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Title: The Iron Game - A Tale of the War
Author: Keenan, Henry Francis
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Iron Game - A Tale of the War" ***

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[Transcriber's Note: The spelling inconsistencies of the original have
been retained in this etext.]


     The Iron Game

     A TALE OF THE WAR

     BY

     HENRY F. KEENAN


    "Heavy and solemn the cloudy column
     Over the green fields marching came,
     Measureless spread like a table bread
     For the cold grim dice of the iron game."



    
     1898



     TO

     BERNARD JOHN McGRANN

     WHOSE LIFE AND CONDUCT EMBODY AND ILLUSTRATE

     THE MANLINESS, MODESTY, AND WORTH

     THAT FANCY DELIGHTS TO EMBALM IN FICTION

     THIS BOOK IS INSCRIBED

     BY ONE AMONG THE MANY WITNESSES OF HIS NOBLE CAREER

     HENRY F. KEENAN

     NEW YORK, _25th March, 1891_.



         CONTENTS



         BOOK I.

         _THE CARIBEES_.


  CHAPTER

     I.--THE BOY IN BLUE
    II.--FLAG AND FAITH
   III.--MALBROOK S'EN VA-T-EN GUERRE
    IV.--GUELPH AND GHIBELLINE
     V.--A NAPOLEONIC EPIGRAM
    VI.--ON THE POTOMAC
   VII.--THE STEP THAT COSTS
  VIII.--AN ARMY WITH BANNERS
    IX.--"THE ASSYRIAN CAME DOWN LIKE THE WOLF ON THE FOLD"
     X.--BLOOD AND IRON
    XI.--THE LEGIONS OF VARUS



         BOOK II.

         _THE HOSTAGES_.


   XII.--THE AFTERMATH
  XIII.--A COMEDY OF TERRORS
   XIV.--UNDER TWO FLAGS
    XV.--ROSEDALE
   XVI.--A MASQUE IN ARCADY
  XVII.--TREASON AND STRATAGEMS
 XVIII.--A CAMPAIGN OF PLOTS
   XIX.--"HE EITHER FEARS HIS FATE TOO MUCH"
    XX.--A CATASTROPHE
   XXI.--THE STORY OF THE NIGHT
  XXII.--A CARPET-KNIGHT
 XXIII.--ALL'S FAIR IN LOVE AND WAR



         BOOK III.

         _THE DESERTERS._


  XXIV.--BETWEEN THE LINES
   XXV.--PHANTASMAGORIA
  XXVI.--IN THE UNION LINES
 XXVII.--"THE ABSENT ARE ALWAYS IN THE WRONG"
XXVIII.--THE WORLD WENT VERY ILL THEN
  XXIX.--A WOMAN'S REASON
   XXX.--A GAME OF CHANCE
  XXXI.--TWO BLADES OF THE SAME STEEL
 XXXII.--THE LOST CARIBEES
XXXIII.--FATHER ABRAHAM'S JOKE



BOOK I.

_THE CARIBEES_.



CHAPTER I.

THE BOY IN BLUE.


When expulsion from college, in his junior years, was visited upon Jack
Sprague, he straightway became the hero of Acredale. And, though the
grave faculty had felt constrained to vindicate college authority, it
was well known that they sympathized with the infraction of decorum that
obliged them to put this mark of disgrace upon one of the most promising
of their students.

All his young life Jack had dreamed of West Point and the years of
training that were to fit him for the glories of war. He knew the
battles of the Revolution as other boys knew the child-lore of the
nursery. He had the campaigns of Marlborough, the strategy of Turenne,
the inspirations of the great Frederick, and the prodigies of Napoleon,
as readily on the end of his tongue as his comrades had the struggles of
the Giant Killer or the tactics of Robinson Crusoe. When, inspired by
the promise of West Point, he had mastered the repugnant rubrics of the
village academy, the statesman of his district conferred the promised
nomination upon his school rival, Wesley Boone, Jack passionately
refused to pursue the arid paths of learning, and declared his purpose
of becoming a pirate, a scout, or some other equally fascinating child
of nature delightful to the boyish mind.

When Jack Sprague entered Warchester College, he carried with him the
light baggage of learning picked up at the Acredale Academy. At his
entrance to the sequestered quadrangles of Dessau Hall, Jack's frame of
mind was very much like the passionate discontent of the younger son of
a feudal lord whose discrepant birthright doomed him to the gown instead
of the sword.

Long before the senior year he had allured a chosen band about him who
shared his eager aspiration for war, and when the other fellows dawdled
in society or wrangled in debate, these young Alexanders set their tents
in the college campus and fought the campaigns of Frederick or Napoleon
over again. Jack did not give much heed to the menacing signs of civil
war that came day by day from the tempestuous spirits North and South. A
Democrat, as his fathers had been before him, he saw no probability of
the pomp and circumstance of glorious war in the noisy wrangling of
politicians. The defeat of Douglas, the Navarre of the young Democracy
of the North, amazed him: but all thought of Lincoln asserting the
national authority, and reviving the splendor of Jackson and Madison,
was looked upon as the step between the sublime and the ridiculous that
reasoning men refuse to consider.

When, however, the stupefying news came that a national garrison had
been fired upon by the South Carolinians, in Charleston Harbor, the
college boys took sides strongly. There were many in the classes from
Maryland and Virginia. These were as ardent in admiration of their
Southern compatriots as the Northern boys were for the insulted Union.
Months passed, and, although the forces of war were arraying themselves
behind the thin veil of compromise and negotiation, the public mind only
languidly convinced itself that actual war would come.

The college was divided into hostile camps. The "Secessionists," led by
Vincent Atterbury, Jack's old-time chief crony, went so far as to hoist
the flag of the Montgomery (Jeff Davis's) government on the campus pole,
one morning in April. A fierce fight followed, in which Jack's ardent
partisans made painful havoc with the limbs of the enemy--Atterbury,
their leader, being carted from the campus, under the horrified eyes of
the faculty, dying, as it was thought. Then followed expulsion. When the
solemn words were spoken in chapel, the culprit bore up with great
serenity. But when he announced that he had enlisted in the army, then
such an uproar, such an outburst, that the session was at an end. Even
the grave president looked sympathetic. The like of it was never seen in
a sober college since Antony with Cleopatra invaded the Academy at
Alexandria. The boys flung themselves upon the abashed Jack. They hugged
him, raised him on their shoulders, carried him out on the campus, and,
forming a ring round him, swore, in the classic form dear to collegians,
that they would follow him; that they would be his soldiers, and fight
for the _patria_ in danger.

"I have nothing to offer you, boys. I'm only sergeant; but if you will
join now, I'm authorized to swear you in provisionally," Jack said,
shrewdly, seizing the flood at high tide.

So soon as the names could be written the whole senior class
(forty-three) were enrolled. Jack refused the prayerful urgings of the
juniors, who pleaded tearfully to join him. But the president coming out
confirmed Jack's decision until the juniors could get the written
consent of their parents.

The recitations were sadly disjointed that day, and the excited
professors were glad when rest came. The humanities had received
disjointed exposition during that session. Jack had been summoned to the
president's sanctuary, where he had been received with a parental
tenderness that brought the tears to his big brown eyes.

"Ah, ha! soldiers mustn't know tears. You must be made of sterner stuff
now, sergeant," the doctor cried, cheerily, as the culprit stood
confusedly before him. "O Jack, Jack, why did you put this hard task
upon me? Why make me drive from Dessau the brightest fellow in the
classes? What will your mother say? I would as soon have lost my own
child as be forced to put this mark on you? But you know I am bound by
the laws of the college. You know I have time and again overlooked your
wild pranks. We have already suffered a good deal from the press for
winking at the sympathy the college has shown in this political quarrel."

"Yes, professor, I haven't a word to say. You did your duty. Now I want
you to bear witness how I do mine. I do not complain that I am condemned
rather through the form than the fact. I was carried out of my senses by
the sight of that rebel flag."

The Warchester press, known for many years as the most sprightly and
enterprising of the country, was too much taken up with the direful news
from Baltimore to even make a note of Jack Sprague's expulsion, and the
soldier boy was spared that mortification. Nor did he meet the tearful
lament and heart-broken remonstrance at home, to which he had looked
forward with lively dread. His friends in the village of Acredale were
so astonished by his blue regimentals that he reached the homestead door
unquestioned. His mother, at the dining-room window, caught sight of the
uniform, and did not recognize her son until she was almost smothered in
his hearty embrace.

"Why, John! What does this mean? What--what have you on?"

"Mother, I am twenty-two years old. A man who won't fight for his
country isn't a good son. He has no right to stay in a country that he
isn't willing to fight for!" and with this specious dictum he drew
himself up and met the astonished eyes of his sister Olympia, who had
been apprised of his coming. But the maternal fears clouded patriotic
conceptions where her darling was involved, and his mother sobbed:

"O Jack, Jack! what shall we do? How can we live without you! And oh, my
son, you are too young to go to the war. You will break down. You can't
manage a--a musket, and the--the heavy load the soldiers carry. My son,
don't break your mother's heart. Don't go--don't, Jack, Jack! What shall
I do?--O Polly, what shall we do?"

"What shall we do? Why, we'll just show Jack that all of war isn't in
soldiering; that the women who stay at home help the heroes, though they
may not take part in the battle. As to you and me, mamma, we shall be
the proudest women in Acredale, for our Jack's the first--" she was
going to say "boy," but, catching the coming protest in the warrior's
glowing eye, substituted "man" with timely magnanimity--"the first man
that volunteered from Acredale. And how shamed you would have been--we
would have been--if Jack hadn't kept up the tradition of the family! He
comes naturally by his sense of duty. Your father's father was the first
to join Gates at Saratoga. My father's father was the right hand of
Warren, at Bunker Hill! If ever blood ran like water in our Jack's
veins, I should put on--trousers and go to the war myself. I'm not sure
that I sha'n't as it is," and, affecting Spartan fortitude, Olympia
pretended to be deeply absorbed in adjusting a disarranged furbelow in
her attire to conceal the quavering in her voice and the dewy something
in her dark eyes. The mother, disconcerted by this defection where she
had counted on the blindest adhesion, sank back in the cane rocker,
helpless, speechless.

"Yes, mother, Polly is right. How could you ever lift up your head if it
were said that son of John Sprague's--Governor, Senator, minister
abroad--was the last to fly to his country's call? Why, Jackson would
turn in his grave if a son of John Sprague were not the first to take up
arms when the Union that he loved, as he loved his life, was in peril!"

Mrs. Sprague listened with woe-begone perplexity to these sounding
periods, conscious only that her darling, her adored scapegrace, had
suddenly turned serious, and was using the weapons she had so often
employed to justify his conduct. For it was using one of the standing
arms in the maternal arsenal, to remind the wild and headstrong lad that
his father had been Jackson's confidant, that he had been Governor of
Imperia, that he had enforced the demands of the United States upon
European statesmen, that after a life spent in the public service he had
died, reverenced by his party and by his neighbors. Jack, as an infant,
had been fondled by Webster, by Clay, and, one never-to-be-forgotten
day, Jackson, the Scipio of the republic, had placed his brawny hand
upon the infant's head and declared that he would be "worthy of Jack
Sprague, who was man enough to make two Kentuckians."

"But you--you, ought to be a colonel. Your father was a major-general in
the Mexican War at twenty-five. A Sprague can't be a private soldier!"
she cried, seizing on this as the only tenable ground where she could
begin the contest against the two children confederated against her.

"I don't want to owe everything to my father. This is a republic, mamma,
and a man is, or ought to be, what he makes himself. I saw in a paper,
the other day, that the Government has more brigadiers and colonels
and--and--officers than it knows what to do with. I saw it stated that a
stone thrown from Willard's Hotel in Washington hit a dozen brigadiers.
I want to earn a commission before I assume it. I'll be an officer soon
enough, no fear. I could have had a lieutenant's commission if I had
gone in Blandon's regiment. But I hate Blandon. He is one of those
canting sneaks father detested, and I won't serve under such cattle."

Mrs. Sprague, like millions of mothers in those days, was cruelly
divided in mind. When the neighbors felicitated her on the valor and
patriotism of Mr. Jack she was elated and fitfully reconciled. When, in
the long watches of the night, she reflected on the hardships,
temptations, the dreadful companions her darling must be thrown with,
country, lineage, everything faded into the dreadful reality that her
darling was in peril, body and soul. He was so like his father--gay,
impressionable, easily influenced--he would be saint or sinner, just as
his surroundings incited him. This was the woe that ate the mother's
heart; this was the sorrow that clouded millions of homes when mothers
saw their boys pranked out in the trappings of war.

Our jaunty Jack enjoyed the worship that came to him. He was the first
boy in blue that appeared in the sandy streets of Acredale. Never had
the rascal been so petted, so feted, so adored. He might have been a
pasha, had he been a Turk. The promising down on his upper lip--the
object of his own secret solicitude and Olympia's gibes during the
junior year--was quite worn away by the kissing he underwent among the
impulsive Jeannettes of the village, who had a vague notion that
soldiers, like sailors, were indurated for battle by adosculation. Jack
may have believed this himself, for he took no pains to disabuse the
maidens as to the inefficacy of the rite, and bore with galliard
fortitude the wear and tear of the nascent mustache, without which, to
his mind, a soldier would figure very much as a monk without a shaven
crown or a mandarin without a queue. And though presently big Tom
Tooker, chief of the rival faction in Acredale, gave his name to the
recruiting officer in Warchester, and a score more of Jack's rivals and
cronies, he was the soldier of the village. For hadn't he given up the
glory of graduation and the delights of "commencement" to take up his
musket for the Union? And then the fife was heard in the village
street--delicious airs from Arcady--and a great flag was flung out from
the post-office, and Master Jack was installed recruiting sergeant for
Colonel Ulrich Oswald's regiment, that was to be raised in Warchester
County. For Colonel Oswald, having failed in a third nomination for
Congress, had gallantly proffered his services to the Governor of the
State, and, in consideration of his influence with his German
compatriots, had been granted a commission, though with reluctance, as
he had supported the Democratic party and was not yet trusted in the
Republican councils.



CHAPTER II.

FLAG AND FAITH.


If Acredale had not been for a century the ancestral seat of the
Spragues, and in its widest sense typical of the suburban Northern town,
there would be merely an objective and extrinsic interest in portraying
its sequestered life, its monotonous activities. But Acredale was not
only a very complete reflex of Northern local sentiment; its war epoch
represented the normal conduct of every hamlet in the land during the
conflict with the South. Now that the war is becoming a memory, even to
those who were actors in it, the facts distorted and the incidents
warped to serve partisan ends or personal pique, the photograph of the
time may have its value.

Made up of thriving farmers and semi-retired city men, Acredale mingled
the simple conditions of a country village and the easy refinement of
city life. The houses were large, the grounds ornate and ample, the
society decorously convivial. People could be fine--at least they were
thought very fine--without going to the British isles to recast their
home manners or take hints for the fashioning of their grounds and
mansions. There was what would be called to-day the English air about
the place and some of the people; but it was an inheritance, not an
imitation. Save in the bustling business segment, abutting the four
corners, where the old United States road bore off westward to Bucephalo
and the lakes, the few score houses were set far back from the highway
in a wilderness of shrubbery, secluded by hedges and shaded by an almost
primeval growth of elms or maples. The whole hamlet might be mistaken
for a lordly park or an old-fashioned German Spa. Family marketing was
mostly done in Warchester; hence the village shops were like Arabian
bazaars, few but all-supplying. The most pregnant evidence of the
approach of modern ways that tinged the primitive color of the village
life, was the then new railway skirting furtively through the meadows on
the northern limits, as if decently ashamed of intruding upon such
idyllic tranquillity. The little Gothic station, cunningly hidden behind
a clustering grove of oaks at a respectful distance from the Corners,
like the lodge of a great estate, reconciled those who had at first
fought the iron mischief-maker.

The public edifices of the town--the Episcopal church, the free academy,
the bank, the young ladies' seminary--were very unlike such institutions
in the bustling, treeless towns of to-day. Corinthian columns and Greek
friezes adorned these architectural evidences of Acredale's affluence
and taste. The village had grown up on private grounds, conceded to the
public year by year as the children and dependents of the founders
increased. The Spragues were the founders, and they had never been
anxious to alienate their patrimony. Acredale is not now the sylvan
sanctuary of rural simplicity it was thirty years ago--before the war.
The febrile tentacles of Warchester had not yet reached out to make its
vernal recesses the court quarter for the "new rich." In Jack Sprague's
young warrior days the village was three miles from the most suburban
limits of the city. There was not even a horse-car, or, as fashionable
Warchesterians have it, a "tram," to remind the tranquil villagers that
life had any need more pressing than a jaunt to the post twice a day.
Some "city folks" did hold villas on the outskirts, but they used them
only for short seasons in the late summer, when the air at the lake
began to grow too sharp for outdoor pleasures.

Society in the place was patriarchal as an English shire town. The large
Sprague mansion, about which the village clustered at a respectful
distance, was the "Castle" of local phrase. Much of the glory of early
days had departed, however, when the Senator--Jack's papa--died. The
widow found herself unable to maintain the affluent state her lord had
loved. His legal practice, rather than the wide acres of his domain, had
supported a hospitality famous from Bucephalo to Washington. But with
prudent management the family had abundance, and, as Jack often said, he
was a fortune in himself. When the time came he would revive the
splendors his father loved to associate with the home of his ancestors.

"But where are we to get this splendor now, Jack?" Olympia inquired, as
the youth was dilating to his mother on the wonders to come. "Private
soldiers get just thirteen dollars a month; and if you continue
smoking--as I am informed all men do in the army--I expect to have to
stint my pin-money expenses to eke out your tobacco bills."

"Oh, I'll bring home glory. Napoleon said that every soldier carried a
marshal's _bâton_ in his knapsack."

"I'm afraid you won't have room for it if you carry all the things that
I know of intended for you in this and other families."

"Yes; but, Polly, you know, or perhaps you don't know, a _bâton_ is like
a college love--no matter how full your heart is, you can always find
room for another!"

"John," Mistress Sprague reproves mildly; "how can you? I don't like to
hear my son talk like that even in jest. Don't get the idea that it is
soldierly to treat sacred things with levity. Love is a very sacred
thing; it ought to be part of a man's religion; it was of your
father's."

"Then Jack must be a high priest, for there are a dozen girls here and
in the city who believe themselves enshrined in that elastic heart."

"Olympia, you are a baleful influence on your brother. If anything could
reconcile me to his going it is the thought that he will escape the
extraordinary speech and manners you have brought back from New York. Do
the Misses Pomfret graduate all their young ladies with such a tone and
laxity of speech as you have lately shown? Strangers would naturally
think that you had no training at home."

"Don't fear, mamma; strangers are not favored with my lighter vein; I
assume that for you and Jack, to keep your minds from graver things. I
preserve the senatorial suavity of speech and the Sprague austerity of
manner 'before folks,' as Aunt Merry would say. Which reminds me, Jack,
Kitty Moore declares that you are responsible for Barney's enlisting.
The family look to you to bring him home safe--a colonel at least."

"Well, by George, I like that! Why, the beggar was bent on going long
ago. He was the first to ask me to run away and enlist. The other day he
wanted me to have him sworn in, and I told him to wait until--until I
got a commission." Jack was going to say until he was older, but he
suddenly recollected that Barney was his own age, and that, in view of
his mother's argument, struck him as unfortunate. He saw Olympia smiling
mischievously and turned the subject abruptly. "I suppose you know,
Polly, that Vincent is going home to join the rebels?"

"Is he?" She had turned swiftly to gather a ball of worsted, and when it
was secured began to rummage in her work-basket for something that
seemed from her intentness to be vitally necessary to her at the moment.

"Yes, he wrote to President Grandison that he should go as soon as his
passports and remittances came. He's promised a captain's commission.
I'm very, very sorry. Vint is the noblest of fellows. I hate to think of
him in the rebel army."

"That's the reason you half killed him the other day, I suppose,"
Olympia said, sweetly, still investigating the contents of the basket.

"What, John, you've not been in a broil--fighting?" and Mistress Sprague
could not, even in imagination, go further in such an odious direction,
and let her eyes finish the interrogatory.

Jack, a good deal subdued by what Olympia had left unsaid, rather than
what she had said, blurted out: "It was a campus shindy: Vint led the
rebel side and they got licked, that's all."

"Oh, was that all?" Olympia had ended her search in the basket and
fastened a glance of satiric good humor upon the culprit, which did not
tend to relieve the awkwardness of the moment. Jack blushed under the
glance and began to hum an air from Figaro, as if the conversation had
ebbed into an impass from which it could only be rescued by a
lively air.

Mrs. Sprague looked at the uneasy warrior, then at her daughter, darting
the crochet-needles placidly through the wool.

"Well," she said, "never mind what's past; we must have Vincent out here
for a visit before he goes. I must send Mrs. Atterbury a number of
things. I hope she won't think that we intend to let the war make any
difference in our feeling toward the family."

Jack was very glad to set out at once for his quondam foe, and in ten
minutes was driving down the road to Warchester. Vincent's bruises were
nearly healed, and he saluted Jack as a "chum" rather than as the agent
of his late discomfiture.

"I'm mighty glad you've come to day. I didn't know whether you meant to
break off or not. I don't cherish any rancor. I don't see any use in
carrying the war into friendships. We made the best fight we could. We
did better than your side. You had the most men and the biggest fellows.
We showed good pluck, if we did get licked. If you hadn't come to-day I
should have been gone without seeing you, for I began to think that you
were as narrow as these prating abolitionists. My commission is ready
for me now at Richmond, and I'm just aching to get my regimentals on.
I'm to be with Johnston in the Shenandoah, you know, and--"

"You mustn't tell me your army plans, Vint. I'm a soldier," and Jack
drew himself up with martial pomposity, "and--and--perhaps I ought to
arrest you now as an enemy, you know. I will look in the articles of war
and find out my duty in such cases." Jack waved his arm reassuringly, as
if to bid the rebel take heart for the moment--he would not hurry in the
matter. Vincent eyed his comrade with such a woe-begone mingling of
alarm and comic indignation that Jack forgot his possible part as agent
of his country's laws, and said, soothingly: "Never mind, Vint, I'm not
really a full soldier in the technical sense until the regiment is
mustered in at Washington. After that, of course, you know very well it
would he treason to give aid or comfort to the country's enemies."

Vincent didn't leave next day, nor for a good many days. He seemed to
get a good deal of "aid and comfort" from those who should have been his
enemies. Mistress Sprague found that he was not in a fit state to
travel; that he needed nursing to prepare him for his journey, and that
no place was so fit as the great guest-chamber in the baronial Sprague
mansion, near his friend Jack. Strange to say, Vincent's eagerness to
get to Richmond and his shoulder-straps were forgotten in the agreeable
pastimes of the big house, where he spent hours enlightening Olympia on
the wonders the Southern soldiers were to perform and the glory that he
(Vincent) was to win. He went of a morning to the post-office, where
Jack was installed recruiting-agent for Acredale township, and made very
merry over the homespun stuff enrolled in defense of the Union.

"Our strapping cavaliers will make short work of your gawky bumpkins;"
he remarked to Jack as the recruits loitered about the wide, shaded
streets, waiting to be forwarded to the rendezvous.

"Don't be too sure of that. These young, boyish-looking fellows are just
the sort of men that met the British at Bunker Hill. They laughed too,
when they saw them; but they didn't laugh after they met them, nor will
your cavaliers," Jack cried, loftily.

"But there's not a full-grown man among all these I've seen. How do you
suppose they are to endure march and battle? None of them can ride. All
our young men ride, and cavalry is the main thing in modern armies."

In the Sprague parlors conversation of this risky sort was eschewed.
Mistress Sprague was anxious that the son of her oldest friend should
return to his mother with only the memory of amiable hospitality in his
heart to show that, although war raged between the people, families were
still friends. Vincent's mother had been one of Mistress Sprague's
bridesmaids, and it was her wish that the children might grow up in the
old kindly ties. So Vincent was made much of. There were companies every
night, and drives and boating in the afternoons, and such merry-making
as it was thought a lad of his years would enjoy. He was a very
entertaining guest; that all Acredale had known in the old vacations
when, with his sister, the pretty Rosa, he spent a summer with
the Spragues.

But, now that there was to be a separation involving the unknown in its
vaguest form, the lad was treated with a tenderness that made the swift
days very sweet to the young rebel. It was from Olympia that he met the
only distinct formality in the manners of his hosts. He had known and
adored her in a boyish way for years, and now, as he contemplated going,
he thought that she ought to exhibit something of the old-time warmth.
In other days she had ridden, walked, and flirted to his heart's desire.
Now she avoided him when Jack was not at hand, and when she talked it
was in a flippant vein that drove him wild with baffled hope. The day
before he was to bid the kind house adieu he had his wish. She was
riding with him over the shaded roadway that curves in bewildering
beauty toward the lake. She seemed in a gentler mood than he had lately
seen her. They rode slowly side by side, but Vincent had a dismal
awkwardness of speech in whimsical contrast to his habitual fluency.

"There's only one thing hateful to me in this war," he said, caressing
the arching neck of his horse, "and that is, the better we do our duty
as soldiers the more sorrow we must bring upon our own friends."

"That's a rather solemn view to take of what Jack regards as the path of
glory."

"Oh, you know what I mean: under the flag there can or ought to be no
friendships--the bullet sent from the musket, the sword drawn in light,
must be aimed blindly. It might be my fate, for example, to meet
Jack, to--to--"

"Yes," Olympia laughed demurely, ignoring the sentimental aspect of
Vincent's remark. "Yes, that might paralyze the arm of valor; but, then,
you and Jack have met before, when duty demanded one thing and affection
another: I don't see that the dilemma softened the blows, or that either
of you are any the worse for them."

Vincent was the real Southerner of his epoch--impulsive, sentimental,
ardent in all that he espoused, without the slightest notion of humor,
though imaginative as a dreamer; love, war, and his State, Virginia,
were passions that he thought it a duty to uphold at any and all times.
He colored under the girl's satiric sally. If she had been a man he
would have bid her to battle on the spot. Her sly fun and gentle malice
he resented as insulting, coarse, and unwomanly. He flashed a look of
piteous, surprised reproach at her as she flecked the flies from the
neck of her horse. He rode along moodily--too angry, too wretched to
trust himself to speak, for he felt sure he must say something bitter.
But, as she gave no sign of resuming the discourse, he was forced to
take up the burden again. Venturing nearer her side, he said in a
conciliating, argumentative tone, as if he had not heard the
foregoing speech:

"Do you know, it seems to me, Olympia, that you of the North do not seem
to realize the seriousness of the war, the determination of our side to
make the South free? Here you go about the common business of life,
parties, balls, dress, and all the follies of peace, as if war could not
affect you at all. Your newspapers are full of coarse jokes at the
expense of your own soldiers, your own President. There seems no
devotion to your own cause, such as we feel in the South. I believe that
if put to a vote more than half the North would side with us to-day."



CHAPTER III.

MALBROOK S'EN VA-T-EN GUERRE.


Olympia had been jogging along, apparently oblivious to everything but
the blazing vision of sun and cloud above the lake, purpling shapes of
mirage, reflecting the smooth surface of the glowing water. But as the
young man's voice--fallen into a melodious murmur--ceased, she took up
the theme with unexpected earnestness.

"That's the error the South has made from the first. You know my father
was a public man. I have been educated more at our dinner-table and in
his talks with guests than at school. That is, the things that have
taken strongest hold of my mind young girls rarely hear or understand.
Now I think I can tell you something that may be of value to you in
official places where you are going. The North is not only in
earnest--it is religiously in earnest. If you know Puritan history you
know what that means. For example: if Jack had hesitated a moment or
made delay to get rank in the army, I should have abhorred him. So would
our mother, though she seems to be dismayed at his serving as a common
soldier. I adore Jack; I think him the finest, the most perfect nature
after my father's--that lives. But I give him up gladly, because to keep
him would be to degrade him. We know that he may fall; that he may come
back to us a cripple or worse. But, as you see, we make no sign. Not a
line of routine has been changed in the house. Jack will march away and
never see a tear in my eye or feel my pulse tremble. It is not in our
Northern blood to give much expression to sentiment, but we feel none
the less deeply--much more deeply, I think, than you exuberant
Southerners; you are impulsive, mercurial, and fickle."

"Oh, don't say that: I can't bear to hear you say it; we have deep
feelings, we are constant, true as steel, chivalrous--"

"Yes, you are delightful people; but you are always living in the past.
Shall I say it? You are womanlike; you can't reason. What you want at
the moment is right, and only that; with us nothing is real until we
have tried and proved it. If you count on Northern apathy you will soon
see your mistake. When Beauregard fired on Fort Sumter the North was of
one mind, and will stay so until all is again as it was."

"Pray don't let us talk on this subject. I'm free to own that it does
not interest me. Then," he added adroitly, "you are readier in argument
than I, because you were brought up in it. But what I want to say is,
that it seems base for me to turn upon the goodness I have met in this
house, and--and--"

"But you need not turn. In battle do your duty like a man. If it should
fall to you to do a kindness to the wounded, do it in memory of the
friends you have here. War is less savage now than it was when your
ancestors and mine tortured each other in the name of God and the king."

"All murder is done for love of one sort or another: war is love of
country; revenge is love of some one else--men rarely kill from hate,"
Vincent stammered, his heart beating at the nearness of what he was
dying to say.

"In that case I hope I shall he hated. I shall shun people who love me,"
and with that she struck the horse a lively tap and soon was far ahead
of her tongue-tied wooer. Was this a challenge? Vincent asked himself,
as he sped after her. When he reached her side the tender words were
chilled on his lips, for Olympia had in her laughing eye the, to him,
odious expression he saw there when she made the irritating speech about
himself and Jack a few minutes before. Fearing a teasing retort, he
bridled the tender outburst and rode along pensively, revolving pretexts
for another day's stay in Acredale. But when they reached home he found
an imperative mandate to set out at once, as his lingering in the North
was subjecting himself and kinsmen to doubt among the zealous partisans
of the Davis party. Olympia was alone in the library when he ran down to
tell Jack that he must start at once. He took it as an omen, and said,
confusedly:

"It is decided; I must go in the morning."

As this had been the plan all along, she looked up at him in surprise,
not knowing, of course, that he had been thinking of putting off the
fixed time.

"Yes, everything has been made ready; Jack will take you to Warchester,
and we shall drive over to see you _en route_."

"It is fortunate the letter from my mother came to-night." He stood
quite, over her chair, his eyes glittering strangely, his
manner excited.

"Do you know what they think at home? They say that I--I am not true to
my cause; that my heart is with the North--that I want to stay here."

"They won't think that when they hear you, as we have, breathing fury
and wrath against the Lincolnites," Olympia briskly replied, as if to
proffer her services as witness to his misguided loyalty to the South.

"Ah, don't be so ungenerous, now--at this time. I never talk like that
now--here--never before you." He hesitated, and his voice dropped. "Why
will you put a fellow in a ridiculous light? Your sneers almost make me
ashamed of my honest pride in my State--my enthusiasm for our
sacred cause."

"Deep feeling isn't so easily shaken; true love should brave all
things--even sneers and blows."

"If I should tell you that I loved somebody, I am sure you would make me
seem ridiculous or ignorant of my own mind."

"Then pray be wise and don't tell me. It's bad enough to be in love,
without being photographed in the agony."

He looked at her in angry perplexity. Could she ever be serious? Was all
the tenderness of the past only heedless coquetry? Had she danced with
him, drove with him, sailed with him, walked in the moonlight and made
much of him in mere wanton mischief? What right had she to be so pretty
and so--without heart or sensibility? A Southern girl with the word love
on a young man's lips would have become a Circe of seductive wooing
until the tale were told, even though she could not give her heart
in return.

"I--I am going to-morrow, you know, and--" Then he almost laughed
himself, for the droll inconsequence of this intelligence, after what
had passed, touched even his small sense of humor. "O Olympia, I mean
that I shall be far away: that I shall not see you after to-morrow.
Won't you say something to encourage me--to give me heart for
the future?"

"Let me see," and she leaned on her elbow musingly, as if construing his
words literally, and quite unaware of the tender intent of his prayer.
"It ought to be a line to go on your sword--there's where you have the
advantage of poor Jack, he has only a musket. But, no, you being a
Southerner, have a coat of arms, and the line must go on that. I used to
know plenty of stirring phrases suitable to young men setting out for
the wars. Perhaps you know them, too; they are to be found in the
copy-books. 'The pen is mightier than the sword' wouldn't do, would it?
Pens are only fit for poets and men of peace? We should have something
brief and epigrammatic. 'That hour is regal when the sentinel mounts on
guard.' There is sublimity in that, but you won't go on guard, being
an officer.

     'No blood-stained woes in mankind's story
      Should daunt the heart that's set on glory.'

"That's too trivial--the sort of doggerel for newspaper poets' corners
rather than a warrior's shield.

     'Think on the perils that environ
      The man that meddles with cold iron!'

"That's too much like a caution, and a soldier's motto should urge to
daring. So we'll none of that. What do you say to the distich in honor
of your great ancestor, Pocahontas's husband, John Smith:

     'I never yet knew a warrior but thee,
      From wine, tobacco, debt, and vice so free.'

"Perhaps, however, that might be regarded as vaunting over your
comrades, who, I've no doubt, relax the tedium of war in temperate
indulgence of some of these vices. 'Put up thy sword; states may be
saved without it,' would sound out of keeping for a warrior whose States
drew the sword when the olive-branch was offered them. You see, I can
not select any text quite suitable to your case?"

"O Olympia, I did not believe you could be so heartless! Be serious."

"Well, Mr. Soldier, if you insist, I know nothing better for a warrior
to bear in mind in war than these simple lines:

     'The bravest are the tenderest,
       The loving are the daring.'"

"You are right, Olympia--those are noble lines. It gives me courage; the
loving are the daring! I love you; I dare to tell you that I love you!
Ah, Olympia, I love you so well that I have been traitor to my
fatherland! I have loitered here in the hope that you would give me some
sign--some word to take with me in the dark path Fate has set for me
to follow."

He came back to her side now, passion and zeal in his shining eyes,
ardent, elate, expectant. But she put the hand behind her that he
reached out to seize as he fell upon one knee by her chair. Her voice
softened and a warm light shone in her eye when she spoke:

"I beg you to get up; we cold-blooded people up here don't understand
that old-fashioned way." As he started back with something like a groan,
she gave him a quick glance that electrified him. He seized her hand
before she could snatch it away and pressed it to his lips.

"Pray be serious. You are too young to talk of love."

"I am twenty-two; my father was married at nineteen."

"No, dear Vincent, don't talk of this now. You don't know your own mind
yet. I am sure that when you go home and think over the matter you will
see that it would be impossible, but, even if you were sure of yourself,
I never could think of it. You are going to take up arms against all I
hold dear and sacred. If I were your affianced, with the love for you
that you deserve, I would break the pledge when you joined in arms
against my family and country."

"You have known for years, Olympia, that I loved you; that I was only
waiting to finish college to tell you of my love. Why didn't you
tell me--"

"Tell you what?"

"I say, Polly," Jack cried, bursting in, radiant and eager. "I have the
last man of the one hundred--" Observing Vincent he stopped. It seemed
to him a sort of treason to talk of his regiment before the man who was
so soon to be in the ranks against them. "Oh, I can't tell our secrets
before the enemy," he ended, jocosely. The word went to Vincent's heart
like the prod of sharp steel. He gave Olympia one pathetic glance, and,
without a word, hastened from the room. In spite of a great many adroit
efforts, Vincent could get no further speech with Olympia alone that
night. Early in the morning he was driven, with Mrs. Sprague and Jack to
the station. Olympia sent down excuses and adieus, alleging some not
incredible ailing of the sort that is always gallantly at the disposal
of damsels not minded to do things people expect.

Presently, when the lorn lover had been gone three days, a letter came
from Washington to Olympia, and, though it was handed to her by her
mother, the maiden made no proffer to confide its contents to the
naturally curious parent. But we, who can look over the reader's
shoulder, need not be kept in the dark.

    "Dear Olympia" (the letter said), "it was hard to leave
    without a last word. All the way here I have been thinking
    of our little talk--if that can be called a talk where one
    side has lost his senses and the other is trifling or mystifying.
    I told you that I loved you. I thrill even yet with
    the joy of that. You are so wayward and capricious, so
    coy, that I began to fear that I never could get your car long
    enough to tell you what I felt you must have long known. You
    didn't say that you loved me; but, dear Olympia, neither did
    you say that you did not. The rose has fallen on the hem
    of your robe. When its fragrance steals into your senses,
    you will stoop and put the blossom in your bosom. It is the
    war that divides us, you say. It will soon pass. And who
    knows what may happen to make you glad that, since there
    must be strife, I am one of the enemy rather than a stranger?
    I feel that we shall be brought together in danger, when it
    may be my happiness to serve you or yours. But, even if I
    am not so favored, I shall still ask your love. You know
    our Southern ways. Whom I love my mother loves. But
    my mother and sister Rosa have loved you long and dearly.
    They have known you as long as I have, and when you consent
    to come to us you will take no stranger's place in the
    heart and home of the family. Remember the motto you
    gave me. You are a woman, therefore tender; I am daring,
    Heaven knows, in aspiring to such a reward as your love.
    But I dare to love you; if you cast that love from you, love
    will lose its tenderness, bravery its daring. One of the high
    mountains of hope whereon I sun my fainting soul is the
    knowledge that you love no one else. I won't say that you
    should in love hold to the ride 'first come first served,' but I
    do say, 'first dare, first win.' And when you reflect on what
    you said about the accident of war separating us, just put
    Jack in my place. What would you think of a Southern
    girl who should refuse him because he fought on the side of
    his family and his State? What is the old line? 'I could
    not love thee, dear, so much, loved I not honor more.' I'm
    sure I couldn't ask your love if there were not honor in my
    own. The war will be over and forgotten in six months,
    but you and I are young; we have long years before us.
    The right will win in the contest, and, right or wrong, I am
    yours, and only yours, while there are life in my body and
    hope in my soul. VINCENT."

In a little glow of what was plainly not displeasure, the young woman
"filed" this "writ of pre-emption," as Jack afterward called it, in
careful hiding, and resumed meditation of the writer. It could not now
be answered, for letters between the lines were subject to censorship,
and Olympia perhaps shrank from adding to her lover's misery by exposing
his rejection to the unfeeling eyes of the postal agents. There was pity
in the resolve as well as prudence. Had Vincent been able to read the
workings of the lady's mind, he would have donned his rebel gray with
more buoyant joy that day in Richmond. Another ally of the absent came
in the course of the day. Miss Boone, the daughter of the opulent
contractor and chief local magnate, called to plan work for the
soldiers. Vincent's name being mentioned, Miss Boone said, in the
apparent effusion of girlish intimacy:

"I like Mr. Atterbury very much. He is a charming fellow. But, for your
family's sake, I am glad he is away from this house." At Olympia's
surprised start she nodded as if to emphasize this, continuing: "Yes,
and for good reasons. You know our house is the high court of
abolitionism? Well, papa's cronies have made Mr. Atterbury's visit cause
of suspicion."

"Suspicion? What do you mean?"

Miss Boone was paling and blushing painfully. "Dear Olympia, I hate to
say it; but you should know it. You will hear it elsewhere. Cruel things
like this always come out. You know that feeling has been very bitter
here since the dreadful attack on the Massachusetts soldiers in
Baltimore? Radicals make no distinction between Democrats and rebels,
and--I'm to say it--but Mr. Atterbury is charged with being a spy
here--and--and your family, being Democrats, are thought to sympathize
with the rebels. Of course, your friends know better. I and many more
know that the Atterburys and Spragues have been intimate for thirty
years. But in war-time people seem to lose their senses and change their
opinions like lake breezes; prejudices grow like gourds, and the people
who do least and talk loudest make public sentiment."

"What an outrageous state of things!" Olympia cried, hotly. "Our family
sympathize with traitors indeed! Why, it was my father who, in the
Senate, upheld Jackson when he stamped out South Carolina in its
rebellion. Oh! it is monstrous, such a calumny. Why, just think of it!
The only man in the family is a private soldier, when he might have been
high in rank, with such influences as we could bring to bear. O Kate! it
almost makes one pray for a defeat to punish such ingrates!"

"Yes; but for Heaven's sake don't let any one hear you say such a
thing--for your brother's sake! He is already the victim of the feeling
I have spoken about. He was to have had the captaincy of the first one
hundred men he raised. But the Governor has been made to change the
usual rule, and the colonel is to appoint the officers."

"And Jack isn't to have a commission?"

"No, not now; only men of the war party are to be made officers."

"Good heavens! Nobody could be more eager for the war than Jack. It is
his passion. His delight in it shocks my mother, who hates war. What
stronger evidence of sympathy for the cause could he show than joining
the army before finishing college?"

"But he is a Democrat--and--and--only Republicans are to be trusted at
first." Miss Boone blushed as she stammered this, for it was her own
father, in his function as chairman of the war committee, who had
insisted upon this discrimination. Worse still, but this Kate did not
mention--it was Boone's own work that kept Jack from his expected
epaulets. There had long been a feud between Boone and the late Senator
Sprague, and Olympia conjectured most of what the daughter reserved.

"Your brother has done wonders, everybody says; he has the finest
fellows in the township, and he ought to be colonel, at least," Miss
Boone said, rising to go.

"Oh, I have no fear that he will not win his way," Olympia replied,
cheerfully. "The brave in battle are captains, no matter what rank
they hold."

The odious partisanship and ready calumny of her own compatriots gave a
strange bent to her mind in dealing with another problem. Vincent, too,
had suffered from the wretched battle of his family's enemies. After
all, might he not be right? Might the war not be a mere game of havoc
played by the base and unscrupulous? Country, right or wrong, had been
her family watchword since her ancestor flew to fight the British
invaders. It was Jack's watchword, too, and his conduct in battle should
put these wretches to shame. She thought more kindly of the rebel in
this vengeful mood, and straightway ran up-stairs, where, sitting by the
open window and lulled by the piping of the robins, she took the letter
from its pretty covert, read it again with heightened color, and,
smiling rosily at the face she saw in the mirror, raised it to her lips
and sighed softly.

When a whole people have but one thought in mind that thought becomes
mania. Acredale had but this one thought, "Beat rebellion and punish
rebels." "On to Richmond!" was the cry, and forming ranks to go there
the business that everybody took in hand. These had been great days to
Jack. He began to feel something of the burden that a feudal chief must
have borne at the summoning of the clans. So soon as it spread in the
country-side that "young Sprague had 'listed," all the "ageable" sons of
the soil were fired with a burning zeal to take up arms and bear him
company. Boys from sixteen to twenty these were for the most part, and
there was bitter grumbling when Jack firmly refused to take the names of
any under twenty. Some he solaced with a gun, a pistol, or such object
as he knew was dear to the country boy's heart. They returned to the
relieved hearthstone loud in Jack's praise, having his promise to enlist
them when they were twenty, if the war lasted so long; and if the wise
smiled at this, wasn't it well known that the great army now gathering
was to set out at latest by the 4th of July? And didn't everybody know
that it was going to march direct to Richmond? There were trying scenes
too, in the _rôle_ Jack had assumed so gayly. He began to see that war
had ministers of pain and sorrow hardly less cruel than those dealing
death and wounds. Tearful parents came to him day by day to beg his help
in restoring sons who had fled to the wars. Others came to warn him that
if their boys applied to him he must refuse them, as they were
under age.

In this list the Perley sisters, Dick's three maiden aunts, came on a
respectful embassy to implore Jack to discourage their nephew, who had
quite deserted school and gave all his time to drilling with the
"college squad." Jack pledged himself that he would hand Dick over to
the justice of the peace, to be detained at the house of refuge, if he
didn't give up his evil designs. But, when that young aspirant appeared,
so soon as his aunts had gone, and reminded Jack of years of intimate
companionship in dare-deviltry, the elder saw that his own safety would
be in flight, and that night, his company was removed to Warchester.
There in the great camp, surrounded by sentinels, his Acredale cronies
were shut out, and Jack began in earnest his soldier life.



CHAPTER IV.

GUELPH AND GHIBELLINE.


The shifting of Jack's company to the regimental camp in Warchester left
a broad gap in the lines of the social life of Acredale. Jack's going
alone, to say nothing of the others, would have eclipsed the gayety of
many home groups besides his own, in which the Sprague primacy in a
social sense was acknowledged. Since the influx of the new-made rich,
under the stimulus of the war and Acredale's advantages as a resort,
there were a good many who disputed the Sprague leadership--tacitly
conceded rather than asserted. Chief of the dissidents was Elisha Boone,
who, by virtue of longer tenure, vast wealth, and political precedence,
divided not unequally the homage paid the patrician family. Boone was
fond of speaking of himself as a "self-made man," and the satirical were
not slow to add that he had no other worship than his "creator." This
was a gibe made rather for the antithesis than its accuracy, for even
Boone's enemies owned that he was a good neighbor, and, where his
prejudices were not in question, a man with few distinctly repellent
traits. He delighted in showing his affluence--not always in good taste.
He filled his fine house with bizarre crowds, and made no stint to his
friends who needed his purse or his influence. He had in the early days
when he came to Acredale aspired to political leadership in the
Democratic party.

But Senator Sprague was too firmly enshrined in the loyalty of the
district to be overcome by the parvenu's manoeuvres or his money. His
ambition in time turned to rancor as he marked the patrician's
disdainful disregard of his (Boone's) efforts to supplant him. Hatred of
the Spragues became something like a passion in Boone. Sarcasms and
disparagement leveled at his social and political pretensions he
attributed to the Senator and his family. All sorts of slurs and gossip
were reported to him by busybodies, until it became a settled purpose
with Boone to make the Sprague family feel heavy heart-burnings for the
sum of the affronts he had endured. It was to them he attributed the
whispered gibes about his illiteracy; his shady business methods; the
awful story of his handiwork in the ruin of Richard Perley, the
spendthrift brother of the Misses Perley. Once, too, when he had so well
manipulated the district delegates that he was sure of nomination in the
convention, Senator Sprague had hurried home from Washington and
defeated him just as the prize was in his grasp. The Senator made a
speech to the delegates, in which he pointedly declared that it was men
of honor and brains, not men of money, that should be chosen to make
the laws.

"The time will come, Senator, that you'll be sorry for this hour's
work," Boone said, joining Sprague at the door as he was leaving
the hall.

"How's that?" the other asked, with just the shade of superciliousness
in the tone admired in the Senate for suavity. "I hope I am always sorry
when I do wrong, in speech or act; I teach my children to be."

"Well, if you think it right to run the party for a few lordly idlers
too proud to mix with the people--men who think they are better born and
better bred than the rest of us--I don't want to have anything more to
do with it. I will go elsewhere."

"That's your privilege, sir. The Whigs have plenty of room for self-made
men. Though I do think you are taking too personal a view of to-day's
contest, your defeat was purely a matter of duty. Moore, whom we have
chosen, was a poor Irish settler here before you came. He was promised
the nomination two years ago." With a lofty bow the Senator turned and
stalked in another direction as if he did not care for the other's
further company. Even this small and wholly unintended affront worked in
the poor, misjudging victim of morbid self-esteem, as a cinder in the
eye will torture and blind the sufferer to all the landscape. Boone
mingled no more with the Democrats. He threw himself with the fervor of
the convert into the radical wing of the Whigs, and was brought into
close relation with some of the most admired of the band of great men
who created the young Republican party. If Douglas, Dickinson, Cass, Van
Buren, Seymour, or any eminent Democrat passing through Warchester
stopped to break bread with their colleague Sprague in his Acredale
retreat, straightway the splendid Sumner, the Ciceronian Phillips, or
the Walpole-Seward, or some other of the shining galaxy of agitators,
whose light so shone before men that the whole land was presently
brought out of darkness, met at Boone's table to maintain the balance in
distinction.

It was Boone's liberal purse that paid the expenses of the memorable
campaign in the Warchester district, wherein the Democrats were first
shaken in their hold. It was his money that finally secured the seat in
Congress for Oswald, who was his tenant and debtor. It was therefore no
surprise when Oswald--who had been greatly aided in business affairs by
Senator Sprague--passed over the prior claims of his old patron's son,
and gave the cadetship to Wesley Boone, the son of his new liege. It was
looked upon as another step in the ladder of gratitude when Wesley
carried off the captaincy in the Acredale company, though everybody knew
that young Boone was not in any way so well fitted for the "straps" as
Jack. When one day an item appeared in the local paper to the effect
that President Lincoln had shown the "sagacity for which he was so well
known, in honoring our distinguished townsman, Elisha Boone, Esq., with
the appointment of ambassador to Russia," everybody thought the
statement only natural. There were many congratulations. But when,
having declined this splendid proffer, the authorities pressed the place
of "Assistant Secretary of the Treasury" upon their townsman, the whole
village awoke to the fact that all its greatness had not gone when
Senator Sprague was gathered to his fathers.

The event was potent as the cross Constantine saw, or dreamed he saw, in
the sky, in the conversion of party workers to the new Administration.
Everybody looked forward to an eminent future for the potent partisan
and millionaire, the first of that--now not uncommon--hierarchy that
replace the feudal barons in modern social forces. Had he listened to
the eager urging of Kate, his daughter and prime minister, Boone would
have accepted the foreign mission; but he stubbornly refused to listen
to her in this.

Kate Boone was like her father only in strong will, vehement purpose,
and a certain humorous independence that made her a great delight among
even the anti-Boone partisans in both Acredale and Warchester. Since the
death of her mother, Kate had been head of her father's household--an
imperious, capricious, kind-hearted tyrant, who ruled mostly by jokes
and persuasions of the gentler sort. It was her father's one lament that
Kate was not "the boy of the family, for she had more of the stuff that
makes the man in her little finger than Wes had in his whole body." She
kept him in a perpetual unrest of delight and dismay. She espoused none
of his piques or prejudices; she was as apt to bring people he disliked
to his dinner-table as those he liked. She was forever making him
forgive wrongs, or what he fancied to be wrongs, and causing him seem at
fault in all his squabbles, so that he was often heard to say, when
things went as he didn't want them:

"I don't know whether I am to blame or the other fellow until Kate hears
the story."

His illiteracy and lack of polish were the secret grief of the rich
man's life. Kate was quick in detecting this. Much of it she saw was due
to the shyness that unschooled men feel in the presence of college men,
or those who have been trained. On returning from her seminary life, the
young girl set about remedying the single break in her father's
perfections. She was far too clever to let him know her ambitious
purpose. With a patience almost maternal and an exquisite adroitness,
she interested him in her own reading, which was comprehensive, if not
very well ordered. But she won the main point. During the long winter
evenings her father found no pleasure like that Kate had always ready
for him in the cheery library. He was soon amazed at his keen interest
in the world of mind unrolled to his understanding; more than all, he
retained with the receptivity of a boy all that was read to him. Kate
made believe that she needed his help in reviewing her own studies, and
so carried him through all she had gone over in the seminary classes.
Boone began presently to see that education is not the result of mere
attendance in schools and the parroting of the classics in a few
semesters in college. Without suspecting it, his varied business
enterprises and his wide experience of men had grounded him as well in
the ordinary forms of knowledge as nine in ten college men attain.

"Education, after all, papa, is like a trade. A man may be able to
handle all the tools and not know their names. Now, you are a
well-informed man, but, because you didn't know logic, grammar,
scientific terms, and the like, you thought yourself ignorant."

In the new confidence in himself he was surprised at his own ability in
launching a subject in the presence of his eminent friends when
especially Kate was on hand to support the conversation. She got him not
only to buy fine pictures, as most rich men do, but she made him see
wherein their value lay, so that when artists and amateurs came to
admire his treasures, he could talk to them without gross solecisms.

"I'm not a liberal education to you, papa, as Steele said of the Duchess
of Devonshire. That implies too much, but I am an index. You can find
out what you need to know by keeping track of my ignorance."

Elisha Boone's domestic circle was a termagancy--as Kate often told his
guests--tempered by wit and good-humor. He was prouder of his daughter
than of his self-made rank or his revered million. In moments of
expansive good-nature he invited business or political associates to
"Acre Villa," as his place was called, to enjoy the surprise Kate's
graces wrought in the guests. But these were not always times of delight
to the doting parent. Kate was a shrewd judge of the amenities; and if
the personages who came, at the father's bidding, gave the least sign of
a not unnatural surprise to find a girl so well bred and self-contained
in the daughter of such a man as Boone, she became very frigid and left
the father to do the honors of the evening visit. No entreaty could move
her to reappear on the scene. In time, the prodigal papa was careful to
submit a list of the names of his proposed guests, as chamberlains give
royalty a descriptive list of those to be bidden to court.

Kate was on terms that, if not cordial, were not constrained, with the
Spragues. She had gone to the same seminary with Olympia, had danced
with Jack, and, in the cadetship affair, had plainly given her opinion
that her brother Wesley, having no taste or fitness for military life,
Jack, who had, should have the prize. But two motives entered into the
father's determination: one was to annoy and humiliate the Spragues; the
other, the sleepless craving of the parvenu to get for his son what had
not been his, in spite of all the adulation paid him--the conceded
equality of social condition. The army was then, as I believe it is
considered now, the surest sign of higher caste in a democracy. Wesley,
by the mere right to epaulets, would be of the acknowledged gentility.
Nobody could sneer at him; no doors could be opened grudgingly when he
called. He would, in virtue of his West Point insignia, be a knighted
member of the blood royal of the republic. Some of this mysterious
unction would distill itself into the unconsecrated ichor of the rest of
the family, and Kate, as well as himself, would be part of the patrician
caste. The daughter looked upon all this good-humoredly; she shared none
of her father's morbid delusions on the subject. She rallied the cadet a
good deal on his mission. When Wesley, after the June examinations,
which he passed by the narrowest squeeze--'twas said by outside
influence--came home to display his cadet buttons and his neat gray
uniform in Acredale, Kate bantered the complacent young
warrior jocosely.

"We shall all have to live up to your shoulder-straps and brass buttons
after this, Wesley," she cried, as the proud young dandy strutted over
the arabesques of the library, where the delighted papa marched him, the
better to survey the boy's splendor. "And think of the fate that awaits
you if, in the esteem of Acredale, you should turn out less than a
Napoleon."

"Be serious, Kate, and don't tease the boy. Wesley knows what's expected
of him; he has an opportunity to show what is in his stock. Thank God,
men in the North can now come to their own without going down on their
knees to the South!"

Wesley grinned. He was no match for his sister in the humorous bouts
waged over his head against his father's prejudices and cherished social
schemes. During the vacation she put a heavy penalty of raillery upon
his swelling pride and vanity, sarcasm that tried the paternal patience
as well as his own. Wesley, however, had a large fund of the philosophy
that comes from a high estimate of one's self. He was well favored in
looks and build, though somewhat effeminate, with his small hands and
carefully shod feet. He would have been called a "dude" had the word
been known in its present significance; as it was, he was regarded as a
coxcomb by the derisive group hostile to the father's social
pretensions. He was the first of the golden youth of his set to adopt
the then reviving mode of parting the hair on the middle of the head. In
the teeth of the village derision, he persisted in this with a tenacity
that Kate declared gave promise of a "Wellington." For many who had at
first adopted the foreign freak had been ridiculed out of it,
discouraged by the obstinate refusal of the generality to follow the
lead. In those sturdily primitive days the rich youth of the land had
not so universally gone abroad as they do now, and "the proper thing"
among the "well born" was not so distinctly laid down in the code of the
_élite_. The accent and manners that now mark "good form" seemed queer,
not to say _bouffe_, to even the first circles of home society, and the
first disciples of "Anglomania" had a very hard time polishing the raw
material. The home life of the Boones was something better and sincerer
than the impression made upon their neighbors by the father's invincible
push and high-handed ways. His daughter and son had been born to him in
middle age. They had the reverence for the parent marked in the conduct
of children who associate gray hairs with the venerable. With all her
strong sense and self-assertion, Kate was proud of the fact that she was
her father's daughter. It was a distinction to bear his name. His
solidity, his masterful will, his well-defined, if narrow, convictions,
were to her the sanctities one is apt to associate with lineage or
magistracy. Wesley, though less impressionable than his sister, shared
these secret devotions to the parent's parts, and bowed before his
father's behests, in the filial reverence of the sons of the patriarchs.
When Elisha Boone denounced the outbreak of John Brown at Harper's Ferry
as more criminal than Aaron Burr's treason, his children made his
prepossessions their own; when, three years later, the father proudly
eulogized the uprising he had so luridly condemned, his children saw no
tergiversation in the swift conversion. When to this full measure of lay
perfection the complexion of Levite godliness was superadded by election
to the deaconate in the Baptist Church, it will readily be seen that two
young people, in whom the hard worldliness of wealth and easy conditions
had not bred home agnosticism, were material for all the credulities of
parent worship. Kate, a year older than Wesley, soon encountered the
influences which gave the first shock to her faith and gradually
tinctured her sentiments with a clearer insight into her father's
character. Oddly enough, it was through the rival house this came.
Olympia, a sort of ablegate in the social hierarchy of the village, had
been thrown much with Kate, and was greatly amused with her point of
view in many of the snarls arising in a provincial society. The intimacy
had been begun in the New York school, where both had been in the same
classes, and, though the families saw nothing of each other, the girls
did. Kate was soon led to see that the Spragues had none of the
patrician pretension her father attributed to them. Jack, too, had made
much of her, and seemed to delight in her sharp retorts to the inanities
of would-be wits. The episode in Elisha Boone's life, that all his
success, wealth, and after exemplary conduct had not condoned in the
village mind, was his handiwork in the ruin of Richard Perley, I set
this down with something of the delight Carlyle expresses when in the
rubbish of history he found, among the shams called kings and nobles,
anything like a man.

It is worth the noting, this trait of Acredale, at a time when riches
and success are looked upon as condoning every breach of the decalogue.
Just how the intimacy between the two men came about was not known. It,
however, was known that when Boone first came to Acredale he had been
helped in his affairs by Dick Perley's lavish means. In a few years
Boone was the patron and Perley the client. As Boone grew rich Perley
grew poor, until finally all was gone. Then the fairest lands of the
Perley inheritance passed to Boone. It was the fireside history of the
whole Caribee Valley that the rich contractor had encouraged the ruined
gentleman in the excesses that ended the profligate's career; that the
two men had staked large sums at play in Bucephalo, and that inability
to meet his losses to Boone had caused Dick Perley's flight. He had been
seen by one of the village people a year or two before the war in
Richmond, and had been heard of in California later, but no word had
ever reached his family, not even when his wife died, two years after
his exile. There were those who said that Boone was in correspondence
with his victim, and it was known that drafts, made by Dick Perley, had
been paid by Boone at the bank in Warchester. Between Boone and the
Perley ladies, whose house was separated from "Acre Villa" by a wide
lawn and hedge, there had always been the tacit enmity that wrong on one
side and meek unreproach on the other breeds. The rancor that manifested
itself in Boone's treatment of the Misses Perley was not imitated by
them. They never alluded to their affluent neighbor, never suffered
gossip concerning the Boones in what Olympia humorously called the
"Orphic adytum," the "tabby-shop," as Wesley named the Perley parlors.
Young Dick, however, had none of the scruples that kept his aunts
silent. One dreadful day, when he had been nagged to fisticuffs with
Wesley, whose dudish dignity exacted a certain restraint with the
hot-headed youngster, Elisha Boone, behind the thick hedge, heard on the
highway outside his grounds this outrageous anathema:

"You're no more than a thief, Wes Boone; your father stole all he's got.
Some day I'll make him give it back, or send him to jail, where he ought
to be now."

Schoolboy though the railer was, Boone staggered against the hedge, the
words brought a dreadful flush and then a livid pallor to the miserable
parent's cheek. He dared not trust himself to speak then. Nor was the
antipathy the outbreak caused mitigated by the savage thrashing that
Wesley, throwing aside his dignity, proceeded to administer to the
unbridled accuser. After that, by the father's sternest command, neither
of his children was to return the courteous salutation the Perley ladies
had never ceased to bestow in meeting the Boones walking or in company.
Now, Dick was the kind of boy that those who know boy nature would call
adorable. To the Philistine, without humor or sympathy, I'm afraid he
was a very bad boy. He was until late in his teens painfully shy with
grown people and strangers; even under the eyes of his aunts and with
youths of his own age, diffident to awkwardness. He had the face of a
well-fed cherub and the gentle, dreamy, and wistful eye of a girl in
love. With his elders he had the halting, confused speech of a new boy
in a big school. But in the woods or on the playground he was the
merriest, most daring, and winningly obstreperous lad that ever filled
three maiden aunts with terror and delight.



CHAPTER V.

A NAPOLEONIC EPIGRAM.


For weeks the regiment expected every day the order to march. The guns
had been distributed and all their fascinating secrets mastered. In
evolution and manual the men regarded themselves as quite equal to the
regulars. The strict orders forbidding absence overnight were hardly
needed, as no one ventured far, fearing that the regiment would be
whirled away to Washington during the night. Had the men been older or
more experienced in war, the weeks of waiting would have been delightful
rather than dreary. The regiment was the object of universal interest in
the town. Base-ball and the alluring outdoor pastimes that now divert
the dawdlers of cities were unknown. Hence the camp-ground of the
Caribees was the matinee, ball-match, tennis, boating, all in one of the
idle afternoon world of Warchester. At parade and battalion drill the
scene was like the race-ground on gala days.

All the fine equipages of the town drew up in the roads and lanes
flanking the camp, where with leveled glasses the mothers, sisters, and
sweethearts watched the columns as they skirmished, formed squares, or
"passed the defile," quite sure that the rebels would fly in confusion
before such surprising manoeuvres. This daily audience stimulated such a
fierce rivalry among the companies that the men turned out at all hours
of the day to drill and practice in squads, rather than loiter about the
camp. One day great news aroused the camp: the Governor was to review
the regiment and send it to the front. All Warchester poured out to the
Holly Hills, and when at five o'clock the companies filed out on the
shining green there was such a cheer that the men felt repaid for the
tiresome wait of months. The civic commander-in-chief watched the
movements with affable scrutiny, surrounded by a profusely uniformed
staff, to whom he expressed the most politic approval. He was heard to
remark that no such soldiers had been seen on this continent since Scott
had marched to Lundy's Lane.

There was a throb of passionate joy in the ranks when this eulogium
reached the men, for the words were hardly spoken when they were known
in every company by that mysterious telegraphy which makes the human
body a conductor swift as an electric wire among large masses of men.
Nor were the words less relished that the eulogist was as ignorant of
military excellence as a Malay of the uses of a patent mower. The men,
it was easy to see, were much more efficient in movement than the
officers in handling them. Colonel Oswald had wasted weeks in the study
of the occult evolutions of the battalion; they were still a maddening
mystery to him that fatal day. For six weeks his dreams had been haunted
by airy battalions filing over impossible defiles. The commands he gave
that day would have thrown the companies into hopeless confusion had the
junior officers not boldly substituted the right ones for the colonel's
blunders. This, however, passed unnoted, for the crowds, and even the
men, were not the sharp critics they afterward became when mistakes by
an incompetent officer were saluted by shouts of ridicule, and the men
contemptuously disregarded them. When Colonel Oswald ordered them to
"present arms" from a "place rest" there was more perplexity than
merriment, and the admiring crowd saw nothing peculiar in one company
snatching up bayonets to present while others remained perfectly still.

