteen hundred
dollars.

Howle, always at his elbow ready for a "sleeper" or a stake, said:

"Put a stack on the ace."

He did so, lost, and repeated it twice.

"Do it again," urged Howle. "I'll stake my reputation that the ace wins
this time."

With a doubting glance at Howle, old Stoneman shoved a stack of blue
chips, worth fifty dollars, over the ace, playing it to win on Howle's
judgment and reputation. It lost.

Without the ghost of a smile, the old statesman said: "Howle, you owe me
five cents."

As he turned abruptly on his club foot from the table, he encountered the
editor and his friends, a Western manufacturer and a Wall Street banker.
They were soon seated at a table in a private room, over a dinner of
choice oysters, diamond-back terrapin, canvas-back duck, and champagne.

They presented their plea for a truce in his fight until popular passion
had subsided.

He heard them in silence. His answer was characteristic:

"The will of the people, gentlemen, is supreme," he said with a sneer. "We
are the people. 'The man at the other end of the avenue' has dared to defy
the will of Congress. He must go. If the Supreme Court lifts a finger in
this fight, it will reduce that tribunal to one man or increase it to
twenty at our pleasure."

"But the Constitution----" broke in the chairman.

"There are higher laws than paper compacts. We are conquerors treading
conquered soil. Our will alone is the source of law. The drunken boor who
claims to be President is in reality an alien of a conquered province."

"We protest," exclaimed the man of money, "against the use of such
epithets in referring to the Chief Magistrate of the Republic!"

"And why, pray?" sneered the Commoner.

"In the name of common decency, law, and order. The President is a man of
inherent power, even if he did learn to read after his marriage. Like many
other Americans, he is a self-made man----"

"Glad to hear it," snapped Stoneman. "It relieves Almighty God of a
fearful responsibility."

They left him in disgust and dismay.



CHAPTER X

TOSSED BY THE STORM


As the storm of passion raised by the clash between her father and the
President rose steadily to the sweep of a cyclone, Elsie felt her own life
but a leaf driven before its fury.

Her only comfort she found in Phil, whose letters to her were full of love
for Margaret. He asked Elsie a thousand foolish questions about what she
thought of his chances.

To her own confessions he was all sympathy.

"Of father's wild scheme of vengeance against the South," he wrote, "I am
heartsick. I hate it on principle, to say nothing of a girl I know. I am
with General Grant for peace and reconciliation. What does your lover
think of it all? I can feel your anguish. The bill to rob the Southern
people of their land, which I hear is pending, would send your sweetheart
and mine, our enemies, into beggared exile. What will happen in the South?
Riot and bloodshed, of course--perhaps a guerilla war of such fierce and
terrible cruelty humanity sickens at the thought. I fear the Rebellion
unhinged our father's reason on some things. He was too old to go to the
front; the cannon's breath would have cleared the air and sweetened his
temper. But its healing was denied. I believe the tawny leopardess who
keeps his house influences him in this cruel madness. I could wring her
neck with exquisite pleasure. Why he allows her to stay and cloud his life
with her she-devil temper and fog his name with vulgar gossip is beyond
me."

Seated in the park on the Capitol hill the day after her father had
introduced his Confiscation Bill in the House, pending the impeachment of
the President, she again attempted to draw Ben out as to his feelings on
politics.

She waited in sickening fear and bristling pride for the first burst of
his anger which would mean their separation.

"How do I feel?" he asked. "Don't feel at all. The surrender of General
Lee was an event so stunning, my mind has not yet staggered past it.
Nothing much can happen after that, so it don't matter."

"Negro suffrage don't matter?"

"No. We can manage the negro," he said calmly.

"With thousands of your own people disfranchised?"

"The negroes will vote with us, as they worked for us during the war. If
they give them the ballot, they'll wish they hadn't."

Ben looked at her tenderly, bent near, and whispered:

"Don't waste your sweet breath talking about such things. My politics is
bounded on the North by a pair of amber eyes, on the South by a dimpled
little chin, on the East and West by a rosy cheek. Words do not frame its
speech. Its language is a mere sign, a pressure of the lips--yet it
thrills body and soul beyond all words."

Elsie leaned closer, and looking at the Capitol, said wistfully:

"I don't believe you know anything that goes on in that big marble
building."

"Yes, I do."

"What happened there yesterday?"

"You honoured it by putting your beautiful feet on its steps. I saw the
whole huge pile of cold marble suddenly glow with warm sunlight and flash
with beauty as you entered it."

The girl nestled still closer to his side, feeling her utter helplessness
in the rapids of the Niagara through which they were being whirled by
blind and merciless forces. For the moment she forgot all fears in his
nearness and the sweet pressure of his hand.



CHAPTER XI

THE SUPREME TEST


It is the glory of the American Republic that every man who has filled the
office of President has grown in stature when clothed with its power and
has proved himself worthy of its solemn trust. It is our highest claim to
the respect of the world and the vindication of man's capacity to govern
himself.

The impeachment of President Andrew Johnson would mark either the lowest
tide-mud of degradation to which the Republic could sink, or its end. In
this trial our system would be put to its severest strain. If a partisan
majority in Congress could remove the Executive and defy the Supreme
Court, stability to civic institutions was at an end, and the breath of a
mob would become the sole standard of law.

Congress had thrown to the winds the last shreds of decency in its
treatment of the Chief Magistrate. Stoneman led this campaign of insult,
not merely from feelings of personal hate, but because he saw that thus
the President's conviction before the Senate would become all but
inevitable.

When his messages arrived from the White House they were thrown into the
waste-basket without being read, amid jeers, hisses, curses, and ribald
laughter.

In lieu of their reading, Stoneman would send to the Clerk's desk an
obscene tirade from a party newspaper, and the Clerk of the House would
read it amid the mocking groans, laughter, and applause of the floor and
galleries.

A favourite clipping described the President as "an insolent drunken
brute, in comparison with whom Caligula's horse was respectable."

In the Senate, whose members were to sit as sworn judges to decide the
question of impeachment, Charles Sumner used language so vulgar that he
was called to order. Sustained by the Chair and the Senate, he repeated it
with increased violence, concluding with cold venom:

"Andrew Johnson has become the successor of Jefferson Davis. In holding
him up to judgment I do not dwell on his beastly intoxication the day he
took the oath as Vice-president, nor do I dwell on his maudlin speeches by
which he has degraded the country, nor hearken to the reports of pardons
sold, or of personal corruption. These things are bad. But he has usurped
the powers of Congress."

Conover, the perjured wretch, in prison for his crimes as a professional
witness in the assassination trial, now circulated the rumour that he
could give evidence that President Johnson was the assassin of Lincoln.
Without a moment's hesitation, Stoneman's henchmen sent a petition to the
President for the pardon of this villain that he might turn against the
man who had pardoned him and swear his life away! This scoundrel was borne
in triumph from prison to the Capitol and placed before the Impeachment
Committee, to whom he poured out his wondrous tale.

The sewers and prisons were dragged for every scrap of testimony to be
found, and the day for the trial approached.

As it drew nearer, excitement grew intense. Swarms of adventurers
expecting the overthrow of the Government crowded into Washington. Dreams
of honours, profits, and division of spoils held riot. Gamblers thronged
the saloons and gaming-houses, betting their gold on the President's
head.

Stoneman found the business more serious than even his daring spirit had
dreamed. His health suddenly gave way under the strain, and he was put to
bed by his physician with the warning that the least excitement would be
instantly fatal.

Elsie entered the little Black House on the hill for the first time since
her trip at the age of twelve, some eight years before. She installed an
army nurse, took charge of the place, and ignored the existence of the
brown woman, refusing to speak to her or permit her to enter her father's
room.

His illness made it necessary to choose an assistant to conduct the case
before the High Court. There was but one member of the House whose
character and ability fitted him for the place--General Benj. F. Butler,
of Massachusetts, whose name was enough to start a riot in any assembly in
America.

His selection precipitated a storm at the Capitol. A member leaped to his
feet on the floor of the House and shouted:

"If I were to characterize all that is pusillanimous in war, inhuman in
peace, forbidden in morals, and corrupt in politics, I could name it in
one word--Butlerism!"

For this speech he was ordered to apologize, and when he refused with
scorn they voted that the Speaker publicly censure him. The Speaker did
so, but winked at the offender while uttering the censure.

John A. Bingham, of Ohio, who had been chosen for his powers of oratory to
make the principal speech against the President, rose in the House and
indignantly refused to serve on the Board of Impeachment with such a man.

General Butler replied with crushing insolence:

"It is true, Mr. Speaker, that I may have made an error of judgment in
trying to blow up Fort Fisher with a powder ship at sea. I did the best I
could with the talents God gave me. An angel could have done no more. At
least I bared my own breast in my country's defence--a thing the
distinguished gentleman who insults me has not ventured to do--his only
claim to greatness being that, behind prison walls, on perjured testimony,
his fervid eloquence sent an innocent American mother screaming to the
gallows."

The fight was ended only by an order from the old Commoner's bed to
Bingham to shut his mouth and work with Butler. When the President had
been crushed, then they could settle Kilkenny-cat issues. Bingham obeyed.

When the august tribunal assembled in the Senate Chamber, fifty-five
Senators, presided over by Salmon P. Chase, Chief Justice of the Supreme
Court, constituted the tribunal. They took their seats in a semicircle in
front of the Vice-president's desk at which the Chief Justice sat. Behind
them crowded the one hundred and ninety members of the House of
Representatives, the accusers of the ruler of the mightiest Republic in
human history. Every inch of space in the galleries was crowded with
brilliantly dressed men and women, army officers in gorgeous uniforms, and
the pomp and splendour of the ministers of every foreign court of the
world. In spectacular grandeur no such scene was ever before witnessed in
the annals of justice.

The peculiar personal appearance of General Butler, whose bald head shone
with insolence while his eye seemed to be winking over his record as a
warrior and making fun of his fellow-manager Bingham, added a touch of
humour to the solemn scene.

The magnificent head of the Chief Justice suggested strange thoughts to
the beholder. He had been summoned but the day before to try Jefferson
Davis for the treason of declaring the Southern States out of the Union.
To-day he sat down to try the President of the United States for declaring
them to be in the Union! He had protested with warmth that he could not
conduct both these trials at once.

The Chief Justice took oath to "do impartial justice according to the
Constitution and the laws," and to the chagrin of Sumner administered this
oath to each Senator in turn. When Benjamin F. Wade's name was called,
Hendricks, of Indiana, objected to his sitting as judge. He could succeed
temporarily to the Presidency, as the presiding officer of the Senate, and
his own vote might decide the fate of the accused and determine his own
succession. The law forbids the Vice-president to sit on such trials. It
should apply with more vigour in his case. Besides, he had without a
hearing already pronounced the President guilty.

Sumner, forgetting his motion to prevent Stockton's voting against his own
expulsion, flew to the defence of Wade. Hendricks smilingly withdrew his
objection, and "Bluff Ben Wade" took the oath and sat down to judge his
own cause with unruffled front.

When the case was complete, the whole bill of indictment stood forth a
tissue of stupid malignity without a shred of evidence to support its
charges.

On the last day of the trial, when the closing speeches were being made,
there was a stir at the door. The throng of men, packing every inch of
floor space, were pushed rudely aside. The crowd craned their necks,
Senators turned and looked behind them to see what the disturbance meant,
and the Chief Justice rapped for order.

Suddenly through the dense mass appeared the forms of two gigantic negroes
carrying an old man. His grim face, white and rigid, and his big club foot
hanging pathetically from those black arms, could not be mistaken. A
thrill of excitement swept the floor and galleries, and a faint cheer
rippled the surface, quickly suppressed by the gavel.

The negroes placed him in an armchair facing the semicircle of Senators,
and crouched down on their haunches beside him. Their kinky heads, black
skin, thick lips, white teeth, and flat noses made for the moment a
curious symbolic frame for the chalk-white passion of the old Commoner's
face.

No sculptor ever dreamed a more sinister emblem of the corruption of a
race of empire builders than this group. Its black figures, wrapped in the
night of four thousand years of barbarism, squatted there the "equal" of
their master, grinning at his forms of justice, the evolution of forty
centuries of Aryan genius. To their brute strength the white fanatic in
the madness of his hate had appealed, and for their hire he had bartered
the birthright of a mighty race of freemen.

The speaker hurried to his conclusion that the half-fainting master might
deliver his message. In the meanwhile his eyes, cold and thrilling, sought
the secrets of the souls of the judges before him.

He had not come to plead or persuade. He had eluded the vigilance of his
daughter and nurse, escaped with the aid of the brown woman and her black
allies, and at the peril of his life had come to command. Every energy of
his indomitable will he was using now to keep from fainting. He felt that
if he could but look those men in the face they would not dare to defy his
word.

He shambled painfully to his feet amid a silence that was awful. Again the
sheer wonder of the man's personality held the imagination of the
audience. His audacity, his fanaticism, and the strange contradictions of
his character stirred the mind of friend and foe alike--this man who
tottered there before them, holding off Death with his big ugly left hand,
while with his right he clutched at the throat of his foe! Honest and
dishonest, cruel and tender, great and mean, a party leader who scorned
public opinion, a man of conviction, yet the most unscrupulous politician,
a philosopher who preached the equality of man, yet a tyrant who hated the
world and despised all men!

His very presence before them an open defiance of love and life and death,
would not his word ring omnipotent when the verdict was rendered? Every
man in the great courtroom believed it as he looked on the rows of
Senators hanging on his lips.

He spoke at first with unnatural vigour, a faint flush of fever lighting
his white face, his voice quivering yet penetrating.

"Upon that man among you who shall dare to acquit the President," he
boldly threatened, "I hurl the everlasting curse of a Nation--an infamy
that shall rive and blast his children's children until they shrink from
their own name as from the touch of pollution!"

He gasped for breath, his restless hands fumbled at his throat, he
staggered and would have fallen had not his black guards caught him. He
revived, pushed them back on their haunches, and sat down. And then, with
his big club foot thrust straight in front of him, his gnarled hands
gripping the arms of his chair, the massive head shaking back and forth
like a wounded lion, he continued his speech, which grew in fierce
intensity with each laboured breath.

The effect was electrical. Every Senator leaned forward to catch the
lowest whisper, and so awful was the suspense in the galleries the
listeners grew faint.

When this last mad challenge was hurled into the teeth of the judges, the
dazed crowd paused for breath and the galleries burst into a storm of
applause.

In vain the Chief Justice rose, his lionlike face livid with anger,
pounded for order, and commanded the galleries to be cleared.

They laughed at him. Roar after roar was the answer. The Chief Justice in
loud angry tones ordered the Sergeant-at-Arms to clear the galleries.

Men leaned over the rail and shouted in his face:

"He can't do it!"

"He hasn't got men enough!"

"Let him try if he dares!"

The doorkeepers attempted to enforce order by announcing it in the name of
the peace and dignity and sovereign power of the Senate over its sacred
chamber. The crowd had now become a howling mob which jeered them.

Senator Grimes, of Iowa, rose and demanded the reason why the Senate was
thus insulted and the order had not been enforced.

A volley of hisses greeted his question.

The Chief Justice, evidently quite nervous, declared the order would be
enforced.

Senator Trumbull, of Illinois, moved that the offenders be arrested.

In reply the crowd yelled:

"We'd like to see you do it!"

At length the mob began to slowly leave the galleries under the impression
that the High Court had adjourned.

Suddenly a man cried out:

"Hold on! They ain't going to adjourn. Let's see it out!"

Hundreds took their seats again. In the corridors a crowd began to sing in
wild chorus:

"Old Grimes is dead, that poor old man." The women joined with glee.
Between the verses the leader would curse the Iowa Senator as a traitor
and copperhead. The singing could be distinctly heard by the Court as its
roar floated through the open doors.

When the Senate Chamber had been cleared and the most disgraceful scene
that ever occurred within its portals had closed, the High Court
Impeachment went into secret session to consider the evidence and its
verdict.

Within an hour from its adjournment it was known to the Managers that
seven Republican Senators were doubtful, and that they formed a group
under the leadership of two great constitutional lawyers who still
believed in the sanctity of a judge's oath--Lyman Trumbull, of Illinois,
and William Pitt Fessenden, of Maine. Around them had gathered Senators
Grimes, of Iowa, Van Winkle, of West Virginia, Fowler, of Tennessee,
Henderson, of Missouri, and Ross, of Kansas. The Managers were in a panic.
If these men dared to hold together with the twelve Democrats, the
President would be acquitted by one vote--they could count thirty-four
certain for conviction.

The Revolutionists threw to the winds the last scruple of decency, went
into caucus and organized a conspiracy for forcing, within the few days
which must pass before the verdict, these judges to submit to their
decree.

Fessenden and Trumbull were threatened with impeachment and expulsion from
the Senate and bombarded by the most furious assaults from the press,
which denounced them as infamous traitors, "as mean, repulsive, and
noxious as hedgehogs in the cages of a travelling menagerie."

A mass meeting was held in Washington which said:

"Resolved, that we impeach Fessenden, Trumbull, and Grimes at the bar of
justice and humanity, as traitors before whose guilt the infamy of
Benedict Arnold becomes respectability and decency."

The Managers sent out a circular telegram to every State from which came a
doubtful judge:

"Great danger to the peace of the country if impeachment fails. Send your
Senators public opinion by resolutions, letters, and delegates."

The man who excited most wrath was Ross, of Kansas. That Kansas of all
States should send a "traitor" was more than the spirits of the
Revolutionists could bear.

A mass meeting in Leavenworth accordingly sent him the telegram:

"Kansas has heard the evidence and demands the conviction of the
President.

"D. R. Anthony and 1,000 others."

To this Ross replied:

"I have taken an oath to do impartial justice. I trust I shall have the
courage and honesty to vote according to the dictates of my judgment and
for the highest good of my country."

He got his answer:

"Your motives are Indian contracts and greenbacks. Kansas repudiates you
as she does all perjurers and skunks."

The Managers organized an inquisition for the purpose of torturing and
badgering Ross into submission. His one vote was all they lacked.

They laid siege to little Vinnie Ream, the sculptress, to whom Congress
had awarded a contract for the statue of Lincoln. Her studio was in the
crypt of the Capitol. They threatened her with the wrath of Congress, the
loss of her contract, and ruin of her career unless she found a way to
induce Senator Ross, whom she knew, to vote against the President.

Such an attempt to gain by fraud the verdict of a common court of law
would have sent its promoters to prison for felony. Yet the Managers of
this case, before the highest tribunal of the world, not only did it
without a blush of shame, but cursed as a traitor every man who dared to
question their motives.

As the day approached for the Court to vote, Senator Ross remained to
friend and foe a sealed mystery. Reporters swarmed about him, the target
of a thousand eyes. His rooms were besieged by his radical constituents
who had been imported from Kansas in droves to browbeat him into a promise
to convict. His movements day and night, his breakfast, his dinner, his
supper, the clothes he wore, the colour of his cravat, his friends and
companions, were chronicled in hourly bulletins and flashed over the wires
from the delirious Capital.

Chief Justice Chase called the High Court of Impeachment to order, to
render its verdict. Old Stoneman had again been carried to his chair in
the arms of two negroes, and sat with his cold eyes searching the faces of
the judges.

The excitement had reached the highest pitch of intensity. A sense of
choking solemnity brooded over the scene. The feeling grew that the hour
had struck which would test the capacity of man to establish an enduring
Republic.

The Clerk read the Eleventh Article, drawn by the Great Commoner as the
supreme test.

As its last words died away the Chief Justice rose amid a silence that was
agony, placed his hands on the sides of the desk as if to steady himself,
and said:

"Call the roll."

Each Senator answered "Guilty" or "Not Guilty," exactly as they had been
counted by the Managers, until Fessenden's name was called.

A moment of stillness and the great lawyer's voice rang high, cold, clear,
and resonant as a Puritan church bell on Sunday morning:

"Not Guilty!"

A murmur, half groan and sigh, half cheer and cry, rippled the great
hall.

The other votes were discounted now save that of Edmund G. Ross, of
Kansas. No human being on earth knew what this man would do save the
silent invisible man within his soul.

Over the solemn trembling silence the voice of the Chief Justice rang:

"Senator Ross, how say you? Is the respondent, Andrew Johnson, guilty or
not guilty of a high misdemeanor as charged in this article?"

The great Judge bent forward; his brow furrowed as Ross arose.

His fellow Senators watched him spellbound. A thousand men and women,
hanging from the galleries, focused their eyes on him. Old Stoneman drew
his bristling brows down, watching him like an adder ready to strike, his
lower lip protruding, his jaws clinched as a vise, his hands fumbling the
arms of his chair.

Every breath is held, every ear strained, as the answer falls from the
sturdy Scotchman like the peal of a trumpet:

"Not Guilty!"

The crowd breathes--a pause, a murmur, the shuffle of a thousand feet----

The President is acquitted, and the Republic lives!

The House assembled and received the report of the verdict. Old Stoneman
pulled himself half erect, holding to his desk, addressed the Speaker,
introduced his second bill for the impeachment of the President, and fell
fainting in the arms of his black attendants.



CHAPTER XII

TRIUMPH IN DEFEAT


Upon the failure to convict the President, Edwin M. Stanton resigned, sank
into despair and died, and a soldier Secretary of War opened the prison
doors.

Ben Cameron and his father hurried Southward to a home and land passing
under a cloud darker than the dust and smoke of blood-soaked
battlefields--the Black Plague of Reconstruction.

For two weeks the old Commoner wrestled in silence with Death. When at
last he spoke, it was to the stalwart negroes who had called to see him
and were standing by his bedside.

Turning his deep-sunken eyes on them a moment, he said slowly:

"I wonder whom I'll get to carry me when you boys die!"

Elsie hurried to his side and kissed him tenderly. For a week his mind
hovered in the twilight that lies between time and eternity. He seemed to
forget the passions and fury of his fierce career and live over the
memories of his youth, recalling pathetically its bitter poverty and its
fair dreams. He would lie for hours and hold Elsie's hand, pressing it
gently.

In one of his lucid moments he said:

"How beautiful you are, my child! You shall be a queen. I've dreamed of
boundless wealth for you and my boy. My plans are Napoleonic--and I shall
not fail--never fear--aye, beyond the dreams of avarice!"

"I wish no wealth save the heart treasure of those I love, father," was
the soft answer.

"Of course, little day-dreamer. But the old cynic who has outlived himself
and knows the mockery of time and things will be wisdom for your
foolishness. You shall keep your toys. What pleases you shall please me.
Yet I will be wise for us both."

She laid her hand upon his lips, and he kissed the warm little fingers.

In these days of soul-nearness the iron heart softened as never before in
love toward his children. Phil had hurried home from the West and secured
his release from the remaining weeks of his term of service.

As the father lay watching them move about the room, the cold light in his
deep-set wonderful eyes would melt into a soft glow.

As he grew stronger, the old fierce spirit of the unconquered leader began
to assert itself. He would take up the fight where he left it off and
carry it to victory.

Elsie and Phil sent the doctor to tell him the truth and beg him to quit
politics.

"Your work is done; you have but three months to live unless you go South
and find new life," was the verdict.

"In either event I go to a warmer climate, eh, doctor?" said the cynic.

"Perhaps," was the laughing reply.

"Good. It suits me better. I've had the move in mind. I can do more
effective work in the South for the next two years. Your decision is fate.
I'll go at once."

The doctor was taken aback.

"Come now," he said persuasively. "Let a disinterested Englishman give you
some advice. You've never taken any before. I give it as medicine, and I
won't put it on your bill. Slow down on politics. Your recent defeat
should teach you a lesson in conservatism."

The old Commoner's powerful mouth became rigid, and the lower lip bulged:

"Conservatism--fossil putrefaction!"

"But defeat?"

"Defeat?" cried the old man. "Who said I was defeated? The South lies in
ashes at my feet--the very names of her proud States blotted from history.
The Supreme Court awaits my nod. True, there's a man boarding in the White
House, and I vote to pay his bills; but the page who answers my beck and
call has more power. Every measure on which I've set my heart is law, save
one--my Confiscation Act--and this but waits the fulness of time."

The doctor, who was walking back and forth with his hands folded behind
him, paused and said:

"I marvel that a man of your personal integrity could conceive such a
measure; you, who refused to accept the legal release of your debts until
the last farthing was paid--you, whose cruelty of the lip is hideous, and
yet beneath it so gentle a personality, I've seen the pages in the House
stand at your back and mimic you while speaking, secure in the smile with
which you turned to greet their fun. And yet you press this crime upon a
brave and generous foe?"

"A wrong can have no rights," said Stoneman calmly. "Slavery will not be
dead until the landed aristocracy on which it rested is destroyed. I am
not cruel or unjust. I am but fulfilling the largest vision of universal
democracy that ever stirred the soul of man--a democracy that shall know
neither rich nor poor, bond nor free, white nor black. If I use the wild
pulse-beat of the rage of millions, it is only a means to an end--this
grander vision of the soul."

"Then why not begin at home this vision, and give the stricken South a
moment to rise?"

"No. The North is impervious to change, rich, proud, and unscathed by war.
The South is in chaos and cannot resist. It is but the justice and wisdom
of Heaven that the negro shall rule the land of his bondage. It is the
only solution of the race problem. Lincoln's contention that we could not
live half white and half black is sound at the core. When we proclaim
equality, social, political, and economic for the negro, we mean always to
enforce it in the South. The negro will never be treated as an equal in
the North. We are simply a set of cold-blooded liars on that subject, and
always have been. To the Yankee the very physical touch of a negro is
pollution."

"Then you don't believe this twaddle about equality?" asked the doctor.

"Yes and no. Mankind in the large is a herd of mercenary gudgeons or
fools. As a lawyer in Pennsylvania I have defended fifty murderers on
trial for their lives. Forty-nine of them were guilty. All these I
succeeded in acquitting. One of them was innocent. This one they hung. Can
a man keep his face straight in such a world? Could negro blood degrade
such stock? Might not an ape improve it? I preach equality as a poet and
seer who sees a vision beyond the rim of the horizon of to-day."

The old man's eyes shone with the set stare of a fanatic.

"And you think the South is ready for this wild vision?"

"Not ready, but helpless to resist. As a cold-blooded, scientific
experiment, I mean to give the Black Man one turn at the Wheel of Life. It
is an act of just retribution. Besides, in my plans I need his vote; and
that settles it."

"But will your plans work? Your own reports show serious trouble in the
South already."

Stoneman laughed.

"I never read my own reports. They are printed in molasses to catch flies.
The Southern legislatures played into my hands by copying the laws of New
England relating to Servants, Masters, Apprentices, and Vagrants. But even
these were repealed at the first breath of criticism. Neither the
Freedman's Bureau nor the army has ever loosed its grip on the throat of
the South for a moment. These disturbances and 'atrocities' are dangerous
only when printed on campaign fly-paper."

"And how will you master and control these ten great Southern States?"

"Through my Reconstruction Acts by means of the Union League. As a secret
between us, I am the soul of this order. I organized it in 1863 to secure
my plan of confiscation. We pressed it on Lincoln. He repudiated it. We
nominated Frémont at Cleveland against Lincoln in '64, and tried to split
the party or force Lincoln to retire. Frémont, a conceited ass, went back
on this plank in our platform, and we dropped him and helped elect Lincoln
again."

"I thought the Union League a patriotic and social organization?" said the
doctor in surprise.

"It has these features, but its sole aim as a secret order is to
confiscate the property of the South. I will perfect this mighty
organization until every negro stands drilled in serried line beneath its
banners, send a solid delegation here to do my bidding, and return at the
end of two years with a majority so overwhelming that my word will be law.
I will pass my Confiscation Bill. If Ulysses S. Grant, the coming idol,
falters, my second bill of Impeachment will only need the change of a
name."

The doctor shook his head.

"Give up this madness. Your life is hanging by a thread. The Southern
people even in their despair will never drink this black broth you are
pressing to their lips."

"They've got to drink it."

"Your decision is unalterable?"

"Absolutely. It's the breath I breathe. As my physician you may select the
place to which I shall be banished. It must be reached by rail and wire. I
care not its name or size. I'll make it the capital of the Nation.
There'll be poetic justice in setting up my establishment in a fallen
slaveholder's mansion."

The doctor looked intently at the old man:

"The study of men has become a sort of passion with me, but you are the
deepest mystery I've yet encountered in this land of surprises."

"And why?" asked the cynic.

"Because the secret of personality resides in motives, and I can't find
yours either in your actions or words."

Stoneman glanced at him sharply from beneath his wrinkled brows and
snapped.

"Keep on guessing."

"I will. In the meantime I'm going to send you to the village of Piedmont,
South Carolina. Your son and daughter both seem enthusiastic over this
spot."

"Good; that settles it. And now that mine own have been conspiring against
me," said Stoneman confidentially, "a little guile on my part. Not a word
of what has passed between us to my children. Tell them I agree with your
plans and give up my work. I'll give the same story to the press--I wish
nothing to mar their happiness while in the South. My secret burdens need
not cloud their young lives."

Dr. Barnes took the old man by the hand:

"I promise. My assistant has agreed to go with you. I'll say good-bye.
It's an inspiration to look into a face like yours, lit by the splendour
of an unconquerable will! But I want to say something to you before you
set out on this journey."

"Out with it," said the Commoner.

"The breed to which the Southern white man belongs has conquered every
foot of soil on this earth their feet have pressed for a thousand years. A
handful of them hold in subjection three hundred millions in India. Place
a dozen of them in the heart of Africa, and they will rule the continent
unless you kill them----"

"Wait," cried Stoneman, "until I put a ballot in the hand of every negro
and a bayonet at the breast of every white man from the James to the Rio
Grande!"

"I'll tell you a little story," said the doctor with a smile. "I once had
a half-grown eagle in a cage in my yard. The door was left open one day,
and a meddlesome rooster hopped in to pick a fight. The eagle had been
sick a week and seemed an easy mark. I watched. The rooster jumped and
wheeled and spurred and picked pieces out of his topknot. The young eagle
didn't know at first what he meant. He walked around dazed, with a hurt
expression. When at last it dawned on him what the chicken was about, he
simply reached out one claw, took the rooster by the neck, planted the
other claw in his breast, and snatched his head off."

The old man snapped his massive jaws together and grunted contemptuously.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Book III--The Reign of Terror



CHAPTER I

A FALLEN SLAVEHOLDER'S MANSION


Piedmont, South Carolina, which Elsie and Phil had selected for reasons
best known to themselves as the place of retreat for their father, was a
favourite summer resort of Charleston people before the war.

Ulster county, of which this village was the capital, bordered on the
North Carolina line, lying alongside the ancient shore of York. It was
settled by the Scotch folk who came from the North of Ireland in the great
migrations which gave America three hundred thousand people of Covenanter
martyr blood, the largest and most important addition to our population,
larger in number than either the Puritans of New England or the so-called
Cavaliers of Virginia and Eastern Carolina; and far more important than
either, in the growth of American nationality.

To a man they had hated Great Britain. Not a Tory was found among them.
The cries of their martyred dead were still ringing in their souls when
George III started on his career of oppression. The fiery words of Patrick
Henry, their spokesman in the valley of Virginia, had swept the
aristocracy of the Old Dominion into rebellion against the King and on
into triumphant Democracy. They had made North Carolina the first home of
freedom in the New World, issued the first Declaration of Independence in
Mecklenburg, and lifted the first banner of rebellion against the tyranny
of the Crown.

They grew to the soil wherever they stopped, always home lovers and home
builders, loyal to their own people, instinctive clan leaders and clan
followers. A sturdy, honest, covenant-keeping, God-fearing, fighting
people, above all things they hated sham and pretence. They never boasted
of their families, though some of them might have quartered the royal arms
of Scotland on their shields.

To these sturdy qualities had been added a strain of Huguenot tenderness
and vivacity.

The culture of cotton as the sole industry had fixed African slavery as
their economic system. With the heritage of the Old World had been blended
forces inherent in the earth and air of the new Southland, something of
the breath of its unbroken forests, the freedom of its untrod mountains,
the temper of its sun, and the sweetness of its tropic perfumes.

When Mrs. Cameron received Elsie's letter, asking her to secure for them
six good rooms at the "Palmetto" hotel, she laughed. The big rambling
hostelry had been burned by roving negroes, pigs were wallowing in the
sulphur springs, and along its walks, where lovers of olden days had
strolled, the cows were browsing on the shrubbery.

But she laughed for a more important reason. They had asked for a six-room
cottage if accommodations could not be had in the hotel.

She could put them in the Lenoir place. The cotton crop from their farm
had been stolen from the gin--the cotton tax of $200 could not be paid,
and a mortgage was about to be foreclosed on both their farm and home. She
had been brooding over their troubles in despair. The Stonemans' coming
was a godsend.

Mrs. Cameron was helping them set the house in order to receive the new
tenants.

"I declare," said Mrs. Lenoir gratefully. "It seems too good to be true.
Just as I was about to give up--the first time in my life--here came those
rich Yankees and with enough rent to pay the interest on the mortgages and
our board at the hotel. I'll teach Margaret to paint, and she can give
Marion lessons on the piano. The darkest hour's just before day. And last
week I cried when they told me I must lose the farm."

"I was heartsick over it for you."

"You know, the farm was my dowry with the dozen slaves Papa gave us on our
wedding-day. The negroes did as they pleased, yet we managed to live and
were very happy."

Marion entered and placed a bouquet of roses on the table, touching them
daintily until she stood each flower apart in careless splendour. Their
perfume, the girl's wistful dreamy blue eyes and shy elusive beauty, all
seemed a part of the warm sweet air of the June morning. Mrs. Lenoir
watched her lovingly.

"Mamma, I'm going to put flowers in every room. I'm sure they haven't such
lovely ones in Washington," said Marion eagerly, as she skipped out.

The two women moved to the open window, through which came the drone of
bees and the distant music of the river falls.

"Marion's greatest charm," whispered her mother, "is in her way of doing
things easily and gently without a trace of effort. Watch her bend over to
get that rose. Did you ever see anything like the grace and symmetry of
her figure--she seems a living flower!"

"Jeannie, you're making an idol of her----"

"Why not? With all our troubles and poverty, I'm rich in her! She's
fifteen years old, her head teeming with romance. You know, I was married
at fifteen. There'll be a half dozen boys to see her to-night in our new
home--all of them head over heels in love with her."

"Oh, Jeannie, you must not be so silly! We should worship God only."

"Isn't she God's message to me and to the world?"

"But if anything should happen to her----"

The young mother laughed. "I never think of it. Some things are fixed. Her
happiness and beauty are to me the sign of God's presence."

"Well, I'm glad you're coming to live with us in the heart of town. This
place is a cosey nest, just such a one as a poet lover would build here in
the edge of these deep woods, but it is too far out for you to be alone.
Dr. Cameron has been worrying about you ever since he came home."

"I'm not afraid of the negroes. I don't know one of them who wouldn't go
out of his way to do me a favour. Old Aleck is the only rascal I know
among them, and he's too busy with politics now even to steal a chicken."

"And Gus, the young scamp we used to own; you haven't forgotten him? He is
back here, a member of the company of negro troops, and parades before the
house every day to show off his uniform. Dr. Cameron told him yesterday
he'd thrash him if he caught him hanging around the place again. He
frightened Margaret nearly to death when she went to the barn to feed her
horse."

"I've never known the meaning of fear. We used to roam the woods and
fields together all hours of the day and night: my lover, Marion, and I.
This panic seems absurd to me."

"Well, I'll be glad to get you two children under my wing. I was afraid
I'd find you in tears over moving from your nest."

"No, where Marion is I'm at home, and I'll feel I've a mother when I get
with you."

"Will you come to the hotel before they arrive?"

"No; I'll welcome and tell them how glad I am they have brought me good
luck."

"I'm delighted, Jeannie. I wished you to do this, but I couldn't ask it. I
can never do enough for this old man's daughter. We must make their stay
happy. They say he's a terrible old Radical politician, but I suppose he's
no meaner than the others. He's very ill, and she loves him devotedly. He
is coming here to find health, and not to insult us. Besides, he was kind
to me. He wrote a letter to the President. Nothing that I have will be too
good for him or for his. It's very brave and sweet of you to stay and meet
them."

"I'm doing it to please Marion. She suggested it last night, sitting out
on the porch in the twilight. She slipped her arm around me and said:

"'Mamma, we must welcome them and make them feel at home. He is very ill.
They will be tired and homesick. Suppose it were you and I, and we were
taking my Papa to a strange place.'"

                    *       *       *       *       *

When the Stonemans arrived, the old man was too ill and nervous from the
fatigue of the long journey to notice his surroundings or to be conscious
of the restful beauty of the cottage into which they carried him. His room
looked out over the valley of the river for miles, and the glimpse he got
of its broad fertile acres only confirmed his ideas of the "slaveholding
oligarchy" it was his life-purpose to crush. Over the mantel hung a steel
engraving of Calhoun. He fell asleep with his deep, sunken eyes resting on
it and a cynical smile playing about his grim mouth.

Margaret and Mrs. Cameron had met the Stonemans and their physician at the
train, and taken Elsie and her father in the old weather-beaten family
carriage to the Lenoir cottage, apologising for Ben's absence.

"He has gone to Nashville on some important legal business, and the doctor
is ailing, but as the head of the clan Cameron he told me to welcome your
father to the hospitality of the county, and beg him to let us know if he
could be of help."

The old man, who sat in a stupor of exhaustion, made no response, and
Elsie hastened to say:

"We appreciate your kindness more than I can tell you, Mrs. Cameron. I
trust father will be better in a day or two, when he will thank you. The
trip has been more than he could bear."

"I am expecting Ben home this week," the mother whispered. "I need not
tell you that he will be delighted at your coming."

Elsie smiled and blushed.

"And I'll expect Captain Stoneman to see me very soon," said Margaret
softly. "You will not forget to tell him for me?"

"He's a very retiring young man," said Elsie, "and pretends to be busy
about our baggage just now. I'm sure he will find the way."

Elsie fell in love at sight with Marion and her mother. Their easy genial
manners, the genuineness of their welcome, and the simple kindness with
which they sought to make her feel at home put her heart into a warm
glow.

Mrs. Lenoir explained the conveniences of the place and apologized for its
defects, the results of the war.

"I am sorry about the window curtains--we have used them all for dresses.
Marion is a genius with a needle, and we took the last pair out of the
parlour to make a dress for a birthday party. The year before, we used the
ones in my room for a costume at a starvation party in a benefit for our
rector--you know we're Episcopalians--strayed up here for our health from
Charleston among these good Scotch Presbyterians."

"We will soon place curtains at the windows," said Elsie cheerfully.

"The carpets were sent to the soldiers for blankets during the war. It was
all we could do for our poor boys, except to cut my hair and sell it. You
see my hair hasn't grown out yet. I sent it to Richmond the last year of
the war. I felt I must do something when my neighbours were giving so
much. You know Mrs. Cameron lost four boys."

"I prefer the floors bare," Elsie replied. "We will get a few rugs."

She looked at the girlish hair hanging in ringlets about Mrs. Lenoir's
handsome face, smiled pathetically, and asked:

"Did you really make such sacrifices for your cause?"

"Yes, indeed. I was glad when the war was ended for some things. We
certainly needed a few pins, needles, and buttons, to say nothing of a cup
of coffee or tea."

"I trust you will never lack for anything again," said Elsie kindly.

"You will bring us good luck," Mrs. Lenoir responded. "Your coming is so
fortunate. The cotton tax Congress levied was so heavy this year we were
going to lose everything. Such a tax when we are all about to starve! Dr.
Cameron says it was an act of stupid vengeance on the South, and that no
other farmers in America have their crops taxed by the National
Government. I am so glad your father has come. He is not hunting for an
office. He can help us, maybe."

"I am sure he will," answered Elsie thoughtfully.

Marion ran up the steps lightly, her hair dishevelled and face flushed.

"Now, Mamma, it's almost sundown; you get ready to go. I want her awhile
to show her about my things."

She took Elsie shyly by the hand and led her into the lawn, while her
mother paid a visit to each room, and made up the last bundle of odds and
ends she meant to carry to the hotel.

"I hope you will love the place as we do," said the girl simply.

"I think it very beautiful and restful," Elsie replied. "This wilderness
of flowers looks like fairyland. You have roses running on the porch
around the whole length of the house."

"Yes, Papa was crazy over the trailing roses, and kept planting them until
the house seems just a frame built to hold them, with a roof on it. But
you can see the river through the arches from three sides. Ben Cameron
helped me set that big beauty on the south corner the day he ran away to
the war----"

"The view is glorious!" Elsie exclaimed, looking in rapture over the river
valley.

The village of Piedmont crowned an immense hill on the banks of the Broad
River, just where it dashes over the last stone barrier in a series of
beautiful falls and spreads out in peaceful glory through the plains
toward Columbia and the distant sea. The muffled roar of these falls,
rising softly through the trees on its wooded cliff, held the daily life
of the people in the spell of distant music. In fair weather it soothed
and charmed, and in storm and freshet rose to the deep solemn growl of
thunder.

The river made a sharp bend as it emerged from the hills and flowed
westward for six miles before it turned south again. Beyond this six-mile
sweep of its broad channel loomed the three ranges of the Blue Ridge
Mountains, the first one dark, rich, distinct, clothed in eternal green,
the last one melting in dim lines into the clouds and soft azure of the
sky.

As the sun began to sink now behind these distant peaks, each cloud that
hung about them burst into a blazing riot of colour. The silver mirror of
the river caught their shadows, and the water glowed in sympathy.

As Elsie drank the beauty of the scene, the music of the falls ringing its
soft accompaniment, her heart went out in a throb of love and pity for the
land and its people.

"Can you blame us for loving such a spot?" said Marion. "It's far more
beautiful from the cliff at Lover's Leap. I'll take you there some day. My
father used to tell me that this world was Heaven, and that the spirits
would all come back to live here when sin and shame and strife were
gone."

"Are your father's poems published?" asked Elsie.

"Only in the papers. We have them clipped and pasted in a scrapbook. I'll
show you the one about Ben Cameron some day. You met him in Washington,
didn't you?"

"Yes," said Elsie quietly.

"Then I know he made love to you."

"Why?"

"You're so pretty. He couldn't help it."

"Does he make love to every pretty girl?"

"Always. It's his religion. But he does it so beautifully you can't help
believing it, until you compare notes with the other girls."

"Did he make love to you?"

"He broke my heart when he ran away. I cried a whole week. But I got over
it. He seemed so big and grown when he came home this last time. I was
afraid to let him kiss me."

"Did he dare to try?"

"No, and it hurt my feelings. You see, I'm not quite old enough to be
serious with the big boys, and he looked so brave and handsome with that
ugly scar on the edge of his forehead, and everybody was so proud of him.
I was just dying to kiss him, and I thought it downright mean in him not
to offer it."

"Would you have let him?"

"I expected him to try."

"He is very popular in Piedmont?"

"Every girl in town is in love with him."

"And he in love with all?"

"He pretends to be--but between us, he's a great flirt. He's gone to
Nashville now on some pretended business. Goodness only knows where he got
the money to go. I believe there's a girl there."

"Why?"

"Because he was so mysterious about his trip. I'll keep an eye on him at
the hotel. You know Margaret, too, don't you?"

"Yes; we met her in Washington."

"Well, she's the slyest flirt in town--it runs in the blood--has a
half-dozen beaux to see her every day. She plays the organ in the
Presbyterian Sunday school, and the young minister is dead in love with
her. They say they are engaged. I don't believe it. I think it's another
one. But I must hurry, I've so much to show and tell you. Come here to the
honeysuckle----"

Marion drew the vines apart from the top of the fence and revealed a
mocking-bird on her nest.

"She's setting. Don't let anything hurt her. I'd push her off and show you
her speckled eggs, but it's so late."

"Oh, I wouldn't hurt her for the world!" cried Elsie with delight.

"And right here," said Marion, bending gracefully over a tall bunch of
grass, "is a pee-wee's nest, four darling little eggs; look out for
that."

Elsie bent and saw the pretty nest perched on stems of grass, and over it
the taller leaves drawn to a point.

"Isn't it cute!" she murmured.

"Yes; I've six of these and three mocking-bird nests. I'll show them to
you. But the most particular one of all is the wren's nest in the fork of
the cedar, close to the house."

She led Elsie to the tree, and about two feet from the ground, in the
forks of the trunk, was a tiny hole from which peeped the eyes of a wren.

"Whatever you do, don't let anything hurt her. Her mate sings
'_Free-nigger! Free-nigger! Free-nigger!_' every morning in this cedar."

"And you think we will specially enjoy that?" asked Elsie, laughing.

"Now, really," cried Marion, taking Elsie's hand, "you know I couldn't
think of such a mean joke. I forgot you were from the North. You seem so
sweet and homelike. He really does sing that way. You will hear him in the
morning, bright and early, '_Free-nigger! Free-nigger! Free-nigger!_' just
as plain as I'm saying it."

"And did you learn to find all these birds' nests by yourself?"

"Papa taught me. I've got some jay-birds and some cat-birds so gentle they
hop right down at my feet. Some people hate jay-birds. But I like them,
they seem to be having such a fine time and enjoy life so. You don't mind
jay-birds, do you?"

"I love every bird that flies."

"Except hawks and owls and buzzards----"

"Well, I've seen so few I can't say I've anything particular against
them."

"Yes, they eat chickens--except the buzzards, and they're so ugly and
filthy. Now, I've a chicken to show you--please don't let Aunt
Cindy--she's to be your cook--please don't let her kill him--he's
crippled--has something the matter with his foot. He was born that way.
Everybody wanted to kill him, but I wouldn't let them. I've had an awful
time raising him, but he's all right now."

Marion lifted a box and showed her the lame pet, softly clucking his
protest against the disturbance of his rest.

"I'll take good care of _him_, never fear," said Elsie, with a tremor in
her voice.

"And I have a queer little black cat I wanted to show you, but he's gone
off somewhere. I'd take him with me--only it's bad luck to move cats. He's
awful wild--won't let anybody pet him but me. Mamma says he's an imp of
Satan--but I love him. He runs up a tree when anybody else tries to get
him. But he climbs right up on my shoulder. I never loved any cat quite as
well as this silly, half-wild one. You don't mind black cats, do you?"

"No, dear; I like cats."

"Then I know you'll be good to him."

"Is that all?" asked Elsie, with amused interest.

"No, I've the funniest yellow dog that comes here at night to pick up the
scraps and things. He isn't my dog--just a little personal friend of
mine--but I like him very much, and always give him something. He's very
cute. I think he's a nigger dog."

"A nigger dog? What's that?"

"He belongs to some coloured people, who don't give turn enough to eat. I
love him because he's so faithful to his own folks. He comes to see me at
night and pretends to love me, but as soon as I feed him he trots back
home. When he first came, I laughed till I cried at his antics over a
carpet--we had a carpet then. He never saw one before, and barked at the
colours and the figures in the pattern. Then he'd lie down and rub his
back on it and growl. You won't let anybody hurt him?"

"No. Are there any others?"

"Yes, I 'most forgot. If Sam Ross comes--Sam's an idiot who lives at the
poorhouse--if he comes, he'll expect a dinner--my, my, I'm afraid he'll
cry when he finds we're not here! But you can send him to the hotel to me.
Don't let Aunt Cindy speak rough to him. Aunt Cindy's awfully good to me,
but she can't bear Sam. She thinks he brings bad luck."

"How on earth did you meet him?"

"His father was rich. He was a good friend of my Papa's. We came near
losing our farm once, because a bank failed. Mr. Ross sent Papa a signed
check on his own bank, and told him to write the amount he needed on it,
and pay him when he was able. Papa cried over it, and wouldn't use it, and
wrote a poem on the back of the check--one of the sweetest of all, I
think. In the war Mr. Ross lost his two younger sons, both killed at
Gettysburg. His wife died heartbroken, and he only lived a year afterward.
He sold his farm for Confederate money and everything was lost. Sam was
sent to the poorhouse. He found out somehow that we loved him and comes to
see us. He's as harmless as a kitten, and works in the garden
beautifully."

"I'll remember," Elsie promised.

"And one thing more," she said hesitatingly. "Mamma asked me to speak to
you of this--that's why she slipped away. There one little room we have
locked. It was Papa's study just as he left it, with his papers scattered
on the desk, the books and pictures that he loved--you won't mind?"

Elsie slipped her arm about Marion, looked into the blue eyes, dim with
tears, drew her close and said:

"It shall be sacred, my child. You must come every day if possible, and
help me."

"I will. I've so many beautiful places to show you in the woods--places he
loved, and taught us to see and love. They won't let me go in the woods
any more alone. But you have a big brother. That must be very sweet."

Mrs. Lenoir hurried to Elsie.

"Come, Marion, we must be going now."

"I am very sorry to see you leave the home you love so dearly, Mrs.
Lenoir," said the Northern girl, taking her extended hand. "I hope you can
soon find a way to have it back."

"Thank you," replied the mother cheerily. "The longer you stay, the better
for us. You don't know how happy I am over your coming. It has lifted a
load from our hearts. In the liberal rent you pay us you are our
benefactors. We are very grateful and happy."

Elsie watched them walk across the lawn to the street, the daughter
leaning on the mother's arm. She followed slowly and stopped behind one of
the arbor-vitæ bushes beside the gate. The full moon had risen as the
twilight fell and flooded the scene with soft white light. A whippoorwill
struck his first plaintive note, his weird song seeming to come from all
directions and yet to be under her feet. She heard the rustle of dresses
returning along the walk, and Marion and her mother stood at the gate.
They looked long and tenderly at the house. Mrs. Lenoir uttered a broken
sob, Marion slipped an arm around her, brushed the short curling hair back
from her forehead, and softly said:

"Mamma, dear, you know it's best. I don't mind. Everybody in town loves
us. Every boy and girl in Piedmont worships you. We will be just as happy
at the hotel."

In the pauses between the strange bird's cry, Elsie caught the sound of
another sob, and then a soothing murmur as of a mother bending over a
cradle, and they were gone.



CHAPTER II

THE EYES OF THE JUNGLE


Elsie stood dreaming for a moment in the shadow of the arbor-vitæ,
breathing the sensuous perfumed air and listening to the distant music of
the falls, her heart quivering in pity for the anguish of which she had
been a witness. Again the spectral cry of the whippoorwill rang near-by,
and she noted for the first time the curious cluck with which the bird
punctuated each call. A sense of dim foreboding oppressed her.

She wondered if the chatter of Marion about the girl in Nashville were
only a child's guess or more. She laughed softly at the absurdity of the
idea. Never since she had first looked into Ben Cameron's face did she
feel surer of the honesty and earnestness of his love than to-day in this
quiet home of his native village. It must be the queer call of the bird
which appealed to superstitions she did not know were hidden within her
being.

Still dreaming under its spell, she was startled at the tread of two men
approaching the gate.

The taller, more powerful-looking man put his hand on the latch and
paused.

"Allow no white man to order you around. Remember you are a freeman and as
good as any pale-face who walks this earth."

She recognized the voice of Silas Lynch.

"Ben Cameron dare me to come about de house," said the other voice.

"What did he say?"

"He say, wid his eyes batten' des like lightnen', 'Ef I ketch you hangin'
'roun' dis place agin', Gus, I'll jump on you en stomp de life outen
ye.'"

"Well, you tell him that your name is Augustus, not 'Gus,' and that the
United States troops quartered in this town will be with him soon after
the stomping begins. You wear its uniform. Give the white trash in this
town to understand that they are not even citizens of the nation. As a
sovereign voter, you, once their slave, are not only their equal--you are
their master."

"Dat I will!" was the firm answer.

The negro to whom Lynch spoke disappeared in the direction taken by Marion
and her mother, and the figure of the handsome mulatto passed rapidly up
the walk, ascended the steps and knocked at the door.

Elsie followed him.

"My father is too much fatigued with his journey to be seen now; you must
call to-morrow," she said.

The negro lifted his hat and bowed:

"Ah, we are delighted to welcome you, Miss Stoneman, to our land! Your
father asked me to call immediately on his arrival. I have but obeyed his
orders."

Elsie shrank from the familiarity of his manner and the tones of authority
and patronage with which he spoke.

"He cannot be seen at this hour," she answered shortly.

"Perhaps you will present my card, then--say that I am at his service, and
let him appoint the time at which I shall return?"

She did not invite him in, but with easy assurance he took his seat on the
joggle-board beside the door and awaited her return.

Against her urgent protest, Stoneman ordered Lynch to be shown at once to
his bedroom.

When the door was closed, the old Commoner, without turning to greet his
visitor or moving his position in bed, asked:

"Are you following my instructions?"

"To the letter, sir."

"You are initiating the negroes into the League and teaching them the new
catechism?"

"With remarkable success. Its secrecy and ritual appeal to them. Within
six months we shall have the whole race under our control almost to a
man."

"_Almost_ to a man?"

"We find some so attached to their former masters that reason is
impossible with them. Even threats and the promise of forty acres of land
have no influence."

The old man snorted with contempt.

"If anything could reconcile me to the Satanic Institution it is the
character of the wretches who submit to it and kiss the hand that strikes.
After all, a slave deserves to be a slave. The man who is mean enough to
wear chains ought to wear them. You must teach, _teach_, TEACH these black
hounds to know they are men, not brutes!"

The old man paused a moment, and his restless hands fumbled the cover.

"Your first task, as I told you in the beginning, is to teach every negro
to stand erect in the presence of his former master and assert his
manhood. Unless he does this, the South will bristle with bayonets in
vain. The man who believes he is a dog, is one. The man who believes
himself a king, may become one. Stop this snivelling and sneaking round
the back doors. I can do nothing, God Almighty can do nothing, for a
coward. Fix this as the first law of your own life. Lift up your head! The
world is yours. Take it. Beat this into the skulls of your people, if you
do it with an axe. Teach them the military drill at once. I'll see that
Washington sends the guns. The state, when under your control, can furnish
the powder."

"It will surprise you to know the thoroughness with which this has been
done already by the League," said Lynch. "The white master believed he
could vote the negro as he worked him in the fields during the war. The
League, with its blue flaming altar, under the shadows of night, has
wrought a miracle. The negro is the enemy of his former master and will be
for all time."

"For the present," said the old man meditatively, "not a word to a living
soul as to my connection with this work. When the time is ripe, I'll show
my hand."

Elsie entered, protesting against her father's talking longer, and showed
Lynch to the door.

He paused on the moonlit porch and tried to engage her in familiar talk.

She cut him short, and he left reluctantly.

As he bowed his thick neck in pompous courtesy, she caught with a shiver
the odour of pomade on his black half-kinked hair. He stopped on the lower
step, looked back with smiling insolence, and gazed intently at her
beauty. The girl shrank from the gleam of the jungle in his eyes and
hurried within.

She found her father sunk in a stupor. Her cry brought the young surgeon
hurrying into the room, and at the end of an hour he said to Elsie and
Phil:

"He has had a stroke of paralysis. He may lie in mental darkness for
months and then recover. His heart action is perfect. Patience, care, and
love will save him. There is no cause for immediate alarm."



CHAPTER III

AUGUSTUS CÆSAR


Phil early found the home of the Camerons the most charming spot in town.
As he sat in the old-fashioned parlour beside Margaret, his brain seethed
with plans for building a hotel on a large scale on the other side of the
Square and restoring her home intact.

The Cameron homestead was a large brick building with an ample porch
looking out directly on the Court House Square, standing in the middle of
a lawn full of trees, flowers, shrubbery, and a wilderness of evergreen
boxwood planted fifty years before. It was located on the farm from which
it had always derived its support. The farm extended up into the village
itself, with the great barn easily seen from the street.

Phil was charmed with the doctor's genial personality. He often found the
father a decidedly easier person to get along with than his handsome
daughter. The Rev. Hugh McAlpin was a daily caller, and Margaret had a
tantalizing way of showing her deference to his opinions.

Phil hated this preacher from the moment he laid eyes on him. His
pugnacious piety he might have endured but for the fact that he was
good-looking and eloquent. When he rose in the pulpit in all his sacred
dignity, fixed his eyes on Margaret, and began in tenderly modulated voice
to tell about the love of God, Phil clinched his fist. He didn't care to
join the Presbyterian church, but he quietly made up his mind that, if it
came to the worst and she asked him, he would join anything. What made him
furious was the air of assurance with which the young divine carried
himself about Margaret, as if he had but to say the word and it would be
fixed as by a decree issued from before the foundations of the world.

He was pleased and surprised to find that his being a Yankee made no
difference in his standing or welcome. The people seemed unconscious of
the part his father played at Washington. Stoneman's Confiscation Bill had
not yet been discussed in Congress, and the promise of land to the negroes
was universally regarded as a hoax of the League to win their followers.
The old Commoner was not an orator. Hence his name was scarcely known in
the South. The Southern people could not conceive of a great leader except
one who expressed his power through the megaphone of oratory. They held
Charles Sumner chiefly responsible for Reconstruction.

The fact that Phil was a Yankee who had no axe to grind in the South
caused the people to appeal to him in a pathetic way that touched his
heart. He had not been in town two weeks before he was on good terms with
every youngster, had the entrée to every home, and Ben had taken him,
protesting vehemently, to see every pretty girl there. He found that, in
spite of war and poverty, troubles present and troubles to come, the young
Southern woman was the divinity that claimed and received the chief
worship of man.

The tremendous earnestness with which these youngsters pursued the work of
courting, all of them so poor they scarcely had enough to eat, amazed and
alarmed him beyond measure. He found in several cases as many as four
making a dead set for one girl, as if heaven and earth depended on the
outcome, while the girl seemed to receive it all as a matter of
course--her just tribute.

Every instinct of his quiet reserved nature revolted at any such attempt
to rush his cause with Margaret, and yet it made the cold chills run down
his spine to see that Presbyterian preacher drive his buggy up to the
hotel, take her to ride, and stay three hours. He knew where they had
gone--to Lover's Leap and along the beautiful road which led to the North
Carolina line. He knew the way--Margaret had showed him. This road was the
Way of Romance. Every farmhouse, cabin, and shady nook along its beaten
track could tell its tale of lovers fleeing from the North to find
happiness in the haven of matrimony across the line in South Carolina.
Everything seemed to favour marriage in this climate. The state required
no license. A legal marriage could be celebrated, anywhere, at any time,
by a minister in the presence of two witnesses, with or without the
consent of parent or guardian. Marriage was the easiest thing in the
state--divorce the one thing impossible. Death alone could grant divorce.

He was now past all reason in love. He followed the movement of Margaret's
queenly figure with pathetic abandonment. Beneath her beautiful manners he
swore with a shiver that she was laughing at him. Now and then he caught a
funny expression about her eyes, as if she were consumed with a sly sense
of humour in her love affairs.

What he felt to be his manliest traits, his reserve, dignity, and moral
earnestness, she must think cold and slow beside the dash, fire, and
assurance of these Southerners. He could tell by the way she encouraged
the preacher before his eyes that she was criticizing and daring him to
let go for once. Instead of doing it, he sank back appalled at the
prospect and let the preacher carry her off again.

He sought solace in Dr. Cameron, who was utterly oblivious of his
daughter's love affairs.

Phil was constantly amazed at the variety of his knowledge, the
genuineness of his culture, his modesty, and the note of youth and cheer
with which he still pursued the study of medicine.

His company was refreshing for its own sake. The slender graceful figure,
ruddy face, with piercing, dark-brown eyes in startling contrast to his
snow-white hair and beard, had for Phil a perpetual charm. He never tired
listening to his talk, and noting the peculiar grace and dignity with
which he carried himself, unconscious of the commanding look of his
brilliant eyes.

"I hear that you have used hypnotism in your practice, Doctor," Phil said
to him one day, as he watched with fascination the changing play of his
mobile features.

"Oh, yes! used it for years. Southern doctors have always been pioneers in
the science of medicine. Dr. Crawford Long, of Georgia, you know, was the
first practitioner in America to apply anesthesia to surgery."

"But where did you run up against hypnotism? I thought this a new thing
under the sun?"

The doctor laughed.

"It's not a home industry, exactly. I became interested in it in Edinburgh
while a medical student, and pursued it with increased interest in
Paris."

"Did you study medicine abroad?" Phil asked in surprise.

"Yes; I was poor, but I managed to raise and to borrow enough to take
three years on the other side. I put all I had and all my credit in it.
I've never regretted the sacrifice. The more I saw of the great world, the
better I liked my own world. I've given these farmers and their families
the best God gave to me."

"Do you find much use for your powers of hypnosis?" Phil asked.

"Only in an experimental way. Naturally I am endowed with this
gift--especially over certain classes who are easily the subjects of
extreme fear. I owned a rascally slave named Gus whom I used to watch
stealing. Suddenly confronting him, I've thrown him into unconsciousness
with a steady gaze of the eye, until he would drop on his face, trembling
like a leaf, unable to speak until I allowed him."