Jack, to whom the manual was a very sacred thing, broke into fierce
ridicule of the commander, declaring that he was better fitted for
sutler than colonel. When the savage speech was reported to headquarters
that young fellow's prospects for the straps--never the best--were by no
means improved. The review brought bitter disappointment to the
regiment. The inspector-general, who was present, informed the colonel
that no more than a thousand men could be accepted in one body; that
five hundred of the Caribees would have to be divided among other troops
in the State. The order aroused wild excitement. Half the men looked
upon the edict as a scheme to give the politicians more places for their
feudatories. Indeed, though that was not the origin of the order, that
was the use made of it. Some of the junior officers, who disliked Oswald
and distrusted his capacity to command, drew out very willingly, and of
course carried many of their men with them.

But in the end the matter had to be decided by lot. Now this chance
threw Wesley Boone out, and there was great rejoicing in the Acredale
group, who hoped that this stroke of luck would make place for their
favorite, Jack Sprague. But, to everybody's astonishment, a day or two
after the event, Wesley resumed his place in Company K, and gave out
that it was by order of the Governor. Jack was urged by the major of the
regiment, who had gone with the five hundred, to cast his fortunes with
the new body, promising a speedy lieutenancy. But Jack would not desert
the Caribees. All of Company K, and many in the others, had enlisted on
his word, and he could not in honor leave them. The opposition journals
had from the first denounced the division of the Caribees as a trick of
the partisans, and, sure enough, the men were given to understand that
there would be no move to Washington until after the election, then
pending. This was a municipal contest, and the Administration party made
good use of the incipient soldiery to obtain a majority in the town.

Promotion was quite openly held out as a reward for those who could
influence most votes for the Administration candidates. At night the
various companies were sent into the city to take part in the political
propaganda; to march in processions or occupy conspicuous places at the
party meetings. The private soldiers were almost to a man Democrats, but
the chance to escape the long and irksome evenings of the camp and join
the frolic and adventure of the street made most of them willing enough
to play the part of claque or figurantes. Jack, of course, refused to
take part in these scenic rallies, making known his sentiments in
vehement disdain. He detested Oswald, who had quit his party, not on a
question of principle, but merely for place, and Jack did not spare him
in his satirical allusions to the new uses invented for the military.

A still more trying injustice befell the luckless Jack. For a long time
he had, as senior, acted as orderly sergeant of Company K. This officer
is virtually the executive functionary in the company. It is his place
to form the men in rank, make out details, and prepare everything for
the captain. The orderly sergeant is to the company what the adjutant is
to the regiment. He carries a musket and marches with the ranks, but in
responsibility is not inferior to an officer. One evening when it was
known that orders had come for the regiment to march, Jack, having
formed the company for parade, received a paper from the captain's
orderly to read. He opened it without suspicion, and, among other
changes in the corps, read, "Thomas Trask to be first sergeant of
Company K, and he will be obeyed and respected accordingly." Jack read
the monstrous wrong without a tremor. The men flung down their arms and
broke into a fierce clamor of rage and grief. Many of them were Jack's
classmates. These swarmed about him. One, assuming the part of
spokesman, cried out:

"It's an infamous outrage. They cheated you out of your captaincy; they
have put every slight they could upon you. But we have some rights. We
won't stand this. There are thirty of your classmates who will do
whatever you say to show these people that they can't act like this."

There were mutiny and desperation in the air. It needed but a spark to
destroy the usefulness of the company. But, as is often the case with
impetuous, hot-headed spirits, Jack cooled as his friends grew hot. He
was the more patient that the injustice was his injury alone. He
remained in his place at the right of the company, and confronted the
rebellious group with amazing self-control. Then loud above the
murmuring his voice rang out:

"Company, attention! fall in, fall in! Any man out of the ranks will be
sent to the guard-house. Eight dress, steady on the left."

Many a time afterward these angry mutineers heard that sonorous, clear,
boyish treble in stern and determined command; but they never heard it
signalize a more heroic temper than at that moment, when, himself deeply
wronged, he forced them to go back in the ranks to receive the
interloper. They "dressed up" sullenly as Jack called the roll for the
last time, and received Trask, the new orderly, at a "present," which,
though not in the tactics, Jack exacted as a penitence for the momentary
revolt. Poor Trask looked very unhappy indeed as his displaced rival
stepped back to the rear and left the new orderly to march the company
out from the narrow way to take its place in the parade. It was easy to
see that he would have been very glad to postpone or evade his new
honors, on any pretext, for the time. He was so confused that Jack, from
the flank, was obliged to repeat the few commands needed to get the
company to the field.

Fortunately for the efficiency of the raw army, as this public
discontent reached its most acute stage orders came to march the troops
to Washington. The Caribees were the first body of soldiers sent from
Warchester, and there was a memorable scene when the jaunty ranks filed
through the streets to the station. By the time the men reached the
train they discovered that they could never make war laden down as they
were by knapsacks filled with the preposterous impedimenta feminine
foresight had provided.

The men's backs bulged out with such a pack of supplies that when the
regiment halted each man was forced to kneel and let a comrade take off
or put on his knapsack. And then the march through the streets--every
man known to scores in the throng! The brisk, high-stepping drum corps
rat-a-tatting at intervals; then tempests of cheers, flashing banners
and patriotic symbols at every window; tears, laughter, humorous cries,
jokes, sobbing outbreaks. The whole city was in march as the Caribees
reached the thronged main thoroughfare. Ready hands relieved the
soldiers of their burden as the line filed in sight of the Governor, who
had come to speed the parting braves.

Lads and lasses made merry with the elated warriors. The muskets were
turned into bouquet-holders, and the first move toward real war took on
the air of a floral _fête_. There were popping corks and sounds of
convivial revelry that made the scene anything but warlike. Jack, in a
cluster of his town cronies, caught sight of his mother at one of the
windows of the Parthenon Hotel. He wafted her a joyous kiss, pretending
not to see the tears falling down her cheeks. Olympia was not apparently
very deeply affected. She made her way through the crowd to her
brother's side, and with an air of the liveliest interest demanded:

"Jack, what have you in your knapsack? Let me see."

"O Polly, it's such a job to close it! What do you want? It is harder to
manage than a Saratoga trunk. I can't really stuff another pin or needle
in, so pray keep what you have for my furlough."

"No, I am not going to put anything in." She bent over while Barney
Moore, one of Jack's Acredale comrades, gallantly loosed the straps. She
searched carefully through the divers articles, taking everything out,
Jack looking on ruefully while his companions gathered about in vague
curiosity. When she had removed and restored everything she arose,
saying: "I feel easier now. I merely looked to see if that marshal's
_bâton_ I have heard so much about was there. I shall feel easy in my
mind now, because a _bâton_ in your baggage would have made you too
adventurous."

There was a great shout of laughter as the fun of the incident flashed
upon the listeners, many of whom had heard the ingenuous Jack often in
other days sighing for war, and the chance that Napoleon said every man
had of finding a marshal's _bâton_ in his knapsack. Jack bore the banter
very equably, knowing that Olympia was rather striving to keep his
spirits up and divert him from the tears in his mother's eyes than
indulge her own humor. Indeed, most of the gayety at this moment was
contributed by those whose hearts were heaviest. The consecrated
priesthood of patriotism must see no weakness in those left behind. The
only son, now brought face to face with the meaning and consequence of
his rashly seized chance for glory, must not be reminded that perhaps a
grave lay beyond the thin veil of the near future; must not be reminded
that heavy hearts and dim eyes were left behind, feeding day by day,
hour by hour, on terror and dread, unsupported by the changing scenes,
the wild excitement, and the joyous vicissitudes of the soldier's life,
it was a cruel comedy acted every day between 1861 and 1865. They
laughed who were not gay, and they seemed indifferent who were fainting
with despair. The courage of battle is mere brutish insensibility
compared with the abnegation of the million mothers who gave their boys
to the bestial maw of war.

The harrowing ceremonial of parting is ended. The train moves slowly out
of the station, and a murmur of sobs and cheers echoes until it is far
beyond the easternmost limits of the city. After a journey of two days
and a night the train readied Philadelphia. Jack was all eyes and ears
for the spectacle the country presented. In every station through which
the regiment passed crowds welcomed the blue-coats. Women fed them, or
those who seemed in need, thinking, perhaps, of their own distant
darlings receiving like tenderness from the stranger.

In Philadelphia, the regiment marched across the city to resume its
journey. It was a cold spring night, and the regimental quartermaster
and commissary had made no provision for the men. Indeed, as the
observant Jack afterward learned, it was part of the plan of the groups
that first began to create great fortunes during the war to make the
soldiers pay for their rations _en route_ to the seat of war, or depend
upon the charity of citizens along the railway lines. The Government
paid for the supplies just the same, while the money went into the
pockets of contractors and quartermasters. After a weary tramp through
what seemed to the soldiers the biggest city in the world, the regiment,
with blistered feet, hungry and cross, were halted before a long, low
wooden building, through whose rough glass windows cheerful lights could
be seen. A rumor spread that they were to have a hot supper, and, sure
enough, they were marched in, dividing on each side of four long tables
that stretched into spectral distance, in the feeble glimmer of the
oil-lamps hanging from the ceiling. Most of the men in Jack's company,
at least, were gently nurtured, but the steaming oysters, cold beef, and
generous "chunks" of bread, filled their eyes with a magnificence and
their stomachs with a gentle repletion no banquet before or after ever
equaled. The feast was set in the same place during four years, by the
Sanitary Society, I think, but the memory of that homely board,
plenteously spread, is in the mind of many a veteran who faced warward
during the conflict.



CHAPTER VI.

ON THE POTOMAC.


The next morning, when the men debarked to march through Baltimore,
every one was on the _qui vive_ to fasten in his memory the scene of the
shameful attack upon the soldiers of Massachusetts on the 19th of April.
But, as the line marched proudly down Pratt Street, there were no signs
of the hostile spirit that made Baltimore a center of doubt and
suspicion in the North for many a day afterward. It was, however, when
the train dashed out from among the hills to the northwest of the sheet
of water behind the capitol that the Caribees glued their eyes to the
panes in awe not unmingled with delight. No American will ever look upon
that imperial dome again with the sensations that filled the breasts of
those who first saw its rounded outlines in the war epoch. What the ark
of the covenant was to the armies that marched in the wilderness, or the
cross of St. Peter to the pilgrims approaching Rome, that the great
dome, towering cloud ward in the perpetual blue, was to the wondering
eye of the soldier as his glance first fell upon it; that it was for
months--yes, ever after--on the plains of Arlington and in the deadly
exhalations of the Chickahominy. Every one looked anxiously to see signs
of war--indeed, since leaving Baltimore, there was a delicious feeling
of suspense--as the train shot over embankments or skirted the deep pine
woods. Perhaps an adventurous rebel vanguard might attack them. Perhaps
they might have the glory of fighting their way to the beleaguered
capital. Perhaps Father Abraham might come out and smile benignantly at
them for a brave deed well done. Faces flushed and eyes sparkled in the
delightful anticipation: and some of the ardent spirits, more eager than
the others, loaded their muskets to be ready! But, beyond the Federal
picket-post at the stations, no sign of war was soon, nor much sign of
hostilities, such as the vivid fancies of the raw young
warriors conjured.

But now the train was at rest, and the officers--who had not been seen
during the journey--turned out in resplendent plumery. The station--in
those days a tumble-down barrack--was already crowded with soldiery. The
Caribees were aligned along the track, the officers so bewildered by the
confusion that it was by a miracle some of the groups of moving men were
not run over by the backing engines. After an interminable delay, the
band set up "We're coming down to Washington to fight for Abraham's
daughter!" and with exuberant joy a thousand pairs of legs kept brisk
step and elastic movement to the inspiriting strain. Now the longing
eyes see the circumstance and even some of the pomp of war. The regiment
debouches into Pennsylvania Avenue, under the very shadow of the
Capitol, which looks sadly shabby and disproportioned to the eyes that
had an hour or two before opened in such admiration at the first view.
But there is no time for architectural criticism. They are moving down
the avenue toward the White House, toward the home of that patient,
kindly, sorely-tried ruler--the Democritus of his grisly epoch. The
Caribees excite none of the sensation here they have been accustomed to.
The streets are not crowded, and the few civilians passing hardly turn
their heads. Mounted orderlies dash hurriedly, with hideous clatter of
sabre and equipments, across the line of march, through the very
regiment's ranks, answering with a disdainful oath or mocking gibe when
an outraged shoulder-strap raised a remonstrating voice. At Fourteenth
Street the Caribees were halted until the colonel could take his
bearings from headquarters, just around the corner. The wide sidewalks
were dense with bestarred and epauleted personages in various keys of
discussion. Jack and his crony, Barney Moore, studied the scene in
wonder. Their company was halted exactly at the corner of Fourteenth
Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, and the two were standing at
Willard's corner.

"I wonder if the President just stands and throws the stars down from
that balcony?" Jack said, as the crowd of brigadiers thickened before
the hotel door. "What on earth are they all doing here?"

"Oh, they come to make requisition on General Bacchus; he's the
commissary-general of the brigadiers--don't you know?" Barney said,
innocently.

"General Bacchus? Barney, you're crazy--there's no such officer in the
army--I know all the names--you mean General Banks, don't you?"

"Oh, no, I'm not mistaken--General Bacchus has been selected to deal out
the _esprit de corps!_"

"_L'esprit de corps_? Barney, you're certainly tipsy. I'm ashamed of
you!"

"Yes, the spirit of that corps, as you can tell from the whiffs that
come this way, is the whisky-bottle. Bacchus presides over that spirit.
One would think you'd never read an eclogue of Virgil--you're duller
than a doctor of divinity's after-dinner speech! A tutor's joke is the
utmost wit you ought to bear."

"And so you call that a joke?"

"Well, it isn't a cough, a song, an oath, or--or anything old Oswald
would say, so it must be a joke."

"Well, in that sense it may pass, like a tipsy soldier without the
countersign."

"Oh, come now, Jack, these stars are really dazzling you!"

"Not but I'll make you see some that will dazzle you, if you don't treat
your superior more respectfully."

"Oh, the punch you think of giving me wouldn't solve this star problem;
it requires to be made in the old--the milky way."

But Barney's astral jokes were brought to a period by the sharp note of
the bugle, as Colonel Oswald, very important under the eye of so many
big-wigs, magnificently ordered the march. The regiment passed up the
steep hill, out Fourteenth Street--then a red clay thoroughfare of
sticky mire with only here and there a negro's shanty where the palaces
of the rich rise to-day. The men learned something of their future
enemy, Virginia mud, as they climbed the red gorge and debouched on
Meridian Hill, where, presently, an aide-de-camp marked the ground
assigned the regiment, and the real life of the soldier began. How tame
to tell, but how "imperial the hour" when these one thousand lads first
went, on guard! Yes, the fact was now before them. They were no longer
segregated atoms, inert, ineffective, eccentric. They were part of that
mighty bulwark of blood and iron that stood between law and rebellion,
between the nation's heart and the assassin dagger of disunion.

How proud and glad and manly they felt, these bright-eyed boys--for boys
they mostly were; not a hundred in the regiment had seen their
five-and-twentieth year. One razor would have been ample for the beards
of the whole battalion. And oh, the nameless, the intoxicating sense of
solidarity as they swept the vast reach of hillsides, and saw the white
tents in brooding immensity on either hand! Yes, yonder, far across the
wondrous belt of water, touching loyalty and rebellion in its mighty
rush seaward, they could distinguish the cities of canvas on the distant
Virginia shore.

"It makes a fellow feel as Godfrey's hosts felt when they came in sight
of the Bosporus, and the hordes of the Saracens on the plains of the
Hellespont," Jack said, exultingly, as Barney stood on a pile of camp
equipages above him, surveying the quickening spectacle.

"I don't know how Godfrey's fellows felt, Jack, but it _do_ make a man
feel kinder able to do something with so many near by to lend a hand.
But, stars and garters! what a head it must take to manage all these!
Fair and square, now, Jack, you feel the fires of military genius in
your big head--do you think that you could disentangle this enormous
coil--put each corps, division, and regiment, in its proper place--at a
day's notice?"

"Oh, I couldn't perhaps do it just to-day; but give me time!"

"Yes, I'll give you to the age of Methuselah, and then if you can manage
it I shall not lose faith in you."

"Come, men, the tents must be up before dark. Sergeant Sprague, your
squad has five tents for its detail. You'll find axes and tools at the
quartermaster's wagon on the hill yonder!" It was the captain who spoke,
and, an instant later, the plot of ground, perhaps an acre and a half in
area, was a scene of rollicking labor. Each company had a street, the
tents--calculated to hold four each, but the number varied, going up
often as high as six--faced each other, leaving room enough for the
company to march in column or in line between the white walls. As the
regiment would be presumably some time on the ground, the canvas tents
rested on the top of a palisade of logs cut in the neighboring woods.
These were five feet or more in length, and when driven into the ground
a foot, and banked by the sticky clay, served excellently as walls upon
which to rest the A tents. Two berths, sometimes four, were fastened
laterally on these walls, frames running up to the center of the A held
the guns, while lines stretched across from above served as wardrobes
for such garments as could be hung up.

All this manoeuvring for space in such close quarters was great fun for
lads accustomed to roomy houses, and careless, almost to slovenliness,
in the matter of keeping things in place. Absurd as these details may
seem, they were all parts, and very important parts, in the life and
training of that mighty host that carried the destiny of the country in
its discipline during four years. There was rigid inspection of quarters
every Sunday morning, and during the week the non-commissioned officers
were expected to see that cleanliness was not intermitted. The company
"street" was "policed" every morning after breakfast, swept and
garnished, that is, with the care of a Dutch housewife. Order is the
first law of the soldier as well as of Heaven, and many a careless lad
brought from his four years' drill method and painstaking that made him
of more value to himself and his neighbors.

Personal traits, too, could be divined in these toy-like interiors. The
regulations prescribed the arrangement of the "bunks," blankets folded,
knapsacks laid at the head of the bed, accoutrements burnished until, at
first sight, the four guns in the rack seemed to be a mirror for the
orderly spirit of this thrifty grot. The shining plates, cups, and
spoons, would have done no discredit to the most energetic, housewife,
as they hung from pegs either above the bunks or along the wall. If
running water were not accessible, every tent had a tin basin for the
morning ablution, each soldier taking turn good humoredly. The household
duties were scrupulously observed, each man assuming his _rôle_ in the
complicated _ménage_.

It was fully a week before the Caribees were installed ready for Sunday
inspection, as no exigency was permitted to interfere with morning and
afternoon drill, guard-mount, and parade. Battalion and brigade drill,
too, were new diversions for the Caribees, as now, camped near other
troops, these more complicated movements were part of the regiment's
allotted duty. After they were sufficiently trained in this they were to
take part in a grand review by the general-in-chief, when the President,
the Secretary of War, and all the great folks in Washington rode out to
witness the spectacle.

There was no time for dullness. Every hour had its duty, and these soon
became second nature to the zealous young warriors. Such rivalry to best
master the manual, to hold the most soldierly stature in the ranks, to
detect the drill-sergeant when, to test their attention, he gave a false
command! And then the coronal joy of a reward of merit for efficiency
and alertness on guard! The rapture the bit of paper brought, and the
exultation with which the hero thus signalized went off to town for the
day, wandered through the waste of streets, stood before Willard's and
admired in awe and wonder the indolent groups from whose shoulders
gleamed one and sometimes two stars! One day Jack and Barney, walking in
Fifteenth Street, saw a stout man, with no insignia to indicate rank or
station, coming out of the headquarters hurriedly. He walked to the edge
of the pavement, and, looking up and down, seemed disconcerted. Noticing
the two lads, he came to where Jack was standing in a preoccupied way,
and the two saluted decorously. He returned the salute and asked:

"Sergeant, are you on duty?"

"No, sir; I'm on leave for the day."

"Ah, good; my orderly was here a moment ago, but I don't see him
anywhere. Would you mind taking this telegram to the War Department,
through the park yonder?"

He gave Jack an envelope and hurried back into the building as the two
lads started with alacrity across the street.

"I've seen that chap before, somewhere," Barney said, panting with the
rapid pace.

"He's a staff officer, I suppose, not very high rank, for he only had a
blouse on. General officers always wear double-button frocks even if
they don't carry the insignia."

The War Department was easy of access, an old building not unlike Jack's
own home in Acredale. He asked the sentry at the door where his envelope
was to be delivered. The man looked at it, pointed to a closed door, and
Jack, receiving no response to his knock, entered. Three men were in the
room. One was seated at a vast desk with papers, maps, dispatches, and
books piled in disheartening confusion, within reach of his hand. Behind
him a young captain in uniform sat writing. But the figure that fixed
Jack's reverential attention was half sprawling, half lying over the
heaped-up impediments of the big desk. The young soldier caught sight of
the serious, sad face, the wistful humorous eyes, and he knew, with a
thrill through all his body and an adoring throb in his breast, that it
was the President--hapless heritor of generations of disjointed time.
All thought of his errand, all thought of place and person, faded as he
realized this presence. How long he would have remained in this mute
adoration there is no telling. The restless, keen eyes looked up sharply
and a dissonant, imperious, repellent voice jerked out:

"Well, my man, what is it?"

Without a word Jack handed him the envelope, and with a sort of
reverence to the tall figure whose face was turned kindly toward him he
backed to the door.

"O Barney, I've seen the President!"

"Seen the President! No? Oh! Why could not I have gone in with you? It's
always my luck."

"No: it was my luck. But take heart. He will come out pretty soon, and
we'll loaf about here. Perhaps we can see him as he goes back to the
White House yonder."

But though they waited far into the afternoon, forgetting their dinner
in the impulse of homage, they did not catch sight of the well-known
figure, for the President's way to the Secretary's room was a private
one, and when he went away the boys of course could not see him. But
Jack's good fortune was the talk of the regiment for many a day, and for
months when the fellows of the Caribee got leave they lingered
expectantly about the modest headquarters, hoping that a missing orderly
might bring them Jack Sprague's proud distinction of seeing the
President face to face. On the grand review, a few days later, Jack and
his crony were reminded of the encounter at headquarters, for the man
who had given the envelope to carry to the war office was riding a
splendid horse next to the President. Two stars glittered on his
shoulder now, and as he answered the cheers that saluted the group, the
young men saw that it was General McDowell, the commander of the forces.
The President rode along the lines, with a kindly wistfulness in the
honest eyes that studied with no superficial glance the long line of
shouting soldiery. He was not an imposing figure in the sense of
cavalier bravery, but no man that watched as he moved in the glittering
group, conspicuous by his somber black and high hat, ever forgot the
melancholy, rapt regard he gave the ranks, as at an easy canter he
passed the fronts of the squares or sat solemnly at the march past that
concluded the review.



CHAPTER VII.

THE STEP THAT COSTS.


What between the doings of the camp and the daily visit to Washington,
"soldiering" grew into an enchanting existence for the young warriors of
the Caribee. Their quarters were on the high plateaus north and west of
the city--which were in those days shaded slopes, that made suburban
Washington a vale of Tempe. In the streets they saw bedizened officers,
from commanders of armies down to presidential orderlies. In the Senate
and House they heard the voices of men afterward potent in
public councils.

What an exuberant, vagrant life it was! The blood warms and the nerves
tingle after the tensions and heats of a quarter of a century as those
days of sublime vagabondage come back. The melodious morning calls that
waked the sleepy, lusty young bodies; the echoing bugle and the abrupt
drum! And then the roll-call, in the misty morning when the sun, blear
and very red, rose as if blushing, or apoplectic after the night's
carouse! It was an army of poets--of Homers--that began the never
monotonous routine of these memorable days, for the incense of national
sympathy came faint but intoxicating to the soldier's nostrils in the
visits of great statesmen, the picnics of civilians, the copious
descriptive letters of correspondents and the daily scrawls from
far-away valleys, where fond eyes watched the sun rise, noted the stars,
to mark the special duties their darlings were doing in the watches of
the night. And then the mad music of cheers when the news came that the
young McClellan in West Virginia had scattered the adventurous columns
of Lee, capturing guns, men, and arms, and forever saving the great
Kanawha country to the Union! And in Kentucky the rebels had been
outmanoeuvred; while in Missouri the glorious Lyon and the crafty Blair
had, one in the Cabinet, the other in the camp, routed the secret,
black, and Janus-like rabble of treason and anarchy.

To feel that he was part of all this; that, at rest in the iron ring
girdling the capital, he was might in leash; that to-morrow he would be
vengeance let loose--this was the sustaining, exulting thought that made
the volunteer the best of soldiers. His heart was all in the glorious
ardor for action. Night and morning he looked proudly at the sacred
ensign waving lightly in the summer breeze, and he remembered that the
eyes of Washington had rested on the same standard at Valley Forge; that
the sullen battalions of Cornwallis had saluted it at Yorktown.

It was a beautiful ardor that filled the young hosts that waited in
leash on the green hills of the Potomac those months of turmoil, when
Scott and McDowell were straining the crude machinery of war to get
ready for the vital lunge. Jack and his Acredale squad, as the college
fellows were called, lived in a perpetual dream, from which the hard
realities of drill, now six hours a day, could not waken them. In days
of release they scoured the Maryland hills, secretly hoping that an
adventurous rebel picket might appear and give them occasion to return
to camp decked with preluding laurels. Mile after mile of the charming
woodland country they scoured, their hearts beating at the appearance of
any animate thing that for a brief, intoxicating moment they could
conjure into a rebel advance post. But, beyond wan and reticent yokels,
engaged in the primitive husbandry of this slave section, they never
encountered any one that could be counted overt enemies of the cause.
Money was plenty among these excursive groups, and they were welcomed in
Company K with effusive outbreaks by their less restive comrades.

As July wore on, the signs of movement grew. Regiments were moved away
mysteriously, and soon the Caribees were almost alone on Meridian Hill.
Jack was filled with dire fears that the commanding officer, having
discovered the incompetency of Oswald, feared to take the Caribees to
the front. Something of the rumor spread through the regiment, and if,
as reputed, "Old Sauerkraut" (this was the name he got behind his back)
had spies in all the companies, the adage about listeners was abundantly
confirmed. In the secrecy of Jack's tent, however, the subject was
freely discussed. Nick Marsh, the poet of the class, as became the
mystic tendencies of his tribe, was for poisoning the detested
Pomeranian--Oswald was a compatriot of Bismarck, often boasting, as the
then slowly emerging statesman became more widely known, that he lived
in his near neighborhood. Marsh's suggestion fell upon fruitful
perceptions. Bernard Moore--Barney, for short--was to be a physician,
and had already passed an apprenticeship in a pharmacy, coincident with
his college term in Jack's class.

"By the powers of mud and blood, Nick, dear, I have it!"

"Have what, Barney, me b'y?" Nick asked, mimicking Barney's quaintly
displaced vowels.

"Why, the way to get rid of Old Schnapps and Blitzen--more power to
me!"

"All the power you want, if you'll only do that; and your voice will be
as sweet as 'the harp that once in Tara's halls--'"

"Never moind the harp--Sassenach--here's what we can do. Tim Hussey is
Oswald's orderly; he and I are good friends. I know a preparation that
will turn the sauerkraut and sausages, that Oswald eats so much of, into
degluted fire and brimstone, warranted to keep him on the broad of his
back for ten days or a fortnight. Will ye all swear secrecy?"

"We will! We will!"

"On what?"

"On the double crown on your head," Jack answered, solemnly, "which you
have often told us was considered a sign that an angel had touched
you--I'm sure nothing could be more solemn than that. It isn't every
fellow that can get an angel to touch the top of his head."

"No; most fellows can consider themselves lucky if an angel touches
their lips--or heart," Barney cried, naïvely.

"Well, never mind that sort of angel now, Barney," Nick said, pettishly;
"I notice that you always bring up with something about the girls, no
matter what the subject we set off on. It's the jalap--isn't that what
it's called?--we want to hear about."

"There isn't enough poetry or sentiment in the two o' ye to fill a
wind-blown buttercup. No wonder ye don't care to talk of the
gurls--they'll have none of ye."

"We'll be satisfied if they'll have you, Barney. I'm sure that's
magnanimous. But if your jalap takes as much time in working Old
Schnapps as you take in explaining it, the war will be over, and we
shall have seen none of it."

"It's too great a conception to be hastily set forth. Give me time. I'll
lay a guinea that Oswald goes to the hospital before this day week. Let
us see. This is the 14th; before the 20th--" and Barney gave the barrel
of his gun, near him, a furtive wipe with his coat-sleeve.

"Barney, if you'll do that, I'll gather every four-leaved clover between
here and Richmond to give you; and, what's more, if I die I'll leave you
my bones to operate."

"Ah, Nick, dear, I'd rather have your little finger living than all the
possessions of your father's bank. If you were dead--" And honest Barney
seized the poet's hand sentimentally.

"Come, come, fellows, what sort of soldiering do you call this? You
remind me of two school-girls," Jack remonstrated, as in duty bound to
keep up the warrior spirit.

"Yer acquaintances among females being chiefly of the silly sort, it's
no wonder we remind you of the only things you can look back on without
blushing," Barney retorted; and a neighbor poking his head in the door
to learn the cause of the hilarity, the conspirators sallied out for a
jaunt until parade-time. Now, what means Barney employed, or whether he
had any handiwork in what befell, it does not fall to me to say, but
this is what happened: A market hawker came into camp the next morning
and went straight to the big marquee tent where Colonel Oswald stood, in
all the bravery of a new broadcloth uniform with spreading eagles on the
shoulders. The savory fumes of hot sauerkraut aroused the warrior from
his reveries, and he asked, in vociferous delight:

_"Was haben sie? Kohlen, nicht wahr--sauerkraut--das is aber schon?"_

"Yes, mein golonel, I hof cabbage und sauerkraut und"--looking about
circumspectly--"_etwas schnapps aus Antwerpen gebracht?"_

The "golonel's" eyes glistened and he made a motion for the vender to go
to the rear of the marquee. Passing through from the front, he met him
at the rear, and the bargain was hastily concluded, Marsh secreting
three portly bottles in his chest, and turning the edibles over to
Hussey to store in the larder. There had been a good deal of uneasiness
in camp over rumors of cholera, yellow fever, and other dismal
epidemics. When, therefore, the evening after the colonel's purchase the
regimental surgeon was summoned in alarm, it was instantly believed in
the regiment that "Old Sauerkraut" was stricken with cholera. He at
first suffered hideous pains in the stomachic regions. This was followed
by a raging thirst, and, unknown to the physician, the three bottles of
schnapps were quite emptied. On the fourth day the poor man, very
woe-begone, but now suffering no pain, was carried to the hospital, and
the next day, as the campaign was about to begin, he was sent North, to
leave room near the field for those who should be wounded in the coming
engagement.

Company K was drilling on the wide plateau between the camp and the
highway when the ambulance bearing the afflicted officer came slowly
over the road worn through the greensward. Hussey sat solemnly on the
seat with the driver, and as the vehicle reached the company, standing
at rest, Barney Moore in the rear rank spoke up:

"Tim, is the poor colonel no better?"

"Divil a betther; it's worse he's intirely. God be good till 'im!"

Neither Jack nor Nick Marsh dared trust himself to meet the other's eyes
as the helpless chief disappeared down the hillside, while Barney
entered into an exhaustive treatise on the symptoms of cholera and the
liability of the most robust to meet sudden disaster in this malarious
upland, circumvailated by ages of decaying matter in the damp swamps on
every hand. But when, an hour later, Company K's whole street was
aroused by peal on peal of Abderian laughter, Jack and Nick were found
helpless in their bunks, and Barney was engaged in presenting a potion
to settle their collapsed nerves!

"Well, haven't I won the guinea, now? It cost me just twice that. If
ye's have a spark of honor ye'll pay your just dues, so ye will," Barney
said, in the evening, returning from parade, where Lieutenant-Colonel
Grandison officiated as commander, to the unconcealed delight of all but
the Oswald parasites among the officers.

"Don't say a word, Barney--to whom the medicos of mythology and all the
wizards of antique story are clowns and mountebanks--you shall have the
guinea or its equivalent."

"Twenty-one shillings gold, bear in mind. Yer father's a banker, ye
ought to know that!"

"I do. You shall have the twenty-one shillings in the shinplasters of
the republic."

The colonel had been routed none too soon. The very next morning, when
the Caribees "fell in" for roll-call, the orderly received a paper from
the commander's orderly which read, "Tents to be struck at twelve
o'clock and the men ready to march, with ten days' rations."

At last! All the future, glowing with heroism, exciting with the march,
the attack, the battle--ah! what after? With something of joy and regret
the comely tents, that had given them home and harbor, were taken down,
folded in precise line, and carried away for storage--for in the field
the ranks were to bivouac in the open air. Such gayety; such jokes; such
bravado; and augury of the to be! And the rumors! Telephones, had they
been invented; stenographers, had they been present in legion, could not
have kept track of the momentous tales that were instantly bruited
about. General Scott was going to lead the army in person. His charger
had been seen before the headquarters. The rebels were going to be
swooped up by another such famous dash as the flank march from Vera Cruz
to the plateau of Mexico! Then came a numbing fear that Beauregard's
bragging host had fled, and that the movement would turn out a tedious
stern chase to Richmond. In the agony of all this Jack, returning from a
"detail" to the quartermaster's tent, heard his name shouted where his
tent had been. He hurried to the spot and Nick saluted him with
the cry--

"Here, Jack, are two recruits who declare they must enter Company K."

His gun was on his arm and his knapsack on his back, but only the
realization that a score of eyes were upon him saved Jack from dropping
limply on the ground, as, looking in the group, he saw Dick Perley and
Tom Twigg grinning ingratiatingly at him.

"Where--how in the name of all that's sacred did you get here?" he
gasped.

"Why, we enlisted for drummers in the Caribees, but the recruiting
officer told us as we were eighteen we could carry muskets if we wanted
to. We do want to, and we're going to come into Company K."

They looked him confidently in the face as Dick repeated this evidently
long-practiced explanation. It would not do to take them to task before
the company. Jack waited until the rest were scattered, and then,
leading the boys aside, said, sternly:

"Don't you know you can be put in prison for this? You have run away
from your parents and guardians. No one had a lawful right to enlist
you. I shall send for the provost marshal and have you put in prison
until your parents can come and get your enlistment annulled."

Appalled by Jack's stern manner as much as by his words, the two lads
began to whimper and expostulate tearfully. They had trusted to his
ancient friendship. They could have gone into any other regiment, but
they had enlisted to be with him. Whatever happened, they were soldiers,
and, if Tom Twigg wasn't eighteen until September, it was perfectly
lawful for him to enlist as a drummer. Perley was eighteen in April
last, and he was a soldier in spite of all that Jack could do. Jack was
deeply perplexed. What could be done? If he attempted to put the
machinery of reclamation in order, the boys would be subjected to all
sorts of vicissitudes, prisons, everything distressing and demoralizing
to tender youth.

"Do they know at home what you have done?" Jack asked, doubtingly.

"Yes," Dick said, noting with boyish quickness the indecision in Jack's
troubled face. "I sent a letter to Aunt Pliny, from New York, telling
her we were soldiers, and that we were happy and well."

"You impudent young scamp--to write that to your best friend! Don't you
know it will kill her?"

Dick had no answer for this, and looked perplexedly at Tom, who was lost
in admiration of a neighboring group engaged in athletic exercises. He
felt rather than heard the question put by the Mentor, and observing
Dick's discomfiture, stammered:

"It didn't kill your mother when you went for a soldier, I guess."

The astute young rascal had hit upon the weak place, and Jack stood in
anxious doubt wondering what to do. An aide that he recognized from
division headquarters rode past at the moment and Jack turned to watch
him. He leaped from his horse at the colonel's tent. Jack again looked
at the boys. They were lost in delight at the scene and oblivious of the
debate going on in their guardian's mind.

"Stay here till I come back," he said, authoritatively, and strode off
to Grandison's tent. As he reached it the major, McGoyle, was entering,
and Jack waited until that officer should come out. He came presently,
and Colonel Grandison with him. Jack saluted, and stated his dilemma to
the commander, who listened with amused interest.

"I don't see that anything can be done now, Jack. I'm just about leaving
the regiment. I have been assigned to General Tyler's staff during the
campaign. McGoyle takes command of the regiment. He will need orderlies,
and the boys can serve with him until we can get time to look into the
business. I will settle the matter with him, and if you will write a
telegram to the lad's family I will have it sent as I go to
headquarters."

Jack's relief and gratitude were best seen in the brightening eye and
the more buoyant movement that succeeded the heaviness and agitation of
his first impression. The boys' coming would weigh upon him every minute
until he was in some sort relieved of even passive complicity. He would
feel that the kind-hearted "Pearls," as the aunts were often called,
would look upon him as having led the truants into the army. But
Grandison's interposition had shifted from him a weighty anxiety. The
boys would not be left friendless and irresponsible in the turbulent
streets of Washington. Nor would they, as orderlies, be in continuous or
inextricable danger in battle--for whereas the soldier in the line must
keep in ranks even when not in actual battle, with the enemy's missiles
as destructive as in the charge or combat, the orderlies may take
advantage of the inequalities of ground and natural objects. Jack
explained something of this to the young Marlboroughs, and was fairly
irritated at the crest-fallen look that came into their eager, shining
faces when they comprehended that they were not to be with their hero.

"But you couldn't be in the company in any event. You look more like
rebels than soldiers, with your gray jackets and trousers"--for the boys
still wore their Acredale uniform, an imitation of the West Point
cadet's costume. "We shall be on the march in a few minutes, and there
is only one of two things to be done. Remain here in the 'unassigned'
camp, where you may be transferred into any regiment in the service that
needs recruits; or go, as Colonel Grandison has very kindly consented to
have you, as orderlies or clerks."

The very possibility of being sent into some unknown regiment was a
terror so great that the other alternative became less odious to the
boys, and they trotted after Jack, as he stalked moody and distracted to
Major Mike McGoyle's tent, now the only habitable spot left where a few
hours before a symmetrical little city had stood.

"And so ye want to be solgers, me foine b'yes? Well, well, 'tis litter
for yer mothers' knees ye are, with yer rosy cheeks and curling locks.
It's a poor place here for yer bright oies and soft hands, me lads; but
I'm not the wan to throw the dish after th' milk when it's spilt!"

He stroked the bared heads of the blushing lads, and, turning to their
unhappy sponsor, he added with official brevity: "I will put Twiggs's
son at me papers in the adjutant's office. Young Pearley can remain with
your company until I make out a detail for him."

It was impossible for Jack to sustain the _rôle_ of frowning displeasure
as Dick skipped back with him to the company. He remembered his own
delight three months before, even with the haunting thoughts of his
mother's reproaches to dampen his ardor, and he was soon dazzling the
neophyte with the wonders that were just about to begin.

It was the afternoon of the 16th of July, and the hillsides, which the
day before were covered with tents as far as the eye could see on every
hand, were now blue with masses of men, while other masses had been
passing on the red highways since early morning, taking the direction of
the Potomac bridges.



CHAPTER VIII.

AN ARMY WITH BANNERS.


It has always seemed to me that the life, the routine, the many small
haps in the daily function of a soldier, which in sum made up to him all
that there was in the _devoir_ of death, ought to be read with interest
by the millions whose kin were part of the civil war, as well as by
those who knew of it only as we know Napoleon's wars or Washington's.
For my part, I would find a livelier pleasure in the diary of a common
soldier, in any of the great wars, than I do in the confusing pamphlets,
bound in volumes called history. I like to read of war as our Uncle Toby
related it. I like to know what two observing eyes saw and the feelings
that sometimes made the timidest heroes--sometimes cravens.

For a month--yes, months--the burden of the press, the prayers of the
North, had been, "On to Richmond!" Jack, through Colonel Grandison, knew
that General McDowell and the commander-in-chief, the venerable soldier
Scott, had pleaded and protested against a move until the new levies
under the three-months' call could be drilled and disciplined. But on
the Fourth of July Congress had assembled, and the raw statesmen--with
an eye to future elections--took up the public clamor. They gave the
Cabinet, the President, no peace until General Scott and McDowell had
given way and promised the pending movement.

"Our soldiers are so green that I shall move with fear," McDowell said
to the President.

"Well, they" (meaning the rebels) "are green too, and one greenness will
offset the other," Lincoln responded with kindly malice. It was useless
to argue further; useless to point out that the rebels were not so
"green," for the young men of the semi-aristocratic society of the South
were trained to arms, whereas it was a mark of lawlessness and vulgarity
to carry arms in the Puritan ranks of the North. Something of the
unreadiness of the army, every reflecting soldier in the ranks
comprehended, when he saw within the precincts of his own brigades the
hap hazard conduct of the quartermaster's and staff departments. Some
regiments had raw flour dealt them for rations and no bake-ovens to turn
it into bread; some regiments had abundance of bread, but no coffee or
meat rations. As to vegetables--beans, or anything of the sort--if the
pockets of the soldiers had not been well supplied from home, the army
that set out for Manassas would have been eaten with scurvy and the skin
diseases that come from unseasoned food.

Now, at the very moment the legions were stripped for the march, many of
them were without proper ammunition. Various arms were in use, and the
same cartridge did not lit them all. Eager groups could be seen all
through the brigades filing down the leaden end of the cartridge to make
their weapons effective, until a proper supply could be obtained. This
was promised at Fairfax Station, or Centreville, where the army's
supplies were to be sent. So, in spite of the high hopes and feverish
unrest for the forward movement, there was a good deal of sober
foreboding among the men, who held to the American right to criticise as
the Briton maintains his right to grumble. For the soldier in camp or on
the march is as garrulous as a tea gossip, and no problem in war or
statecraft is too complex or sacred for him to attempt the solution. Of
the thirty thousand men leaving the banks of the Potomac that 16th of
July there were, at a low estimate, ten thousand who believed themselves
as fitted to command as the chieftains who led them.

By two o'clock the Caribees were in the line that had been passing
city-ward since daylight. The sun had baked the sticky clay into
brick-like hardness, and the hours of trampling, the tread of heavy
teams, and the still heavier artillery, had filled the air with an
opaque atmosphere of reddish powder, through which the masses passed in
almost spectral vagueness. The city crowds, usually alert, when great
masses of men moved, were discouraged by heat and dust, and the streets
were quite given over to the military. Eager as Jack and his friends
were to note the impression the march made upon the civilians, most of
whom were thought to be secretly in sympathy with the rebellion, it was
impossible to even catch sight of any but soldiers. Pennsylvania Avenue,
when they reached it, was a billowy channel of impalpable powder. But at
the Long Bridge the breeze from the wide channel of the river cleared
the clouds of dust, and the men, catching glimpses of each other, broke
into jocose banter. On the bridge they looked eagerly down the river,
where the low roofs of Alexandria were visible, and upward on the
Virginia shore where the gleaming walls of Arlington recalled to Jack
far different times and scenes.

"Now we're in Jeff Davis's land," Barney called out from one of the rear
files, as the company reached midway in the bridge.

"Not by a long shot," Nick Marsh cried. "Davis's land begins and ends
within cannon-shot of himself. He is like the Duke of Saxe-Meiningen--he
has to beg his neighbor's permission to hold battalion drill."

"He isn't so polite as the duke; he takes it without asking," Barney
retorts.

"But now we are on the 'sacred soil,'" Jack cries, as the company
debouched from the bridge up the steep, narrow road that seemed to be
taking them to Arlington. In spite of the burning heat and the
exhaustion of the three hours' march, the scene was, or rather the
imagination of the men, invested each step with a sort of awe. They were
at last in the enemy's territory. It had been held by the Union forces,
only by dint of large numbers and strong fortifications. There wasn't a
man in the company that didn't resent the fact, constantly obtruding
itself on the ranks as they marched eagerly onward by every knoll, every
bush in the landscape, that Union soldiers had been there before them!
that their devouring eyes were not the first to mark these
historic spots.

Tired as they were and burdensome as the heavy knapsacks and still
heavier ammunition had become, they heard an aide give the order to
bivouac with chagrin! They so longed to put undebatable ground behind
them and really be where the distant coppice might be a curtain to the
enemy! The Caribees marked with indignant surprise that, when they had
turned into a field about seven o'clock, the long line following them
pushed onward until far into the night, and they envied the contiguity
this would give the lucky laggards to first see and engage the enemy!
But they turned-to very merrily, in this first night of real soldiering.
They were "in the field." All the parade part of military life was now
relaxed. The hot little dress coats were left behind; there was no
display. Even guard-mount was reduced to the simplest possible form.

With one impulse all the men--that is, all who had been alert enough to
provide pen and paper--bestowed themselves about the candles allotted
each group, and began letters "home," dated magniloquently "Headquarters
in the Field. Tyler's Division, Sherman's Brigade, 16th July, 1861." The
imperial impulse manifested itself in these curt epistles. I can't
resist giving Jack's:

"Dear Mother: How I wish you and Polly could see us now! We are really
on the march at last. The battle can't be far off. We are not many miles
from the enemy, and, if he stands, what glorious news you will hear very
soon! I wish you could have seen us to-day. Colonel Sherman, who is the
sternest looking man I ever saw, a regular army officer, once a
professor, told the major--you know McGoyle is commanding us now--he is
a brick--Sherman told him that the Caribees did as good marching as the
regulars, who came behind us. Dear old Mick, with his brogue and his
blarney, has won every heart in the regiment, and you may be sure we
shall see the whites of the enemy's eyes under him, which we never
should have done under that odious Hessian, Oswald--in hospital now,
thank Heaven--though some time, when I tell you the story, you will see
that in this, as in most other things, Heaven helps those who help
themselves. Taps will sound in five minutes, and I can only add that I
am in good health, glorious spirits, and unshaken confidence that we
shall return to Acredale before your longing to see your son overcomes
your love of glory. We shall return victors, if not heroes--at least I
know that you and Polly will believe this of your affectionate and
dutiful son

"JACK."

Barney read one or two phrases of his composition to the indulgent ear
of Jack and the poet, over which they laughed a good deal. "We are," he
said, "before the enemy. I feel as our great ancestor, Baron Moore, felt
at Fontenoy when the Sassenachs were over against the French lines--as
if all the blood in Munster was in my veins and I wanted to spill it on
the villains ferninst us."

The poet declined to quote from his epistle, and the three friends sat
in the dim light until midnight, wondering over what the morrow had in
store. Dick Perley listened in awe to Jack's wonderful ratiocinations on
what was to come--secretly believing him much more learned in war than
this General McDowell who was commanding the army. The first bugle
sounded at three in the morning in the Caribees' camp, and when the
coffee had been hastily dispatched, the men began to understand the
cause of their being shunted into the field so early the evening before
while the rear of the column marched ahead of them. The Caribees passed
a mile or more of encampments, the men not yet aroused, and when at
daylight the whole body was in motion they were in advance, with nothing
before them but a few hundred cavalry.

A delirious expectation, a rapturous sense of holding the post of
danger, kept every sense in such a thrill of anticipation that the hours
passed like minutes. The dusty roads, the intolerable thirst, and the
nauseous, tepid water, the blistered feet, the abraded hips, where the
cartridge-box began to wear the flesh--all these woes of the march were
ignored in the one impulse to see the ground ahead, to note the first
sight of the enemy. It was not until four o'clock in the afternoon that
the column was halted, and two companies, K and H, were marched out of
the column and formed in platoons across the line of march, that the
regiment learned with mortification that hitherto the route had been
inside the Union lines! They soon saw the difference in the tactics of
the march. The company was spread out in groups of four; these again
were separated by a few yards, and in this order, sweeping like a
drag-net, they advanced over the dry fields, through the clustering
pines or into cultivated acres, and through great farm-yards.

Back of them the long column came, slowly winding over the sandy highway
which curved through the undulating land. Here and there the
skirmishers--for that was the office the two companies were now
filling--came upon signs of picket-posts; and once, as Jack hurried
beyond his group to the thicket, near a wretched cabin, a horse and
rider were visible tearing through the foliage of a winding lane. He
drew up his musket in prompt recognition of his duty, but he saw with
mortification that the horse and rider continued unharmed. Other shots
from the skirmish-line followed, but Jack's rebel was the only enemy
seen, when, in the early dusk, an orderly from the main column brought
the command to set pickets and bivouac for the night. Jack would have
written with better grounds for his solemnity if he had waited until
this evening; but now there was no chance.

The companies were the extreme advance of the army; nothing between them
and the enemy but detached pickets of cavalry, at long distances apart,
to fly back with the report of the least signs made by the rebels. These
meager groups were forbidden fires, or any evidence of their presence
that might guide hostile movement, and the infantry outposts felt that
they were really the guardians of the sleeping thousands a mile or so
behind them. No one minded the cold water and hard bread which for the
first time formed the company's fare that night. Like the cavalry, fire
was forbidden them. They formed little groups in the rear of the outer
line of pickets, discussing with animation--even levity--the likelihood
of an engagement the next day. It was the general opinion that if
Beauregard meant to fight he would have made a stand at some of the
excellent points of vantage that had been encountered in the day's
march. Jack smiled wisely over these amateur guesses, and quite abashed
the rest when he said:

"Beauregard is no fool. His army is massed near the point that he is
guarding--Manassas Junction. You seem to think that war is a game of
chance, armies fighting just where they happen to meet each other. Not
at all. Our business is to march to Richmond; Beauregard's business is
to prevent us. To do this he must, first of all, keep his lines of
supply safe. An army without that is like a ship at sea without
food--the more of a crew, the worse the situation. Of course, Beauregard
had his skirmishers spread out in front of us, but, as there is no use
in killing until some end is to be gained, they have got out of our way.
If the spies that are in our ranks should send information that promised
to give the rebels a chance to get at a big body of our men, before the
whole army came up, you'd see a change of things very quick. We've got
fifty thousand men, or thereabout" (Jack was wrong; there were but
thirty thousand). "Now, these men are stretched back of us to
Washington, fifteen miles or more, because the artillery must be
guarded, and infantry only can do that. Now, suppose Beauregard finds
that there is a gap somewhere between the forces stretching back, and he
happens to have ten or fifteen thousand men handy? Why, he just swoops
down upon us, and, if we can't defend ourselves until the rest of the
army comes up, he has won what is called a tactical victory, and
endangered our strategy."

"Goodness, Jack, you ought to have been commander-in-chief! You talk war
like a book!" Barney cried, in mock admiration.

The war-talk went on late into the night, for the company, detached from
camp, was not obliged to follow the signals of the bugles that came in
melodious echoes over the fragrant fields. It was a thrilling sight as
the lone watchers peered backward. The June fields for miles were dotted
with blazing spires, as if the earth had opened to pour out columns of
flame, guiding the wanderers on their trying way. The sleep of the night
was desultory and fitful, excitement stimulating everybody to
wakefulness.



CHAPTER IX.

"THE ASSYRIAN CAME DOWN LIKE THE WOLF ON THE FOLD."


The next morning the march was resumed by daylight, the two companies
remaining on the skirmish-line. The country gradually became more rugged
as the route brought them near Centreville. There were no hills--a bare
but not bleak champaign, mostly without houses or farms, as the North
knows them. Sluggish brooks became more frequent, but none that were not
easily fordable. There were no landmarks to hold the mind to the scene,
nor, in case of battle, give the strategists points of vantage for the
iron game. About noon, the detached groups stalking a little negligently
now over the tedious plains, were startled by the unexpected.

On the green slope of a hill, a mile or more ahead, a score of little
puffs of white smoke were seen, then a sharp report, and, in some places
near by, the ground was broken as if by a thrust of a spear, and little
scraps of clay scattered over the greensward. Then the bugle sounded a
halt. A few minutes later the horsemen spread in a chain across the line
of march, rode swiftly to a common center, formed in a solid group,
turned to the rear and rode back of the skirmishers to the main body.
Company K watched them as they galloped back, and as they reached the
group at the head of the long line, a half-mile or so distant, a body of
men hastened forward laden with stretchers and hospital appliances. Ah!
at last! It is now real war. The bugle sounds Forward! and with an
elastic spring the groups of four push dauntlessly ahead. Their eyes are
fixed on the brow of the hill, separated from them by a narrow
depression.

The whole line--perhaps three miles wide--but, of course, not at all
regular, conforming largely to the difficulties encountered, moves down
the sloping bank on a run. Before they reach the bottom they are an
excellent target, and for the first time that most blood curdling of
sounds--the half-singing, half-hissing z-z-z-ip of the minie-ball--numbs
the ardor of the bravest. It is such a malignant, direct, devilish
admonition of murder; it comes so unexpectedly, no matter how well you
are prepared, that Achilles himself would feel a spasm of fear. And when
it strikes it does its work with such a venomous, exultant splutter,
that there seems something animate, demoniac in it. The volley, as I
said, came as the men were hurried down the hill by their own momentum
and by the sharp fall in the ground. The balls passed too high or too
low, but they impressed the fact on enthusiasts, who had longed for
battle, that one might die for one's country and not die gloriously. It
seemed such an ignoble, such a dastardly, outrageous thing, that death
could come to them from unseen hands, for as yet they had not seen a
soul. But now they are at the foot of the hill--though it is not correct
to so call it, for it was a long, winding valley, through which ran a
dancing streamlet, very welcome to the thirsty warriors when they had
succeeded in breaking through the vicious natural _chevaux de frise_ of
blackberry-briers and nettles. But now there wasn't much time to slake
thirst. The bullets had begun to come regularly; and suddenly, as Jack
conducted his squad across the stream, he was startled by the
exclamation, uttered rather in reverence, it seemed to him, than
surprise or pain:

"My God, I'm hit!"

Yes, a fair-haired lad--one of his class--tottered a second in a limp,
helpless way, and fell headlong, pitching into the little stream. Jack
ran and lifted him out; but even before the hospital corps came the boy
was dead. The bullet had gone quite through his heart.

However, now the first numbing terror of the bullet was changed to a
sort of revengeful delight. Relinquishing any return fire for a moment,
the company, with a great shout, that sounded all along its front,
dashed up the hill, through the scrub-oak at the brow, and then they
could see the enemy slowly retiring, a chain of them a mile or more
wide. While one of the rebel ranks fired the other knelt, or lay flat
upon the ground loading, where there were no natural obstacles to take
shelter behind. A vengeful shout ran along the Union lines.

"Capture them--don't fire!" and with one impulse the groups lied forward
so swiftly that the enemy, believing the rush only momentary, delayed
too long, and in two minutes the Union line was pell-mell among them.

"Surrender!" Jack shouted to the squad just ahead of him--"surrender, or
we'll blow your heads off!" and along the line for some distance to his
left and right he could hear his own exultant demand echoed. There was
nothing to do for the rebels, who had neglected to keep their enemies at
the proper distance, but throw up their hands. Jack's squad sent back
twenty-three prisoners to Major Mike, who took them in proud triumph to
General Tyler, riding with the head of the column, now that the tenacity
of the rebel skirmishers made it seem probable that there would be
serious work. But though the firing kept up as the Union forces
advanced, no obstacle more, serious than the thin lines of the
skirmishers revealed itself.

At dusk the bugles, moving with the captains in the rear, sounded the
rally, and then the scattered groups came together in company. They were
to bivouac on the spot to await their regiment when it arrived.
Meanwhile, to the bitter discontent of the Caribee companies, their post
of honor was taken by new troops, and they knew that next day they would
march in line. They had so enjoyed the glory of the first volleys, the
first deaths, and the first prisoners, that, not remembering military
procedure, they resented the change as an aspersion upon their valor.

When the regiment came up, however, they forgot their mortification in
the eager questioning and envious jocularities of the rest. Companies K
and H were so beset that they forgot to boil their coffee, and would
have gone thirsty to their dewy beds, if the other companies' cooks had
not shared their rations with the gossiping heroes. As darkness fell,
the sky was reddened for miles with pillars of fire, and for a time the
Caribees thought it was the enemy. But Tom Twigg, who had been with the
major at headquarters, explained to Jack that the army was divided into
three bodies of about ten thousand men each, and that Tyler's column, of
which the Caribees were the advance, were the extreme northern body;
that they were now at Vienna, far north of Manassas, where Schenck had
been beset a month before in his never-enough-ridiculed reconnaissance
by train; that in the morning they were to push on to Fairfax
Court-House and thence to Centreville, where the army was to come
together for the blow at the rebels. Jack and his friends were a good
deal chagrined to learn that they were not as near the enemy as the
column to the south of them, whose fires had been mistaken for
Beauregard's. Though the levée came to an end at "taps," no one felt
sleepy, and the excitement banished the pains of fatigue. Major Mike,
sauntering through the dark lines near midnight, heard the tale still
going on in drowsy monotone, but, good-naturedly, made no sign.

Though not given the skirmish-line next day--the 17th--Jack was
delighted to find that the Caribees led all the rest. With them rode the
commander of the brigade, Colonel Sherman, whom the soldiers thought a
very crabbed and "grumpy" sort of a fellow. His red hair bristled
straight up and out when he took his slouch hat off, as he did very
often, for the heat was intolerable. His eyes had a merry twinkle,
however, that won the hearts of the lads as he rode by, scrupulously
striking into the fields to save the panting and heavily laden line
every extra step he could. Often, in after-days--when Sherman had become
the Turenne of the armies--Jack, who was often heard to brag of his gift
of detecting greatness, used to turn very red in the face when he was
reminded of a saying of his on that hot July day:

"That chap is too lean and hungry to have much stomach for a fight; he
looks better fitted for wielding the ferule than the sword. Schoolmaster
is written in every line of his face and stamped in his
pedagogue manner."

The march that day was south by a little west, and about nine o'clock a
cool morning breeze lifted the clouds of dust far enough above the
horizon to reveal the distant blue of the mountains. The whole line
seemed to come to a pause in the enchanting, mirage-like spectacle. "The
Shenandoah," Jack said, mopping the dust, or rather the thin coating of
mud, from his face and brow, for the perspiration, oozing at every pore,
naturally covered the exposed skin with an unpremeditated cosmetic. The
march to Fairfax Court-House, for which judicial temple the curious
soldier looked in vain, was but eight miles from the point of departure
in the morning, but it was two o'clock in the afternoon when the
Caribees passed the hamlet, turning sharply to the right. They marched
up the deep cut of projected railway, where, for a time, they were
shaded from the sun by the high banks. But, emerging presently on the
Warrenton pike, they saw evidences that other columns--whether friends
or foes they couldn't tell--had recently preceded them. Scores of the
raw and overworked were breaking down now every hour.

The dust and heat were insupportable. Whenever the march came near
water, all thought of discipline was forgotten, and the panting,
miner-like hosts broke for the inviting stream. The officers were
powerless to enforce discipline; when these breaks happened the column
was forced to come to a halt until every man had filled his canteen--and
here is one, among the many trivial causes, that brought about the
reverses of McDowell's masterly campaign. A march that ought to have
been made in twenty-four hours, or thirty at the utmost, took more than
three days! One of those days saved to the army would have enabled
McDowell to finish Beauregard before the ten thousand re-enforcements
from the Shenandoah came upon his flank at Bull Run. But we shall see
that in proper time, for there is nothing more dramatically timely, or
untimely, than this incident in the history of battles, unless it be
Blücher's miraculous appearance at Waterloo, when Napoleon supposed that
Grouchy was pummeling him twenty miles away.

There was no provost guard to spur on the stragglers; and when, late in
the afternoon, the way-worn columns spread themselves on the western
slope of the hamlet of Centreville, at least a third of each regiment
was far in the rear. Nearly every man had, in the heat and burden of the
march, thrown away the provisions in his haversack, and that night ten
thousand men lay down supperless on the grateful greensward, happy to
rest and sleep. Mother Earth must have ministered to the weary flesh,
for at sunrise, when the music of the bugles aroused them, they started
up with the alert vivacity of old campaigners. Provisions, that should
have been with the column the night before, arrived in the morning.
While the reinvigorated ranks were at coffee, there was a great clatter
in the rear, and presently a _cortége_ of mounted officers appeared,
General McDowell among them. Dick Perley, who was at the brigade
headquarters, with Grandison, came to the Caribees presently with
great news.

The battle was to begin that very day. General Tyler was to go forward
to a river called Bull Run, where Beauregard was waiting. The whole army
was to spread out like a fan and fight him. He had seen the map on the
table, and the place couldn't be more than four miles away. Yes, they
all looked eagerly to the westward now. The mountains in the distance
rolled themselves down into lower and lower ridges, and just about four
miles ahead could be seen a range that seemed to melt into a wide
plateau fringed deeply with scrub-oak and clusters of pine. Jack had
provided himself with a field-glass. Standing in the middle of the
Warrenton pike, a fine highway, that ran downward as solid as a Roman
causeway, for four or five miles, he could see the break made by the
Bull Run River, and--yes, by the glaive of battle!--he could see the
glistening of bayonets now and then, where the screen of woods
grew thinner.

The general, too, was examining the distant lines, and Jack took it as a
good omen that Sherman grew jocose and appeared to be making merry with
Tyler, whose face looked troubled, now that the decisive moment seemed
at hand. But the day passed, and there was no advance. It was not until
late in the evening that the cause became known. The army had been
waiting for supplies, ammunition, and what not, that should have been on
the field the day before. The Caribees were made frantic, too, by what
seemed a battle going on to the south of them, a few miles to the left.
The camp that night was a grand debating society, every man propounding
a theory of strategy that would have edified General McDowell, no doubt,
if he could have been given a _précis_ of the whole. How such things
become known it is difficult to guess, but every man in the columns knew
that the general had planned to put forward his thirty thousand men in
the form of a half-moon, covering about ten miles from tip to tip. The
right or northward horn was to be considerably thicker and of more body
than the left or southern. When the time came this right was to curve in
like a hook and cut the ground out from the left wing of the rebel army.

This is the homely way these unscientific strategists made the movement
known to each other, and it very aptly describes the formulated plan of
battle, save that, of course, there were gaps between the forces here
and there along this human crescent. Long before daylight Sherman's
brigade, with a battery of guns and a squadron of cavalry, set out due
south, leaving the broad Warrenton pike far to their right hand. Such a
country as the march led into, no one had ever seen in the North outside
of mountain regions--deep gullies; wastes of gnarled and aggressive
oaks, that tore clothes and flesh in the passage; sudden hillocks rising
conical and inconsequent every few rods; deep chasms conducting driblets
of water; morasses covered with dark and stagnant pools, where the
pioneers fairly picked their steps among squirming reptiles. A stream,
sometimes large as a river, crawling languidly through deep fissures in
the red shale, protected the left flank of the column. The cavalry was
forced to hold the narrow wood road, as the bush was hardly passable
for men.