"How do you account for such powers?"

"I don't account for them at all. They belong to the world of spiritual
phenomena of which we know so little and yet which touch our material
lives at a thousand points every day. How do we account for sleep and
dreams, or second sight, or the day dreams which we call visions?"

Phil was silent, and the doctor went on dreamily:

"The day my boy Richard was killed at Gettysburg, I saw him lying dead in
a field near a house. I saw some soldiers bury him in the corner of that
field, and then an old man go to the grave, dig up his body, cart it away
into the woods, and throw it into a ditch. I saw it before I heard of the
battle or knew that he was in it. He was reported killed, and his body has
never been found. It is the one unspeakable horror of the war to me. I'll
never get over it."

"How very strange!" exclaimed Phil.

"And yet the war was nothing, my boy, to the horrors I feel clutching the
throat of the South to-day. I'm glad you and your father are down here.
Your disinterested view of things may help us at Washington when we need
it most. The South seems to have no friend at court."

"Your younger men, I find, are hopeful, Doctor," said Phil.

"Yes, the young never see danger until it's time to die. I'm not a
pessimist, but I was happier in jail. Scores of my old friends have given
up in despair and died. Delicate and cultured women are living on cowpeas,
corn bread, and molasses--and of such quality they would not have fed it
to a slave. Children go to bed hungry. Droves of brutal negroes roam at
large, stealing, murdering, and threatening blacker crimes. We are under
the heel of petty military tyrants, few of whom ever smelled gunpowder in
a battle. At the approaching election, not a decent white man in this
country can take the infamous test oath. I am disfranchised because I gave
a cup of water to the lips of one of my dying boys on the battlefield. My
slaves are all voters. There will be a negro majority of more than one
hundred thousand in this state. Desperadoes are here teaching these
negroes insolence and crime in their secret societies. The future is a
nightmare."

[Illustration: HENRY WALTHALL AS BEN CAMERON.]

"You have my sympathy, sir," said Phil warmly, extending his hand. "These
Reconstruction Acts, conceived in sin and brought forth in iniquity, can
bring only shame and disgrace until the last trace of them is wiped from
our laws. I hope it will not be necessary to do it in blood."

The doctor was deeply touched. He could not be mistaken in the genuineness
of any man's feeling. He never dreamed this earnest straightforward Yankee
youngster was in love with Margaret, and it would have made no difference
in the accuracy of his judgment.

"Your sentiments do you honour, sir," he said with grave courtesy. "And
you honour us and our town with your presence and friendship."

As Phil hurried home in a warm glow of sympathy for the people whose
hospitality had made him their friend and champion, he encountered a negro
trooper standing on the corner, watching the Cameron house with furtive
glance.

Instinctively he stopped, surveyed the man from head to foot and asked:

"What's the trouble?"

"None er yo' business," the negro answered, slouching across to the
opposite side of the street.

Phil watched him with disgust. He had the short, heavy-set neck of the
lower order of animals. His skin was coal black, his lips so thick they
curled both ways up and down with crooked blood marks across them. His
nose was flat, and its enormous nostrils seemed in perpetual dilation. The
sinister bead eyes, with brown splotches in their whites, were set wide
apart and gleamed apelike under his scant brows. His enormous cheekbones
and jaws seemed to protrude beyond the ears and almost hide them.

"That we should send such soldiers here to flaunt our uniform in the faces
of these people!" he exclaimed, with bitterness.

He met Ben hurrying home from a visit to Elsie. The two young soldiers
whose prejudices had melted in the white heat of battle had become fast
friends.

Phil laughed and winked:

"I'll meet you to-night around the family altar!"

When he reached home, Ben saw, slouching in front of the house, walking
back and forth and glancing furtively behind him, the negro trooper whom
his friend had passed.

He walked quickly in front of him, and blinking his eyes rapidly, said:

"Didn't I tell you, Gus, not to let me catch you hanging around this house
again?"

The negro drew himself up, pulling his blue uniform into position as his
body stretched out of its habitual slouch, and answered:

"My name ain't 'Gus.'"

Ben gave a quick little chuckle and leaned back against the palings, his
hand resting on one that was loose. He glanced at the negro carelessly and
said:

"Well, Augustus Cæsar, I give your majesty thirty seconds to move off the
block."

Gus' first impulse was to run, but remembering himself he threw back his
shoulders and said:

"I reckon de streets free----"

"Yes, and so is kindling wood!"

Quick as a flash of lightning the paling suddenly left the fence and broke
three times in such bewildering rapidity on the negro's head he forgot
everything he ever knew or thought he knew save one thing--the way to run.
He didn't fly, but he made remarkable use of the facilities with which he
had been endowed.

Ben watched him disappear toward the camp.

He picked up the pieces of paling, pulled a strand of black wool from a
splinter, looked at it curiously and said:

"A sprig of his majesty's hair--I'll doubtless remember him without it!"



CHAPTER IV

AT THE POINT OF THE BAYONET


Within an hour from Ben's encounter he was arrested without warrant by the
military commandant, handcuffed, and placed on the train for Columbia,
more than a hundred miles distant. The first purpose of sending him in
charge of a negro guard was abandoned for fear of a riot. A squad of white
troops accompanied him.

Elsie was waiting at the gate, watching for his coming, her heart aglow
with happiness.

When Marion and little Hugh ran to tell the exciting news, she thought it
a joke and refused to believe it.

"Come, dear, don't tease me; you know it's not true!"

"I wish I may die if 'tain't so!" Hugh solemnly declared. "He run Gus away
'cause he scared Aunt Margaret so. They come and put handcuffs on him and
took him to Columbia. I tell you Grandpa and Grandma and Aunt Margaret are
mad!"

Elsie called Phil and begged him to see what had happened.

When Phil reported Ben's arrest without a warrant, and the indignity to
which he had been subjected on the amazing charge of resisting military
authority, Elsie hurried with Marion and Hugh to the hotel to express her
indignation, and sent Phil to Columbia on the next train to fight for his
release.

By the use of a bribe Phil discovered that a special inquisition had been
hastily organized to procure perjured testimony against Ben on the charge
of complicity in the murder of a carpet-bag adventurer named Ashburn, who
had been killed at Columbia in a row in a disreputable resort. This murder
had occurred the week Ben Cameron was in Nashville. The enormous reward of
$25,000 had been offered for the conviction of any man who could be
implicated in the killing. Scores of venal wretches, eager for this blood
money, were using every device of military tyranny to secure evidence on
which to convict--no matter who the man might be. Within six hours of his
arrival they had pounced on Ben.

They arrested as a witness an old negro named John Stapler, noted for his
loyalty to the Camerons. The doctor had saved his life once in a dangerous
illness. They were going to put him to torture and force him to swear that
Ben Cameron had tried to bribe him to kill Ashburn. General Howle, the
Commandant of the Columbia district, was in Charleston on a visit to
headquarters.

Phil resorted to the ruse of pretending, as a Yankee, the deepest sympathy
for Ashburn, and by the payment of a fee of twenty dollars to the Captain,
was admitted to the fort to witness the torture.

They led the old man trembling into the presence of the Captain, who sat
on an improvised throne in full uniform.

"Have you ordered a barber to shave this man's head?" sternly asked the
judge.

"Please, Marster, fer de Lawd's sake, I ain' done nuttin'--doan' shave my
head. Dat ha'r been wropped lak dat fur ten year! I die sho' ef I lose my
ha'r."

"Bring the barber, and take him back until he comes," was the order. In an
hour they led him again into the room blindfolded, and placed him in a
chair.

"Have you let him see a preacher before putting him through?" the Captain
asked. "I have an order from the General in Charleston to put him through
to-day."

"For Gawd's sake, Marster, doan' put me froo--I ain't done nuttin' en I
doan' know nuttin'!"

The old negro slipped to his knees, trembling from head to foot.

The guards caught him by the shoulders and threw him back into the chair.
The bandage was removed, and just in front of him stood a brass cannon
pointed at his head, a soldier beside it holding the string ready to pull.
John threw himself backward, yelling:

"Goddermighty!"

When he scrambled to his feet and started to run, another cannon swung on
him from the rear. He dropped to his knees and began to pray.

"Yas, Lawd, I'se er comin'. I hain't ready--but, Lawd, I got ter come!
Save me!"

"Shave him!" the Captain ordered.

While the old man sat moaning, they lathered his head with two
scrubbing-brushes and shaved it clean.

"Now stand him up by the wall and measure him for his coffin," was the
order.

They snatched him from the chair, pushed him against the wall, and
measured him. While they were taking his measure, the man next to him
whispered:

"Now's the time to save your hide--tell all about Ben Cameron trying to
hire you to kill Ashburn."

"Give him a few minutes," said the Captain, "and maybe we can hear what
Mr. Cameron said about Ashburn."

"I doan' know nuttin', General," pleaded the old darkey. "I ain't heard
nuttin'--I ain't seed Marse Ben fer two monts."

"You needn't lie to us. The rebels have been posting you. But it's no use.
We'll get it out of you."

"'Fo' Gawd, Marster, I'se telling de truf!"

"Put him in the dark cell and keep him there the balance of his life
unless he tells," was the order.

At the end of four days, Phil was summoned again to witness the show.

John was carried to another part of the fort and shown the sweat-box.

"Now tell all you know or in you go!" said his tormentor.

The negro looked at the engine of torture in abject terror--a closet in
the walls of the fort just big enough to admit the body, with an
adjustable top to press down too low for the head to be held erect. The
door closed tight against the breast of the victim. The only air admitted
was through an auger-hole in the door.

The old man's lips moved in prayer.

"Will you tell?" growled the Captain.

"I cain't tell ye nuttin' 'cept'n' a lie!" he moaned.

They thrust him in, slammed the door, and in a loud voice the Captain
said:

"Keep him there for thirty days unless he tells."

He was left in the agony of the sweat-box for thirty-three hours and taken
out. His limbs were swollen and when he attempted to walk he tottered and
fell.

The guard jerked him to his feet, and the Captain said:

"I'm afraid we've taken him out too soon, but if he don't tell he can go
back and finish the month out."

The poor old negro dropped in a faint, and they carried him back to his
cell.

Phil determined to spare no means, fair or foul, to secure Ben's release
from the clutches of these devils. He had as yet been unable to locate his
place of confinement.

He continued his ruse of friendly curiosity, kept in touch with the
Captain, and the Captain in touch with his pocketbook.

Summoned to witness another interesting ceremony, he hurried to the fort.

The officer winked at him confidentially, and took him out to a row of
dungeons built of logs and ceiled inside with heavy boards. A single pane
of glass about eight inches square admitted light ten feet from the
ground.

There was a commotion inside, curses, groans, and cries for mercy mingling
in rapid succession.

"What is it?" asked Phil.

"Hell's goin' on in there!" laughed the officer.

"Evidently."

A heavy crash, as though a ton weight had struck the floor, and then all
was still.

"By George, it's too bad we can't see it all!" exclaimed the officer.

"What does it mean?" urged Phil.

Again the Captain laughed immoderately.

"I've got a blue-blood in there taking the bluin' out of his system. He
gave me some impudence. I'm teaching him who's running this country!"

"What are you doing to him?" Phil asked with a sudden suspicion.

"Oh, just having a little fun! I put two big white drunks in there with
him--half-fighting drunks, you know--and told them to work on his teeth
and manicure his face a little to initiate him into the ranks of the
common people, so to speak!"

Again he laughed.

Phil, listening at the keyhole, held up his hand:

"Hush, they're talking----"

He could hear Ben Cameron's voice in the softest drawl:

"Say it again."

"Please, Marster!"

"Now both together, and a little louder!"

"_Please, Marster_," came the united chorus.

"Now what kind of a dog did I say you are?"

"The kind as comes when his marster calls."

"Both together--the under dog seems to have too much cover, like his mouth
might be full of cotton."

They repeated it louder.

"A common--stump-tailed--cur-dog?"

"Yessir."

"Say it."

"A common--stump-tailed--cur-dog--Marster!"

"A pair of them."

"A pair of 'em."

"No, the whole thing--all together--'we--are--a--pair!'"

"Yes--Marster." They repeated it in chorus.

"With apologies to the dogs----"

"Apologies to the dogs----"

"And why does your master honour the kennel with his presence to-day?"

"He hit a nigger on the head so hard that he strained the nigger's ankle,
and he's restin' from his labours."

"That's right, Towser. If I had you and Tige a few hours every day I could
make good squirrel-dogs out of you."

There was a pause. Phil looked up and smiled.

"What does it sound like?" asked the Captain, with a shade of doubt in his
voice.

"Sounds to me like a Sunday-school teacher taking his class through a new
catechism."

The Captain fumbled hurriedly for his keys.

"There's something wrong in there."

He opened the door and sprang in.

Ben Cameron was sitting on top of the two toughs, knocking their heads
together as they repeated each chorus.

"Walk in, gentlemen. The show is going on now--the animals are doing
beautifully," said Ben.

The Captain muttered an oath. Phil suddenly grasped him by the throat,
hurled him against the wall, and snatched the keys from his hand.

"Now open your mouth, you white-livered cur, and inside of twenty-four
hours I'll have you behind the bars. I have all the evidence I need. I'm
an ex-officer of the United States Army, of the fighting corps--not the
vulture division. This is my friend. Accompany us to the street and strike
your charges from the record."

The coward did as he was ordered, and Ben hurried back to Piedmont with a
friend toward whom he began to feel closer than a brother.

When Elsie heard the full story of the outrage, she bore herself toward
Ben with unusual tenderness, and yet he knew that the event had driven
their lives farther apart. He felt instinctively the cold silent eye of
her father, and his pride stiffened under it. The girl had never
considered the possibility of a marriage without her father's blessing.
Ben Cameron was too proud to ask it. He began to fear that the differences
between her father and his people reached to the deepest sources of life.

Phil found himself a hero at the Cameron House. Margaret said little, but
her bearing spoke in deeper language than words. He felt it would be mean
to take advantage of her gratitude.

But he was quick to respond to the motherly tenderness of Mrs. Cameron. In
the groups of neighbours who gathered in the evenings to discuss with the
doctor the hopes, fears, and sorrows of the people, Phil was a charmed
listener to the most brilliant conversations he had ever heard. It seemed
the normal expression of their lives. He had never before seen people come
together to talk to one another after this fashion. More and more the
simplicity, dignity, patience, courtesy, and sympathy of these people in
their bearing toward one another impressed him. More and more he grew to
like them.

Marion went out of her way to express her open admiration for Phil and
tease him about Margaret. The Rev. Hugh McAlpin was monopolizing her on
the Wednesday following his return from Columbia and Phil sought Marion
for sympathy.

"What will you give me if I tease you about Margaret right before her?"
she asked.

He blushed furiously.

"Don't you dare such a thing on peril of your life!"

"You know you like to be teased about her," she cried, her blue eyes
dancing with fun.

"With such a pretty little friend to do the teasing all by ourselves,
perhaps----"

"You'll never get her unless you have more spunk."

"Then I'll find consolation with you."

"No, I mean to marry young."

"And your ideal of life?"

"To fill the world with flowers, laughter, and music--especially my own
home--and never do a thing I can make my husband do for me! How do you
like it?"

"I think it very sweet," Phil answered soberly.

At noon on the following Friday, the Piedmont _Eagle_ appeared with an
editorial signed by Dr. Cameron, denouncing in the fine language of the
old school the arrest of Ben as "despotism and the usurpation of
authority."

At three o'clock, Captain Gilbert, in command of the troops stationed in
the village, marched a squad of soldiers to the newspaper office. One of
them carried a sledge-hammer. In ten minutes he demolished the office,
heaped the type and their splintered cases on top of the battered press in
the middle of the street, and set fire to the pile.

On the courthouse door he nailed this proclamation:

  _To the People of Ulster County_:

  The censures of the press, directed against the servants of the
  people, may be endured; but the military force in command of this
  district are not the servants of the people of South Carolina. WE ARE
  YOUR MASTERS. The impertinence of newspaper comment on the military
  will not be brooked UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES WHATEVER.

                                                     G. C. Gilbert,
                                                  Captain in Command.

Not content with this display of power, he determined to make an example
of Dr. Cameron, as the leader of public opinion in the county.

He ordered a squad of his negro troops to arrest him immediately and take
him to Columbia for obstructing the execution of the Reconstruction Acts.
He placed the squad under command of Gus, whom he promoted to be a
corporal, with instructions to wait until the doctor was inside his house,
boldly enter it and arrest him.

When Gus marched his black janizaries into the house, no one was in the
office. Margaret had gone for a ride with Phil, and Ben had strolled with
Elsie to Lover's Leap, unconscious of the excitement in town.

Dr. Cameron himself had heard nothing of it, having just reached home from
a visit to a country patient.

Gus stationed his men at each door, and with another trooper walked
straight into Mrs. Cameron's bedroom, where the doctor was resting on a
lounge.

Had an imp of perdition suddenly sprung through the floor, the master of
the house of Cameron would not have been more enraged or surprised.

A sudden leap, as the spring of a panther, and he stood before his former
slave, his slender frame erect, his face a livid spot in its snow-white
hair, his brilliant eyes flashing with fury.

Gus suddenly lost control of his knees.

His old master transfixed him with his eyes, and in a voice, whose tones
gripped him by the throat, said:

"How dare you?"

The gun fell from the negro's hand, and he dropped to the floor on his
face.

His companion uttered a yell and sprang through the door, rallying the men
as he went:

"Fall back! Fall back! He's killed Gus! Shot him dead wid his eye. He's
conjured him! Git de whole army quick."

They fled to the Commandant.

Gilbert ordered the negroes to their tents and led his whole company of
white regulars to the hotel, arrested Dr. Cameron, and rescued his
fainting trooper, who had been revived and placed under a tree on the
lawn.

The little Captain had a wicked look on his face. He refused to allow the
doctor a moment's delay to leave instructions for his wife, who had gone
to visit a neighbour. He was placed in the guard-house, and a detail of
twenty soldiers stationed around it.

The arrest was made so quickly, not a dozen people in town had heard of
it. As fast as it was known, people poured into the house, one by one, to
express their sympathy. But a greater surprise awaited them.

Within thirty minutes after he had been placed in prison, a Lieutenant
entered, accompanied by a soldier and a negro blacksmith who carried in
his hand two big chains with shackles on each end.

The doctor gazed at the intruders a moment with incredulity, and then, as
the enormity of the outrage dawned on him, he flushed and drew himself
erect, his face livid and rigid.

He clutched his throat with his slender fingers, slowly recovered himself,
glanced at the shackles in the black hands and then at the young
Lieutenant's face, and said slowly, with heaving breast:

"My God! Have you been sent to place these irons on me?"

"Such are my orders, sir," replied the officer, motioning to the negro
smith to approach. He stepped forward, unlocked the padlock, and prepared
the fetters to be placed on his arms and legs. These fetters were of
enormous weight, made of iron rods three quarters of an inch thick and
connected together by chains of like weight.

"This is monstrous!" groaned the doctor, with choking agony, glancing
helplessly about the bare cell for some weapon with which to defend
himself.

Suddenly looking the Lieutenant in the face, he said:

"I demand, sir, to see your commanding officer. He cannot pretend that
these shackles are needed to hold a weak unarmed man in prison, guarded by
two hundred soldiers?"

"It is useless. I have his orders direct."

"But I must see him. No such outrage has ever been recorded in the history
of the American people. I appeal to the Magna Charta rights of every man
who speaks the English tongue--no man shall be arrested or imprisoned or
deprived of his own household, or of his liberties, unless by the legal
judgment of his peers or by the law of the land!"

"The bayonet is your only law. My orders admit of no delay. For your own
sake, I advise you to submit. As a soldier, Dr. Cameron, you know I must
execute orders."

"These are not the orders of a soldier!" shouted the prisoner, enraged
beyond all control. "They are orders for a jailer, a hangman, a
scullion--no soldier who wears the sword of a civilized nation can take
such orders. The war is over; the South is conquered; I have no country
save America. For the honour of the flag, for which I once poured out my
blood on the heights of Buena Vista, I protest against this shame!"

The Lieutenant fell back a moment before the burst of his anger.

"Kill me! Kill me!" he went on passionately, throwing his arms wide open
and exposing his breast. "Kill--I am in your power. I have no desire to
live under such conditions. Kill, but you must not inflict on me and on my
people this insult worse than death!"

"Do your duty, blacksmith," said the officer, turning his back and walking
toward the door.

The negro advanced with the chains cautiously, and attempted to snap one
of the shackles on the doctor's right arm.

With sudden maniac frenzy, Dr. Cameron seized the negro by the throat,
hurled him to the floor, and backed against the wall.

The Lieutenant approached and remonstrated:

"Why compel me to add the indignity of personal violence? You must
submit."

"I am your prisoner," fiercely retorted the doctor. "I have been a soldier
in the armies of America, and I know how to die. Kill me, and my last
breath will be a blessing. But while I have life to resist, for myself and
for my people, this thing shall not be done!"

The Lieutenant called a sergeant and a file of soldiers, and the sergeant
stepped forward to seize the prisoner.

Dr. Cameron sprang on him with the ferocity of a tiger, seized his musket,
and attempted to wrench it from his grasp.

The men closed in on him. A short passionate fight and the slender, proud,
gray-haired man lay panting on the floor.

Four powerful assailants held his hands and feet, and the negro smith,
with a grin, secured the rivet on the right ankle and turned the key in
the padlock on the left.

As he drove the rivet into the shackle on his left arm, a spurt of bruised
blood from the old Mexican War wound stained the iron.

Dr. Cameron lay for a moment in a stupor. At length he slowly rose. The
clank of the heavy chains seemed to choke him with horror. He sank on the
floor, covering his face with his hands and groaned:

"The shame! The shame! O God, that I might have died! My poor, poor
wife!"

Captain Gilbert entered and said with a sneer:

"I will take you now to see your wife and friends if you would like to
call before setting out for Columbia."

The doctor paid no attention to him.

"Will you follow me while I lead you through this town, to show them their
chief has fallen, or will you force me to drag you?"

Receiving no answer, he roughly drew the doctor to his feet, held him by
the arm, and led him thus in half-unconscious stupor through the principal
street, followed by a drove of negroes. He ordered a squad of troops to
meet him at the depot. Not a white man appeared on the streets. When one
saw the sight and heard the clank of those chains, there was a sudden
tightening of the lip, a clinched fist, and an averted face.

When they approached the hotel, Mrs. Cameron ran to meet him, her face
white as death.

In silence she kissed his lips, kissed each shackle on his wrists, took
her handkerchief and wiped the bruised blood from the old wound on his arm
the iron had opened afresh, and then with a look, beneath which the
Captain shrank, she said in low tones:

"Do your work quickly. You have but a few moments to get out of this town
with your prisoner. I have sent a friend to hold my son. If he comes
before you go, he will kill you on sight as he would a mad dog."

With a sneer, the Captain passed the hotel and led the doctor, still in
half-unconscious stupor, toward the depot down past his old slave
quarters. He had given his negroes who remained faithful each a cabin and
a lot.

They looked on in awed silence as the Captain proclaimed:

"Fellow citizens, you are the equal of any white man who walks the ground.
The white man's day is done. Your turn has come."

As he passed Jake's cabin, the doctor's faithful man stepped suddenly in
front of him, looking at the Captain out of the corners of his eyes, and
asked:

"Is I yo' equal?"

"Yes."

"Des lak any white man?"

"Exactly."

The negro's fist suddenly shot into Gilbert's nose with the crack of a
sledge-hammer, laying him stunned on the pavement.

"Den take dat f'um yo' equal, d--n you!" he cried, bending over his
prostrate figure. "I'll show you how to treat my ole marster, you low-down
slue-footed devil!"

The stirring little drama roused the doctor and he turned to his servant
with his old-time courtesy, and said:

"Thank you, Jake."

"Come in here, Marse Richard; I knock dem things off'n you in er minute,
'en I get you outen dis town in er jiffy."

"No, Jake, that is not my way; bring this gentleman some water, and then
my horse and buggy. You can take me to the depot. This officer can follow
with his men." And he did.



CHAPTER V

FORTY ACRES AND A MULE


When Phil returned with Margaret, he drove at Mrs. Cameron's request to
find Ben, brought him with all speed to the hotel, took him to his room,
and locked the door before he told him the news. After an hour's blind
rage, he agreed to obey his father's positive orders to keep away from the
Captain until his return, and to attempt no violence against the
authorities.

Phil undertook to manage the case in Columbia, and spent three days
collecting his evidence before leaving.

Swifter feet had anticipated him. Two days after the arrival of Dr.
Cameron at the fort in Colombia, a dust-stained, tired negro was ushered
into the presence of General Howle.

He looked about timidly and laughed loudly.

"Well, my man, what's the trouble? You seem to have walked all the way,
and laugh as if you were glad of it."

"I 'spec' I is, sah," said Jake, sidling up confidentially.

"Well?" said Howle good-humouredly.

Jake's voice dropped to a whisper.

"I hears you got my ole marster, Dr. Cameron, in dis place."

"Yes. What do you know against him?"

"Nuttin', sah. I des hurry 'long down ter take his place, so's you can
sen' him back home. He's erbleeged ter go. Dey's er pow'ful lot er sick
folks up dar in de country cain't git 'long widout him, an er pow'ful lot
er well ones gwiner be raisin' de debbel 'bout dis. You can hol' me, sah.
Des tell my ole marster when ter be yere, en he sho' come."

Jake paused and bowed low.

"Yessah, hit's des lak I tell you. Fuddermo', I 'spec' I'se de man what
done de damages. I 'spec' I bus' de Capt'n's nose so 'tain gwine be no mo'
good to 'im."

Howle questioned Jake as to the whole affair, asked him a hundred
questions about the condition of the county, the position of Dr. Cameron,
and the possible effect of this event on the temper of the people.

The affair had already given him a bad hour. The news of this shackling of
one of the most prominent men in the State had spread like wildfire, and
had caused the first deep growl of anger from the people. He saw that it
was a senseless piece of stupidity. The election was rapidly approaching.
He was master of the State, and the less friction the better. His mind was
made up instantly. He released Dr. Cameron with an apology, and returned
with him and Jake for a personal inspection of the affairs of Ulster
county.

In a thirty-minutes' interview with Captain Gilbert, Howle gave him more
pain than his broken nose.

"And why did you nail up the doors of that Presbyterian church?" he asked
suavely.

"Because McAlpin, the young cub who preaches there, dared come to this
camp and insult me about the arrest of old Cameron."

"I suppose you issued an order silencing him from the ministry?"

"I did, and told him I'd shackle him if he opened his mouth again."

"Good. The throne of Russia needn't worry about a worthy successor. Any
further ecclesiastical orders?"

"None, except the oaths I've prescribed for them before they shall preach
again."

"Fine! These Scotch Covenanters will feel at home with you."

"Well, I've made them bite the dust--and they know who's runnin' this
town, and don't you forget it."

"No doubt. Yet we may have too much of even a good thing. The League is
here to run this country. The business of the military is to keep still
and back them when they need it."

"We've the strongest council here to be found in any county in this
section," said Gilbert with pride.

"Just so. The League meets once a week. We have promised them the land of
their masters and equal social and political rights. Their members go
armed to these meetings and drill on Saturdays in the public square. The
white man is afraid to interfere lest his house or barn take fire. A negro
prisoner in the dock needs only to make the sign to be acquitted. Not a
negro will dare to vote against us. Their women are formed into societies,
sworn to leave their husbands and refuse to marry any man who dares our
anger. The negro churches have pledged themselves to expel him from their
membership. What more do you want?"

"There's another side to it," protested the Captain. "Since the League has
taken in the negroes, every Union white man has dropped it like a hot
iron, except the lone scallawag or carpet-bagger who expects an office. In
the church, the social circle, in business or pleasure, these men are
lepers. How can a human being stand it? I've tried to grind this hellish
spirit in the dirt under my heel, and unless you can do it they'll beat
you in the long run! You've got to have some Southern white men or you're
lost."

"I'll risk it with a hundred thousand negro majority," said Howle with a
sneer. "The fun will just begin then. In the meantime, I'll have you ease
up on this county's government. I've brought that man back who knocked you
down. Let him alone. I've pardoned him. The less said about this affair,
the better."

                    *       *       *       *       *

As the day of the election under the new régime of Reconstruction drew
near, the negroes were excited by rumours of the coming great events.
Every man was to receive forty acres of land for his vote, and the
enthusiastic speakers and teachers had made the dream a resistless one by
declaring that the Government would throw in a mule with the forty acres.
Some who had hesitated about the forty acres of land, remembering that it
must be worked, couldn't resist the idea of owning a mule.

The Freedman's Bureau reaped a harvest in $2 marriage fees from negroes
who were urged thus to make their children heirs of landed estates stocked
with mules.

Every stranger who appeared in the village was regarded with awe as a
possible surveyor sent from Washington to run the lines of these
forty-acre plots.

And in due time the surveyors appeared. Uncle Aleck, who now devoted his
entire time to organizing the League, and drinking whiskey which the dues
he collected made easy, was walking back to Piedmont from a League meeting
in the country, dreaming of this promised land.

He lifted his eyes from the dusty way and saw before him two surveyors
with their arms full of line stakes painted red, white, and blue. They
were well-dressed Yankees--he could not be mistaken. Not a doubt disturbed
his mind. The kingdom of heaven was at hand!

He bowed low and cried:

"Praise de Lawd! De messengers is come! I'se waited long, but I sees 'em
now wid my own eyes!"

"You can bet your life on that, old pard," said the spokesman of the pair.
"We go two and two, just as the apostles did in the olden times. We have
only a few left. The boys are hurrying to get their homes. All you've got
to do is to drive one of these red, white, and blue stakes down at each
corner of the forty acres of land you want, and every rebel in the
infernal regions can't pull it up."

"Hear dat now!"

"Just like I tell you. When this stake goes into the ground, it's like
planting a thousand cannon at each corner."

"En will the Lawd's messengers come wid me right now to de bend er de
creek whar I done pick out my forty acres?"

"We will, if you have the needful for the ceremony. The fee for the
surveyor is small--only two dollars for each stake. We have no time to
linger with foolish virgins who have no oil in their lamps. The bridegroom
has come. They who have no oil must remain in outer darkness." The speaker
had evidently been a preacher in the North, and his sacred accent sealed
his authority with the old negro, who had been an exhorter himself.

Aleck felt in his pocket the jingle of twenty gold dollars, the initiation
fees of the week's harvest of the League. He drew them, counted out eight,
and took his four stakes. The surveyors kindly showed him how to drive
them down firmly to the first stripe of blue. When they had stepped off a
square of about forty acres of the Lenoir farm, including the richest
piece of bottom land on the creek, which Aleck's children under his wife's
direction were working for Mrs. Lenoir, and the four stakes were planted,
old Aleck shouted:

"Glory ter God!"

"Now," said the foremost surveyor, "you want a deed--a deed in fee simple
with the big seal of the Government on it, and you're fixed for life. The
deed you can take to the courthouse and make the clerk record it."

The man drew from his pocket an official-looking paper, with a red
circular seal pasted on its face.

Uncle Aleck's eyes danced.

"Is dat de deed?"

"It will be if I write your name on it and describe the land."

"En what's de fee fer dat?"

"Only twelve dollars; you can take it now or wait until we come again.
There's no particular hurry about this. The wise man, though, leaves
nothing for to-morrow that he can carry with him to-day."

"I takes de deed right now, gemmen," said Aleck, eagerly counting out the
remaining twelve dollars. "Fix 'im up for me."

The surveyor squatted in the field and carefully wrote the document.

They went on their way rejoicing, and old Aleck hurried into Piedmont with
the consciousness of lordship of the soil. He held himself so proudly that
it seemed to straighten some of the crook out of his bow legs.

He marched up to the hotel where Margaret sat reading and Marion was on
the steps playing with a setter.

"Why, Uncle Aleck!" Marion exclaimed, "I haven't seen you in a long
time."

Aleck drew himself to his full height--at least, as full as his bow legs
would permit, and said gruffly:

"Miss Ma'ian, I axes you to stop callin' me 'uncle'; my name is Mr.
Alexander Lenoir----"

"Until Aunt Cindy gets after you," laughed the girl. "Then it's much
shorter than that, Uncle Aleck."

He shuffled his feet and looked out at the square unconcernedly.

"Yaas'm, dat's what fetch me here now. I comes ter tell yer Ma ter tell
dat 'oman Cindy ter take her chillun off my farm. I gwine 'low no mo'
rent-payin' ter nobody off'n my lan'!"

"Your land, Uncle Aleck? When did you get it?" asked Marion, placing her
cheek against the setter.

"De Gubment gim it ter me to-day," he replied, fumbling in his pocket, and
pulling out the document. "You kin read it all dar yo'sef."

He handed Marion the paper, and Margaret hurried down and read it over her
shoulder.

Both girls broke into screams of laughter.

Aleck looked up sharply.

"Do you know what's written on this paper, Uncle Aleck?" Margaret asked.

"Cose I do. Dat's de deed ter my farm er forty acres in de land er de
creek, whar I done stuck off wid de red, white, an' blue sticks de Gubment
gimme."

"I'll read it to you," said Margaret.

"Wait a minute," interrupted Marion. "I want Aunt Cindy to hear it--she's
here to see Mamma in the kitchen now."

She ran for Uncle Aleck's spouse. Aunt Cindy walked around the house and
stood by the steps, eying her erstwhile lord with contempt.

"Got yer deed, is yer, ter stop me payin' my missy her rent fum de lan' my
chillun wucks? Yu'se er smart boy, you is--let's hear de deed!"

Aleck edged away a little, and said with a bow:

"Dar's de paper wid de big mark er de Gubment."

Aunt Cindy sniffed the air contemptuously.

"What is it, honey?" she asked of Margaret.

Margaret read in mock solemnity the mystic writing on the deed:

  _To Whom It May Concern_:

  As Moses lifted up the brazen serpent in the wilderness for the
  enlightenment of the people, even so have I lifted twenty shining
  plunks out of this benighted nigger! Selah!

As Uncle Aleck walked away with Aunt Cindy shouting in derision, "Dar,
now! Dar, now!" the bow in his legs seemed to have sprung a sharper
curve.



CHAPTER VI

A WHISPER IN THE CROWD


The excitement which preceded the first Reconstruction election in the
South paralyzed the industries of the country. When demagogues poured down
from the North and began their raving before crowds of ignorant negroes,
the plow stopped in the furrow, the hoe was dropped, and the millennium
was at hand.

Negro tenants, working under contracts issued by the Freedman's Bureau,
stopped work, and rode their landlords' mules and horses around the
county, following these orators.

The loss to the cotton crop alone from the abandonment of the growing
plant was estimated at over $60,000,000.

The one thing that saved the situation from despair was the large grain
and forage crops of the previous season which thrifty farmers had stored
in their barns. So important was the barn and its precious contents that
Dr. Cameron hired Jake to sleep in his.

This immense barn, which was situated at the foot of the hill some two
hundred yards behind the house, had become a favourite haunt of Marion and
Hugh. She had made a pet of the beautiful thoroughbred mare which had
belonged to Ben during the war. Marion went every day to give her an apple
or lump of sugar, or carry her a bunch of clover. The mare would follow
her about like a cat.

Another attraction at the barn for them was Becky Sharpe, Ben's setter.
She came to Marion one morning, wagging her tail, seized her dress and led
her into an empty stall, where beneath the trough lay sleeping snugly ten
little white-and-black spotted puppies.

The girl had never seen such a sight before and went into ecstasies. Becky
wagged her tail with pride at her compliments. Every morning she would
pull her gently into the stall just to hear her talk and laugh and pet her
babies.

Whatever election day meant to the men, to Marion it was one of unalloyed
happiness: she was to ride horseback alone and dance at her first ball.
Ben had taught her to ride, and told her she could take Queen to Lover's
Leap and back alone. Trembling with joy, her beautiful face wreathed in
smiles, she led the mare to the pond in the edge of the lot and watched
her drink its pure spring water.

When he helped her to mount in front of the hotel under her mother's gaze,
and saw her ride out of the gate, with the exquisite lines of her little
figure melting into the graceful lines of the mare's glistening form, he
exclaimed:

"I declare, I don't know which is the prettier, Marion or Queen!"

"I know," was the mother's soft answer.

"They are both thoroughbreds," said Ben, watching them admiringly.

"Wait till you see her to-night in her first ball dress," whispered Mrs.
Lenoir.

At noon Ben and Phil strolled to the polling-place to watch the progress
of the first election under negro rule. The Square was jammed with
shouting, jostling, perspiring negroes, men, women, and children. The day
was warm, and the African odour was supreme even in the open air.

A crowd of two hundred were packed around a peddler's box. There were two
of them--one crying the wares, and the other wrapping and delivering the
goods. They were selling a new patent poison for rats.

"I've only a few more bottles left now, gentlemen," he shouted, "and the
polls will close at sundown. A great day for our brother in black. Two
years of army rations from the Freedman's Bureau, with old army clothes
thrown in, and now the ballot--the priceless glory of American
citizenship. But better still the very land is to be taken from these
proud aristocrats and given to the poor down-trodden black man. Forty
acres and a mule--think of it! Provided, mind you--that you have a bottle
of my wonder-worker to kill the rats and save your corn for the mule. No
man can have the mule unless he has corn; and no man can have corn if he
has rats--and only a few bottles left----"

"Gimme one," yelled a negro.

"Forty acres and a mule, your old masters to work your land and pay his
rent in corn, while you sit back in the shade and see him sweat."

"Gimme er bottle and two er dem pictures!" bawled another candidate for a
mule.

The peddler handed him the bottle and the pictures and threw a handful of
his labels among the crowd. These labels happened to be just the size of
the ballots, having on them the picture of a dead rat lying on his back,
and above, the emblem of death, the crossbones and skull.

"Forty acres and a mule for every black man--why was I ever born white? I
never had no luck, nohow!"

Phil and Ben passed on nearer the polling-place, around which stood a
cordon of soldiers with a line of negro voters two hundred yards in length
extending back into the crowd.

The negro Leagues came in armed battalions and voted in droves, carrying
their muskets in their hands. Less than a dozen white men were to be seen
about the place.

The negroes, under the drill of the League and the Freedman's Bureau,
protected by the bayonet, were voting to enfranchise themselves,
disfranchise their former masters, ratify a new constitution, and elect a
legislature to do their will. Old Aleck was a candidate for the House,
chief poll-holder, and seemed to be in charge of the movements of the
voters outside the booth as well as inside. He appeared to be omnipresent,
and his self-importance was a sight Phil had never dreamed. He could not
keep his eyes off him.

"By George, Cameron, he's a wonder!" he laughed.

Aleck had suppressed as far as possible the story of the painted stakes
and the deed, after sending out warnings to the brethren to beware of two
enticing strangers. The surveyors had reaped a rich harvest and passed on.
Aleck made up his mind to go to Columbia, make the laws himself, and never
again trust a white man from the North or South. The agent of the
Freedman's Bureau at Piedmont tried to choke him off the ticket. The
League backed him to a man. He could neither read nor write, but before he
took to whiskey he had made a specialty of revival exhortation, and his
mouth was the most effective thing about him. In this campaign he was an
orator of no mean powers. He knew what he wanted, and he knew what his
people wanted, and he put the thing in words so plain that a wayfaring
man, though a fool, couldn't make any mistake about it.

As he bustled past, forming a battalion of his brethren in line to march
to the polls, Phil followed his every movement with amused interest.

Besides being so bow-legged that his walk was a moving joke he was so
striking a negro in his personal appearance, he seemed to the young
Northerner almost a distinct type of man.

His head was small and seemed mashed on the sides until it bulged into a
double lobe behind. Even his ears, which he had pierced and hung with red
earbobs, seemed to have been crushed flat to the side of his head. His
kinked hair was wrapped in little hard rolls close to the skull and bound
tightly with dirty thread. His receding forehead was high and indicated a
cunning intelligence. His nose was broad and crushed flat against his
face. His jaws were strong and angular, mouth wide, and lips thick,
curling back from rows of solid teeth set obliquely in their blue gums.
The one perfect thing about him was the size and setting of his mouth--he
was a born African orator, undoubtedly descended from a long line of
savage spell-binders, whose eloquence in the palaver houses of the jungle
had made them native leaders. His thin spindle-shanks supported an oblong,
protruding stomach, resembling an elderly monkey's, which seemed so heavy
it swayed his back to carry it.

The animal vivacity of his small eyes and the flexibility of his eyebrows,
which he worked up and down rapidly with every change of countenance,
expressed his eager desires.

He had laid aside his new shoes, which hurt him, and went barefooted to
facilitate his movements on the great occasion. His heels projected and
his foot was so flat that what should have been the hollow of it made a
hole in the dirt where he left his track.

He was already mellow with liquor, and was dressed in an old army uniform
and cap, with two horse pistols buckled around his waist. On a strap
hanging from his shoulder were strung a half-dozen tin canteens filled
with whiskey.

A disturbance in the line of voters caused the young men to move forward
to see what it meant.

Two negro troopers had pulled Jake out of the line, and were dragging him
toward old Aleck.

The election judge straightened himself up with great dignity:

"What wuz de rapscallion doin'?"

"In de line, tryin' ter vote."

"Fetch 'im befo' de judgment bar," said Aleck, taking a drink from one of
his canteens.

The troopers brought Jake before the judge.

"Tryin' ter vote, is yer?"

"'Lowed I would."

"You hear 'bout de great sassieties de Gubment's fomentin' in dis
country?"

"Yas, I hear erbout 'em."

"Is yer er member er de Union League?"

"Na-sah. I'd rudder steal by myself. I doan' lak too many in de party!"

"En yer ain't er No'f Ca'liny gemmen, is yer--yer ain't er member er de
'Red Strings?'"

"Na-sah, I come when I'se called--dey doan' hatter put er string on
me--ner er block, ner er collar, ner er chain, ner er muzzle----"

"Will yer 'splain ter dis cote----" railed Aleck.

"What cote? Dat ole army cote?" Jake laughed in loud peals that rang over
the square.

Aleck recovered his dignity and demanded angrily:

"Does yer belong ter de Heroes ob Americky?"

"Na-sah. I ain't burnt nobody's house ner barn yet, ner hamstrung no
stock, ner waylaid nobody atter night--honey, I ain't fit ter jine. Heroes
ob Americky! Is you er hero?"

"Ef yer doan' b'long ter no s'iety," said Aleck with judicial
deliberation, "what is you?"

"Des er ole-fashun all-wool-en-er-yard-wide nigger dat stan's by his ole
marster 'cause he's his bes' frien', stays at home, en tends ter his own
business."

"En yer pay no 'tenshun ter de orders I sent yer ter jine de League?"

"Na-sah. I ain't er takin' orders f'um er skeer-crow."

Aleck ignored his insolence, secure in his power.

"You doan b'long ter no s'iety, what yer git in dat line ter vote for?"

"Ain't I er nigger?"

"But yer ain't de right kin' er nigger. 'Res' dat man fer 'sturbin' de
peace."

They put Jake in jail, persuaded his wife to leave him, and expelled him
from the Baptist church, all within the week.

As the troopers led Jake to prison, a young negro apparently about fifteen
years old approached Aleck, holding in his hand one of the peddler's rat
labels, which had gotten well distributed among the crowd. A group of
negro boys followed him with these rat labels in their hands, studying
them intently.

"Look at dis ticket, Uncle Aleck," said the leader.

"Mr. Alexander Lenoir, sah--is I yo' uncle, nigger?"

The youth walled his eyes angrily.

"Den doan' you call me er nigger!"

"Who' yer talkin to, sah? You kin fling yer sass at white folks, but,
honey, yuse er projeckin' wid death now!"

"I ain't er nigger--I'se er gemman, I is," was the sullen answer.

"How ole is you?" asked Aleck in milder tones.

"Me mudder say sixteen--but de Buro man say I'se twenty-one yistiddy, de
day 'fo' 'lection."

"Is you voted to-day?"

"Yessah; vote in all de boxes 'cept'n dis one. Look at dat ticket. Is dat
de straight ticket?"

Aleck, who couldn't read the twelve-inch letters of his favourite bar-room
sign, took the rat label and examined it critically.

"What ail it?" he asked at length.

The boy pointed at the picture of the rat.

"What dat rat doin', lyin' dar on his back, wid his heels cocked up in de
air--'pear ter me lak a rat otter be standin' on his feet!"

Aleck reëxamined it carefully, and then smiled benignly on the youth.

"De ignance er dese folks. What ud yer do widout er man lak me enjued wid
de sperit en de power ter splain tings?"

"You sho' got de sperits," said the boy impudently, touching a canteen.

Aleck ignored the remark and looked at the rat label smilingly.

"Ain't we er votin', ter-day, on de Constertooshun what's ter take de
ballot away f'um de white folks en gib all de power ter de cullud
gemmen--I axes yer dat?"

The boy stuck his thumbs under his arms and walled his eyes.

"Yessah!"

"Den dat means de ratification ob de Constertooshun!"

Phil laughed, followed, and watched them fold their tickets, get in line,
and vote the rat labels.

Ben turned toward a white man with gray beard, who stood watching the
crowd.

He was a pious member of the Presbyterian church but his face didn't have
a pious expression to-day. He had been refused the right to vote because
he had aided the Confederacy by nursing one of his wounded boys.

He touched his hat politely to Ben.

"What do you think of it, Colonel Cameron?" he asked with a touch of
scorn.

"What's your opinion, Mr. McAllister?"

"Well, Colonel, I've been a member of the church for over forty years. I'm
not a cussin' man--but there's a sight I never expected to live to see.
I've been a faithful citizen of this State for fifty years. I can't vote,
and a nigger is to be elected to-day to represent me in the Legislature.
Neither you, Colonel, nor your father are good enough to vote. Every
nigger in this county sixteen years old and up voted to-day--I ain't a
cussing man, and I don't say it as a cuss word, but all I've got to say
is, IF there BE such a thing as a d--d shame--that's it!"

"Mr. McAllister, the recording angel wouldn't have made a mark had you
said it without the 'IF.'"

"God knows what this country's coming to--I don't," said the old man
bitterly. "I'm afraid to let my wife and daughter go out of the house, or
stay in it, without somebody with them."

Ben leaned closer and whispered, as Phil approached:

"Come to my office to-night at ten o'clock; I want to see you on some
important business."

The old man seized his hand eagerly.

"Shall I bring the boys?"

Ben smiled.

"No. I've seen them some time ago."



CHAPTER VII

BY THE LIGHT OF A TORCH


On the night of the election Mrs. Lenoir gave a ball at the hotel in
honour of Marion's entrance into society. She was only in her sixteenth
year, yet older than her mother when mistress of her own household. The
only ambition the mother cherished was that she might win the love of an
honest man and build for herself a beautiful home on the site of the
cottage covered with trailing roses. In this home dream for Marion she
found a great sustaining joy to which nothing in the life of man answers.

The ball had its political significance which the military martinet who
commanded the post understood. It was the way the people of Piedmont
expressed to him and the world their contempt for the farce of an election
he had conducted, and their indifference as to the result he would
celebrate with many guns before midnight.

The young people of the town were out in force. Marion was a universal
favourite. The grace, charm, and tender beauty of the Southern girl of
sixteen were combined in her with a gentle and unselfish disposition. Amid
poverty that was pitiful, unconscious of its limitations, her thoughts
were always of others, and she was the one human being everybody had
agreed to love. In the village in which she lived wealth counted for
naught. She belonged to the aristocracy of poetry, beauty, and intrinsic
worth, and her people knew no other.

As she stood in the long dining-room, dressed in her first ball costume of
white organdy and lace, the little plump shoulders peeping through its
meshes, she was the picture of happiness. A half-dozen boys hung on every
word as the utterance of an oracle. She waved gently an old ivory fan with
white down on its edges in a way the charm of which is the secret
birthright of every Southern girl.

Now and then she glanced at the door for some one who had not yet
appeared.

Phil paid his tribute to her with genuine feeling, and Marion repaid him
by whispering:

"Margaret's dressed to kill--all in soft azure blue--her rosy cheeks,
black hair, and eyes never shone as they do to-night. She doesn't dance on
account of her Sunday-school--it's all for you."

Phil blushed and smiled.

"The preacher won't be here?"

"Our rector will."

"He's a nice old gentleman. I'm fond of him. Miss Marion, your mother is a
genius. I hope she can plan these little affairs oftener."

It was half-past ten o'clock when Ben Cameron entered the room with Elsie
a little ruffled at his delay over imaginary business at his office. Ben
answered her criticisms with a strange elation. She had felt a secret
between them and resented it.

At Mrs. Lenoir's special request, he had put on his full uniform of a
Confederate Colonel in honour of Marion and the poem her father had
written of one of his gallant charges. He had not worn it since he fell
that day in Phil's arms.

No one in the room had ever seen him in this Colonel's uniform. Its yellow
sash with the gold fringe and tassels was faded and there were two bullet
holes in the coat. A murmur of applause from the boys, sighs and
exclamations from the girls swept the room as he took Marion's hand, bowed
and kissed it. Her blue eyes danced and smiled on him with frank
admiration.

"Ben, you're the handsomest thing I've ever seen!" she said softly.

"Thanks. I thought you had a mirror. I'll send you one," he answered,
slipping his arm around her and gliding away to the strains of a waltz.
The girl's hand trembled as she placed it on his shoulder, her cheeks were
flushed, and her eyes had a wistful dreamy look in their depths.

When Ben rejoined Elsie and they strolled on the lawn, the military
commandant suddenly confronted them with a squad of soldiers.

"I'll trouble you for those buttons and shoulder straps," said the
Captain.

Elsie's amber eyes began to spit fire. Ben stood still and smiled.

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"That I will not be insulted by the wearing of this uniform to-day."

"I dare you to touch it, coward, poltroon!" cried the girl, her plump
little figure bristling in front of her lover.

Ben laid his hand on her arm and gently drew her back to his side: "He has
the power to do this. It is a technical violation of law to wear them. I
have surrendered. I am a gentleman and I have been a soldier. He can have
his tribute. I've promised my father to offer no violence to the military
authority of the United States."

He stepped forward, and the officer cut the buttons from his coat and
ripped the straps from his shoulders.

While the performance was going on, Ben quietly said:

"General Grant at Appomattox, with the instincts of a great soldier, gave
our men his spare horses and ordered that Confederate officers retain
their side-arms. The General is evidently not in touch with this force."

"No: I'm in command in this county," said the Captain.

"Evidently."

When he had gone, Elsie's eyes were dim. They strolled under the shadow of
the great oak and stood in silence, listening to the music within and the
distant murmur of the falls.

"Why is it, sweetheart, that a girl will persist in admiring brass
buttons?" Ben asked softly.

She raised her lips to his for a kiss and answered:

"Because a soldier's business is to die for his country."

As Ben led her back into the ballroom and surrendered her to a friend for
a dance, the first gun pealed its note of victory from the square in the
celebration of the triumph of the African slave over his white master.

Ben strolled out in the street to hear the news.

The Constitution had been ratified by an enormous majority, and a
Legislature elected composed of 101 negroes and 23 white men. Silas Lynch
had been elected Lieutenant-Governor, a negro Secretary of State, a negro
Treasurer, and a negro Justice of the Supreme Court.

When Bizzel, the wizzen-faced agent of the Freedman's Bureau, made this
announcement from the courthouse steps, pandemonium broke lose. An
incessant rattle of musketry began in which ball cartridges were used, the
missiles whistling over the town in every direction. Yet within half an
hour the square was deserted and a strange quiet followed the storm.

Old Aleck staggered by the hotel, his drunkenness having reached the
religious stage.

"Behold, a curiosity, gentlemen," cried Ben to a group of boys who had
gathered, "a voter is come among us--in fact, he is the people, the king,
our representative elect, the Honourable Alexander Lenoir, of the county
of Ulster!"

"Gemmens, de Lawd's bin good ter me," said Aleck, weeping copiously.

"They say the rat labels were in a majority in this precinct--how was
that?" asked Ben.

"Yessah--dat what de scornful say--dem dat sets in de seat o' de scornful,
but de Lawd er Hosts He fetch 'em low. Mistah Bissel de Buro man count all
dem rat votes right, sah--dey couldn't fool him--he know what dey mean--he
count 'em all for me an' de ratification."

"Sure-pop!" said Ben; "if you can't ratify with a rat, I'd like to know
why?"

"Dat's what I tells 'em, sah."

"Of course," said Ben good-humouredly. "The voice of the people is the
voice of God--rats or no rats--if you know how to count."

As old Aleck staggered away, the sudden crash of a volley of musketry
echoed in the distance.

"What's that?" asked Ben, listening intently. The sound was unmistakable
to a soldier's ear--that volley from a hundred rifles at a single word of
command. It was followed by a shot on a hill in the distance, and then by
a faint echo, farther still. Ben listened a few moments and turned into
the lawn of the hotel. The music suddenly stopped, the tramp of feet
echoed on the porch, a woman screamed, and from the rear of the house came
the cry:

"Fire! Fire!"

Almost at the same moment an immense sheet of flame shot skyward from the
big barn.

"My God!" groaned Ben. "Jake's in jail to-night, and they've set the barn
on fire. It's worth more than the house."

The crowd rushed down the hill to the blazing building, Marion's fleet
figure in its flying white dress leading the crowd.

The lowing of the cows and the wild neighing of the horses rang above the
roar of the flames.

Before Ben could reach the spot Marion had opened every stall. Two cows
leaped out to safety, but not a horse would move from its stall, and each
moment wilder and more pitiful grew their death cries.

Marion rushed to Ben, her eyes dilated, her face as white as the dress she
wore.

"Oh, Ben, Queen won't come out! What shall I do?"

"You can do nothing, child. A horse won't come out of a burning stable
unless he's blindfolded. They'll all be burned to death."

"Oh! no!" the girl cried in agony.

"They'd trample you to death if you tried to get them out. It can't be
helped. It's too late."

As Ben looked back at the gathering crowd, Marion suddenly snatched a
horse blanket, lying at the door, ran with the speed of a deer to the
pond, plunged in, sprang out, and sped back to the open door of Queen's
stall, through which her shrill cry could be heard above the others.

As the girl ran toward the burning building, her thin white dress clinging
close to her exquisite form, she looked like the marble figure of a sylph
by the hand of some great master into which God had suddenly breathed the
breath of life.

As they saw her purpose, a cry of horror rose from the crowd, her mother's
scream loud above the rest.

Ben rushed to catch her, shouting:

"Marion! Marion! She'll trample you to death!"

He was too late. She leaped into the stall. The crowd held their breath.
There was a moment of awful suspense, and the mare sprang through the open
door with the little white figure clinging to her mane and holding the
blanket over her head.

A cheer rang above the roar of the flames. The girl did not loose her hold
until her beautiful pet was led to a place of safety, while she clung to
her neck and laughed and cried for joy. First her mother, then Margaret,
Mrs. Cameron, and Elsie took her in their arms.

As Ben approached the group, Elsie whispered to him: "Kiss her!"

Ben took her hand, his eyes full of unshed tears, and said:

"The bravest deed a woman ever did--you're a heroine, Marion!"

Before she knew it he stooped and kissed her.

She was very still for a moment, smiled, trembled from head to foot,
blushed scarlet, took her mother by the hand, and without a word hurried
to the house.

Poor Becky was whining among the excited crowd and sought in vain for
Marion. At last she got Margaret's attention, caught her dress in her
teeth and led her to a corner of the lot, where she had laid side by side
her puppies, smothered to death. She stood and looked at them with her
tail drooping, the picture of despair. Margaret burst into tears and
called Ben.

He bent and put his arm around the setter's neck and stroked her head with
his hand. Looking at up his sister, he said:

"Don't tell Marion of this. She can't stand any more to-night."

The crowd had all dispersed, and the flames had died down for want of
fuel. The odour of roasting flesh, pungent and acrid, still lingered a
sharp reminder of the tragedy.

Ben stood on the back porch, talking in low tones to his father.

"Will you join us now, sir? We need the name and influence of men of your
standing."

"My boy, two wrongs never made a right. It's better to endure awhile. The
sober commonsense of the Nation will yet save us. We must appeal to it."

"Eight more fires were seen from town to-night."

"You only guess their origin."

"I know their origin. It was done by the League at a signal as a
celebration of the election and a threat of terror to the county. One of
our men concealed a faithful negro under the floor of the school-house and
heard the plot hatched. We expected it a month ago--but hoped they had
given it up."

"Even so, my boy, a secret society such as you have planned means a
conspiracy that may bring exile or death. I hate lawlessness and disorder.
We have had enough of it. Your clan means ultimately martial law. At least
we will get rid of these soldiers by this election. They have done their
worst to me, but we may save others by patience."

"It's the only way, sir. The next step will be a black hand on a white
woman's throat!"

The doctor frowned. "Let us hope for the best. Your clan is the last act
of desperation."

"But if everything else fail, and this creeping horror becomes a
fact--then what?"

"My boy, we will pray that God may never let us live to see the day!"

[Illustration: THE BLACK MASTERS OF THE SOUTH DURING RECONSTRUCTION.]



CHAPTER VIII

THE RIOT IN THE MASTER'S HALL


Alarmed at the possible growth of the secret clan into which Ben had urged
him to enter, Dr. Cameron determined to press for relief from oppression
by an open appeal to the conscience of the Nation.

He called a meeting of conservative leaders in a Taxpayers' Convention at
Columbia. His position as leader had been made supreme by the indignities
he had suffered, and he felt sure of his ability to accomplish results.
Every county in the State was represented by its best men in this
gathering at the Capitol.

The day he undertook to present his memorial to the Legislature was one he
never forgot. The streets were crowded with negroes who had come to town
to hear Lynch, the Lieutenant-Governor, speak in a mass-meeting. Negro
policemen swung their clubs in his face as he pressed through the insolent
throng up the street to the stately marble Capitol. At the door a black,
greasy trooper stopped him to parley. Every decently dressed white man was
regarded a spy.

As he passed inside the doors of the House of Representatives the rush of
foul air staggered him. The reek of vile cigars and stale whiskey, mingled
with the odour of perspiring negroes, was overwhelming. He paused and
gasped for breath.

The space behind the seats of the members was strewn with corks, broken
glass, stale crusts, greasy pieces of paper, and picked bones. The hall
was packed with negroes, smoking, chewing, jabbering, pushing,
perspiring.

A carpet-bagger at his elbow was explaining to an old darkey from down
east why his forty acres and a mule hadn't come.

On the other side of him a big negro bawled:

"Dat's all right! De cullud man on top!"

The doctor surveyed the hall in dismay. At first not a white member was
visible. The galleries were packed with negroes. The Speaker presiding was
a negro, the Clerk a negro, the doorkeepers negroes, the little pages all
coal-black negroes, the Chaplain a negro. The negro party consisted of one
hundred and one--ninety-four blacks and seven scallawags, who claimed to
be white. The remains of Aryan civilization were represented by
twenty-three white men from the Scotch-Irish hill counties.

The doctor had served three terms as the member from Ulster in this hall
in the old days, and its appearance now was beyond any conceivable depth
of degradation.

The ninety-four Africans, constituting almost its solid membership, were a
motley crew. Every negro type was there, from the genteel butler to the
clodhopper from the cotton and rice fields. Some had on second-hand seedy
frock-coats their old master had given them before the war, glossy and
threadbare. Old stovepipe hats, of every style in vogue since Noah came
out of the ark, were placed conspicuously on the desks or cocked on the
backs of the heads of the honourable members. Some wore the coarse clothes
of the field, stained with red mud.

Old Aleck, he noted, had a red woollen comforter wound round his neck in
place of a shirt or collar. He had tried to go barefooted, but the Speaker
had issued a rule that members should come shod. He was easing his feet by
placing his brogans under the desk, wearing only his red socks.

Each member had his name painted in enormous gold letters on his desk, and
had placed beside it a sixty-dollar French imported spittoon. Even the
Congress of the United States, under the inspiration of Oakes Ames and
Speaker Colfax, could only afford one of domestic make, which cost a
dollar.

The uproar was deafening. From four to six negroes were trying to speak at
the same time. Aleck's majestic mouth with blue gums and projecting teeth
led the chorus as he ambled down the aisle, his bow-legs flying their
red-sock ensigns.

The Speaker singled him out--his voice was something which simply could
not be ignored--rapped and yelled:

"De gemman from Ulster set down!"

Aleck turned crestfallen and resumed his seat, throwing his big flat feet
in their red woollens up on his desk and hiding his face behind their
enormous spread.

He had barely settled in his chair before a new idea flashed through his
head and up he jumped again:

"Mistah Speaker!" he bawled.

"Orda da!" yelled another.

"Knock 'im in de head!"

"Seddown, nigger!"