"Hi, Jack!" Barney cries, catching his breath at the edge of a muddy
stream, "what sort of a place must the rebels be in if they let us
promenade through such a jungle as this unopposed?"

"I have been thinking of that," Jack replies. And so had every man in
the expedition--for to think was one of the drawbacks as well as one of
the excellences of the soldier in the civil war. But presently, after
five hours of laborious work, a halt is called. The men dive into their
haversacks, and even the brackish water in the nearest sedge pond has a
flavor of nectar and the invigoration of a tonic. On they tear again,
the whole body pushing on in skirmish-like dispersion. Suddenly the land
changes. They are climbing a rolling table-land, cleared in some places
as though the axe of the settler had been at work. The march is now
easier and the picket-lines are strengthened. Then a sharp volley comes,
as if from the tree-tops.

The march is instantly halted. The mass, moving in a column, is
deployed--that is, stretched out to cover a mile or more as it moves
forward; the cavalry divides and rides far to right and left, to see
that no ambush is set to enable the rebels to sneak in behind the vast
human broom, as it sweeps through the solemn aisles of the pines, now
rising in vernal columns thicker and thicker. The firing is going on now
in scattering volleys, and soon the wounded--a dozen or more--are
carried back through the silent ranks. Joking has now ceased. Lips are
compressed; eyes glitter, and the men avoid meeting each other's gaze.
It is the moment of all moments, the most trying to the soldier, when he
is expecting every instant a hurricane of bullets, and yet sees no one
to avenge his anguish on or forestall in the deadly work. But they have
been moving forward all the time, the hurtling bullets sweeping through
the leafy covering, now and then thumping into the soft pine with a
vicious joyousness, as if to say to each man, "The next is for you, see
how well our work is done." For these hideous missiles have a language
of their own, as every man that stood fire can tell. The skirmishers are
now all drawn in. The solid line must do the work at hand. No one but
the commander and his confidants knew the work intended, save that to
kill and be killed was the business to be done. The panting lines are on
high cleared ground now, and they can see absolutely nothing but the
irregular depressions that mark the channel of the Bull Run, as it
rushes down to the Rappahannock. The line is moving along steadily.
Looking to left and right, Jack can see the colors of three regiments,
and his eye rests with pleasure on the bright, shining folds of the
Caribees' dark-blue State flag spread to the breeze beside the stars of
the Union. Are they to cross the river? Evidently, for the command is
still "Forward, bear center, bear right." Then, square in front, where
the thick, broad leaves of the oak glitter in the sun, there is seen a
cylinder of steam-like smoke, with fiery gleams at the end, a crackling
explosion of a hogshead of fire-crackers, then a rushing, screaming
sound in their very faces, then a few rods behind a ringing, vicious
explosion. They are in the very teeth of a masked battery. The Union
skirmishers have been withdrawn too soon. The main line will be torn to
pieces, for retreat is as fatal as advance.

"Lie down, men!" The command rings out and is echoed along the column.
The guns have the range, and the enemy knows the ground. The Caribees
are directly in the sweep of the artillery, and the command comes to
them by company to crawl backward, exposing themselves as little as may
be. Presently two brass guns are brought up behind the Caribees. The
gunners have noted the point of the enemy's fire. The men point the big
muzzles with intrepid equanimity, firing over the prostrate blue coats.
For twenty minutes, perhaps half an hour, this is kept up; then there is
silence on the hill beyond. The column rises to its feet, and at the
command, "Forward!" they start with a rush and a cheer. Five hundred
yards onward, and a solid mass of gray coats confront them. A volley is
fired and returned; the exulting Caribees, with two lines behind them,
give a loud cheer and, in an instant, the gray mass has disappeared, as
if the earth had opened. The skirmish-line, advancing now, picks up a
half-dozen or more wounded rebels, besides two or three who had become
confused in the hasty retreat and run toward the "Yankees" instead of
their own line. Jack's comrade held this conversation with one of the
prisoners:

"I say, reb, what place is this?"

"Mitchell's Ford."

"Much of your army here?"

"'Nuff to lick you uns out of your boots, I reckon."

"What did they run across the ford for, then?"

"Oh, you'll see soon enough--when our folks get ready."

"Who's in command here?"

"General Bonham, of South Carolina."

"How many men, about?"

"Well, there's right smart on to a million, I reckon. They had to cut
the trees down, yonder, to get room for 'em.".

The man's eyes twinkled as he gave this precise approximation; but
Barney, who had brought the humorist in, whispered to the captain to let
him have a moment's speech with the man before he was sent away. The
captain nodded, and Barney said innocently:

"Had anything to eat to-day?"

"Not a mouthful. The trains were all taken up with soldiers coming from
Richmond."

"Have a bit of beef--and here's a cracker or two. You can have some
coffee if the guards will let you make it."

"Old Longstreet himself would envy me now," the rebel cried, his mouth
stuffed with the cold meat and hard-tack, almost as fresh and crisp as
soda-crackers, for the contractors had not yet learned the trick of
making them out of sawdust, white sand, and other inexpensive
substitutes for flour.

"Longstreet?" Barney said, carelessly.

"Yes, that's the commander of the right wing, just below, at Blackburn's
Ford."

"Blackburn's Ford?"

"Yes, that's a mile down, and really behind you uns, for the run makes a
big elbow to the east. I tell you what it is, Yank, you'll see snakes
right soon, for our folks are behind you."

Sure enough, a crackling to the left confirmed this, and the captain,
who had listened to Barney's adroit cross-questioning, sent the man with
a note to Colonel Sherman, a few rods in the rear. Ten minutes later the
column fell into ranks again and moved off swiftly southeastward. A
march of a mile or so brought them to a bold ridge cutting down almost
aslant to the clear water of the run. The skirmishers, for some reason,
had not pushed ahead to explore the ground, and the regiments, marching
in close masses, came out in a rather disorderly multitude on the ridged
crest. A hundred yards nearly below the water-course was fringed with
thick copses of oak, and the gently ascending slopes on the western bank
were completely hidden from the Union lines. A few gaunt, almost
limbless trees rose up spectrally on the ridge, offering the compact
masses neither shelter from the sun nor security from the enemy--if
there were an enemy near.

Dick came up to Jack out of breath with great news, just as the Caribees
were aligning themselves to move forward.

"General Tyler just told Richardson"--a brigade commander--"that the
rebels had retreated from Manassas, and he (Tyler) is going to have the
glory of occupying the works: that McDowell thought the army would have
to fight a big battle to get--"

"Glory!" the group shouted, near enough to hear; and the delightful
story ran up and down the lines by a telephone process that was much
swifter than Edison's electric invention. A roar of gratulatory triumph
broke--a roar so loud and inspiring that for a moment the densely packed
masses did not distinguish an ear-splitting outburst just in front of
them. But on the instant piercing shrieks among the huddled
cheerers--cries of death and agony--changed the paeans of triumph into
wails of anguish and mortal pain. A panic--instant, unreasoning,
irresistible--fell upon the mass, a breath before so confident. A third
of the regiment seemed to wither away. The colors fell in the struggling
group in the center. Hoarse shouts, indistinguishable and ominous, could
be vaguely heard from the staff and line.

Direr still, hideous clamor of masked cannon, right in their very faces,
added the horror of surprise to the disorder of attack, and the thick
blue lines broke in irrestrainable confusion. The terror of the unknown
seized officers and men alike. In five minutes the crest was cleared,
and the ignoble vanity, ignorance, and self-sufficiency of one man had
undone in an hour the splendid work of the commander-in-chief. A _mêlée_
of miserable, disgraceful disorder ensued. The rebel sharpshooters,
hurrying to the flank, poured in hurtling, murderous volleys, filling
the minds of the panic-stricken mob with the idea, the most awful that
can enter a soldier's mind, that his line is surrounded. Hundreds threw
away guns and everything that could impede flight. Other hundreds fired
wildly wherever they saw moving men, and thus aided the rebels in
killing their own comrades, for it was into the supporting Union forces
they directed their random shots. The fire grew every instant more
bewildering. Shots came in volleys from every direction, and the
helpless hordes darted wildly together--sometimes toward, instead of
from the enemy. Had the rebels been as numerous as they were crafty, the
brigade could have been seized _en masse_. But now Sherman is at hand
with fresh regiments, others are at his heels, and the contest takes on
some of the order of intelligent action. The rebels, too, are
re-enforced, but the dispositions made by the Union chiefs bring the
combat to equal terms. The clamor of cannon and musketry continues an
hour, though the lines are now among the friendly undergrowth, and the
losses are not serious. But the Caribees, with the regiment supporting
them, have been blotted from the scene as a factor. For hours the
scattering groups fled--fled in ever-increasing panic, and it was long
after dark before the remnants of the regiment came into camp at
Centreville.

Poor Jack! He gave no heed to supper that dreadful night. He threw
himself on the ground, too exhausted to think and too disheartened to
talk. He couldn't understand the shameful panic. The Caribees were not
cowards; every man in the regiment had longed for the battle. When under
fire at Mitchell's Ford, an hour earlier than the disaster at Blackburn,
all had stood firmly in place, fought with coolness, and gave no sign of
fear. The volume of fire when they broke was not much greater than the
Mitchell's Ford volleys. During the night Grandison came to camp and
assembled the officers. He expressed his sorrow at the sudden shadow
that had fallen on the fair fame of the regiment, but since the panic
had not been followed, as such outbreaks often are, by the total
destruction of the men, there would be abundant chance to redeem the
disgrace of the day. He had himself begged the division commander to
give the men another trial, and he had staked his commission on their
doing such duty as would remove the tarnish of the afternoon from
their banners.

The officers had been dispirited. Major Mike had raged over the field,
through the woods, a very angry man indeed, belaboring the fleeing men
with his sword and imploring those he couldn't reach to "come to me
here. Dress on me. There's no call to be afeard. We've more men than
they have, and we'll soon wallop them."

But the resounding blows on the backs of those near the officer did not
give the encouraging emphasis to his appeal that captivates men whose
reasoning faculties are almost gone for the moment. Before daylight on
the next morning--Saturday, the 20th--the companies were called together
and little addresses were made to the men by the officers. The substance
of Colonel Grandison's words was imparted, and the hope expressed that
when, in the course of that or the next day the regiment was again under
fire, they would show that the panic of yesterday had not been
cowardice. The men said nothing, and every one was glad that the light
was so dim that the officers could not look in their faces, though, as a
matter of fact, the shoulder-straps had shown as little fortitude as the
muskets in the dispersion. All that day the forces rested, the Caribees
providing themselves with new arms and equipments, or the two or three
hundred who had flung their own away. During the afternoon an incident
happened in the division that lessened the mortification of the
Caribees. A splendid regiment and a battery of bronze guns came into the
highway from the extreme of the line that was expected to take part in
the battle which all knew would be opened the next morning. Every one
was surprised to see the men moving without muskets and the colors
wrapped in their cases. "Where you bound for?" some one at the roadside
yelled curiously.

"Our time is out; we're going home."

Then a derisive howl followed the line as it passed through the masses
of the army, and remarks of an acrid nature were made that were not
gratifying to the departing patriots:

"Don't you want a guard to protect you?"

"Does your mamma know you're out alone?"

"Wait till to-morrow and we'll send Beauregard's forces to see you safe
home."

The men and officers looked very conscious and uncomfortable under the
gamut of jeers, for word went along the line, and all along the route to
the rear they passed through this clamor of contemptuous outcry.

"Well, I thought we had reached the eminent deadly pinnacle of
disgrace," Barney said, with a sigh, as a group of Company K watched the
considerable number taken out of McDowell's small army, "but this sight
makes me feel like the man on trial for murder who escapes with a
verdict of manslaughter."



CHAPTER X.

BLOOD AND IRON.


Late at night Dick came down to Jack's bivouac with a strange tale.
McDowell had come to Tyler's quarters storming with rage. He had accused
that officer of disobeying orders in forcing a fight on the fords of
Bull Run where he had been told to merely reconnoitre.

The staff believed that Tyler would be cashiered, for he had not only
wrecked the general's plan of battle, but he had given the rebels the
secret of the movement and demoralized one wing of the army by putting
raw soldiers in front of masked batteries that could have been detected
by proper outpost work. Then one of the staff reported a speech Tyler
had made when his troops rushed over the empty rebel breastworks and
forts around Centreville. His officers were discussing the probable
forces Beauregard had behind the crooked stream beyond.

"I believe we've got them on the run," Tyler said, exultingly, "from
what we see here. I tell you the great man of this war is the man that
plants the flag at Manassas, and I'm going through to Richmond
to-night."

"Not much comfort in knowing we've got such a fool for a commander,"
Jack cried, thinking of the disgrace of the day before and of the small
chance the regiment had under such a chief to redeem its prestige on the
morrow. All personal griefs, everything but the pending battle, were
driven from the men's minds as the signs of the momentous work of the
morrow accumulated. The hospital corps was up in force. The yellow flag
floated from an immense tent near the roadway. A great _cortége_ of
general officers rode away from McDowell's quarters about ten in the
evening. The haversacks were filled with three days' cooked rations. One
hundred rounds of ammunition to a man were dealt out to each company.
Everything not absolutely necessary was ordered to the company wagons.

The talk in the camp that night was of home--of anything and everything
but the dreadful to-morrow, so long looked forward to with eager hope,
now regarded with uncertainty that was not so much fear as the memory of
the panic at Blackburn's Ford. Jack was provided with a large atlas map
of Virginia, and with the bits of information given by Dick he was able
to conjecture the probable plan of the next day. The cronies of Company
K listened in delight to his exposition of the action.

"Here," he said, "is the Bull Run. It makes two big elbows eastward
toward us--one about four miles to the northwest of us, the other about
eight miles to the southeast of that, and about four miles from our
right hand here! The rebel we quizzed yesterday says that there are five
fords between the Warrenton pike bridge--that's just ahead of us yonder
at the end of the road we are on--the last one is McLean's Ford, at the
very knuckle of the elbow that is crooked toward us a mile west of where
we were yesterday. That is near the railway, which it is Beauregard's
business to fight for and our business to get, for then he will have to
fall back near Richmond to feed his army. Now from the railway where it
crosses Bull Run near Mitchell's Ford to the Warrenton road, which
Beauregard must also hold, is about nine miles. He must guard all these
fords, and we must fight for any one or two of them that we need to
cross by. The only problem is, whether our general is going to strike
with his right arm at Mitchell's Ford, his left arm at this very
Warrenton road we are on, or whether he means to butt the middle of the
line of Beauregard's battle to break him into two pieces?"

"What would Frederick the Great or Napoleon do?" Nick asked, absorbed in
Jack's confident predications.

"If Frederick had equal forces he would have a reserve just where we
shall be in the morning--there at that point marked 'Stone Ridge,' and
move a heavy mass to the southwest below McLean's Ford there, where you
see the railway runs along the run for a half-mile or more. Or he would
send this body to the northeast, over there where you see Sudley Springs
marked in rather large letters, and he would by either one of these
movements turn the enemy's flank--that is, get in behind him and force
him to change front to fight, something that is rarely done successfully
in battle. Napoleon would, on the contrary, mass all his best troops at
the stone bridge, open the fight with every piece of artillery he could
bring to bear, and in the panic send divisions ten deep across
the bridge."

"Which would be the better plan?"

"Ah! that no one can say. The first is sure enough and less dangerous,
if the commander is not certain of his men, because you notice that we
felt excellent and confident all day, so long as we were marching
forward and pushing the enemy from our path. The trial in battle is to
be kept standing under fire, not sure where your enemy is; and then you
noticed that our own guns behind us, sending shot and shells over us,
were just as trying as the rebels'. Only soldiers of the very first
class can be depended on in the Napoleon tactics. We are not soldiers of
the first class; and you may be sure McDowell, who was many years in
Europe, and who is a trained officer, will make use of the manoeuvres
best calculated to bring out whatever there is in his men. As a matter
of opinion, I should say that, in view of the miserable affair on the
right yesterday, he will strike out for Sudley Springs, where we shall
have the rebels just as you would have me if you were at my side, held
my left arm behind me, ready to break my back with your knee planted
in it."

Jack was sergeant of the guard that night, and it was in the group of
sentries awaiting their relief every two hours, re-enforced by his
tent-mates of Company K, that these learned dissertations on war were
carried on. It was a never to be forgotten Saturday night to millions
yet living. In Washington the President and his Cabinet sat far into the
morning hours receiving the dispatches from the weary and disappointed
chief--for, if Tyler had not made his miserable attempt to reach
Manassas, the battle would have been fought that vital Saturday, and the
result would have been another story in history. As the morning broke,
red and murky, the army was up and in line, but without the usual noisy
signals. The artillery-horses began to move first wherever it was
possible. The heavy guns were pushed forward on the sward, to prevent
the loud metallic clangor that penetrated the still air like clashing
anvils. By half after six, the advance brigade, the Caribees in their
old place, were within gunshot of the stone bridge.

"Ah ha, Jack! It is the Napoleonic plan!" Barney cried, as the artillery
took places in front of the masses lying on the ground.

"Wait," Jack cried, owlishly. "The battle isn't fought always where the
guns are loudest."

But the guns were now loud and quick. The rebels, behind a thick screen
of trees, took up the challenge, and every sound was drowned in the roar
of the artillery. A few far in the rear were wounded--those nearest the
rebels were in the least danger, whether because the guns could not be
sufficiently depressed, or because the gunners were poor hands, couldn't
be determined. A breathless suspense, an insatiate craving to see, to
move, to fly forward, or do anything, devoured the prostrate ranks. The
firing had gone on two hours or more, which seemed only so many minutes,
when to the group near General Tyler a courier, panting and dusty, rode
in great excitement.

"General Tyler, the major-general has just learned that the enemy have
crossed in force at Blackburn's Ford, below you. You are at once to take
measures to protect your left flank."

"Ah ha, Jack; Frederick's on the other side, eh?" Barney said, as,
standing near the group, these words reached their ears.

"Perhaps there are two Fredericks at work. Look yonder!" handing him his
glass as he spoke.

"Thunder! our whole army is marching over there to the right, and we
sha'n't even see the battle. They are four miles off. Why, what an
immense army we must have! I thought this was the bulk of it, but we're
not a brigade compared to that."

"Now, Barney, I feel confident that is the grand movement. Look how they
fly along! The fields are as good as roads out there, and if it were not
for the artillery they could make five miles an hour. Now, keep your
ears open, my lad: you'll hear music off there to the northwest, music
that will make Beauregard sick, if that courier's information is exact.
For, don't you see, as we are placed here, with that gully to our left
and the thick woods in front, we could hold this ground against six
times our number."

Company K were now sent forward to the right to relieve a body of
skirmishers that had been hidden on the margin of Bull Run, some
distance to the westward of the stone bridge. Jack, going forward with
his glass, noticed an officer among the men, but not catching sight of
his face did not recognize him.

"Is that a rebel or one of our fellows?" one of the men said, pointing
to a horseman disappearing in the woods four hundred yards to the right
and in front of the company, marching in a straggling line two abreast,
"by the flank," as it is called. Jack took his glass to discover, but
the rider had disappeared. An instant after from a knoll, Jack, glass at
eye, was examining eagerly the field on the other side of the river,
when a horseman suddenly shot into view, riding desperately.

"By George, it is the same man! I wonder how he crossed the stream?
There must be a bridge down there among those thick trees and bushes,"
Jack said, excitedly.

"Are you sure, sergeant, that is the same man that was in the woods to
the right there, five minutes ago?"

Jack turned; the officer was at his shoulder. He saluted respectfully,
recognizing, with a thrill of joy, old Red Top, as the company
called Sherman.

"Yes, colonel, it's the same man. He was in his shirtsleeves and had a
blue scarf tied about his arm. There can be no mistake; several of us
saw him quite plainly."

"If that be true, we've gained a half-day's work in two minutes." He was
looking diligently through the glass as he spoke, and his eye brightened
as he marked the man until he disappeared. He turned to an orderly that
was following at a distance leading a horse. Mounting this lightly the
colonel rode to the head of the company and said in a short,
decisive tone:

"Come ahead men, at a double-quick, until you strike the stream." He
kept beside the men as they moved. In fifteen minutes they were at the
water's edge. Then the company was deployed as skirmishers, two thirds
halting where they struck the water and the rest keeping on up the bank
of the river for a few hundred yards. Sherman was eying every inch of
the bank until, suddenly reaching a break where fresh tracks of a horse
were visible, he directed his orderly to follow, and plunged into the
water. It was not up to the horses' knees from bank to bank. Riding
back, his face aglow, the colonel ordered the captain to cross half his
men and station them up and down on the bank where they would not be
seen by the rebels on the high ground above. Then, addressing Jack,
he said:

"Sergeant, select two or three trusty men. Follow the bank of the stream
until you come to General Hunter's division, which may be a mile,
perhaps more, to the right yonder; you can tell by the firing soon. Tell
General Hunter that we have discovered a ford and shall not have to
fight for the stone bridge. We shall be across in no time and take the
enemy in the rear. If you can't find Hunter, give this intelligence to
any officer in command. Stay."

He scribbled a line on a sheet of his order-book, saying: "This will be
your authority. It's better not to write the rest for fear you should be
captured. In case you are in danger tell each man with you what to say,
so that there will be more chances of getting the information where it
will do good; and remember, sergeant, that this news in Hunter's hands
will be almost equivalent to victory. Ah!"

He paused again. Reverberating crashes came from the high grounds up the
river. "You will have no trouble in finding him now. Those are Hunter's
guns. Hurry."

Glowing, grateful, big with the fate of the battle, Jack had Barney,
Nick, and another, whom he charged with the duty of historian, detailed
for this duty of glory. The group set off with a fervent Godspeed from
the company sheltered among the thick pines and oaks.

"Now, boys," Jack said, every inch the captain, "we must spread out like
skirmishers. Our chief danger will be from the left, as no one will be
likely to be in the water but our own men, and we must look as sharply
for them as for the enemy. I will take the center; you, Barney, the
left, next to me; and you, Nick, four paces farther to the left." Jack
looked at his watch. It was just 9.30, Sunday morning, July 21, 1861.
The crash of musketry ahead now became one unbroken roar, with a
_crescendo_ of artillery that fairly shook the ground the messengers
were darting over, for all were on a dead run. The bushes grew thick on
the hillside and their branches were stubborn as crab thorns. Hell, as
Barney afterward remarked, would have been cool in comparison to the
heat as the adventurers tugged and wrestled forward. Now guns were
roaring on every side save the river. Behind, before, to the left, the
thunders played upon the parched land. At the end of a half-hour the
bullets and shells passed over the group as Jack and his squad pushed
along the hilly way. Twice, commands, and even the clicking, of what
Jack knew must be rebel guns sounded not twenty paces away, but, thanks
to the thick bushes, the scouts passed unseen, and, thanks to the noise
of battle, unheard. But now the danger is from friends, not enemies.
Balls come hurtling through the trees across the stream, and in a low
voice Jack bids Barney summon Nick. Then all slip down to the water's
edge, and make their way painfully through the marshy swamps, the
cane-like rushes that fill the narrow valley. The run has been a fearful
strain upon Nick, and at length he falls, gasping, in a clump of
cat-tails.

"What is it, old fellow?" Jack cries in alarm.

"O Jack! I can't go a step farther. You go on and leave me. I shall
follow when I get breath."

He was white and gasping. Barney filled his canteen from the running
water, and, wetting his handkerchief, laid it on Nick's parboiled head
and temples.

"Best a few minutes," Jack said, soothingly. "I will reconnoitre a bit."
Stripping off his accoutrements, he clasped a tall sycamore growing at
the crest of the ravine, and when far up brought his glass to bear. A
third of a mile to the left and southward, he could see a regiment with
a flag bearing a single star, surrounding a small stone farm-house on
the brow of a gentle hill. They were firing to the west and toward the
north, where the black clouds obscured his view. But the red gleam in
the smoke told of at least a dozen guns, and he knew that the main
battle was there, though the fury of it reached far to the east, near
the stone bridge which he had quit an hour before. Then through the veil
of smoke long, deep masses of blue emerge and make for the rebel front
on the brow of the hill, fairly at Jack's feet; the enemy redoubles the
fire; two guns at their left pour canister into the advancing wall of
blue. It never wavers, but, as a group falls to the earth, the rest
close together and the mass whirls on.

Jack feels like flying. Oh, the grandeur of it, the fearlessness, the
intoxication! He almost falls from the tree in his excitement. But he
takes a last sweep of the belching hill. Hark! Loud cheers in the trees
back of the rebels, far to the southeast, perhaps a mile and a half;
then the flaunting Palmetto flag flying forward in the center of deep
masses of gray. Which will reach the hill first? He can not quit the
deadly sight. Ah! the blue lines are pressing on now; the cannon-shots
pass over their heads into the devoted line of gray, desperately
thinned, but clinging to the key of the battle-field. But, great God!
Perhaps his delay is aiding the enemy. He sees the route now
clear--straight to the west--and no rebels near enough to intervene. He
descends so fast that his hands and legs are blistered, but he is down.

"Look sharp, boys; you must follow me as best you can. I know the
route--there is a forest path directly to our lines, and we shall be
there in twenty minutes--I shall, at least." He doesn't stop to see
whether he is followed or not, but dashes on, and the rest after him. He
is far out of sight in an instant. It is only by the crackling of the
branches that the others keep his course. The way is between steep,
precipitous hills, which explains how they could be so near the battle
and yet not in it, nor harmed by the missiles flying sometimes very near
them. At a deep branch of the stream the three rearmost came in sight of
Jack, up to his armpits in water and pushing for the shore.

While they are hailing him exultantly he sinks out of sight; an awful
anguish almost stops the others, but Barney, flinging his musket and
impediments off as he runs, leaps far into the stream, and when the rest
reach the spot he has Jack by the hair, dragging him to the bank. He is
fairly worn out by the stress, and the others loosen his coat, stretch
him on the brown sward and rub his hands, his body. It is ten minutes,
it seemed an hour, before he is able to get up, and the rest insist on
carrying his accoutrements. Then the wild race is begun again, every
instant bringing them nearer the pandemonium of battle. Suddenly the
sharp commands of officers are heard in front and to the left. Is it the
enemy, or is it friends? The group halts in an agony of doubt. How can
they find out? Barney takes out his handkerchief and puts it on his gun,
which he was careful to go back and recover when Jack was on the bank. A
ray of bright red suddenly flits above the thick tops of the scrub-oaks.

Yes, God be praised, there is the flag of stars, and there are blue
uniforms! With a wild hurrah, drowned in the musketry to the left, they
rush forward, are halted by a picket guard, exhibit Sherman's order, and
are directed to the commanding-officer. That personage has no knowledge
of General Hunter's whereabouts, but Colonel Andrew Porter is just
beyond, commanding the brigade. To him Jack makes known Sherman's
message, and is directed farther to the southwest, the Union right now
facing nearly to the east in the execution of McDowell's admirable flank
manoeuvre.

Now among their own, Sherman's couriers run more peril than when
skirting the edge of the battle, for the shells are directed at the line
they are pursuing. They push to the rear and continue southeastward,
where Hunter's headquarters are supposed to be. But Jack is easy on the
score of his mission, since the general, who is nearest the stone
bridge, has been apprised, and well knows that the fire which has been
coming near his left flank is Sherman's. Until, however, he has executed
his orders literally Jack won't be satisfied, and plunges on, the others
following, nothing loath. But it is a way of pain for the lads now.
Every step they come upon the dead and dying. The air is filled with
moaning men, whinnying horses, the hurried movement of stretchers, the
solemn solicitude of the hospital corps. The line of foremost battle is
less terrifying, less trying than this inner way of Golgotha, and the
four are well-nigh unnerved when they reach a group where the commanding
officer has been pointed out.

"General Hunter?" Jack says, addressing an officer with a star.

"My name is Franklin. General Hunter was wounded an hour ago. What's the
matter?"

Jack gave his message, and Franklin said, cheerfully: "That's good news.
You're a very brave fellow. Go a few yards in the rear yonder and you'll
find General McDowell. He'll enjoy your message."

On the hill they halt electrified.

Thick copses of scrub-pine dot the gently sloping sward. Here and there
clumps of tall pines stand in the bare, brown sod as if to guard the
young outshoots clustering about them in wanton dispersion. Cow-paths,
marked only by the worn edges of the bushes, run in zigzags across the
hillside and up to the plateau. The remnants of rail fences strew the
ground here and there. The low roof of the farm-house can be seen far
back even from the depression, where the lines of blue are now resting a
brief, deadly half-hour.

The sun is now behind the halted line of blue; the bayonets, catching
the light, make a sea of liquid, mirror-like rivulets hovering in the
air, with the bushy branches of pine rising like green isles in the
shimmering tide. The men are filling their cartridge-boxes; new
regiments are gliding into the gaps where death has cut the widest
swath. From the woods, cries, groans, commands, clashing steel as the
men hustle against each other in the rush into line, prelude the Vulcan
clamor soon to begin. Men, bent, sometimes crawling, with stretchers on
their shoulders, glide through the maimed and shrieking fragments of
bodies, picking out here and there those seeming capable of carriage.
Other men, prone on their faces, hold canteens of tepid, muddy
water--but ah! a draught to the feverish lips which seems godlike
nectar. Against the stout bodies of the trees, armless men, legless
trunks, the maimed in every condition of death's fantastic sport, hold
themselves limply erect, to gain succor or save some of the vital stream
pouring from their gaping wounds.

Couriers dash up to the impassive chief, calm-eyed, keen, alert,
surveying the line, dispatching brief commands, receiving reports. It is
Franklin. With the air of a marshal on a civic pageant, perplexed only
by some geometrical problem denying the possibility of two right lines
on the same plane, he glances upward toward the brow of the plateau. The
four flags had been increased by half a dozen. Ah, they have received
aid! A tremendous crash comes from the left. That must be Sherman. He is
on the rebel rear. One strong pull, and the two bodies will be united,
his left arm reaching Sherman's right. The shining mirage of steel above
the green isle sinks. The clash of hurtling accoutrements comes up
musically, tranquilly from the low ground. The blue mass, first
deliberately, then in a quiet, regular run, passes like a moving
barricade up the sloping hillside. Then from one end of the long wall to
the other white puffs as of some monster breathing spasmodically.

The air is a blur of sulphurous blackness. The bullets are as thick as
if a swarm of leaden locusts had been routed from the foliage, and taken
wing hillward. Then behind, through the gaps in the trees, big, whining,
screeching swarms of another caliber shells fly over the wall of blue.
In a moment the ground of the plateau is torn, the red clay flying far
into the air. But now the blue wall is girdling the very crest of the
hill; it stops, shrivels. Long gaps are cut in its broken surface. The
hillside is dotted with sprawling figures. The crest is a ragged edge of
writhing bodies and struggling limbs. Forward! The wall is advancing,
but shorter. It is within reach of the shining guns--spouting flame and
iron in the very face of the dauntless wall. Then there is a pause. The
smoke hides everything but the maimed and quivering heaps that strive to
crawl backward, back to the crest, back to the deeps that are not rest
nor security. The hillside is like a field, covered with sheaved
grain--with a thousand mangled bodies that had been men.

Then to these wrestling specters--for in the dim smoke and Tartarean
atmosphere the actions of loading and aiming take the shape of huge
writhing, convulsing, monstrous, grappling--come quick-moving lines of
help. They rush through them, over them. The thirteen cannon behind the
struggling hydra of gray seem one vortex--sulphurous, flaming, spitting,
as from one vast mouth, scorching fire, huge mouthfuls of granite venom.
Back--back, the gray masses break in sinuous, definite, slow-yielding
disruption.

Then a sudden inrush from the left of the broken gray, where smoke and
space play fantastic tricks with the sunshine. Miraculously a dark mass
is projected on the shimmering spectrum, and a ringing voice is heard:

"We are saved; we are re-enforced. We will die here!" Then high above
the din, in the exultant tumult of the deadly won ground, the nearest in
blue hear a stentorian voice--grim, deliberate, exultant:

"Look where Jackson stands like a stone-wall! At them, men! Let us
determine to die here, and we will conquer."

Die he did, when the yelling horde in the sudden outrush grazed the edge
of the Union besom sweeping over the plain in a rush of death. Then
behind these spectral shapes came others--thousands--with wild, fierce
shouts. The blue mass is thinned to a single line. Men in command look
anxiously to the rear. Where is Burnside? Where are the twelve thousand
men whom Hunter and Heintzelman deployed in these woods two hours since?
Back, slowly, fiercely, but backward, the slender wall of blue is
forced; not defeated, but not victorious. All this Jack sees, and he
turns heartsick from the sight.

When the straggling couriers reached the point designated as McDowell's
headquarters, he had gone to the eastward of the line, and, faithful to
the command given him, Jack set out with Barney, leaving the others to
deliver the message in case he missed the general. They emerged
presently on the edge of a plateau, whence nearly the whole battle could
be seen. Jack climbed a tall oak to reconnoitre the ground for McDowell,
but, as his glass revealed the battling lines, he shouted to Barney to
climb for a moment, to impress the frightful yet grandiose spectacle
upon his mind. Far off toward the stone bridge, now a mile or more
northeast of them, they could see the Union flags waving, and mark the
white puffs of smoke that preceded the booming of the cannon. Every
instant the clouds of smoke came southward, where the rebel lines were
concealed by the thick copses. But they were breaking--always breaking
back anew. In twenty minutes more, at the same rate, the hill upon which
the rebel lines nearest the tree held the Union right at bay would be
surrounded on two sides.

This, for the moment, was a sulphurous crater, the fire-belching demons,
invisible in the smoke. Through the glass Jack could see the lines
clearly--or the smoke arising above them. The enemy had been pushed back
nearly two miles since he had left Colonel Sherman a few rods above the
stone bridge. The Union force, as marked by the veil of smoke, curved,
about the foemen, a vast crescent, seven miles or more from tip to tip.
The bodies opposing were scattered like a gigantic staircase, with the
angles of the steps confronting each other step by step. But now the
Union ranks at Jack's feet rush forward; a group of riders are coming to
the tree, and Jack descends hastily to meet the general. He is again
disappointed. It is not McDowell. At a loss what to do, he salutes one
of the officers and states his case, recognizing, as he turns,
General Franklin.

"I don't see that you can do better than remain where you are, or, still
better, push to the brow of that hill yonder and act as a picket. In
case you see any force approaching from this side, which is not likely,
give warning. Our cavalry ought to be here, but it isn't. If you are
called to account when the battle is done, give me as your authority. I
take it your brigade will be around here pretty soon, if they make as
rapid work all the way as they have made since eleven o'clock. If the
cavalry come, you can report to the nearest officer for assignment."



CHAPTER XI.

THE LEGIONS OF VARUS.


The two free lances set out now, relieved of all responsibility, and
determined to watch the open fields and woods to see that this part of
the field was not surprised. The hill to which the general had directed
them was farther from the battle than they had yet been, but the work
going on to the northeast showed that this would soon be the western
edge of the combat if Sherman continued advancing. They are soon on the
hill, and Jack posts himself in a tree with his glass. There is a lull
in the quarter they have just quit. The smoke rolls away, and now he can
see streams of gray-coats hurrying to the edge of the plateau, where,
two hours before, he had encountered Porter's brigade. Can it be
possible that Porter's troops do not see these on-rushing hordes? They
are moving on the right point of the crescent, and unless the Union
commander is alert they will break in on the back of the point; for
Jack, without knowing it, was virtually in the rebel lines--that is, he
was nearer the rebel left flank, the foot of the long, bow-shaped
staircase, than he was to the tip of the Union crescent.

But no! The Stars and Stripes fly forward; they are on the very crest
whence the defiant guns spat upon them. But now the smoke covers
everything. Then there is a calm. The ground is clear again. The gray
masses are pouring up to the crest in still greater numbers; a large
body of them march down the hill in the rear of the Union line concealed
by the woods; they march right up to the ranks where the red-barred flag
is flying! What can it mean? Neither side fires. There must surely be
some mistake. Hark! now the blue line discovers--too late--that the mass
is the enemy, and half the line withers in the point-blank discharge.
They are swept from the ground. Jack is trembling--demoniac. The gray
mass springs forward; they have seized the guns--four of them--and turn
them upon the disappearing blue. Then a hoarse shout of delirious
triumph. The guns are lost; the day is lost, for now there are no
blue-coats in sight. But no! A still wilder shout--electrifying,
stentorian--comes across the plateau. The blue mass reappears; they come
with a wild rush in well-ordered array; they are the regulars, Jack can
tell by their movements. It must be the famous Rickett's battery he saw
at Centreville in the morning. In five minutes the tale was retold, and
the guns, snatched from the worsted gray-coats, are safe in the hands of
their masters. Again the smoke obscures the picture; again it clears
away, and now the gray are in greater force than before, and the
horseless batteries are again the prize of this rapacious grapple.
Swarming in from three sides, the gray again hold the contested pieces.
The blue vanish into the thick bushes. Another irruption, another pall
of smoke, and Jack's heart bounds in exultant joy, for he sees the New
York flag in the van. Sherman has reached the point of dispute. But
alas! the guns are run back, and as the gray lines sway rearward in
billowy, regular measure, they retain the Titanically contested trophies.

The sun is now far beyond the meridian. The Union lines are closing up
compactly. One more such grapple as the last and the broad plateau where
the rebel artillery is massed, pointing westward, northward, eastward,
will be won. But a palsy seems to have settled on the lines of blue.
They are motionless, while their adversaries are hurrying men from some
secret place, where they seem to be inexhaustible. The whole battle is
now within the compass of a mile. But where can these hordes come from?
Surely, General McDowell has never been mad enough to leave them
disengaged along the fords! No; they do not come from that direction.
They come at the very center of the rebel rear. Can it be that troops
are arriving from Richmond? The Southern lines are longer than the
Northern, but they have been since the first moment Jack got a glimpse
of them. He could see, too, that they were thinner: that on the spur of
the plateau in front of the massed rebel artillery a single brigade was
holding the Union mass at bay. He can almost hear the rebel commands as
the re-enforcements pour in. But now the thunder breaks out anew, rolls
in vengeful fury around the western and northern base of the plateau.
The gray lines stagger; the falling men block the steps of the living.
Surely now McDowell is going to do or die. Yes. The iron game goes on;
the blue lines jostle and crush forward. They are at the last wall of
resistance. But what is the sound at his very feet? As Jack looks down
in the narrow way between the hill he is on and the plateau on the very
edge of the Union line--in fact, behind it now, for it has moved forward
since he took post--a rushing mass of gray-clad soldiery is moving
forward on the dead run. In one instant the head of the column is where
General Franklin rode but an hour or two before. He looks for Barney. He
can see him nowhere. He climbs down in haste and discovers his comrade
soundly sleeping against the base of the tree.

"Barney, the army is ruined!"

"Is the battle over?"

"Oh, no, no, but it will be in a moment. Hark, hear that!"

A roar of musketry--it seemed at their very feet. Then an outbreak of
yells, so sharp, so piercing, so devilish the sound, that the marrow
froze in their veins, arose, as if from the whole thicket about them.

"Is it too late to warn General Franklin?" Barney asked, trembling.

"Ah, Barney, we are as bad as traitors; we ought to have seen these
rebels before they got near. If we had done our duty this would never
have happened. Perhaps it is not too late to get back. Let me go up and
see where we can find a way without running into the enemy."

Reaching his perch again, Jack cast his despairing eyes toward the fatal
hill. It was now clear of smoke, and there wasn't a regiment left on it.
His heart leaped for an instant, the next it was lead, for the ranks
that had disappeared were down on the brow of the hill--in the valley--
rushing forward, unresisted, the red and blue of the Union, mixed with
the stars and bars of the rebellion; but, worse than all, the ranks of
gray were sweeping in overwhelming masses quite behind the lines of
blue, cutting them down as a scythe when near the end of the furrow. To
the eastward Sherman still clung desperately to the crests he had won,
but Jack saw with agony that, slipping between him and the river, a
great wedge of gray was hurrying forward. His last despairing glance
caught a body of jet black horses galloping wildly into the dispersing
ranks of blue. He came down from the tree limp, nerveless, unmanned.

"Well?" Barney asked.

"It's all over--we are ruined!"

"The army, you mean?"

"Ah, yes! the army and we too."

"But what's going to become of us?"

"I don't much care what becomes of us--at least I don't care what
becomes of me!"

"But if we don't get back to our regiment, they'll think we're
deserters."

"Good God, yes! I forgot that; I think I can find the way back. But
we'll have to be careful, the enemy are all around us. I can hear them
plainly, very near. Follow me, and don't speak above a whisper."

Then, with swift movement, always as near the thick bushes as they could
push, they fled faster and faster, as fear fell more and more heavily
upon their quickened fancies. The thought of the repute of deserters
lent them endurance, or they must have broken down before the weary
shiftings of that dreadful flight. They are now near the spot where they
had met Porter's pickets in the morning. The sounds of battle had died
out at intervals, renewed now and again by an outcry of cheers, a quick
fusillade, then more cheers, and then an ominous silence. But now there
is a continuous roll of musketry near the knoll, back of the Warrenton
road. The two wanderers, breathless, with torn uniforms, swollen faces,
halt, gasping, to take their bearings. They can see the turnpike far
beyond the stone bridge half-way to Centreville: they see crowds fleeing
in zigzag lines over the open fields, see horses plunging wildly, laden
down by two and even three men on their backs; they see vehicles
overturned at the roadside, whence the horses have been cut or killed by
the rebel shells; they see an army, in every sense a mob, swarming
behind the deserted rebel forts; they see orderly ranks of shining black
horses this side the stone bridge charging the fleeing lines of blue;
they see shells whirling like huge blackbirds in the sky, suddenly
falling among the skurrying thousands; they see a shell finally burst on
the bridge, shiver a caisson to fragments, and then all sign of
organized flight comes to an end.

But near them, meanwhile, a sullen fire replies with desperate
promptitude to the rebel shots.

"If we can get over to the men fighting at the edge of the woods, we may
be killed or captured, but we won't be disgraced!" Jack cries.

Again they make a wide circuit through the woods, and now the firing is
near at hand, coming slowly toward them. They have only to wait and they
will be among the forlorn hope. Ah, with what fervent joy Jack marks the
Union banner, flapping its twin streamers among the hurtling pines! They
are near it; they are under it! Their own guns are no longer available;
hundreds are lying at hand; they seize them. The line is firing in
retreat. It is a sadly depleted battalion of Keyes's regulars,
steadfast, imperturbable, devoted. A handful of them has been forgotten
or misdirected. The rebels, uncertain whether it was not a trap to snare
them, move with caution, while far to the left a turning column is
hurrying to hem the Union group in on every side. There are hardly three
hundred blue-coats in the mass, but their volleys are so swift, so
regular, so steady, that they make the impression of a thousand. The
enemy felt sure, as was afterward learned, that there was at least
a regiment.

A young captain, soiled, ragged, his sleeves hanging in ribbons, the
whole skirt of his coat gone, moves alertly, composedly in the center,
seizing a gun when one comes handy on the ground, where there are plenty
scattered.

"Steady, men, steady! We shall be at the water's edge, soon, and then we
can give them hell!"

Never music sounded sweeter in Jack's car than that jaunty epithet
"hell"! How inspiring! How little of the ordinary association the word
brought up! Now they were traversing slowly the very ground Jack and his
comrades had flown over in the morning. Still firing--still working with
all his heart in the deadly play, Jack sidles to the officer and
cries out:

"Captain, I know a ford that will take us across above the stone bridge.
We discovered it this morning. Shall I guide that way?"

"Guide if you can; but fire like seven devils, above all!" the captain
cried, seizing two or three pouches lying in a mass and emptying the
cartridges into his pockets.

"There, keep to the left sharp, and we shall come to a deep gully where
the water is only knee-deep," Jack cries, also replenishing his
cartridge-box, which had shrunk under the rapid work of the last
half-hour.

"What regiment are you, sergeant?" the captain cries, looking for a
moment at the tattered recruit.

"Caribees of New York, Sherman's brigade."

"And how came you off here? Your brigade was near the right of the line
at the stone budge." The captain asked this with a shade of suspicion in
his voice.

Jack explained his mission, and the officer, who had been dealing out
the timely windfall of ammunition, nodded.

"Poor Hunter was shot early in the advance. It would have been victory
to our flag if the poor old follow had been wounded before the action
began. He lost three hours in the attack, and gave the rebels a chance
to come up from Winchester."

Now Jack understood the mysterious legions that seemed to spring from
the earth. They were Johnston's army from the Shenandoah.

"Keep up heart, men: Burnside and Schenck are near us somewhere. They
are in reserve, and they'll give these devils a warm welcome, if they
push far enough after us."

Then the steady volleys grew swifter, if that were possible, the enemy
moving steadily after the slowly retiring group. But now there is a
clear field to cross, so wide that the smallness of the force must be
detected. The captain halts the line, takes his bearings, divides the
little army into two bodies, orders one to move at a double-quick
directly across the open; the rest are stretched out as skirmishers. He
retires with the first squad across the field, directing the skirmishers
to hold the ground until they hear three musket-shots from the wood
behind. The rebels can now be seen closing in very near. But the
skirmish-line, spreading over a wider front, evidently perplexes them,
and they halt. The three shots are presently heard, then the
skirmish-line flees in groups across the bare downs, the vociferating
yells of the gray-coats fairly drowning the hideous clamor of
the muskets.

"Ah! we're saved," a lieutenant cries, waving his cap like a madman.
"Look! there are men in the wood yonder, to our right; they are coming
this way!"

Jack turned, he was near the captain; and he marked, with deadly panic,
a look of despair settle down on the heroic, handsome face. What could
it mean? Didn't he believe that there were men there? Jack handed him
his own glass--the captain had none.

"By Heaven, our flag! But what troops can they be in that quarter? They
must be surrounded, like ourselves.--Sergeant, can you undertake a
dangerous duty?"

"With all my heart," Jack cried, heartily.

"What's your name and company?"

"John Sprague, Caribees, Company K."

"Slip around the edge of the skirt of bushes. You'll be within an arm's
length of the enemy all the way. Reach the place where we saw those men
a moment since. When you get there, if they are friendly, fire a shot.
Here, take this pistol. Fire that; I shall recognize it from the
musketry. If they are the enemy, fire all the barrels as fast as you can
and retreat. You run great danger; you can only by a miracle escape
capture; but it is our only resource for the next charge. We must
surrender or die," he added, looking wofully at the meager remnant of
his company. Before the words had fairly ended, Jack is off like a shot,
forgetting Barney, forgetting everything but the extrication of this
grand young Roman. As he skurried along, sometimes on hands and knees,
he blames himself for not learning the captain's name. He feels sure
that a day will come when the world will know and admire it. He has
gained the other corner, and in a moment he will be in the thick copse
where the Union flag had been seen, but as he makes a dash through a
clump of laurel he is confronted by two men, muskets in hand.

"A Yank, by the Lord! Surrender, you damned mudsill!"

For answer Jack raised the pistol in his hand and fired. The man fell,
with a frightful yell. The other leveled his musket fairly in Jack's
face; but before he could pull the trigger a report at his ear deafened
Jack, and the second man staggered against the tree.

"Ah, ha! me boy, the rear rank did the best work there," Barney cried,
as Jack turned to see whence the timely aid had come, "A day after the
fair's better than the fair itself, if the rain has kept the girls
away," and Barney laughed good-humoredly.

"Well, 'pon my soul, Barney, it's a shameful thing to say, but all
thought of you had gone from my mind. I should not have let you come if
you had proposed it, but now we're in for it. Ah--!"

As he spoke the Union flag he had seen came forward, but it was in the
hands of a rebel bearer, and was upside down in mockery. The sight was
enough. He fired the shots as agreed upon, firing two at the group
marching heedlessly forward, as the skirmish-line was far ahead, or they
supposed it was, for the two men disabled by Jack and Barney were the
advance, as it was not supposed that any but stragglers were near at
hand, and the company were returning to their regiment. In an instant a
fierce volley is returned, and Barney, who is fairly in the bush behind
a huge tree, hears a low groan. He looks where Jack had been and sees
him lying on the ground, stifling an agonized cry by holding his left
arm over his mouth. Barney might have escaped, at least he might have
delayed capture, but coming from behind the tree, he holds up his hands,
and flinging himself on the ground beside his comrade takes his head
upon his knee and awaits the worst.



BOOK II.

_THE HOSTAGES_.



CHAPTER XII.

THE AFTERMATH.


There were not so many millions of Americans in 1861 as there are
to-day. But they were more American then than they are now. That is, the
Old World had not sent the millions to our shores that now people the
waste places of the West. It was not until after the civil war that
those prodigious hosts came--enough to make the populace of such empires
as fill the largest space in history. That part of the land that loved
the flag cherished it with a fervor deeper than the half-alien race that
first flung it to the breeze under Washington. They loved the republic
with something of that passionate idolatry that made the Greek's ideal
joy--death for the fatherland; some of that burning zeal and godlike
pride that made the earlier Roman esteem his citizenship more precious
than a foreign crown. But until the battle on that awful 21st of July
proved the war real--with the added horror of civil hate--Secretary
Seward's epigram of ninety days clung fast in the public mind.

Up to Bull Run there was a vague feeling that our army, in proper time,
would march down upon the rebels like the hosts of Joshua, and scatter
them and the rebellion to uttermost destruction in one action. It was
upon this assumption that the journals of the North satirized, abused,
vilified Scott, and clamored day by day for an "advance upon Richmond."
The damnation of public clamor, and not the incompetency of the general,
set the inchoate armies of Scott upon that fatal adventure. But that
humiliating, incredible, and for years misunderstood Sunday, on the
plateaus of Manassas, where, after all, blundering and imbecility
brought disaster, but not shame, upon the devoted soldiery, aroused the
sense of the North to the reality of war, as the overthrow at Jemmapes
in 1793 convinced the Prussian oligarchy that the republic in France
was a fact.

It was a dreadful Monday in the North when the first hideous bulletins
were sent broadcast through the cities and carried by couriers into
every hamlet. For hours--sickening hours--it was not believed. We have
awakened many a morning since 1861 to hear of thrones overturned, armies
vanquished, dynasties obliterated; to hear of great men gone by sudden
and cruel death: but the anger and despair when Booth's cruel work was
known; the shuddering horror over Garfield's taking off; the amazement
when the hand of Nihilism laid an emperor dead; the overthrow of Austria
in a single day; the extinction of the Bonapartes--these things were
heard and digested with something like repose compared to the
bewildering outbreak that met the destruction of our army at Manassas.

It was not the dazed, panic-stricken, panic anguish that followed
Fredericksburg or the second Bull Run. It was not the indignant, fretful
wrath that rebuked official culpability for the destruction of the grand
campaign on the Peninsula. It was a startled, incredulous, angry
amazement, in which blame afterward visited upon generals or Cabinet,
was humbly taken on the people's shoulders and echoed in a moaning _mea
culpa_. For days all the people were close kin. In the streets strangers
talked to strangers; the pulpit echoed the inextinguishable wrath of the
streets; the journals, for a moment restrained into solemnity, echoed
for once the real voice of an elevated humanity and not the drivel of
partisanship nor the ulterior purposes of wealth and sham. Even
schoolboys, arrested in the merry-making of youth, looked in wonder at
the sudden reversal of conditions. Boys well remember in the school that
Monday, when the northern heavens were hung in black and grief wrung its
crystal tresses in the air, the master began the work of the day with a
brief, pathetic review of the public agony, and dismissed the classes
that he was too agitated to instruct. There were no games on the
greensward, no swimming in the river, no excursion to the Malvern cherry
groves. The streets were filled with blank faces and whispering crowds
unable to endure the restraint of routine or the ordinary callings of
life. Parties were obliterated, or rather from the flux of this white
heat, came out in solidified unity that compact of parties which for
four years breathed the breath of the nation's life, spoke the purposes
of the republic, and amid stupendous reverses and triumphs held the
public conscience clear in its sublime duty. The woes of bereavement
were not wide-spread; the killed at Manassas were hardly more than we
read of now in a disaster at sea or a catastrophe in the mines. The
whole army engaged hardly outnumbered the slaughtered at Antietam,
Gettysburg, or Burnside's butchery at St. Mary's Hill.

Hence the marvel of the instant fusion, the swift resolve of the
Northern mind. The battle was the sudden grapple of aggressive
weakness--catching the half-contemptuous strong man unaware and rolling
him in the dust. Brought to earth by this unlooked-for blow, the North
arose with renewed force and the deathless determination that could have
but one issue. The people, when the benumbing force of the surprise was
mastered, flew together with one mind, one voice, one impulse. The
churches, the public halls, the street corners, moving trains, and
rushing steamers, were such hustings as the Athenian improvised in the
porticoes, when her orators inflamed the heart of Greece to repel the
barbarians, to die with Leonidas in the gorges of the Thermopylae.

Ah, what an imposing spectacle it was! The blood of wrath leaped
fiercely in the chilled veins of age; the ardor of youth became the
delirium of the Crusaders, the lofty zeal of the Puritans, the
chivalrous daring of Rupert's troopers, and the Dutch devotees of
Orange. A half-million men had been called out; a million were waiting
in passionate eagerness within a month; two hundred and fifty millions
of money had been voted--ten times that amount was offered in a day.
Every interest in life became suddenly centered in one duty--war. It
touched the heart of the whole people, and for the time they arose,
purified, contrite, as the armies of Moses under the chastening of
the rod.

In Acredale there were sore hearts as the dreadful news became more and
more definite. For days the death lists were mere guess-work; but when
the routed forces returned to their camps in Washington the awful gaps
in the ranks were ascertained with certainty. The Caribees were nearly
obliterated. Of the thousand men and over who had marched from Meridian
Hill only four hundred were found ten days after the battle. Elisha
Boone had hurried at once to Washington, charged by all the fathers,
mothers, brothers, and sisters of the regiment to make swift report of
the absent darlings. Kate was besieged in the grand house with tearful
watchers, waiting in agonizing impatience for the fatal finality.
Olympia, to spare her mother the distress of the vague responses her
telegrams brought from Washington, spent most of the time at the
Boones', where, thanks to the father's high standing with the
Administration, the earliest, most accurate information came. Finally he
wrote. He had seen Nick Marsh, who gave the first coherent narrative of
Jack, Barney, and Dick Perley. They had been seen--the first two in the
last desperate conflict. An officer (the hero whom Jack had so much
admired, and who turned out to be Gouverneur K. Warren) had escaped from
the forlorn hope left to dispute the rebel charge upon the flying
columns. He gave particulars that pointed with heart-breaking certainty
to the death of the two boys. Young Perley had been lost sight of since
noon of the battle. He had followed the path taken by Jack and his
comrades across the flank of the enemy. He had been seen at
Heintzelman's headquarters, but after that no one could trace him.
Wesley, too, had been left near the stone bridge with a ball in either
his arm or thigh, the informant was not quite sure which, as he fell in
a charge of the line. Boone telegraphed to Kate that he was going
through the lines with a flag of truce so soon as the affair could be
regulated, and proffered his best offices for the Acredale victims.

Everything had been prepared by Olympia and her mother for an instant
departure so soon as positive information came. With them Marcia Perley
went, trembling and tearful, and Telemachus Twigg, to extricate his son
from danger, for it was uncertain what his status was in the forces.
Kate, too, joined the melancholy pilgrimage that set out one morning
followed to the station by weeping kinsmen imploring the good offices of
these ambassadors of woe. The sleeping-car gave the miserable company
seclusion, if not rest. They were not the only ones in quest of the
missing, for as yet there was no certainty as to the fate of those left
on the field of battle. Later reports had been more encouraging, for
hundreds who were set down as prisoners or missing began to be heard
from as far northward as the Maryland line. In the station at Washington
Boone met his daughter. Twigg hurried to him and asked:

"Any further news, Mr. Boone? We're all here--about half Acredale."

"Yes, I see; but there is no more news of the Caribees. We learn that
the wounded have been sent to Richmond, and I shall set out for there
to-morrow."

Mrs. Sprague, with Olympia and Merry, drove to the house of a friend
she had known years before, whose husband was a Senator. The Boones--or
rather Kate--bade them a cordial adieu as they drove off to the
National Hotel.

Then the most trying part of the quest began. The War Department was
besieged with applicants, mostly women. Orders had been issued to forbid
all crossing the lines, and the despairing kinsfolk of the lost were in
a panic of impatient terror. In vain Olympia called upon eminent
Senators who had been friends of her father; in vain she invoked the aid
of the Secretary of State, who had been the family's guest at Acredale.
Once she penetrated, by the aid of strong letters, to the Secretary of
War. He was surrounded by a hurried throng of orderlies, officers, and
clerks, and even after she had been admitted to his office Olympia was
left unnoticed on a settee, waiting some sign to approach the dreaded
presence. His imperious and abrupt manner, his alternation of
deferential concern for some and disdainful impatience for others, gave
her small hope that he would heed her prayer. She waited hours, sitting
in the crowded room, ill from the oppressive air, the fixed stare of the
officers, and the sobbing of others like herself waiting a word with the
autocrat. At length, late in the afternoon, when the crowd had quite
gone, she heard the Secretary say in an undertone:

"Send an orderly to those women and see what they want."

Each of the waiting women handed credentials to the young man, and each
in turn arose trembling and stood before the decisive official at the
great, paper-strewn desk. There was no attempt to soften the refusal, as
he turned curtly from the pleaders; and Olympia, shrinking from the
ordeal, was about to step out of the room, when a tall, care-worn man
shambled in, glancing pityingly at her as she arose, half trembling,
recognizing the President.

She stepped in front of him in a desperate impulse, and, throwing up her
veil, cried piteously:

"O Mr. Lincoln, you are a father, you have a tender heart; you will
listen to the bereaved!" He stopped, looking at her kindly, and put his
left arm wearily on the desk by his side.

"Yes, my poor girl, I am a father and have a heart; the more's the pity,
for just now something else is needed in its place. I suppose your
father is over yonder," and he nodded toward the Virginia shore.

"O Mr. Lincoln, my father is farther away than that. My father was
Senator Sprague--you served with him in Congress--I--I--thought that
perhaps you might take pity on his widow, his daughter, his son, if the
poor boy is still living, and--and--"

"Send you across the lines?"

"Oh, if God would put it in your heart!"

"It's in my heart fast enough, my poor child, but--"

"Impossible, Mr. President! The enemy, as it is, can open a Sabine
campaign on us, and tie our hands by stretching Northern women out in a
line of battle between the ranks!"

It was the weary, discouraging voice of the Secretary, imperiously
implying that the Executive must not interpose weakness and mercy where
Draconian rigor sat enthroned. The President smiled sadly.

"Ah, Mr. Secretary, a sister--a mother--give a great deal for the
country. We can not err much in granting their prayer. Make out an
order--for whom?"

Olympia, speechless with gratitude reverence could hardly articulate:

"My mother, myself, and Miss Marcia Perley."

"Another mother?"

"Her boy is not of age, and ran away to join my brother's company." She
had a woman's presence of mind to answer with this diplomatic evasion.

"I'm afraid you will only add to your distress, my poor child; but you
shall go." He inclined his head benignantly and passed into the inner
sanctuary behind the rail, when Olympia heard the Secretary say, grimly:

"I shall take measures to stop this sort of thing, Mr. President.
Hereafter you shall only come to this department at certain hours. At
all other times the doors shall be guarded."

A gray-haired man in undress uniform presently appeared, and as he
handed Olympia the large official envelope he said, respectfully:

"You never heard of me, Miss Sprague? Many years ago the Senator, your
father, did a kind turn for my brother--an employé in the Treasury. If
I can be of any aid to you in this painful business, pray give me a
chance to show a kindness to the family of a great and good man. My name
is Charles Bevan, and it is signed to one of the papers in this letter."

Within an hour all was ready, but they could not set out until the next
morning, when, by eight o'clock, the three ladies were _en route_. There
was a large company with them, all under a flag of truce. They passed
through the long lines of soldiery that lay intrenched on the Virginia
side of the Potomac, and pushed on to Annandale, where the rebel outpost
received them. Olympia's eyes dwelt on the wide-stretching lands of pine
and oak, remembering the pictures Jack had given in his letters of this
very same route. But there were few signs of war. The cleared places lay
red and baking under the hot August sun; the trees seemed crisp
and sapless.

At Fairfax Court-House, where the first signs of real warlike tenure
were seen, the visitors were taken into a low frame house, and each in
turn asked to explain the objects of her mission. Then the hospital
reports were searched. In half a dozen or more instances the sad-eyed
mothers were thrown into tremulous hope by the tidings of their
darlings' whereabouts. But for Olympia and Aunt Merry there was no clew.
No such names as Sprague or Perley were recorded in the fateful pages of
the hospital corps. But there were several badly wounded in the hospital
at Manassas, where fuller particulars were accessible.

They were conducted very politely by a young lieutenant in a shabby gray
uniform to an ambulance and driven four miles southward to Fairfax
Station on the railway, when, after despairing hours of waiting, they
were taken by train to Manassas. An orderly accompanied them, and as the
train passed beyond Union Mills, where the Bull Run River runs along the
railway a mile or more before crossing under it, the young soldier
pointed out the distant plateau, near the famous stone bridge, and, when
the train crossed the river, the high bluffs, a half-mile to the
northward, where the action had begun at Blackburn's Ford. He was very
respectful and gentle in alluding to the battle, and said, ingenuously,
pointing to the plateau jutting out from the Bull Run Mountains:

"At two o'clock on Sunday we would have cried quits to McDowell to hold
his ground and let us alone. But just as we were on our heel to turn,
Joe Johnston came piling in here, right where you see that gully yonder,
with ten thousand fresh men, and in twenty minutes we were three to one,
and then your folks had the worst of it. President Davis got off the
train at the junction yonder, and as he rode across this field, where we
are now, the woods yonder were full of our men, flying from the Henry
House Hill, where Sherman had cut General Bee's brigade to pieces and
was routing Jackson--'Stonewall,' we call him now, because General
Bonham, when he brought up the reserves, shouted, 'See, there, where
Jackson stands like a stone wall!' He's a college professor and very
pious; he makes his men pray before fighting, and has 'meetings' in the
commissary tent twice a week."

"Did Mr. Davis join in the battle?" Olympia asked, more to seem
interested in the garrulous warrior's narrative than because she really
had her mind on the story.

"Oh, dear, no. Old Johnston had finished the job before the President
(Olympia noticed that all Southerners dwelt upon this title with
complacent insistence) could reach the field. He was barely in time to
see the cavalry of 'Jeb' Stuart charge the regulars on the
Warrenton road."

The train came to a halt, and the young man said, cheerfully:

"Here we are. The hospital's still right smart over yonder in the
trees."

"But you will go with us, will you not?" Olympia asked in alarm, for it
was wearing toward night.

"Oh, yes; I'm detailed to remain with you until you have found out about
your kinsfolk."

In the mellow sunset the three women followed the orderly across the
fields strewed with armaments, supplies, and the rough depot
paraphernalia of an army at rest. The hospital consisted of a large tent
for the slightly hurt, and a few old buildings and a barn for the more
serious cases. The search was futile. There were two or three of the
Caribees in the place, but they knew nothing of their missing comrades.
Indeed, Jack's detail by Colonel Sherman had effectually cut off all
trace of his movements after the battle began.