The Speaker pointed his gavel at Aleck and threatened him laughingly:

"Ef de gemman from Ulster doan set down I gwine call 'im ter orda!"

Uncle Aleck greeted this threat with a wild guffaw, which the whole House
about him joined in heartily. They laughed like so many hens
cackling--when one started the others would follow.

The most of them were munching peanuts, and the crush of hulls under heavy
feet added a subnote to the confusion like the crackle of a prairie fire.

The ambition of each negro seemed to be to speak at least a half-dozen
times on each question, saying the same thing every time.

No man was allowed to talk five minutes without an interruption which
brought on another and another until the speaker was drowned in a storm of
contending yells. Their struggles to get the floor with bawlings,
bellowings, and contortions, and the senseless rap of the Speaker's gavel,
were something appalling.

On this scene, through fetid smoke and animal roar, looked down from the
walls, in marble bas-relief, the still white faces of Robert Hayne and
George McDuffie, through whose veins flowed the blood of Scottish kings,
while over it brooded in solemn wonder the face of John Laurens, whose
diplomatic genius at the court of France won millions of gold for our
tottering cause, and sent a French fleet and army into the Chesapeake to
entrap Cornwallis at Yorktown.

The little group of twenty-three white men, the descendants of these
spirits, to whom Dr. Cameron had brought his memorial, presented a
pathetic spectacle. Most of them were old men, who sat in grim silence
with nothing to do or say as they watched the rising black tide, their
dignity, reserve, and decorum at once the wonder and the shame of the
modern world.

At least they knew that the minstrel farce being enacted on that floor was
a tragedy as deep and dark as was ever woven of the blood and tears of a
conquered people. Beneath those loud guffaws they could hear the death
rattle in the throat of their beloved State, barbarism strangling
civilization by brute force.

For all the stupid uproar, the black leaders of this mob knew what they
wanted. One of them was speaking now, the leader of the House, the
Honourable Napoleon Whipper.

Dr. Cameron had taken his seat in the little group of white members in one
corner of the chamber, beside an old friend from an adjoining county whom
he had known in better days.

"Now listen," said his friend. "When Whipper talks he always says
something."

"Mr. Speaker, I move you, sir, in view of the arduous duties which our
presiding officer has performed this week for the State, that he be
allowed one thousand dollars extra pay."

The motion was put without debate and carried.

The Speaker then called Whipper to the Chair and made the same motion, to
give the Leader of the House an extra thousand dollars for the performance
of his heavy duties.

It was carried.

"What does that mean?" asked the doctor.

"Very simple; Whipper and the Speaker adjourned the House yesterday
afternoon to attend a horse race. They lost a thousand dollars each
betting on the wrong horse. They are recuperating after the strain. They
are booked for judges of the Supreme Court when they finish this job. The
negro mass-meeting to-night is to indorse their names for the Supreme
Bench."

"Is it possible!" the doctor exclaimed.

When Whipper resumed his place at his desk, the introduction of bills
began. One after another were sent to the Speaker's desk, a measure to
disarm the whites and equip with modern rifles a negro militia of 80,000
men; to make the uniform of Confederate gray the garb of convicts in South
Carolina, with a sign of the rank to signify the degree of crime; to
prevent any person calling another a "nigger"; to require men to remove
their hats in the presence of all officers, civil or military, and all
disfranchised men to remove their hats in the presence of voters; to force
black and whites to attend the same schools and open the State University
to negroes; to permit the intermarriage of whites and blacks; and to
inforce social equality.

Whipper made a brief speech on the last measure:

"Before I am through, I mean that it shall be known that Napoleon Whipper
is as good as any man in South Carolina. Don't tell me that I am not on an
equality with any man God ever made."

Dr. Cameron turned pale, and trembling with excitement, asked his friend:

"Can that man pass such measures, and the Governor sign them?"

"He can pass anything he wishes. The Governor is his creature--a dirty
little scallawag who tore the Union flag from Fort Sumter, trampled it in
the dust, and helped raise the flag of Confederacy over it. Now he is
backed by the Government at Washington. He won his election by dancing at
negro balls and the purchase of delegates. His salary as Governor is
$3,500 a year, and he spends over $40,000. Comment is unnecessary. This
Legislature has stolen millions of dollars, and already bankrupted the
treasury. The day Howle was elected to the Senate of the United States
every negro on the floor had his roll of bills and some of them counted it
out on their desks. In your day the annual cost of the State government
was $400,000. This year it is $2,000,000. These thieves steal daily. They
don't deny it. They simply dare you to prove it. The writing paper on the
desks cost $16,000. These clocks on the wall $600 each, and every little
Radical newspaper in the State has been subsidized in sums varying from
$1,000 to $7,000. Each member is allowed to draw for mileage, per diem,
and 'sundries.' God only knows what the bill for 'sundries' will aggregate
by the end of the session."

"I couldn't conceive of this!" exclaimed the doctor.

"I've only given you a hint. We are a conquered race. The iron hand of
Fate is on us. We can only wait for the shadows to deepen into night.
President Grant appears to be a babe in the woods. Schuyler Colfax, the
Vice-president, and Belknap, the Secretary of War, are in the saddle in
Washington. I hear things are happening there that are quite interesting.
Besides, Congress now can give little relief. The real lawmaking power in
America is the State Legislature. The State lawmaker enters into the holy
of holies of our daily life. Once more we are a sovereign State--a
sovereign negro State."

"I fear my mission is futile," said the doctor.

"It's ridiculous--I'll call for you to-night and take you to hear Lynch,
our Lieutenant-Governor. He is a remarkable man. Our negro Supreme Court
Judge will preside--"

Uncle Aleck, who had suddenly spied Dr. Cameron, broke in with a laughing
welcome:

"I 'clar ter goodness, Dr. Cammun, I didn't know you wuz here, sah. I sho'
glad ter see you. I axes yer ter come across de street ter my room; I got
sumfin' pow'ful pertickler ter say ter you."

The doctor followed Aleck out of the hall and across the street to his
room in a little boarding-house. His door was locked, and the windows
darkened by blinds. Instead of opening the blinds he lighted a lamp.

"Ob cose, Dr. Cammun, you say nuffin 'bout what I gwine tell you?"

"Certainly not, Aleck."

The room was full of drygoods boxes. The space under the bed was packed,
and they were piled to the ceiling around the walls.

"Why, what's all this, Aleck?"

The member from Ulster chuckled:

"Dr. Cammun, yu'se been er pow'ful frien' ter me--gimme medicine lots er
times, en I hain't nebber paid you nuttin'. I'se sho' come inter de
kingdom now, en I wants ter pay my respects ter you, sah. Des look ober
dat paper, en mark what you wants, en I hab 'em sont home fur you."

The member from Ulster handed his physician a printed list of more than
five hundred articles of merchandise. The doctor read it over with
amazement.

"I don't understand it, Aleck. Do you own a store?"

"Na-sah, but we git all we wants fum mos' eny ob 'em. Dem's 'sundries,'
sah, dat de Gubment gibs de members. We des orda what we needs. No trouble
'tall, sah. De men what got de goods come roun' en beg us ter take 'em."

The doctor smiled in spite of the tragedy back of the joke.

"Let's see some of the goods, Aleck--are they first class?"

"Yessah; de bes' goin'. I show you."

He pulled out a number of boxes and bundles, exhibiting carpets, door
mats, hassocks, dog collars, cow bells, oilcloths, velvets, mosquito nets,
damask, Irish linen, billiard outfits, towels, blankets, flannels, quilts,
women's hoods, hats, ribbons, pins, needles, scissors, dumb bells, skates,
crape skirt braids, tooth brushes, face powder, hooks and eyes, skirts,
bustles, chignons, garters, artificial busts, chemises, parasols, watches,
jewellery, diamond earrings, ivory-handled knives and forks, pistols and
guns, and a Webster's Dictionary.

"Got lots mo' in dem boxes nailed up dar--yessah, hit's no use er lettin'
good tings go by yer when you kin des put out yer han' en stop 'em! Some
er de members ordered horses en carriages, but I tuk er par er fine mules
wid harness en two buggies an er wagin. Dey 'roun at de libry stable,
sah."

The doctor thanked Aleck for his friendly feeling, but told him it was, of
course, impossible for him at this time, being only a taxpayer and neither
a voter nor a member of the Legislature, to share in his supply of
"sundries."

He went to the warehouse that night with his friend to hear Lynch,
wondering if his mind were capable of receiving another shock.

This meeting had been called to indorse the candidacy, for Justice of the
Supreme Court, of Napoleon Whipper, the Leader of the House, the notorious
negro thief and gambler, and of William Pitt Moses, an ex-convict, his
confederate in crime. They had been unanimously chosen for the positions
by a secret caucus of the ninety-four negro members of the House. This
addition to the Court, with the negro already a member, would give a
majority to the black man on the last Tribunal of Appeal.

The few white men of the party who had any sense of decency were in open
revolt at this atrocity. But their influence was on the wane. The
carpet-bagger shaped the first Convention and got the first plums of
office. Now the negro was in the saddle, and he meant to stay. There were
not enough white men in the Legislature to force a roll-call on a division
of the House. This meeting was an open defiance of all pale-faces inside
or outside party lines.

Every inch of space in the big cotton warehouse was jammed--a black living
cloud, pungent and piercing.

The distinguished Lieutenant-Governor, Silas Lynch, had not yet arrived,
but the negro Justice of the Supreme Court, Pinchback, was in his seat as
the presiding officer.

Dr. Cameron watched the movements of the black judge, already notorious
for the sale of his opinions, with a sense of sickening horror. This man
was but yesterday a slave, his father a medicine man in an African jungle
who decided the guilt or innocence of the accused by the test of
administering poison. If the poison killed the man, he was guilty; if he
survived, he was innocent. For four thousand years his land had stood a
solid bulwark of unbroken barbarism. Out of its darkness he had been
thrust upon the seat of judgment of the laws of the proudest and highest
type of man evolved in time. It seemed a hideous dream.

His thoughts were interrupted by a shout. It came spontaneous and
tremendous in its genuine feeling. The magnificent figure of Lynch, their
idol, appeared walking down the aisle escorted by the little scallawag who
was the Governor.

He took his seat on the platform with the easy assurance of conscious
power. His broad shoulders, superb head, and gleaming jungle eyes held
every man in the audience before he had spoken a word.

In the first masterful tones of his voice the doctor's keen intelligence
caught the ring of his savage metal and felt the shock of his powerful
personality--a personality which had thrown to the winds every mask, whose
sole aim of life was sensual, whose only fears were of physical pain and
death, who could worship a snake and sacrifice a human being.

His playful introduction showed him a child of Mystery, moved by Voices
and inspired by a Fetish. His face was full of good humour, and his whole
figure rippled with sleek animal vivacity. For the moment, life was a
comedy and a masquerade teeming with whims, fancies, ecstasies and
superstitions.

He held the surging crowd in the hollow of his hand. They yelled, laughed,
howled, or wept as he willed.

Now he painted in burning words the imaginary horrors of slavery until the
tears rolled down his cheeks and he wept at the sound of his own voice.
Every dusky hearer burst into tears and moans.

He stopped, suddenly brushed the tears from his eyes, sprang to the edge
of the platform, threw both arms above his head and shouted:

"Hosannah to the Lord God Almighty for Emancipation!"

Instantly five thousand negroes, as one man, were on their feet, shouting
and screaming. Their shouts rose in unison, swelled into a thunder peal,
and died away as one voice.

Dead silence followed, and every eye was again riveted on Lynch. For two
hours the doctor sat transfixed, listening and watching him sway the vast
audience with hypnotic power.

There was not one note of hesitation or of doubt. It was the challenge of
race against race to mortal combat. His closing words again swept every
negro from his seat and melted every voice into a single frenzied shout:

"Within five years," he cried, "the intelligence and the wealth of this
mighty State will be transferred to the negro race. Lift up your heads.
The world is yours. Take it. Here and now I serve notice on every white
man who breathes that I am as good as he is. I demand, and I am going to
have, the privilege of going to see him in his house or his hotel, eating
with him and sleeping with him, and when I see fit, to take his daughter
in marriage!"

As the doctor emerged from the stifling crowd with his friend, he drew a
deep breath of fresh air, took from his pocket his conservative memorial,
picked it into little bits, and scattered them along the street as he
walked in silence back to his hotel.



CHAPTER IX

AT LOVER'S LEAP


In spite of the pitiful collapse of old Stoneman under his stroke of
paralysis, his children still saw the unconquered soul shining in his
colourless eyes. They had both been on the point of confessing their love
affairs to him and joining in the inevitable struggle when he was
stricken. They knew only too well that he would not consent to a dual
alliance with the Camerons under the conditions of fierce hatreds and
violence into which the State had drifted. They were too high-minded to
consider a violation of his wishes while thus helpless, with his strange
eyes following them about in childlike eagerness. His weakness was
mightier than his iron will.

So, for eighteen months, while he slowly groped out of mental twilight,
each had waited--Elsie with a tender faith struggling with despair, and
Phil in a torture of uncertainty and fear.

In the meantime, the young Northerner had become as radical in his
sympathies with the Southern people as his father had ever been against
them. This power of assimilation has always been a mark of Southern
genius. The sight of the Black Hand on their throats now roused his
righteous indignation. The patience with which they endured was to him
amazing. The Southerner he had found to be the last man on earth to become
a revolutionist. All his traits were against it. His genius for command,
the deep sense of duty and honour, his hospitality, his deathless love of
home, his supreme constancy and sense of civic unity, all combined to make
him ultraconservative. He began now to see that it was reverence for
authority as expressed in the Constitution under which slavery was
established which made Secession inevitable.

Besides, the laziness and incapacity of the negro had been more than he
could endure. With no ties of tradition or habits of life to bind him, he
simply refused to tolerate them. In this feeling Elsie had grown early to
sympathize. She discharged Aunt Cindy for feeding her children from the
kitchen, and brought a cook and house girl from the North, while Phil
would employ only white men in any capacity.

In the desolation of negro rule the Cameron farm had become worthless. The
taxes had more than absorbed the income, and the place was only kept from
execution by the indomitable energy of Mrs. Cameron, who made the hotel
pay enough to carry the interest on a mortgage which was increasing from
season to season.

The doctor's practice was with him a divine calling. He never sent bills
to his patients. They paid something if they had it. Now they had
nothing.

Ben's law practice was large for his age and experience, but his clients
had no money.

While the Camerons were growing each day poorer, Phil was becoming rich.
His genius, skill, and enterprise had been quick to see the possibilities
of the waterpower. The old Eagle cotton mills had been burned during the
war. Phil organized the Eagle & Phoenix Company, interested Northern
capitalists, bought the falls, and erected two great mills, the dim hum of
whose spindles added a new note to the river's music. Eager, swift,
modest, his head full of ideas, his heart full of faith, he had pressed
forward to success.

As the old Commoner's mind began to clear, and his recovery was sure, Phil
determined to press his suit for Margaret's hand to an issue.

Ben had dropped a hint of an interview of the Rev. Hugh McAlpin with Dr.
Cameron, which had thrown Phil into a cold sweat.

He hurried to the hotel to ask Margaret to drive with him that afternoon.
He would stop at Lover's Leap and settle the question.

He met the preacher, just emerging from the door, calm, handsome, serious,
and Margaret by his side. The dark-haired beauty seemed strangely serene.
What could it mean? His heart was in his throat. Was he too late? Wreathed
in smiles when the preacher had gone, the girl's face was a riddle he
could not solve.

To his joy, she consented to go.

As he left in his trim little buggy for the hotel, he stooped and kissed
Elsie, whispering:

"Make an offering on the altar of love for me, Sis!"

"You're too slow. The prayers of all the saints will not save you!" she
replied with a laugh, throwing him a kiss as he disappeared in the dust.

As they drove through the great forest on the cliffs overlooking the
river, the Southern world seemed lit with new splendours to-day for the
Northerner. His heart beat with a strange courage. The odour of the pines,
their sighing music, the subtone of the falls below, the subtle
life-giving perfume of the fullness of summer, the splendour of the sun
gleaming through the deep foliage, and the sweet sensuous air, all seemed
incarnate in the calm, lovely face and gracious figure beside him.

They took their seat on the old rustic built against the beech, which was
the last tree on the brink of the cliff. A hundred feet below flowed the
river, rippling softly along a narrow strip of sand which its current had
thrown against the rocks. The ledge of towering granite formed a cave
eighty feet in depth at the water's edge. From this projecting wall,
tradition said a young Indian princess once leaped with her lover, fleeing
from the wrath of a cruel father who had separated them. The cave below
was inaccessible from above, being reached by a narrow footpath along the
river's edge when entered a mile downstream.

The view from the seat, under the beech, was one of marvellous beauty. For
miles the broad river rolled in calm, shining glory seaward, its banks
fringed with cane and trees, while fields of corn and cotton spread in
waving green toward the distant hills and blue mountains of the west.

Every tree on this cliff was cut with the initials of generations of
lovers from Piedmont.

They sat in silence for awhile, Margaret idly playing with a flower she
had picked by the pathway, and Phil watching her devoutly. The Southern
sun had tinged her face the reddish warm hue of ripened fruit, doubly
radiant by contrast with her wealth of dark-brown hair. The lustrous
glance of her eyes, half veiled by their long lashes, and the graceful,
careless pose of her stately figure held him enraptured. Her dress of
airy, azure blue, so becoming to her dark beauty, gave Phil the impression
of eiderdown feathers of some rare bird of the tropics. He felt that if he
dared to touch her she might lift her wings and sail over the cliff into
the sky and forget to light again at his side.

"I am going to ask a very bold and impertinent question, Miss Margaret,"
Phil said with resolution. "May I?"

Margaret smiled incredulously.

"I'll risk your impertinence, and decide as to its boldness."

"Tell me, please, what that preacher said to you to-day."

Margaret looked away, unable to suppress the merriment that played about
her eyes and mouth.

"Will you never breathe it to a soul if I do?"

"Never."

"Honest Injun, here on the sacred altar of the princess?"

"On my honour."

"Then I'll tell you," she said, biting her lips to keep back a laugh. "Mr.
McAlpin is very handsome and eloquent. I have always thought him the best
preacher we have ever had in Piedmont----"

"Yes, I know," Phil interrupted with a frown. "He is very pious," she went
on evenly, "and seeks Divine guidance in prayer in everything he does. He
called this morning to see me, and I was playing for him in the little
music-room off the parlour, when he suddenly closed the door and said:

"'Miss Margaret, I am going to take, this morning, the most important step
of my life----'

"Of course I hadn't the remotest idea what he meant----

"'Will you join me in a word of prayer?' he asked, and knelt right down. I
was accustomed, of course, to kneel with him in family worship at his
pastoral calls, and so from habit I slipped to one knee by the piano
stool, wondering what on earth he was about. When he prayed with fervour
for the Lord to bless the great love with which he hoped to hallow my
life--I giggled. It broke up the meeting. He rose and asked me to marry
him. I told him the Lord hadn't revealed it to me----"

Phil seized her hand and held it firmly. The smile died from the girl's
face, her hand trembled, and the rose tint on her cheeks flamed to
scarlet.

"Margaret, my own, I love you," he cried with joy. "You could have told
that story only to the one man whom you love--is it not true?"

"Yes. I've loved you always," said the low, sweet voice.

"Always?" asked Phil through a tear.

"Before I saw you, when they told me you were as Ben's twin brother, my
heart began to sing at the sound of your name----"

"Call it," he whispered.

"Phil, my sweetheart!" she said with a laugh.

"How tender and homelike the music of your voice! The world has never seen
the match of your gracious Southern womanhood! Snowbound in the North, I
dreamed, as a child, of this world of eternal sunshine. And now every
memory and dream I've found in you."

"And you won't be disappointed in my simple ideal that finds its all
within a home?"

"No. I love the old-fashioned dream of the South. Maybe you have enchanted
me, but I love these green hills and mountains, these rivers musical with
cascade and fall, these solemn forests--but for the Black Curse, the South
would be to-day the garden of the world!"

"And you will help our people lift this curse?" softly asked the girl,
nestling closer to his side.

"Yes, dearest, thy people shall be mine! Had I a thousand wrongs to
cherish, I'd forgive them all for your sake. I'll help you build here a
new South on all that's good and noble in the old, until its dead fields
blossom again, its harbours bristle with ships, and the hum of a thousand
industries make music in every valley. I'd sing to you in burning verse if
I could, but it is not my way. I have been awkward and slow in love,
perhaps--but I'll be swift in your service. I dream to make dead stones
and wood live and breathe for you, of victories wrung from Nature that are
yours. My poems will be deeds, my flowers the hard-earned wealth that has
a soul, which I shall lay at your feet."

"Who said my lover was dumb?" she sighed, with a twinkle in her shining
eyes. "You must introduce me to your father soon. He must like me as my
father does you, or our dream can never come true."

A pain gripped Phil's heart, but he answered bravely:

"I will. He can't help loving you."

They stood on the rustic seat to carve their initials within a circle,
high on the old beechwood book of love.

"May I write it out in full--Margaret Cameron--Philip Stoneman?" he
asked.

"No--only the initials now--the full names when you've seen my father and
I've seen yours. Jeannie Campbell and Henry Lenoir were once written thus
in full, and many a lover has looked at that circle and prayed for
happiness like theirs. You can see there a new one cut over the old, the
bark has filled, and written on the fresh page is 'Marion Lenoir' with the
blank below for her lover's name."

Phil looked at the freshly cut circle and laughed:

"I wonder if Marion or her mother did that?"

"Her mother, of course."

"I wonder whose will be the lucky name some day within it?" said Phil
musingly as he finished his own.



CHAPTER X

A NIGHT HAWK


When the old Commoner's private physician had gone and his mind had fully
cleared, he would sit for hours in the sunshine of the vine-clad porch,
asking Elsie of the village, its life, and its people. He smiled
good-naturedly at her eager sympathy for their sufferings as at the
enthusiasm of a child who could not understand. He had come possessed by a
great idea--events must submit to it. Her assurance that the poverty and
losses of the people were far in excess of the worst they had known during
the war was too absurd even to secure his attention.

He had refused to know any of the people, ignoring the existence of
Elsie's callers. But he had fallen in love with Marion from the moment he
had seen her. The cold eye of the old fox hunter kindled with the fire of
his forgotten youth at the sight of this beautiful girl seated on the
glistening back of the mare she had saved from death.

As she rode through the village every boy lifted his hat as to passing
royalty, and no one, old or young, could allow her to pass without a cry
of admiration. Her exquisite figure had developed into the full tropic
splendour of Southern girlhood.

She had rejected three proposals from ardent lovers, on one of whom her
mother had quite set her heart. A great fear had grown in Mrs. Lenoir's
mind lest she were in love with Ben Cameron. She slipped her arm around
her one day and timidly asked her.

A faint flush tinged Marion's face up to the roots of her delicate blonde
hair, and she answered with a quick laugh:

"Mamma, how silly you are! You know I've always been in love with
Ben--since I can first remember. I know he is in love with Elsie Stoneman.
I am too young, the world too beautiful, and life too sweet to grieve over
my first baby love. I expect to dance with him at his wedding, then meet
my fate and build my own nest."

Old Stoneman begged that she come every day to see him. He never tired
praising her to Elsie. As she walked gracefully up to the house one
afternoon, holding Hugh by the hand, he said to Elsie:

"Next to you, my dear, she is the most charming creature I ever saw. Her
tenderness for everything that needs help touches the heart of an old lame
man in a very soft spot."

"I've never seen any one who could resist her," Elsie answered. "Her
gloves may be worn, her feet clad in old shoes, yet she is always neat,
graceful, dainty, and serene. No wonder her mother worships her."

Sam Ross, her simple friend, had stopped at the gate, and looked over into
the lawn as if afraid to come in.

When Marion saw Sam, she turned back to the gate to invite him in. The
keeper of the poor, a vicious-looking negro, suddenly confronted him, and
he shrank in terror close to the girl's side.

"What you doin' here, sah?" the black keeper railed. "Ain't I done tole
you 'bout runnin' away?"

"You let him alone," Marion cried.

The negro pushed her roughly from his side and knocked Sam down. The girl
screamed for help, and old Stoneman hobbled down the steps, following
Elsie.

When they reached the gate, Marion was bending over the prostrate form.

"Oh, my, my, I believe he's killed him!" she wailed.

"Run for the doctor, sonny, quick," Stoneman said to Hugh. The boy darted
away and brought Dr. Cameron.

"How dare you strike that man, you devil?" thundered the old statesman.

"'Case I tole 'im ter stay home en do de wuk I put 'im at, en he all de
time runnin' off here ter git somfin' ter eat. I gwine frail de life outen
'im, ef he doan min' me."

"Well, you make tracks back to the Poorhouse. I'll attend to this man, and
I'll have you arrested for this before night," said Stoneman, with a
scowl.

The black keeper laughed as he left.

"Not 'less you'se er bigger man dan Gubner Silas Lynch, you won't!"

When Dr. Cameron had restored Sam, and dressed the wound on his head where
he had struck a stone in falling, Stoneman insisted that the boy be put to
bed.

Turning to Dr. Cameron, he asked:

"Why should they put a brute like this in charge of the poor?"

"That's a large question, sir, at this time," said the doctor politely,
"and now that you have asked it, I have some things I've been longing for
an opportunity to say to you."

"Be seated, sir," the old Commoner answered, "I shall be glad to hear
them."

Elsie's heart leaped with joy over the possible outcome of this appeal,
and she left the room with a smile for the doctor.

"First, allow me," said the Southerner pleasantly, "to express my sorrow
at your long illness, and my pleasure at seeing you so well. Your children
have won the love of all our people and have had our deepest sympathy in
your illness."

Stoneman muttered an inaudible reply, and the doctor went on:

"Your question brings up, at once, the problem of the misery and
degradation into which our country has sunk under negro rule----"

Stoneman smiled coldly and interrupted:

"Of course, you understand my position in politics, Doctor Cameron--I am a
Radical Republican."

"So much the better," was the response. "I have been longing for months to
get your ear. Your word will be all the more powerful if raised in our
behalf. The negro is the master of our State, county, city, and town
governments. Every school, college, hospital, asylum, and poorhouse is his
prey. What you have seen is but a sample. Negro insolence grows beyond
endurance. Their women are taught to insult their old mistresses and mock
their poverty as they pass in their old, faded dresses. Yesterday a black
driver struck a white child of six with his whip, and when the mother
protested, she was arrested by a negro policeman, taken before a negro
magistrate, and fined $10 for 'insulting a freedman.'"

Stoneman frowned: "Such things must be very exceptional."

"They are everyday occurrences and cease to excite comment. Lynch, the
Lieutenant-Governor, who has bought a summer home here, is urging this
campaign of insult with deliberate purpose----"

The old man shook his head. "I can't think the Lieutenant-Governor guilty
of such petty villainy."

"Our school commissioner," the doctor continued, "is a negro who can
neither read nor write. The black grand jury last week discharged a negro
for stealing cattle and indicted the owner for false imprisonment. No such
rate of taxation was ever imposed on a civilized people. A tithe of it
cost Great Britain her colonies. There are 5,000 homes in this
county--2,900 of them are advertised for sale by the sheriff to meet his
tax bills. This house will be sold next court day----"

Stoneman looked up sharply. "Sold for taxes?"

"Yes; with the farm which has always been Mrs. Lenoir's support. In part
her loss came from the cotton tax. Congress, in addition to the desolation
of war, and the ruin of black rule, has wrung from the cotton farmers of
the South a tax of $67,000,000. Every dollar of this money bears the stain
of the blood of starving people. They are ready to give up, or to spring
some desperate scheme of resistance----"

The old man lifted his massive head and his great jaws came together with
a snap:

"Resistance to the authority of the National Government?"

"No; resistance to the travesty of government and the mockery of
civilization under which we are being throttled! The bayonet is now in the
hands of a brutal negro militia. The tyranny of military martinets was
child's play to this. As I answered your call this morning I was stopped
and turned back in the street by the drill of a company of negroes under
the command of a vicious scoundrel named Gus who was my former slave. He
is the captain of this company. Eighty thousand armed negro troops,
answerable to no authority save the savage instincts of their officers,
terrorize the State. Every white company has been disarmed and disbanded
by our scallawag Governor. I tell you, sir, we are walking on the crust of
a volcano----"

Old Stoneman scowled as the doctor rose and walked nervously to the window
and back.

"An appeal from you to the conscience of the North might save us," he went
on eagerly. "Black hordes of former slaves, with the intelligence of
children and the instincts of savages, armed with modern rifles, parade
daily in front of their unarmed former masters. A white man has no right a
negro need respect. The children of the breed of men who speak the tongue
of Burns and Shakespeare, Drake and Raleigh, have been disarmed and made
subject to the black spawn of an African jungle! Can human flesh endure
it? When Goth and Vandal barbarians overran Rome, the negro was the slave
of the Roman Empire. The savages of the North blew out the light of
Ancient Civilization, but in all the dark ages which followed they never
dreamed the leprous infamy of raising a black slave to rule over his
former master! No people in the history of the world have ever before been
so basely betrayed, so wantonly humiliated and degraded!"

Stoneman lifted his head in amazement at the burst of passionate intensity
with which the Southerner poured out his protest.

"For a Russian to rule a Pole," he went on, "a Turk to rule a Greek, or an
Austrian to dominate an Italian is hard enough, but for a thick-lipped,
flat-nosed, spindle-shanked negro, exuding his nauseating animal odour, to
shout in derision over the hearths and homes of white men and women is an
atrocity too monstrous for belief. Our people are yet dazed by its horror.
My God! when they realize its meaning, whose arm will be strong enough to
hold them?"

"I should think the South was sufficiently amused with resistance to
authority," interrupted Stoneman.

"Even so. Yet there is a moral force at the bottom of every living race of
men. The sense of right, the feeling of racial destiny--these are
unconquered and unconquerable forces. Every man in South Carolina to-day
is glad that slavery is dead. The war was not too great a price for us to
pay for the lifting of its curse. And now to ask a Southerner to be the
slave of a slave----"

"And yet, Doctor," said Stoneman coolly, "manhood suffrage is the one
eternal thing fixed in the nature of Democracy. It is inevitable."

"At the price of racial life? Never!" said the Southerner, with fiery
emphasis. "This Republic is great, not by reason of the amount of dirt we
possess, the size of our census roll, or our voting register--we are great
because of the genius of the race of pioneer white freemen who settled
this continent, dared the might of kings, and made a wilderness the home
of Freedom. Our future depends on the purity of this racial stock. The
grant of the ballot to these millions of semi-savages and the riot of
debauchery which has followed are crimes against human progress."

"Yet may we not train him?" asked Stoneman.

"To a point, yes, and then sink to his level if you walk as his equal in
physical contact with him. His race is not an infant; it is a
degenerate--older than yours in time. At last we are face to face with the
man whom slavery concealed with its rags. Suffrage is but the new paper
cloak with which the Demagogue has sought to hide the issue. Can we
assimilate the negro? The very question is pollution. In Hayti no white
man can own land. Black dukes and marquises drive over them and swear at
them for getting under their wheels. Is civilization a patent cloak with
which law-tinkers can wrap an animal and make him a king?"

"But the negro must be protected by the ballot," protested the statesman.
"The humblest man must have the opportunity to rise. The real issue is
Democracy."

"The issue, sir, is Civilization! Not whether a negro shall be protected,
but whether Society is worth saving from barbarism."

"The statesman can educate," put in the Commoner.

The doctor cleared his throat with a quick little nervous cough he was in
the habit of giving when deeply moved.

"Education, sir, is the development of that which _is_. Since the dawn of
history the negro has owned the continent of Africa--rich beyond the dream
of poet's fancy, crunching acres of diamonds beneath his bare black feet.
Yet he never picked one up from the dust until a white man showed to him
its glittering light. His land swarmed with powerful and docile animals,
yet he never dreamed a harness, cart, or sled. A hunter by necessity, he
never made an axe, spear, or arrowhead worth preserving beyond the moment
of its use. He lived as an ox, content to graze for an hour. In a land of
stone and timber he never sawed a foot of lumber, carved a block, or built
a house save of broken sticks and mud. With league on league of ocean
strand and miles of inland seas, for four thousand years he watched their
surface ripple under the wind, heard the thunder of the surf on his beach,
the howl of the storm over his head, gazed on the dim blue horizon calling
him to worlds that lie beyond, and yet he never dreamed a sail! He lived
as his fathers lived--stole his food, worked his wife, sold his children,
ate his brother, content to drink, sing, dance, and sport as the ape!

"And this creature, half child, half animal, the sport of impulse, whim,
and conceit, 'pleased with a rattle, tickled with a straw,' a being who,
left to his will, roams at night and sleeps in the day, whose speech knows
no word of love, whose passions, once aroused, are as the fury of the
tiger--they have set this thing to rule over the Southern people----"

The doctor sprang to his feet, his face livid, his eyes blazing with
emotion. "Merciful God--it surpasses human belief!"

He sank exhausted in his chair, and, extending his hand in an eloquent
gesture, continued:

"Surely, surely, sir, the people of the North are not mad? We can yet
appeal to the conscience and the brain of our brethren of a common race?"

Stoneman was silent as if stunned. Deep down in his strange soul he was
drunk with the joy of a triumphant vengeance he had carried locked in the
depths of his being, yet the intensity of this man's suffering for a
people's cause surprised and distressed him as all individual pain hurt
him.

Dr. Cameron rose, stung by his silence and the consciousness of the
hostility with which Stoneman had wrapped himself.

"Pardon my apparent rudeness, Doctor," he said at length, extending his
hand. "The violence of your feeling stunned me for the moment. I'm obliged
to you for speaking. I like a plain-spoken man. I am sorry to learn of the
stupidity of the former military commandant in this town----"

"My personal wrongs, sir," the doctor broke in, "are nothing!"

"I am sorry, too, about these individual cases of suffering. They are the
necessary incidents of a great upheaval. But may it not all come out right
in the end? After the Dark Ages, day broke at last. We have the printing
press, railroad, and telegraph--a revolution in human affairs. We may do
in years what it took ages to do in the past. May not the black man
speedily emerge? Who knows? An appeal to the North will be a waste of
breath. This experiment is going to be made. It is written in the book of
Fate. But I like you. Come to see me again."

Dr. Cameron left with a heavy heart. He had grown a great hope in this
long-wished-for appeal to Stoneman. It had come to his ears that the old
man, who had dwelt as one dead in their village, was a power.

It was ten o'clock before the doctor walked slowly back to the hotel. As
he passed the armoury of the black militia, they were still drilling under
the command of Gus. The windows were open, through which came the steady
tramp of heavy feet and the cry of "Hep! Hep! Hep!" from the Captain's
thick cracked lips. The full-dress officer's uniform, with its gold
epaulets, yellow stripes, and glistening sword, only accentuated the
coarse bestiality of Gus. His huge jaws seemed to hide completely the gold
braid on his collar.

The doctor watched, with a shudder, his black bloated face covered with
perspiration and the huge hand gripping his sword.

They suddenly halted in double ranks and Gus yelled:

"Odah, arms!"

The butts of their rifles crashed to the floor with precision, and they
were allowed to break ranks for a brief rest.

They sang "John Brown's Body," and as its echoes died away a big negro
swung his rifle in a circle over his head, shouting:

"Here's your regulator for white trash! En dey's nine hundred ob 'em in
dis county!"

"Yas, Lawd!" howled another.

"We got 'em down now en we keep 'em dar, chile!" bawled another.

The doctor passed on slowly to the hotel. The night was dark, the streets
were without lights under their present rulers, and the stars were hidden
with swift-flying clouds which threatened a storm. As he passed under the
boughs of an oak in front of his house, a voice above him whispered:

"A message for you, sir."

Had the wings of a spirit suddenly brushed his cheek, he would not have
been more startled.

"Who are you?" he asked, with a slight tremor.

"A Night Hawk of the Invisible Empire, with a message from the Grand
Dragon of the Realm," was the low answer, as he thrust a note in the
doctor's hand. "I will wait for your answer."

The doctor fumbled to his office on the corner of the lawn, struck a
match, and read:

"A great Scotch-Irish leader of the South from Memphis is here to-night
and wishes to see you. If you will meet General Forrest, I will bring him
to the hotel in fifteen minutes. Burn this. Ben."

The doctor walked quickly back to the spot where he had heard the voice,
and said:

"I'll see him with pleasure."

The invisible messenger wheeled his horse, and in a moment the echo of his
muffled hoofs had died away in the distance.



CHAPTER XI

THE BEAT OF A SPARROW'S WING


Dr. Cameron's appeal had left the old Commoner unshaken in his idea. There
could be but one side to any question with such a man, and that was his
side. He would stand by his own men, too. He believed in his own forces.
The bayonet was essential to his revolutionary programme--hence the hand
which held it could do no wrong. Wrongs were accidents which might occur
under any system.

Yet in no way did he display the strange contradictions of his character
so plainly as in his inability to hate the individual who stood for the
idea he was fighting with maniac fury. He liked Dr. Cameron instantly,
though he had come to do a crime that would send him into beggared exile.

Individual suffering he could not endure. In this the doctor's appeal had
startling results.

He sent for Mrs. Lenoir and Marion.

"I understand, Madam," he said gravely, "that your house and farm are to
be sold for taxes."

"Yes, sir; we've given it up this time. Nothing can be done," was the
hopeless answer.

"Would you consider an offer of twenty dollars an acre?"

"Nobody would be fool enough to offer it. You can buy all the land in the
county for a dollar an acre. It's not worth anything."

"I disagree with you," said Stoneman cheerfully. "I am looking far ahead.
I would like to make an experiment here with Pennsylvania methods on this
land. I'll give you ten thousand dollars cash for your five hundred acres
if you will take it."

"You don't mean it?" Mrs. Lenoir gasped, choking back the tears.

"Certainly. You can at once return to your home. I'll take another house,
and invest your money for you in good Northern securities."

The mother burst into sobs, unable to speak, while Marion threw her arms
impulsively around the old man's neck and kissed him.

His cold eyes were warmed with the first tear they had shed in years.

He moved the next day to the Ross estate, which he rented, had Sam brought
back to the home of his childhood in charge of a good-natured white
attendant, and installed in one of the little cottages on the lawn. He
ordered Lynch to arrest the keeper of the poor, and hold him on a charge
of assault with intent to kill, awaiting the action of the Grand Jury. The
Lieutenant-Governor received this order with sullen anger--yet he saw to
its execution. He was not quite ready for a break with the man who had
made him.

Astonished at his new humour, Phil and Elsie hastened to confess to him
their love affairs and ask his approval of their choice. His reply was
cautious, yet he did not refuse his consent. He advised them to wait a few
months, allow him time to know the young people, and get his bearings on
the conditions of Southern society. His mood of tenderness was a startling
revelation to them of the depth and intensity of his love.

When Mrs. Lenoir returned with Marion to her vine-clad home, she spent the
first day of perfect joy since the death of her lover husband. The deed
had not yet been made of the transfer of the farm, but it was only a
question of legal formality. She was to receive the money in the form of
interest-bearing securities and deliver the title on the following
morning.

Arm in arm, mother and daughter visited again each hallowed spot, with the
sweet sense of ownership. The place was in perfect order. Its flowers were
in gorgeous bloom, its walks clean and neat, the fences painted, and the
gates swung on new hinges.

They stood with their arms about one another, watching the sun sink behind
the mountains, with tears of gratitude and hope stirring their souls.

Ben Cameron strode through the gate, and they hurried to meet him with
cries of joy.

"Just dropped in a minute to see if you are snug for the night," he said.

"Of course, snug and so happy we've been hugging one another for hours,"
said the mother. "Oh, Ben, the clouds have lifted at last!"

"Has Aunt Cindy come yet?" he asked.

"No, but she'll be here in the morning to get breakfast. We don't want
anything to eat," she answered.

"Then I'll come out when I'm through my business to-night, and sleep in
the house to keep you company."

"Nonsense," said the mother, "we couldn't think of putting you to the
trouble. We've spent many a night here alone."

"But not in the past two years," he said with a frown.

"We're not afraid," Marion said with a smile. "Besides, we'd keep you
awake all night with our laughter and foolishness, rummaging through the
house."

"You'd better let me," Ben protested.

"No," said the mother, "we'll be happier to-night alone, with only God's
eye to see how perfectly silly we can be. Come and take supper with us
to-morrow night. Bring Elsie and her guitar--I don't like the banjo--and
we'll have a little love feast with music in the moonlight."

"Yes, do that," cried Marion. "I know we owe this good luck to her. I want
to tell her how much I love her for it."

"Well, if you insist on staying alone," said Ben reluctantly, "I'll bring
Miss Elsie to-morrow, but I don't like your being here without Aunt Cindy
to-night."

"Oh, we're all right!" laughed Marion, "but what I want to know is what
you are doing out so late every night since you've come home, and where
you were gone for the past week?"

"Important business," he answered soberly.

"Business--I expect!" she cried. "Look here, Ben Cameron, have you another
girl somewhere you're flirting with?"

"Yes," he answered slowly, coming closer and his voice dropping to a
whisper, "and her name is Death."

"Why, Ben!" Marion gasped, placing her trembling hand unconsciously on his
arm, a faint flush mantling her cheek and leaving it white.

"What do you mean?" asked the mother in low tones.

"Nothing that I can explain. I only wish to warn you both never to ask me
such questions before any one."

"Forgive me," said Marion, with a tremor. "I didn't think it serious."

Ben pressed the little warm hand, watching her mouth quiver with a smile
that was half a sigh, as he answered:

"You know I'd trust either of you with my life, but I can't be too
careful."

"We'll remember, Sir Knight," said the mother. "Don't forget, then,
to-morrow--and spend the evening with us. I wish I had one of Marion's new
dresses done. Poor child, she has never had a decent dress in her life
before. You know I never look at my pretty baby grown to such a beautiful
womanhood without hearing Henry say over and over again--'Beauty is a sign
of the soul--the body is the soul!'"

"Well, I've my doubts about your improving her with a fine dress," he
replied thoughtfully. "I don't believe that more beautifully dressed women
ever walked the earth than our girls of the South who came out of the war
clad in the pathos of poverty, smiling bravely through the shadows,
bearing themselves as queens though they wore the dress of the
shepherdess."

"I'm almost tempted to kiss you for that, as you once took advantage of
me!" said Marion, with enthusiasm.

The moon had risen and a whippoorwill was chanting his weird song on the
lawn as Ben left them leaning on the gate.

                    *       *       *       *       *

It was past midnight before they finished the last touches in restoring
their nest to its old homelike appearance and sat down happy and tired in
the room in which Marion was born, brooding and dreaming and talking over
the future.

The mother was hanging on the words of her daughter, all the baffled love
of the dead poet husband, her griefs and poverty consumed in the glowing
joy of new hopes. Her love for this child was now a triumphant passion,
which had melted her own being into the object of worship, until the soul
of the daughter was superimposed on the mother's as the magnetized by the
magnetizer.

"And you'll never keep a secret from me, dear?" she asked Marion.

"Never."

"You'll tell me all your love affairs?" she asked softly, as she drew the
shining blonde head down on her shoulder.

"Faithfully."

"You know I've been afraid sometimes you were keeping something back from
me, deep down in your heart--and I'm jealous. You didn't refuse Henry
Grier because you loved Ben Cameron--now, did you?"

The little head lay still before she answered:

[Illustration: MAE MARSH AS THE VICTIM OF RECONSTRUCTION.]

"How many times must I tell you, Silly, that I've loved Ben since I can
remember, that I will always love him, and when I meet my fate, at last, I
shall boast to my children of my sweet girl romance with the Hero of
Piedmont, and they shall laugh and cry with me over----"

"What's that?" whispered the mother, leaping to her feet.

"I heard nothing," Marion answered, listening.

"I thought I heard footsteps on the porch."

"Maybe it's Ben, who decided to come anyhow," said the girl.

"But he'd knock!" whispered the mother.

The door flew open with a crash, and four black brutes leaped into the
room, Gus in the lead, with a revolver in his hand, his yellow teeth
grinning through his thick lips.

"Scream now, an' I blow yer brains out," he growled.

Blanched with horror, the mother sprang before Marion with a shivering
cry:

"What do you want?"

"Not you," said Gus, closing the blinds and handing a rope to another
brute. "Tie de ole one ter de bedpost."

The mother screamed. A blow from a black fist in her mouth, and the rope
was tied.

With the strength of despair she tore at the cords, half rising to her
feet, while with mortal anguish she gasped:

"For God's sake, spare my baby! Do as you will with me, and kill me--do
not touch her!"

Again the huge fist swept her to the floor.

Marion staggered against the wall, her face white, her delicate lips
trembling with the chill of a fear colder than death.

"We have no money--the deed has not been delivered," she pleaded, a sudden
glimmer of hope flashing in her blue eyes.

Gus stepped closer, with an ugly leer, his flat nose dilated, his sinister
bead eyes wide apart, gleaming apelike, as he laughed:

"We ain't atter money!"

The girl uttered a cry, long, tremulous, heart-rending, piteous.

A single tiger spring, and the black claws of the beast sank into the soft
white throat and she was still.



CHAPTER XII

AT THE DAWN OF DAY


It was three o'clock before Marion regained consciousness, crawled to her
mother, and crouched in dumb convulsions in her arms.

"What can we do, my darling?" the mother asked at last.

"Die--thank God, we have the strength left!"

"Yes, my love," was the faint answer.

"No one must ever know. We will hide quickly every trace of crime. They
will think we strolled to Lover's Leap and fell over the cliff, and my
name will always be sweet and clean--you understand--come, we must
hurry----"

With swift hands, her blue eyes shining with a strange light, the girl
removed the shreds of torn clothes, bathed, and put on the dress of
spotless white she wore the night Ben Cameron kissed her and called her a
heroine.

The mother cleaned and swept the room, piled the torn clothes and cord in
the fireplace and burned them, dressed herself as if for a walk, softly
closed the doors, and hurried with her daughter along the old pathway
through the moonlit woods.

At the edge of the forest she stopped and looked back tenderly at the
little home shining amid the roses, caught their faint perfume and
faltered:

"Let's go back a minute--I want to see his room, and kiss Henry's picture
again."

"No, we are going to him now--I hear him calling us in the mists above the
cliff," said the girl--"come, we must hurry. We might go mad and fail!"

Down the dim cathedral aisles of the woods, hallowed by tender memories,
through which the poet lover and father had taught them to walk with
reverent feet and without fear, they fled to the old meeting-place of
Love.

On the brink of the precipice, the mother trembled, paused, drew back, and
gasped:

"Are you not afraid, my dear?"

"No; death is sweet now," said the girl. "I fear only the pity of those we
love."

"Is there no other way? We might go among strangers," pleaded the mother.

"We could not escape ourselves! The thought of life is torture. Only those
who hate me could wish that I live. The grave will be soft and cool, the
light of day a burning shame."

"Come back to the seat a moment--let me tell you my love again," urged the
mother. "Life still is dear while I hold your hand."

As they sat in brooding anguish, floating up from the river valley came
the music of a banjo in a negro cabin, mingled with vulgar shout and song
and dance. A verse of the ribald senseless lay of the player echoed above
the banjo's pert refrain:

              "Chicken in de bread tray, pickin' up dough;
              Granny, will your dog bite? No, chile, no!"

The mother shivered and drew Marion closer.

"Oh, dear! oh, dear! has it come to this--all my hopes of your beautiful
life!"

The girl lifted her head and kissed the quivering lips.

"With what loving wonder we saw you grow," she sighed, "from a tottering
babe on to the hour we watched the mystic light of maidenhood dawn in your
blue eyes--and all to end in this hideous, leprous shame. No--No! I will
not have it! It's only a horrible dream! God is not dead!"

The young mother sank to her knees and buried her face in Marion's lap in
a hopeless paroxysm of grief.

The girl bent, kissed the curling hair, and smoothed it with her soft
hand.

A sparrow chirped in the tree above, a wren twittered in a bush, and down
on the river's bank a mocking-bird softly waked his mate with a note of
thrilling sweetness. "The morning is coming, dearest; we must go," said
Marion. "This shame I can never forget, nor will the world forget. Death
is the only way."

They walked to the brink, and the mother's arms stole round the girl.

"Oh, my baby, my beautiful darling, life of my life, heart of my heart,
soul of my soul!"

They stood for a moment, as if listening to the music of the falls,
looking out over the valley faintly outlining itself in the dawn. The
first far-away streaks of blue light on the mountain ranges, defining
distance, slowly appeared. A fresh motionless day brooded over the world
as the amorous stir of the spirit of morning rose from the moist earth of
the fields below.

A bright star still shone in the sky, and the face of the mother gazed on
it intently. Did the Woman-spirit, the burning focus of the fiercest
desire to live and will, catch in this supreme moment the star's Divine
speech before which all human passions sink into silence? Perhaps, for she
smiled. The daughter answered with a smile; and then, hand in hand, they
stepped from the cliff into the mists and on through the opal gates of
death.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Book IV--The Ku Klux Klan



CHAPTER I

THE HUNT FOR THE ANIMAL


Aunt Cindy came at seven o'clock to get breakfast, and finding the house
closed and no one at home, supposed Mrs. Lenoir and Marion had remained at
the Cameron House for the night. She sat down on the steps, waited
grumblingly an hour, and then hurried to the hotel to scold her former
mistress for keeping her out so long.

Accustomed to enter familiarly, she thrust her head into the dining-room,
where the family were at breakfast with a solitary guest, muttering the
speech she had been rehearsing on the way:

"I lak ter know what sort er way dis--whar's Miss Jeannie?"

Ben leaped to his feet.

"Isn't she at home?"

"Been waitin' dar two hours."

"Great God!" he groaned, springing through the door and rushing to saddle
the mare. As he left he called to his father: "Let no one know till I
return."

At the house he could find no trace of the crime he had suspected. Every
room was in perfect order. He searched the yard carefully and under the
cedar by the window he saw the barefoot tracks of a negro. The white man
was never born who could make that track. The enormous heel projected
backward, and in the hollow of the instep where the dirt would scarcely be
touched by an Aryan was the deep wide mark of the African's flat foot. He
carefully measured it, brought from an outhouse a box, and fastened it
over the spot.

It might have been an ordinary chicken thief, of course. He could not
tell, but it was a fact of big import. A sudden hope flashed through his
mind that they might have risen with the sun and strolled to their
favourite haunt at Lover's Leap.

In two minutes he was there, gazing with hard-set eyes at Marion's hat and
handkerchief lying on the shelving rock.

The mare bent her glistening neck, touched the hat with her nose, lifted
her head, dilated her delicate nostrils, looked out over the cliff with
her great soft half-human eyes and whinnied gently.

Ben leaped to the ground, picked up the handkerchief, and looked at the
initials, "M. L.," worked in the corner. He knew what lay on the river's
brink below as well as if he stood over the dead bodies. He kissed the
letters of her name, crushed the handkerchief in his locked hands, and
cried:

"Now, Lord God, give me strength for the service of my people!"

He hurriedly examined the ground, amazed to find no trace of a struggle or
crime. Could it be possible they had ventured too near the brink and
fallen over?

He hurried to report to his father his discoveries, instructed his mother
and Margaret to keep the servants quiet until the truth was known, and the
two men returned along the river's brink to the foot of the cliff.

They found the bodies close to the water's edge, Marion had been killed
instantly. Her fair blonde head lay in a crimson circle sharply defined in
the white sand. But the mother was still warm with life. She had scarcely
ceased to breathe. In one last desperate throb of love the trembling soul
had dragged the dying body to the girl's side, and she had died with her
head resting on the fair round neck as though she had kissed her and
fallen asleep.

Father and son clasped hands and stood for a moment with uncovered heads.
The doctor said at length:

"Go to the coroner at once and see that he summons the jury _you_ select
and hand to him. Bring them immediately. I will examine the bodies before
they arrive."

Ben took the negro coroner into his office alone, turned the key, told him
of the discovery, and handed him the list of the jury.

"I'll hatter see Mr. Lynch fust, sah," he answered.

Ben placed his hand on his hip pocket and said coldly:

"Put your cross-mark on those forms I've made out there for you, go with
me immediately, and summon these men. If you dare put a negro on this
jury, or open your mouth as to what has occurred in this room, I'll kill
you."

The negro tremblingly did as he was commanded.

The coroner's jury reported that the mother and daughter had been killed
by accidentally failing over the cliff.

In all the throng of grief-stricken friends who came to the little cottage
that day, but two men knew the hell-lit secret beneath the tragedy.

When the bodies reached the home, Doctor Cameron placed Mrs. Cameron and
Margaret outside to receive visitors and prevent any one from disturbing
him. He took Ben into the room and locked the doors.

"My boy, I wish you to witness an experiment."

He drew from its case a powerful microscope of French make.

"What on earth are you going to do, sir?"

The doctor's brilliant eyes flashed with a mystic light as he replied:

"Find the fiend who did this crime--and then we will hang him on a gallows
so high that all men from the rivers to ends of the earth shall see and
feel and know the might of an unconquerable race of men."

"But there's no trace of him here."

"We shall see," said the doctor, adjusting his instrument.

"I believe that a microscope of sufficient power will reveal on the retina
of these dead eyes the image of this devil as if etched there by fire. The
experiment has been made successfully in France. No word or deed of man is
lost. A German scholar has a memory so wonderful he can repeat whole
volumes of Latin, German, and French without an error. A Russian officer
has been known to repeat the roll-call of any regiment by reading it
twice. Psychologists hold that nothing is lost from the memory of man.
Impressions remain in the brain like words written on paper in invisible
ink. So I believe of images in the eye if we can trace them early enough.
If no impression were made subsequently on the mother's eye by the light
of day, I believe the fire-etched record of this crime can yet be
traced."

Ben watched him with breathless interest.

He first examined Marion's eyes. But in the cold azure blue of their pure
depths he could find nothing.

"It's as I feared with the child," he said. "I can see nothing. It is on
the mother I rely. In the splendour of life, at thirty-seven she was the
full-blown perfection of womanhood, with every vital force at its highest
tension----"

He looked long and patiently into the dead mother's eye, rose and wiped
the perspiration from his face.

"What is it, sir?" asked Ben.

Without reply, as if in a trance, he returned to the microscope and again
rose with the little, quick, nervous cough he gave only in the greatest
excitement, and whispered:

"Look now and tell me what you see."

Ben looked and said:

"I can see nothing."

"Your powers of vision are not trained as mine," replied the doctor,
resuming his place at the instrument.

"What do you see?" asked the younger man, bending nervously.

"The bestial figure of a negro--his huge black hand plainly defined--the
upper part of the face is dim, as if obscured by a gray mist of dawn--but
the massive jaws and lips are clear--merciful God--yes--it's Gus!"

The doctor leaped to his feet livid with excitement.

Ben bent again, looked long and eagerly, but could see nothing.

"I'm afraid the image is in your eye, sir, not the mother's," said Ben
sadly.

"That's possible, of course," said the doctor, "yet I don't believe it."

"I've thought of the same scoundrel and tried blood hounds on that track,
but for some reason they couldn't follow it. I suspected him from the
first, and especially since learning that he left for Columbia on the
early morning train on pretended official business."

"Then I'm not mistaken," insisted the doctor, trembling with excitement.
"Now do as I tell you. Find when he returns. Capture him, bind, gag, and
carry him to your meeting-place under the cliff, and let me know."

On the afternoon of the funeral, two days later, Ben received a cypher
telegram from the conductor on the train telling him that Gus was on the
evening mail due at Piedmont at nine o'clock.

The papers had been filled with accounts of the accident, and an enormous
crowd from the county and many admirers of the fiery lyrics of the poet
father had come from distant parts to honour his name. All business was
suspended, and the entire white population of the village followed the
bodies to their last resting-place.

As the crowds returned to their homes, no notice was taken of a dozen men
on horseback who rode out of town by different ways about dusk. At eight
o'clock they met in the woods near the first little flag-station located
on McAllister's farm four miles from Piedmont, where a buggy awaited them.
Two men of powerful build, who were strangers in the county, alighted from
the buggy and walked along the track to board the train at the station
three miles beyond and confer with the conductor.

The men, who gathered in the woods, dismounted, removed their saddles, and
from the folds of the blankets took a white disguise for horse and man. In
a moment it was fitted on each horse, with buckles at the throat, breast,
and tail, and the saddles replaced. The white robe for the man was made in
the form of an ulster overcoat with cape, the skirt extending to the top
of the shoes. From the red belt at the waist were swung two revolvers
which had been concealed in their pockets. On each man's breast was a
scarlet circle within which shone a white cross. The same scarlet circle
and cross appeared on the horse's breast, while on his flanks flamed the
three red mystic letters, K. K. K. Each man wore a white cap, from the
edges of which fell a piece of cloth extending to the shoulders. Beneath
the visor was an opening for the eyes and lower down one for the mouth. On
the front of the caps of two of the men appeared the red wings of a hawk
as the ensign of rank. From the top of each cap rose eighteen inches high
a single spike held erect by a twisted wire. The disguises for man and
horse were made of cheap unbleached domestic and weighed less than three
pounds. They were easily folded within a blanket and kept under the saddle
in a crowd without discovery. It required less than two minutes to remove
the saddles, place the disguises, and remount.

At the signal of a whistle, the men and horses arrayed in white and
scarlet swung into double-file cavalry formation and stood awaiting
orders. The moon was now shining brightly, and its light shimmering on the
silent horses and men with their tall spiked caps made a picture such as
the world had not seen since the Knights of the Middle Ages rode on their
Holy Crusades.

As the train neared the flag-station, which was dark and unattended, the
conductor approached Gus, leaned over, and said: "I've just gotten a
message from the sheriff telling me to warn you to get off at this station
and slip into town. There's a crowd at the depot there waiting for you and
they mean trouble."

Gus trembled and whispered:

"Den fur Gawd's sake lemme off here."

The two men who got on at the station below stepped out before the negro,
and as he alighted from the car, seized, tripped, and threw him to the
ground. The engineer blew a sharp signal, and the train pulled on.

In a minute Gus was bound and gagged.

One of the men drew a whistle and blew twice. A single tremulous call like
the cry of an owl answered. The swift beat of horses' feet followed, and
four white-and-scarlet clansmen swept in a circle around the group.

One of the strangers turned to the horseman with red-winged ensign on his
cap, saluted, and said:

"Here's your man, Night Hawk."

"Thanks, gentlemen," was the answer. "Let us know when we can be of
service to your county."

The strangers sprang into their buggy and disappeared toward the North
Carolina line.

The clansmen blindfolded the negro, placed him on a horse, tied his legs
securely, and his arms behind him to the ring in the saddle.

The Night Hawk blew his whistle four sharp blasts, and his pickets
galloped from their positions and joined him.

Again the signal rang, and his men wheeled with the precision of trained
cavalrymen into column formation three abreast, and rode toward Piedmont,
the single black figure tied and gagged in the centre of the
white-and-scarlet squadron.



CHAPTER II

THE FIERY CROSS


The clansmen with their prisoner skirted the village and halted in the
woods on the river bank. The Night Hawk signalled for single file, and in
a few minutes they stood against the cliff under Lover's Leap and saluted
their chief, who sat his horse, awaiting their arrival.

Pickets were placed in each direction on the narrow path by which the spot
was approached, and one was sent to stand guard on the shelving rock
above.

Through the narrow crooked entrance they led Gus into the cave which had
been the rendezvous of the Piedmont Den of the Clan since its formation.
The meeting-place was a grand hall eighty feet deep, fifty feet wide, and
more than forty feet in height, which had been carved out of the stone by
the swift current of the river in ages past when its waters stood at a
higher level.

To-night it was lighted by candles placed on the ledges of the walls. In
the centre, on a fallen boulder, sat the Grand Cyclops of the Den, the
presiding officer of the township, his rank marked by scarlet stripes on
the white-cloth spike of his cap. Around him stood twenty or more clansmen
in their uniform, completely disguised. One among them wore a yellow sash,
trimmed in gold, about his waist, and on his breast two yellow circles
with red crosses interlapping, denoting his rank to be the Grand Dragon of
the Realm, or Commander-in-Chief of the State.

The Cyclops rose from his seat:

"Let the Grand Turk remove his prisoner for a moment and place him in
charge of the Grand Sentinel at the door, until summoned."

The officer disappeared with Gus, and the Cyclops continued:

"The Chaplain will open our Council with prayer."