Mrs. Sprague's tears were falling softly as the orderly led them to the
surgeon's office. They were there shown the records of all who had been
buried on the field. Many, he informed them, sympathetically, had been
buried where they fell, in great ditches dug by the sappers. In every
case the garments had been stripped from the bodies before burial, so
that there was absolutely no means of identification. Most of the
wounded had, however, been sent to Richmond with the prisoners. "It
would not do," he added, kindly, "to give up all hope of the lost ones,
until they had seen the roster of the prisoners and the wounded in the
Richmond prisons and hospitals."

Quarters were given to them in a tent put at their disposal by the
surgeons, and in the long, wakeful hours of the night Olympia heard the
guard pacing monotonously before the door. The music of the bugles
aroused them at sunrise--a wan, haggard group, sad-eyed and silent. The
girl made desperate efforts to cheer the wretched mother, and even
privily took Merry to task for giving way before what was as yet but a
shadow. 'Twould be time enough for tears when they found evidence that
the stout, vigorous boys had been killed. As they finished the very
plain breakfast of half-baked bread, pea-coffee, and eggs, bought by the
orderly at an exorbitant rate, he said, good-naturedly:

"The train don't come till about ten o'clock. If you'd like to see the
battle-field, I can get the ambulance and take you over."

Olympia eagerly assented--anything was preferable to this mute misery of
her mother and Merry's sepulchral struggles to be conversational and
tearless. They drove through bewildering numbers of tents, most of them,
Olympia's sharp eyes noted, marked "U.S.A.," and she reflected, almost
angrily, that the chief part of war, after all, was pillage. The men
looked shabby, and the uniforms were as varied as a carnival, though by
no means so gay. Whenever they crossed a stream, which was not seldom,
groups of men were standing in the water to their middle, washing their
clothing, very much as Olympia had seen the washer-women on the
Continent, in Europe. They were very merry, even boisterous in this
unaccustomed work, responding to rough jests by resounding slashes of
the tightly wrung garments upon the heads or backs of the unwary wags.

"Why, there must be a million men here," Merry cried, as the tents
stretched for miles, as far as she could see.

"No; not quite a million, I reckon," the orderly said, proudly; "but we
shall have a million when we march on Washington."

"March on Washington!" Merry gasped, as though it was an official order
she had just heard promulgated. "But--but we aren't ready yet. We--"
Then she halted in dismay. Was she giving information to the enemy?
Would they instantly make use of it? Ah! she must, at any cost, undo
this fatal treason, big with disaster to the republic. "I mean we are
not ready yet to put our many million men on the march."

The orderly laughed. "I reckon your many million will be ready as soon
as our one million. You know we have a big country to cover with them.
You folks have only Washington to guard and Richmond to take. We have
the Mississippi and fifteen hundred miles of coast to guard. Now, this
corner is Newmarket, where Johnston waited for his troops on Sunday and
led them right along the road we are on--to the pine wood yonder--just
north of us. We won't go through there, because we ain't making a flank
movement," and he laughed pleasantly. They drove on at a rapid rate as
they came upon the southern shelf of the Manassas plateau.

"This," the orderly said, pointing to a small stone building in a bare
and ragged waste of trees, shrubs, and ruined implements of war, "is the
Henry House--what is left of it--the key of our position when Jackson
formed his stone wall facing toward the northwest, over there where your
folks very cleverly flanked us and waited an hour or two, Heaven only
knows what for, unless it was to give us time to bring up our
re-enforcements. Your officers lay the blame on Burnside and Hunter,
who, they declare, just sat still half the day, while Sherman got in
behind us and would have captured every man Jack of our fellows, if
Johnston hadn't come up, where I showed you, in the very nick of time."

The women were looking eagerly at the field of death. It was still as on
the day of the battle, save that instead of the thousands of beating
hearts, the flaunting flags, and roaring guns, there were countless
ridges torn in the sod, as if a plow had run through at random, limbs
and trees torn down and whirled across each other, broken wheels, musket
stocks and barrels, twisted and sticking, gaunt and eloquent, in the
tough, grassy fiber of the earth.

"In this circle of a mile and a half fifty thousand men pelted each
other from two o'clock that Sunday morning until four in the afternoon.
Up to two o'clock we were on the defensive. We were driven from the
broad, smooth road yonder that you see cutting through the trees,
northward a mile from here. Jackson alone made a stand; if it hadn't
been for him we should have been prisoners in Washington now, I reckon.
You see those men at work? They are picking up lead. We reckon that it
takes a ton of lead to kill a man."

"A ton of lead?" Olympia repeated.

"Yes. You wouldn't believe that thousands of men can stand in front of
each other a whole day and pour lead into each other's faces, and not
one in fifty is hit?"

"Ah!" Olympia commented, thinking that, after all, Jack might not have
been hit.

"These are the trenches of the dead. Our dead are not here. They were
all taken and sent to friends. There are five hundred of your dead here
and near the stone bridge yonder. We lost three hundred killed in
the fight."

"And are there no other marks than this plain board?" Olympia pointed to
a rough pine plank, sticking loosely in the ground, with the words
painted in lampblack: "85 Yanks. By the Hospital Corps, Bee's Brigade."

"That's all. They were all stripped--no means of identifying them. The
sun was very hot; the rain next day made the bodies rot, and the men had
to just shovel them in--" "Oh, oh! don't, pray don't!" Olympia cried, as
her mother tottered against the ambulance.

"I ask your pardon, ladies; I forgot that these are not things for
ladies to hear." He spoke in sincere contrition.

To relieve him Olympia smiled sadly, saying, "Won't you take us back,
please?"

The ambulance drove on into the Warrenton pike, and, if Olympia had
known it, within a stone's-throw of Jack's last effort, where the
cavalry picket came upon him. It was noon when they reached the station.
The orderly returned the ambulance to the hospital, brought down the
luggage, and the three women made a luncheon of fruit and dry bread,
declining the orderly's invitation to eat at the hospital. The train
came on three hours late. It was filled with military men, most of them
officers; but so soon as the orderly entered the rear coach, ushering in
his charges, two or three young men with official insignia on their
collars arose with alacrity and begged the ladies to take the vacant
places. At Bristow Station many of the officers got out and a number of
civilians entered from the coach ahead and took their places. Mrs.
Sprague, worn out by the fatigue of the journey and the strain upon her
mind, quite broke down in the hot, ill-ventilated car. There was no
water to be had, and Olympia turned inquiringly to the person opposite
her, asking:

"Could we possibly get any water--my mother is very much overcome?"

"Certainly, madam. There must be plenty of canteens on the train. I will
bring you some in a moment."

An officer who had been sharing the seat with Merry arose on hearing
this and said, kindly:

"Madam, if you will make use of your seat as a couch, perhaps your
mother will feel more comfortable reclining. I will get a seat
elsewhere."

Olympia was too much distressed to think of acknowledging this courteous
action, but Merry spoke up timidly:

"We are most grateful to you, sir."

"Oh, don't mention it. Are you going far?" "Yes, we're going to
Richmond, to--to find our boys, lost in the battle two weeks ago."

"Oh, you're from the North." He was a young man, perhaps thirty,
evidently proud of his unsoiled uniform and the glittering insignia of
rank on the sleeve and collar.

"Yes, sir; we're from Acredale, near Warchester," Merry said, as though
Acredale must be known even in this remote place, and that the knowing
of it would bring a certain consideration to the travelers.

"Oh, yes, Warchester. I fell in with an officer from there after the
battle, a Captain Boone. Do you know him?"

"Oh, dear me, yes. He is from Acredale. He is captain of Company K of
the Caribee Regiment--"

"Caribee? Why, yes. I remember that name. We got their flags and sent
them to Richmond; we--"

"And, oh, sir, did you take the prisoners? I mean the Caribees--were
there many? Oh, dear sir, it is among them our boys were; they were
mere boys."

"Yes, ma'am, there were a good smart lot of them, and as you say all
very young. Boone himself can't be twenty-five."

"And are they treated well? Do they have care? Of course you did not ask
any of their names?" Merry asked eagerly, comforted to be able to talk
with some one who knew of the Caribees, for heretofore, of the scores
they had questioned, no one had ever heard of the regiment.

"Oh, as to that, ma'am, you know a soldier's life is hard, and a
prisoner's is a good deal harder. Most of your men are in Castle
Thunder--a large tobacco warehouse." He hesitated, and looked furtively
at Olympia administering water to her mother. "Perhaps," he said,
heartily, "if you would put a drop of whisky in the cup it would brace
up your mother's nerves. We find it a good friend down here, when it
isn't an enemy," he added, smiling as Olympia looked at the proffered
flask hesitatingly.

"I assure you, madam," (Southerners, in the old time at least, imitated
the pleasant continental custom of addressing all women by this
comprehensive term), "you will be the better for a sip yourself. It was
upon that we did most of our fighting the other day, and it is a mighty
good brace-up, I assure you."

But Olympia shook her head, smiling. Her mother had taken a fair dose,
and was, as she owned, greatly benefited by it. The young man sat on the
arm of the opposite seat, anxious to continue the conversation, but
divided in mind. Merry was trying to hide her tears, and kept her head
obstinately toward the window. Olympia, with her mother's head pillowed
on her lap, strove to fan a current of air into circulation. She gave
the young man a reassuring glance, and he resumed his seat in front of
her, beside the distracted Merry.

"You are from Richmond?" Olympia asked as he sat puzzling for a pretext
to renew the talk with her.

"Oh, no; I am from Wilmington, but I have kinsfolk in Richmond, I am on
General Beauregard's staff. My name is Ballman--Captain Ballman."

She vaguely remembered that Vincent Atterbury was on staff duty. Perhaps
this young man knew him.

"Do you know a Mr. Atterbury in--in your army?" she asked, blushing
foolishly.

"Atterbury--Atterbury--why, yes! I know there is such a man. He is in
General Jackson's forces--whether on the staff or not I can't say. Stay.
I saw his name in _The Whig_ this very day." He took out the paper and
glanced down the columns. "Ah, yes; is this the man?" And he read:
"Major Vincent Atterbury, whose wounds were at first pronounced serious,
is now at his mother's country-house on the river. He is doing
excellently, and all fears have been removed."

"Yes, that is he. We know him quite well." And she turned her head
window-ward, with a feeling of confidence in the mission, heretofore so
blank and wild. Vincent would aid them. He could bring official
intervention to bear, without which Jack might, even though alive and
well, be hidden from them. She whispered this confidence to her mother
as the train jolted along noisily over the rough road, and, a good deal
inspired by it, Mrs. Sprague began to take something like interest in
the melancholy country that flew past the window, as if seeking a place
to hide its bareness in the blue line of uplands that marked the
receding mountain spurs.

The captain was much more potential in providing a supper at the evening
station than the orderly, who was looked upon with some suspicion when
he told the story of his _protégés_. The zeal of the new Confederates
did not extend to aiding the enemy, even though weak women and within
the Confederate lines. It was nearly morning when the train finally drew
up in the Richmond station, and the captain, with many protestations of
being at their service, gave them his army address, and, relinquishing
them to the orderly, withdrew. It had been decided that the party should
not attempt to find quarters in the hotels, which their escort declared
were crowded by the government and the thousands of curious flocking to
the city since the battle.

He could, however, he thought, get them plain accommodations with an
aunt, who lived a little from the center of the town. They were forced
to walk thither, no conveyance being obtainable. After a long delay they
were admitted, the widow explaining that she had been a good deal
troubled by marauding volunteers. The orderly explained the situation to
his kinswoman, and without parley the three ladies were shown into two
plain rooms adjoining. They were very prim and clean; the morning air
came through the open windows, bearing an almost stupefying odor. It may
have been the narcotic influence of the flowers that brought sleep to
the three women, for in ten minutes they were at rest as tranquilly as
if in the security of Acredale.



CHAPTER XIII.

A COMEDY OF TERRORS.


When Jack, the day after the battle, found himself able to take account
of what was going on, he closed his eyes again with a deep groan,
believing in a vague glimpse of peaceful rest that his last confused
sensation was real--that he was dead. But there were no airy aids of
languorous ease to perpetuate or encourage this delusion. Sharp pains
racked his head; his right arm burned and twinged as though he had
thrust it into pricking flames. Loud voices about, but invisible to him,
were swearing and gibing. He was lying on his back, his head on a line
with his body. A regular movement, broken by joltings that sent
torturing darts through his whole frame, told him without much
conjecture that he was in an ambulance. The accent of the voices outside
told him that it was a rebel ambulance and not a Northern one he was in.
He tried to raise his head to see his companions, but he might as well
have been nailed to the cross, so far as pain and helplessness went.
Then he lost the thread of his thought. He heard, in a vague, far-off
voice, men talking:

"We'll catch old Abe on our next trip ef we go on like this--eh, Ben?"

"I reckon. I'm jess going to take a furlough now. Hain't seen my girl
fo' foah months."

"How much did you pick up?"

"I've got five gold watches and right smart o' shinplasters, I don't
reckon they'll pass in our parts, but I'm going to trade 'em off with
some of these wounded chaps. They'll give gold for 'em fast enough."

"I got a heap of gold watches, jackknives, and sech. I don't know what
in the land to do with 'em. Suppose we can sell 'em in Richmond?"

"Yes--but how are we going to get to Richmond? We're ordered to dump
these Yanks at Newmarket and go back. Ef we don't get to Richmond, our
watches ain't worth a red cent. Jess like's not old Bory'll issue an
order to turn everything in. I'm blamed if I will!"

"Look yere, Ben, do you see that road off there to the right?"

"Yes, I do, but I don't see that it's different from any other road."

"Don't you? Well, honey, it's mitey sight different from all the roads
you ever saw. It takes you where you don't want to go."

"What do you mean, Bob?"

"I jess mean that ar road goes to Newmarket, where these Yanks are
ordered, but we've lost it and we shall come out in about an hour and a
half at the junction, whar th' train goes on to Richmond. See?"

"Bob Purvis, you are a general, suah," and then there followed low,
rollicking laughter, mingled with a gurgling as of a liquid swallowed
from a flask. "But how'll we manage at the junction? We can't go right
on the cars? There is some hocus-pocus about everything you do in
the army."

"Oh, jess you keep your eye on your dad, and you'll see things you never
saw afore. The minit them cavalry sneaks left us back thar, I made up my
mind I'd skip Newmarket. They've gone back to pick up more loot. No one
at the junction knows what our orders was. Besides, it'll be dark when
we get thar. The trains'll be full of our wounded. We'll slip these
Yanks in as if under orders. No one will know but we're hospital guards
on a detail for the wounded. When it is found out we shall be in
Richmond, and, if the provost folk get hold of me afore I've been home
and planted my haul, then I'm a Yank."

"By mitey, Ben, you are a general, suah." Then suppressed laughter and
the gurgling of the flowing enlivener. Jack blissfully fell into dreams,
wherein home things and warlike doings mingled in grotesque medley.
Relapses into consciousness followed at he knew not what intervals
thereafter. He was conscious of cruel torment and a clumsy transfer into
another vehicle, confused sounds of groans, curses, waving lights, and
the hissing of escaping steam almost in his very ears. Then the anguish
of thundering wheels, until his cracked brain reeled and he was
mercifully unconscious. How long? His eyes opened on a clean white wall,
flowers hung from the windows in plumy festoons, birds sang in the
yellow dazzling sunlight. What could it mean? Was he at home? Surely
there was nothing of war in these comfortable surroundings. His left arm
was free, there was no one lying near to impede its movement. So it
wasn't a hospital. He took vague note of all this before he tried to
lift his arm. He raised his hand to rub his eyes and to assure himself
that it was not a cruel delusion. When he took it away, a kind face--the
face of a woman--was bending over him.

"You are feeling better, aren't you, lieutenant?"

"Lieutenant"? Why did she call him lieutenant? Had he been promoted on
the battle-field? Was he in the Union lines? Oh, yes; else he would have
been in a hospital, with moaning men all about him. He tried to speak.
The woman put her finger to her lips, warningly.

"The doctor says you must not speak or be spoken to until you get
strong."

Days passed. He couldn't tell how many, for he lay, long hours at a
time, unconscious, the mental faculties mercifully dead while the
wounded ligatures knit themselves anew. His right arm had been cut by a
saber-stroke, and a pistol-ball had entered above the shoulder-blade.
Prompt attention would have given him recovery in a few days, but the
twenty-four hours in a cart and the cars made his condition, for a
time, serious.

But now he is visibly stronger, and his nurse brings people into the
room to see him. They look at him with wonder and admiration, while the
good lady is all in a flutter of delight. He hears himself spoken of
always as the "lieutenant," and hesitates to ask an explanation. The
physician comes but seldom, the lady explaining that all the doctors in
town are busy in the hospitals. The truth flashed upon him one morning,
when his hostess came bursting in to say:

"The provost guard has come to take your name. I don't know it, for when
you were brought here my son only heard you called lieutenant."

"My name is John Sprague"--Jack lifted himself to his elbow in
excitement and disregard of everything--"and my regiment is the--ah!" He
fell back, and the frightened dame hurried to him as she saw his changed
look and deadly pallor.

"Oh, how careless of me; how unthinking! There, lie perfectly still. I
will send the guard away and come back."

She was gone before he could recover his speech or enough coherence to
say what was in his mind. She informed the orderly that the ailing man
was John Sprague, a lieutenant in the First Virginia Volunteers, for
that was the regiment the hospital guards had named, when, on the night
of the arrival, the eager citizens swarmed at the station to take the
wounded to their homes, the hospitals being sadly unready. Jack
instantly suspected the situation, the conversation in the ambulance
coming back to him now distinctly. What should he do? He was in honor
bound to undeceive the kind-hearted and unwitting accomplice of the
fraud practiced on herself as well as on him. She came in presently with
an officer. Jack was not familiar with the rebel insignia, and could not
discover his rank or service, but he expected to hear himself denounced
as a spy or anything odious.

"Our surgeon has been sent to Manassas, and Dr. Van Ness is come to take
care of you in his place," the matron said, as Jack stared silent and
quavering at the new-comer. That gentleman examined the patient, shook
his head dubiously and declared high fever at work, and ordered absolute
quiet for at least twenty-four hours, when, if he could, he would
return. "Continue the prescriptions you have now, Mrs. Raines. All he
needs is quiet. The hospital steward will come to dress his wounds
as usual."

Mrs. Raines came in with tea and toast in the evening, and as she spread
the napkin on the bed she prattled cheerily.

"I'm so happy to-night. I've just received a letter from my son. He's at
Manassas. He's been promoted to lieutenant from sergeant. It was read at
the head of the regiment--for gallant service at the Henry House, where
he captured part of a company of Yankees with a squad of cavalry. He's
only twenty-two, and if he lives he may be a general--if those cowardly
Yankees will only fight long enough. But I'm afraid they won't. _The
Whig_ says this morning that that beast Lincoln has to keep himself
guarded by a regiment of negroes, as the Northern people want to kill
him. I hope they won't, for if they did then they might put some one in
his place that has some sense, and then the war would come to an end and
we should be cheated in a settlement, for the Yankees are sharper than
our big-hearted, generous men. No, sir, no; you mustn't talk. I've
promised to keep you quiet, so lie still. I'll read _The Whig_ to you."

She ran over the meager dispatches made up of hearsay and
speculation--how the North had fallen into a rage with the Washington
authorities; how Lincoln's life wasn't safe; how the Cabinet had all
resigned; how the Democrats had arisen in Congress and in the State
Legislatures and demanded negotiations with "President Davis"; how
England was drawing up a treaty with the new Confederacy. Then she
turned to the local page. She ran over a dozen paragraphs recounting the
deeds of well-known Richmond heroes, but these made no impression upon
the listener, until she read:

"Major Vincent Atterbury, whose gallantry at the battle of the 21st
Richmond is a subject of pride to his friends, was transferred to his
country home, on the James, yesterday. He is still very low, but the
surgeons declare that home quiet and careful nursing will restore him to
his duties in time for the autumn campaign--if the Yankees do not
surrender before that time."

Jack's eyes were so bright when Mrs. Raines looked at him, as she
lowered the sheet, that she arose, exclaiming quickly:

"There, I have brought the fever back! Your eyes are glittering and your
cheeks are flushed. No, do not speak."

She moved precipitately from the room, and Jack sank back with a groan.
His danger, if not his difficulties, might be overcome now. He would
write to Mrs. Atterbury, and through Vincent arrange for an exchange.
But a still deeper trouble had been on his mind. Where were Barney and
Nick, and, worse than all, young Dick Perley? If any mishap had befallen
that boy, he would shrink from returning to Acredale. And his mother,
what must her state of mind be? How many days had passed since the
battle? He had no means of knowing. Ah, yes! The paper was there on the
stand, where Mrs. Raines had thrown it. He raised himself slowly and
seized it. Heavens! Saturday, August 4th? Two weeks since that fatal
Sunday! And his mother? Oh, he must find means to write, to telegraph.
"Mrs. Raines," he called, hoarsely, "Mrs. Raines!" She came running to
his side in alarm.

"Oh, what has happened? You are worse!"

"I am very comfortable; but, my kind friend, I must--I must let my
mother know that I am alive; she will think me dead."

"That's what I meant to ask you--just as soon as you seemed able to
talk. I would have gladly sent her word and invited her to come here,
but I didn't know the name nor the address. You didn't have a stitch of
clothes when you came except your underwear; the rest had been taken
off, the men said, because they were soiled and bloody, and there wasn't
a clew of any sort to your identity, except that you were a lieutenant
in a Virginia regiment. I thought we should find out when the provost
came, but they have sent to Manassas, and no answer has come back yet."

"The men who brought me here deceived you, Mrs. Raines. I do not belong
to a Virginia regiment; I belong to a New York regiment, and I am
a--a--Union soldier."

"Great Father! A Yankee?" The poor woman sank on the nearest chair, as
some one who has been nursing a patient that suddenly turns out to have
small-pox or leprosy.

"Yes, Mrs. Raines: if you prefer that name, I'm a Yankee--but we call
only New-Englanders Yankees." He waited for her to speak, but as she sat
dumb, helpless, overcome, he continued: "I tried to explain the mistake
before, but your kindness cut me off. I can only say that, though you
have given me a mother's care and a Christian's consideration under a
misunderstanding, I trust you will not blame me for willful deception
nor regret the goodness you have shown the stranger in your hands."

"And those men that brought you here--were they Yankees, too?" she
asked, her mind dwelling, womanlike, on the least essential factor of
the problem in order to keep the grievous fact as far away as possible.

"Oh, no! they were your own people. There was no collusion, I assure
you." Jack almost laughed now, as the dialogue in the ambulance recurred
to him, and the adroit use the men had made of their unconscious charges
to secure a furlough. "No; I was more amazed than I can say when I came
to myself in this charming chamber--a paradise it seemed to me, a home
paradise--when your kind face bent over my pillow."

"It's a cruel disappointment," she said, rising and holding the back of
the chair as she tilted it toward the bed. "We were so proud of you--so
proud to have any one that had fought for our dear State in our own
house to nurse, to bring back to life. Every one on the street has some
one from the battle, and oh, what will be said of us when people know
that we--we--" But here the cruelty of the conclusion came too sharply
to her mind, and she walked to the window, sobbing softly.

"I can understand, believe me, Mrs. Raines, and I am going to propose a
means to you whereby I shall be taken from here, and your neighbors
shall never know that you entertained an enemy unawares, though God
knows I don't see why we should be enemies when the battle is over. If
your son were in my condition I should think very hard of my mother if
she were not to him what you have been to me."

"But I can't believe you're a Yankee; you were so gentle, so patient in
all the dreadful times when the surgeon was cutting and hacking. Oh, I
can't believe it! Oh, please say you are joking--that you wanted to give
me a fright. And you have a mother?" She came over near the bed again
and stood looking at him dismally, half in doubt, half in perplexed
wonder; for Yankee, in her mind, suggested some such monster as the
Greeks conjured when the Goths poured into the peninsula, maiming the
men and debauching the women. "I said Sprague wasn't a Virginia name,"
she murmered, plaintively, in a last desperate attempt to fortify
herself against the worst; "but there's no telling what names are in
Virginia now, since Norfolk has grown so big and folks come in that way
from all over the world."

Jack could scarcely keep a serious face, as this humorous lament
displayed the pride of the Dominion and the unconscious Boeotianism of
the provincial.

"Now, Mrs. Raines, here is what I propose: Major Atterbury, of whom you
read to me, is my nearest friend. We have been college comrades; he has
passed weeks at my home, and I have been asked to his, and meant to come
this autumn vacation, if the war had not broken out. I will write to his
mother, and she will have me removed to her house, and it need never be
known that you gave aid and comfort to the enemy."

"But the Atterburys will never receive you. They were the first to favor
secession, when all the rest of us opposed it. To tell you the truth,
Mr. Sprague, it is partly because we were abused a good deal for holding
back when the secession excitement was first started, that I am so--so
anxious about the story getting out that we entertained a Yankee
prisoner. My husband is in the service of the government in Norfolk, and
my son is in the army. But you know what neighborhood gossip is."

So, after a friendly talk in which the poor lady cried a great deal and
besought Jack's good-will for her darling William, if ever he were
luckless enough to be captured, the note was written and dispatched to
the Atterburys, whose city house was near the capital square. The
messenger returned a half-hour later, reporting the family out of town;
that they had taken the major to their country-place near Williamsburg,
on the banks of the James. The messenger had given the letter to the
housekeeper, who said that it would go out an hour later with the mail
sent daily to the family.

"Williamsburg is two hours' ride on the train," Mrs. Raines explained,
"and we sha'n't hear from them until to-morrow."

Jack said nothing; his mind was on his mother and the misery she must be
enduring. He turned restlessly on his pillow that night, and woke
feverish in the morning. Mrs. Raines now took as much pains to keep
people who called from seeing her hero as she had before put herself out
to display the invalid. Even the doctor, calling about nine o'clock, was
sent away on some pretext, and the poor lady waited with an anxiety,
almost as poignant as Jack's own, for the response to his note. About
noon it came. Mrs. Raines went to the door herself, not daring to trust
the colored girl, who had lavished untold pains on Jack's linen and the
manual part of his care. Jack heard low voices in the hallway, then on
the stairs, and he knew some one had come.

"Here is Miss Atterbury sent to fetch you, lieutenant," Mrs. Raines
said, now very much relieved, and impressed, too, by the powerful
friends her dangerous _protégé_ was able to summon so promptly by
a line.

"You are Rosalind?" Jack said, smiling at a pair of the brownest and
most bewitching eyes fixed soberly on him. "I should have known you if I
had met you in the street, although you were a small girl when I saw
you last."

"You needn't take much credit for that, sir, since Vincent probably had
my portrait in all his coat-pockets and his room frescoed with
them--it's a trick of his. So you needn't pretend that it was family
likeness--I know better. Vincent has all the good looks of the family,
and I have all the good qualities."

"That's why you've come to console the afflicted?"

"Yes, duty--you know how disagreeable that is. Vincent declared he would
come himself, if I didn't, and mamma wouldn't hear of your being moved
by servants alone, so I am here. But I give you fair warning that I am a
rebel of the most ferocious sort. You shall ride under the 'bonnie blue
flag' to Rosedale, and you shall salute our flag every morning when it
is hoisted."

"I am the most docile of men and the easiest of invalids. I will ride
under Captain Kidd's flag and salute the standard of the Grand Turk, to
be near Vincent just now."

When Rosalind's colored aids had placed him in the big family carriage,
and he had bidden Mrs. Raines farewell, the young lady resumed: "Ah, I
know you! Vincent has told me about your Yankee ways. Not another word,
sir. I'll act as guide, and tell you all we see of note as we go on.
There where your eyes are resting now is the Confederate Hall of
Independence; that modest house on the corner is President Davis's. We
are going to build him another by and by--after we capture Washington
and get our belongings--no--no--you needn't speak. I know what you want
to say. That's Washington's monument, and there is our dear old
Jefferson. Doesn't it quicken even your slow Yankee blood to pass the
walls that heard Jefferson at his greatest, that held Patrick Henry,
that covered Washington? Ah! if you Northern Pharisees were not
money-grubbers and souless to everything but the almighty dollar, you
would join hands with us in creating our new Confederacy. Yes, sir,
you're my prisoner. We shall see that one Yankee is kept out of
mischief--if the war lasts--which is not likely, as your folks are quite
cowed by the victory at Bull Run. Wasn't it a splendid fight? I shall
never forgive Vin for not letting me know it was coming off. Vin, you
know, is on General Early's staff. He knew two days before that there
was to be a fight, for he started from Winchester to keep the railway
clear and lead the troops to the Henry House when they got off the cars.
He was in the thickest of the fight, near Professor Jackson--Stonewall,
they call him now. He--Vin--had three horses killed, and was made a
major on the field by General Joe Johnston. What?----"

"Please let the carriage stop a moment. I want to absorb that lovely
view."

He pointed to the James, debouching from the hills over which the
carriage was slowly rolling. The afternoon sun was behind them; but far,
far to the eastward the noble river wound through masses of dark, deep
green until it was lost in a glow of shimmering mirage in the
low horizon.

"Isn't it lovely? We shall have a nobler capital city than Washington,
with its horrid red streets, its wilderness of bare squares, its
interminable distances--"

"Carcassonne," Jack murmured.

"Carcassonne--what's that?"

"An exquisite bit of verse and a touching story. I----"

"There, there--stop. You are talking again. You shall read the poem to
me--that is, if it isn't a glorification of the North."

"No; Carcassonne was a city of the South."

"Really--you must not talk. I'm not going to open my lips again until we
get to the boat."

She settled back in her place and took out a book, looking over the top
at him from time to time. The motion of the vehicle, the warmth of the
day, and the odorous breath of flowers and shrubs gradually dulled his
mischievous spirits, and he slept tranquilly until the carriage drew up
at the wharf at Harrison's Landing, whence, taken on a primitive ferry,
they in an hour or more arrived at a long wooden pier extending into the
river. It was nearly six o'clock when the carriage entered a solemn
aisle of pines ending in a labyrinth of oleanders and the tropic-like
plants of the South. Then an old-fashioned porticoed mansion came into
view, and on signal from the driver a _posse_ of colored servants came
trooping out noisily to carry the invalid in. Mrs. Atterbury was on the
veranda, and stepped down to the carriage to welcome the guest. She
greeted him with the affectionate cordiality of a mother, and asked:

"How have you borne the fatigue? I hope Rosa hasn't let you talk?"

"If I may speak now it will be to bear testimony that I have been made a
mummy since noon. I haven't been permitted to ask the local habitation
or name of the scenic delights that have made the journey a panorama of
beauty and my guide a tyrant, to whom, by comparison, Caligula was a
tender master!"

"Since you slept most of the way you must have dreamed the beauty, as
you certainly have invented the tyrant," Rosa retorted, as the brawny
servants lifted Jack bodily and carried him up the three steps and into
the sitting-room.

"Your quarters are next to my son's, if you think you can endure the
constant outbreaks of that locality. We are with him in all but his
sleeping hours, so you will do well to reflect before you decide."

"Oh, I shall insist on being near Vincent. He's too badly hurt to
overcome me in case we are tempted to fight our battles over again."

"But he has allies here, sir, and you must remember that you are a
prisoner of war," Rosa cried from the landing above, _en route_ to
minister to her hero before the Yankee invaded him. Vincent was propped
up in the bed with a mass of pillows, and the two friends embraced in
college-boy fashion, too much moved for a moment to begin the flood of
questions each was eager to ask and answer.

"Before I say a word of anything else, Vint, I want you to do me a great
service. It is two weeks since the battle. I am sure my mother can not
have any certain information about me. Can you manage any way to get a
letter or telegram sent her?"

"Of course I can. Nothing easier. Write your telegram. I will send it
under cover to General Early. He will forward it by flag of truce to
Washington, and it will be sent North from there."

But Jack's letter was never sent, for when the post came from Richmond
the next day, Vincent read in the morning paper a surprising
personal item:

"'Among the distinguished arrivals in the city within the week, we have
just learned of the presence of Mrs. Sprague, wife of the famous
Senator, a contemporary with Clay and Webster. Mrs. Sprague has come to
Richmond in search of her son, who was captured or killed on the field
near the Henry House. She comes with her daughter under a safeguard from
General Johnston, who knew the family when he was at West Point. Mrs.
Sprague is stopping with Mrs. Bevan, on Vernon Street, and is under the
escort of Private William Bevan of the general headquarters.'"



CHAPTER XIV.

UNDER TWO FLAGS.


That modest paragraph in the morning paper wrought amazing results in
the fortunes of many of the people we are interested in. A regiment of
cavalry encamped near the outskirts of the city on the line of the
Virginia Central had broken camp early in the morning to march
northward. One company detailed to bring up the rear was still loitering
near the station when the newspapers were thrown off the train and
eagerly seized by the men, who bestrewed themselves in groups to hear
the news read aloud.

"Here, you Towhead, you're company clerk; you read so that we can all
hear."

In response to this a stripling, in the most extraordinary costume, came
out from the impedimenta of the company with a springy step and
consequential air. You wouldn't have recognized the scapegrace, Dick
Perley, in the carnival figure that came forward, for his curling blond
hair was closely cropped, his face was smeared with the soilure of pots
and pans, and it was evident that the eager warrior had exchanged the
weapons of war for the utensils of the company kitchen. He read in a
high, clear treble the telegraphic dispatches, the sanguinary editorial
ratiocinations, Orphic in their prophetic sententiousness, and then
turned to the local columns.

Any one listening to the lad would never have suspected that he was not
a Southron. He prolonged the _a's_ and _o's_, as the Southern trick is,
and imitated to such perfection the pleasant localisms of Virginian
pronunciation, that keener critics of speech and accent than these
galliard troops would have been deceived. But suddenly his voice breaks,
he falls into the clear, distinct enunciation of New York--the only
speech in the Union that betrays no sign of locality. He is reading the
lines about the distinguished arrivals. Fortunately at the instant there
is a blast from the bugles--"Fall in!"--and the men rush to their
horses. In twenty minutes the company is clattering out on the
Mechanicsville road, and at noon, when the squadron halted for dinner,
the company cook had to rely on the clumsy ministrations of his colored
aides. "Towhead" had disappeared.

Olympia, after a night of anguish, began the new day with a heavy burden
on her mind. Mrs. Sprague was delirious. The physician summoned during
the night shook his head gravely. She was suffering from overexertion,
heat, and anxiety. He was unable to do more than mitigate her
sufferings. He recommended country air and absolute repose. Merry, too,
though holding up bravely, gave signs of breaking down. The two
women--Olympia and Merry--under the escort of young Bevan, had gone
through the prisons, the dreadful Castle Winder, and through the
hospitals, with hope dying at every new disappointment. They came across
many of the Caribees, and saw a member of Congress, caught on the
battle-field, who knew the regiment well.

Jack had been traced to Porter's lines, then far to the left, where Nick
had been told to wait. Nick was among the sweltering mass at Castle
Winder, but he could trace the missing no farther. He told of Jack's
persistent valor to the last, and the dreadful moment, when he, Jack,
had been separated. Dick he had not seen at all. Olympia made
intercession for Nick's release, but was informed that nothing could be
done until a cartel of exchange had been arranged. The Yankee
authorities had in the first five months of the war refused to make any
arrangement, while the Union forces were capturing the Confederate
armies in West Virginia and Missouri. Now that the Confederates held an
equal number, they were going to retaliate upon the overconfident North.
Olympia placed five hundred dollars at Nick's disposal in the hands of
the commandant to supply the lad with better food than the commissary
furnished, and, promising him strenuous aid so soon as she got back to
Washington, she resumed the quest for the lost. She had written out an
advertisement, to be inserted in all the city papers, and was to visit
the offices herself with young Bevan that evening. She had her bonnet
on, and was charging Merry how to minister to the ailing mother, when
the hostess knocked at the door. "A lady is in the parlor who says she
must see Mrs. Sprague immediately." Olympia followed Mrs. Bevan down
tremblingly, far from any anticipation of what was in store for her;
rather in the belief that it was some wretched mother from Acredale who
had learned of their presence and hoped to get aid for an imprisoned
son, husband, or brother. But when she saw the kind, matronly face of
Mrs. Raines beaming with the delight of bearing good news, she sank into
a chair, saying faintly:

"Did you wish to see me, Mrs.--Mrs.--"

"You are not Mrs. Sprague?"

"No; my mother is very ill. I am Mrs. Sprague's daughter. Can I--"

"Well, Miss Sprague, I think I can cure your mother. I--"

She arose and walked mysteriously to the door and looked into the
hallway.

"I know what the disease is your mother is suffering from."

She couldn't resist prolonging the consequence of her mission. All women
have the dramatic instinct. All love to intensify the unexpected. But
Olympia's listless manner and touching desolation spurred her on. She
put her fingers to her lips warningly, and coming quite near her
whispered, as she had seen people do on the stage:

"Don't make any disturbance; don't faint. Your brother is alive and
well! There, there--I told you."

Olympia was hugging the astonished woman, who glanced in terror over her
shoulder to see that feminine curiosity was not dangerously alert. "You
will ruin me," she whispered, "if you don't be calm." Then Olympia
suddenly recovered herself, sobbing behind her handkerchief. "He has
been at my house two weeks. He left yesterday and is now with Major
Atterbury's family on the James River, near Williamsburg. Miss Atterbury
came herself to take him there yesterday morning. I saw your name in
_The Examiner_ only an hour ago, and I came at once to relieve the
distress I knew you must be suffering."

Then the kind soul told the story, charging the sister never to reveal
the facts. She withdrew very happy and contented, for Olympia had said
many tender things; she almost felt that she had done the Confederacy a
great service, to have laid so many people under an obligation that
might in the future result in something remarkable for the cause.

Olympia's purpose of breaking the news gradually to the invalid was
frustrated by her tell-tale eyes and buoyant movements.

"O Olympia, you have seen John!" she screamed, starting up--"where is
he? Oh, where is he? I know you have seen him!" And then there were
subdued laughter and tears, and mamma instantly declared her intention
of flying to the hero. But there was considerable diplomacy still
requisite. Mrs. Raines must not be compromised, and young Bevan must get
transportation for them to the Atterburys. It was past noon when the
carriage came for them. Olympia had come down-stairs to give Mrs. Bevan
final instruction regarding letters and luggage, when a resounding knock
came upon the door. Mrs. Bevan opened it herself, and Olympia, standing
in the hall, heard a well-known voice, quick, eager, joyous:

"Is Mrs. Sprague, here?"

"O Richard," Olympia cried, rushing at him--"ah, you darling boy!--Aunt
Merry--Aunt Merry! Come--come quick! He is here." But Aunt Merry at the
head of the stairs had heard the voice, and Dick, tearing himself
ungallantly from the embrace of beauty, was up the stairs in four leaps
and in the arms of the fainting spinster.

"It is Miss Perley's nephew," Olympia said, joyously, to the amazed lady
of the house, who stood speechless. "We had given up all hope of seeing
him, as his name was not on our army list. He ran away to be with my
brother, and we felt like murderers, as you may imagine, and are almost
as much relieved to find him as our own flesh and blood."

The subsequent conversation between the matron and the young girl seemed
to put the mistress of the house in excellent humor, and when the
carriage drove off she kissed all the ladies quite as rapturously as if
she had never vowed undying hatred and vengeance upon the Yankee people.
In the carriage the prodigal Dick rattled off the story of his
adventures. He had come to Company K after Jack had been sent out on the
skirmish-line. He had followed in wild despair the direction pointed out
to him. He had lost his way until he met Colonel Sherman's orderlies.
They had told him where the company was halted on the banks of
the stream.

When he reached the place indicated he learned of Jack's detail to the
extreme right of the army. He dared not set out openly to follow. He ran
back in the bushes, out of sight, and then by a _détour_ struck the
stream far above to the right. The volleys away to the west guided him,
and he tore forward, bruising his flesh and tearing his raiment to
tatters. The stream seemed too deep to cross, for a mile or more, but
finally, finding that the firing seemed to go swiftly to the southward,
he plunged in. The banks on the other side were rugged and precipitous,
and he was obliged to push on in the morass that the stream wound
through. But nature gave out, and on a sunny slope he sat down to rest.
He soon fell into a sound sleep, and when he woke there was noise of men
laughing and shouting about him. He started to his feet.

"Hello! buster," a voice said near him. "What are you doin' away from
yer mammy? Beckon she'll think the Yanks have got you if you ain't home
for bedtime."

The man who said this was lying peacefully under a laurel-bush. Others
were sprawled about, feasting on the spoil of Union haversacks.

"I knew then that I was in a rebel camp," Dick continued, "but I wasn't
afraid, because my clothes were not military; and, even if they had
been, they were so torn and muddy, no one would have thought of them as
a uniform. But, for that matter, a good many of the rebels had blue
trousers; and, as for regimentals, there really were none, as we have
them. I made believe that I lived in the neighborhood, imitated the
Southern twang, and was set to work right away helping the company cook.
The firing was still going on very near us, to the south, west, and
east. But the men didn't seem to mind it much. In about a half-hour
there was a sudden move.

"A volley was poured into us from the east, and in an instant all the
graybacks were in commotion. I heard the officers shout: 'We are
surrounded! Die at your post, men!' But the men didn't want to die at
their posts, or anywhere else, but made off like frightened rabbits. In
a few minutes we were all marching between two lines of Richardson's
Union brigade. I had no trouble in stepping out, and then I pushed on in
Jack's direction. But I could not find him when I got to Hunter's
headquarters. An orderly remembered seeing him, or rather seeing the men
that brought the good news that Sherman was on the rebel side of the
stone bridge early in the battle. There I found an orderly of
Franklin's, who had seen two men I described, sent off to the right to
picket, until the cavalry could be sent there. I came upon Nick Marsh
near the general's headquarters, and he told me the direction the others
had gone, but urged me to remain with him--as Jack would surely be back
there, horsemen having ridden out in that direction to relieve him. I
don't know how far I went, but it must have been a mile.

"There I had to lie in the bushes, for two columns of troops were coming
and going, the flying fellows that Sherman had routed near the stone
bridge and the re-enforcements that were tearing up from the Manassas
Railway. The men coming were laughing and singing as they ran. The men
flying were silent, and seemed too frightened to notice the forces
coming to their support. I broke out of the bushes and ran toward the
line of thick trees that seemed to mark the course of the river. As I
came out on a deep sandy road I ran right into troops, halting. There
were great cheering and hurrah; then a cavalcade of civilians came
through the rushing ranks at a gallop. 'Hurrah for President Davis! Hip,
hip, hurrah!' I saw him. He was riding a splendid gray horse, and as the
men broke into shouts he raised his hat and bowed right and left. He was
stopped for a few minutes just in front of where I stood, or, rather, I
ran to where he halted. There were long trains of wounded filing down
the road, and men without guns, knapsacks, or side-arms, breaking
through the bushes on all sides.

"'They've routed us, Mr. President,' a wounded officer cried, as the
stretcher upon which he was lying passed near Jeff Davis.

"'What part of the field are you from?' Davis asked, huskily.

"'Bartow's brigade, stone bridge. They've captured all our guns, and are
pouring down on the fords. You will be in danger Mr. President, if you
continue northward a hundred yards.'

"Sure enough, there was a mighty cheer, hardly a half-mile to the north
of us, and clouds of dust arose in the air. Davis watched the movement
through his glass, and, turning to a horseman at his side, cried,
exultantly:

"'The breeze is from the northwest; that dust is going toward the
Warrenton Pike. Johnston has got up in time; we've won the day!'

"With this he put spurs to his horse, and the squadron halted on the
road set off at a wild gallop. The words of the President were repeated
from man to man, and then a mighty shout broke out. It seemed to clip
the leaves from the trees, as I saw them cut, an hour or two before, by
the swarming volleys of musketry. A horseman suddenly broke from a path
just behind where I was.

"'Is President Davis here?' he asked, riding close to me, but not
halting.

"'He has just ridden off yonder.' I pointed toward the cloud of dust
east and north of us.

"'Split your throats, boys! General Beauregard has just sent me to the
President to welcome him with the news that the Yankees are licked and
flying in all directions! Not a man of them can escape. General
Longstreet is on their rear at Centreville.'

"There were deafening, crazy shouts; hats, canteens, even muskets, were
flung in the air, and the wounded, lying on the ground, were struck by
some of these things as they fell, in a cloud, about them. The shouts
grew louder and louder, they rose and fell, far, far away right and
left. Everybody embraced everybody else. Men who had been limping and
despondent before broke into wild dances of joy. Everybody wanted to go
toward the field of battle now, but a provost guard filed down the road
presently, and in a few minutes I saw a sight that made tears of rage
and shame blind me. Whole regiments of blue-coats came at a quick-step
through the dusty roadway, the rebel guards prodding them brutally with
their bayonets. The fellows near me, who had been running from the
fight, set up insulting cheers and cat-calls.

"'Did you'ns leave a lock of your hair with old Mas'r Lincoln?'

"'Come down to Dixie to marry niggers, have ye?' and scores of taunts
more insulting and obscene. Our men never answered. They were worn and
dusty. They had no weapons, of course, for the first thing the rebels
did was to search every man, take his money, watch, studs, even his coat
and shoes, when they were better than their own. Hundreds of our men
were in their stocking-feet, or, rather, in their bare feet, as they
tramped wearily through the burning sand and twisted roots. I heard one
of the rebels near me, an officer, say that the prisoners were all going
to the junction to take the cars. President Davis had ordered that they
should be marched through the streets of Richmond to show the people of
the capital the extent of the victory. Then the thought flashed into my
head that if our army had been captured, my best chance of finding Jack
would be to follow to Richmond and watch the blue-coats. I easily
slipped among the prisoners, came to the city and saw every man that
went to Castle Winder. But no one that I knew was among them, and I made
up my mind that Jack had escaped. I saw Wesley Boone's father and sister
at the Spottswood House yesterday, but I was too late to catch them,
and, when I asked the clerk at the desk, be said they had taken quarters
in the town--he didn't know where."

"That's a fact," Olympia exclaimed; "they left Washington before us. I
wonder if they found Wesley?"

"I don't know," Dick continued, "The officers were brought in a gang by
themselves, and I didn't see them. Well, I hung about the town, visiting
all the places I thought it likely Jack might be, and then I joined a
cavalry company that belonged to Early's brigade, at Manassas. I was
going there with them this morning to get back to our lines and find
Jack, when I saw the paragraph in _The Examiner_, telling of your coming
and whereabouts."



CHAPTER XV.

ROSEDALE.


"What an intrepid young brave you are, Dick!" Olympia cried, as the
artless narrative came to an end.

"What a cruel boy, to leave his family and--and--run into such dreadful
danger!" Merry expostulated.

"What a devoted boy, to risk his life and liberty for our poor Jack!"
Mrs. Sprague said, bending forward to stroke the tow-head. The carriage
passed down the same road that Jack had gone the day before, whistling
sarcasms at his keeper. At Harrison's Landing there was a delay of
several hours, and the impatient party wandered on the shores of the
majestic James--glittering, like a sylvan lake, in its rich border of
woodland. The sun was too hot to permit of the excursion Dick suggested,
and late in the afternoon the wheezy ferry carried them down the
lake-like stream. On every hand there were signs of peace--not a fort,
not a breastwork gave token that this was in a few months to be the
shambles of mighty armies, the anchorage of that new wonder, the iron
battle-ship; the scene of McClellan's miraculous victory at Malvern, of
Grant's slaughtering grapplings with rebellion at bay, of Butler's comic
joustings, and the last desperate onslaughts of Hancock's legions. The
air, tempered by the faint flavor of salt in the water, filled the
travelers with an intoxicating vigor, lent strength to their jaded
forces, which, while tense with expectation, could not wholly resist the
delicious aroma, the lovely outlines of primeval forest, the melody of
strange birds, startled along the shore by the wheezy puffing of the
ferry. There were cries of admiring delight as the carriage ran from the
long wooden pier into the dim arcade of sycamore and pine, through which
the road wound, all the way to Rosedale. Then they emerged into a
gentle, rolling, upland, where cultivated fields spread far into the
horizon, and in the distance a dense grove, which proved to be the park
about the house. The coming of the carriage was a signal to a swarm of
small black urchins to scramble, grinning and delighted, to the wide
lawn. There was no need to sound the great knocker; no need to explain,
when Rosalind, hurrying to the door, saw Olympia emerging from the
vehicle. They had not seen each other in four years, but they were in
each other's arms--laughing, sobbing--exclaiming:

"How did you know? When did you come?"

"Jack, Jack! Where is he? How is he?"

"Jack's able to eat," Rosa cried, darting down to embrace Mrs. Sprague,
and starting with a little cry of wonder as Aunt Merry exclaimed, timidly:

"We're all here. You've captured the best part of Acredale, though you
haven't got Washington yet."

"Why, how delightful! We shall think it is Acredale," Rosa cried,
welcoming the blushing lady. "And--I should say, if he were not so much
like--like 'we uns,' that this was my old friend, the naughty Richard,"
she said, welcoming the blushing youth cordially. (Dick avowed
afterward, in confidence to Jack, that she would have kissed him if he
hadn't held back, remembering his unkempt condition.) Mamma and Olympia
were shown up to the door of Jack's room, where Rosalind very discreetly
left them, to introduce the other guests to Mrs. Atterbury, attracted to
the place by the unwonted sounds. When presently the visitors were shown
into Vincent's room, Jack called out to them to come and see valor
conquered by love; and, when they entered, mamma was brushing her eyes
furtively, while she still held Jack's unwounded hand under the
counterpane. Master Dick excited the maternal alarm by throwing himself
rapturously on the wounded hero and giving him the kiss he had denied
Rosalind. Indeed, he showered kisses on the abashed hero, whose eyes
were suspiciously sparkling at the evidence of the boy's delight. He
established himself in Jack's room, and no urging, prayer, or reproof
could induce him to quit his hero's sight.

"I lost him once," he said, doggedly, "and I'm not going to lose him
again. Where he goes, I'm going; where he stays, I'll stay--sha'n't
I, Jack?"

"You shall, indeed, my dauntless Orestes; you shall share my fortunes,
whatever they be."

He insisted on a cot in the room, and there, during the convalescence of
his idol, he persisted in sleeping--ruling all who had to do with the
invalid in his own capricious humor, hardly excepting Mrs. Sprague, whom
he tolerated with some impatience. Letters were dispatched northward to
relieve the anxiety of Pliny and Phemie, as well as the Marshes. But it
hung heavily on Jack's heart that no trace of Barney had been found.
Advertisements were sent to the Richmond papers, and he waited in
restless impatience for some sign of the kind lad's well-being.

"Well, Jack, this isn't much like the pomp and circumstance of glorious
war," Olympia cried, the next morning, coming in from an excursion about
the "plantation," as she insisted on calling the estate, attended by
Merry, Rosa, and Dick. "I never saw such foliage! The roses are as large
as sunflowers, and there are whole fields of them!"

"Yes; I believe the Atterburys make merchandise of them."

"But who buys them about here? They seem to grow wild--as fine in form
and color as our hot-house varieties. Surely they are not bought by the
colored people, and there seems to be no one else--no other
inhabitants, I mean."

"Oh, no; they are shipped North in the season for them; but I don't
think the family has paid much attention to that branch of the business
of late years. Their revenues come from tobacco and cotton. Their
cotton-fields are in South Carolina and along the Atlantic coast."

"And are these colored people all slaves?" Her voice sank to a whisper,
for Vincent's door was ajar.

"Yes, every man jack of them. Did you ever see such merry rogues? They
laugh and sing half the night, and sing and work half the day."

"They don't seem unhappy, that's a fact," Olympia said, reflectively,
"but I should think ownership in flesh and blood would harden people;
and yet the Atterburys are very kind and gentle. I saw tears in Mrs.
Atterbury's eyes, yesterday, when mamma was sitting here with you."

"Yes," Jack said, unconsciously, "women enjoy crying--"

"You insufferable braggart, how dare you talk like that? Pray, what do
you know about women's likes and dislikes?"

"Oh, I beg pardon, Polly; I'm sure I didn't mean anything--I was taking
the minor for the major. All women like babies; babies pass most of
their time crying; therefore women like crying."

"Well, if that is the sum of your college training, it is a good thing
the war came--"

"What about the war? No treason in Rosedale, remember!" Vincent shouted
from the next room. "You pledged me that when you talked war you would
talk in open assembly." The voice neared the open doorway as he spoke.
The servant had moved the invalid's cot, where Vincent could look in
on Jack.

"There was really no war talk, Vint, except such war as women always
raise, contention--"

"I object, Jack, to your generalization," Olympia retorted. "It is a
habit of boyishness and immaturity.--He said a moment ago" (she turned
to Vincent) "that women loved crying, and then sneaked out by a very
shallow evasion."

"I'll leave it to Vint: All women love babies; babies do nothing but
cry; therefore, women love crying; there couldn't be a syllogism more
irrefutable."

"Unless it be that all women love liars," Vincent ventured, jocosely.

"How do you prove that?"

"All men are liars; women love men; therefore--"

"Oh, pshaw! you have to assume in that premise. I don't in mine. It is
notorious that women love babies, while you have only the spiteful
saying of a very uncertain old prophet for your major--"

"Whose major?" Rosa asked, appearing suddenly. "I'll have you to know,
sir, that this major is mamma's, and no one else can have, hold, or make
eyes at him."

"It was the major in logic we were making free with," Jack mumbled,
laughing. "I hope logic isn't a heresy in your new Confederacy, as
religion was in the French Constitution of '93?"

Rosa looked at Olympia, a little perplexed, and, seating herself on the
cot with Vincent, where she could caress him furtively, said, with
piquant deliberation:

"I don't know about logic, but we've got everything needed to make us
happy in the Montgomery Constitution."

"Have you read it?" Jack asked, innocently.

"How insulting! Of course I have. I read it the very first thing when it
appeared in the newspapers."

"Catch our Northern women doing that!" Jack interjected, loftily. "There
is my learned sister, she doesn't know the Constitution from Plato's
Dialogues."

"Indeed, I do not; nor do I know Plato's Dialogues," Olympia returned,
quite at ease in this state of ignorance.

"Wherein does the Montgomery Constitution differ from the old one?" Jack
asked, looking at Vincent.

"I'm blessed if I know. I've read neither. I did read the Declaration of
Independence once at a Fourth-of-July barbecue. I always thought that
was the Constitution. Indeed, every fellow about here does! You know in
the South the women do all the thinking for the men. Rosa keeps my
political conscience."

"Well, then, Lord High Chancellor, tell us the vital articles in the
Montgomery document that have inspired you to arm Mars for the conflict,
plunge millions into strife and thousands into hades, as Socrates would
have said, employing his method?" Jack continued derisively.

"Our Constitution assures us the eternal right to own our own property."

"Slaves?"

"Yes."

"No one denied you that right, so far as the law went, under the old; it
was only the justice, the humanity, that was questioned. The right would
have endured a hundred years, perhaps forever, if you had kept still--"

"Come, Jack, I won't listen to politics," Olympia cried, with a warning
look.

"No, the time for talk is past; it is battle, and God defend the right!"
Rosa said, solemnly.

"And you may be sure he will," Jack added, softly, as though to himself.

"But we've got far away from the crying and the babies," Vincent began,
when Jack interrupted, fervently:

"Thank Heaven!"

"You monster!" the two girls cried in a breath.

"No, I can't conceive a sillier paradox than 'A babe in the house is a
well-spring of joy.' A woman must have written it first. Now, my idea of
perfect happiness for a house is to have two wounded warriors like
Vincent and me, tractable, amiable, always ready to join in rational
conversation and make love if necessary, providing we're encouraged."

"Really, Olympia, your Northern men are not what I fancied," Rosa cried,
with a laugh.

"What did you fancy them?"

"Oh, ever so different, from this--this saucy fellow--modest, timid,
shy; needing ever so much encouragement to--to--"

"Claim their due?" Jack added, slyly.

"Well, there is one that doesn't require much encouragement to claim
everything that comes in his way," Rosa retorts, and Olympia adds:

"And to spare my feelings you won't name him now."

"Exactly," said Rosa.

"How touching!" exclaimed Vincent.

"I left all my blood to enrich your soil, or I'd blush," replied Jack.

"Oh, no; it won't enrich the soil; it will bring out a crop of Johnny
Jump-ups, a weed that we don't relish in the South," retorted Rosa.

"Ah, Jack, you're hit there!--Rosa, I'm proud of you. This odious Yankee
needs combing down; he ran over us so long at college that he is
conceited in his own impudence," and Vincent exploded in shouts
of laughter.

"I fear you're not a botanist, Miss Rosa. It's 'Jack in the pulpit' that
will spring from Northern blood, and they'll preach such truths that the
very herbage will bring the lesson of liberty and toleration to you."

"What is this very serious discussion, my children?" Mrs. Atterbury
said, beaming sweetly upon the group. "I couldn't imagine what had
started Vincent in such boisterous laughter; and now, that I come, Mr.
Jack is as serious as we were at school when Madame Clarice told us of
our sins."

"Jack was telling his, mamma, and that is still more serious than to
hear one's own," Vincent said, grinning at the moralist.

"But, to be serious a moment, I have written to my old friend General
Robert Lee, of Arlington, about Miss Perley. I know that he will grant
her permission to take Richard home with her, and the question now is
whether it is safe to let them go together alone?" Mrs. Atterbury
addressed the question to Olympia, making no account of Jack.

"Oh, let us leave the decision until you get General Lee's answer. If
they get the message in Acredale that Dick is safe and sound, I don't
see why they need go back before we do. I shall be able to travel in a
few weeks. If the roads were not so rickety I wouldn't be afraid to set
out now," Jack answered.

"Impossible! You can't leave for a month yet, if then," Vincent
proclaimed, authoritatively. "I know what gunshot wounds are: you think
they are healed, and begin fooling about, when you find yourself laid up
worse than ever. There's no hurry. The campaign can't begin before
October. I'm as anxious to be back as you are, but I don't mean to stir
before October. Perhaps you think it will be dull here? Just wait until
you are strong enough to knock about a bit; we shall have royal rides.
We'll go to Williamsburg and see the oldest college in the country.
We'll go down the James, and you shall see some of the richest lands in
the world. We'll get a lot of fellows out from Richmond and have our
regular barbecue in September. We wind up the season here every year
with a grand dance, and Olympia shall lead the Queen Anne minuet with
mamma's kinsman, General Lee, who is the President's chief of staff."

"This doesn't sound much like soldiering," Jack said, dreamily.

"No. When in the field, let us fight; when at home, let us be merry."

"A very proper sentiment, young men. We want you to be very merry, for
you must remember the time comes when we can't be anything but sad--when
you are away and the night of doubt settles upon our weak women's
hearts." It was Mrs. Atterbury who spoke, and the sentence seemed to
bring silence upon the group.

Meanwhile, all the inquiries set on foot through the agency of the
Atterburys failed to bring any tidings of Barney Moore. It suddenly
occurred to Jack that the poor fellow was masquerading as a rebel in the
bosom of some eager patriot like Mrs. Raines and he reluctantly
consented to let Dick go to Richmond to investigate. Perhaps Mrs. Raines
might know where the wounded men were taken that had come with him. Some
of the stragglers could at least be found. The advertisement asking
information concerning a wounded man arriving in Richmond with himself
was kept in all the journals. But Merry wouldn't consent to let Dick go
on the dangerous quest without her. She would never dare face her
sisters if any mishap came to the lad, and though Vincent put him under
the care of an experienced overseer, and ordered the town-house to be
opened for his entertainment, the timorous aunt was immovable.

"You must go and call on the President, Miss Merry. He receives
Thursdays at the State House. Then you'll see a really great man in
authority, not the backwoods clowns that have brought this country into
ridicule--such a man as Virginia used to give the people for President,"
Rosa said in the tone a lady of Louis XVIII's court might have used to
an adherent of the Bonapartes.

"Ah, Rosa, we saw a gentle, tender-hearted man in Washington--the very
ideal of a people's father. No one else can ever be President to me
while he lives," Olympia said, seriously.

"Lincoln?" Rosa asked, a little disdainfully.

"Yes, Abraham Lincoln. We have all misunderstood him. Oh if you could
have seen him as I saw him--so patient, so considerate: the sorrows of
the nation in his heart and its burdens on his shoulders; but confident,
calm, serene, with the benignant humility of a man sent by God," Olympia
added almost reverently. "It was he who came to our aid and ordered the
rules to be broken that our mother might seek Jack."

Rosa was about to retort, but a warning glance from Vincent checked her,
and she said nothing.

"I say, Dick, don't try to capture Jeff Davis or blow up the Confederate
Congress, or any other of the casual master strokes that may enter your
wild head. Remember that we have given double hostages to the enemy. We
have accepted their hospitality, and we have made ourselves their
guests," Jack said, half seriously, as the young Hotspur wrung his hand
in a tearful embrace.

"Above all, remember, Mr. Yankee, that you are in a certain sense a
civilian now; you must not compromise us by free speech in Richmond,"
Rosa added.

"Ah, I know very well there's none of that in the South: you folks
object to free speech; they killed poor old Brown for it; that's what
you made war for, to silence free speech," Dick cried hotly, while Merry
pinched his arm in terror.

Dick began his campaign in the morning with longheaded address. He
visited the prison under ample powers from General Lee--procured though
Vincent's mediation. There were a score of the Caribees in Castle
Winder, and to these the boy came as a good fairy in the tale. For he
distributed money, tobacco, and other things, which enabled the
unfortunates to beguile the tedious hours of confinement. The prisoners
were crowded like cattle in the immense warehouse in squads of a hundred
or more. They had blankets to stretch on the floor for beds, a general
basin to wash in, and for some time amused themselves watching through
the barred windows the crowds outside that flocked to the place to see
the Yankees, and, when not checked by the guards, to revile and
taunt them.

Dick was enraged to see how contentedly the men bore the irksome
confinement, the meager food, and harsh peremptoriness of the beardless
boys set over them as guards. Most of the prisoners passed the time in
cards, playing for buttons, trinkets, or what not that formed their
scanty possessions. Dick learned that all the commissioned officers of
the company with Wesley Boone had been wounded or killed in the charge
near the stone bridge. Wesley had been with the prisoners at first. He
had been struck on the head, and was in a raging fever when his father
and sister came to the prison to take him away. No one could tell where
he was now, but Dick knew that he must be in the city, since there were
no exchanges, the Confederates allowing no one to leave the lines except
women with the dead, or those who came from the North on
special permits.

Then he visited the provost headquarters, and was shown the complete
list of names recorded in the books there; but Barney's was not among
them. At the Spottswood Hotel, the day after his coming, he met Elisha
Boone, haggard, depressed, almost despairing. Dick had no love for the
hard-headed plutocrat, but he couldn't resist making himself known.

"How d'ye do, Mr. Boone? I hope Wesley is coming on well, sir."

Boone brought his wandering eyes down to the stripling in dull
amazement.

"Why, where on earth do you come from? How is it you are free and
allowed in the streets?"

"Oh, I am a privileged person, sir. I am looking up Company K. You
haven't heard anything of young Moore, Barney, who lives on the Callao
road south of Acredale?"

"No, my mind has been taken up with my son"; his voice grew softer. "He
is in a very bad way, and the worst is there is no decent doctor to be
got here for love or money; all the capable ones are in the army, and
those that are here refuse to take any interest in a Yankee."

The father's grief and the unhappy situation of his whilom enemy touched
the lad; forgetting Jack's and Vincent's warning, Dick said,
impulsively:

"Oh, I can get him a good doctor. We have friends here." He knew, the
moment he had spoken the words, that he had been imprudent--how
imprudent the sudden, suspicious gleam in Boone's eye at once
admonished him.

"Friends here? Union men have no friends here. There are men here with,
whom I have done business for years, men that owe prosperity to me, but
when I called on them they almost insulted me. If you have friends, you
must have sympathies that they appreciate."

Dick knew what this meant. To be a Democrat had been, in Acredale, to be
charged with secret leanings to rebellion. He restrained his wrath
manfully, and said, simply:

"An old college friend of Jack's has been very kind to us."

"Us? I take it you mean the Spragues. They are stopping with Jeff Davis,
I suppose? It's the least he could do for allies so steadfast."

"You shouldn't talk that way, sir. Every man in the Caribees, except old
Oswald's gang, is a Democrat, but they are for the country
before party."

"Yes, yes, it may be so--but, the North don't think that way. Well, I'm
going to Washington to see if I can't get my boy out of this infernal
place, where a man can't even get shaved decently."

"And Miss Kate, Mr. Boone, where is she?"

"She is nursing Wesley, poor girl. She is having a harder trial than any
of us; for these devilish women fairly push into the sick-room to abuse
the North and berate the soldiers that fought at Manassas."

"I should like to call on Wesley--if you don't mind," Dick said,
hesitatingly.

"I shall be only too glad; and I'll tell you what it is, Richard, if
you'll make use of your friends here, to get Kate and Wesley some
comforts, some consideration, I'll make it worth your while. I'll see
that you do not have to wait long for a commission, and I'll pay you any
reasonable sum so soon as you get back North."

Dick restrained his anger under this insulting blow, perceiving, even in
the hotness of his wrath, that the other was unconscious of the double
ignominy implied in dealing with soldiers' rewards as personal bribes,
and proffering money for common brotherly offices. It was only when Jack
commended his astuteness, afterward, that Dick realized the adroitness
of his own diplomacy.

"Thank you, Mr. Boone. I shouldn't care for promotion that I didn't win
in war; and, as for money, I shall have enough when I need it. But any
man in the Caribees shall have my help. Under the flag every man is
a friend."

"True. Yes; you are quite right. Kate will be very glad to see you."

They walked along, neither disposed to talk after this narrow shave from
a quarrel. Boone led the way to the northern outskirts of the city,
until they reached a dull-brown frame building, back some distance from
the street. A colored woman, with a flaming turban on her head, opened
the door as she saw them coming up the trim walk lined with shells and
gay with poppies, bergamot, asters, and heliotrope.

"This woman is a slave. She belongs to the proprietor of the hotel who
refused to receive Wesley. It was a great concession to let him come
here, they told me. But the poor boy might as well be in a Michigan
logging camp, for all the care he can get. But I'm mighty glad I met
you. I know you can help Kate while I am gone. I hated to leave her, but
I can do nothing here, and unless Wesley is removed he will never leave
this cussed town alive. I sha'n't be gone more than ten days."

Kate had been called by the turbaned mistress, and came into the room
with a little shriek of pleasure.

"O, Richard, what a delightful surprise! Have you seen your aunt? Ah! I
am so glad; she must be so relieved! And Mr. Sprague--have they
found him?"

Dick retailed as much of the story as he thought safe, but he had to say
that the Spragues were all with the Atterburys in the country.

"How providential! Ah, if our poor Wesley could find some such friends!
He is very low. He recognizes no one. Unless papa can get leave to take
him North--I am afraid of the worst. Indeed, I doubt whether he could
stand so long a journey. You must stay the day with us. I am so lonely,
and I dread being more lonely still when papa leaves this evening."

Dick remained until late in the afternoon, sending word to Merry, who
came promptly to the aid of the afflicted. The next day Dick left his
aunt at the cottage with Kate, and warning them that he should be gone
all day, and perhaps not see them until the next morning, he set off for
Rosedale, where he told Jack Kate's plight. Vincent heard the story,
too, and when it was ended he said, decisively:

"Jack, we must send for them. It would never do to have the story told
in Acredale that you had found friends in the South--because you are a
Democrat, and Boone was thrust into negro quarters because he is an
abolitionist."

It was the very thought on Jack's mind, and straightway the carriage was
made ready, with ample pillows and what not. Dick set out in great
state, filled with the importance of his mission and the glory of Jack's
cordial praises. He was to stop on the way through town and carry the
Atterbury's family physician to direct the removal. When he appeared
before Kate, with Mrs. Atterbury's commands that she and her brother
should make Rosedale their home until the invalid could be removed
North, the poor girl broke down in the sudden sense of relief--the
certainty of salvation to the slowly dying brother. The physician spent
many hours redressing the wounds. Gangrene had begun to eat away the
flesh of the head above the temple, and poor Wesley was unrecognizable.
He was quite unconscious of the burning bromine and the clipping of
flesh that the skillful hand of the practitioner carried on. When the
little group started on the long journey, the invalid looked more like
himself than he had since Kate found him. The drive lasted many hours.
Wesley was stretched in an ambulance, Kate sitting on the seat with the
driver, the physician and Dick following in the carriage. Merry went
back to the city house, where her nephew was to return as soon as Wesley
had been delivered at Rosedale. Her charge placed in the hands of the
kind hostess, Mrs. Atterbury, Kate broke down. She had borne up while
her head and heart alone stood between her brother and death; but now,
relieved of the strain, she fell into an alarming fever. A Williamsburg
veteran, who had practiced in that ancient college town, since the early
days of the century, took the Richmond surgeon's place, and the gay
summer house became, for the time, a hospital.

Meanwhile the rebel provost-marshal had simplified Dick's task a good
deal. An order was issued that all houses where wounded or ailing men
were lying should signalize the fact by a yellow flag or ribbon,
attached to the front in a conspicuous place. Thus directed, Dick walked
street after street, asking to see the wounded; and the fourth day,
coming to a residence, rather handsomer than the others on the street,
not two blocks from Mrs. Raines, Jack's Samaritan, he found a wasted
figure, with bandaged head and unmeaning eyes, that he recognized
as Barney.

"We haven't been able to get any clew as to his name or regiment. The
guards at the station said he belonged to the Twelfth Virginia, but none
of the members of that body in the city recognize him. You know him?"

"Yes. He is of my regiment," Dick said, neglecting to mention the
regiment. "I will send word to his friends at once and have
him removed."

"Oh, we are proud and happy to have him here. Our only anxiety was lest
he should die and his family remain in ignorance. But, now that you
identify him, we hope that we may be permitted to keep him until his
recovery."

It was a stately matron who spoke with such a manner, as Dick thought,
must be the mark of nobility in other lands. He learned, with surprise,
that the Atterbury physician was ministering to Barney, though there was
nothing strange in that, since the doctor was the favorite practitioner
of the well-to-do in the city. That night he wrote to Jack, asking
instructions, and the next day received a note, written by Olympia,
advising that Barney be left with his present hosts until he recovered
consciousness; that by that time Vincent would be able to come up to
town and explain matters to the deluded family. The better to carry out
this plan, Dick was bidden to return to Rosedale, and thus, six weeks
after the battle and dispersion, all our Acredale personages, by the
strange chances of war, were assembled within sight of the rebel
capital, and, though in the hands of friends, as absolutely cut off from
their home and duties as if they had been captured in a combat with
the Indians.



CHAPTER XVI.

A MASQUE IN ARCADY.


In the latter days of September, the life at Rosedale was but a faint
reminder of the hospital it had seemed in August. The young men were
able to take part in all the simple gayeties devised by Rosa to make the
time pass agreeably. Wesley was still subject to dizziness if exposed to
the sun, but Jack and Vincent were robust as lumbermen. Mrs. Sprague and
Merry sighed wearily in the seclusion of their chambers for the Northern
homeside, but they banished all signs of discontent before their
warm-hearted hosts. There was as yet no exchange arranged between the
hostile Cabinets of Richmond and Washington. Even Boone's potent
influence among the magnates of his party had not served him to effect
Wesley's release nor enabled him to return to watch over the boy's
fortunes. There was no one at Rosedale sorry for the latter calamity
outside of Wesley and Kate. I believe even she was secretly not
heart-broken, for she knew that her father would be antipathetic to the
outspoken ladies of Rosedale.

There had been an almost total suspension of military movements East and
West. Both sides were straining every resource to bring drilled armies
into the field, when the decisive blow fell. In his drives and walks
about the James and Williamsburg, Jack saw that the country was stripped
of the white male population. The negroes carried on all the domestic
concerns of the land. In these excursions, too, he marked, with a keen
military instinct, the points of defense General Magruder, who commanded
the department, had left untouched. He wondered if the Union arms would
ever get as far down as this. If they did, and he were of the force, he
would like to have a cavalry regiment to lead! Vincent was to rejoin his
command at Manassas in October. Jack looked forward to the event with
the most dismal discontent. To be tied up here, far from his companions;
to seem to enjoy ease, when his regiment was indurating itself by
drills, marches, and the rough life of the soldier for the great work it
was to do, maddened him.

"I give you fair warning, Vint, if an exchange isn't arranged before you
leave here, I shall cut stick: the best way I can."

"Good! How will you manage? It's a long pull between here and our front
at Manassas. How will you work it? Just as soon as you quit the shelter
of Rosedale, you are a suspect. Even the negroes will halt you. If you
should make for Fortress Monroe, you have all of Magruder's army to get
through. You would surely be caught in the act, and then I could do
nothing for you. You would be sent to Castle Winder, and that isn't a
very comfortable billet."

Some hint of Jack's discontent, or rather of his vague dream of flight,
came into Dick's busy head, and when one day they were tramping down by
the James together, he said, owlishly:

"I say, Jack, when Vincent goes, let us clear out!"

"I say yes, with all my heart, but how can it be done? We are more than
forty miles from the nearest Union lines. Whole armies are between us.
Any white man found on the highway is questioned, and if he can't give a
clear account of himself is sent to the provost prison. You remember the
other day, when we left the rest to go through the swamp road near
Williamsburg, we were hailed by a patrol, and if Vincent hadn't been
within reach we would have been sent to the provost prison. Even the
negroes act as guards."

"Don't be too sure of that. I've been talking to some of them. They are
'fraid as sin of the overseers, but you notice they shut up all the
negroes in their own quarters at night, don't you? If they were all
right, why should they do that?"

"Good heavens! you haven't been trying to make an uprising among the
Rosedale servants, Dick? Don't you know that no end of ours could
justify that? These people have been like brothers--like our own family
to us. It would be infamous--infamous without power in the language for
comparison--if we should requite their humanity by stirring up servile
strife. I should be the first to take arms against the slaves in such
revolt, and give my life rather than be instrumental in bringing misery
upon the Atterburys."

"Oh, keep your powder dry, Jack! I never dreamed of stirring 'em up.
What I mean is, that they are all restless and uneasy. They have an idea
that 'Massa Linculm' is coming down with a big army to set them free.
Many of them want to fly to meet this army. Many, too, would almost
rather die than leave their mistress. None of them--but the very bad
ones--could be induced under any circumstances to lift their hands
against the family or its property."

"I should hope not--at least through our instrumentality. The time must
come when they will leave the family, for the one call only and in one
way; that is, by cutting out slavery root and branch. However, that's
for the politicians to manage; all we have to do is to stand by the
colors and fight."

"I don't see much chance of standing by the colors here," Dick retorted,
wrathfully. "If you'll give me the word, I'll arrange a plan, and, as
soon as Vincent goes--we'll be off."

"I'm not your master, you young hornet; I can't see what you're doing
all the time. All I can do is to approve or reject such doings of yours
as you bring me to decide on."

Dick's eyes sparkled. "All right, I'll keep you posted, never fear."

They were a very jovial group that prattled about the long Rosedale
dining-table daily now, since every one was able to come down. The house
was furnished in the easy unpretentiousness that prevailed in the South
in other days. Cool matting covered all the floors, the hallways, and
bedchambers. The dining-room opened into a drawing-room, where Kate and
Olympia took turns at the big piano. The day was divided, English
fashion, into breakfast, luncheon, dinner, and supper, the latter as
late as nine o'clock in the night. Jack being unprovided with
regimentals, Vincent wore civilian garb, to spare the "prisoner" (as
Jack jocosely called himself) mortification. Gray was the "only wear"
obtainable in Richmond, Mrs. Atterbury enjoying with gentle malice the
rueful perplexities of her prisoner guests, Jack, Wesley, and Richard,
as they surrounded the board in this rebel attire.

"I shall feel as uncertain of myself when I get back to blue, as I do in
chess, after I have played a long while with the black, changing to
white. I manoeuvre for some time for the discarded color," Jack said,
one evening.

"Oh, you'll hardly forget in this case," Rosa said, saucily; "it is for
the blacks you are manoeuvring constantly."

Jack looked up, startled, and glanced swiftly at Dick. Had that
headstrong young marplot been detected in treason with the colored
people? No. Dick met his glance clear-eyed, unconstrained. The shot must
have been a random one.

"I think you do us injustice, Miss Rosa," Wesley said. "I, for one, am
not interested in the blacks. All I want is the Union; after that I
don't care a rush!"

"I protest against politics," Mrs. Atterbury intervened, gently. "When I
was a girl the young people found much more interesting subjects than
politics."

Rosa: "Crops, mamma?"

Vincent: "A mistress's eyebrow?"

Dick: "Some other fellow's sister?"

Olympia: "Some other girl's brother?"

Mrs. Sprague: "Giddy girls?"

Merry: "Bad boys?"

"Well, something about all of these," Mrs. Atterbury resumed, laughing.
"I don't think young people in these times are as attached to each other
as we used to be in our day--do you, Mrs. Sprague?"

"I don't know how it is with you in the South; but we no longer have
young people in the North. Our children bring us up now--we do not
bring them up."

"That accounts for the higher average of intelligence among parents
noted in the last census," Olympia interrupts her mother to say.

"There, do you see?" Mrs. Sprague continues, with a smile, and in a tone
that has none of the asperity the words might imply. "No reverence, no
waiting for the elders, as we were taught."

"It depends a good deal, does it not, whether the elders are lovers?"
Vincent asked, innocently.

"Oh, don't look at me, Mrs. Sprague, for support or sympathy. Vincent is
your handiwork; he was formed in the North. He is one of your new school
of youth; he is Southern only in loyalty to his State. For a time I had
painful apprehensions that that, too, had been educated away."

"It was his reason that kept him faithful there," Rosa ventured, and
catches Vincent dropping his eyes in confusion from the demure glances
of Olympia.

"Oh, no; pride. A Virginian is like a Roman, he is prouder to be a
citizen in the Dominion than a king in another country," Mrs. Atterbury
says, with stately decision. "No matter where his heart may be," and she
glanced casually at Olympia, "his duty is to his State."

"Politics, mamma, politics; remember your young days. Talk of kings,
courts, romance, madrigals--but leave out politics," Rosa cried,
remonstratingly.

"Let's turn to political economy. How do you propose disposing of your
tobacco and cotton this year?" Jack asked, gravely.

"We are under contract to deliver ten thousand bales at Wilmington to
our agent," Vincent replied. "As for tobacco, we expect to sell all we
can raise to the Yankee generals. We have already begun negotiations
with some of your commanders who are too good Yankees to miss the
main chance."

"You're not in earnest?" Jack cried, aghast.

"As earnest as a maid with her first love."

"But who--who--is the miscreant that degrades his cause by such
traffic?"

"Oh, if you wait until you learn from me, you'll never be a dangerous
accuser. I learn in letters from friends in the West that all the cotton
crop has been contracted for by men either in the Northern army or high
in the confidence of the Administration. You see, Jack, we are not the
Arcadian simpletons you think us. This war is to be paid for out of
Northern pockets, any way you look at it. We've got cotton and tobacco,
you must have both; you've got money, we must have that. What we don't
sell to you we'll send to England."

All at the table had listened absorbedly to this strange revelation, and
Jack rose from the table shocked and discouraged.

Olympia seated herself at the piano, and, slipping out, as he supposed,
unseen, Jack strolled off into the fragrant alleys of oleander and
laurel. Dick, however, was at his heels. The two continued on in
silence, Dick trolling along, switching the bugs from the pink blossoms
that filled the air with an enervating odor.

"I say. Jack, I've found out something."

"What have you found out, you young conspirator?"

"Wesley Boone's trying to get the negroes to help him off."

"The devil he is!"

"Yes. Last night I was down in the rose-fields. Young Clem, Aunt
Penelope's boy, was sitting under a bush talking with a crony. I heard
him say, 'De cap'n'll take you, too, ef you doan say noffin'. He guv
Pompey ten gold dollars.'

"'De Lor'! Will he take ev'ybody 'long, too, Clem?'

"'Good Lor', no! He's goin' to get his army, and den he'll come an'
fetch all de niggahs.'

"'De Lor'!'

"Trying to get closer, I made a rustling of the bushes, and the young
imps shot through them like weasles before I could lay hands on them.
Now, what do you think of that?"

"If it is only to escape, all right; but if it is an attempt to stir up
insurrection, I will stop Wesley myself, rather than let him carry
it out!"

"Wouldn't it be the best thing to warn Vincent? It would be a dreadful
thing to let him go and leave his poor mother and sister here
unprotected."

"Let me think it over. I will hit on some plan to keep Wesley from
making an ingrate of himself without bringing danger on our
benefactors."

Kate was dawdling on the lawn as the two returned to the house. Jack
challenged her to a jaunt.

"Where shall it be?" she asked, readily, moving toward him. "The garden
of the gods?"

"The garden of the goddesses, you mean, if it is the rose-field."

"That's true; a god's garden would be filled with thorns and warlike
blossoms."

"I don't know; a rose-garden grew the wars of the houses of York and
Lancaster."

"Do you remember the scene in Shakespeare where Bolingbroke and Gaunt
pluck the roses?"

"Quite well. There is always something pathetic to me in the fables
historians invent to excuse or palliate, or, perhaps it would be juster
to say, make tolerable, the stained pages of the past. It is brought
doubly nearer and distinct by this miserable war, and the strange fate
that has fallen upon us--to be the guests of a family whose hopes are
fixed upon what would make us miserable if it ever happened."

"It never will. That's the reason I listen with pity to the childish
vauntings of these kind people. They have, you see, no conception of the
Northern people--no idea of the deep-seated purpose that moves the
States as one man to stifle this monstrous attempt."

They walked on in silence a few paces, and Kate continued: "I don't know
how you feel, Mr. Sprague, but I am wretched here. I feel like a
traitor, receiving such kindness, treated with such guileless
confidence, and yet my heart is filled with everything they abhor. It is
not so hard for you, because you and Vincent have been close friends. He
has made your house his home, but I certainly feel that Wesley and I
should go elsewhere, now that he is able to be about."

"Does Wesley feel this--this embarrassment?"

"Passionately. He said, last night, he felt like a sneak. He would fly
in an instant, if he could see any possible way to our lines."

"Pray, Miss Boone, tell him to be very circumspect. I know the Southern
nature. When they give you their heart they give entirely. But the least
sign of--of--distrust will turn them into something worse than
indifference. We may see our way out soon. Caution Wesley against any
act--any act"--he emphasized the words--"that may lead these kind people
to think that he doesn't trust them, or that he would take advantage of
servile insurrection to gain his liberty. Of course, they know that we
are all restive here; that we shall be even more impatient when Vincent
goes--but they could not understand any surreptitious movement on our
part, to enable us to get away."

He hoped that, if she were in Wesley's confidence, she would understand
his meaning. But she gave no sign. She assented with an affirmative
movement of the head, and they walked through the fragrant paths,
plucking a rose now and then that seemed more tempting than its fellows.
At the end of the field of roses a Cherokee hedge grew so thick and high
that it formed a screen and rampart between the house land and a dense
grove of pines which was itself bordered by a stream that here and there
spread out into tiny lakelets. On the larger of these there were rude
"dug-outs," made by the darkies to cut off the long walk from their
quarters to the tobacco and corn fields.

"Was there ever an Eden more perfect than this delicious place?" Kate
cried, as the flaming sun sent banners of gold, mingled in a rainbow
baldric with the blooming parterres of roses.

"I don't know much about Eden, and the little I do know doesn't give me
a sympathetic reminiscence of the place; but I agree with you that
Rosedale is about as near a paradise as one can come to on this earth,"
Jack qualifiedly replied.

"And yet we want to fly from it?"

"Ah, yes; because the tree of our life, the volume of our knowledge, or,
in plain prose, our hearts, are not here, and scenic beauty is a poor
substitute for that. Duty, I am convinced, is the key of the best life.
There are hearts here, noble ones--duties here, inspiring ones. But they
do not satisfy us: they are become a torment to me. I feel like a
soldier brought from duty; a priest fallen into the ways of the flesh."

"Your rhapsodies are like most fine-sounding things, more to the hope
than the heart," Kate murmured, gazing dreamily into the purple mass of
color hovering changefully over the opaque water at their feet. "You
mean they do not reach your heart; that your soul is far away as to what
is here. I think Vincent and Rosa would not agree that life has any more
or narrower limitations here than we recognize at Acredale."

"Let us go on the water." He pulled the rude shallop to her feet and
they got in and went on, Jack not heeding her gibe. "These brackish,
threatening deeps remind me of all sorts of weird and uncanny things;
Stygian pools--Lethe--what not mystic and terrifying. See, the tiny
waves that curl before our boat are like thin ink; a thousand roots and
herbs and who knows what mysterious vegetable mixture colors these dark
deeps? I could fancy myself on an uncanny pilgrimage, seeking some
demon delight."

There was but one oar in the boat, which the negroes used as a scull.
Jack made a poor fist with this, but there was no need of rowing. Kate,
catching a projecting limb from the thick bushes on the margin, sent the
little, wabbling craft onward in noisless, spasmodic plunges. Deep
fringes of wild columbine fell in fluffy sprays from the higher banks as
the boat drifted along the other side. The thickets were musical with
the chattering cat-birds and whip-poor-wills, mingled with a score of
woodland melodists that Jack's limited woodcraft did not enable him to
recognize.

"Who would think that we are within a half-mile of a completely
appointed country house? We are as isolated here from all vestiges of
civilization as we should be in a Florida everglade," Kate said, as the
little craft swam along in an eddy.

"It seems to me typical of the people--this curiously wild transition
from blooming, well-kept gardens, to such still and solemn nature. The
place might be called primeval: look at those gnarled roots, like
prodigious serpents; see the shining bark of the larch--I think it is
larch--I should call it 'slippery' elm if it were at Acredale; but see
the fantastic effects of the little lances of sunlight breaking through!
Isn't it the realization of all you ever read in 'Uncle Tom' or 'Dred'?"

Kate glanced into the weird deeps of foliage, where a bird, fluttering
on the wing, aroused strange echoes. "Ugh!" she said, in a half-whisper,
"I can imagine it the meeting-place of 'Tam o' Shanter's' eldritches
seeing this--but, all the same, do you know it is fascinating beyond
words to me? Should you mind going in a little farther--I should like
the sensation of awe the place suggests, since there can be no
danger--while you are here?"

He gave her a quick glance, but her eyes were fastened on the dark
recesses beyond.

"I should be delighted, but I won't insure your gown, nor--nor half
promise that we shall come out alive."

"Oh, as to that, I'll take the risk."

"I don't know the habits of Southern snakes; but if they are as
well-bred as ours, they retire from the ken of wicked men at sundown, so
we needn't fear them, as the sun is too far down for the snake of
tradition to see or molest us."

They stepped out of the boat at a green, sedgy point, extending from a
labyrinth of flowering vines and creepers. Once inside the delicious
odorous screen, they found themselves in an archipelago of green islets,
connected by monster roots or moss-covered trunks that seemed laid by
elfin hands for the penetration of this leafy jungle.

"Yes; I was going to say," Jack continued, "this swift transposition
from the cultivation of civilization to the handiwork of Nature is
whimsically illustrative of the people. Did you ever see or hear or read
of such open-handed, honest-hearted hospitality as theirs; such
refinement of manners; such sincerity in speech and act? Contrast this
with their fairly pagan creed as to the slaves; their intolerance of the
Northern people; their clannish reverence for family."

"But isn't the inequality of the Southern character due to their strange
lack of education? Few of them are cultivated as we understand
education. Do you notice that among the people we met at
Williamsburg--officers as well as civilians--none of them were equal to
even a very limited range of subjects? All who are educated have been in
the North. Ah--good Heavens!"

Kate's exclamation was due to a sudden sinking in the mossy causeway
until she was almost buried in the tall ferns. Jack helped her out,
shivered a moment, doubtingly, as he exclaimed:

"The sun is nearly down now, though the air is transparent, or would be
if we were in the free play of daylight. I think it would be better to
go back." But they made no haste. Such trophies of ferns and lace-like
mosses were not to be plucked in every walk, and they dawdled on and on
skirmishing, with delighted hardihood, against the pitfalls of bog that
covered morass and pitch-black mud. When the impulse finally came to
hasten back, they were somewhat chagrined to discover that they had lost
their own trail. The point where they had quit the stream could not be
found. Clambering plants, burdened with blossoms, fragrant as
honeysuckle, grew all along the bank, and the bush that had attracted
them was no longer a landmark.

"Well," Jack said, confidently, "the sun disappeared over there; that is
southwest. The house is in that direction--northeast. Now, if you will
keep that big sycamore in your eye and follow me, we shall be nearing
the house, as I calculate."

They pushed on in that direction, but had only gone a few yards when the
ground became a perfect quagmire of black loam, that looked like coal
ground to powder, and was thin as mush.

"This is a brilliant stroke on my part, I must say," Jack cried, facing
Kate ruefully. "We must go back and examine the ground, as Indians do,
and find our entrance trail in that way. I will watch the ground and you
keep an eye on the shrubs. Wherever you see havoc among them you may be
sure my manly foot has fallen there."

Suddenly they were conscious of an indescribable change in the place.
Neither knew what it was. It had come on in the excitement of their
march into the morass--or it had come the instant they both became
conscious of it. What was it? Kate turned and looked into Jack's
blank face!

"I'm blessed if I know what it is, but it seems as if something had
suddenly gone out of the order of things! What is it? Do you feel it; do
you notice it?"

"Feel it--see it--why, it is as palpable, or, rather to speak
accurately, it is as clearly absent as the color from an oil-painting,
leaving mere black and white outlines."

"How besotted I am!" Jack cried; "why, I know. The sun has wholly gone,
and the birds and living things have ceased to sing and move."

"That's it; could you believe that it would make such a change? Why, I
thought, when we came in, the place was a temple of silence, but it was
a mad world compared to this."

"Yes, and we must hurry and get out while we have daylight to help us. I
take it you wouldn't care to swim the lagoon. Let us call it lagoon, for
this place makes the name appropriate."

"Call it whatever you like, but don't ask me to swim it," Kate cried,
pushing on.

"Ah! I have our trail," Jack cries in triumph. "By George, it is wide
enough!" he added, bending over where the thick grasses were crushed and
broken. "See the advantage of large feet. Now, if you had been alone,
'twould have been as hard as to trace a bird's track."

"Is that an implication that I have Chinese feet?"

"No, too literal young woman. It was meant to show you that I am very
much relieved, for, 'pon my soul, I was afraid we were in a very
disagreeable scrape."

"And you are now quite sure we are not?"

"Quite sure. Don't you want to take my arm?"

"Oh, no, thank you. I'm not at all tired. I'm used to longer walks than
this."

"Longer, possibly, but not over such trying ground."

"Oh, yes. I've gone with Wesley and his friends to the lakes in the
North Woods."

"Ah! I've never been there. Are they as bad travel as this?"

"Infinitely worse--Why, what was that?"

"It sounded very like the report of a pistol."

Both stopped, Kate coming quite close to the young man, who was bent
over with his hand to his ear, trumpet-fashion.

"Do you--" He made a warning gesture with his hand, and motioned her to
stoop among the ferns. A halloo was heard in the distance; then a
response just ahead of where the two crouched in the breast-high ferns,
through which the path made by their recent footsteps led. When the
echoing halloo died away, a bird in the distance seemed to catch up the
refrain and dwell upon the note with an exquisite, painful melody.

"Why, it's the throat interlude in the Magic Flute! How lovely it is!"
Kate whispered. "If you were my knight, I should put on you the task of
caging that lovely sound for me."

The distant bird-note ceased, and then suddenly, from the bushes just
ahead of them, it was caught up and answered, note for note, in a wild
pibroch strain, harsher but inexpressibly moving. Jack turned to Kate,
his face quite pale, and whispered:

"It in not a bird. They are negroes. I have read of these sounds. They
are marauding slaves, and we must not let them see us. We must get to
those thick clumps of bushes. Do you think you can remain bent until we
reach them? If not, we will rest every few paces."

"Go on. I can try."

The pibroch strains still continued, rising into a mournful wail, then
sinking info the soft cries of the whip-poor-will. In a few minutes the
perplexed fugitives were deep in a clump of wild hawberries, invisible
to any one who should pass. The strains had ceased as suddenly as they
began. Then a faint hallo-o-o sounded, being answered in the bushes, as
it seemed, just in front of where Jack and his companion stood; voices
soon became audible farther along, ten or more paces. Motioning to Kate,
Jack crept along noiselessly, and fancied he could distinguish forms
through the thick screen of bushes. A voice, not a negro's, said:

"I went to the cove for you--what was the matter?"

"I had the devil's work to get through the posts. For some reason or
other they're getting mighty sharp. I must be back before twelve; what's
been done?"

"Well, the mokes consent to go, but they won't touch the ranch. You'll
have to bring up a few hands; the fewer the better. If them damned
feather-bed sojers wasn't there, we could do the job ourselves."

"When, does the boss get out?"

"Next week. I don't know what day. They'd pay high for him both ways."

"No, we can't nibble there. The cap'n'll pay well. That's square. We
can't afford to try the other now, at any rate. Is the skiff here?"

"Yes; well, get in."

There was a plash and the-receding sound of voices. Jack darted through
the screen of branches, but he could not distinguish the figures, for it
was growing every instant dimmer twilight. He turned to Kate. She was
at his side.

"Who were they--what were they planning? Were they soldiers?" she asked.

"Never mind them now. We must find a way out of this. Our boat can't be
far off. We must follow this line of bushes until we come to the spot we
left. I know I can recognize it, for there was an enormous tree fallen a
few steps from the sedge bank we landed on."

It was a very toilsome journey now, obliged as they were to hug the
obstinate growth of haws, wild alder, and dog roses, which tore flesh
and garments in the hurried flight. They came to the dead tree finally,
and Jack almost shouted in grateful relief:

"You were a true prophet, Miss Boone. You gave utterance to some
Druid-like remarks as we crossed the Stygian pool. The worst your fancy
painted couldn't equal what we've seen and heard."

"I have seen nothing dreadful, and I can't say that I understand very
much of what we heard."

"There is some 'caper' going on to give these cut-throats a chance to
get booty or something of the sort."

"They are probably rebel soldiers planning to sack the commissary."

They were in the boat now, and Jack was sending it forward by lusty
lunges against every protruding object he could get a stroke at; when
these failed he managed to scull after a fashion. They found the
household in consternation when they got back, but Jack gave a
picturesque narrative of their escapade, omitting the encounter with the
negroes which he had charged Kate to say nothing about, as it would only
alarm Mrs. Atterbury. The garments of the explorers told the tale of
their mishaps, and when they had clothed themselves anew supper was
announced. The feast was of the lightest sort: sherbet or tea for those
who liked it; fruit and crackers, honey or marmalade--a triumph in the
cultivation of dyspepsia, Jack said when he first began the eating. But
it was observed that the disease had no terrors for him, for he sat at
the table as long as he could get any one to remain with him, and did
his share in testing all the dishes. He outsat everybody that night
except Dick, who never got tired of any place that brought him near
his idol.

"I'm going up-stairs in a moment, Towhead. Come up after me."

Dick nodded, a gleam of delightful expectation in his eyes. He was just
in the ardent period when boys love to make mysteries of very ordinary
things, and Jack's _sotto voce_ command was like the hero's voice in the
play, "Meet me by the ruined well when midnight strikes." He followed
Jack up the wide staircase and into his own room, for greater security,
as no one would think of looking for them there.

"Now, tell me all you have found out," Jack commanded as he shut the
door. "Have you been among the darkys?"

"I've found out this much. The old negroes are opposed to going away or
in any shape annoying their masters. The young bucks and the women are
very eager to fly. It seems that some one has spread the story among
them that Lincoln has sent Butler to Fort Monroe to receive all the
negroes on the Peninsula. They have been assured that they are to have
'their freedom, one hundred acres of land, and an ox-team.' Where the
report comes from, I can't find out; but there is some communication
between here and the Union lines, I'm positive."

"Has Wesley been with the negroes again?"

"No. I have kept an eye on him all day."

"Where does he go at night?"

"The doctor has forbidden him to be in the night air for the present."

"Well, you keep an eye on Wesley," and then Jack narrated the strange
scene in the swamp, the mysterious calls, and the conversation.

Dick listened in awe, mingled with rapture. "Oh, why wasn't I there?
Just my blamed luck! I would have followed them, and then we should have
known what they were up to. Did you know that a company of cavalry had
gone into camp just below the grove?"

"No--when?"

"This evening. Vincent is down there now."

"Well, you may be sure they suspect something. I wonder if it wouldn't
be better to speak to Vincent?"

"Of course not! What have we to tell him? Simply my suspicions and
Clem's chatter. The little moke may have been lying; I can't see that
any of them do much else."

"The worst of it is, these Southerners are very sensitive about any
allusion to the negroes. They would pooh-pooh anything we might say that
was not backed by proof. It's a mighty uncomfortable fix to be in, Dick,
my boy; though, 'pon my soul, I believe you enjoy it!"

Dick grinned deprecating.

"I think you do, you unfledged Guy Fawkes. I know nothing would give you
greater joy than to put on a mask, grasp a dagger in your hand, and go
to Wesley, crying, 'Villain, your secret or your life!' Dick, you're a
stage hero; you're a thing of sawdust and tinsel. Come to the parlor and
hear Kate play the divine songs of Mendelssohn; perhaps, night-eyed
conspirator, to whirl Polly or Miss Rosa in the delirium of the '_Blaue
Donau_.' Come."

But there was neither dance nor music when they reached the
drawing-room. Everybody was there; Vincent had just come, and the first
words Jack and Dick heard glued them to their places.

"Yes, all the negroes on the Lawless', Skinner's, and Lomas's
plantations have gone. Butler has declared them contrabands of war, and
a lot of Yankee speculators have been sneaking through the plantations,
filling their ignorant minds with promises of freedom, a farm, and a
share of their masters' property. Their real purpose is to get the
negroes and hold them until the two governments come to terms, and then
they will get rewards for every nigger they hold. Oh, these Yankees can
see ways of making money through a stone-wall," and Vincent laughed
lightly, as though the incident in no way concerned him. "Captain Cram,
who is in camp just below in the oak clearing, is ordered to scour the
river-bank to the enemy's lines near Hampton, so we need have no fear of
these enterprising apostles of freedom interfering with our niggers."

"I don't think one of them could be induced to leave us if offered all
our farms," Mrs. Atterbury said, a little proudly.

"There isn't one of them that I haven't brought through sickness or
trouble of one sort or another, and there isn't one that wouldn't take
my command before the gold of a stranger."

"I don't know, Mrs. Atterbury," Mrs. Sprague ventured, mildly. "Gold is
a mighty weight in an argument. I have known it to change the
convictions of a lifetime in a moment. I have known it to make a man
renounce his father, dishonor his name, belie his whole life, deny
his family."

"When a fortune beyond reasonable dreams was placed upon the head of
Charles Stuart, for whom our ancestors fought and beggared themselves,
his secret was in the keeping of scores of peasants, and the blood-money
lay idle. I could cite hundreds of similar proofs, that gold is not God
everywhere. I mean no offense, but you will agree with me that you
Northern people are given up to the getting and worship of money. It is
not so with us. Perhaps because we have it, and with it something that
makes it secondary--birth. I have no fear of the infidelity of any of my
people. I would as soon doubt Rosa or Vincent us the smallest black on
my estate."

She spoke with mild, high-bred dignity, not a particle of assertion or
captious intolerance, but as a prelate might assert the majesty of the
word on the altar, neither looking for dissent nor dreaming that the
spirit of it could exist.

"I'm glad to hear your mother express such confidence, Vint," Jack said
as they walked out on the veranda to take a good-night smoke; "but just
let me give you a maxim of my own, the lock's not sure unless the key is
in your pocket."

"Sententious, my boy, but vague. My mother is perfectly right. Our
niggers are fidelity itself. But since we are so near the Butler lines,
where his agents can sneak up on the river and kidnap the new sort of
contraband, I think it better to take some precaution. Hereafter General
Magruder will have a picket post within two miles of us, between here
and the creek, which offers a convenient point for smuggling."

"I am heartily relieved to hear it," Jack cried, giving something too
much fervor to his relief, for Vincent turned and looked at him in
surprise, but it was too dark in the shadow of the clematis to see his
face, and after a silence Vincent said:

"Mamma has told you that the President is coming to Williamsburg to
review Magruder's troops?"

"No; she hadn't mentioned it. Is he?"

"Yes; he will be there Thursday afternoon, and we shall have the ball
the same evening. He will be here with General Lee, his chief of staff,
and remain all night; so that you will be able to say when you go back
North--something that few Yankees will be able to say during the
war--that you have broken bread with the first President of the
Confederacy."

"I will strive to bear my honors with humility," Jack said.

"It befits the conquered to be humble."

"If I hadn't come in time, you two would have been in a squabble--own
it!" and Rosa drew a chair between them as a peacemaker.



CHAPTER XVII.

TREASON AND STRATAGEMS.


Rosedale was, indeed, Eden in the most orthodox sense to the group so
strangely billeted in its lovely tranquillity. No sooner was the anguish
concerning the invalids off Kate's, Olympia's, and Rosa's minds, than
new perplexities beset them. Rosa was barely eighteen, Kate and Olympia
older by three or four years, but the younger girl was in many essential
things quite as mature as her Northern comrades. But Jack could not
comprehend this, and quite innocently did and said things to arouse the
young girl's dreams. I think I have said that Jack was a very comely
fellow? He was big and brawny, and tireless in good-humor, and the
attractive little gallantries that women adore. He looked as
sentimentally sincere, uttering a paradox, as another vowing eternal
fidelity. He gave every woman the impression that his mind was lost
wondering how he should exist until she gave him the right to call her
his own. Though, as a matter of fact, it is the man who is the woman's
own--when the final word comes.

Rosa was not long in discovering Vincent's happy tumult in Olympia's
presence, and she secretly misunderstood Jack the more that he was so
lavish and open in his adulations. If he rode, he exhausted eulogy in
describing her pose, her daring, her skill; if they danced, as they did
nearly every night until poor Merry's fingers ached from drumming the
unholy strains of Faust, Strauss, and what not, in the old-fashioned
waltzes--he pantingly declared that she made the music seem a celestial
choir by her lightness; in long walks in the rose-fields he exhausted a
not very laborious store of botanical conceits, to make her cheeks
resemble the roses. This assurance, this recklessness, this _aplomb_,
quite bewildered the girl, who posed in Richmond for a passed mistress
of flirting. She had, unless rumor was badly at fault, jilted an
appalling list of the striplings who believed that beard-growing and
love-making were conventionally contemporaneous events. But they had
"mooned" about her and made themselves absurd in vain, while this
unconscious Adonis calmly walked, talked, and acted as if she could know
nothing else than love him, and one day she started in delicious misery
to find that she did--that is, she thought she might if--if? But there
her dreams became nebulous--they were rosy in outline, however, and she
was content to rest there.

The morning after the coming of the cavalry-troop, Wesley was discussing
the never-ending theme of how he was going to get home--with Kate busy
arranging the ferns she had brought from the swamp.

"Really, Wesley, just now you ought to be content. There is no
likelihood of any movement; besides, philosophy is as much a merit in a
soldier as valor--it is valor, it is endurance. You complain of your
unhappy fate, housed here with a lot of women and idlers. How would you
bear up in Libby Prison? There are as good men as you there, my dear;
shall I say better or older soldiers, Brutus? You may take your choice,
and 'count on a sister's blind partiality to justify you!'"

"Oh, don't always talk nonsense, Kate. You're worse than Jack Sprague.
He doesn't seem to have a serious thought in his head from daylight
till bedtime."

"Perhaps he keeps all his sober thoughts for the night, to give them
good company."

"No, but do say what I ought to do."

"You ought to study to make yourself tolerable to your sister, dear, and
agreeable to the other fellows' sisters. I have remarked that the young
man who does that, keeps out of despondency and other uncomfortable
conditions that too much brooding on an empty head brings about."

"I'd like to know what heart I can have to make myself agreeable to
other fellows' sisters when you are always lampooning me; you delight in
making me think I am nobody."

"Don't fear, my dear; if that were my delight I should die an old maid,
never having known delight, for it would need more force than I can
muster to make Wesley Boone, captain U.S.A., anything else than he
is--his father's pride and his sister's joy. No, dear, my delight is to
see you gay and open and frank and manly, self-dependent, grateful for
the consideration shown you, and recognizant of the constant admonition
of your sagacious sister."

"You talk exactly like the woman in George Sand's stupid stories; they
always remind me of men in petticoats."

"That's a weak and strained comparison; not, however, unworthy a
soldier. We always compare, in speech, to strengthen assertion or adorn
it, and when we do we compare what is equivocal or vague, with what is
well known and usual. Now, I do not remember any men in petticoats,
unless you mean the Orientals, who wear a sort of skirt, and the Scots,
who used to wear kilts--but strictly speaking--"

"Do, Kate, for Heaven's sake, be serious for a moment! I have a chance
to escape, no matter how, but I can make my way to our lines without
running any great risk. Now, is it or is it not dishonorable for me
to do it?"

"Seriously, Wesley, just now it would be, while Vincent is here, for he
is in a sense pledged for you to his superior. Further, there is no need
to hurry. You are barely recovered. If you were North you would be in
Acredale; if you were, there is no immediate want of your presence in
the army. The articles we see in the Richmond papers every day, copied
from Northern journals, show that this new general, McClellan, means to
bring a trained, drilled, disciplined army down when he moves. It took
six months to prepare McDowell's useless mass. It will certainly take a
year to put the million men now arming in shape to fight. I may be
wrong, but at the earliest there can be no movement before late in
October. By that time we shall probably have the problem solved by the
Government, and you will go North, having made delightful friends of all
this charming family."

Wesley was even more afraid of Kate's strong sense of honor than of her
biting sarcasm, and he ended the interview without daring to tell her
how far he had compromised himself with the secret agents that were
surrounding the plantation. Dick, running down-stairs in his wake,
encountered Rosa, with her garden hat covering her like the roof of a
disrupted pagoda. She arrested his stride as he was darting toward
the door.

"Here--you--Richard, just come and be of some use to me. I'm housekeeper
to-day, and I want to go to the quarters. Come along."

Now Dick had a double grievance against this imperious young person. He
had fallen into the most violent love with her brown eyes and pink
cheeks the moment he saw her; he had assiduously striven both to conceal
and reveal this maddening condition of mind. But he remarked with
ungovernable wrath that, whenever Jack or Wesley came about, the
heartless young jilt, made as if she didn't know him; quite ignored him,
and cared no more for his simple adoration than she did for the frisky
gambols of Pizarro, the mastiff. But she was so adorable; her Southern
accent was so bewitching; she put so much softness in those amusing
idioms "I reckon" and "Seems like," "You others," and the countless
little tricks of the Southern vernacular, that Dick passed sleepless
hours and delicious days dreaming and sighing and groaning and doing all
manner of unreasonable things--that we all do when we meet our first
Rosas and they light the torch for other feet more favored than our own.

So, when Rosa called him to accompany her, Dick took the round basket
she held out to him, and walked sulkily ahead of her, never opening his
mouth. When he had stalked along through the currant bushes, he half
turned his face; she was walking demurely behind him, and he made a
pretext of picking a currant to give her a chance to come abreast. She
did, and passed him trippingly, saying, as she cast a sympathetic side
glance at him:

"Toothache?"

He stood rooted to the spot with indignant amazement. The heartless
little minx! How dare she talk like that to a soldier?

"Did you call some one, Miss Atterbury?" he said, with chilling dignity.
Usually he called her plain Rosa.

"I thought may be you had the toothache--you kept so quiet."

"No; I haven't got the toothache." Poor Dick! He said, to himself, that
he had much worse. But he wouldn't gratify her with the acknowledgment
of her triumph, and he stalked along with the basket over his head, as
he had often seen the darkeys in the sun. There was a faint little
appealing cry from behind.

"Oh--oh--dear!"

"What is it; are you hurt?" he cried, rushing to where Rosa stood,
balanced on one foot.

"There is a crab thorn an inch long in my foot; it's gone through shoe
and all. That wretched Sardanapalus never clears the limbs away when he
cuts the hedge. I'll have him horsewhipped. Oh, dear!"

"Let me hold you while I look for the thorn."

Dick cleverly slipped his arm about her waist and set the basket endwise
for her to sit on. Then kneeling, he picked out the thorn, which was a
great deal less than the dimensions Rosa had described. But he said
nothing to her about picking the torment out and slipping it in his vest
pocket. He held the foot, examining the sole critically. Finally, as she
moved impatiently, he asked:

"Does it hurt yet?"

"Of course it does, you stupid fellow. Do you suppose I would sit here
like a goose on a gridiron and let you hold my foot if it didn't hurt?
Men never have any sense when they ought to."

He affected to examine the sole of the thin leather of the upper still
more minutely. As she gave no sign of ending the comedy, he said:

"I'm sure, Rosa, if it relieves the pain to have me hold your foot, I'll
sit here in the sun all day--if you'll bring the rim of your hat over a
little--but, as for the thorn, it has been out this ten minutes."

She gave him a sudden push and darted away. He followed laughing,
admonishing her against another thorn. But she deigned no answer. Coming
to the bee-hives, she stopped a moment to watch the busy swarm, and Dick
stole up beside her. She turned pettishly, and he said, insinuatingly:

"Toothache?"

"You know, Dick, you're too trying for anything--holding my foot there
like a ninny in the hot sun. You haven't a thimbleful of sense."

"Well, now we'll test these propositions, as Jack does, by syllogisms.
Let me see. All men are trying. Dick Perley is a man: therefore he
is trying."

"No; your premise--isn't that what you call it?--is wrong. Dick Perley
is only a boy."

"I'll be nineteen in January next."

"Well?"

"Well, your father was married at nineteen. You've said it yourself,
Rosa, and thought it greatly to his credit--at least Vint does."

"You can't imitate my father in that, at least."

"I might."

"How?"

"You could help me, Rosa."

"How?"

"Would you if you could?"

"That depends."

"On what?"

"On the girl."

"Ah! she's a perfect girl, but she's very young," and Dick eyed Rosa
with ineffable complacency.

"That's bad."

"But she's older than she looks."

"That's worse; you'd grow tired of her."

"No, no; I don't mean she's older than she looks; her mind is older than
her looks."

"Women with minds make troublesome wives. I have refused to let Vincent
marry several of that kind."

"But, my girl hasn't got that kind of mind; it is all sweetness and wit
and gayety and loveliness and--and--"

"Your girl? Who gave her to you?"

"Love gave her to me."

"Oh, well, since love gave her to you, I don't see how I can be of any
service. Down here the mother always gives the girl, unless she have no
mother; then some other kin gives her. But if your girl has all these
qualities you describe, I advise you to get her into your own keeping
just as soon as you can, for that's the sort of girl all the fellows
about here are seeking."

"Very well, I'm ready. Will you help me? It comes back where we
started."

"But you evaded my question."

"What question did I evade? I answered like an encyclopedia!" Dick
cried, immensely satisfied with his own readiness.

"That convicts you; an encyclopedia has nothing about living people."

"Oh, yes; the new ones do." Dick was now very near her as she stood
contemplating the bees, swarming in the comb. "O Rosa--Rosa, you know I
love you, and you know I can never love anybody else. Why will you
pretend not to understand me? I don't want you to marry me now, but by
and by, when I shall have made a name as a soldier, or--or something,"
he added in painful turbulence of joy and fear over the great
words--which he had been racking his small wits to fashion for weeks
past, and, now that they were spoken, were not nearly so impressive as
he had intended they should be.

"My dear Richard, you are a perfect boy--a very delightful boy, too, and
I am extremely fond of you--oh, very, very fond of you--but you really
must not make love to me. It isn't proper," and Rosa glanced into his
eyes with a tender little gleam, that gave more encouragement than
rebuff--for it came into her mind, in a moment, that it was not a time
to hurt the bright, eager love--so winning, if boyish.

"Nonsense, Rosa, it is perfectly proper; everybody makes love to you;
Jack makes love to you, and he is as good as engaged--" But here it
suddenly flashed in Dick's mad head that he was meddling, and he stopped
short. Rosa had turned upon him with a flash of such scorn, such
indignant pain, that he cried:

"No, no; I don't mean that; but you know fellows do make love to you,
and why mayn't I?"

She flirted away from him too angry or mortified to speak. He could not
see her face, for she pulled the ample breadth of the hat-brim down,
which served at once as a veil to shut out her visage and a sweeping
sort of funnel to keep him far from her side, as she tripped
determinedly to the pleasant group of clean, whitewashed cabins, where
the negroes abode. Poor Dick, vexed with himself--angry at her for being
irritated-waited in the hot sun until she had ended her commands, and
when she came out to return he repentantly sidled up, imploring pardon
in every movement. She couldn't resist the big, pleading blue eyes, and
said, quite as if there had been deep discussion on the point:

"I don't think you mean to be a bad boy."

"I'm not a boy, I'm a soldier. It isn't fair in you to call me a boy."

"You're not a girl."

"If I were I wouldn't be so heartless as some I know."

"And if I were a boy I wouldn't be so silly as some I know."

"Yes, I think Southern boys are quite soft."

"Come, sir, my brother _was_ a Southern boy."

"Yes, but he always lived North, and is like us."

"Jackanapes!"

"Dear Rosa."

"How dare you, sir?"

"Oh, just as easy, I dare do all that becomes a man--who dares do more
is none. You are Rosa, and you are dear--"

"Not to you."

"You cost me enough to be dear and you are lovely enough to be 'Rosa' in
Latin, Rose in English, and sweetheart in any tongue."

"You're much too pert. Boys so glib as you never really love. They think
they do and perhaps they do--just a little."

"Ah! a 'little more than a little,' dear Rosa."

"You're quoting Shakespeare, I suppose you know? I'll quote more: 'A
little more than a little is much too much.'"

"A little less than all is much too little for me. So, Rosa, give all or
none."

"I don't understand you."

"That's proof you love me. Girls never love fellows they understand."

"Prove that I love you."

"Well, you don't hate me. You don't hate Vincent. Therefore you love
him. Ergo, you love me."

"Simpleton."

"True love is always simple. Here, take this white rose as a sign that
you don't hate me." He plucked a large half-opened bud from a great
sprouting branch and held it toward her.

"But the red rose is my favorite."

"Well, here is a red one. Give me the white. That is my favorite. Now
we've exchanged tokens. The rose always goes before the ring. I'll
get that."

"If you were a true lover you would wear my colors."

"These white leaves will grow red resting on my heart."

"When they do I will listen to you."

"Will you, though? It is a promise; when this white rose is red you will
love me?"

"Oh, yes, I can promise that."

"Dear Rosa!" He was very near her as she disentangled an obtruding vine
from her garments, and before she was aware of his purpose he had
audaciously snatched a kiss from her astonished lips.

"You odious Yankee! I haven't words to express my disgust--abhorrence!"

"Don't try, love needs no words: but I'll tell you; let me put this
white rose to your lips; it will turn red at the touch, and in that way
you can take your kiss back, if you really want it; then there'll be a
fair exchange. I--"

"Hello, there! are you two grafting roses?"

It was Wesley, coming from the lower garden, where the stream was
narrowest beyond the high wall of hedge.

"Oh, no, Mr. Boone; Richard here is studying the color in flowers. He
has a theory that eclipses Goethe's 'Farbenlehre.'"

"Oh, indeed!" Wesley was quite unconscious of what Goethe's doctrine of
colors might be, so he prudently avoided urging fuller particulars
regarding Dick's theory, and said, vaguely;

"You have color enough here to theorize on, I'm sure."

"Yes, we have had very satisfactory experiments," Dick assented naïvely,
stealing a glance at Rosa.

"But quite inconclusive," she rejoined, moving onward, the two young men
following in the penumbra of her wide hat.



CHAPTER XVIII.

A CAMPAIGN OF PLOTS.


Meanwhile, there were curious events passing and coming to pass on the
seven hills upon which the proud young capital of the proud young
Confederacy stood. Rome, in her most imperial days, never dreamed of the
scenic glories that Richmond, like a spoiled beauty, was hardly
conscious of holding as her dower. Indeed, such is the necromantic
mastery of the passion of the beautiful that, once standing on the
glorious hill, that commands the James for twenty miles--twenty miles of
such varied loveliness of color, configuration, and _mis en scène_, that
the purple distances of Naples seem common to it--standing there, I say,
one day, when the sword had long been rusting in the scabbard, and the
memory of those who raised it in revolt had faded from all minds save
those who wanted office--this historian thought that, had it been his
lot to be born in that lovely spot, he, too, would have fought for State
caprices--just as a gallant man will take up the quarrel of beauty,
right or wrong!

Thoughts of this sort filled Barney Moore's mind too, that delicious
September afternoon as he stood gazing dreamily down the river, toward
that vague morning-land of the sun's rising, where his mind saw the long
lines of blue his eyes ached to rest on. Barney had left the kindly roof
where he had been nursed back to vigor. He had quit it in a fashion that
left a rankling sorrow in his grateful heart. Vincent had represented to
Jack the inconvenience it would be, the peril, rather, for him to assume
the guardianship of so many enemies of the Confederacy. Scores of the
old families of the city were under the ban simply because they had
pleaded for deliberation before deciding on the secession ordinance. The
Atterburys had their enemies too. It was pointed out that Vincent and
Rosa had been educated in the North; that Mrs. Atterbury had spent many
of her recent summers there. Their devotion to the Confederacy must be
shown by deeds. It was true they had given twenty thousand dollars to
the cause, but what was that to threefold millionaires? General Lee,
their kinsman, had shaken his Socratic head solemnly when Rosa, at the
War Department, told him, as an excellent joke, the strange chance that
had brought Vincent's college chum and his family under the kind
Rosedale roof.

Richard Perley was, therefore, deputized to rescue Barney from his false
position and give him a chance for exchange when the time came. He
journeyed up to Richmond, and, one day, laid these facts before Barney,
who instantly saw his friend's dilemma, and at once set about inventing
a _ruse_ that should extricate him, without mortifying the kind people
who had befriended him. When he was able to be about, he feigned a
desire to go to his friends in Arrowfield County, south of the James,
and was bidden hearty Godspeed. Then, with funds supplied by Jack, he
gained admittance to a modest house far out on Main Street, where the
city merges into the country. They were simple people, and his thrilling
tale of being a refugee from Harper's Ferry was plausible enough to be
accepted by more skeptical people than the Gannats.

Day after day Barney skirted furtively about the uncompromising walls of
Libby and Castle Thunder, where once or twice he had gone with his hosts
to make a mental diagram of the place for future use. Little by little
he became familiar with Richmond, which, like a new bride, gave the
visitor welcome to admire her splendid spouse, the Confederate
government. He learned all the plots of the prison, and became the
confidant of Letitia Lanview, known to every exile in Richmond as the
friend of the suffering--St. Veronica she was called--after a poem
dedicated to her by a young Harvard graduate, rescued by her
perseverance from death in Libby Prison. With this lady he drove all
about the environs of Richmond, and several times far out toward the
meditated route of flight, in order that he might be able to lead the
bewildered refugees. He got the whole landscape by heart, and could have
led a battalion over it in the dark. Then he passed days wandering over
the Libby Hill, down in the bed of the "Rockets," as the bed of the
James was known in those days; he learned the ground to the very beat of
the patrols that guarded the wretched prisoners in the towering
shambles. One whole night, too, he spent in marking the course of the
guards as they changed in two-hour reliefs. With his facts well
collected he visited Mrs. Lanview, and at last he was confronted by
Butler's agent. This agent was a middle-aged man, who had evidently once
been very handsome, but dissipation had left pitiable traces upon his
fine features, and his once large, open eyes, that perplexingly
suggested some one Barney tried in vain to recall--vainly? The man
didn't say much in the lady's presence, but when the two were in the
open air, facing toward the center of the town, he divulged a good deal
that surprised Barney.

"You are from Acredale, young man. I lived there when I was younger than
I am now. My name? People call me a good many names. I don't mind at
all, so that I have rum enough and a bed and a bite to eat. No man can
have more than that, my boy. I am plain Dick Jones now. It's an easy
name, and plenty of the same in the land; and if I should die suddenly
there would be lots o' folks to feel sorry, eh? But as you are from
Acredale I don't mind telling you that it is Elisha Boone that foots the
bill. Butler is a friend of Boone's, and he has given me authority to
summon all the troops within reach to my aid. My business is to carry
young Wes Boone to Fort Monroe. Butler doesn't know that. He thinks I am
spying Jeff Davis and piping for the prisoners. He didn't say that he
wanted me to kill Davis, but if we could carry him to Fort Monroe, my
boy, there'd be about a million dollars swag to divide! How does that
strike you?"

"It doesn't strike me at all. I think it is for the interest of the
Union that Davis should be where he is. He is vain, arrogant, silly, and
dull. He will alone wreck the rebel cause if he is given time. There
couldn't be a greater misfortune for the North than to have Davis
displaced by some one of real ability, such as Stephens, Lee, Benjamin,
Mason, Breckenridge, or, in fact, any of the men identified with
secession."

"You surprise me, my son. Still, admitting all you say, the men who
should surprise the North some fine morning with a present of Jeff Davis
on their breakfast-plates, wouldn't be without honor, to say nothing of
promotion and profit"

"Oh, if we can carry Jeff off without compromising the safety of the
prisoners, I'll join you heartily. But first of all we must
rescue them."

"Unquestionably; now, here's the programme: Butler's forces will be
within gunshot of Magruder's lines on Warwick Creek Thursday--that's
three days from now. The prisoners will be out of the sewer Wednesday
after midnight. You know the roads eastward. You will lead them to the
swamps near Williamsburg. There we will have boats to take part down the
river; the rest will make through the swamps under my lead. I have been
spying out the land for a week. At a place called Rosedale we pick up
young Boone, who is really the object of my journey. I couldn't find him
for weeks, and inquired of all the prisoners. Mrs. Lanview finally put
me on the track, and I saw Wes Boone as I came up here. He thought the
chances were better with a big party than alone. I saw him again
yesterday, and he told me that Davis and Lee, his chief of staff, were
to be at a party in the Rosedale house on Thursday next. Now, we can
pick up Davis just as well as Boone. There is the whole plan."

"Oh, that's a different matter. Davis will not be near the city, and his
keeping will not add to our danger. I see no reason why we shouldn't
grab him. Heavens, what a sensation it will make! We shall be the wonder
of the North--we shall he like the men that discovered André and
Arnold--Paulding and--and"--but here Barney's historical facts came to
an end--"we shall be famous for--forever!"

"For a week, my son; wonders don't live long in these fast days. For a
week the North will glorify us; then, if they find that we voted for
Douglas, as I did, they will say we had some sinister design in bringing
Davis North, and likely send us to Fort Lafayette."

Barney stopped dead; they had come under a gas-lamp between Grace and
Franklin Streets. He looked at the man. He was quite sober. His eyes
answered the young man's indignant protesting glance, openly,
unshrinkingly, humorously.

"I should be sorry to think that, Mr. Jones."

"Well, wait. When you get North you will see a mighty change in things.
Sentiment, my boy, follows the main chance. It's money, my boy, money.
Enough money would have made Judas respectable; he was fool enough to
put his price too low."

"Ugh!--you almost make me hate the North! Who can have heart to fight
for such heartless traffickers?"

"The North doesn't ask your heart. It has counted the cost, and finds
that it can pay a million of men thirteen dollars a month for three
years, and still make a good thing out of it--that's about the breadth
of it. Here's an oasis in the desert of darkness. Come and have
a drink?"

But Barney--not caring for a drink, the cynic--gave him his address,
and, dreadfully cast down in spirit, the eager partisan moped up the
long hill homeward. The next day Mrs. Lanview gave him the details of
the meditated escape. There were only sixty or a hundred in position to
avail themselves of the subterranean way that had been toilsomely dug,
by a few devoted spirits, with tools casually dropped among them by the
guileless Veronica during her daily visits. The plotters counted on at
least six hours' start before discovery. The guards were not to be
disturbed, and the evasion would not be known until eight o'clock, when
the miserable breakfast ration was distributed.

Of that amazing-exploit, the digging through twenty solid feet of earth
and stone, I do not propose to tell. It is to be found in the journals
of the day: it is contained in the hundred pathetic narratives of the
men who took part. It has nothing to do with this history beyond the use
made of it to mislead the ingenious Barney, and in the end complicate
the careers of those in whom we are interested. Suffice it, therefore,
to say that in the dim morning mist, as arranged, a shadowy host emerged
on the river-bottom, now dry and footable; that each man, as he crawled
from the pit, was directed into the thick willows bordering the banks;
that when six score or more had clambered out they obeyed a whispered
command, for which Veronica had prepared them, and noiselessly, in
shadowy single file, they followed the bed of the stream, even where the
water flowed deep and dangerous, until they came to the gentle slopes of
Church Hill. Then, under guidance of Barney, those who were wise
followed swiftly down the river-road until daylight, when they hid in
the dim recesses of the white-oak swamps, where they lay concealed many
hours. As night fell they faced hopefully forward down the Williamsburg
road, until a flaming wave in the air admonished them to strike to the
right, and they plunged into the pathless swamps of the Chickahominy.
Here they were secure. No force able to cope with them could enter; no
force at the command of Magruder could surround them. But Barney's
guiding hand was now replaced by another. Jones had appeared, and with
him men bearing Butler's commission. The prisoners of Libby set up a
defiant cheer. They were once more under the flag. Father Abraham was
again their commander.