Solemnly every white-shrouded figure knelt on the ground, and the voice of
the Rev. Hugh McAlpin, trembling with feeling, echoed through the cave:

"Lord God of our Fathers, as in times past thy children, fleeing from the
oppressor, found refuge beneath the earth until once more the sun of
righteousness rose, so are we met to-night. As we wrestle with the powers
of darkness now strangling our life, give to our souls to endure as seeing
the invisible, and to our right arms the strength of the martyred dead of
our people. Have mercy on the poor, the weak, the innocent and
defenceless, and deliver us from the body of the Black Death. In a land of
light and beauty and love our women are prisoners of danger and fear.
While the heathen walks his native heath unharmed and unafraid, in this
fair Christian Southland our sisters, wives, and daughters dare not stroll
at twilight through the streets or step beyond the highway at noon. The
terror of the twilight deepens with the darkness, and the stoutest heart
grows sick with fear for the red message the morning bringeth. Forgive our
sins--they are many--but hide not thy face from us, O God, for thou art
our refuge!"

As the last echoes of the prayer lingered and died in the vaulted roof,
the clansmen rose and stood a moment in silence.

Again the voice of the Cyclops broke the stillness:

"Brethren, we are met to-night at the request of the Grand Dragon of the
Realm, who has honoured us with his presence, to constitute a High Court
for the trial of a case involving life. Are the Night Hawks ready to
submit their evidence?"

"We are ready," came the answer.

"Then let the Grand Scribe read the objects of the Order on which your
authority rests."

The Scribe opened his Book of Record, "_The Prescript of the Order of the
Invisible Empire_," and solemnly read:

"To the lovers of law and order, peace and justice, and to the shades of
the venerated dead, greeting:

"This is an institution of Chivalry, Humanity, Mercy, and Patriotism:
embodying in its genius and principles all that is chivalric in conduct,
noble in sentiment, generous in manhood, and patriotic in purpose: its
particular objects being,

"First: To protect the weak, the innocent, and the defenceless from the
indignities, wrongs, and outrages of the lawless, the violent, and the
brutal; to relieve the injured and the oppressed: to succour the suffering
and unfortunate, and especially the widows and the orphans of Confederate
Soldiers.

"Second: To protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and
all the laws passed in conformity thereto, and to protect the States and
the people thereof from all invasion from any source whatever.

"Third: To aid and assist in the execution of all Constitutional laws, and
to protect the people from unlawful seizure, and from trial except by
their peers in conformity to the laws of the land."

"The Night Hawks will produce their evidence," said the Cyclops, "and the
Grand Monk will conduct the case of the people against the negro Augustus
Cæsar, the former slave of Dr. Richard Cameron."

Dr. Cameron advanced and removed his cap. His snow-white hair and beard,
ruddy face and dark-brown brilliant eyes made a strange picture in its
weird surroundings, like an ancient alchemist ready to conduct some daring
experiment in the problem of life.

"I am here, brethren," he said, "to accuse the black brute about to appear
of the crime of assault on a daughter of the South----"

A murmur of thrilling surprise and horror swept the crowd of
white-and-scarlet figures as with one common impulse they moved closer.

"His feet have been measured and they exactly tally with the negro tracks
found under the window of the Lenoir cottage. His flight to Columbia and
return on the publication of their deaths as an accident is a confirmation
of our case. I will not relate to you the scientific experiment which
first fixed my suspicion of this man's guilt. My witness could not confirm
it, and it might not be to you credible. But this negro is peculiarly
sensitive to hypnotic influence. I propose to put him under this power
to-night before you, and, if he is guilty, I can make him tell his
confederates, describe and rehearse the crime itself."

The Night Hawks led Gus before Doctor Cameron, untied his hands, removed
the gag, and slipped the blindfold from his head.

Under the doctor's rigid gaze the negro's knees struck together, and he
collapsed into complete hypnosis, merely lifting his huge paws lamely as
if to ward a blow.

They seated him on the boulder from which the Cyclops rose, and Gus stared
about the cave and grinned as if in a dream seeing nothing.

The doctor recalled to him the day of the crime, and he began to talk to
his three confederates, describing his plot in detail, now and then
pausing and breaking into a fiendish laugh.

Old McAllister, who had three lovely daughters at home, threw off his cap,
sank to his knees, and buried his face in his hands, while a dozen of the
white figures crowded closer, nervously gripping the revolvers which hung
from their red belts.

Doctor Cameron pushed them back and lifted his hand in warning.

The negro began to live the crime with fearful realism--the journey past
the hotel to make sure the victims had gone to their home; the visit to
Aunt Cindy's cabin to find her there; lying in the field waiting for the
last light of the village to go out; gloating with vulgar exultation over
their plot, and planning other crimes to follow its success--how they
crept along the shadows of the hedgerow of the lawn to avoid the
moonlight, stood under the cedar, and through the open windows watched the
mother and daughter laughing and talking within----

"Min' what I tells you now--Tie de ole one, when I gib you de rope," said
Gus in a whisper.

"My God!" cried the agonized voice of the figure with the double
cross--"that's what the piece of burnt rope in the fireplace meant!"

Doctor Cameron again lifted his hand for silence.

Now they burst into the room, and with the light of hell in his beady,
yellow-splotched eyes, Gus gripped his imaginary revolver and growled:

"Scream, an' I blow yer brains out!"

In spite of Doctor Cameron's warning, the white-robed figures jostled and
pressed closer----

Gus rose to his feet and started across the cave as if to spring on the
shivering figure of the girl, the clansmen with muttered groans, sobs, and
curses falling back as he advanced. He still wore his full Captain's
uniform, its heavy epaulets flashing their gold in the unearthly light,
his beastly jaws half covering the gold braid on the collar. His thick
lips were drawn upward in an ugly leer and his sinister bead eyes gleamed
like a gorilla's. A single fierce leap and the black claws clutched the
air slowly as if sinking into the soft white throat.

Strong men began to cry like children.

"Stop him! Stop him!" screamed a clansman, springing on the negro and
grinding his heel into his big thick neck. A dozen more were on him in a
moment, kicking, stamping, cursing, and crying like madmen.

Doctor Cameron leaped forward and beat them off:

"Men! Men! You must not kill him in this condition!"

Some of the white figures had fallen prostrate on the ground, sobbing in a
frenzy of uncontrollable emotion. Some were leaning against the walls,
their faces buried in their arms.

Again old McAllister was on his knees crying over and over again:

"God have mercy on my people!"

When at length quiet was restored, the negro was revived, and again bound,
blindfolded, gagged, and thrown to the ground before the Grand Cyclops.

A sudden inspiration flashed in Doctor Cameron's eyes. Turning to the
figure with yellow sash and double cross he said:

"Issue your orders and despatch your courier to-night with the old
Scottish rite of the Fiery Cross. It will send a thrill of inspiration to
every clansman in the hills."

"Good--prepare it quickly!" was the answer.

Doctor Cameron opened his medicine case, drew the silver drinking-cover
from a flask, and passed out of the cave to the dark circle of blood still
shining in the sand by the water's edge. He knelt and filled the cup half
full of the crimson grains, and dipped it into the river. From a saddle he
took the lightwood torch, returned within, and placed the cup on the
boulder on which the Grand Cyclops had sat. He loosed the bundle of
lightwood, took two pieces, tied them into the form of a cross, and laid
it beside a lighted candle near the silver cup.

The silent figures watched his every movement. He lifted the cup and
said:

"Brethren, I hold in my hand the water of your river bearing the red stain
of the life of a Southern woman, a priceless sacrifice on the altar of
outraged civilization. Hear the message of your chief."

The tall figure with the yellow sash and double cross stepped before the
strange altar, while the white forms of the clansmen gathered about him in
a circle. He lifted his cap, and laid it on the boulder, and his men gazed
on the flushed face of Ben Cameron, the Grand Dragon of the Realm.

He stood for a moment silent, erect, a smouldering fierceness in his eyes,
something cruel and yet magnetic in his alert bearing.

He looked on the prostrate negro lying in his uniform at his feet, seized
the cross, lighted the three upper ends and held it blazing in his hand,
while, in a voice full of the fires of feeling, he said:

"Men of the South, the time for words has passed, the hour for action has
struck. The Grand Turk will execute this negro to-night and fling his body
on the lawn of the black Lieutenant-Governor of the State."

The Grand Turk bowed.

"I ask for the swiftest messenger of this Den who can ride till dawn."

The man whom Doctor Cameron had already chosen stepped forward:

"Carry my summons to the Grand Titan of the adjoining province in North
Carolina whom you will find at Hambright. Tell him the story of this crime
and what you have seen and heard. Ask him to report to me here the second
night from this, at eleven o'clock, with six Grand Giants from his
adjoining counties, each accompanied by two hundred picked men. In olden
times when the Chieftain of our people summoned the clan on an errand of
life and death, the Fiery Cross, extinguished in sacrificial blood, was
sent by swift courier from village to village. This call was never made in
vain, nor will it be to-night, in the new world. Here, on this spot made
holy ground by the blood of those we hold dearer than life, I raise the
ancient symbol of an unconquered race of men----"

High above his head in the darkness of the cave he lifted the blazing
emblem----

"The Fiery Cross of old Scotland's hills! I quench its flames in the
sweetest blood that ever stained the sands of Time."

He dipped its ends in the silver cup, extinguished the fire, and handed
the charred symbol to the courier, who quickly disappeared.



CHAPTER III

THE PARTING OF THE WAYS


The discovery of the Captain of the African Guards lying in his full
uniform in Lynch's yard send a thrill of terror to the triumphant leagues.
Across the breast of the body was pinned a scrap of paper on which was
written in red ink the letters K. K. K. It was the first actual evidence
of the existence of this dreaded order in Ulster county.

The First Lieutenant of the Guards assumed command and held the full
company in their armoury under arms day and night. Beneath his door he had
found a notice which was also nailed on the courthouse. It appeared in the
Piedmont _Eagle_ and in rapid succession in every newspaper not under
negro influence in the State. It read as follows:

                                         "HEADQUARTERS OF REALM NO 4.
                                          "DREADFUL ERA, BLACK EPOCH,
                                                       "HIDEOUS HOUR.

  "GENERAL ORDER NO. I.

  "The Negro Militia now organized in this State threatens the
  extinction of civilization. They have avowed their purpose to make war
  upon and exterminate the Ku Klux Klan, an organization which is now
  the sole guardian of Society. All negroes are hereby given forty-eight
  hours from the publication of this notice in their respective counties
  to surrender their arms at the courthouse door. Those who refuse must
  take the consequences.

  "By order of the G. D. of Realm No. 4.

  "By the Grand Scribe."

The white people of Piedmont read this notice with a thrill of exultant
joy. Men walked the streets with an erect bearing which said without
words:

"Stand out of the way."

For the first time since the dawn of Black Rule negroes began to yield to
white men and women the right of way on the streets.

On the day following, the old Commoner sent for Phil.

"What is the latest news?" he asked.

"The town is in a fever of excitement--not over the discovery in Lynch's
yard--but over the blacker rumour that Marion and her mother committed
suicide to conceal an assault by this fiend."

"A trumped-up lie," said the old man emphatically.

"It's true, sir. I'll take Doctor Cameron's word for it."

"You have just come from the Camerons?"

"Yes."

"Let it be your last visit. The Camerons are on the road to the gallows,
father and son. Lynch informs me that the murder committed last night, and
the insolent notice nailed on the courthouse door, could have come only
from their brain. They are the hereditary leaders of these people. They
alone would have the audacity to fling this crime into the teeth of the
world and threaten worse. We are face to face with Southern barbarism.
Every man now to his own standard! The house of Stoneman can have no part
with midnight assassins."

"Nor with black barbarians, father. It is a question of who possesses the
right of life and death over the citizen, the organized virtue of the
community, or its organized crime. You have mistaken for death the
patience of a generous people. We call ourselves the champions of liberty.
Yet for less than they have suffered, kings have lost their heads and
empires perished before the wrath of freemen."

"My boy, this is not a question for argument between us," said the father
with stern emphasis. "This conspiracy of terror and assassination
threatens to shatter my work to atoms. The election on which turns the
destiny of Congress, and the success or failure of my life, is but a few
weeks away. Unless this foul conspiracy is crushed, I am ruined, and the
Nation falls again beneath the heel of a slaveholders' oligarchy."

"Your nightmare of a slaveholders' oligarchy does not disturb me."

"At least you will have the decency to break your affair with Margaret
Cameron pending the issue of my struggle of life and death with her father
and brother?"

"Never."

"Then I will do it for you."

"I warn you, sir," Phil cried, with anger, "that if it comes to an issue
of race against race, I am a white man. The ghastly tragedy of the
condition of society here is something for which the people of the South
are no longer responsible----"

"I'll take the responsibility!" growled the old cynic.

"Don't ask me to share it," said the younger man emphatically.

The father winced, his lips trembled, and he answered brokenly:

"My boy, this is the bitterest hour of my life that has had little to make
it sweet. To hear such words from you is more than I can bear. I am an old
man now--my sands are nearly run. But two human beings love me, and I love
but two. On you and your sister I have lavished all the treasures of a
maimed and strangled soul--and it has come to this! Read the notice which
one of your friends thrust into the window of my bedroom last night."

He handed Phil a piece of paper on which was written:

  "The old club-footed beast who has sneaked into our town, pretending
  to search for health, in reality the leader of the infernal Union
  League, will be given forty-eight hours to vacate the house and rid
  this community of his presence.

                                                           "K. K. K."

"Are you an officer of the Union League?" Phil asked in surprise.

"I am its soul."

"How could a Southerner discover this, if your own children didn't know
it?"

"By their spies who have joined the League."

"And do the rank and file know the Black Pope at the head of the order?"

"No, but high officials do."

"Does Lynch?"

"Certainly."

"Then he is the scoundrel who placed that note in your room. It is a
clumsy attempt to forge an order of the Klan. The white man does not live
in this town capable of that act. I know these people."

"My boy, you are bewitched by the smiles of a woman to deny your own flesh
and blood."

"Nonsense, father--you are possessed by an idea which has become an insane
mania----"

"Will you respect my wishes?" the old man broke in angrily.

"I will not," was the clear answer. Phil turned and left the room, and the
old man's massive head sank on his breast in helpless baffled rage and
grief.

He was more successful in his appeal to Elsie. He convinced her of the
genuineness of the threat against him. The brutal reference to his
lameness roused the girl's soul. When the old man, crushed by Phil's
desertion, broke down the last reserve of his strange cold nature, tore
his wounded heart open to her, cried in agony over his deformity, his
lameness, and the anguish with which he saw the threatened ruin of his
life-work, she threw her arms around his neck in a flood of tears and
cried:

"Hush, father, I will not desert you. I will never leave you, or wed
without your blessing. If I find that my lover was in any way responsible
for this insult, I'll tear his image out of my heart and never speak his
name again!"

She wrote a note to Ben, asking him to meet her at sundown on horseback at
Lover's Leap.

Ben was elated at the unexpected request. He was hungry for an hour with
his sweetheart, whom he had not seen save for a moment since the storm of
excitement broke following the discovery of the crime.

He hastened through his work of ordering the movement of the Klan for the
night, and determined to surprise Elsie by meeting her in his uniform of a
Grand Dragon.

Secure in her loyalty, he would deliberately thus put his life in her
hands. Using the water of a brook in the woods for a mirror, he adjusted
his yellow sash and pushed the two revolvers back under the cape out of
sight, saying to himself with a laugh:

"Betray me? Well, if she does, life would not be worth the living!"

When Elsie had recovered from the first shock of surprise at the white
horse and rider waiting for her under the shadows of the old beech, her
surprise gave way to grief at the certainty of his guilt, and the
greatness of his love in thus placing his life without a question in her
hands.

He tied the horses in the woods, and they sat down on the rustic.

He removed his helmet cap, threw back the white cape showing the scarlet
lining, and the two golden circles with their flaming crosses on his
breast, with boyish pride. The costume was becoming to his slender
graceful figure, and he knew it.

"You see, sweetheart, I hold high rank in the Empire," he whispered.

From beneath his cape he drew a long bundle which he unrolled. It was a
triangular flag of brilliant yellow edged in scarlet. In the centre of the
yellow ground was the figure of a huge black dragon with fiery red eyes
and tongue. Around it was a Latin motto worked in scarlet: "_quod semper,
quod ubique, quod ab omnibus_"--what always, what everywhere, what by all
has been held to be true. "The battle-flag of the Klan," he said; "the
standard of the Grand Dragon."

Elsie seized his hand and kissed it, unable to speak.

"Why so serious to-night?"

"Do you love me very much?" she answered.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay his life at the feet of
his beloved," he responded tenderly.

"Yes, yes; I know--and that is why you are breaking my heart. When first I
met you--it seems now ages and ages ago--I was a vain, self-willed, pert
little thing----"

"It's not so. I took you for an angel--you were one. You are one
to-night."

"Now," she went on slowly, "in what I have lived through you I have grown
into an impassioned, serious, self-disciplined, bewildered woman. Your
perfect trust to-night is the sweetest revelation that can come to a
woman's soul and yet it brings to me unspeakable pain----"

"For what?"

"You are guilty of murder."

Ben's figure stiffened.

"The judge who pronounces sentence of death on a criminal outlawed by
civilized society is not usually called a murderer, my dear."

"And by whose authority are you a judge?"

"By authority of the sovereign people who created the State of South
Carolina. The criminals who claim to be our officers are usurpers placed
there by the subversion of law."

"Won't you give this all up for my sake?" she pleaded. "Believe me, you
are in great danger."

"Not so great as is the danger of my sister and mother and my
sweetheart--it is a man's place to face danger," he gravely answered.

"This violence can only lead to your ruin and shame----"

"I am fighting the battle of a race on whose fate hangs the future of the
South and the Nation. My ruin and shame will be of small account if they
are saved," was the even answer.

"Come, my dear," she pleaded tenderly, "you know that I have weighed the
treasures of music and art and given them all for one clasp of your hand,
one throb of your heart against mine. I should call you cruel did I not
know you are infinitely tender. This is the only thing I have ever asked
you to do for me----"

"Desert my people! You must not ask of me this infamy, if you love me," he
cried.

"But, listen; this is wrong--this wild vengeance is a crime you are doing,
however great the provocation. We cannot continue to love one another if
you do this. Listen: I love you better than father, mother, life, or
career--all my dreams I've lost in you. I've lived through eternity to-day
with my father----"

"You know me guiltless of the vulgar threat against him----"

"Yes, and yet you are the leader of desperate men who might have done it.
As I fought this battle to-day, I've lost you, lost myself, and sunk down
to the depths of despair, and at the end rang the one weak cry of a
woman's heart for her lover! Your frown can darken the brightest sky. For
your sake I can give up all save the sense of right. I'll walk by your
side in life--lead you gently and tenderly along the way of my dreams if I
can, but if you go your way, it shall be mine; and I shall still be glad
because you are there! See how humble I am--only you must not commit
crime!"

"Come, sweetheart, you must not use that word," he protested, with a touch
of wounded pride.

"You are a conspirator----"

"I am a revolutionist."

"You are committing murder!"

"I am waging war."

Elsie leaped to her feet in a sudden rush of anger and extended her hand:

"Good-bye. I shall not see you again. I do not know you. You are still a
stranger to me."

He held her hand firmly.

"We must not part in anger," he said slowly. "I have grave work to do
before the day dawns. We may not see each other again."

She led her horse to the seat quickly and without waiting for his
assistance sprang into the saddle.

"Do you not fear my betrayal of your secret?" she asked.

He rode to her side, bent close, and whispered:

"It's as safe as if locked in the heart of God."

A little sob caught her voice, yet she said slowly in firm tones:

"If another crime is committed in this county by your Klan, we will never
see each other again."

He escorted her to the edge of the town without a word, pressed her hand
in silence, wheeled his horse, and disappeared on the road to the North
Carolina line.



CHAPTER IV

THE BANNER OF THE DRAGON


Ben Cameron rode rapidly to the rendezvous of the pickets who were to meet
the coming squadrons.

He returned home and ate a hearty meal. As he emerged from the
dining-room, Phil seized him by the arm and led him under the big oak on
the lawn:

"Cameron, old boy, I'm in a lot of trouble. I've had a quarrel with my
father, and your sister has broken me all up by returning my ring. I want
a little excitement to ease my nerves. From Elsie's incoherent talk I
judge you are in danger. If there's going to be a fight, let me in."

Ben took his hand:

"You're the kind of a man I'd like to have for a brother, and I'll help
you in love--but as for war--it's not your fight. We don't need help."

At ten o'clock Ben met the local Den at their rendezvous under the cliff,
to prepare for the events of the night.

The forty members present were drawn up before him in double rank of
twenty each.

"Brethren," he said to them solemnly, "I have called you to-night to take
a step from which there can be no retreat. We are going to make a daring
experiment of the utmost importance. If there is a faint heart among you,
now is the time to retire----"

"We are with you!" cried the men.

"There are laws of our race, old before this Republic was born in the
souls of white freemen. The fiat of fools has repealed on paper these
laws. Your fathers who created this Nation were first Conspirators, then
Revolutionists, now Patriots and Saints. I need to-night ten volunteers to
lead the coming clansmen over this county and disarm every negro in it.
The men from North Carolina cannot be recognized. Each of you must run
this risk. Your absence from home to-night will be doubly dangerous for
what will be done here at this negro armoury under my command. I ask of
these ten men to ride their horses until dawn, even unto death, to ride
for their God, their native land, and the womanhood of the South!

"To each man who accepts this dangerous mission I offer for your bed the
earth, for your canopy the sky, for your bread stones; and when the flash
of bayonets shall fling into your face from the Square the challenge of
martial law, the protection I promise you--is exile, imprisonment, and
death! Let the ten men who accept these terms step forward four paces."

With a single impulse the whole double line of forty white-and-scarlet
figures moved quickly forward four steps!

The leader shook hands with each man, his voice throbbing with emotion as
he said:

"Stand together like this, men, and armies will march and countermarch
over the South in vain! We will save the life of our people."

The ten guides selected by the Grand Dragon rode forward, and each led a
division of one hundred men through the ten townships of the county and
successfully disarmed every negro before day without the loss of a life.

The remaining squadron of two hundred and fifty men from Hambright,
accompanied by the Grand Titan in command of the Province of Western Hill
Counties, were led by Ben Cameron into Piedmont as the waning moon rose
between twelve and one o'clock.

They marched past Stoneman's place on the way to the negro armoury, which
stood on the opposite side of the street a block below.

The wild music of the beat of a thousand hoofs on the cobblestones of the
street waked every sleeper. The old Commoner hobbled to his window and
watched them pass, his big hands fumbling nervously, and his soul stirred
to its depths.

The ghostlike shadowy columns moved slowly with the deliberate
consciousness of power. The scarlet circles on their breasts could be
easily seen when one turned toward the house, as could the big red letters
K. K. K. on each horse's flank.

In the centre of the line waved from a gold-tipped spear the battle-flag
of the Klan. As they passed the bright lights burning at his gate, old
Stoneman could see this standard plainly. The huge black dragon with
flaming eyes and tongue seemed a living thing crawling over a
scarlet-tipped yellow cloud.

At the window above stood a little figure watching that banner of the
Dragon pass with aching heart.

Phil stood at another, smiling with admiration for their daring:

"By George, it stirs the blood to see it! You can't crush men of that
breed!"

The watchers were not long in doubt as to what the raiders meant.

They deployed quickly around the armoury. A whistle rang its shrill cry,
and a volley of two hundred and fifty carbines and revolvers smashed every
glass in the building. The sentinel had already given the alarm, and the
drum was calling the startled negroes to their arms. They returned the
volley twice, and for ten minutes were answered with the steady crack of
two hundred and fifty guns. A white flag appeared at the door, and the
firing ceased. The negroes laid down their arms and surrendered. All save
three were allowed to go to their homes for the night and carry their
wounded with them.

The three confederates in the crime of their captain were bound and led
away. In a few minutes the crash of a volley told their end.

The little white figure rapped at Phil's door and placed a trembling hand
on his arm:

"Phil," she said softly, "please go to the hotel and stay until you know
all that has happened--until you know the full list of those killed and
wounded. I'll wait. You understand?"

As he stooped and kissed her, he felt a hot tear roll down her cheek.

"Yes, little Sis, I understand," he answered.



CHAPTER V

THE REIGN OF THE KLAN


In quick succession every county followed the example of Ulster, and the
arms furnished the negroes by the State and National governments were in
the hands of the Klan. The League began to collapse in a panic of terror.

A gale of chivalrous passion and high action, contagious and intoxicating,
swept the white race. The moral, mental, and physical earthquake which
followed the first assault on one of their daughters revealed the unity of
the racial life of the people. Within the span of a week they had lived a
century.

The spirit of the South "like lightning had at last leaped forth, half
startled at itself, its feet upon the ashes and the rags," its hands
tight-gripped on the throat of tyrant, thug, and thief.

It was the resistless movement of a race, not of any man or leader of men.
The secret weapon with which they struck was the most terrible and
efficient in human history--these pale hosts of white-and-scarlet
horsemen! They struck shrouded in a mantle of darkness and terror. They
struck where the power of resistance was weakest and the blow least
suspected. Discovery or retaliation was impossible. Not a single disguise
was ever penetrated. All was planned and ordered as by destiny. The
accused was tried by secret tribunal, sentenced without a hearing,
executed in the dead of night without warning, mercy, or appeal. The
movements of the Klan were like clockwork, without a word, save the
whistle of the Night Hawk, the crack of his revolver, and the hoofbeat of
swift horses moving like figures in a dream, and vanishing in mists and
shadows.

The old club-footed Puritan, in his mad scheme of vengeance and party
power, had overlooked the Covenanter, the backbone of the South. This man
had just begun to fight! His race had defied the Crown of Great Britain a
hundred years from the caves and wilds of Scotland and Ireland, taught the
English people how to slay a king and build a commonwealth, and, driven
into exile into the wilderness of America, led our Revolution, peopled the
hills of the South, and conquered the West.

As the young German patriots of 1812 had organized the great struggle for
their liberties under the noses of the garrisons of Napoleon, so Ben
Cameron had met the leaders of his race in Nashville, Tennessee, within
the picket lines of thirty-five thousand hostile troops, and in the ruins
of an old homestead discussed and adopted the ritual of the Invisible
Empire.

Within a few months this Empire overspread a territory larger than modern
Europe. In the approaching election it was reaching out its daring white
hands to tear the fruits of victory from twenty million victorious
conquerors.

The triumph at which they aimed was one of incredible grandeur. They had
risen to snatch power out of defeat and death. Under their clan leadership
the Southern people had suddenly developed the courage of the lion, the
cunning of the fox, and the deathless faith of religious enthusiasts.

Society was fused in the white heat of one sublime thought and beat with
the pulse of the single will of the Grand Wizard of the Klan of Memphis.

Women and children had eyes and saw not, ears and heard not. Over four
thousand disguises for men and horses were made by the women of the South,
and not one secret ever passed their lips!

With magnificent audacity, infinite patience, and remorseless zeal, a
conquered people were struggling to turn his own weapon against their
conqueror, and beat his brains out with the bludgeon he had placed in the
hands of their former slaves.

Behind the tragedy of Reconstruction stood the remarkable man whose iron
will alone had driven these terrible measures through the chaos of
passion, corruption, and bewilderment which followed the first
assassination of an American President. As he leaned on his window in this
village of the South and watched in speechless rage the struggle at that
negro armoury, he felt for the first time the foundations sinking beneath
his feet. As he saw the black cowards surrender in terror, noted the
indifference and cool defiance with which those white horsemen rode and
shot, he knew that he had collided with the ultimate force which his whole
scheme had overlooked.

He turned on his big club foot from the window, clinched his fist and
muttered:

"But I'll hang that man for this deed if it's the last act of my life!"

The morning brought dismay to the negro, the carpet-bagger, and the
scallawag of Ulster. A peculiar freak of weather in the early morning
added to their terror. The sun rose clear and bright except for a slight
fog that floated from the river valley, increasing the roar of the falls.
About nine o'clock a huge black shadow suddenly rushed over Piedmont from
the west, and in a moment the town was shrouded in twilight. The cries of
birds were hushed and chickens went to roost as in a total eclipse of the
sun. Knots of people gathered on the streets and gazed uneasily at the
threatening skies. Hundreds of negroes began to sing and shout and pray,
while sensible people feared a cyclone or cloud-burst. A furious downpour
of rain was swiftly followed by sunshine, and the negroes rose from their
knees, shouting with joy to find the end of the world had after all been
postponed.

But that the end of their brief reign in a white man's land had come, but
few of them doubted. The events of the night were sufficiently eloquent.
The movement of the clouds in sympathy was unnecessary.

Old Stoneman sent for Lynch, and found he had fled to Columbia. He sent
for the only lawyer in town whom the Lieutenant-Governor had told him
could be trusted.

The lawyer was polite, but his refusal to undertake the prosecution of any
alleged member of the Klan was emphatic.

"I'm a sinful man, sir," he said with a smile. "Besides, I prefer to live,
on general principles."

"I'll pay you well," urged the old man, "and if you secure the conviction
of Ben Cameron, the man we believe to be the head of this Klan, I'll give
you ten thousand dollars."

The lawyer was whittling on a piece of pine meditatively.

"That's a big lot of money in these hard times. I'd like to own it, but
I'm afraid it wouldn't be good at the bank on the other side. I prefer the
green fields of South Carolina to those of Eden. My harp isn't in tune."

Stoneman snorted in disgust:

"Will you ask the Mayor to call to see me at once?"

"We ain't got none," was the laconic answer.

"What do you mean?"

"Haven't you heard what happened to his Honour last night?"

"No."

"The Klan called to see him," went on the lawyer with a quizzical look "at
3 A. M. Rather early for a visit of state. They gave him forty-nine lashes
on his bare back, and persuaded him that the climate of Piedmont didn't
agree with him. His Honour, Mayor Bizzel, left this morning with his negro
wife and brood of mulatto children for his home, the slums of Cleveland,
Ohio. We are deprived of his illustrious example, and he may not be a
wiser man than when he came, but he's a much sadder one."

Stoneman dismissed the even-tempered member of the bar, and wired Lynch to
return immediately to Piedmont. He determined to conduct the prosecution
of Ben Cameron in person. With the aid of the Lieutenant-Governor he
succeeded in finding a man who would dare to swear out a warrant against
him.

As a preliminary skirmish he was charged with a violation of the statutory
laws of the United States relating to Reconstruction and arraigned before
a Commissioner.

Against Elsie's agonizing protest, old Stoneman appeared at the courthouse
to conduct the prosecution.

In the absence of the United States Marshal, the warrant had been placed
in the hands of the sheriff, returnable at ten o'clock on the morning
fixed for the trial. The new sheriff of Ulster was no less a personage
than Uncle Aleck, who had resigned his seat in the House to accept the
more profitable one of High Sheriff of the County.