There were sedate, fatherly men among these rescued bands. There were
men with gray hairs and sober behavior; men who could bow meekly under
the chastening rod; but the antics of the juvenile group, in which we
are mainly interested, were grave and decorous compared with the
abandoned, delirious joy of these grave men as they reached the recesses
of a swamp that denied admission to all save practiced explorers. Why,
here they could subsist for weeks! The rebels might spy them, might
surround them, but they need not starve--the buds were food, the bushes
refreshment, the pellucid pools drink and life. Barney stared in
speechless amazement at the unseemly gambols of the motley mass.

Delirium! it was a mild term for the embracing, the prancing, the
Carmagnole-like ecstasy of the half-clad madmen running amuck in the
almost unendurable joy of liberation. Barney knew that this condition of
things would never do. All who bore commissions in the army were
selected from the men. The highest in rank, who proved to be a colonel,
was invested with the command, Barney serving as adjutant, and Jones as
guide. The rabble, having made a good meal from the spoil of a
sweet-potato patch, pushed forward through the fretwork of fern, rank
morass, and verdure, toward security. But the march was a snail's pace,
as may be imagined. The men, worn to skeletons by months of captivity,
insufficient food, and stinted exercise, were forced to halt often for
rest in such toilsome marching as the half-aquatic surface of the
swamp involved.

By Thursday noon they were still far from the river. Foragers were
detailed to procure food, and pending their return the wearied band sank
to the earth to rest. In less than two hours the predatory platoon
returned with a sybaritic store--chickens, young lamb, green corn,
onions. Only the stern command of the colonel suppressed a mighty cheer.
When the march was resumed the colonel led the main column south by
east. Jones, with Barney and a dozen men, struck due east. In answer to
Barney's surprised question, Jones informed him they were to pick up
"Wes" Boone by taking that route. Difficult as the way had been
heretofore, it now became laborious in the extreme for this smaller
band. The bottom was all under water, and before they had proceeded a
mile half the group were drenched. In many cases an imprudent plunger
was compelled to call a halt to rescue his shoes--that is, those who
were lucky enough to have shoes--from the deep mud, hidden by a fair
green surface of moss or tendrils. It was a wondrous journey to Barney,
The pages of Sindbad alone seemed to have a parallel for the awful
mysteries of that long, long flight through jungles of towering timber,
whose leaves and bark were as unfamiliar as Brazilian growth to the
troops of Pizarro or the Congo vegetation to the French pioneer. Jones
and his comrades saw nothing but the hardships of the march and the
delay of the painful _détours_ in the solemn glades. The direction was
kept by compass, many of the men having been supplied with a miniature
instrument by the prudent foresight of Mrs. Lanview, who was niggard of
neither time nor money in the cause she had at heart. In spite of every
effort a march so swift that it would have exhausted cavalry, Jones's
ranks did not reach the rendezvous until midnight. At about that hour
the exhausted fugitives came suddenly upon a wide, open plain, and far
below them, in the valley, a vision of light and life shone through
the dark.

"There, boys, we're at the end of our first stage. Unless I'm much
mistaken, that bit of merry-making yonder will cost the Confederacy
a chief."

"But is it certain that Davis is there?" asked the man Jones called
Moon, who seemed to be his intimate.

"Ah, that we will learn so soon as Nasmyd reports. We will give the
signal when we reach that fringe of wood yonder. It's back of the
grounds, separated from them by a hard piece of swamp and water.--Men,
you must follow now in single file, and when we get in the swamp, mind,
a single step out of line will cost you your lives, for, sucked into
that morass, wild horses can't pull you out."

Then, as they plunged anew in the gloomy deeps of swamp and brake, the
friendly lights were lost and the depressed wayfarers struggled on with
something of the feeling of a crew cast away at sea, who, thrown upon
the crest of a rising billow, catch a near glimpse of a great ship,
light and taut, riding serenely havenward to lose it the next in the
dire waste. Presently the melancholy bird-notes that had puzzled Jack in
the same vicinity days before broke out just in front of Barney, who was
clambering along, the third man from the head of the little column.
Again, after a long pause, the sweet, plaintive note was re-echoed from
a distance.

"Ah, all is well!" he heard Jones ejaculate triumphantly. "We are in
time and we are waited for.--Now, men, put all the heart that's in you
to the next half-hour's work. No danger, but just cool heads and
strong arms."

This good news was conveyed from man to man, and the toilsome movement
briskly accelerated under the inspiring watchword. Shortly afterward the
larger growth--cypress and oak--diminished, as the band straggled into
the open, starry night at the margin of what they could tell was water
by the croaking of frogs and plashing of night birds and reptiles. Then
the train was halted. Jones left Nasmyd in command and plunged into a
thick skirt of bushes. Now Barney, hot and dirty from the march, had
shot ahead when he heard the ripple of the water. He had taken off his
shoes to bathe his blistered and swollen feet, and sat quite still and
restful under the leafy sprays of an odorous bush that even in the dark
he knew to be honeysuckle.

"Well," he heard Jones cry in an exultant whisper, "we've done it. The
woman is a trump. There are a hundred nearly of the prisoners gone to
the boats. Now we are ready for Boone. Is Davis here?"

"Yes; he came over from Williamsburg at eight o'clock; they were
feasting when Clem came away a three or more ago."

"Any cavalry at the house?"

"A squadron; but they are ordered to be in saddle for their quarters at
midnight. There's the bugle for boots and saddles now."

"Yes; by the Eternal, what luck! Davis will sleep there."

"So Clem says; the state chamber has been prepared for him; all the rest
except Lee go back to Williamsburg."

"We couldn't have arranged it better if we had been given the ordering
of it. Are all the boats here?"

"Yes."

"And the negroes--how many have you?"

"I can't say. They've been dropping across in twos and threes since ten
o'clock. The curious thing is that the women are more taken with the
idea of fight than the men. We shall have enough--too many, I fear."

"We'll make them our safety, Jim, my boy; we'll divide them up, and, in
case of pursuit, send them in different directions to confuse
the troops."

"How many men are you going to take to the house?"

"Six, with you and me. It will be unsafe to take more, as the boats are
small. I will go back and select the men. You get the boats ready."

Barney hurried on his shoes, crawled through the bushes, and was in his
place when Jones presently appeared. The men, dead tired, were disposed
about on the ground asleep, not minding the damp grass or the heavy dew
that made the air fairly misty.

"Wake four of the men," Jones whispered, and when they were aroused he
said to a tall, reeling shadow, idly waiting orders:

"We'll be back in a half-hour, or an hour at the farthest. Let the men
sleep; they need it. Sleep yourself if you want to. Moon or I will come
to rouse you, and we will bring you plenty of bacon and hominy. Have no
fears if you hear movements just beyond you; there are a couple of
contrabands here who go with us. Here's a ration of tobacco for the men
when they wake, and a gallon of whisky, which you must serve out
gradually."

Revived by this stimulating news quite as much as by the whisky, Barney
and his three comrades followed Jones to the boats. There were four--the
dug-outs we saw Jack manoeuvring in the same waters a few nights before.
A negro sat silent, shadowy in each, and, when Jones gave the word, "Let
drive!" the barks shot through the waters, propelled by the single
scull, as swiftly as an Indian canoe. In a few moments all debarked on
the grassy knoll behind the black line of hedge. Jones made straight for
the high doorway, and inserting a key it was noiselessly opened.

"Men," he whispered, "no names must be used in any case. I'm number one,
Jim here is number two, Moore number three, and so on. Each one remember
his number. Clem will remain here with number six to guard the gate. All
the rest follow me."

Two negroes joined the party that stole forward through the rose-field
to the negro quarters. All was silent. As they reached the great kitchen
behind the house and connected with it by a trellised pavilion, only an
occasional light could be seen in the house. All were apparently there.
The ball had ended. Leaving Barney in charge of the rest, Jones and
Number Two crept along the trellis toward the house and soon disappeared
around the southern corner. Jones presently returned and said,
exultingly:

"The cavalry is gone; we have nothing to fear.--Plato, you go with
Number Two to the stables and bring the horses out; hold six and send
the rest scattering in the fields, so that in case of anybody's being in
the mind to follow hell have to use his legs, and we can beat them at
that game. Where are the ropes?" he asked the black man left in
the group.

"In de kitchen, massa."

"Get them!"

"Must I go alone, massa?"

"That's a fact.--There, Moore, you go with the boy--don't be a minute."

Barney followed the sable marauder through the grounds to the rear of
the trellis, and crept with him through a window which stood open. The
kitchen was dark, but the negro seemed perfectly familiar with the
place. He made directly for a dark panel in the northern wall, opened a
cupboard-door, knelt down and began to grope among bottles, boxes, and
what not that housewives gather in such receptacles.

"Oh, de lor'! dey ain't no rope! It's done gone!" "Have you a match?"
Barney asked.

"No, massa, but dey is some yondah."

"Find them."

The boy crept cautiously in the direction of the passage leading into
the house; he fumbled about, an age, as it seemed to the impatient
Barney, and at last uttered an exclamation:

"Got 'em?"

"No, massa, but Ise suah deys kep dar."

"Take my hand and lead me."

"It's molasses, massa, and Ise all stickem," the voice in the dark
whispered, delightedly, and Barney could see a double row of glistening
white ivory in the dim light that came through the window. He came
nearer the clumsy wight, and saw that it was a pan of batter the cook
had left on the table, probably the morning griddle-cakes. The negro was
a mass of white, pasty glue, and knelt on the floor, licking his hands
passively.

"Where are the matches?"

"Under de clock, in a tin safe, massa--right da."

Barney groped angrily about the table, on the clock-shelf, knocking down
a tin dish, that fell with the clatter of a bursting magazine in the
dense stillness of the night. Both drew back in shadow, waiting with
heart-beats that sounded in their ears like tramping horses on thick
sward. The clamor of rushing steeds in the lane suddenly drowned this; a
loud, joyous whinny sounded in the very kitchen it seemed, and there was
a rush houseward past the pantry as of a troop of cavalry. Then a
blood-curdling outcry of voices, then shots. Barney, leaving the negro
writhing in convulsions under the table, darted to the window--to the
rendezvous. It was deserted.



CHAPTER XIX.

"HE EITHER FEARS HIS FATE TOO MUCH."


When Vincent visited the stables on the morning of that
eagerly-looked-for Thursday, he found three of the horses clammy with
perspiration and giving every sign of having been ridden! The awkward
and evasive answers of the stablemen would not have been enough for any
other than a man preoccupied by love. When Rosa went to the kitchen, if
her head had not been taken up with the love in her heart, she must
certainly have remarked that the stores of food prepared for the
household were curiously diminished and the kitchen girls unwontedly
reserved. Indeed, in any other condition than that in which the family
now found themselves, they must have remarked a singular change in the
black brigade in kitchen and garden. But, preocupied each with a
different interest, as well as the preparation for the President's
_fête_, the Atterburys remarked nothing sinister in the distracted
conduct of their servants, and had only a vague feeling that the great
event had in some sort paralyzed their wonted noisy activities and
repressed their usual chatter. Kate's uneasiness and restless vagaries,
her disjointed talk and half-guilty evasions, would have been remarked
by her prepossessed hosts; while Wesley's shifting and moody silence
would have warned his comrades that he was suffering the pangs of an
evil done or meditated. Precursive signs like these--and much more,
which need not be dwelt on--the kind hosts of Rosedale made no note of.
But when Vincent opened the mail-bag--brought by an orderly from
Williamsburg every morning, the first surprise and shock of the day was
felt--though in varying degrees by all the diverse inmates of the house.

"Hah! glory to the Lord of hosts!" the exultant reader cried, as he
passed to his mother a large official envelope at the breakfast-table.

"I'm ordered to the field." he cried, as Jack looked inquiringly; "I'm
to set out to-night and report for duty with General Johnston to-morrow
at Manassas. No more loitering in my lady's bower; Jack, my boy, the
carpet will be clear for your knightly pranks after to-night."

"If it were Aladdin's magic rug, I should caper nimbly enough. I warrant
you."

"What would you wish--if it were under your feet, with its slaves at
your command?"

"I should whisk you all off--North--instanter."

"Ingrate!--plunge us into the chilly blasts of the North, in return for
our glorious Southern sun? Fie, Jack! I'm surprised at such selfish
ingratitude. We expected better things of our prisoners," Mrs. Atterbury
murmured, and affected a reproving frown at the culprit, as she handed
her son back the order, with a stilled sigh.

"The sun of the South is not the sun of York to us, you know; all the
clouds that lower on our house are doubly darkened by this Southern sun;
even the warmth of Rosedale hearts can not make up for our eclipsed
Northern star," Jack said, sadly, with a wistful look at the rival
warrior reading with sparkling eyes the instructions accompanying the
order to march.

"Since Vincent is going so far northward, I think it will be a good time
for us to go home," Mrs. Sprague began, tentatively.

"Oh--no--no! Oh, we could never think of such a thing," Rosa
cried--"could we, mamma?"

"Why should you go?" Mrs. Atterbury asked. "Until Jack is exchanged,
you've certainly no duty in the North so important as watching over this
headstrong fellow. We can't think of your going--unless you are weary
of us."

"O Mrs. Atterbury, pray don't put it in that way! You know better. Our
visit here has been perfect. But you can understand my anxiety to be at
home; to be where I can aid my son's release. I have been anxious for
some time to broach the subject, but I saw that our going would be a
trouble to you; now, since fortune offers this chance, we must seize
it--that is, those of us who feel it a duty to go"; and she looked
meaningly at Merry and her daughter.

"Nonsense! You are hostages for Vincent, in case he is captured, as long
as you are here; I can't let you go--under the laws of war--I can not.
Can I, Vincent?"

Vincent looked at Jack solemnly, but made no answer.

"Mamma is quite right. While you are with us no harm can come to
Vincent; for, if he should be taken prisoner, we can threaten the Yankee
Government to put you to torture unless he is well treated," Rosa
interrupted, reassuringly.

"We should be far more aid and comfort to Vincent if we were in the
North than we could be here. If he were taken prisoner and wounded, we
could return him the kindness we have received here. In any event, we
could lessen the hardships of prison life."

"Oh, you would have to minister to a mind diseased, if such a fate
should befall me!" Vincent cried, sentimentally; with a glance into
Olympia's eyes, which met his at the moment. Both blushed; and Olympia,
to relieve the embarrassment, said, decisively:

"Mamma is right. Jack must have his family on the ground, to watch over
his interests. I am sure there is some underhand work responsible for
this long delay in his case, for I saw by _The Whig_, last week, that
exchanges of prisoners had been made; I think that--" But, suddenly
remembering the presence of Kate and Wesley, she did not finish the
thought, which implied a belief in the intervention of the elder
Boone--to Jack's detriment. In the end--when the two mothers talked the
matter over--Mrs. Sprague carried the point. She convinced Mrs.
Atterbury that there was danger to Jack in a longer stay of his family
in the Confederate lines. Vague reports had already reached them from
Acredale of the suspicious hostility in which the Democrats were held
after Bull Run. The Northern papers, which came through the lines quite
regularly, left no doubt that Democratic leanings were universally
interpreted in the North as evidences of rebel sympathy, if not
partisanship. Such a charge, as things stood, would be fatal to Jack;
and the mother's duty was plain. She had friends in Washington, once
powerful, who could stand between her son and calumny--perhaps more
serious danger--when she was present in person to explain his conduct.
If she could not at once secure his exchange, she could save him from
compromise in the present inflammable and capricious state of the public
mind. Understanding this, and the enmity of Boone, Mrs. Atterbury not
only made no further objection, but acknowledged the urgent necessity of
the mother's presence in the North. The idle life of Rosedale had grown
unbearably irksome to Merry, too.

"I feel as if I were a rebel," she confided to Mrs. Sprague in the
evening talks, when the piano sounded and the young people were making
the hours pass in gayety. "It's a sin for us to laugh and be contented
here, when our friends are bearing the burdens of war. I shall be
ashamed to show my face in Acredale. Oh, I wish I could carry a musket!"

"You might carry a canteen, my dear. I believe the regiments take out
_vivandières_--there would be an outlet for your warlike emotions," Mrs.
Sprague said, with the purpose of cheering the unhappy spinster.

"Ah, no; I must not give encouragement to that dreadful Richard. But we
shall go now, thank Heaven, and it will comfort my sisters to have the
boy back on Northern soil, even if he persists in being a soldier."

She had a long talk with Jack on the subject. That tempest-tossed knight
convinced her that it would only incite the boy to more unruliness to
persist in his quitting the army, or to urge him northward now, before
an exchange was properly arranged. Indeed, he was a prisoner--taken in
battle--though his name did not appear on the lists. So Vincent's sudden
going was welcomed as a stroke of good fortune. The Atterburys,
understanding the natural feelings of the family, made only perfunctory
opposition. Olympia and Kate were to remain until their brothers' fates
were decided. Vincent, who had been for weeks wildly impatient to return
to the field, was divided in mind now--by joy and despair. He had put
off and put off a last appeal to Olympia. He had not had an opportunity,
or rather had too much opportunity--and had, from day to day, deferred
the longed-for yet dreaded decision. When ready to speak, prudence
whispered that it would be better to leave the question open until it
should come up of itself. She would learn every day to know him better
in his own home, where all the artificialities of life are stripped from
a man, by the concurrent abrasions of family love and domestic
_devoirs_. She would see that, however unworthy of her love he might
have seemed in the old boyish days at Acredale, now he could be a man
when manliness was demanded; that he could be patient, reticent, humble
in the trials her caprice or coquetry put upon him. She had, it seemed
to him, deepened and broadened the current of his love during these
blissful weeks of waiting. Her very reserve, under the new conditions
surrounding her, had made more luminous the beauty of her heart and
mind. She was no longer the airy, capricious Olympia of his college
days. The pensive gravity of misfortune and premature responsibility had
ennobled and made more tangible the traits that had won him in her
Northern home. She had not avoided him during these weeks of purifying
probation, as he feared she would. Of late--Jack's state being
secure--she had revived much of the old vivacity, and deepened the
thrall that held him.

But now the merry-making season which had opened before them was at an
end. The madrigals that welled up in his soft heart must sing themselves
in the silence of the night, in the camp yonder, with no ears to
comprehend, no heart to melt to them. He should probably not get a
chance to see her again during the conflict. How long? Perhaps a
year--for it would take two campaigns, as the rebel leaders reckoned, to
convince the North that the Confederacy was unconquerable! And what
might not happen during those momentous months? Perhaps Jack's
death?--and then they would be divided as by fire--or, if the conflict
resulted victoriously for the South, as he knew it must, he foresaw that
the soldier of the conquering army would not be received as a wooer in
the family of the defeated. He knew her so well! She would, in the very
pride of outraged patriotism, give her love to one of the defeated,
rather than add to the triumphs of the hated South. She had strong
convictions on the war. She hated slavery, and she could not be made to
see that the South was warring for liberty, not to sustain slavery.
These thoughts ran through Vincent's troubled mind as his mother
directed the preparations for the _fête_ of the President.

Kate, Jack, and Dick were pressed into the service of decorating the
apartments. Olympia left the room with her mother to advise and assist
in making ready for the journey North; and Vincent, aiding his mother
with a sadly divided mind, kept furtive watch on the hallway. She held
him hours in suspense, he thought, almost wrathfully, of deliberate
purpose; for she must have read in his eyes that he wanted to talk with
her. The artless Dick finally gave him a chance.

"I say, Vint, get Polly to show you the roses needed for the tables;
I'll be with you by-and-by to cut the ferns. Do you think you could make
yourself of that much use? You're not worth a straw here"

"Send for Miss Polly and I'll do my best," Vincent said, with a gulp, to
conceal his joy. She appeared presently; and, as they were passing out
of the door, Rosa cried, imperiously:

"Oh, yes, Vint, we need ever so much honeysuckle; you know where it
hangs thickest--in the Owl's Glen. Olympia will like to see that--the
haunt of her favorite bird"; and the busy little maid laughed cheerily,
like a disordered goddess, intoxicated by the exhaling odors of the
floral chaos.

"_En route_ for Roumelia, then," Vincent cried in military cadence, as
the florists set out. Roumelia was the name Jack had given the
rose-lands near the stream, in fanciful allusion to the Turkish province
of flowers. Halting at the gardener's cottage, Vincent procured an
immense pair of shears, like a double rapier in size, and, bidding the
man follow to gather the blossoms, he pushed into the blooming vineyard.

"With such an instrument I should say it was the golden fleece you were
after," Olympia cried, as he reached her side, "though I believe Jason
didn't do the shearing."

"No, the powers of air worked for him, and he found his quest ready to
his hand."

"I'm sure the powers of air have not denied you; look at those radiant
ranks of blossoms bending to be gathered."

"Ah, yes, beauty stoops sometimes to welcome the trembling hand of the
suitor."

"Your hand is rather unsteady--infirm of purpose; give me the blades."
She took them laughingly, and snipped the green stems rapidly and
dexterously.

"Yes, I believe men are infirm in moral purposes, as compared to women.
It is only in the brutalities of life that men are decisive."

"Do you mean that women approach the trials of life less thinkingly and
act less rationally than men?"

"Yes and no. The daring too much is always before a man; the daring too
little is, I think, the only trouble a woman has."

"Oh, that is a large question, involving too much mental strain in a
garden of roses, where the senses sleep and one is content with mere
breath and the faintest motion."

"There are enough roses; now we will go for the wild smilax and
honeysuckle; perhaps the cool air of the pools will restore your mental
activities."

They left the dismembered roses scattered in fragrant heaps on the
shaded path and walked slowly toward the dense hedge.

"What a perfect fortress this green wall makes of the gardens!" Olympia
said, glancing around the great square, where the solid green wall could
be seen running up much higher than their heads.

"Yes, as I said the other day, it would take hard work for an invading
force to get at the house unless traitors within gave up the gates. This
one," he added, unlocking a massive oak door, crossed with thick planks
and studded with iron bolts, "alone admits from the creek and swamp. It
is locked all the time; no one has the key except the gardener, who
delivers it to mamma every night."

"A feudal demesne; it takes one back to the so-called days of chivalry."

"Why do you say 'so-called'? To me they are the delight of the
past--when men went to battle for the smile of the women they loved,
when knights rode the world over in search of adventure, and my lady, in
her donjon, listened with pleasure to the lover's roundelay. Ah, it was
a perfect life, an enchanting time. We are living in a coarse, brutal
age; chivalry was the creed of civilization, the knights the priesthood
of the higher life."

"There's the Southerner through and through in that sentimentality. To
me chivalry means all that is narrow, cruel, and rapacious in man. The
philandering knights were sensual boobies, the simpering dames soulless
wantons. Life meant simply the rule of the strong, the slaughter of the
weak. Servitude was its law and robbery its methods. Have you ever
traveled in out-of-the-way places in Germany, Austria, or Italy?"

"No, I've never been abroad."

"You would know better what I mean if you had seen the monstrous relics
of the age you admire. The few ruled the many; the knights were simply a
brotherhood of blood and rapine; men were slaves, women were worse. The
bravest were as unlettered as your body-servant, the most beautiful
dames as termagant as Penelope the cook. At the table men and women ate
from a common dish, without forks or spoons. Men guzzled gallons of
unfermented wine. A bath was unknown. Cleanliness was as unpracticed as
Islamism in New York. Ugh! anything but chivalry for me."

"But surely the great lords were not what you represent. They were
gentle born, gentle bred. They could not be robbers; they lived from
great estates."

"They were the 'Knights of St. Nicholas,' which, in the slang of the
middle ages, meant what they call in the West road agents; indeed, plain
highwaymen they were called in England in Bacon's day."

Vincent bent over discomfited, and held the little shallop until Olympia
was seated, and then pushed off into the murky stream.

"Do you see those streamers of loveliness waving welcome to you, fair
damsel--Nature knows its kind?"

"That's one word for me and one for yourself," she cried, seizing the
dainty pink sprays that now trailed over her head and shoulders as the
boat glided along the fringe of hushes supporting the clinging vines.

"Oh, no, Olympia; I can't speak even one word for myself. I have been
trembling to do it this six weeks, but your eye had none of the
invitation these starry blossoms offer us. I am going to say now,
Olympia, what I have to say--for after to-day there will be no chance;
what has been on my mind you have long known. You know that I love you;
how much I love you, how impossible it is to think of life without you,
I dare not venture to say to you, for you distrust our Southern
exaggeration. But I do love you; ah, my God! all the world else--my
mother, my sister, my duty seem nothing compared to the one passionate
hope in my breast. Do you believe me, Olympia--do you doubt me?"

"Far from it, Vincent--dear Vincent--no--no--sit where you are and
listen to me--" She was deeply moved, and the lover in his heart cursed
the luckless veils of blossom that she apparently, without design, drew
before her face. "I do believe all you say; I knew it before you said
it. But you remember we went over this very same ground before. Since
then, it is true, you have been the means of saving us much misery; how
much I hardly dare think of when I look back to that dreadful day, when
mamma lay in the fever of coming disease and the hopelessness of
despair. All I can say, dear, dear Vincent, is what I said before. Wait
until thine and mine are no longer at war. Wait until one flag
covers us--"

"But that can never be!"

"Wait! I have faith that it will be!"

"If one flag should cover us--my flag--would you--would you--?"

"Ah, Vincent! don't ask me; don't force me to say something thing that
will make you unhappy, since I don't know my own mind well enough yet to
answer as you wish me to answer--"

"But you can tell me now whether you love me, or, at least, whether
there is any one you love more?"

"I don't think I love you. I know, however, that I think no more of any
one else than I think of you; pray, let that suffice."

"But how cruel that is, Olympia! It is as much, as to say that you won't
wait and see whether you may meet some one that you can be surer of than
you are of me?"

"I must distress you whatever I say, Vincent! Frankly, I don't think you
can decide just now whether your heart is really engaged. I think you do
not know me as a man should knows the woman he makes his wife. I am
certain I do not know you. If you had been born and bred in the North, I
should have no difficulty in deciding; but your ways are so different
here: women are accorded so much before marriage, and made so little of
a man's life after marriage, that I shrink from a promise which, if
lightly or inconsiderately given, would bring the last misery a woman
can confront."

"What, Olympia! you think Southern men do not hold marriage to be
sacred?"

"I think that the Southern man has a good deal of the knight you spoke
of in him, and, like the Frenchman, marries inconsiderately, and does
penance in infidelity, at least to the form, if not the fact, of the
relation."

"O Olympia! where do you get such repulsive ideas of us; who has been
traducing us to you?"

"I judge from the Southern men I have seen North; pardon me, Vincent, I
do not see how it can be otherwise in a society based upon human
servitude. To live on the labors of a helot people blunts the finer
sensibilities of men and women alike; when you can look unshrinkingly at
the separation of husband and wife on the auction-block, when you can
see innocent children taken from their mothers and sold into eternal
separation, I think it is not unnatural in me to fear that a woman with
my convictions would not be happy mated with a Southerner. All this is
cruel, I fear you will think, but it would be crueller for me to
encourage a love that, under present circumstances, would bring misery
to both of us."

"You are an abolitionist?"

"Yes; every right-thinking person in the North is an abolitionist to
this extent; we want the South to take the remedy into its own hands, to
free its slaves voluntarily; the radical abolitionists prefer a violent
means. That I do not seek or did not; but now, Vincent, it is bound
to come."

"And, if it should come, what would you answer to my question?"

"Here is a white rose: I picked it with my hand, and, you see, a drop of
my blood is on it; when you can give me a rose with a drop of your blood
on it as free from taint as the stain mine makes, I shall have an answer
that will not be unworthy your waiting for!"

"Unworthy! I don't understand you. Surely, you don't think me a
profligate?"

"When the time comes that no human being acknowledges your ownership,
perhaps you may receive a voluntary bond-maid, bound to you by stronger
ties than the chattel of the slave."

"But you love me, then, Olympia?"

"I can not love where I do not reverence."

"But it is not my fault that slaves are my inheritance!"

"It will be your fault if they are your support when you are your own
master."

"You love an idea better than you love a man who would die for you!"

"I love manliness and the sense of right, which is called duty, better
than I love a man who is blind to the first impulse of real manhood--"

"Would you ask a Jew to give up his synagogue to gain your hand?"

"The synagogue is the temple of a creed as divine as my own, and the
faith of the man I loved would never swerve me in accepting or
refusing him."

"We of the South believe slavery a divine institution--that is, first
established by the fathers!"

"The tribes in the Fiji Islands believe man-eating an ordinance of the
gods!"

"Well, this sort of discussion leads to nothing," Vincent said,
ruefully. "The world is well lost for the woman one loves, when I come
to you shorn of my world!"

"Ah! then, Vincent, you will find another!"

He drew her hand from the clinging vines and kissed it.

"I am very happy. I shall lose my world with a very light heart."

"The world is a very tough brier; we sometimes bring it closer, when its
thorns prick us more painfully in the struggles to cast it off."

"Then I'll cut the brambles, and not risk tearing my flesh!"

"That's the soldier's way--the heroic way; but wait for the future; I am
young and you are not old."

Vincent's gayety when they returned to the drawing-room attracted the
observant Dick, and he slyly whispered to the warrior, "Been practicing
the Roman strategy with the Sabines?"

"No, I've been at the Temple of Minerva and taken a pledge to hold my
tongue."

"Ah! the goddess of the owls; but, as they see light only in darkness, I
fear you groped in blackness."

The whole household were to meet President Davis and his party in
Williamsburg, assist at the review, and get back with the distinguished
guests in time for a state dinner. Merry and Mrs. Sprague were reluctant
to go, but they feared a refusal would be misunderstood. Poor Merry was
very tearful and disconsolate at the thought of leaving Dick, but she
strove heroically to hide her grief when the cavalcade set out, the
elder ladies driving, the young people mounted. The ancient capital of
Virginia was aflame with the new rebel bunting. President Davis, with
Generals Lee and Magruder, were in place on the pretty green before the
old colonial college edifice when the Rosedale people came up. Davis
saluted Mrs. Atterbury with cordial urbanity; but, as the troops were
already in column, there was only time for hasty presentation of the
strangers.

Jack watched the rather piebald pageant with absorbed interest. The
infantry marched wretchedly. The arms were as varied as the uniforms,
and the artillery seemed a relic of Jackson's time. But the cavalry was
superb. Never had he seen such splendid ranks, such noble horses. At
sight of the tall, elegant figure of the President, the troops broke
into the peculiar shrill cheer that afterward became a sound of wonder,
almost terror, to unaccustomed Northern ears. It was a mingling of the
boyish treble of college cries and the menacing shriek of the wild-cat.
Jack was secretly very much delighted with the review. More than half
the rank and file were mere boys; and he could see that they were
unruly, almost to point-blank disregard of their officers commands, or
the prescriptions of the manual. It would take short work for the
disciplined hosts the new Northern general was training, to sweep such
chaff from the field of war. Vincent saw something of this in his
comrade's eye, and a good deal nettled himself by the slovenly march and
humorous abandon of the men, he said:

"You must remember, Jack, our army is made up of gentlemen's sons; the
gentry of the South are all in arms, and we can't at once reduce them to
the mere machines a more heterogeneous soldiery can be made. The men who
won Manassas passed in review a day or two before the battle, and they
made the same impression upon me--upon Beauregard himself--that I see
these men have made on you. Depend upon it, in a fight they will be good
soldiers."

"Let me have the poor comfort of underrating my enemy, the thing above
all others that a wise man shuns and a fool indulges."

"Oh, on that theory revile them if you like."

"No, indeed; I'm far from reviling them. The cavalry is magnificent. I
don't think we have a regiment in our army that can compare with that
brigade. Who commands it?"

"Jeb Stuart--the Murat of the South," Vincent said, proudly. "I'm going
to tell the President what you said of the brigade; you know he is
passionately fond of the army, and really wanted to be the
commander-in-chief, when they made him President at Montgomery."

At sunset the President and General Lee entered the carriage with Mrs.
Atterbury and Mrs. Sprague, Merry driving in a phaeton with Kate, who
didn't enjoy so long a ride on the horse.

"I'm glad we've got such important hostages as yourself and son," Davis
said gallantly to Mrs. Sprague, as the carriage passed out of the clamor
of acclamation the crowd set up. "I knew the Senator, your husband,
intimately. If he had lived, I doubt whether we should have been driven
out of the Union. He was, in my mind, one of the most prudent statesmen
that came from the North to Congress."

"He certainly never would have consented to break up the Union," Mrs.
Sprague said, in embarrassment.

"Nor should I, madam, if there had been any further security in it. The
truth is, there was nothing left for us but to go out or be kicked out.
The leaders of the Abolition party long ago proclaimed that. However,
war settles all such problems. When it is settled by the sword we shall
be satisfied."

Mrs. Atterbury changed the conversation by asking how Mrs. Davis liked
Richmond.

"Oh, she has been treated royally by the people there. I declare
Richmond is as Southern a city as Charleston. I have been agreeably
surprised by the absolute unanimity of gentle and simple in the cause.
My wife receives a clothes-basketful of letters every morning from the
mothers of the Confederacy proffering time, money, and service wherever
she can suggest anything for them to do. I propose later on establishing
an order something like the Golden Fleece, which shall confer a certain
social precedence upon the wearers. I have thousands of letters on the
subject, and as the society of the South is, as a matter of fact, a
society of gentle-folk--for the most part lineally descended from the
nobility of older countries--I think it proper and right that lineage
should have certain acknowledged advantages in the new commonwealth. But
I propose to go further, and institute an order of something like
nobility for women--who have thus far given us great help and
encouragement. Indeed, there are many in the Congress--a dozen Senators
I could name--who think that we ought to make our regime entirely
different from the North, and that we should adopt a monarchical form--"

"I'm sure, I think we should," Mrs. Atterbury exclaimed, delightedly.
"We are really as unlike the Northern people as the French or
the Germans."

"The strongest argument for declaring the Confederacy an empire is the
one that weighed with Napoleon I. We should at one stroke secure the
alliance of all the monarchies. They have never looked with favor on the
experiment of a powerful republic over here, and it is almost certain
they would befriend us for transforming this mighty infant state into an
empire. However, that is for future action. Our agents abroad have sent
us full reports on the matter."

"I doubt the wisdom of ever hinting such a thing," General Lee said,
gravely. "We must show that we are able to act independently in
selecting our form of government. I doubt very much whether the masses
would listen favorably to an empire established by foreign aid."

"Possibly, general, possibly. As I said before, there will be time
enough for that when, like Napoleon, we have made our armies the masters
of this continent. Then, with boundaries embracing Mexico, Canada, and
the Western States--for they can never exist independent of us--we can
choose empire, republic, or a Venetian oligarchy."

As they came in sight of Rosedale, Davis stood up in the carriage to get
a better view of the landscape, which showed swift alternations of dense
thickets and wood and rolling acres of rich crops.

"What a State Virginia is!" he exclaimed with enthusiasm. "It has the
climate and soil to support half of Europe. Mother of Presidents in the
past, it will be the granary and magazine of the Confederacy in ten
years. My own State, Mississippi, is rich in land, but the climate is
hard for the stranger. It enervates the European at first. But we are an
agricultural people, or rather we give our energies to our staple,
cotton; that is to be the chief treasure of the Confederacy."

Dinner was ready for the table when the guests came from their rooms.
Davis excused his lack of ceremonial dress, saying pleasantly:

"I am something of a soldier, you know, and travel with a light train.
Lee, there, has the advantage of me. A soldier's uniform is court
costume the world over."

"But you are the commander-in-chief, Mr. President. Don't you have a
uniform?"

"No. I am commander-in-chief only in law. Congress is really the
commander-in-chief. The man that assumes those duties can attend to them
alone. He is, of course, subject to the executive; but only in general
plans, rarely in details."

Davis was placed at Mrs. Atterbury's right, Mrs. Sprague at her left,
General Lee sat at Vincent's right, _vis-à-vis_ to Jack, who was lost in
prodigious admiration of the Socratic-like chieftain--Lee was as yet
unknown to all but a discriminating few in the Confederacy. He was as
tall as Davis fully six feet--but more rounded and symmetrical. He spoke
with great gravity, but seemed to enjoy the jests that the young people
found opportunities to indulge in, when it was seen that the President
devoted his talk exclusively to the hostess or Mrs. Sprague. Davis was a
good talker, and charmed the company with reminiscences of old times
in Congress.

"I don't remember Lincoln distinctly," he said, concluding a
reminiscence, "but I think he's the man that used to be so popular in
the House cloak-room, telling stories which were said to be
extremely droll."

"Mrs. Lincoln is in some sort kin to Mrs. Davis, isn't she?" Mrs.
Atterbury asked. "I have read it somewhere."

"Very distant. Mrs. Lincoln is of the Kentucky Tods, and they were in
some way kin of my wife's family, the Howells. Not enough to put on
mourning, if Mrs. Lincoln should become a widow."

"Is it true, Mr. President, that a society in the North has offered a
million dollars for your capture--abduction? I heard it in Williamsburg,
and saw an allusion to it in _The Examiner_ the other day."

"Oh, I'm sure I can't say. If the offer were authenticated, I should be
tempted to go and get the reward myself. With a million dollars I could
do a good deal more for the cause in the North than I can here, making
brigadiers and settling questions of precedence between Cabinet
ministers, judges, and Senators."

"Mr. President, give me an exchange North, and I will ascertain the
facts in the million-dollar offer and write you faithfully how to set
about getting the money," Jack said, very soberly, from his end of
the table.

"Ah! the Yankee spoke there--nothing if not a bargain. Sir, you deserve
your clearance papers, but I'm too good a friend of Mrs. Atterbury and
her daughter to bring about the loss of company that I am sure must be
agreeable. Then, too, there's no telling the miracles of conversion that
may be brought about by such ministers as Miss Rosa there."

Rosa blushed, Jack felt foolish, and everybody laughed except Dick, who
looked unutterable things at his adored, and boldly entered the lists
against the great personage by asking, in a quivering treble:

"Doesn't the Bible say that the wife shall cleave to the husband; that
his people shall be her people, his God her God, where he goes
she goes?"

"It is so said in the Bible, sir; but it was a woman that uttered it,
and she was in love. When you know more of the sex, you will understand
that women in love are like poets; they say much that they don't mean,
and more that they don't understand."

"But, Mr. President, what the one woman said in the Bible all women
practice. You never knew a woman that didn't believe her husband's
beliefs, hate his hates, love his loves."

Davis smiled, and his eyes twinkled kindly on his boyish inquisitor.

"I know only one woman. That is as much as a man can speak for. She
doesn't hate my hates, love my loves, or enter unprotestingly into all
my ways. Indeed, I may say that, being a peaceful man, I wanted to
remain in Washington, for I believed that Seward was sincere in pleading
for a compromise; but the woman I speak of had her own opinion convinced
me that she was right, and I came to my own people."

At this moment there was a diversion. A soldier, booted and spurred,
entered the room, walked to the head of the table, and bending
deferentially to the President, said;

"I am ordered to deliver this message wherever you may be found." He
handed Davis a large envelope and retreated respectfully two or three
paces backward. Everybody affected to resume conversation as the
President, breaking the seal, said;

"Pardon me a moment, madam." But he had no sooner ran over the lines
than he turned to the courier, crying, in visible discomfiture:

"When did you leave the war office?"

"At five o'clock, sir."

"General, we must return instantly to Richmond; a hundred or more of the
prisoners have broken out of Libby! It is reported that a column of the
enemy with gunboats have passed up the James.--Madam, this is one of the
exigencies of a time of war. I needn't say to an Atterbury that
everything must give way to public business!" He called Lee aside, spoke
rapidly to him, and the latter, beckoning Vincent, left the room. He
returned in ten minutes, announcing that everything was in readiness to
set out. The carriage with Mrs. Sprague's and Merry's small luggage was
ready when the cavalcade set out, Davis riding with them and the cavalry
company from below, divided into squadrons before and behind the
carriage. It was eleven o'clock as the last dark line of the troop
disappeared. Olympia and Jack stood at the great gate in mournful
silence. The swiftness of the parting had lessened the pain, but their
minds were full of the sorrow that follows the inevitable. Mrs. Sprague
had herself declined to postpone the ordeal when Mrs. Atterbury pointed
out the untimely hour. No, it was better to suffer this slight
inconvenience to have Vincent's protecting presence all the way to the
Union lines; and Jack, acknowledging this, didn't say a word to dissuade
her. Vincent's last act was to call Jack to his room.

"I wanted to tell you, Jack, what a great joy it has been to me--it has
been to all of us--to have you in our home at this trying time. I can
not tell you how much comfort it has been to me now, but some time you
shall know," Vincent stammered, and began to open a drawer in the
bureau. "Here is something I want you to accept as a keepsake from me."
He drew forth a pistol-case and opened it. "It will be a melancholy
pleasure for me to feel, in the dark days to come, that these weapons
may prove your friend in battle, where I must be your enemy."

"By George, they're beauties!" Jack cried, taking the weapons out.

"Yes; they were bought last year, and I have had J.S. cut on one, and
V.A. on the other. I meant them for your Christmas last year, but they
were mislaid."

"What a kind fellow you are, Vint! I don't think I ought to take these."

"Why not? I have others! I shall feel easier, knowing that you have
them. You can stow them about you easily, they are so small."

"But it's against the laws of war for a prisoner to be armed."

"That's just the reason I haven't asked you to take them before. You can
leave them here in my room until you are exchanged, and then you can
carry them with impunity."

The household assembled at the gate leading into the roadway as the
cavalcade took up the march. There were sad, sobbing farewells
spoken--the kindly night covering the tears, and the loud neighing of
the horses drowning the sobs.

The Northern group remained in the roadway, straining their eyes to
catch the last glimpse of the wanderers as they disappeared in the misty
foliage, far up the roadway.

The horizon to the zenith was full of shimmering star-points, Olympia,
with Jack, turned slowly toward the house, silent and not wholly sad.
Dick, in a low treble, could be heard just behind them, quoting
melancholy verses to Rosa; and the brother and sister returned slowly up
the dewy, odorous path. At the porch Rosa exclaimed, in surprise:

"I wonder where Pizarro is? I haven't seen him while we have been out.
It can't be possible he has followed Vincent! What shall we do if
he has?"

"Make Dick take his place. A terrier is sometimes as faithful as a
mastiff," Jack said, quickly.

"Oh! Miss Atterbury wants something with a bite, rather than a bark, and
a terrier wouldn't do," the boy answered.

"I want Pizarro. I shall never sleep a wink all night if he isn't here,"
Rosa said, in consternation; "he is better than a regiment of soldiers,
for he won't let a human being come near the house after the doors are
closed, not even the servants."

An expedition, calling upon Pizarro in many keys, set out and wandered
through the grounds, back to the quarters, to the gates leading to the
rose-fields, to the stable, but Pizarro was not to be found. Lights were
burning in the hall only when the four re-entered, and with a very grave
face Rosa bade the rest good-night.



CHAPTER XX.

A CATASTROPHE.


Rosedale had been a bed of thorns to Wesley Boone since his recovery. He
felt that he was an incongruous visitor among the rest, as a hawk might
feel in a dove-cote. He would have willingly returned to Richmond--even
at the risk of re-entering the prison--if Kate had not been on his
hands. The life of the place, the constant necessity of masking his
aversion to the Spragues, his detestation of Dick, the simple
merry-making and intimate amenities of such close quarters, tasked his
small art of dissimulation beyond even the most practiced powers. The
garment of duplicity was gossamer, he felt, after all, in such
atmosphere of loyalty and trust as surrounded him at Rosedale.

He knew that in the daily attrition and conventional intimacies of the
table, the drawing-room, or the promenade, the cloak covering his
resentful antipathy, his moral perversities, his thinly veiled
impatience, was worn to such thin shreds that eyes keen as Jack's must
see and know him as he was. What was hatefulest and most unendurable of
all was the bondage of truce in which the Atterburys held him. Wesley
was no coward, and he ached to meet Jack face to face, arm to arm, and
settle with that thoughtless insubordinate a rankling list of griefs
heaped up in moments of over-vivacious frankness. He would make Jack
smart for his arrogance, his insolence, his cursed condescension so soon
as they were back among the Caribees.

But meanwhile, here, daily tortured by harmless things--tortured by his
soul's imaginings--Wesley was becoming a burden to Kate, who saw too
plainly that he was in misery, and realized that it was largely through
his own inherent weakness and insincerity. He had all the coarse fiber
of his father without the same force in its texture. With merely
superficial good manners, he was never certain whether the punctilious
niceties observed toward him by the Spragues and Atterburys were not a
species of studied satire. Vincent, who had never shown him the
slightest consideration in Acredale, treated him here with the
chivalrous decorum that the code of the South demanded in those days to
a guest. Wesley ground his teeth under the burden, not quite sure
whether it was mockery or malevolence. He watched with malignant
attentiveness the imperceptible change of tone and manner that marked
the family's treatment of the Spragues. There was none of the grave
ceremoniousness he resented in the Atterburys' behavior with them.

Jack was a hobbledehoy son of the house, almost as much as Vincent.
Kate, too, was, he felt certain, treated with a reserve not shown to
Mrs. Sprague or Merry. Brooding on this, brooding on the unhappiness of
his own disposition, which denied him the privilege of enjoying the best
at the moment, indifferent to what might be behind, Wesley had come to
hate the Atterburys for the burden of an obligation that he could never
lift. He hated Mrs. Atterbury for her high-bred, easy ignoring of all
conditions save those that she exacted. He hated Rosa for her gayety,
her absorption in the young scamp Dick. He hated Vincent because he
seemed to think there was no one in the North but the Spragues worthy of
a moment's consideration. It is in hate as in love--what we seek we
find. Every innocent word and sign that passed in the group, in which he
did not seek to make himself one, Wesley construed as a gird at him or
his family. Constantly on the watch for slights or disparagements, the
most thoughtless acts of the two groups were taken by the tormented
egotist as in some sense a disparagement to his own good repute or his
family standing.

Nor were the marked affection and confidence shown Kate by everybody in
the house a mitigation of this malign fabric of humiliation. Jack's
fondness for Kate had not escaped the observant eyes of Dick, who had
confided the secret to Rosa, who had likewise unraveled it to mamma,
and, as she kept nothing from Vincent, the Atterburys had that sort of
interest in Kate that intimate spectators always show in love affairs,
where there are no clashing interests involved. It was a moot question,
however, between the three, when, after weeks of observation, Mrs.
Atterbury declared that Jack was not in love with Miss Boone. "He can't
be," she declared. "He doesn't seek her alone; he doesn't make up to her
in the evening. Half the time when they come together it is by Dick's
arrangement. _He_ seems to be in love with Kate."

"How absurd!" Rosa cried, with a laugh; "a boy like him! Why, he would
be in school, if there were no war."

"Well, Rosa, I fancy that Dick hasn't found war very much different from
school, so far. He seems to recite a good deal to the mistress, and
occupies the dunce's block quite regularly," Vincent retorted, with a
provoking significance that set mamma in a brown study and suspended the
comments on Kate's and Jack's probable sentiments.

Mrs. Sprague and Wesley were the only people in the house who had no
suspicion of a deeper feeling than mere passing goodfellowship between
Jack and Kate. Both were blinded by the same confidence. The mother
could never conceive a son of the house of Sprague making such a breach
on the family traditions as a union with a Boone. Wesley could not
conceive a sister of his giving her heart to the son of a family that
had insolently refused to concede social equality to her father.
Something of Wesley's miserable inner unrest could not fail to be
visible to the Atterburys, but the less congenial he became the more
watchfully considerate they made their treatment of him. He was their
guest, with all the sacred rights and immunities that quality implies,
in the exaggerated code of the Southern host. Kate was the single power
that Wesley had bent his headstrong will before, ever since he was a
boy. His father he obeyed, while in his presence, trusting to wheedling
to make his peace in the event of disobedience. But Kate he
couldn't wheedle.

She was relentless in her scorn for his meannesses and follies, and,
though he did not always heed her counsels, he proved their justness by
finding his own course wrong. Kate, however, hesitated about
remonstrating with him on his deepening moodiness, for she was not quite
sure whether it was mad jealousy of Dick's favor in Rosa's eyes, or a
secret purpose to attempt to fly from the gentle bondage of Rosedale.
Wesley with Rosa it was remarked by Kate, was, or seemed to be, his
better self, or rather better than the self with which others identified
him. It was, however, she feared, more to torment Dick, than because she
found Wesley to her liking, that the little maid often carried the moody
captain off into the garden, pretending to teach him the varied flora of
that blooming domain. Dick remarked these excursions with growing
impatience, and visited his anger upon Rosa in protests so pungent and
woe-begone that she was forced to own to him that she only pretended an
interest in the captain, so that he might not think he was shut out of
the confidence of the circle.

"And who cares if he does think he is shut out, I should like to know?
He is a sneak, and I don't like to have you talking with him alone,"
Dick cries, quite in the tone of the Benedict who has passed the
marriage-portal and feels safe to make his will known.

"I should like to know what right you have to order what I shall or
shall not do?" Rosa protests, half angry, half laughing. "Why, you talk
like a grown man--like a husband. How dare you?"

Dick pauses confused, and looks guiltily about at this.

"Ah, if you put it that way I have no right except this: My whole heart
is yours. You know that. You may not have given me all yours."
(Protesting shrug from Rosa's shoulders.) "Well, all the same; if my
heart is all your own you have a duty in the case. You ought to spare
your own property from pain." (Rosa laughs softly.) "Of course you are
right. You are always right. How could such a beautiful being be wrong!"
The artful rogue slips his arm about her waist at this, and, after a
feeble struggle, he is permitted to hold this outwork unprotested.

"And, Rosa, if I speak like a man, it is because I am a man. Wasn't it
the part of maids in the old times to inspire the arm of their
sweethearts; to make them constant in danger, brave in battle, and
patient in defeat? Are you less than any of the damsels we read of in
chivalry? Am I not a man when I look in your dear eyes and see nothing
worldlier than love, nothing earthlier than truth there?"

"What a blarney you are! I must really get Vint to send you away, or he
will have a Yankee brother-in-law."

"And the Perleys will have a rebel at the head of the house."

Now, this silly prattle had been carried on in the arbor near the
library, and Wesley, sitting under the curtain, had heard every word of
it. Neither the words nor the unmistakable sounds that lips meeting lips
make, which followed, served to soothe his angry discontent. This was
early on the great Davis gala day, and thereafter he disappeared from
the scene. He made one of the party to Williamsburg, and, though
distraught in the conversation, was keenly alert to all he saw.

Rallied upon his reticence, he had snubbed Kate and turned disdainfully
from Jack's polite proffers to guide him through the review. He had
studied Davis all through the manoeuvres with a furtive, fascinated
attention, which Mrs. Atterbury remarked with complacency, attributing
it to awe. At the dinner-table, seated between Kate and Merry, he had
never taken his eye from the chief of the Confederacy. Twice the
President, courteously addressing him, he had blushed guiltily and
dropped his gaze. Before the dinner was half over he pleaded a severe
headache, and, bidding his hostess good-night, hurried from the room.
The wide hall was deserted; the moon threw broad swaths of light on the
cool matting, and he halted for an instant, breathing rapidly. Something
lying on the rug at the door moved languidly. Wesley, looking carefully
about, moved swiftly to the spot and stopped. Pizarro raised his head,
whining amicably, and, as Wesley bent over to pat him, wagged his tail
with a spasmodic thud against the floor, in sign of goodfellowship.

"Come, Pizarro, come with me," Wesley said, coaxingly. But the dog,
redoubling the tattoo with his tail, remained obstinately at his post.
Wesley stole to the end of the hall and listened, then, hearing the busy
clamor of the servants moving from the kitchen to the dining-room, he
retraced his steps to the stairs, bounded lightly up and in three
minutes reappeared, and, keeping his eyes on the half-closed doors,
slipped softly to Pizarro. The dog sniffed excitedly, and as Wesley took
a thick parcel from his coat-pocket the beast leaped up and attempted
to seize it.

"Follow me, Pizarro, and you shall have it." He held up the packet, a
red, glistening slice of raw beef. The dog whined ecstatically and
Wesley, holding a morsel of it just out of his reach, retreated up the
stairs. Pizarro bounded after him as if construing the by-play into a
challenge, and frisking in all sorts of fantastic shapes to win the
savory prize. The door of Wesley's room was open, and as the dog came
abreast of it he flung a piece into the apartment. Pizarro, lowering his
sniffing nose, looked at the tempting bit sidewise, and then wagging his
tail in modest deprecation of his boldness, made a start inward. It was
swallowed in an instant, and then, as Wesley entered, the door was
closed. Pizarro, by the humility of his manner, the lowered head and
sidelong glance, asked pardon for intruding upon the privacy of a guest,
but argued with his ears and by short yelps, in extenuation, that such a
feast as a bit of meat--after an active day, when the servants had
forgotten to feed him--no dog with a healthy appetite could resist, no
matter how perfect his breeding. He was ready for the larger ration
Wesley held in his hand.

Wesley held the temptation in his hand until he had lured the dog into a
large closet communicating with the bedroom by a locked door. Once in,
the door was shut, and the young man sank on a seat in a thrill of
grateful relief.

"That danger's over," he muttered. "Now to see who is in the upper
rooms."

Perfect silence on the upper floor; only the solemn shadows of the
night, as the moon rises higher and higher, and the plaintive cries of
the night-birds alone betoken life. Through the windows the
white-jacketed house-servants are rushing gayly to and from the
dining-room. All the rooms are dimly lighted. The President's apartment
is fragrant with blossoms, and the lace counterpane turned down.
Retracing his steps, Wesley enters Vincent's room on the corridor with
his own. The candle is burning dimly on the mantel. He seems to know his
whereabouts very well for he makes straight for a bureau between the bed
and the window. He takes from the top drawer a pistol-case, which he has
evidently handled before, as he touches the spring at once. He takes out
one pistol, and, rapidly extracting the loads, puts it back. He has
taken four out of the five barrels of the second when a sound of
footsteps in the hall startles him. He has barely time to replace the
weapons, close the case, put it in the drawer and crawl under the bed,
when Vincent and Jack enter.

His suspense and terror are so overmastering that he can only hear an
occasional word. His own heart-beats sound in his ears like the thumping
of a paddle. Is Vincent going to bed? Are Jack and he going to sit and
smoke, as they often do? No, relief beyond words, they are going out!
Perhaps to Jack's room? They often sit there until very late, and then
Vincent slips in stocking-feet to his own room. But they are gone, and
he must fly. He dares not return to extract the last charge. But one
ball can't do much hurt in the dark, and, if his plans are carried out
with care, there will be no chance for any one to use the weapons on the
rescuing party, even if he were disposed to. In a moment Wesley is back
in his room, marking, with surprise, that there is no sound from Jack's
or Dick's room. But all is well. He is in his own room and secure
from surprise.

He sat down to think. He must keep everything in mind. One whippoorwill
cry from outside would mean that all was well; two that he must hurry to
the rendezvous. It seemed like a dream. Davis, the arch-rebel, the chief
architect of the Confederacy, under the same roof; in an hour, if no
hitch come, the traitor would be bound and flying in trusty Union hands.
And when they got North?--when he, Wesley Boone, handed over to the
authorities in Washington this hateful chief of a hateful cause, what
fame would be his! No one could dispute it. He had informed Butler's
agent; he had watched day and night; had given the Unionists plans of
the grounds; was now periling his own rescue to bring the arch-traitor
to his doom. Ah! what in all history would compare with this glorious
daring? He sat glowing in dreams of such delicious, roseate delight,
that he took no heed of time, and was startled when he heard Dick and
Jack bidding each other good-night. Then in a few minutes be heard
Jack's door open and a tap at Dick's door.

"Come to my room. I want to show you a present I got to-night." Then
silence. Wesley had no watch. The rebels had relieved him of that at
Bull Run. But it must be quite midnight. He opened one of the windows
softly. Oh, the glory of the night, harbinger of his high emprise, his
deathless glory! The wondrous, wondrous stillness of the scene--and to
think that over yonder, in the dark depths of the forest, fifty, perhaps
a hundred, men were waiting for him--for him? Yes, the mighty arms of
the Union were about him; the trump of a fame, such as no song had ever
sung, was poised to blow to the world his daring. Hark! Heavens, yes;
the long, tender plaint of the whippoorwill. Ah! now, now there was no
doubt. In swooning delight he waits. Good Heaven! What's that sound?
Angels and ministers of grace, the dead in wailing woe over the deed
about to be done? Ah! he breathes.

Pizarro has grown tired of imprisonment and has set up an expostulatory
wail, facetiously impatient at first, but now breaking into sharp yelps.
This will never do. He must stop that ear-splitting outcry, or the
househould will be awakened. That sharp-eyed, razor tongued young devil,
Dick, is just across the hall. Wesley opens the closet door, and Pizarro
bounds out, licking his jailer's hands in grateful acknowledgment. He
frisks, appealing to the room door, inviting the further favor of being
permitted to go to his post, his wagging tail explaining how necessary
it is that a dog intrusted with such important duties as the
guardianship of the household can not suffer the casual claims of
friendlessness or the comity of surreptitious feeding to lure him into
infidelity. The tail proving ineffectual in argument, Pizarro
supplemented its eloquence by sharp admonitory yelps, tempered by a
sharp _crescendo_ whining, of which he seemed rather proud as an
accomplishment.

"Damn the brute! He will ruin everything. I must kill him." But how? He
had no weapon. He looked about the room in gasping terror--the dog
accepting the move as a sign that the eloquence of the tail argument had
proved overpowering, supplemented this by an explosion of ecstatic yelps
of a deep, bass volume, that murdered the deep silence of the night,
like salvos of pistols. The curtains to the windows were held in place
by stout dimity bands. Whispering soothingly to the dog, Wesley knotted
four of these together, and, making as if to open the door, slipped the
bands like a lasso over the head of the unsuspecting brute. In an
instant his howls were silenced. The dog, with protruding tongue and
eyes--that had the piteous pleading and reproach of the human, looked up
at him, bloodshot and failing. But now the second signal must be near!
He may have missed it in the infernal howling of the brute. Yes, that
was it. He looks out of the window; his room is in view of the covered
way to the kitchen. He sees moving figures; he hears voices. They are
there. He has missed the signal; he must hasten to them. He puts out the
lights and opens the door cautiously. All is invitingly, reassuringly
still. He is at the hall door in a minute, in another he is with the
shadows in the rear of the house.

"Jones, is it you?"

"Ah, captain, we are waiting for ropes to secure the prize."

"There is no time to wait. The dog has made such a noise that I didn't
hear your signal. I saw you from my window. Come, we must not lose a
minute, for I couldn't fasten the brute very well. Davis is here, and we
have only to take him from his room. The cavalry went about eleven; I
heard them march away an hour ago."

"Now, give me the exact situation here, that there may be no surprise.
How many men are we likely to encounter in the event of a fracas?"

"Counting Davis and Lee, four in the house. How near the orderlies and
guards are you know better than I. Besides Davis, there's Jack Sprague,
young Atterbury, and Dick--but he don't count."

"No! Why?"

"He is not over his wound, and besides he's but a boy. They had two
pistols loaded, but I managed to draw all the charges except one. So
that if Jack and Atterbury should come to the rescue they could do
no damage."

"They sleep at this end of the house?"

"Yes, and our work is at the other."

"Well, then, in that case I will get ladders I saw near the
carriage-house and put them up to Davis's window as a means of escape in
case these young men get after us before we finish the job. Even with
their unloaded pistols, two full grown men and the boy could
make trouble."

He called Number Two and gave him orders to place a ladder at each of
the two windows of Davis's room, and to have a man at the top of
each--armed. When the men had hurried away, Jones continued:

"Here's a pistol for you. It is a six-shooter bull-dog, and will do sure
work. Now move on to the stairway; others will join us in a moment.
You're sure you know Davis's room? It would be mighty awkward to poke
into any of the others."

"Yes; everybody in the house was taken to see it. It is the old lady's
room, occupied by mother and daughter, generally; but given up to the
President for the night."

They are in the hall, stealing softly over the thick matting; they are
in the broad corridor--running the whole length of the house--Jack's,
Olympiads, Dick's, and Kate's rooms all behind them--southward. Wesley,
with Jones touching his right arm and Number Two at his left, is moving
slowly, silently northward to the left of the stairs.

"Great God! What was that?"

A sound as of a clattering troop of cavalry, the neighing of horses in
the grounds! Wesley halted, trembling, dismayed.

"That's all right," Jones whispered, "I ordered the stables opened so
that the horses wouldn't be handy, if any one should happen to be at
hand who felt like pursuing us, or going for the cavalry."

"It was a mistake; the horses will arouse the house. We must hurry."

In a moment they were before the door of the Davis room. Wesley raised
the latch. It was an old-fashioned fastening. Number Two was directed to
stand at the threshold while Wesley and Jones secured Davis.

Now they are in the room. There is no sound; but from the open window,
looking upon the carriage-road, there is the tramping of horses,
drowning all sounds in the room. They are nearly to the large canopied
bed between the open windows, when Jones, who is nearest, discovers a
startled apparition half rising from the bed. He is discovered by the
figure at the same instant, and a piercing scream, so loud, prolonged,
and ear-splitting that it echoes over the house, ends the wild dream of
the marauders. Wesley reels in panic. But Jones is an old campaigner. If
he can't have victory, there must be no recapture. He rushes at the
white figure, and snatches--Rosa, limp, nerveless, and swooning!

"See who's in the bed!--I'm damned if you haven't brought us to the
wrong room--see, quick!"

But there was no necessity for seeing. Mrs. Atterbury uttered a stifled
cry: "Help! help! murder!"

"You, Boone, know the place; stand by me and I'll see that we are not
nabbed; but you've made a nice mess of the affair."

But the comments of the indignant Jones were suddenly drowned in a
blood-curdling sound in the doorway: the savage, suppressed growl of a
dog, and the responsive imprecations of Number Two. With this came the
apparition of two figures, at sight of which Jones darted to the window,
the two figures, Jack and Dick, following to his right and left.

"Save your powder, whoever you are. Fire at me, and you hit the young
woman. I don't know who she is, but her body is my protection." Saying
this, Jones coolly, determinedly retreated backward to the window; but
Dick, hardly hearing, and certainly not comprehending, had come within
arm's length of the two, somewhat to the left of Jones.

"Don't fear, Rosa," Dick exclaimed, between his teeth. "I can see you.
Ah, ah!" Then four reports, that sounded as one, split the air.

Rosa broke from the thick cloud of smoke as a fifth report rang out, and
a scream of death went up between the bed and the door where Jack stood.

At the instant Dick spoke, Jack, in the doorway, heard an exclamation at
his side. He half turned, and as he did so his eye caught the outlines
of a man, with a shining something raised in the air, coming toward him
from the bedside. He pointed his own pistol at the figure, there were
three simultaneous reports, and the oncoming figure fell with a hoarse
cry of pain. The man at Jack's back now cried:

"Get through the window; they're coming through the house!"

"It's only a dog; come on."

Then there was a sound of flying feet in the wide passage.

"Are you hurt, Rosa? Tell me--did they hit you? Speak, oh, speak!" It
was Dick's voice, in a convulsive sob. Now, the boy again, that
danger was gone.