There was a long delay in beginning the trial. At 10:30 not a single
witness summoned had appeared, nor had the prisoner seen fit to honour the
court with his presence.

Old Stoneman sat fumbling his hands in nervous, sullen rage, while Phil
looked on with amusement.

"Send for the sheriff," he growled to the Commissioner.

In a moment Aleck appeared bowing humbly and politely to every white man
he passed. He bent halfway to the floor before the Commissioner and said:

"Marse Ben be here in er minute, sah. He's er eatin' his breakfus'. I run
erlong erhead."

Stoneman's face was a thundercloud as he scrambled to his feet and glared
at Aleck:

"_Marse_ Ben? Did you say _Marse_ Ben? Who's he?"

Aleck bowed low again.

"De young Colonel, sah--Marse Ben Cameron."

"And you the sheriff of this county trotted along in front to make the way
smooth for your prisoner?"

"Yessah!"

"Is that the way you escort prisoners before a court?"

"Dem kin' er prisoners--yessah."

"Why didn't you walk beside him?"

Aleck grinned from ear to ear and bowed very low:

"He say sumfin' to me, sah!"

"And what did he say?"

Aleck shook his head and laughed:

"I hates ter insinuate ter de cote, sah!"

"What did he say to you?" thundered Stoneman.

"He say--he say--ef I walk 'longside er him--he knock hell outen me,
sah!"

"Indeed."

"Yessah, en I 'spec' he would," said Aleck insinuatingly. "La, he's a
gemman, sah, he is! He tell me he come right on. He be here sho'."

Stoneman whispered to Lynch, turned with a look of contempt to Aleck, and
said:

"Mr. Sheriff, you interest me. Will you be kind enough to explain to this
court what has happened to you lately to so miraculously change your
manners?"

Aleck glanced around the room nervously.

"I seed sumfin'--a vision, sah!"

"A vision? Are you given to visions?"

"Na-sah. Dis yere wuz er sho' 'nuff vision! I wuz er feelin' bad all day
yistiddy. Soon in de mawnin', ez I wuz gwine 'long de road, I see a big
black bird er settin' on de fence. He flop his wings, look right at me en
say, 'Corpse! Corpse! Corpse!'"--Aleck's voice dropped to a whisper--"'en
las' night de Ku Kluxes come ter see me, sah!"

Stoneman lifted his beetling brows.

"That's interesting. We are searching for information on that subject."

"Yessah! Dey wuz Sperits, ridin' white hosses wid flowin' white robes, en
big blood-red eyes! De hosses wuz twenty feet high, en some er de Sperits
wuz higher dan dis cote-house! Dey wuz all bal' headed, 'cept right on de
top whar dere wuz er straight blaze er fire shot up in de air ten foot
high!"

"What did they say to you?"

"Dey say dat ef I didn't design de sheriff's office, go back ter farmin'
en behave myself, dey had er job waitin' fer me in hell, sah. En shos' you
born dey wuz right from dar!"

"Of course!" sneered the old Commoner.

"Yessah! Hit's des lak I tell yer. One ob 'em makes me fetch 'im er drink
er water. I carry two bucketsful ter 'im 'fo' I git done, en I swar ter
God he drink it all right dar 'fo' my eyes! He say hit wuz pow'ful dry
down below, sah! En den I feel sumfin' bus' loose inside er me, en I
disremember all dat come ter pass! I made er jump fer de ribber bank, en
de next I knowed I wuz er pullin' fur de odder sho'. I'se er pow'ful good
swimmer, sah, but I nebber git ercross er creek befo' ez quick ez I got
ober de ribber las' night."

"And you think of going back to farming?"

"I done begin plowin' dis mornin', marster!"

"_Don't_ you call me marster!" yelled the old man. "Are you the sheriff of
this county?"

Aleck laughed loudly.

"Na-sah! Dat's er joke! I ain't nuttin' but er plain nigger--I wants
peace, judge."

"Evidently we need a new sheriff."

"Dat's what I tell 'em, sah, dis mornin'--en I des flings mysef on de
ignance er de cote!"

Phil laughed aloud, and his father's colourless eyes began to spit cold
poison.

"About what time do you think your master, Colonel Cameron, will honour us
with his presence?" he asked Aleck.

Again the sheriff bowed.

"He's er comin' right now, lak I tole yer--he's er gemman, sah."

Ben walked briskly into the room and confronted the Commissioner.

Without apparently noticing his presence, Stoneman said:

"In the absence of witnesses we accept the discharge of this warrant,
pending developments."

Ben turned on his heel, pressed Phil's hand as he passed through the
crowd, and disappeared.

The old Commoner drove to the telegraph office and sent a message of more
than a thousand words to the White House, a copy of which the operator
delivered to Ben Cameron within an hour.

President Grant next morning issued a proclamation declaring the nine
Scotch-Irish hill counties of South Carolina in a state of insurrection,
ordered an army corps of five thousand men to report there for duty,
pending the further necessity of martial law and the suspension of the
writ of _Habeas Corpus_.



CHAPTER VI

THE COUNTER STROKE


From the hour he had watched the capture of the armoury old Stoneman felt
in the air a current against him which was electric, as if the dead had
heard the cry of the clansmen's greeting, risen and rallied to their pale
ranks.

The daring campaign these men were waging took his breath. They were going
not only to defeat his delegation to Congress, but send their own to take
their seats, reinforced by the enormous power of a suppressed negro vote.
The blow was so sublime in its audacity, he laughed in secret admiration
while he raved and cursed.

The army corps took possession of the hill counties, quartering from five
to six hundred regulars at each courthouse; but the mischief was done. The
State was on fire. The eighty thousand rifles with which the negroes had
been armed were now in the hands of their foes. A white rifle-club was
organized in every town, village, and hamlet. They attended the public
meetings with their guns, drilled in front of the speakers' stands,
yelled, hooted, hissed, cursed, and jeered at the orators who dared to
champion or apologize for negro rule. At night the hoofbeat of squadrons
of pale horsemen and the crack of their revolvers struck terror to the
heart of every negro, carpet-bagger, and scallawag.

There was a momentary lull in the excitement, which Stoneman mistook for
fear, at the appearance of the troops. He had the Governor appoint a white
sheriff, a young scallawag from the mountains who was a noted moonshiner
and desperado. He arrested over a hundred leading men in the county,
charged them with complicity in the killing of the three members of the
African Guard, and instructed the judge and clerk of the court to refuse
bail and commit them to jail under military guard.

To his amazement the prisoners came into Piedmont armed and mounted. They
paid no attention to the deputy sheriffs who were supposed to have them in
charge. They deliberately formed in line under Ben Cameron's direction and
he led them in a parade through the streets.

The five hundred United States regulars who were camped on the river bank
were Westerners. Ben led his squadron of armed prisoners in front of this
camp and took them through the evolutions of cavalry with the precision of
veterans. The soldiers dropped their games and gathered, laughing, to
watch them. The drill ended with a double-rank charge at the river
embankment. When they drew every horse on his haunches on the brink,
firing a volley with a single crash, a wild cheer broke from the soldiers,
and the officers rushed from their tents.

Ben wheeled his men, galloped in front of the camp, drew them up at dress
parade, and saluted. A low word of command from a trooper, and the
Westerners quickly formed in ranks, returned the salute, and cheered. The
officers rushed up, cursing, and drove the men back to their tents.

The horsemen laughed, fired a volley in the air, cheered, and galloped
back to the courthouse. The court was glad to get rid of them. There was
no question raised over technicalities in making out bail-bonds. The clerk
wrote the names of imaginary bondsmen as fast as his pen could fly, while
the perspiration stood in beads on his red forehead.

Another telegram from old Stoneman to the White House, and the Writ of
_Habeas Corpus_ was suspended and Martial Law proclaimed.

Enraged beyond measure at the salute from the troops, he had two companies
of negro regulars sent from Columbia, and they camped in the Courthouse
Square.

He determined to make a desperate effort to crush the fierce spirit before
which his forces were being driven like chaff. He induced Bizzel to return
from Cleveland with his negro wife and children. He was escorted to the
City Hall and reinstalled as Mayor by the full force of seven hundred
troops, and a negro guard placed around his house. Stoneman had Lynch run
an excursion from the Black Belt, and brought a thousand negroes to attend
a final rally at Piedmont. He placarded the town with posters on which
were printed the Civil Rights Bill and the proclamation of the President
declaring Martial Law.

Ben watched this day dawn with nervous dread. He had passed a sleepless
night, riding in person to every Den of the Klan and issuing positive
orders that no white man should come to Piedmont.

A clash with the authority of the United States he had avoided from the
first as a matter of principle. It was essential to his success that his
men should commit no act of desperation which would imperil his plans.
Above all, he wished to avoid a clash with old Stoneman personally.

The arrival of the big excursion was the signal for a revival of negro
insolence which had been planned. The men brought from the Eastern part of
the State were selected for the purpose. They marched over the town
yelling and singing. A crowd of them, half drunk, formed themselves three
abreast and rushed the sidewalks, pushing every white man, woman, and
child into the street.

They met Phil on his way to the hotel and pushed him into the gutter. He
said nothing, crossed the street, bought a revolver, loaded it and put it
in his pocket. He was not popular with the negroes, and he had been shot
at twice on his way from the mills at night. The whole affair of this
rally, over which his father meant to preside, filled him with disgust,
and he was in an ugly mood.

Lynch's speech was bold, bitter, and incendiary, and at its close the
drunken negro troopers from the local garrison began to slouch through the
streets, two and two, looking for trouble.

At the close of the speaking Stoneman called the officer in command of
these troops, and said:

"Major, I wish this rally to-day to be a proclamation of the supremacy of
law, and the enforcement of the equality of every man under law. Your
troops are entitled to the rights of white men. I understand the hotel
table has been free to-day to the soldiers from the camp on the river.
They are returning the courtesy extended to the criminals who drilled
before them. Send two of your black troops down for dinner and see that it
is served. I wish an example for the State."

"It will be a dangerous performance, sir," the major protested.

The old Commoner furrowed his brow.

"Have you been instructed to act under my orders?"

"I have, sir," said the officer, saluting.

"Then do as I tell you," snapped Stoneman.

Ben Cameron had kept indoors all day, and dined with fifty of the Western
troopers whom he had identified as leading in the friendly demonstration
to his men. Margaret, who had been busy with Mrs. Cameron entertaining
these soldiers, was seated in the dining-room alone, eating her dinner,
while Phil waited impatiently in the parlour.

The guests had all gone when two big negro troopers, fighting drunk,
walked into the hotel. They went to the water-cooler and drank
ostentatiously, thrusting their thick lips coated with filth far into the
cocoanut dipper, while a dirty hand grasped its surface.

They pushed the dining-room door open and suddenly flopped down beside
Margaret.

She attempted to rise, and cried in rage:

"How dare you, black brutes?"

One of them threw his arm around her chair, thrust his face into hers, and
said with a laugh:

"Don't hurry, my beauty; stay and take dinner wid us!"

Margaret again attempted to rise, and screamed, as Phil rushed into the
room with drawn revolver. One of the negroes fired at him, missed, and the
next moment dropped dead with a bullet through his heart.

The other leaped across the table and through the open window.

Margaret turned, confronting both Phil and Ben with revolvers in their
hands, and fainted.

Ben hurried Phil out the back door and persuaded him to fly.

"Man, you must go! We must not have a riot here to-day. There's no telling
what will happen. A disturbance now, and my men will swarm into town
to-night. For God's sake go, until things are quiet!"

"But I tell you I'll face it. I'm not afraid," said Phil quietly.

"No, but I am," urged Ben. "These two hundred negroes are armed and drunk.
Their officers may not be able to control them, and they may lay their
hands on you--go--go!--go!--you must go! The train is due in fifteen
minutes."

He half lifted him on a horse tied behind the hotel, leaped on another,
galloped to the flag-station two miles out of town, and put him on the
north-bound train.

"Stay in Charlotte until I wire for you," was Ben's parting injunction.

He turned his horse's head for McAllister's, sent the two boys with all
speed to the Cyclops of each of the ten township Dens with positive orders
to disregard all wild rumours from Piedmont and keep every man out of town
for two days.

As he rode back he met a squad of mounted white regulars, who arrested
him. The trooper's companion had sworn positively that he was the man who
killed the negro.

Within thirty minutes he was tried by drum-head court-martial and
sentenced to be shot.



CHAPTER VII

THE SNARE OF THE FOWLER


Sweet was the secret joy of old Stoneman over the fate of Ben Cameron. His
death sentence would strike terror to his party, and his prompt execution,
on the morning of the election but two days off, would turn the tide, save
the State, and rescue his daughter from a hated alliance.

He determined to bar the last way of escape. He knew the Klan would
attempt a rescue, and stop at no means fair or foul short of civil war.
Afraid of the loyalty of the white battalions quartered in Piedmont, he
determined to leave immediately for Spartanburg, order an exchange of
garrisons, and, when the death warrant was returned from headquarters,
place its execution in the hands of a stranger, to whom appeal would be
vain. He knew such an officer in the Spartanburg post, a man of fierce,
vindictive nature, once court-martialed for cruelty, who hated every
Southern white man with mortal venom. He would put him in command of the
death watch.

He hired a fast team and drove across the county with all speed, doubly
anxious to get out of town before Elsie discovered the tragedy and
appealed to him for mercy. Her tears and agony would be more than he could
endure. She would stay indoors on account of the crowds, and he would not
be missed until evening, when safely beyond her reach.

When Phil arrived at Charlotte he found an immense crowd at the bulletin
board in front of the _Observer_ office reading the account of the
Piedmont tragedy. To his horror he learned of the arrest, trial, and
sentence of Ben for the deed which he had done.

He rushed to the office of the Division Superintendent of the Piedmont Air
Line Railroad, revealed his identity, told him the true story of the
tragedy, and begged for a special to carry him back. The Superintendent,
who was a clansman, not only agreed, but within an hour had the special
ready and two cars filled with stern-looking men to accompany him. Phil
asked no questions. He knew what it meant. The train stopped at Gastonia
and King's Mountain and took on a hundred more men.

The special pulled into Piedmont at dusk. Phil ran to the Commandant and
asked for an interview with Ben alone.

"For what purpose, sir?" the officer asked.

Phil resorted to a ruse, knowing the Commandant to be unaware of any
difference of opinion between him and his father.

"I hold a commission to obtain a confession from the prisoner which may
save his life by destroying the Ku Klux Klan."

He was admitted at once and the guard ordered to withdraw until the
interview ended.

Phil took Ben Cameron's place, exchanging hat and coat, and wrote a note
to his father, telling in detail the truth, and asked for his immediate
interference.

"Deliver that, and I'll be out of here in two hours," he said, as he
placed the note in Ben's hand.

"I'll go straight to the house," was the quick reply.

The exchange of the Southerner's slouch hat and Prince Albert for Phil's
derby and short coat completely fooled the guard in the dim light. The men
were as much alike as twins except the shade of difference in the colour
of their hair. He passed the sentinel without a challenge, and walked
rapidly toward Stoneman's house.

On the way he was astonished to meet five hundred soldiers just arrived on
a special from Spartanburg. Amazed at the unexpected movement, he turned
and followed them back to the jail.

They halted in front of the building he had just vacated, and their
commander handed an official document to the officer in charge. The guard
was changed and a cordon of soldiers encircled the prison.

The Piedmont garrison had received notice by wire to move to Spartanburg,
and Ben heard the beat of their drums already marching to board the
special.

He pressed forward and asked an interview with the Captain in command.

The answer came with a brutal oath:

"I have been warned against all the tricks and lies this town can hatch.
The commander of the death watch will permit no interview, receive no
visitors, hear no appeal, and allow no communication with the prisoner
until after the execution. You can announce this to whom it may concern."

"But you've got the wrong man. You have no right to execute him," said Ben
excitedly.

"I'll risk it," he answered, with a sneer.

"Great God!" Ben cried beneath his breath. "The old fool has entrapped his
son in the net he spread for me!"



CHAPTER VIII

A RIDE FOR A LIFE


When Ben Cameron failed to find either Elsie or her father at home, he
hurried to the hotel, walking under the shadows of the trees to avoid
recognition, though his resemblance to Phil would have enabled him to pass
in his hat and coat unchallenged by any save the keenest observers.

He found his mother's bedroom door ajar and saw Elsie within, sobbing in
her arms. He paused, watched, and listened.

Never had he seen his mother so beautiful--her face calm, intelligent, and
vital, crowned with a halo of gray. She stood, flushed and dignified,
softly smoothing the golden hair of the sobbing girl whom she had learned
to love as her daughter. Her whole being reflected the years of homage she
had inspired in husband, children, and neighbours. What a woman! She had
made war inevitable, fought it to the bitter end; and in the despair of a
negro reign of terror, still the prophetess and high priestess of a
people, serene, undismayed, and defiant, she had fitted the uniform of a
Grand Dragon on her last son, and sewed in secret day and night to equip
his men. And through it all she was without affectation, her sweet
motherly ways, gentle manner and bearing always resistless to those who
came within her influence.

"If he dies," cried the tearful voice, "I shall never forgive myself for
not surrendering without reserve and fighting his battles with him!"

"He is not dead yet," was the mother's firm answer. "Doctor Cameron is on
Queen's back. Your lover's men will be riding to-night--these young
dare-devil Knights of the South, with their life in their hands, a song on
their lips, and the scorn of death in their souls!"

"Then I'll ride with them," cried the girl, suddenly lifting her head.

Ben stepped into the room, and with a cry of joy Elsie sprang into his
arms. The mother stood silent until their lips met in the long tender kiss
of the last surrender of perfect love.

"How did you escape so soon?" she asked quietly, while Elsie's head still
lay on his breast.

"Phil shot the brute, and I rushed him out of town. He heard the news,
returned on the special, took my place, and sent me for his father. The
guard has been changed and it's impossible to see him, or communicate with
the new Commandant----"

Elsie started and turned pale.

"And father has hidden to avoid me--merciful God--if Phil is
executed----"

"He isn't dead yet, either," said Ben, slipping his arm around her. "But
we must save him without a clash or a drop of bloodshed, if possible. The
fate of our people may hang on this. A battle with United States troops
now might mean ruin for the South----"

"But you will save him?" Elsie pleaded, looking into his face.

"Yes--or I'll go down with him," was the steady answer.

"Where is Margaret?" he asked.

"Gone to McAllister's with a message from your father," Mrs. Cameron
replied,

"Tell her when she returns to keep a steady nerve. I'll save Phil. Send
her to find her father. Tell him to hold five hundred men ready for action
in the woods by the river and the rest in reserve two miles out of
town----"

"May I go with her?" Elsie asked eagerly.

"No. I may need you," he said. "I am going to find the old statesman now,
if I have to drag the bottomless pit. Wait here until I return."

Ben reached the telegraph office unobserved, called the operator at
Columbia, and got the Grand Giant of the county into the office. Within an
hour he learned that the death warrant had been received and approved. It
would be returned by a messenger to Piedmont on the morning train. He
learned also that any appeal for a stay must be made through the
Honourable Austin Stoneman, the secret representative of the Government
clothed with this special power. The execution had been ordered the day of
the election, to prevent the concentration of any large force bent on
rescue.

"The old fox!" Ben muttered.

From the Grand Giant at Spartanburg he learned, after a delay of three
hours, that Stoneman had left with a boy in a buggy, which he had hired
for three days, and refused to tell his destination. He promised to follow
and locate him as quickly as possible.

It was the afternoon on the day following, during the progress of the
election, before Ben received the message from Spartanburg that Stoneman
had been found at the Old Red Tavern where the roads crossed from Piedmont
to Hambright. It was only twelve miles away, just over the line on the
North Carolina side.

He walked with Margaret to the block where Queen stood saddled, watching
with pride the quiet air of self-control with which she bore herself.

"Now, my sister, you know the way to the tavern. Ride for your
sweetheart's life. Bring the old man here by five o'clock, and we'll save
Phil without a fight. Keep your nerve. The Commandant knows a regiment of
mine is lying in the woods, and he's trying to slip out of town with his
prisoner. I'll stand by my men ready for a battle at a moment's notice,
but for God's sake get here in time to prevent it."

She stooped from the saddle, pressed her brother's hand, kissed him, and
galloped swiftly over the old Way of Romance she knew so well.

On reaching the tavern, the landlord rudely denied that any such man was
there, and left her standing dazed and struggling to keep back the tears.

A boy of eight, with big wide friendly eyes, slipped into the room, looked
up into her face tenderly, and said:

"He's the biggest liar in North Carolina. The old man's right upstairs in
the room over your head. Come on; I'll show you."

Margaret snatched the child in her arms and kissed him.

She knocked in vain for ten minutes. At last she heard his voice within:

"Go away from that door!"

"I'm from Piedmont, sir," cried Margaret, "with an important message from
the Commandant for you."

"Yes; I saw you come. I will not see you. I know everything, and I will
hear no appeal."

"But you cannot know of the exchange of men," pleaded the girl.

"I tell you I know all about it. I will not interfere----"

"But you could not be so cruel----"

"The majesty of the law must be vindicated. The judge who consents to the
execution of a murderer is not cruel. He is showing mercy to Society. Go,
now; I will not hear you."

In vain Margaret knocked, begged, pleaded, and sobbed.

At last, in a fit of desperation, as she saw the sun sinking lower and the
precious minutes flying, she hurled her magnificent figure against the
door and smashed the cheap lock which held it.

The old man sat at the other side of the room, looking out of the window,
with his massive jaws locked in rage. The girl staggered to his side,
knelt by his chair, placed her trembling hand on his arm, and begged:

"For the love of Jesus, have mercy! Come with me quickly!"

With a growl of anger, he said:

"No!"

[Illustration: MIRIAM COOPER AS MARGARET CAMERON.]

"It was a mad impulse, in my defence as well as his own."

"Impulse, yes! But back of it lay banked the fires of cruelty and race
hatred! The Nation cannot live with such barbarism rotting its heart
out."

"But this is war, sir--a war of races, and this an accident of
war--besides, his life had been attempted by them twice before."

"So I've heard, and yet the negro always happens to be the victim----"

Margaret leaped to her feet and glared at the old man for a moment in
uncontrollable anger.

"Are you a fiend?" she fairly shrieked.

Old Stoneman merely pursed his lips.

The girl came a step closer, and extended her hand again in mute appeal.

"No, I was foolish. You are not cruel. I have heard of a hundred acts of
charity you have done among our poor. Come, this is horrible! It is
impossible! You cannot consent to the death of your son----"

Stoneman looked up sharply:

"Thank God, he hasn't married my daughter yet----"

"Your daughter!" gasped Margaret. "I've told you it was Phil who killed
the negro! He took Ben's place just before the guards were exchanged----"

"Phil!--Phil?" shrieked the old man, staggering to his club foot and
stumbling toward Margaret with dilated eyes and whitening face; "My
boy--Phil?--why--why, are you crazy?--Phil? Did you say--_Phil_?"

"Yes. Ben persuaded him to go to Charlotte until the excitement passed to
avoid trouble. Come, come, sir, we must be quick! We may be too late!"

She seized and pulled him toward the door.

"Yes. Yes, we must hurry," he said in a laboured whisper, looking around
dazed. "You will show me the way, my child--you love him--yes, we will go
quickly--quickly! my boy--my boy!"

Margaret called the landlord, and while they hitched Queen to the buggy,
the old man stood helplessly wringing and fumbling his big ugly hands,
muttering incoherently, and tugging at his collar as though about to
suffocate.

As they dashed away, old Stoneman laid a trembling hand on Margaret's
arm.

"Your horse is a good one, my child?"

"Yes; the one Marion saved--the finest in the county."

"And you know the way?"

"Every foot of it. Phil and I have driven it often."

"Yes, yes--you love him," he sighed, pressing her hand.

Through the long reckless drive, as the mare flew over the rough hills,
every nerve and muscle of her fine body at its utmost tension, the father
sat silent. He braced his club foot against the iron bar of the dashboard
and gripped the sides of the buggy to steady his feeble body. Margaret
leaned forward intently watching the road to avoid an accident. The old
man's strange colourless eyes stared straight in front, wide open, and
seeing nothing, as if the soul had already fled through them into
eternity.



CHAPTER IX

"VENGEANCE IS MINE"


It was dark long before Margaret and Stoneman reached Piedmont. A mile out
of town a horse neighed in the woods, and, tired as she was, Queen threw
her head high and answered the call.

The old man did not notice it, but Margaret knew a squadron of
white-and-scarlet horsemen stood in those woods, and her heart gave a
bound of joy.

As they passed the Presbyterian church, she saw through the open window
her father standing at his Elder's seat leading in prayer. They were
holding a watch service, asking God for victory in the eventful struggle
of the day.

Margaret attempted to drive straight to the jail, and a sentinel stopped
them.

"I am Stoneman, sir--the real commander of these troops," said the old
man, with authority.

"Orders is orders, and I don't take 'em from you," was the answer.

"Then tell your commander that Mr. Stoneman has just arrived from
Spartanburg and asks to see him at the hotel immediately."

He hobbled into the parlour and waited in agony while Margaret tied the
mare. Ben, her mother and father, and every servant were gone.

In a few moments the second officer hurried to Stoneman, saluted, and
said:

"We've pulled it off in good shape, sir. They've tried to fool us with a
dozen tricks, and a whole regiment has been lying in wait for us all day.
But at dark the Captain outwitted them, took his prisoner with a squad of
picked cavalry, and escaped their pickets. They've been gone an hour, and
ought to be back with the body----"

Old Stoneman sprang on him with the sudden fury of a madman, clutching at
his throat.

"If you've killed my son," he gasped--"go--go! Follow them with a swift
messenger and stop them! It's a mistake--you're killing the wrong
man--you're killing my boy--quick--my God, quick--don't stand there
staring at me!"

The officer rushed to obey his order as Margaret entered.

The old man seized her arm, and said with laboured breath:

"Your father, my child, ask him to come to me quickly."

Margaret hurried to the church, and an usher called the doctor to the
door.

He read the question trembling on the girl's lips.

"Nothing has happened yet, my daughter. Your brother has held a regiment
of his men in readiness every moment of the day."

"Mr. Stoneman is at the hotel and asks to see you immediately," she
whispered.

"God grant he may prevent bloodshed," said the father. "Go inside and stay
with your mother."

When Doctor Cameron entered the parlour Stoneman hobbled painfully to meet
him, his face ashen, and his breath rattling in his throat as if his soul
were being strangled.

"You are my enemy, Doctor," he said, taking his hand, "but you are a pious
man. I have been called an infidel--I am only a wilful sinner--I have
slain my own son, unless God Almighty, who can raise the dead, shall save
him! You are the man at whom I aimed the blow that has fallen on my head.
I wish to confess to you and set myself right before God. He may hear my
cry, and have mercy on me."

He gasped for breath, sank into his seat, looked around, and said:

"Will you close the door?"

The doctor complied with his request and returned.

"We all wear masks, Doctor," began the trembling voice. "Beneath lie the
secrets of love and hate from which actions move. My will alone forged the
chains of negro rule. Three forces moved me--party success, a vicious
woman, and the quenchless desire for personal vengeance. When I first fell
a victim to the wiles of the yellow vampire who kept my house, I dreamed
of lifting her to my level. And when I felt myself sinking into the black
abyss of animalism, I, whose soul had learned the pathway of the stars and
held high converse with the great spirits of the ages----"

He paused, looked up in terror, and whispered:

"What's that noise? Isn't it the distant beat of horses' hoofs?"

"No," said the doctor, listening; "it's the roar of the falls we hear,
from a sudden change of the wind."

"I'm done now," Stoneman went on, slowly fumbling his hands. "My life has
been a failure. The dice of God are always loaded."

His great head drooped lower, and he continued:

"Mightiest of all was my motive of revenge. Fierce business and political
feuds wrecked my iron mills. I shouldered their vast debts, and paid the
last mortgage of a hundred thousand dollars the week before Lee invaded my
State. I stood on the hill in the darkness, cried, raved, cursed, while I
watched the troops lay those mills in ashes. Then and there I swore that
I'd live until I ground the South beneath my heel! When I got back to my
house they had buried a Confederate soldier in the field. I dug his body
up, carted it to the woods, and threw it into a ditch----"

The hand of the white-haired Southerner suddenly gripped old Stoneman's
throat--and then relaxed. His head sank on his breast, and he cried in
anguish:

"God be merciful to me a sinner! Would I, too, seek revenge!"

Stoneman looked at the doctor, dazed by his sudden onslaught and
collapse.

"Yes, he was somebody's boy down here," he went on, "who was loved perhaps
even as I love--I don't blame you. See, in the inside pocket next to my
heart I carry the pictures of Phil and Elsie taken from babyhood up, all
set in a little book. They don't know this--nor does the world dream I've
been so soft-hearted----"

He drew a miniature album from his pocket and fumbled it aimlessly:

"You know Phil was my first-born----"

His voice broke, and he looked at the doctor helplessly.

The Southerner slipped his arm around the old man's shoulders and began a
tender and reverent prayer.

The sudden thunder of a squad of cavalry with clanking sabres swept by the
hotel toward the jail.

Stoneman scrambled to his feet, staggered, and caught a chair.

"It's no use," he groaned, "--they've come with his body--I'm slipping
down--the lights are going out--I haven't a friend! It's dark and
cold--I'm alone, and lost--God--has--hidden--His--face--from--me!"

Voices were heard without, and the tramp of heavy feet on the steps.

Stoneman clutched the doctor's arm in agony:

"Stop them!--Stop them! Don't let them bring him in here!"

He sank limp into the chair and stared at the door as it swung open and
Phil walked in, with Ben and Elsie by his side, in full clansman
disguise.

The old man leaped to his feet and gasped:

"The Klan!--The Klan! No? Yes! It's true--glory to God, they've saved my
boy--Phil--Phil!"

"How did you rescue him?" Doctor Cameron asked Ben.

"Had a squadron lying in wait on every road that led from town. The
Captain thought a thousand men were on him, and surrendered without a
shot."

                    *       *       *       *       *

At twelve o'clock Ben stood at the gate with Elsie.

"Your fate hangs in the balance of this election to-night," she said.
"I'll share it with you, success or failure, life or death."

"Success, not failure," he answered firmly. "The Grand Dragons of six
States have already wired victory. Look at our lights on the mountains!
They are ablaze--range on range our signals gleam until the Fiery Cross is
lost among the stars!"

"What does it mean?" she whispered.

"That I am a successful revolutionist--that Civilization has been saved,
and the South redeemed from shame."

THE END





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