Jack meanwhile had struck a match, and soon found the candles on the
night-table near the bed. There was, at the same instant, the audible
sound of scurrying along the passage. He ran out. The man assailed by
the dog had reached the head of the stairs. As Jack got half-way down
the corridor, man and dog disappeared over the balustrade. When he
reached the hall the dog was inside, growling furiously, the door was
closed and the man gone. Jack opened the door. Pizarro bounded out, and
Jack followed. The dog stopped a moment, sniffed the ground, and made
for the kitchen. A loud bark, followed by a ferocious growl, and a
scream of mortal pain broke on the air; then a pistol-shot, and a long,
pitiful gasp, and silence.

"Well, that dog won't trouble any one now," Jack heard, and the voice
made his hair rise into bristling quills.

"Barney!" he cried; "Barney Moore, is that you?"

"It is; no one else. If I'm not drunk or dreaming, that's my own Jack.
God be praised!"

"How in Heaven's name did you get here?"

"I might ask you the same question, but you have priority of query, as
they say in court. I came here first to help rescue Captain Wesley
Boone, and second to capture his rebel Excellency Jeff Davis."

"O my God! my God! Barney, Barney, tell me all, and tell me quickly!"

Barney told all he knew, and told it rapidly, Jack catching his arm
almost fiercely, as the miserable truth began to define itself in his
whirling senses. Then the meaning of the two marauders in the ladies'
apartments became plain. Jack and Barney were hurrying toward the
chamber as the latter talked, Jack filled with an awful fear.



CHAPTER XXI.

THE STORY OF THE NIGHT.


Now, the timely--or untimely--appearance of Jack and Dick in the crisis
of the plot came about in this way: Dick, on returning from Jack's room,
had remarked, with quickening suspicion, a gleam of light under Wesley's
door. Perhaps he is ill, the boy thought, compunctiously; if he were, he
(Dick) ought to offer his services. He started to carry this kind
thought into effect, when he heard suspicious sounds in the room. Some
one was moving. He waited, now in alert anticipation. The plaintive
signal of the whippoorwill--bringing passionate energy to
Wesley--reached Dick's ears; he heard the opening of the window; then
silence. Could Wesley be descending thence to the ground? He blew out
his candle, drew the curtain, and cautiously raised the window. No;
Wesley was not getting out. Then the sound of the Pizarro episode came
dimly through the walls. He thought the dog's expostulatory growls a
voice. There was someone in the room with Wesley. Perhaps it was Kate.
It wouldn't do to act until he was sure that his suspicions were a
certainty. Besides, Jack had warned him not to interfere, with a mere
escape on Wesley's part, unless it seemed to involve depredations upon
the Atterburys. Then he heard the faint sound of the scuffle, when
Wesley throttled the compromising mastiff. Should he slip over and warn
Jack? He was moving toward the door, when, through the stillness of the
night, a sound came up from the direction of the quarters. He ran
lightly to the window again. His eyes, now accustomed to the darkness in
his room, distinguished clearly in the pale starlight. He thrilled with
a sudden sensation of choking. Yonder, stealing houseward from the
rose-gardens, he could plainly discern two--four--six--moving figures.
Heavens, the slaves were out! There was to be a servile uprising. Now he
must go and warn Jack; but he must note first whither the assassins were
directing their attack. Perhaps, with the aid of Jack's pistols, they
could be frightened away by a few shots from the windows. He ran
noiselessly to Jack's room, to his bed, and whispered in his
sleeping ear:

"Jack, make no noise; dress yourself and come. The negroes are
surrounding the house, and Wesley is in mischief."

Jack was awake and in his clothes in a few seconds. He handed Dick one
of the pistols, and, armed with the other, hastened toward Wesley's
room. The door was open and all was silent. Dick looked in hastily,
marked the open window, and exclaimed:

"He is gone! Come to my room. I know exactly where to locate them from
my window; it is nearer the point they halted at than Wesley's."

Yes; figures were moving swiftly against the trellised walls that led to
the kitchen. They moved, too, with the precision of people thoroughly
acquainted with the place. Then some one appeared swiftly from under the
shadow of the house; then three came toward it and passed under the
veranda near Wesley's window. Jack leaned far out to discover what this
diversion meant. At the same instant the sounding gallopade of hoofs
came from the tranquil roadway leading to the stables. The shrill whinny
of horses broke on the air.

"They are mounted. There are a score of them!" Jack cried, desperately.
"We can at least keep them out of the house."

"We can, if Wesley hasn't opened the doors to them," Dick said,
shrewdly.

"That's a fact. But is it sure Wesley is not in his room? Bring matches
and let us examine it."

There was no sign of Wesley in the room. The cool night air poured in
from the open window.

"Draw the curtain before you strike the match," Jack whispered. "We must
not let a light be seen from the outside."

"But the curtains are thin, the light will shine through."

"Sh! Come here. By Heaven, it is Wesley, and he is dead! No--the
devil!--it is Pizarro--dead! Kneel down and strike a match, keeping
between the light and the window. One glance will be enough."

One glimpse revealed the dog with distended tongue and half-glazed eyes,
but still alive. Jack loosed the band from the neck. The dog gave a
convulsive thrill and uttered a plaintive moan.

"Set a basin of water down here. He may recover. Poor fellow! This was a
cruel return for his kindness to Wesley," Jack said, forcing the dog's
nose into the basin. He began to lap the cool water greedily. But now
Dick, in the doorway, littered a cry.

"They are in the house. I hear them moving in the vestibule. Come, for
God's sake, Jack! They are making for Mrs. Atterbury's apartment.
Evidently some one who knows that the family jewels are there, for what
else can they want?"

The dog staggered to his feet as the two stole softly from the room.
They followed with high-wrought, loudly-beating hearts and tingling
nerves. The marauders in front of them moved on like men accustomed to
the house. They made, as the light footfalls indicated, straight for
Mrs. Atterbury's door, which, unlike the others, fronted the length of
the hall in a small vestibule sunk into the lateral wall. The invaders
were thus screened from Jack and Dick when they had turned the corner,
and the latter were forced to move with painful caution to get the
advantage of surprise to offset superior numbers. But now a new peril
menaces them. A shuffling in the long corridor behind them freezes the
current of their blood. They have been caught in a trap. There are two
forces in the house. They both turn and halt, silent and trembling,
against the south wall and wait. The steps still advance, the scraping
of the nailed boots tears the light matting.

"We will wait until the new-comer or new-comers are abreast," Jack
breathes in Dick's ear, "and then fire a volley into them point blank."

At the instant Rosa's shriek, blood-curdling and electric, breaks from
the corner. Dick is over the intervening steps in two mighty bounds,
Jack at his heels and the foe in the rear following. Against the open
window Dick catches the outlines of his darling in the brawny arms of
Tarquin. He has the advantage of the light, and, as the ruffian retreats
to the window, Dick is at his side, and in an instant deals him a
stunning blow on the head. Jack, in the dim light, sees the dark figure
dashing at him with the gleam of steel in his hand. He levels his
weapon, three reports ring out at once, and the miserable Wesley falls
with a dreadful gurgling gasp on the floor.

But there are interlopers in the rear as well! Jack turned to confront
them. He realized vaguely hearing a struggle as he confronted the
robbers. Ah! yes, the dog; the dog has come upon the scene. There is
sound of low, fierce, growling, flying footsteps on the floor, and Jack,
assuring himself by a quick glance that there were no more marauders in
the room, hurried to see that the front door was closed before
re-enforcements could come to the invaders. But Pizarro's lusty growls,
denoting recovered strength, attracted him kitchenward, and he
encountered Barney, and with Barney something of a clew to the hideous
attempt. One prayer was in his heart--one hope--that Wesley had escaped;
but with shuddering horror he hastened with Barney back to the scene of
blood and death. The great candelabra on the mantel had been lighted,
and the room was visible as in daylight. Jack halted, transfixed,
horror-stricken, in the doorway. The women in hastily snatched robes
were all there, and on the floor, wailing over the dead body of Wesley,
Kate sat, prone and disheveled, calling to him to look at her, to speak
to her, as she kissed the cold lips in incredulous despair. She paid no
heed to Mrs. Atterbury, to Olympia, kneeling beside her--all her heart,
all her senses benumbed in the agony of the cruel blow. Jack moved to
the piteous group, and, dropping on his knees, felt the lifeless pulse,
and sank back, pale and shrinking, with the feeling that he was a
murderer. Mrs. Atterbury turned to him, crying convulsively:

"Oh, what does it mean, Mr. Sprague? what does it mean?"

"It is a dreadful game of cross-purposes. These unhappy men believed Mr.
Davis to be in this room when they entered. They meant to capture him
and carry him North."

"Ah, thank God! thank God! who carried our President away in time," and
the matron clasped her hands fervently as she sank in a chair. But the
sight of Kate, woe-begone, feverishly caressing the dead brother,
brought the tenderer instincts back. She rose again, and, clasping her
arms about the poor girl, said pleadingly:

"Let him be carried to his room; you are covered with blood."

"Ah, it is his blood, his innocent blood! Murdered, when he should have
found merry."

Jack found tongue now. He was hideously calm--the frightful calm of
great-hearted men, who use mirth, levity, and indolency to hide emotion.

"Miss Boone--Kate it was perhaps the shot from my pistol that killed
Wesley. I did it in defense of women in peril, in defense of my own
life. It was an accident in one sense. Had I known the circumstances I
certainly shouldn't have fired, but you must put the blame on me, not
upon this guiltless household."

She looked up at him--looked with a wild, despairing, unbelieving gaze,
pressing the handsome dead face to her bosom, and then, with a wild,
wailing sob, bent her head until the shining dark mass of hair fell like
a funeral veil over her own and the dead face. Rosa, who had disappeared
in the dressing-room, now entered the chamber. Turning from the woful
group on the floor, she glanced hastily about, as if in search of some
one. Her eyes fell upon Dick, dazed and bleeding, on the couch. She ran
to him with a tender cry.

"O Richard! are you hurt? Great heavens! your face is all blood. You are
wounded. O mamma, come--come--Richard is dying!"

The boy tried his best to smile, holding his hand over his left side, as
if stifling pain. He smiled--a bright, contented happy smile--as Rosa
knelt, sobbing, by his side, and, opening his jacket, baring the
blood-stained shirt, plucked a purplish rose from the bleeding bosom.

"The white rose is red now, Rosa."

"Oh, my darling! my darling!" Rosa sobbed; and the boy, smiling in the
joy of it, tried to raise himself to fold her in his arms. But the long
tension had been too much--he fell back unconscious.

Olympia saw that Mrs. Atterbury, the natural head of the house, was
unequal to the dismal burden of control. She took the painful duty of
order upon herself, sent Jack to summon the servants, called Barney to
her aid in removing Dick to his room, and, when the terrified housemaids
came, distributed the rest to the nearest apartments. Morning had dawned
when the work was done, and then Jack set out to investigate the
condition of the quarters. Twenty or more of the negroes had
disappeared. It was easy to trace them to the swamp, but Jack made no
attempt to organize a pursuit. Blood could be traced on the white shell
path leading to the rose-fields, and the pond gate was wide open. He
reported the state of affairs to Mrs. Atterbury. She begged him to take
horse to Williamsburg, bring the surgeon, and deliver a note to the
commanding officer. He returned in two hours with the surgeon, and a
half-hour later a cavalry troop clattered into the grounds.

Dick's wound was first examined. The ball had entered the fleshy part of
his chest, just under the armpit. It was readily extracted, and, if so
much blood had not been lost, the boy would not be in serious danger.
Wesley had died almost instantly. The ball entered his breast just above
the heart. He had passed away painlessly. Jones was shot through the
right shoulder, the ball passing clear across the breast, grazing the
upper ribs, and lodging just above the left lung. He was, by Mrs.
Atterbury's command, removed to the quarters and delivered to the
commander of the cavalry troop as a spy, an inciter of servile
insurrection. By order of the department commander, civilians were
refused all communication with him, as the Davis cabinet meant to make a
stern example so soon as he was able to bear trial. Mrs. Atterbury
announced to Jack and Olympia that so soon as Dick could bear removal
the house would be closed and the family return to Richmond. They heard
this with relief, for the place had become hideous to all now. To Jack
it was a reminder of his misfortune, and to every one of the group it
was associated with crime, treason, and blood. The hardest part of poor
Jack's burden was the seizure of Barney, who was marched off by the
cavalry commander. Vincent gone, Jack had no one to reach the ear of
authority, and he shrank from asking the intervention of the mistress
whose home had been invaded by the guiltless culprit. The case was
stated with all the eloquence Jack was master of to the captain
in command.

"You are a soldier, sir," the officer replied. "You know I have no
latitude in the matter. This Moore has no status as a regular prisoner
of war; he is found on the premises of a non-combatant aiding servile
insurrection. Even President Davis himself could not intervene. The
Southern people are deeply agitated by Butler's attempts to arouse the
negroes. We have been weakened, robbed by the abduction of hundreds
right here on the Peninsula. The gang that Moore came here with was led
by this scoundrel Jones, who is Butler's agent. A very vigorous example
must be made of these wretches, or the country-side will be deserted and
the government will be without produce. We must inspire confidence in
the owners of plantations, or the soldiers in the army will have to come
back to guard their homes."

Jack saw the futility of further pleading. The officer was
unquestionably right. Such scenes as Rosedale had witnessed would end in
the desertion of the rural regions of the Confederacy. At Mrs.
Atterbury's urgent intercession Kate was permitted to leave the lines
with her dead. She was conducted to the rebel outposts in the Atterbury
carriage, and under a flag of truce entered the Union lines near
Hampton. Olympia accompanied her in the carriage, Jack riding with the
escort. Kate refused every suggestion to see Jack; refused his own
prayerful message, and sternly, solemnly with her dead passed from the
scene of her sorrows.

Youth and something else stronger than medicine, more tenacious than any
other motive that keeps the life-current brisk and vigorous, made Dick's
recovery swift and sure. Rosa had no torments for him now. The blood-red
rose had proved a magician's amulet to confirm her mind in the sweet
teachings of her heart. But the patrician mother was with difficulty
brought to listen to the tying of this love-knot. She had looked forward
to a grand alliance for the heiress of Rosedale--an alliance that should
bring the family high up in the dominant hierarchy of the South. She
listened silently to the young girl's pleading prattle of the boy's
bravery, his wit, his manliness. She did not say no, but she hoped to
find a way to distract her daughter from a _mésalliance_, which would
not only diminish her child's rank, but compromise the family
politically. Such a sacrifice could not be. Fortunately, both were mere
children, and the knot would unravel itself without perplexities that
maturer love would have involved. So the mother smiled on the happy
girl, kissed Dick tenderly morning and night, for he had been a hero in
their defense, and she was too kindly of heart, too loyal to obligation,
to permit Dick's attitude of suitor to lessen her fondness and
admiration for the bright, handsome lad. Olympia was the confidante of
both the lovers, listened with her usual good-humor to the boy's
raptures and the girl's panegyrics, and soon came to share Jack's high
place in the happy lovers' devotion.



CHAPTER XXII.

A CARPET-KNIGHT.


Jack meanwhile sank into incurable gloom. The memory of Kate's mute,
reproachful look, her heart-broken outcry, never quitted him. He woke at
times with the dead eyes of Wesley staring into the night at him, the
convicting gaze of Kate fastened upon him. He must fly, or he must die
in this abhorred, guilt-haunted atmosphere. Olympia saw this, Mrs.
Atterbury saw it, and the first week in November Rosedale was turned
over to the military and the household re-established in the stately
house in the official quarter of Richmond, where the bustle and movement
of new conditions gave Jack's mind another direction, or, rather, took
it from the bitter brooding that threatened madness.

When the sun accepted the wind's challenge to contest for the traveler's
cloak, I dare say all the spectators of the novel highway robbery--the
moon, the stars, the trees, birds and beasts, and others that the fable
does not mention--took odds that the wind would snatch off the
wayfarer's garment in triumph. However, the wind whipped and thrashed
the poor man in vain. The stronger it blew and the more it walloped the
cloak's folds, the tighter and more determinedly the traveler held on to
it, as he plodded wearily over the hillside. But when the sun came
caressingly, inspiring gentle confidence, bathing the body in warm
moisture, the tenacious hold was relaxed, then the disputed coat was
thrown over his arm, and as the vista spread far away in golden light,
the victim cast the garment by the wayside and the sun came off victor.
Youth is despoiled of the garment of grief in this sort. Congenial
warmth, the sunshine of friendliness, soon relax the mantle of woe, and
the path that looks wintry and hard becomes a way of light and gayety.

It was by mingling--at first perfunctorily--in the gayety of the
Confederate capital that Jack lost the melancholy in which the tragedy
at Rosedale had clothed his spirits. At worst, the calamity was over; he
had been a guiltless vengeance in the punishment of Wesley's treason. So
he took bond in hope of better things to come. With a stout heart,
strong limbs, a plowman's appetite, and a natural bent to joyousness, a
youth of twenty-two or three is not apt to mistake his memories for his
hopes and hang the horizon in black when the sun is shining in his eyes!

Richmond, always the center of a fascinating society, was at that time
exuberant in her young metropolitan glories. It was the gayest capital
in the Western hemisphere. To resist its seductions would have tasked
the self-denial of a more constant anchorite than our dashing Jack ever
aspired to be, in the lowest stage of his martial vicissitudes. There
was nothing of the garishness of the parvenu in the capital's display.
The patrician caste ruled in camp and court. The walls that had echoed
to the oratory of Jefferson, Henry, Washington, Randolph, now housed the
young Congress of the new Confederacy. An hundred years of political,
military, legal, and social precedence were the inheritance of the men
chief in the cabinet, the council, and the camp. Stirring traditions
clung about every quarter of the town, now devoted to the offices of
administration, from the Mayo wharves to the lodgings of Washington and
Lafayette. On the stately square yonder, where the musing eye of the
rebel chief might study its history, stood the suggestive mansion where
Burr's treason was brought home to that first great rebel.

Not far distant the disdainful pointed out the tenement where Fremont
had instructed the Richmond youth in far other doctrines than those
which made him the abolitionist choice for President in after-times.
Royalist and republican glories mingled in the reliquary edifices that
met the wondering eyes of the provincial Confederates drawn to the
capital in the generous enthusiasm of that first prodigious achievement
at Bull Run. Here a royal Governor had dwelt, yonder a Bonaparte had
sojourned and beguiled the famous beauties of Powhatan, as the
patriarchs loved to call the city. A Lee was the chief of the military
staff, a Randolph ruled the war office; scions of the Washingtons family
filled a dozen subordinate places; the kin of Patrick Henry revived
their ancestor's glory by as zealous a devotion to the new revolution.
With personages like these in every office the society of the new
capital revived the brilliancy of the French Directory and also the
character of the States-General, while Holland held the Spains at bay.
The blockade had not yet pinched the affluent, nor beggared the
industries of the well-to-do. Always famous for a brilliant bar, a
learned judiciary, and a cultivated taste among its women, Richmond in
1861 was the ideal of a political, military, and social rendezvous of a
young nation.

The raw legions had been victorious in the first pitched battle of the
war on the plains of Manassas, and what might not be reasonably hoped
from them under the training of such muster-minds as Johnston,
Beauregard, Jackson, and Lee? Wasn't it the common talk among diplomats,
the concurrent opinion of the French and English press, the despairing
admission of the half-hearted and panic-stricken North, that one more
such decisive victory would bring the South peace and independence?
Wasn't it, indeed, well known among the favored juntas that those
sagacious diplomats, Senators Mason and Slidell, had delayed their
journey to Europe in order to aid the President in the treaty of peace
that the victorious legions of Johnston were to exact in Washington?

Jack was amazed and disheartened at what he saw and heard. The activity,
resources, gayety, and confidence of the authorities and people,
recalled to his mind, Oxford, the jocund capital of Charles II and the
royalists, while the Commonwealth leaders were drilling their armies.
But instead of the chaos of rapine, the wanton excesses, the pillage of
churches and colleges that marked the tenure of the miserable Charles,
Richmond was as orderly, serene, the Congress as deliberate, and the
people as content, as the Rome of the conquest of Persia or France after
Jemmapes. The army was hot for battle, and as confident of the result as
the Guard at Austerlitz or McClellan at Malvern. The work done and the
way of its doing showed that the populace, as well as the rulers, were
convinced of the destiny of the city to be henceforth mistress of
herself, the preordained metropolis of half the continent--perhaps the
whole continent--for, would the North be able to resist joining States
with a destiny so glorious--a regal republic where birth and rank were
tacitly enthroned? The city's greatness was taken by the mass, as a
matter of course--like an heir in chancery who has won all but the final
decree in the suit, or like a great nobleman who has come to his
inheritance.

Though it was the first week of November when the Atterburys found home
affairs going on smoothly in the town-house, summer still disputed with
winter the short lovely days of fall, as Jack described the lingering
May-day mildness of this seductive Southern autumn. It was the first
season he had ever spent south of New York, and, like most Americans, he
realized, with wonder, that the wind which brought ice and snow to New
York, visited lower Virginia with only a sharp evening and morning
reminder that summer was gone. The balm and beauty of the climate came
with something of healing to the hurt his heart and hope had suffered at
Rosedale. If anything could have mitigated the pangs of a young warrior
perplexed in love and held in leash in war, it was such an existence as
the Atterburys inveigled him into leading. The part of carpet-knight is
not difficult to learn, and the awkwardness of it is to some extent
atoned for when the service is constrained. At least Jack took this
philosophical view of it, and soon gave himself up to the merry social
life of his surroundings with an animation that led his hosts to hope
that he might be won over to the Confederate cause. Very young men do
not sorrow long or deeply, and Jack was young. He was neither reckless
nor trifling, but I am sure that none of the adulating groups that made
much of the handsome Yankee in Richmond that season would have suspected
that the young man looked in his mirror night and morning, frowned
darkly at the reflected image he saw there, and said, solemnly, "You are
a murderer!" It was by no means a tragic accent in which this thrilling
apostrophe was spoken. It was very much in the tone that a woman employs
when she looks hastily in the mirror and utters a soft "What a fright I
am!" apparently receiving comforting contradiction enough from the
mirror to make the remark worth frequent repetition.

As a matter of fact, however, Jack was not insensible to the awkward
complication of his predicament. Grief as a mantle is difficult to
adjust to the shoulders of the young. It is melted by the ardor of
companionship as swiftly as it is spun by the loom of adversity. His
interest in the strange scenes that the war brought to pass, his
association with people--intimate in a sense with the leading forces of
rebellion, the airs of incipient grandeur, these raw instruments of
government gave themselves--all these things engrossed the observant
faculties of the young man, who looked out upon the serio-comic
harlequinade playing about him as a hostage of the Roundheads might have
taken part in the showy festivities of the Cavaliers, in the years when
the chances of battle had not gone over wholly to the Puritans. Not that
the figure illustrates the contrasting conditions adequately. For, if
the South prided itself at all--and the South did pride itself
vauntingly, clamorously, and incessantly--it made its chief boast the
point that its people were the gentry of the land, and that under the
rebel banner the hosts of chivalry had assembled anew to make all manner
of fine things the rule of life. Jack, writing and talking of his few
months' experience, dwelt with wonder upon the curious ignorance of the
two peoples respecting each other. Mason and Dixon's line separated two
civilizations as markedly unlike as the peoples that confront each other
on either side the Vistula or the Baltic Sea. The hierarchy not only
seemed to love war for war's sake; they possessed that feudal facalty,
so incomprehensible in the middle ages, the power of making those who
suffered most by it believe in it too, and sacrifice themselves for it.

The people--Jack sagaciously remarked, in discussing the topic with
Olympia--seemed made for such a climate, rather than made by it. They
would have been out of place in the bleak autumn blasts, and wan,
colorless seasons of Acredale, where the sun, bleary and dim, furtively
skirted the low horizon from November until April, as if ashamed to be
identified with the glorious courser that rode the radiant summer sky.
Here the sun came up of a morning--a little tardy, 'tis true, but quite
in the manner of the people--warm and engaging, and when he went down in
the afternoon he covered the western sky with a roseate mantle that
fairly kept out the chill of the Northern night. "No wonder," Jack said
to his sister, watching this daily spectacle--"no wonder these people
are warm, impulsive, and even energetic; here is an Italian climate
without the enervating languor of that sensuous sunshine."

The Atterbury house was the gayest in Richmond. Mrs. Atterbury, though
the mother of a son in the army and a daughter with a coterie of her own
in society, insisted on maintaining the leadership she had long held
among the social forces of the capital. "All Richmond," and that meant a
good deal in a city whose women had been adored for beauty and wit on
two continents, received Mrs. Atterbury's bidding to her drawing-room
with proud alacrity. Never had her "teas," her _musicales_, her
receptions, and _fêtes_ been merrier or more convivial than during this
memorable autumn that Jack and Olympia passed as prisoners of war. It
was generally believed that the brother and sister were occult agents of
the Federal power, negotiating with the Davis Cabinet, and Jack's
whimsical sobriety of speech and manner, contrasting with his former
high animal spirits, carried out the notion of his being a secret
ambassador.

It was at a reception given to the Cabinet by Mrs. Atterbury that the
rumor of this accredited function came to Jack's ears. "All Richmond"
was among the guests. Olympia, in spite of her abhorrence of the cause,
couldn't resist a glow of sympathetic admiration of the women who, in
dress, in speech, in tact, in all the artifices which make feminine
diplomacy so potent an agency in statecraft, bent every faculty to
inspire confidence in the new Administration. Mrs. Davis herself was not
the least of the factors that made the President's policy the creed of
the land. There was no elaboration of costume--no obtrusive jewels. The
most richly dressed dame in the company was a Madame Gannat, the deity
of the most charming drawing-room at the capital. At her house society
was always sure to meet the European noblemen traveling in the country,
the _quasi_ official agents of France, England, and Austria, accredited
to the new Confederacy, the generals of the Southern armies on leave in
the city, and the political leaders able to snatch an evening's
relaxation. For some reason this potential personage let Olympia and
Jack see that she was deeply interested in them. She took the young
man's arm late in the evening, and whispering, "Find a place where we
can have a little talk," accompanied him to a small apartment joining a
conservatory, where Mrs. Atterbury transacted business with her agents.

"You must take down a book, so that, in case the curious remark us, our
_tête-à-tête_ may not be regarded as conspiracy."

"No one would be apt to associate you with such a thing," Jack said,
vaguely.

"I don't know. Like all conspiracies, this Confederate comedy is
suspicious."

"Comedy, Mrs. Gannat? Why, I never saw people so earnest! I can't
imagine the surroundings of Cromwell more methodic."

"Ah, yes; those who have all to lose by the crash when it comes, are
bending every energy to impress the North that we are all of one mind
down here; we are not. I am talking frankly with you, because my friend
Mrs. Lanview has made me fully acquainted with your circumstances. I
have asked you for a talk here because I dare not have you at my house.
No one suspects my loyalty to this Davis masquerade; but there are many
of us who are doing, and shall do, all the better work for the Union
cause. You are just the man needed for a great work here; you are
believed to be secretly in favor of the Confederate cause--an
ambassador, in short. Now, the special purpose of this talk is this: The
men caught at Rosedale three weeks ago are to be tried before a military
court. If you and this young man Perley could escape before the event,
it would be impossible to convict them. Mrs. Lanview tells me that you
are very closely allied to the younger prisoner, Moore, and that for his
sake you will do all in your power to avoid testifying."

"I will cut out my tongue before a syllable from me shall bring danger
to that noble fellow!"

"Exactly. I expected as much. Now, can you not manage to inspire Perley
with the same sentiment? If you can, we feel confident that the court
will be unable to secure evidence sufficient to convict. I leave the
details to your own ingenuity. Your absence would deprive the
judge-advocate of the vital witnesses, but your refusal to testify would
only bring you into danger, and prolong the proceedings; and with time
we hope to effect an escape. Sh! As I say, Mr. Sprague, the heart of the
South beats with one impulse, the triumph of the noblest inspiration of
a great people."

The warning and sudden change in topic were caused by the apparition of
a dame who came rustling in, a vision of youthful charms and
vivaciousness.

"Mrs. Didier Rodney--Mr. Sprague," Mrs. Gannat said, cordially. "You are
sent by inspiration, for I am doing my poor best to convince this
obdurate Yankee to turn from evil courses and do a duty by the country
that will in future make his name illustrious."

"And I have no doubt you have shaken his obstinacy, if there be any
left," Mrs. Rodney murmured, studying Jack attentively. "I have just
been dining at the Executive Mansion, and Mr. Davis, hearing your name,
lamented that women were not eligible to office. If they were, he
declared that Mistress Gannat should be appointed ambassadress to
France, and that, within ten days of her reception at the Tuileries,
there would be a treaty of alliance signed between France and the
Confederacy!"

"I take that as rather an admission of weakness on your President's
part," Jack said, as the lady glanced inquiringly at him, "since it is a
poor cause that requires the strongest advocates."

"Ah! a Southern man would never have said a thing so uncivil as that,"
Mrs. Rodney cried, reproachfully. "You pay Mrs. Gannat a compliment at
the cost of the Confederacy."

"And Mr. Davis paid me a compliment at the expense of the truth, so the
account is squared," the elder lady said, serenely.

"Well, Mr. Davis is here himself by this time, and you shall talk it out
with him," Mrs. Rodney retorted, as a rustle at the door announced
new-comers. A half-dozen ladies came trooping in, among them Mrs. Davis
and several of the Cabinet ladies.

"We heard you were here, Madame Gannat," the President's wife murmured,
graciously. "And since you wouldn't come to us, we have come to you."

Mrs. Gannat arose to receive the great lady, and when she had exchanged
salutations with the rest she presented Jack.

"Ah! the hero of the Rosedale affair," and as Mrs. Davis said this she
looked keenly at the young man. She was, he owned, an extremely graceful
woman, of a mature beauty, admirable manner, and, as she talked, he
remarked keen intelligence, with an occasional evidence of reading, if
not high education. She was dressed in simpler taste than her "court,"
as it was the fashion then to style the Cabinet group. A few jewels were
half hidden in the rare lace that covered her bodice, but she was
ungloved, and in no sense in the full-dress understood in the North, at
a gathering of the sort. The talk became general. Jack, not knowing the
personages, simply listened. There was animated discussion as to whether
Mistress Judge this, and Mistress General that, or Mistress Senator the
other, would be in the capital in time for the opening of the new
Congress in December.

"Mr. Davis is very anxious to have the occasion made a grand one, and I
reckon that every one of account in the Confederacy will he here." Mrs.
Davis said, with conviction.

"The scene will be worthy of a great painting, like the Long Parliament,
or the meeting of the Three Estates, at Versailles," Mrs. Rodney added,
in a glow of anticipation.

This amusing pedantry rather taxed the historical knowledge of most of
the ladies, and to divert the talk Mrs. Monteith, a Cabinet lady, said:

"Who has read the account in the Yankee papers of Lincoln and his wife
at a reception of the diplomatic corps? It is too funny. The Lincoln
woman was a Southerner. She has some good blood, and ought to know
better. She was dressed like a dowdy, and when the ministers bowed she
gave them her hand and said, 'How d'ye do?'"

"It will really be a liberal education, to the North to have a capital
like ours near them, where their public men can learn manners, and where
Northern ladies can see how to conduct themselves in public," Mrs.
Rodney broke in, laughing. "It is not often a great people go to war for
an idea, but we are taking up the gage of battle to teach our
inferiors manners."

"We taught them how to run at Manassas," Mrs. Starlow, a Senator's dame,
remarked.

"I'm afraid they have learned the lesson so well that we shall never
teach them how to stand," Mrs. Davis added, gayly.

"Ah! friends, we are teaching each other how to die--let us not forget
that," Mrs. Gannat murmured, gently, and there was a sudden hush in the
exchange of vivacities. Before the strain could he renewed, Mrs.
Atterbury entered hastily, crying:

"The gentlemen are all distracted. We are going to have an old-time
minuet, such as my mother used to dance with Justice Marshall and Tom
Mayo. The President is going to lead with Mistress Wendolph, and all the
rest of you are assigned, by command of the Executive."

"Humph! a military despotism?" asked Mrs. Renfrew, a young bride of the
Executive Mansion, whose husband was confidential adviser of the
President. "I don't think I shall obey. I shall show the honesty of my
rebel blood by selecting my own partner, unless some one asks me
very humbly."

"Shall I go on my knees, Mrs. Renfrew?--I know no humbler attitude,"
Jack said, hastily presenting himself.

"Oh, yes, sir; there is something humbler than the knees."

"Yes? What, pray?"

"Repentance. Deny your name; no longer be a Montague--that is, a Yankee.
Give me the hand of a rebel. Then I shall believe you."

"I am a rebel."

"Ah! you have been converted?"

"I never was perverted."

"You have been with us all the time?"

"I have been here a long time!"

"And you are a rebel. Oh, I must tell Mr. Davis!"

"He knows it, I think."

"Oh, no, he can not; for it was only a few moments since that he said to
Mrs. Atterbury that the son of Senator Sprague, the friend of Calhoun
and the comrade of Hayne, should be in the ranks of the young nobility
upholding our sacred cause."

"I am, however, a rebel--a rebel to all these fascinations I see about
me, a rebel to your beauty, a rebel to all you desire."

"Pah! you odious Yankee; I felt certain that you had not come to your
senses."

"I don't think I ever lost them--though I never had enough to make such
a spirit as yours lament their loss." The rest of the ladies had passed
out; and, as this repartee went on. Jack led his petulant companion into
the large drawing-room, where he instantly recognized the President with
Mrs. Wendolph on his arm. He towered above the mass of the dancers,
eying the admiring groups with attentive scrutiny. He was in evening
dress, but, unlike the larger number of the eminent partisans in the
rooms, had no insignia, military or otherwise, to denote exalted rank.

As the President was to lead off, to keep up the character of a court
minuet, the middle of the large room was left uncrowded. The music began
what Jack thought at first was a funeral march, but with the first bars
the tall, slender figure of the President bent almost double, while the
lady seemed fairly seated on the floor, she bent down and back so far.
She had adjusted a prodigious silken train, which swept and swirled in
many bewildering folds as she slowly turned, courtesied, tripped forward
and retreated, with such bending and twisting as would turn a
ballet-master mad with envy. In all the movement of the overture the two
dancers merely touched the tips of each other's fingers, and when the
solemn measure came to a close the President slid across the floor in
one graceful, immense pirouette, handing the lady who confronted him,
bent nearly to the ground, into her seat. There was an outburst of
applause, and then the assembly took places, repeating, in as far as the
mass would permit, the stately evolutions of the leader.

Later, a Virginia reel followed, danced with old-time _verve_, some of
the more accomplished dancers bounding over the floor in pigeon-wings,
such as were cut by the nimble a hundred years ago, when Richmond danced
in honor of Washington and Lafayette. There was no end of drinking among
the men, and as soon as the dancing seemed at its height the matrons
began to gather into groups and send out signals to the younger ladies.
The feast ended in drinking-bouts between dispersed bodies, who seemed
to know the names of all the servants, and ordered as liberally as if in
their own houses. In the _mêlée_ of separation, Jack felt a hand on
his shoulder.

"Remember, every moment is precious. Many lives, perhaps a great
campaign, depend upon your discretion, promptitude, and loyalty. Be
ready when the signal reaches you, and remember you do not know me
beyond the civility of a presentation, and do not like me."

Jack had hardly turned as these words were whispered in his ear, and he
gave the kind lady's hand a warm pressure, as she moved away unremarked
in the throng.

Jack, confiding Mrs. Gannat's disclosures to Olympia, was elated by his
sister's enthusiasm, and was strengthened in his conviction that he was
doing right by her approval.

"But you know, Polly, that--I--I, too, must be of the party? I must fly
to the Union lines."

"Of course you will! I should be ashamed of you were you to let such a
chance pass. It is the only thing to do; it is your duty as a soldier to
be with your flag; any means to get to it is justified. The Atterburys
will feel hurt, perhaps outraged, but I can soon convince them that you
have only done what Vincent would do, and whatever he would do they will
soon see is right for you to do, even though it may bring them into
temporary disgrace with the authorities. Of late I have begun to suspect
that the Atterburys are to blame for your detention."

"What do you mean to blame? Surely they can not hasten the slow business
of negotiation?"

"No; but I'm convinced that they have given out hopes that you can be
seduced into a soldier of secession. It is common talk in the
drawing-rooms I have visited, where I was not always recognized as your
sister. The silly tale has angered me, but for prudence sake I kept
silent. I have heard in a score of places that the Atterburys were
detaining you until another reverse to the Union arms should convince
you of the uselessness of remaining in the service of the
abolitionists."

"O Polly, it must be a joke! They little know me, who could suspect me
of such dishonor! Surely the Atterburys can't think me so base as that.
What have I ever done to justify such a stigma?"

"You wrong them there. They hold that you are wanting in loyalty to our
father's memory in espousing the cause of men who were his enemies--men
who strove to ruin his political life. It is in being a soldier of the
Union that they look upon you as recreant to the traditions of your
family and your party."

"Well, I shall make a hard struggle for escape. If I fail, they will at
least see that I am in earnest--that I put country before family or
party, or anything else that men hold dear. Heavens! to think of being
held in such bondage! I could stand it with more patience if I were in
prison sharing the hard lines of the fellows. But to be here; to be hand
in glove with these boasting, audacious coxcombs, and forced to listen
to their callow banter of us and our army, it makes me feel like a sneak
and a traitor, and I'm glad that I see the end."

"But do you see the end? Prudence is one of the wisest counselors in
war. You are very rash, and you must take all your measures carefully.
It won't do to rush into a trap, as you did at Manassas; and, O Jack,
what is to become of Dick? He is not in the lists. He has no standing
here, and is at the mercy of any one who chooses to accuse him of
being a spy."

"By George, you're right! I hadn't thought of that. He must go with me.
I had thought it better to leave him. He is so happy with Rosa that I
fancied he would remain contentedly until the war ends. But he is in
constant danger. He is forever tantalizing the people that visit the
house, who make slighting allusions to the Northern armies, and very
likely some rebel patriot will take the trouble to inquire about him."

"But even if this were not a peril, he would never consent to remain
here if you were gone. I think he would give up Rosa rather than be
separated from you."

"Yes, the impulsive little beggar, I believe he would," Jack said, his
eyes glistening. "That will compel us to take him into the secret. In
fact, I don't see how it can be managed without him; and then his
testimony would convict the prisoners. I hadn't thought of that. But
now, Polly, about yourself. What's to become of you?"

"I have my plans laid. Mrs. Myrason, the wife of one of Johnston's
generals, is going to the front next week. I shall insist to-night on
accompanying her, as some of our physicians are going to be sent through
the lines at the same time. There is really no reason for my remaining
here, now that you are well. I have already broached the subject to Mrs.
Atterbury, and I shall inform her at once that I am decided. She will
not suspect anything, as she knew I was half-tempted to go North when
mamma went. The important thing for you, now, is to give your whole mind
to the rescue, and have no fears for me. If you can convince Dick to go
with you, all will be well. If he proves obstinate, hand him over to
me." Jack laughed.

"Polly, you should have been the first-born of the house of Sprague; you
have twice the sense that I have."

"It isn't sense that wins in war; it is daring and resolution, and you
have all that."

When Jack had cautiously laid the situation before his young Patroclus,
that precocious warrior at once justified the confidence reposed in him.

"Rosa has promised to marry me as soon as the war is over. She can't
expect me to hang around here like a peg-top on a string. Besides, I
wouldn't stay where you are not, Jacko, even if I lost my sweetheart for
good and all."

There was a piteous quaver in the treble voice, and, forgetting that he
was no longer a school-boy, he brushed his eyes furtively with his
coat-sleeve, as Jack pretended preoccupation with his shoe-string.

"You're a brick, Dick. I think I have confided that to you before--but
you are a brick, made of the best straw in the field of life, and you
shall be a general one of these days--your shrill voice shall let slip
the dogs of war and cry havoc to the enemy. You shall return to
Acredale--proud Acredale--your brows bound with victorious wreaths, and
all the small boys perched on the spreading oaks to salute you."

"I think I have heard something like that before, my blarneying
Plantagenet. You shall be the Percy of the North, and command the great
battle. You shall meet and vanquish fifty Harrys, and cry, 'God for
Union, liberty, and the laws.'"

"Bravo! You know your Shakespeare if you don't know prudence. However,
we're plotters now, and you must take on your wisest humor. You must not
breathe a word to Rosa. Love is a freebooter in confidences. It has no
conscience, as it has no law. It is an immense friction on the sober
relations of life. It is cousin to the god of lies--Mercury. So be
warned that while your heart is Rosa's your reason's your country's,
your friends', and you have a chance now to employ it to the profit of
both! You must be ready to evade Rosa's infinite questioning with
innocent plausibilities, for you must bear in mind that, however much
she may love you, she, like you, loves her cause, her people--more, in
fact, for you have seen that these passionate Southerners have made a
religion of the war, and, like all enthusiasts, they will go any
lengths, deny all ties; glory, faith, in personal sacrifices and
heart-wrenchings, to make the South triumph. So, without being false to
your love, you must deceive, to be true to your country; for to lull
love's suspicions a man must regulate the two currents of his life, the
heart and brain. Keep the heart in check and let the brain rule in such
affairs as we have on hand."

"Phew Jack! you talk like a college professor. You're deeper than a
well; and what was the other thing Mercutio said?"

"Ah! Mercutio said so much that Shakespeare got frightened and let
Tybalt kill him. So beware of saying too much. That's your great danger,
Dick; your tongue is terrible--mostly to your friends."

"Is it, indeed? I have a friend who doesn't think so."

"No, because she considers your tongue part of herself now."

"I don't see why she should; she has enough of her own."

"In wooing-time no woman ever had enough tongue."

"How changed you are from what you were at Acredale, Jack! I never heard
you talk so deep and bookish."

"I had no need at Acredale, Dick. There I was a boy--lived as a boy,
romped as a boy, and loved boyish things. But a man ripens swiftly in
war--you yourself have. You are no longer the mischief-maker and tom-boy
that terrified your family and set the gossips agog in the dear old
village. Mind broadens swiftly in war. That one dreadful day at Bull Run
enlarged my faculties, or trained them rather, as much as a course in
college. Something very serious came into my life that day. It had its
effect on you too. It fairly revolutionized Vint; we may not have
exactly put away boyishness and boyish things--please God, I hope to be
a boy many a year yet--but we have been made to think as men, act as
men, and realize that there are consequences and responsibilities in
life such as we could not have realized in ten years in time of peace."

Dick listened during this solemn comedy of immature doctrinal induction,
his eyes dilating with wonder and admiration. Jack, in the _rôle_ of
sage, delighted him, and he straightway confided to Rosa that he
couldn't understand how any girl could love another man while Jack was
to be had.

"He's so clever, so brave, so manly. He knows so much, and yet never
takes the trouble to let any one see it. Ah, Rosa, I wish I were
like Jack!"

"I think Jack's very nice, but I know somebody that's much nicer," Rosa
replied, busy with a rough material that was plainly intended for the
Southern warriors.

"Ah! but if you really knew all about Jack, you wouldn't look at anybody
else," Dick cried, pensively, tangling his long legs in the young
girl's work.

"There, you clumsy fellow; you've ruined this seam, and I must get this
work done before noon. We're all going to the provost prison to take
garments to the recruits. You may come if you'll be very good and help
me with these supplies."

"May I? I will sew on the buttons. Oh, you think I can't? Just give me a
needle." And sure enough Dick, gravely arming himself from the store in
Rosa's "catch-all," set to fastening the big buttons as composedly as if
he had been brought up in a tailor's shop. It was in this sartorial
industry that Jack, coming in, presently discovered the pair.

"You've turned Dick into a seamstress, have you, Rosalind? You're an
amazing little magician. Dick's sewing heretofore has been of the common
boy-sort--wild oats."

"No, Mr. Jack, I'm no magician. Dick is a very sensible fellow, and,
like Richelieu in the play, he ekes out the lion's skin with the fox's."

"I didn't come to add to the stores of your wisdom. This is the day set,
as I understand it, for us to go to the prison and relieve the distress
of the victims of war. Do I understand that we, Dick and I, are to go
and have our patriotic hearts torn by the sight of woes that fortune, in
the shape of the Atterburys, keeps us from?"

"Of course you are. We couldn't think of going without you. There, my
work is done. We'll have lunch and then start," Rosa said, rising and
directing Dick to fill the large wicker basket with the garments.

Fashion and idleness make strange pastimes. The recreation to which Jack
and Dick were bidden was a visit to the melancholy shambles where the
heterogeneous mass of unclassified prisoners were detained. It was a
long, gabled building on the brink of the river, from whose low, grated
windows the culprits could catch glimpses of the James, tumbling over
its sedgy, sometimes rocky bed. A few yards from it arose the grim walls
of what had been a tobacco-factory, now the never-to-be forgotten
Libby Prison.

It was an animated and curious group that made up Jack's party. They
were piloted by a young aide on the staff of General Lee, and, as his
entire mind was engrossed in making his court to Rosa, the pilgrims were
given the widest latitude for investigation. On the lower tier he
pointed out the cells of the Rosedale prisoners, where, as you may
imagine, Jack and Dick, without giving a sign, kept their wits alert.
Jones--the "most desperate of the conspirators against the President,
the special agent of Butler"--was in a cell by himself, constantly
guarded by a sentinel.

"This, Sprague," said the young aide, lowering his voice as he came
abreast of Jones's cell, "is the man the Government has the strongest
proof against. He is proved to have come into our lines from the Warwick
River, to have managed to escape from Castle Thunder, and to have led
the miscreants to Rosedale. Your own and young Perley's testimony after
that will swing him higher than a spy was ever swung before."

These words, begun in a low tone, were made clearer and louder by the
sudden cessation of chatter among the visiting group. Jones, who seemed
to have come to his grating when the suppressed laughter sounded in the
dark corridor, heard every word of the official's speech. He was no
longer the bearded desperado Jack had seen in the _mêlée_ at
Rosedale--there was a certain distinction in the poise of the head, an
inborn gentility in the impassive contemplation with which he met the
furtive scrutiny of the curious visitors. Jack he eyed with something of
surprise, but when Dick pushed suddenly in front of the timorous group
of young women, he started, changed color, and averted his face; then,
as if suddenly recalling himself, turned and devoured the lad with a
strange, yearning tenderness. Dick met the gaze with his habitual easy
gayety, and, turning to Jack, said, impulsively:

"I should never recognize this man as the bandit who fired the shot that
night--are you really the Jones that choked and wounded me at Rosedale?"
Dick advanced quite close to the wicked as he asked this.

"And who may you be, if I am permitted to ask a question?" the prisoner
replied vaguely, all the time devouring the boy with his dilating eyes.

"I am Richard Perley, of Acredale, a soldier of the Union and a friend
of all who suffer in its cause." Dick murmured the last words so low
that the group of visitors did not catch them, and, adding to them an
emphasis of the eye that the prisoner seemed too agitated to notice, he
continued, as Jack pushed nearer; "This is certainly not the man we saw
at Rosedale. But I have seen you somewhere. Tell me, have I not?"

"I can tell you nothing--I--I" As he said this Jones backed against the
wall. The guard sprang forward in alarm. The women, of course, cried out
in many keys, most of them skurrying away toward the staircase.

"Water!" Jack cried. "Guard, have you no water handy?"

"No, sir; the canteen was broken, and there is none nearer than the
guard-room."

"Run and get some. I will see that the prisoner does not get out. Run!"

The aide had gallantly gone forward in the passage to reassure the
ladies, and Jack, seizing the chance, for which the prisoner seemed to
be prepared, whispered:

"Here is an auger, a chisel, and a knife. Secrete them. Work straight
out under your window. We shall be ready for you by Wednesday night.
Don't fail to give a signal if anything happens that prevents your
cutting through. There is only an old stone wall between you and the
river. You must take precautions against the water, if it is high enough
to reach your cut."

Jones played his part admirably. He remained limp and stolid in the
supporting arms of Jack, while Dick, hovering in the doorway, kept the
prying remnant of the visitors, eager to witness the scene, at a safe
distance. When the water came Jack yielded his place to the guard and
the party moved on.

"Here we have a real Yankee, a regular nutmeg," the young aide cried, as
the party came to a room not far from Jones's. "This youngster was one
of the chief devils in the attack on Rosedale. The judge-advocate has
tried every means to coax a confession from him, but without result. He
is as gay as a bridegroom, and answers all threats with a joke."

"Ah! the old Barney under all," Jack said, half sadly.

"Do you know him, Mr. Sprague?"

"Like a brother. He is from my town."

"Ah, perhaps you can convince him that his best course is open
confession?"

"No, I fear not. He is very headstrong, and would rather have his joke
on the gibbet than own himself in the wrong."

"But, Mr. Jack, if you should talk to him, show him the wickedness of
conspiring against a peaceful family, inciting a servile race to murder,
I'm sure you could move him, and it would be such a comfort to have the
criminals themselves expose the atrocious plot."

This was said by Miss Delmayne, a niece of Mrs. Gannat. Jack caught her
eye as she spoke, and instantly realized the covert meaning. How stupid
he had been! Of course, Barney must be apprised of the rescue, and what
time more propitious than the present? But, unfortunately, he had not
provided himself with the tools for the emergency. What could be done?
He suddenly remembered a bayonet he had seen near the guard-room. It was
lying unnoticed on the bench.

"I must have a drink before I answer a plea so urgent. Amuse the
prisoner while I slake my thirst."

Barney was lying at the far end of the narrow, boarded cage. He raised
his head as the group halted before his door, but gave no sign of
interest as this dialogue was carried on:

"Prisoner," said the aide, magisterially, "come to the door."

"Jailer, what shall I come to the door for?" Barney mimicked indolently.

"Because I hid you, sir."

"Not a reason in law, sir."

"I'll have the guard haul you here."

"Then he'll have a mighty poor haul, as King James said when he caught
the Orange troopers in the Boyne."

"I'll teach you, sir, to defy a commissioned officer!"

"I've learned that already; but if you're a school-teacher I'll decline
the verb 'will' for you."

"Guard, hustle that beast forward."

"Guard, don't give yourself the trouble." And Barney arose nimbly and
came to the grating. "O captain, dear, why didn't ye tell me there were
ladies here? You could have spared your eloquence and your authority if
you had told me that the star of beauty, the smile of angels, the--"

"Never mind, sir; be respectful, and wait till you're spoken to."

"Then, captain, dear, do you profit by your own advice; let the ladies
talk. I'm all ears, as the rabbit said to the weasel."

But at this interesting point of the combat Jack returned, and,
pushing-to the door, cried, as if in surprise, "Hello, Barney, boy, what
are you doing here?"

"Diverting the ladies, Jack, dear, and giving the captain a chance to
practice command, for fear he'll not get a show in battle." The roar
that saluted this retort subdued the bumptious cavalier, and he affected
deep interest in the whispered questions of one of the young women in
the rear of the group.

"You're the same old Barney. Marc Anthony gave up the world for a kiss,
you'd capitulate a kingdom for a joke," Jack said, striving to catch
Barney's eye and warn him to be prudent.

"Well, Jack, dear, between the joke and the kiss, I think I'd go out of
the world better satisfied with the kiss; at all events, it wouldn't be
dacent to say less with so many red lips forninst me," and Barney winked
untold admiration at the laughing group before him, all plainly
delighted with his conquest of the captain.

"But, Barney, you should be thinking of more serious things."

"Sure I've thought of nothing else for three months. The trees can't go
naked all the year; the brook can't keep ice on it in summer; the swan
sings before it dies; the grasshopper whirrs loudest when its grave is
ready. Why shouldn't I have me joke when I've had nothing but hard
knocks, loneliness, and the company of the prison for half the year?"

"Poor fellow!" Rosa murmured in Dick's ear, who had not trusted himself
in sight of his old comrade. "I don't believe he's a bad man; I don't
believe he came to our house. Oh! pray, Mr. Jack, do talk with him.
Encourage him to be frank, and we will get Mr. Davis to pardon him."

"Pardon, is it, me dear? Sure there's no pardon could be as sweet as
your honest e'en--God be good to ye!--an' if I were Peter after the
third denial of me Maker, your sweet lips would drag the truth from me!
What is it you would have me tell?"

"The captain, here, desires me to talk with you. He thinks that perhaps
I can convince you of the wiser course to follow," Jack said, with a
meaning light in his eye.

"Oh, if that's what's wanted, I will listen to you 'till yer arms give
out, as Judy McMoyne said, when Teddy tould his love, I promise, in
advance, to do what you advise."

"I knew you would," Jack said, approvingly.--"Now, captain, if you can
give me five minutes--"

The captain beckoned the guard, whispered a moment, and then said,
exultingly:

"The guard will stand in the passage until you have finished with the
prisoner. We shall await you in the porch."

"Now, Barney, I must be brief, and you must not lose a syllable I say.
Here, sit on the cot, so that I may slip this bayonet under the blanket.
You can work through this wall with that. You must do it to-night and
to-morrow. Be ready Thursday at daylight. You will be met on the outside
either by Dick or myself. We have the route all arranged, and friends in
many places to lull suspicion."

"But I won't stir a foot without Jones. Do you know who he is?" Barney
whispered, eying Jack curiously.

"No other than that he seems a very desperate devil-may-care fellow. Who
is he?"

"An agent and crony of Boone's."

"Good God!"

"It's a long story I can't tell it now, but if your plan takes him in,
I'm ready, and will be on hand."

"I have seen him, and have given him better tools than I have brought
you for the work."

"That's all right. I ask nothing better than the bayonet. The other
fellows that got out of Libby didn't have nearly so good."

"You know how I am fixed here. I have grown tired of this sort of
hostage life, and I am going North with you. So, Barney, I beg of you to
be careful, for other lives than your own are at stake. I should be
specially hateful to the authorities if I were retaken--for the whole
Southern people clamor to have an example made of the assassins of the
President, as they call you."

"Don't fear, Jack; I'll be quiet as a sucking pig in star light. I'll be
yer shadow and never open me mouth, even if a jug, big as Teddy Fin's
praty-patch, stud furninst me!"

"It isn't your tongue I'm so much afraid of as your propensity to
combat. You must resist that delight of yours--whacking stray heads and
flourishing your big fists."

"My fists, is it? Then I'll engage to keep them still as O'Connell's
legs in Phoenix Square."

"Now, I shall report that you are considering my advice. You must be
very gentle and placating to the guard, and let on that you have
something on your mind."

"Indeed, I needn't let on at all. I have as much on me mind as Biddy
McGinniss had on her back when she carried Mick home from the gallows."

"O Barney, Barney, you would joke if the halter were about your neck!"

"An' why wouldn't I, me bye? What chance would I have if I didn't? I
couldn't joke when I was dead, could I?"

"Well, well, think over what I've said, and remember that penitence half
absolves guilt."

This was said for the benefit of the guard, who had approached as Jack
arose to take his leave.



CHAPTER XXIII.

ALL'S FAIR IN LOVE AND WAR.


Opportunity is an instinct to the man who dares. To him the law of the
impossible has no meaning. To him there is no such thing as the
unexpected. What he wants comes to pass, because he can not see danger,
difficulty, nor any of the obstacles that daunt the prudent and the
temporizing. It is, therefore, the impossible that is fulfilled in many
of the crises of life. By the same token it is the foolhardy and
preposterous thing that is most readily done in determinate
conjunctures. We guard against the possible, but we take little note of
the enterprises that involve foolhardiness or desperation. Daring has
safeguards of its own that are understood only when mad ventures have
come to successful issue. Helpless and hopeless as Jack's situation
seemed, the very poverty of his resources, helped the daring scheme of
escape that filled his mind night and day during these apparently
indolent weeks of pleasuring in the ranks of his enemies. Then, too, the
arrogant self-confidence of his captors was an inestimable aid. Military
discipline and provost vigilance were at their slackest stage in the
rebel lines at this triumphant epoch in the fortunes of the Confederacy.
The easily won combat at Bull Run had filled the authorities--as well as
the rank and file--with overweening contempt for the resources of the
North, or the enterprise of its soldiers. It was not until long after
the time I am now writing about, that the prisoners were closely guarded
and access refused to the idle and curious. But, as a matter of fact,
nothing in the fortunes of our friends equals the truth of the thrilling
and desperate chances taken by Northern captives to escape the lingering
death of prison in the South. Since the war, volumes have been written
of personal experience, amply attested, that would in romance receive
the derisive mark of the critics. Danger daily met becomes a commonplace
to men of resolution. Things which appall us when we read them become a
simple part of our purpose when we live in an atmosphere of peril and
put our hope only in ending the ordeal.

The incident I am narrating were the work of many hands. Mrs. Gannat had
from the first given her heart to the Union cause. A woman of high
standing in society, well known throughout the State for her mind, her
manners, and her benevolence, it was not difficult for her, by adroit
management, to aid such prisoners as fell into rebel hands during the
early years of the war. Before Richmond became a mart in the modern
sense, the Gannat mansion, set far back among the trees of a noble
grove, was a shrine to the tradition loving citizens, for, beyond any
Southern city, save perhaps New Orleans, Richmond folk cherished the
memory of aristocratic and semi-regal ancestors. There were those still
living when the war began, who had heard their fathers and mothers talk
of the last royal Governor and the splendid state of the great noblemen
who had flocked to the city of Powhatan when Virginia was the gem of
England's colonial coronet. The patrician caste of the city still held
its own, aided by the helot hand of slavery. Among the most reverently
considered in this sanctified group, Mrs. Gannat was, if not first, the
conceded equal. She was the dowager of the ancient noblesse. The young
Virginian received in her drawing-rooms carried away a distinction which
was recognized throughout the State. The dame admitted to Mrs. Gannat's
semi-literary _leveés_ was accepted as all that society demanded of
its votaries.

In other years this great lady had been the admired center of the court
circle in Washington. There she had known very intimately Senator--then
Congressman--Sprague. Jack remembered vaguely the gossip of an
engagement between his father and a famous Southern beauty; and when the
lady in the course of the conspiring said, as they talked, "My son, I
might have been your mother," he knew that this gentle-voiced,
kindly-eyed matron was the woman his father had loved and lost. I don't
propose to rehearse the ingenuities of the complicated plans whereby the
group we are interested in were to be delivered. Mrs. Gannat's perfect
knowledge of the city, her intimacy with the President, Cabinet, and
leading men, her vogue with the officials, all tended to make very
simple and easy that which would seem in the telling hare-brained and
impossible. Jack's unique position, and Dick's attitude of the
half-acknowledged _fiancé_ of an Atterbury, broke down bars that even
Mrs. Gannat's far-reaching sagacity might not have been able to cope
with in certainty. The night chosen for the escape was fatefully
propitious. The President was entertaining the newly arrived French
delegate and the ministers Mason and Slidell, just appointed to the
courts of St. James and the Tuileries. Everybody that was anybody was of
the splendid company.

Jack, however, was tortured by a doubt of Dick's constancy when it came
to an abrupt quitting of his sweetheart. Poor lad, he fought the battle
bravely, making no sign; and when Rosa, the picture of demure
loveliness, in her girlish finery, asked him maliciously as the carriage
drove toward the Executive Mansion--

"Don't you feel like a traitor, you sly Yankee?" Dick gave a great groan
and said:

"O Rosa, Rosa, I can't go! I do feel like a traitor. I am a traitor."

Jack, luckily, was sitting beside him, and brought his heel down on the
lad's toes with such emphasis that he uttered a cry of pain. Rosa was
all solicitude at this.

"What is it, Richard; have I wounded you? Don't mind my chatter; I only
do it to tease you. He shall be a Yankee; he shall make nutmegs; he
shall abuse the chivalrous South; he shall be what he likes; he sha'n't
be teased--" and she wound her bare arms about his neck, quite
indifferent to the reproving nudges of mamma and the sad mirthfulness
of Jack.

Dick found means in the noise of the chariot, and the crush they
presently came into, for saying something that seemed to lessen the
self-reproachful tone of the penitent, and, when they entered the modest
portals of the presidency, Rosa was radiant and Dick equable, but not in
his usual chattering volubility.

"You are sure you do not repent? You can stay if you choose," Jack said,
as they entered the dressing-room.

"Where you go, I go; what you say is right I know is right, and I will
do it." Dick looked away confusedly as he said this. They were
surrounded by young officers, all of whom the two young men knew.

"Ah, ha, Mr. Perley! I have stolen a march on you; I have secured the
first waltz from Miss Rosa," a young man at the mirror cried, as Dick
adjusted his gloves.

"Then, Captain Warrick, I'm likely to be a wall-flower, for the second,
third, and fourth were promised yesterday."

"Fortunes of war, my dear fellow--fortunes of war. You must lay siege to
another fortress."

"Dick," Jack whispered, "it's an omen. It will give us time to slip out
and change our garments without the danger of excuses, for, though
nothing is suspected, any incautious phrase may destroy us."

"Don't fear for me. I shall be prudent as a confessor. We can't go,
however, just yet. I must have a little talk with Rosa. I may never see
her again. If you were in love and going from the light of her eye,
perhaps never to see her again, you wouldn't be so cool. We must,
anyway, take the ladies to the host and hostess for presentation; then a
few words and I am ready." Dick was trembling visibly and blushing like
a school-girl at first facing a class-day crowd. Jack's heart went out
to the lad, and he thought the chances about even that when the moment
of trial came the boy's resolution would give way. The ladies were
waiting for them when they emerged into the corridors--Rosa began,
prettily, to rally Dick on his tardiness. It took time to thread the
constantly increasing crowd in the hallways, the corridors, and on the
stairs, but they finally reached the group in which Mrs. Davis was
receiving the confused salutations of the throng at the drawing-room
door. As soon as this formality was ended, Rosa whisked Dick in one
direction while Mrs. Atterbury asked Jack to take her to the library.
Here, by a happy chance, she came upon a group of dowagers--friends of
her youth from other towns--brought to the capital by the event, or
their husbands' official duties in the new government. Jack bowed low as
he relinquished the good lady's arm, feeling as if he were embarking on
some odious treason, in view of her persistent and generous treatment of
him and his.

"Now that you are among the friends of your youth, I will leave you; who
knows whether I shall see you again?" he faltered, as she turned an
affectionate glance upon him.

"Oh, you needn't think that you can take _congé_ for good, Jack. I may
want to dance during the night. If I do I shall certainly lay my
commands upon you. You may devote yourself to the young people now, but
I warn you I am not to be thrown over so easily. Besides, I want to
present you to a dozen friends that you have not yet met at my house."

"You will always know where to find me; but I am not so sure that I
shall be as able, as I am willing, to come to you," Jack said, trembling
at the double meaning of his words.

"Oh, I know you're dying to get to the dancers."

"I can go to no one that it will give me more happiness to please than
you. Indeed, I'm going into danger when I quit you. Give me your
blessing, as if it were Vincent going to the wars."

She had turned from the throng of ladies, who were discussing a
political secret, and her eyes melted tenderly as Vincent's name passed
Jack's lips. She touched his bowed head gently, saying:

"Why, how serious you are! One would think beauty a battery, and you on
the way to charge."

"You are right. It is a murderous ambush."

"Well, if you regard it so seriously--God bless you in it."

Her gentle eyes rested tenderly on him; he seized the kind hand, and,
raising it to his lips in the gallant Southern fashion, turned and
hurried away among the guests.

"Ah, Mrs. Atterbury, conquests at your age, from hand to lip, there's
but short interval," and the President held up a warning finger as he
came closer to the lady.

"Oh, no, age makes a long route between hand and lip--thirty years ago
you kissed my hand, and you never reached the lip."

"It wasn't my fault that I didn't."

"Nor your misfortune either," and Mrs. Atterbury glanced archly at her
rival, Mrs. Davis, the mature beauty of the scene.

Dick, meanwhile, not so dexterous in expedients or ready in speech as
his mentor, became wedged in an eddy, just outside the main stream,
pouring drawing-room ward, so that, returning to the spot where they had
separated, Jack did not, for the moment, discover him.

Rosa's gayety and delight deepened the depression that made Dick so
unlike himself. At first, in the exuberance of the scene, the girl did
not heed this. She knew everybody, and, though in daily contact with
most of them, there were no end of whispered confidences to exchange and
tender reassurances in ratification of some new compact. Then there were
solemn notes of comparison as to the fit and form of gowns, or the fit
of a furbelow, exhaustively discussed, perhaps that very afternoon. Keen
eyes, merry and tantalizing, were lifted to Dick's sulky face during
this pretty by-play, but all the gayety of the comedy was lost to him.
When he could contain himself no longer, with another bevy of cronies in
sight coming down the stairs, he cried out, desperately:

"For Heaven's sake, Rosa, don't wait here like the statue in St.
Peter's, to be kissed by everybody on the way to the pope; it's simply
sickening to stand here like a shrine to be slopped by girls that you
see every day. Come away; I want to say something to you."

Rosa turned her astonished eyes upon the railer, and, with a comic
movement of immense dignity, drew her arm from his sheltering elbow,
and, in tones of freezing _hauteur_ retorted:

"And since when, sir, are you master of my conduct? I am my own
mistress, I believe. I shall kiss whom I please."

"O Rosa, Rosa, I didn't mean that; I don't know what I meant. I--O Rosa,
don't be fretful with me now! I can't bear it. I am ill--I mean I am
tired. Come and sit with me."

Several on the outer edge of the flowing current turned curiously as
this sharp cry of boyish pleading rose above the noisy clamor. It was
impossible, however, to push backward, but in an instant the lovers were
sheltered in an alcove near the doorway. Rosa had taken his rejected arm
again in a panic of guilty repentance, and, looking at his half-suffused
eyes, cried, piteously:

"Oh, forgive me, Richard, forgive me--I did not mean it! I forgot you
were ill. Ah, please, please forgive me! You know--I--I--"

But Dick, now conscious that inquiring eyes were fastened upon them,
curious ears listening, seized her arm, and, by main force, reached the
hall doorway, now nearly deserted.

"Rosa, I am not well--that is, I have a headache, or heartache--it's the
same thing. I didn't mean to tell you, for I didn't want to destroy your
pleasure, and you have looked forward so long to this; but I--I--can not
dance. Jack and I are going to walk a little while, and then we--we
shall be more ourselves."

Poor Dick had only the slightest idea what he was saying, and Rosa
listened with wide-open eyes and little appealing caresses, not quite
certain what the distracted lover did mean.

"All your dances are taken up. Young Warrick just told me he had the
first. You gave Gayo Brotherton two yesterday, so you will have no need
of me for hours yet."

"But I will cut them if you say so. Only you know that it is our way
here to give the first who ask."

"Yes, yes; that's right. I--I couldn't dance now. I shall be all right,
presently if--if I see you happy. Ah, Rosa, if--if I should die--if I
should be carried away, would you always love me, would you always
believe in me?"

"Why, Dick, you are really ill; let me feel your wrist." Rosa seized
Dick's hand and began a convulsive squeezing. "Yes, you certainly have a
fever. You must go home. I shall go with you. It is your wound. It has
broken out again--I know it has. You shall go home this instant. I will
send for the carriage. Come straight up-stairs, you wicked boy! To let
me come here when you are so ill! I shall never forgive myself--never!"

"A large vow for a small maid."

"Mr. Jack!"--for the voice was Jack's--"Dick is very ill, and he must go
home at once. Will you not get the carriage and take us?"

"I will not take you. I am very experienced in Dick's ailments, and I
have already summoned a physician, who is waiting for us. But he can not
attend his patient if you are present."

"Yes, Rosa, Jack is right. I will leave you now, and when you see me
again you will see that I am not ill--that I--I--"

"I will stop for you at the door, Dick. You know the physician can not
be kept waiting, so make your parting brief. Short shrift is the easiest
in love and war."

"A doctor is as dreadful to me as a battle, Rosa. Kiss me as if I were
going to the field," Dick whispered as Jack's back was turned. A minute
later he had joined his mentor, and the two hurried through the square
and down toward the river.

"I can't do it, Jack," Dick suddenly broke out, as they hurried through
the dark street. "I must leave Rosa a line telling her my motive. What
will she think of me sneaking away like this without a word? Now, you go
on to Blake's cabin and change your clothes. I will get an old suit of
Vint's. It will really make no difference in the time, and it will be
safer for us to reach the prison separately than together."

"No, Dick, be a man. Every line you write will add to our peril. She
will, of course, show it to her mother. Our night will be known in the
morning. Mrs. Atterbury is too loyal to the Confederacy to conceal
anything. You will thus give the authorities the very clew they need.
No, Dick, you must be guided by me in this; besides, you can send Rosa
letters through Vincent at headquarters as soon as we reach Washington."

"I can't help it. I know you are right, but I must do it. I will be with
you in less than an hour. I'm off."

"Listen!--Good God, he's gone!" Jack ejaculated as Dick, taking
advantage of a cross-street, shot off into the darkness. Jack halted. To
call would be dangerous; to run after him excite comment, perhaps
pursuit and discovery. There was nothing to be done but wait at the
rendezvous. He would come back--Jack tried to make himself believe that
he could depend on that. When, after a circuitous walk of half an hour,
he reached the cabin of Blake, the colored agent of Mrs. Gannat, he
found a note from his patroness warning him that the prison authorities
had become alert. A rumor of a plot to escape had penetrated the War
Department, and orders had been given to increase the precaution of the
guards. The reception at the President's was a stroke of good fortune
for the prisoners, as all the higher officials would be detained there
until morning. Perhaps, in view of the chance, it would be better to
anticipate the hour of flight, as, unfortunately, the horses that had
been got together for the fugitives were in use for the Davis guests,
and on such short notice others could not be provided without exciting
suspicion or pointing to the agency by which the liberation had been
brought about.

"Ah, if Dick were only here," Jack groaned, "we could go to the square
and lead away enough staff or orderly horses to serve the purpose. The
little wretch! It would serve him properly to leave him here mooning
over his sweetheart." Then his heart took up a little tremor of protest.
He sighed gently. He, too, had loitered when his heart pleaded. Why
should Dick be firmer than he? It was after midnight when he reached the
sheltering, broken, ground along the river. The provost prison fronted
the water. It had been a tobacco warehouse, built long before, and
hastily transformed into its present military purpose. It was set in
what was called a "cut" in the heavy clay bank, thus bringing the lower
windows below the level of the surrounding land. There were sentries
stationed in front and rear, who walked at regular intervals from corner
to corner. The sentinel on the high level to the rear could not see the
ground along the wall, and it was this fact which Jack calculated upon
to enable him to help the prisoners to remove the _débris_ of the wall
through which they were to presently emerge. The night was pitchy dark.
This had been taken into consideration long before. Heavy clouds hung
over the river, throwing the prison and its environs into still more
security for Jack's purpose. He reconnoitred every available point,
searched every corner of possible danger, and as the time passed he
began to rage with impatience against Dick, whose delay was now periling
the success of the enterprise.

It was twelve o'clock and after. He dared wait no longer. Dick must
shift for himself. Perhaps he had lost his way. In any event it was
safer to set the general prisoners free, as they were only carelessly
guarded. Lamps glimmered fitfully in the guard-room, throwing fantastic
banners of light almost to the water's edge. He made a final tour about
the broken ground, but there was no sound or suspicion of Dick. He knew
every inch of the ground. Dick and he had surveyed and resurveyed it for
days. The coast was clear. No one was on guard at the vital point, but
still he lingered, his breath coming and going painfully, as a break in
the clouds cast a moving shape over the undulating ground. Should he
give the boy another half-hour's grace? He makes a circuit in the
direction Dick must approach by and waits. He will count a hundred very
slowly, then wait no longer. He counts up to fifty, hears a coming step,
and waits alertly. No--it passes on. He begins again--counts one
hundred, two hundred. No sign. "Pah! it is madness to delay for him. The
young poltroon has lost his resolution in his lovesick fever. Very
likely he has been unable to run the risk of Rosa's anger--her mother's
indignation--the possibility of never seeing the girl again." Well, he
had given him ample grace. He had endangered his own and other lives to
humor a boyish whim. Now he must act, and swiftly.

The plan was too far gone in execution to be changed. He must carry out
the final measures alone. Now, one of these details required some one to
slip down on the ground and crawl to the point between the windows where
the prisoners were working and aid them to remove the thin, shell of
brick. If it fell outward, the guard at the corner would hear the noise,
and might come down to see what it was that made it. The removal of this
wall released all confined in the main prison. These he saw stealing out
in groups of ten or more. They had guides waiting on the bank of the
river. Jack gave them final orders. The most difficult work was the
getting out Jones and Barney, for they had special cells. Jack was to
guard Jones's exit and Dick Barney's, but now all the work would devolve
upon him. It was two o'clock, and he dared wait no longer. Raising
himself from the low wall where he had been crouching, he started toward
the corner of the prison farthest from the guard-room. At the wall of
the building he dropped flat on his face and began to crawl forward,
sheltered by the low ground that formed a sort of dry ditch about the
basement of the prison. He had barely stretched himself at full length
when a bright light was flashed on him from a deep doorway just beyond
him, and a voice, mocking and triumphant, exclaimed.

"This is a bad place to swim, my friend! There ain't enough water to
drown you, but if you stir you'll run against a bullet."

Jack lay quite still and raised his eyes. Above him stood a trooper,
with a revolver leveled at and within ten feet of him. Figure to
yourself any predicament in life in which vital stakes hang on the
issue; figure to yourself the shipwrecked seizing ice where he had hoped
for timber; the condemned criminal walking into the jailer's toils where
he had laboriously dug through solid walls; the captain of an army
leaving the field victor, to find his legions rushing upon him in rout;
figure any monstrous overturn in well-laid schemes, and you have but a
faint reflex of poor Jack's heart-breaking anguish when this jocular
fate stood above him, with the five gaping barrels pointed at his
miserable head. Oh, if Dick had only been there! His quick eye and keen
activity would have discovered this lurking devil; perhaps, between
them, they would have averted the disaster. Where could Dick be?



BOOK III

_THE DESERTERS_.



CHAPTER XXIV.

BETWEEN THE LINES.


On quitting Jack, Dick had but one thought in mind--to make his
departure less abrupt for Rosa. If he left her without a word, what
would she think? Then, with an officer's uniform, he could be of much
more help to Jack and the party than in the rough civilian homespun
furnished at the cabin. Besides, he knew of certain blank headquarter
passes lying on Vincent's desk. He would get a few of these; they might
extricate the party in the event of a surprise.

He tore over the solemn roadway, under the spectral foliage, and in
twenty minutes he was in his room in the Atterburys'. Vincent's old
uniform he had often noticed in a spare closet adjoining his own
sleeping-room. In an instant he was in it, and, though it was not a fit,
he soon put it in order to pass casual inspection. The line for Rosa was
the next delay. What should he say? He had had his mind full for days of
the most tender sentiments and prettily turned phrases, but the turmoil
of the last hour, the vital value of every moment to Jack's plans, left
him no time to compose the poem he had meditated so long. Rosa's own
pretty desk was open, and on a sheet of her own paper he wrote, in a
scrawling, school-boy hand:

"DARLING ROSA: You've often said that you would disown Vincent if he
were not true to the South. Think of Vincent in my place--dawdling in
Acredale or Washington while battles were going on. You would not hold
him less contemptible that he was in love; that he let his love, or his
life, for you are both to me, stand as a barrier to his duty. You can't
love where you can't honor, and you can't hate where you know conscience
rules. I go to my duty, that in the end I may come to you without shame.
I ask no pledge other than comes to your heart when you read this; but
whatever you may say, whatever you may decide, I am now and always shall
be your devoted

"RICHARD"

He sighed, casting a woe-begone glance into the mirror, dimly conscious
that he was a very heroic young person. He kissed various objects dear
to the little maid, and then, in lugubrious unrest, sallied out
and mounted.

Again under the calm sky--again the fleet limbs of the horse almost
keeping time to his own inward impatience. He holds to the soft,
unpaved, outlying streets, that his pace may not attract remark. He
passes horsemen, like himself spurring fleetly in the darkness. He is
near the river at last--dismounts and reconnoitres. He easily finds a
place to tie the horse, and, familiar with every inch of the outlying
ground about the prison, crawls close to the wall, listening intently.
He can hear no sound save the weary clank of the sentry on the wooden
walk. He reaches the wall where the prisoners Jones and Barney were to
emerge. There is no sign of a break! Where can Jack be? Some disaster
must have overtaken him, for it is past the hour set and soon it will be
dawn, and then all action will be impossible. Perhaps Jack has been
caught reconnoitring? Perhaps he has gone with the main body, not
venturing to try for Jones and Dick without help? No, that was not like
Jack. This was his special part in the plan--if it were not done, Jack
was still about. He can find out readily--thanks to the countersign. He
steals back over the low hillock, mounts the horse, and by a _détour_
reaches the sentry guarding the river front of the prison. He is
challenged, but, possessed of the countersign, finds no difficulty in
riding up to the guard-room doorway.

"Has Lieutenant Hawkins been here within an hour, sentry?" he asks, in
apparent haste.

"No, sir. I think he has been sent for--leastwise, the sergeant went
away about an hour ago to report the taking of a deserter, found
prowling about the side of the prison."

"A deserter?"

"Yes, sir. He had a brand-new uniform on and no company mark, nor no
equipments."

"What has been done with him?" Dick asked, breathlessly, dismounting. "I
wonder if he isn't one of my company from Fort Lee? He went off on a
drunk yesterday, though he was sent here on a commissary errand."

"I dunno, sir. He's in the lockup there. He was very violent, and the
sergeant bound him with straps."

"I will go in and examine him; he may be one of my men, and, as our
brigade moves in the morning, I should like to know."

"Very well, sir; the officer of the day is asleep in the room beyond the
first door. One of the men will call him."

"Oh, no need to disturb him until I have seen the prisoner.--Here, my
man"--addressing a soldier asleep on a settee--"show me to the deserter
brought in to-night."

"Yes, sir," the man cried, starting up with confused alacrity; then,
noticing the insignia of major on Dick's gray collar, he saluted
respectfully, and, pointing to a double doorway, waited for his superior
to lead the way. Dick, who had been in the prison before, knew his
whereabouts very well, and it was not until the soldier reached the room
in which the deserter was detained that he seemed to remember that there
were no lights.

"Here are the man's quarters, sir; but I'm out of matches. If you'll
wait a minute I'll bring a candle."

"All right," Dick responded, in a loud voice; "I'll stand here until you
come back."

The quest of the candle would take the guide to the closet in the
guard-room, and, risking little to learn much, Dick struck a match and
peered into the stuffy little room, more like a corn-crib than a
prison-cell.

"Hist, Jack! is it you?" he called.

There was an exclamation from the farther end of the room, and then a
fervent--

"Heavens, Dick! is it really you?"

"Sh--sh--!"

The soldier's returning footfalls sounded in the passage-way; but, as he
re-entered the hall where Dick stood shading the flickering light, he
could not see the hastily extinguished match in Dick's hand. As the man
came slowly along the winding passage-way, Dick whispered:

"You are a recruit in Rickett's legion; you were drunk and lost your
way, and I am your major; you are stationed at Fort Lee near
Mechanicsville, and you belong to Company G."

Jack pretended to be sound asleep when the soldier and Dick entered. He
rubbed his eyes sleepily, and looked up in a vacant, tipsy way, leering
knowingly at the soldier, who had caught him by the shoulder.

"What are you doing here, Tarpey? Why aren't you with your company?
You'll get ball and chain for this lark, or my name's not James Braine."

"But, major, it--it wasn't my fault. My cousin, Joe Tarpey, came down
from Staunton with a barrel of so'gum whisky, and--and--"

"You drank too much and was caught where you had no business to be.
However," Dick added, sternly, "the regiment marches in the morning--you
must get out of here. Soldier, show me to Captain Payne's quarters. Say
to him that Major Braine, of Rickett's Legion, desires to speak with him
a moment." But he had no sooner said this than he realized the danger he
was running.

The captain might know Braine, and then how could he extricate himself
from the dilemma? Luckily the captain was not in his quarters, and Dick,
with calm effrontery, sat down and wrote out a statement of the case,
where he was to be found, and his reasons for carrying the
prisoner away.

The sergeant, having read this, made no objection to releasing the
alleged deserter, since there had been no orders concerning him, and,
without more ado, Jack walked away with his captain, the picture of
abashed valor and repentant tipsiness.

"Now, Dick, there's no time to ask the meaning of your miraculous
doings. We've still time to let our friends out and get away before
daylight; but we mustn't lose a second. Sh! stand still, what's that?
Troopers! Good heavens, they can't have found out your trick so soon!
Ah, no! They are floundering about looking for quarters," he added, in
immeasurable relief, as the voices of the riders sounded through the
darkness, cursing luck, the road, and everything else. "O Dick, if we
only had the countersign I could play a brilliant trick on these
greenhorns! Perhaps I can as it is."

"I have the countersign. How do you suppose I could have managed to get
to you if I hadn't? It is 'Lafayette.'"

"Glory! Now make all the clatter you can after I challenge."

They had by this time reached a row of tumble-down stables directly in
the rear of the prison, and shut out from the open ground by a decrepit
fence, broken here and there by negroes too lazy to pass out into the
street to reach the river. The horsemen had turned into this lane-like
highway--evidently misdirected. When within a few feet, Jack gave a
sudden whack on the board and cried, sternly:

"Halt! Who comes there?"

There was a sudden clash of steel as the group halted in a heap, and
then a weary voice replied:

"We have no countersign. We should have been at our destination long
before sundown, but were misdirected ten miles out of our course on the
Manchester pike."

"Very well. Dismount and come forward one man at a time," Jack answered,
briefly. This the spokesman did with some alacrity. As he came up, Dick
took the precaution of getting between him and his three companions, and
then Jack said: "I suppose you are all right; but my orders are to
arrest all mounted men, detain their horses here in these, the provost
stables," and Jack pointed to Dick's horse dimly outlined against the
sky. "I will give you a receipt for him, and you can get him back in the
morning when you state your case to the provost marshal.--Stephen," he
turned to Dick, "take that horse and put him with the others." He then
made out a receipt, handed it to the astonished trooper, and, directing
him where to go, carried out the same short shrift with the other three.
The troopers were glad enough to be relieved of their beasts. This they
did not attempt to deny, for they had seen a public-house in the street
below, where they could procure much-needed refreshment, relieved as
they now were from the necessity of reporting to their commander, whose
whereabouts were far down the Rocett road.

"By George, Jack, what a, crafty plotter you are! Now we have a mount
for the party, and I needn't take poor Warick's crack stallion."

"Yes; we've doubled the chances of escape by this little stratagem; but
we have lost time. Come. Have you tied the horses?"

"Yes. Lead on."

Over the turfy hillside, now moist and sticky with the heavy dew, they
stole, half crouching, half crawling, until they were on a level with
the prison basement. The sentry in front was no longer pacing his beat,
and there was no sign of the man in the rear. In a few minutes the two
crawling figures were at the preconcerted places in the wall. In
response to their light taps, a square of brick-work large enough to
leave a space for a man to crawl through crumbled upon Jack and Dick,
who held their bodies closely pressed against the _débris_ to prevent
too loud a noise. There was no time to wait probabilities of discovery,
and an instant later Barney and Jones emerged, panting and half
smothered.

"I thought it was all up with me hopes, as Glory McNab said when her
sweetheart ran away with the cobbler's daughter." Barney whispered,
hugging Jack rapturously.

"Sh--! Down on your stomachs. Move that way until you see me rise.
Come." And Jack squirmed ahead as if he had been accustomed to the
locomotion of snakes all his life. In ten minutes they were in the
improvised stables. Dick had taken the precaution to place the horses
where they could feed on a heap of fodder stacked in the yard, and when
they mounted the beasts appeared refreshed as well as rested. Dick
loosing Warick's horse so that he might make his way back to his master,
the fugitives rode cautiously out of the lane, into the open fields,
and, though it was not their shortest way, pushed along the river road
to mislead pursuit. Jack's stratagem had resulted in better luck even
than the possession of the horses. It not only secured a mount for the
four, but, what was equally and perhaps, in view of unforeseen
contingencies, more important disguises for the two prisoners.

They found an extra coat strapped to each saddle, and with these Barney
and Jones were easily transformed into something like Confederate
soldiers. Both Jack and Jones knew every inch of the suburbs, having
made the topography a study. They struck for the less traveled
thoroughfares until they reached the northeastern limits, then following
the old Cold Harbor road they pushed decisively toward the Williamsburg
pike. But, instead of following it, they traversed on by lanes and
bridle-paths during the day. This was to divide pursuit, as the larger
party had taken the river route where Butler's troops were waiting in
boats for them. The saddle-bags proved a windfall, for in them were
orders to proceed to Yorktown and report to General Magruder. With these
Jack felt no difficulty in passing several awkward points, where there
was no escaping the cavalry patrols, owing to miles of swamp and
impenetrable forest.

They kept clear, however, of such places as the telegraph reached,
though at one point they found a post in a great state of excitement
over news brought from a neighboring wire, announcing the escape of two
prisoners who had been traced to the York road. But with such papers as
Jack presented and the number of the party double that described in the
dispatch, the adventurers easily evaded suspicion. The great danger,
however, was in quitting the Confederate lines to pass into Butler's.
They chose the night for this, as the camp-fires would warn them of the
vicinity of outposts, Union or rebel. They had purposely avoided
highways and habitations, and, as a result, were limited in food to such
corn-cribs as they found far from human abodes, or the autumn aftermath
of vegetables sometimes found in the shadow of the woods. All were good
shots, however, and a fat rabbit and partridge were cooked by Dick with
such address, that the party were eager to take more time in halting
since they need not starve, no matter how long the journey lasted.

Jack, by tacit consent, was considered commander of the squad, Barney
remarking humorously that they would not ask to see his commission until
they were in a country where a title meant authority. The commander
ordered his small army very judiciously. They were to ride as far apart
as the roads or woods or natural obstructions would admit. They thus
moved forward in the shape of a triangle, the apex to the rear.
Exchanges of position were made every six hours. They were at the end of
the second day, toward sunset, approaching what they supposed was
Warrick Creek, nearly half-way to Fort Monroe, when they suddenly
emerged on an open plateau from which they could see a mile or two
before them a tranquil waste of crimson water.

"Why, this can't be the creek!" exclaimed Jones, excitedly. "The creek
isn't half a mile at its broadest."

"What can it be?" Jack asked, who had been the right wing to Jones's
left. "It's certainly not the James, for the sun is setting at
our back!"

"Blest if I can tell. It looks very much like the Chesapeake, only the
Chesapeake is wider."

By this time Barney and Dick had ridden up, and began to admire the
expanse of water spreading from the land before them to a green
wilderness in the distance.

"I'm afraid we are in a fix," Jones said, resignedly. "If I'm not very
much mistaken, the red line yonder, that looks like a roadway, is a
breastwork, and behind that what looks like a plowed field is
earthworks. My boys, we are before Yorktown and farther from our lines
than we were yesterday. The nigger that showed us the way in the woods
was either ignorant or deceiving us. We are now inside the outposts of
the rebels, and we shall have to crawl on our hands and knees to
escape them."

"I don't see what better off we'll be on our hands and knees than we are
in our saddles," Barney cried, guilelessly. "Sure we can go faster on
the bastes than we can on our hands, and, as for me knees, 'tis only in
prayer that I ever use them."

"Not in love, Barney?" Dick asked, innocently.

"No, me darlin'. The gurls I love think more of me arms than me knees,
and I do all of me pleadin' with me lips."

"I should think they could hold their own," Jones remarked, dryly.

"Indeed, they can that, and a good deal more, as me best gurl'll tell
you if she'll tell the truth, and no fear of her doing that, I'll
go bail."

"Fie! Barney, if she won't tell the truth you should have none of her,"
Dick cried in stage tones.

"Indeed, it's little I have of her, for she's that set on Teddy Redmund
that she leaves me to her mother, when Teddy comes to the porch of
an evening."

"Well, friends, your loves are, no doubt, adorable, and it is a pleasant
thing to talk over, but just now what we want is a way out of this
trap"; and Jack, saying this, slipped from his horse and led him into
the shelter of a thick growth of scrub-pines. The rest followed his
example. They tied their animals and held a council of war. It was
resolved that Jack and Jones should make a reconnaissance to find out
the route toward the Warrick; that Dick and Barney should secrete and
guard the horses and do what they could to obtain some food. This
decision was barely agreed upon, when the shrill call of a bugle sounded
almost among the refugees, and they sprang to their horses, waiting in
silence the next demonstration. Other bugles sounded farther away; a
great cloud of dust arose in the direction of the water, and then Jack
whispered:

"Remain here. I will climb one of these trees and see what it means."

He was in the leafy boughs of a spreading pine in a few minutes, and
could descry a broad plain, with tents scattered here and there; still
farther on the broad uplands frame buildings with a red and white flag
floating to the wind could be seen. Back of all this he could make out a
broad expanse of water and a few ungainly craft, lazily moving to the
current in the Yorktown roadstead.

"Yes. this certainly must be Yorktown. Why have they such a force here?
No one is threatening it," Jack murmured, his eyes arrested by a long
line of cavalry in undress, leading their horses up a circuitous and
hitherto concealed road to the plateau. "Ha! they go down there for
water. Let me see. That is to the southeastward; that is our point of
direction. I think we may venture to push on now." He hastily descended
from his survey, and making known what he had seen, added: "We must
proceed with the greatest caution. There is no time to think of food
until we get away from this dangerous neighborhood. We must keep well
spread out, and move only over turfy ground or in the deep shade of the
wood. In case of disaster, the cry of the night owl, as agreed upon,
will be a warning."

The four had practiced the melancholy cry of the owl, as heard in the
Southern woods both day and night, and they could all imitate it
sufficiently well to pass muster if the hearer were not on guard against
the trick, and yet so clever an imitation that none of the four could
mistake it. So soon as they quit the plateau, seeking a way east by
south, they plunged immediately into a dreary swamp, where progress was
slow and difficult. The mosquitoes beset them in swarms, plaguing even
the poor animals with their lusty sting. Hour after hour, until the
woods became a hideous chaos of darkness and unseemly sounds, the four
panting fugitives pushed on, fainting with hunger, worn out by the
incessant battle with the corded foliage, the dense marshes, and
quagmires through which their path to safety lay. But at midnight Jones
gasped and gave up the fight.

"Go on; leave me here. I am of no use at best. I should only be a drag
on you. Perhaps you may find some darkey and send him back to give me a
mouthful to eat. That would pick me up; nothing else can."

The four gathered together for counsel. The horses, faring better than
their masters, for they found abundance to allay hunger in the lush,
dank grass of the morass, were corralled in a clump of white ash, and
the jaded men, groping about, clambered upon the gnarled roots of the
trees to catch breath. They had been battling steadily for five hours
against all the forces of Nature. Their clothes were torn, their flesh
abraded, their strength exhausted. They could have slept, but the ground
offered no place, for wherever the foot rested an instant the weight of
the body pushed it down into the oozy soil until water gushed in over
the shoe-tops. Jones had found the struggle hardest because he had not
the youth of the others nor their light frames. The striplings were
spared many of his hardships and were still able to endure the ordeal,
if the end were sure relief. Jack struck a match, and with this lighted
a pine knot. He surveyed the gloomy brake carefully, and at last,
finding a mound where a thick growth of underbrush gave assurance of
less treacherous soil, he called to Barney to aid him. The little
hillock was made into a couch by means of the saddles, and the groaning
veteran carefully laid upon the by no means uncomfortable refuge. As
Jack held the light above him, Jones's eyes closed and he sank into a
lethargic sleep.

"He will be in a high fever when he awakes," Jack said, looking at
Barney. "We must see that he has food, or the fever will be his death.
Here is what I propose: you and I shall sally out from here, blazing the
path as we go. We must find some sign of life within a circuit of five
miles. That will take us say till daylight to go and come. We will leave
Dick here to guard Jones, and if we do not return by noon to-morrow Dick
will know that he must shift for himself."

"You command, Jack dear. What you say I'll do, as Molly Meginniss said
to the priest when he told her to repent of her sins."

"Dick, my boy, do you think you are equal to a vigil? You must stay here
with Jones. If he wakes and wants water, press the moisture of these
leaves to his lips, it's sassafras; and, stay--here is a sort of
plantain, filled with little globules of dew; pour these into his mouth,
and at a pinch give him a handful from the pool. In case of great danger
fire two shots, but if any one should come toward you or discover you it
will be better to surrender. In that event, you can make up a story to
suit the case, which may enable you to finally escape. This man's life
is in your hands. Remember that it is as glorious a deed as fighting in
line. Keep up a stout heart. We will soon be back, or you may take it
for granted all is up with us."

"Ah! Jack! Jack! To start so well and end so miserably, I can't bear
it--I can't stay here. You stay and let me go."

"No, Dick, it can't be; you are already so worn out that we should have
been obliged to halt for you if Jones hadn't broken down. It can't be
that you would think of leaving a fellow-soldier in such extremity as
this, Dick? I know you better."

"But I don't know him. I have no interest in him. With you I'll face any
danger--I'll die without a word; but to stay here in this awful place,
with the black pools of water, like great dead eyes, glaring in their
hideous light" (the pine-torch flaring in the wind filled the glade with
vast ogreish shadows, as the clustering bushes were swayed in the night
air) "and these hideous night-cries--O Jack, I can't--I can't--I
must go!"

"But the horses and the need of some one that can come back in case
anything befalls me. I am disappointed in you, Dick. I am shocked; you
are not the man of courage and honor I thought you."

"O my God, go--go--I will stay; but, Jack, if you find me dead,
tell--tell--Rosa--that--that--" He gasped and sank down sobbing against
the gnarled tree that crossed the mound above Jones's head.

"I will tell Rosa that you were the man she believed you were when the
trial came," and with this Jack and Barney, with a flaming torch, set
forward hastily through the fantastic curtain of foliage and night,
which shut in the glimmering vista of specters, dark, sinister,
and menacing.



CHAPTER XXV

PHANTASMAGORIA.


To say that night is a time of terror is a commonplace. Night is not
terrible of itself. It is like the ocean--peace and repose if there be
no storm. But of all terrors there are none, outside a guilty mind, so
benumbing as night in the unknown. It does not lessen the horror of
darkness that fear makes use of the imagination for its agencies. Fancy,
intuition, and the train that follows the inner vision, these make of
night a phantasmagoria, compared to which Milton's inferno is a place of
comparative repose.

If you would realize the wondrous necromancy of the sun, pass a night in
some primeval forest, untouched by the hand of man. Until he stands in
the awful silence of the midnight wood, or upon some vast waste of
nature, no man can figure to himself the varied shapes the mind can give
to terrors based upon the mysterious noises of nature, and the goblin
motions of inanimate things. The lover thinking of his lass welcomes the
night and the rapturous walks among well-known scenes and kindly
objects. With glimmering lamps in the foliage and the not distant sounds
of daily life, even the woods have nothing fearful to the meditative or
the distraught. But in flight, with fear as a garment that can not be
laid aside, the somber forms of the forest are more terrible than an
army with banners, as a haunted house is a more unnerving dread than
burglars or any form of night marauders. It was at night that the
mutinous sailors of Columbus broke into decisive revolt; it was at night
that the iron band of Cortes lost heart, and were routed on the lakes of
Mexico; it was at night that the resolution of Brutus failed before the
disaster at Philippi.

That two-o'clock-in-the-morning courage, which is the secret of
soldierly success, comes only from companionship. The night-wood is a
world by itself, filled with its own atmosphere, as oppressive to valor
as the electric reefs that drew the nails from the ships of Sindbad.
Among familiar scenes and well-known shapes, it is all the delight the
poets sing--so tranquillizing, inspiring, fecund, that in comparison the
thought of day brings up garish hues, flaunting figures--the hardness,
harshness and unlovely in life. But night in the goblin-land, where Dick
found himself suddenly deserted, with fantastic forms swaying in the
lazy wind, would have had terrors for the most constant mind; terrors
such as filled the soul of MacBeth, when Birnam wood came marching to
Dunsinane. In an instant, as it seemed to Dick's exalted and painfully
impressionable sense, every separate leaf, branch, brier, copse, and
jungle, was endowed with a voice of its own--hateful, irritating,
mocking. Swarms of peering eyes hovered in the air, glowering uncanny
menace into the boy's wild, dilating vision.

Brave, even to recklessness, Dick was, as you have seen; but no sooner
had the glimmer of Jack's torch flickered and fluttered into the black
distance, making place for the monstrous shapes, the luring shadows, and
threatening forms encompassing him, than Dick threw himself, with a
wailing shriek, into the morass in a wild attempt to follow.

In an instant he was up to his middle in mud and water. He seized the
prickly branches coiling about and above him; he gasped in prayerful
pleading, the home teaching still strong in him; but there was no
answer, save the crooning night-birds and the croaking frogs. Slimy
things touched his torn flesh; whirring birds shot past him, disturbed
in their night perches. The deadly odor, pungent and nauseous, of a
thousand exhaling herbs, filled his nostrils. The darkness grew,
instinct with threatening forms. He gasped, struggled, and in a fervent
outburst of thanksgiving regained the dank mound. Ah, there was life on
that! human life. Jones slept, the stertorous sleep of delirium. He
murmured brokenly. Dick was too terrified to distinguish what he said.
The blaze of the pine knot flared from side to side as the sighing
breeze arose from the brackish pools, protesting the vitality of even
this moribund hades. Ah! if he could but lie down and bury his face. The
horses? They were feeding tranquilly yonder, standing up to their knees
in mosses and water. The lines that tied them were long. They could move
about. This was some comfort. They were more human than the dreadful
specters that filled the place.

Ah! the blessed, blessed light that flamed out from the merry
pine-torch; he didn't wonder that half the Eastern world worshiped fire.
He adored it--blessed, blessed fire--the sign of God, the beacon of the
human. Hark! What half-human--or rather wholly inhuman--sounds are these
that alternate in unearthly measure? Surely animal nature has no voice
so strident, vengeful, odious. Can it be animals of prey? No. The
Virginia forests are dangerous only in snakes. Snakes? Ah, yes! He
shrinks into shadow against the oak at this suggestion; snakes? the
deadly moccasin, that prowls as well by night as day. Ugh! what's this
at his feet--soft, clammy, shining in the flaring light? He leaps upon
the smooth tree-trunk, growing slantwise instead of perpendicular. What
if the torch and the odor of flesh should draw the snakes to the
sleeper? The flame flares in wide, lurid curves, revealing the outlines
of the sleeping man. Heavens, what a terrible face! He moves in
spasmodic contortions. He is smothering. The veins of his neck will
break if he is not awakened.

"O my God! my God! have mercy!" Dick buries his face in his hands, as he
clings desperately to the smooth white-oak trunk. A strange, wild
strain, like a detached chord of a vesper melody, sounds above him! It
is the whippoorwill--steadily, continuously, entrancingly the dulcet
measure is taken up and echoed, until the slough of despond seems
transformed into a varying diapason of melancholy minstrelsy. He dares
not raise his head. It will vanish if he moves. He crouches, panting,
almost exultant, in the sense of recovered faculties, or rather the
suspension of numbing fear. How long will it last? He must move; his
limbs are cramped and aching. He raises his head. Mortal powers! the
torch is flickering into ashes! Another instant and he will be in the
dark. Dare he move? Dare he seek the distant pine, between him and which
the black surface of the murky sheet shines, dotted with uncanny growth
and reptilian things? Yes; anything is better than the hideous darkness
of this hideous place.

The horse he rode has broken his leash and comes to him with a gentle
whinny, as if asking why the delay in such a place. "Blessed, blessed
God, that made a beast so human!" He caresses it, he clings to its neck
and calls to it piteously. Ah, yes; the dying light. He must renew it.
He slips down upon the bare back and urges the patient beast across the
brackish morass. Ah, this is life again! He is not alone. This noble
beast is human. It crops the tender leaves confidingly, and swings its
head as much as to say: "Don't fear, Dick; Fin here. I'll stand by you;
I don't forget the pains you took to get me water, and that particularly
toothsome measure of oats you cribbed in the rebel barn near
Williamsburg!"

But the pine knot that will burn is not so easily found. Dick was forced
to go a long way before he came upon the resinous sort. He brought back
a supply, having taken the precaution to provide matches in order to
secure his way back. The quest had to some extent lessened the morbid or
supernatural forms of his terrors. They all returned, however, when,
having dismounted, he forgot to tie the horse, and it wandered off in
search of herbage. He called, but the beast made no sign of returning.
Alone again. Alone in the night; spectral forms about him; the sleeping
man adding to the ghostliness of the scene by his incoherent mutterings,
his hideous, gulping breath, his ghastly, blood-curdling outcries. Then
through the gloom the shining outlines of the white oak, like shreds of
shrouds hung on funeral foliage. Ah! he would go mad--he must break the
brutish sleep of the sick man.

"Mr. Jones," he wails--and his own voice--the comically commonplace
name, "Mr. Jones," even in the agony of his terror, the humor of the
conjuncture glimmered in the boy's crazed intelligence, and he laughed a
wild, maniacal laugh. But the laugh died out in a pulseless horror. The
sick man uprose on his elbow. Dick, above him on the white-oak trunk,
could see his very eyes bloodshot and wandering. He uprose, almost
sitting. He passed his hand over his staring eyes, and began to murmur:

"Did you bring me here to do murder, Elisha Boone? You have bought my
body, but you never bought my soul. No, no! I will not. I say I will
not. Do you hear? I will not!"

He glared wildly; then, his eyes meeting the full flame of the torch, he
laughed, a dreadful, marrow-freezing laugh, and broke out again in
clearer tones: "I am yours, Elisha Boone, but my boy is not yours. He
was born in my shape, but he has his mother's soul. He will be a man; he
will be your vengeance; he will undo all his father has done. You've
robbed me; you've made me rob others. But if you touch, if you look at
my boy, my first-born, you might as well hold a pistol at your head. I'm
no longer mad. You must treat with him. Ah! yes; I'll do your bidding
with the others. I'll make young Jack as much trouble as you ask, but
you must make a path of gold for my boy. You must give him what you have
robbed from me. Felon? I'm no felon. It was you who plotted it. It was
you that put the means in mad hands. I can face my family. I have no
shame but that I was a coward. My son! He is no coward. He is a soldier.
He is the pride of the Caribees. He is the beloved of--of--"

The gibbering maniac, exhausted in body, still incoherently raving, sank
back in piteous collapse, a terrifying gurgle breaking from his throat,
while his tongue absolutely protruded from his jaws.

Dick, his terrors all forgotten in a new and overmastering horror,
bethought him of Jack's admonition about the water. He slipped down from
the tree, gathered the large moist leaves that clustered near the pool
and held them to the burning lips, Jones swallowed the drops with a
hideous gurgling avidity, clutching the boy's hand ravenously to secure
a more copious flow. There was a tin cup in the holster under the
invalid's head. Taking this, Dick dipped up water from the black pool
between the green leaves; the hot lips sucked it in at one
dreadful gulp.

"More, more; for God's sake, more!"

Dick filled it again, and again it was emptied.

"More--more--I'm burning--more!"

The boy was cruelly perplexed. He remembered vaguely hearing that fever
should be starved; that the thing craved was the dangerous thing; and he
moved away in a sort of compunctious terror.

"More--more! Oh, in the name of God, more!"

The words came gaspingly. Dick thought of the death-rattle he had heard
in Acredale when old man Nagle, the madman, died. He dared not give more
water, but he gathered leaves from the aromatic bushes and pressed them
to the fevered lips. Before he could withdraw them, the eager jaws
closed upon the balsamic shrub. They answered the purpose better than
the most scientific remedy in the pharmacopoeia, for the patient called
for no further drink, and presently fell into profound and undisturbed
sleep. Again the boy was alone with the daunting forces of the dark in
its grimmest and most terrifying mood. Alone! No; his mind was now taken
from all thought of self. He was with a fellow-townsman. The man had
mentioned Boone; had referred to deeds that he had heard all his life
associated with the father he had never seen. A wild thought flashed
upon him. Was the collapsed body at his feet his father's? He could not
see any resemblance in the dark, handsome face to the portrait at home,
though all through the flight from Richmond something in the man's
manner had seemed like a memory. He strove to recall the image his young
mind had cherished, the personality he had heard whispered about in the
gossiping groups of Acredale. This was not the gay, the brilliant, the
fascinating _bon viveur_ who had been the life of society from
Warchester to Bucephalo, from Pentica to New York. Ah! what were the
mystic terrors of the night, what the oppressive surroundings of this
charnel-house of Nature, to the awful spectacle of this unmanned mind,
this delirious echo of past guilt, past cowardice, past shame?

To lessen the somber gloom, Dick had lighted many torches and set them
about the high mound where the sleeper lay in a huddle. Taking little
heed of where he set them, some of them, as the wind arose, flared out
until their flames licked the decayed branches of the fallen white oak.
As the boy crouched, pensive and distraught, he was suddenly aroused by
a vivacious cracking. He looked up. Lines of fire were darting thither
and yon, where dry wood, the _débris_ of years of decay, had been caught
in the thick clumps of underbrush and among the limbs of the trees. The
fire had pushed briskly, and the uncanny glade was now an amphitheatre
of crawling flames, stretching in many-colored banners in a vast circle
about the point of refuge. Dick gazed fascinated, with no thought of
danger. His spirits rose. It was something like life--this gorgeous
decoration of fire. How beautiful it was! How it brought out the shining
lines of the white oak, the glistening green of the cypress! Why hadn't
he thought of this before? Then, as the curling waves of fire pushed
farther and farther up the steins of the trees, and farther and farther
endlessly into the undergrowth, an unearthly outcry and stir began.
Birds, blinded by the light, whirred and fluttered into the open space
above the water, falling helplessly so near Dick that he could have
caught and killed a score to surprise Jack with a game breakfast, when
he returned. Then--ugh!--horror!--great, coiling masses detached
themselves from the tufts of sward, and splashed noisily into the putrid
water, wriggling and convulsed. The invalid still slept--but, dreadful
sight! the coiling monsters, upheaving themselves from the water,
glided, dull eyed and sluggish, upon the mossy island, about the
unconscious figure.

Dick, fascinated and inert, watched the snaky mass, squirming in hideous
folds almost on the recumbent body. Then, aroused to the horror of their
nearness, he seized a torch and made at the slimy heap. The fire
conquered them. They slid off the ground, with forked tongues darting
out in impotent malice. But others, squirming through the water,
wriggled up; and the boy, maddened by the danger, stood his ground,
torch in hand, defending the sleeper.

But now the fire had widened its path, and is enveloping the tiny
island. The serpents, hedged in from the outer line, uproar in
blood-curdling masses, their dull eyes gleaming, and their tongues
phosphorescent, darting out in their agony. Dick doesn't mind them now,
for he has, for the first time, begun to realize that his illumination
has destruction as the sequel of its delight. Great clouds of smoke
settle a moment on the water and then rise, impelled by the cold
surface. Even the green verdure begins to roll back where the crackling
flames play into the more compact wall of incombustible timber. The
sleeper murmurs in his dreams. Dick casts about despairingly. He hears
the horses--they have broken their tethers--he can hear them whinnying,
upbraidingly, far off. Wherever he casts his eye, volumes of fire dart
and sway, always coming inward, first scorching the green limbs, then
fastening on the tender stems and turning them to glowing lines of
cordage; only the great sheet of water, inky, terrible, and threatening
a few hours before, protects him and his charge. The hissing snakes have
sunk into it.

Bevies of birds, supernaturally keen of sight, have dropped upon the
twigs that lie on the glittering bosom of the water. Dick, in all the
agonized uncertainty of that night of peril, thinks with wonder on the
mysterious resources Nature provides its helpless outcasts. The hideous
shallows, black, glistening, are now a belt of safety, not only for
himself and the sleeper, but a refuge for all manner of whirring birds
and crawling things, intimidated and harmless in the stifling breath of
the fire. The flame, leaping from sedge to sedge, from trunk to trunk,
seems to seek, with a human instinct, and more than human pertinacity,
food for its ravening hunger; far upward, where festoons of moss hung
from the sycamores in the day, airy banners of starry sparks, swayed,
coiled, and flamed among the branches. But Dick was soon reminded that
the scene was not for enjoyment, however fantastically fascinating.

The smoke, at first rising from the burning brakes, lodged among the
tree-tops; then, meeting the humid night-air in the matted leaves,
descended slowly. Dick found himself nearly smothered when he had partly
recovered from the spell-bound wonder of the demoniac _fête_. The ground
under his feet felt gratefully cool. He bent down, and shudderingly
laved his burning face in the inky water. The sick man had slept more
peacefully during the last half-hour. He no longer breathed in gasping
efforts; his sleep was unbroken by muttering or outcry. But now he must
be aroused. He must be taken out of the circle of fire, for, sooner or
later, the curling waves would lick downward from the dry vines above
and scorch the mound. How to get away? The horses were long since gone.
They might be miles from the spot! Dick touched the sleeping man, filled
with a new suspense. He breathed so softly, or did he breathe at all?

"For God's sake, Mr. Jones, wake up! We must go from here; the swamp is
burning!"

"Eh--who is it? Where am I? Was--I dreaming? I thought my boy was with
me, and we were in the old home at Acredale."

He lay quite still, staring upward with unseeing eyes. Dick's heart gave
a great throb of grateful, devout thanksgiving. The madness and fever
were gone.

"You remember you were too worn out to go on, and Jack has gone to get
food. But the swamp has caught fire, and we must move away."

Jones had risen to his elbow; then, with an exclamation that sounded
like an oath, to his feet, gazing on the flaming specters rising and
falling, enlarging and shrinking, among the black tracery of limbs
and trunks.

"You ought to have waked me before," Jones said, when he had swept the
scene, with sane realization in his eye. "I'm afraid we can never break
through the fire. It reaches a mile or more all about us, and I--I am in
no condition to move. I feel as if I had been down months with illness."

"But if you could eat something you would be able to move," Dick
ventured, cruelly hurt at the implied delinquency.

"Eat!" Jones held up one of the luckless torches that Dirk had lighted
in a circle about the mound, and began to examine the ground. "What is
there to eat? Stay! By Heaven, I have it! The bushes are filled with
fluttering game. There, see that! and that, and that!" As he spoke he
had thrust the burning torch into a thick clump of bushes, dense and
glistening as laurels, that looked like wild huckleberry. The branches
were laden with birds, and in a moment be had seized three or four
partridges.

"What better do we need? We have salt, water, and fire. I'll prepare
them. Do you keep your face well bathed, and heap up embers at the foot
of that ash."

Sure enough, sometimes hidden by billows of smoke, rising lazily among
the burning bushes, Jones stripped the birds, spitted them on his
bayonet, and, holding them in the hot coals, soon presented a
well-browned portion to his companion.

"I have had a good deal worse fare than this, my young friend. I have
been in the West, when fire, Indians, and hunger besieged us at the same
time. But we should have a poor chance here if it were not for the wet
grass and the everlasting water. If we can manage to keep clear of the
smoke, we shall be all right, but the smoke seems to grow denser. Where
can it come from?"

"Great Heavens! do you hear that? Shots--one--two! That's Jack's signal.
He--he is near. He is in danger. I must go to him." Dick cried. "Listen;
more shots. No, that can't be the signal. There, do you hear that? A
volley. The rebels are after them, or we are near the outposts, and the
two armies are skirmishing."

Yes; the shots now sounded more frequently, but they seemed to be fired
not far away.

"It is Jack. I know it is Jack, and he is in peril. I must go to him. I
can not stay here. Surely there is no danger in pushing toward
the firing?"

"There is every danger. In the first place, the smoke will smother us.
Then suppose we reached the spot? We might be nearer the rebels than our
friends. They know where we are. If they are not taken, they will come
back for us. If they are taken, we must do our best to get to our lines
and send out a scouting party. Be guided by me, youngster. I am an older
hand in business of this sort than you are."

The boy stood irresolute. Both listened intently. The firing had
stopped. A great sough of rising storm came from the northwest, carrying
a hot, blinding mass of smoke and flame into the little retreat. They
flung themselves on the damp ferns to keep their breath. Still the
breeze rose, until it became a wind--a spasm of hurricane. It was
madness to linger, for the flames now licked the ground, driven down
anew by the blast. Then Jones spoke decisively: "Strap a pine torch to
your body. I will do the same. Take all you can carry and follow in my
wake." Jones, as he spoke, seized a torch, extinguished it, and handed
it to Dick. Equipped as he had directed, they set out, half crawling,
half swimming, to avoid the volumes of smoke hovering in the thick,
cactus-like leaves of the wild laurel. Presently they emerged, after
toil and misery, that excitement alone enabled the boy to support, into
what seemed a cleared space. But as soon as their eyes could distinguish
clearly, they found themselves on the edge of a wide pond. The fire was
now behind them. They could stand erect and breathe the pure, cool air.

"Ah, now we are in luck!" Jones whispered. "We will walk to the right,
on the edge of this lake, and keep it between us and the fire. We have
got out of that purgatory; now if we could only signal our friends."

"Hist!" whispered Dick, "I hear some one moving behind us."

They crouched down in the thick reeds and waited. The sky above was
darkly overcast; an occasional burst of lightning revealed the
dimensions of the pond, and they could see high ground on the eastern
shore, covered by enormous pines.

"If we can only reach the pines we shall be all right. There the ground
will be dry and soft and you can get some rest. I'm afraid, my boy, it
will go hard with you if you don't."

"I don't mind what happens if we can only come up with Jack. There, do
you hear that?"

Yes, both could plainly hear voices ahead of them on the margin of the
pond. They were talking in low tones, and the words were
undistinguishable.

"We must crawl back toward the bush, and get as near those folks as we
can," Jones whispered. They made their way easily into the high bushes
and stole forward in the direction of the voices. But as they had to
guard against breaking twigs or hurtling branches, which would have
betrayed them, their advance was slow. When they reached the vicinity
where they had fancied the voices to be, all was silent.

"Sound the call; perhaps that will lead to something," Jones whispered
in Dick's ear.

But, unnerved by the trying experience of the night, or worn out by
fatigue, Dick's call was far from the significant signal he had
practiced with Jack. He repeated it several times, but there was no
response. There was, however, something more startling. A few rods
beyond them a flame suddenly shot up, lighting a group of cavalry
patrols standing beside a fire just kindled.

"Rebels!" Jones whispered. "Now we must be slippery as snakes. If they
have no dogs, we are all right. If you hear the whimper of a hound,
follow me like lightning and plunge into the water. That'll break the
trail. Stay here and let me reconnoitre a bit. Have no fear. I'll go in
no danger."

Jones crept away, leaving Dick by no means easy in his mind, but he no
longer felt the terror that numbed him in the deep wood. Here there was
companionship. By pushing the branches aside he could see the figures
lounging about the fire; he could see the dark vault of the sky, and was
not oppressed by the hideous shapes and shadows of the dense jungle.
Jones meanwhile had pushed within earshot of the group. He flattened his
body against a friendly pine and listened.

"I reckon they ain't the Westover niggers, for they were traced to the
Pamunkey; these rascals are most likely from the south side--"

"If Jim gets here with the dogs in an hour, we can be back to the
barracks for breakfast."

"Ef it hadn't been for that blamed fire in the swamp, we should have had
them before this. The rascal that fired at Tom wasn't a musket-shot from
me when the smoke poured out and hid him."

"They've gone into the swamp. The dogs'll soon tree them. I'm going to
turn in till the dogs come. One of you stay awake and keep a sharp eye
toward the creek."

"All right, sergeant. You won't have more'n a cat-nap. Bilcox's dogs are
over at the ford, I know, for they were brought there's soon as the news
of the Yankee escape came."

"I hope they are; but I'm afraid they are not. If they are, we shall
soon hear them."

Jones had heard enough. Hastening back to Dick, he asked:

"Can you swim?"

"Yes, I'm a good swimmer."

"Very well; throw away everything--no, stay--that would betray us. When
we reach the water bury all you can't carry in the sand and then
follow me."

They were forced to retrace their painful way through the bushes to
reach a place as distant from the point of pursuit as possible. A
half-mile or more from their starting-place they found themselves in a
running stream. Jones examined it in both directions, and bade Dick
enter it and follow in the water, pushing upward in the bed, waist-deep,
a hundred yards. Then, climbing to the bank, he groped about until he
found a slender white oak. Climbing this as high as he could get, he
slowly swung off, and, the tree bending down to the very stream, he
dropped back into the water and rejoined Dick. Both waded in the middle
of the stream until they reached the pond, and then struck out toward
the pine clump the lightning had revealed a little while before. There
was no need of swimming, and, finding it possible to wade, Jones decided
to retain the pistols and ammunition which he had at first resolved to
bury as impeding the flight. The bottom appeared to be hard sand, a
condition often found in Southern ponds near the inflow of the sea. They
had gone a mile or more, keeping just far enough from the bank to remain
undistinguishable, when the appalling baying of a hound sounded from the
farther end of the pond, where the patrol fire gleamed faintly among
the trees.

"Now, youngster, we must keep all our wits at work. The dogs will push
on to where we hid. They will follow to the stream, and I think I have
given them the slip there. Then they will beat about and follow our
trail into the cypress swamp. There the horses will mislead them, and if
you can only hold out, so soon as daylight comes we can strike into the
pines and make for the Union lines."

"I--I--think I can--ah!--"

Dick reeled helplessly and would have sunk under the water, if Jones had
not caught him.

"Courage, my boy, courage! Don't give up now, just as we are near
rescue!"

But Dick was unconscious, the strain of the early part of the night, the
desperate fight through the brakes, all had told on the slight frame,
and Jones stood up to his middle in the dark water, holding the
fainting boy.



CHAPTER XXVI.

IN THE UNION LINES.


If there is reason as well as rhyme in the old song that danger's a
soldier's delight and a storm the sailor's joy, Jack and his comrade
were in for all the delights that ever gladdened soldier or sailor boy.
When they left Dick and Jones, the eager couriers tore through the
marshy lowlands, the stubbly thickets and treacherous quagmires, poor
Barney, panting and groaning in his docile desire to keep up with his
leader, as he had done often in boyish bravado.

"There'll not be a rag on me body nor a whole bone in me skin when we
get out of this!" he gasped, as they reached high ground between two
spreading deeps of mingled weeds and water. "The sight of us'd frighten
the whole rebel army, if we don't come on them aisy loike, as the fox
said when he whisked into the hen-house."

"He was a very considerate fox, Barney. Most of the personages you
select to illustrate your notions seem to me to be gifted with little
touches of thoughtfulness. Barney, you ought to write a sequel to Aesop.
There never was out of his list of animal friends such wise beasts,
birds, and what not as you seem to have known."

"Jack, dear, if a man lived on roses would the bees feed on him? If he
ate honeysuckle instead of hard-tack would he be squeezed for his scents
to fill ladies' smelling-bottles?"

"I don't know that sense is always a recommendation to women," Jack
shifts his burden to say tentatively, as Barney, involved in a more than
commonly obstinate brier, loses the thread of this jocose induction.

"Ah, Jack, dear, ye're weak in ye're mind when you fall to play on words
like that."

"You mean my sense is small?"

"Not that at all. Sure, it's a hero's mind ye show when you can find
heart to make merry at a time like this!"

"Yes--'he jests at love who never felt a throb.'"

"Then you've a hard heart--and I know I lie when I say it, as Father
Mike McCune said to himself when he tuk the oath to King George in
'98--if ye're heart never throbbed in Acredale beyant, for there's many
a merry one cast down entirely that handsome Jack's gone."

"Come, come, Barney; it's dark, and I can't see the grin that saves this
from fulsome blarney."

"Indeed, then--"

"Hark!"

Through the monotonous noises of the night the clanking of steel and the
neighing of horses could be heard just ahead.

"We must move cautiously now, Barney. Try to put a curb on your tongue,
and let your reflections mature in your busy brain."

"Put me tongue in bonds to keep the peace, as Lawyer Donigan cautioned
Biddy Gavan when the doctor said she was driving the parish mad with
her prate."

"Sh!--sh!--you noisy brawl; we shall have a platoon of cavalry upon us.
Even the birds have stopped crooning to catch your delicate brogue!"

"'Tis only the ill-mannered owl that makes game of me--if--"

"Sh! Come on. Bend low. Do as I do--if you can see me. If not, keep
touch on my arm."

"As the wolf said to the lamb when he bid him take a walk in the
wather."

They had now emerged on the reedy margin of the dark pool discovered by
Dick and Jones later. All was silent. The sky was full of stars--so full
that, even in the absence of the moon, there was a transparent clarity
in the air that enabled Jack to take definite bearings.

"This must be an outlet of the York River, the stream we saw this
afternoon. If it be, then we are not far from our own outposts. The
troopers we heard just now may be Union soldiers. We must wait patiently
to let them discover themselves. Keep abreast of me, and don't, as you
value your life, speak above a whisper--better not to speak at all."

"That's what the priest said to Randy Maloney's third wife when she
complained that he bate her."

"Barney, I'll throttle you if you don't keep that mill you call your
tongue still."

"Ah, I'll hold it in me fist, as Mag Gleason held her jaw, for fear her
tooth would lep out to get more room to ache."

Jack laughed. "If we're caught it will be through your jokes, for bad as
they are I must laugh at some of them."

"Dear, oh dear no; you may save the laugh till a convenient time, as
Hugh McGowen kept his penances, until his head was clear, and there was
no whisky in the jar."

They had been pushing on rapidly--noiselessly, during this whispered
dispute, and now found themselves at the reedy margin of a wide inlet,
where, from the swift motion of the water and the musical gurgling, they
could tell they were by the side of a main channel.

"We must push on southward, and see if there is a crossing. If we come
to one, that will tell us where we are, for it will be guarded, you may
be sure," said Jack, buoyantly.

"Yes, but I'd rather find a hill of potatoes and a drop than all the
soldiers in the two armies."

"You are not logical, Barney. If we find soldiers, we'll find rations;
though I have my doubts about the sort of 'drop' you'll be apt to find
down here."

"There was enough corn in the field beyant to keep a still at work for a
winter," Barney lamented with a sigh, recalling fields of grain they had
passed near Williamsburg, which he vaguely alluded to as "beyant."

"I wish some of the 'still' were on the end of your tongue at this
moment."

"With all me heart--'twould do yer sowl good to see the work it'd give
me tongue to do to hould itself," Barney gasped, trying to keep abreast
of his reviler. "Be the dark eyes of Pharaoh's daughter there's a field
beyant--yes, and a shebeen; d'ye see that?"

They had suddenly emerged in a cleared place. Against the horizon they
could distinctly distinguish the outlines of a cabin, the "shebeen"
Barney alluded to.

"Yes, we're in luck. It's a negro shanty. We shall find friends there,
if we find anybody. Now, do be silent."

"If the field was full of girruls, with ears as big as sunflowers, they
wouldn't hear me breathe, so have no fear. A hill of potatoes all eyes
couldn't see us in such darkness as this."

For dense clouds had swiftly come up from the west, covering the
horizon. After careful reconnoitring, requiring a circuit of the
clearing, Jack ventured to make directly for the dark outlines of the
cabin. War had obviously not visited the place, for as they passed a low
outhouse the startled cackle of chickens sounded toothsomely, and Barney
came to a delighted halt.

"Sure we'd better get a bite to ate while we may, as th' ass said when
he passed th' market car, for who knows what'll happen if we stop to ask
by your lave?"

For answer Jack gave him a sharp push, and the discomfited plunderer
hurried on with a good-humored grunt. All was silent in the cabin. The
windows were slatted, without glass, and the door was unfastened. Jack
pushed in boldly, leaving Barney to guard the rear. Peaceful snoring
came from one corner, and Jack, shading a lighted match with his hand,
looked about him. In the hurried glimpse he caught sight of an old negro
on a husk mattress, and the heads of young boys just beyond. They were
sleeping so soundly that the striking of the match never aroused them.
Jack had to shake the man violently before the profound sleep
was broken.

"I say, wake up! or can you wake?"

"What dat? Who's dar--you, Gabe? What you 'bout?"

The old man shuffled to a sitting posture, and Jack, renewing his match,
held it in the negro's blinking eyes.

"Have you any food? We are Yankees, and want something for companions in
the swamp. Are we in danger here? We heard cavalry-men on the other side
of the pond; are they rebel or Yankee?"

At this volley of questions the bewildered man turned piteously to the
sleepers, and then stared at Jack in perplexity.

"'Deed, marsa captain, I don no noffin 'tall, I--I hain't been to de
crick fo' a monf. I'se fo'bid to go da--I--"

"Well, well, have you any food? Get that first, and then talk," Jack
cried, impatiently.

But now the boys were awake, and Jack had to give them warning to make
no noise. Yes, there was food, plenty. Cooked bacon, hoe-cake, and cold
chicken, boiled eggs, and, to Barney's immeasurable joy, sorghum whisky.
The hunger of the invaders satisfied, each provided himself with a sack
to feed the waiting comrades; and while this was going on they extracted
from the now reassured negroes that the spot was just behind Warick
Creek, near Lee's Mills; that parties of rebels from the fort at
Yorktown had been at work building lines of earthworks, and that every
now and then Yankees came across and skirmished in the woods a mile or
two up in the direction whence Jack had come. The cabin was only a step
from the main road, upon which the rebels were encamped--a regiment or
more. Some Yankee prisoners had been captured early in the morning, and
were in the block-house, a short distance up the road.

"Can you lead us near the block-house?" Jack asked.

"I reckon I can; but ef I do they'll shu' ah' find it out, and den I'se
don, 'cos Marsa Hinton--he's in de cavalry--he'll guess dat it was me
dat tuk you 'uns dar."

"Do you want to be free? Do you want to go into the Union lines?"

"Free! oh, de Lor', free! O marsa captain, don't fool a ole man. Free!
I'd rudder be free dan--dan go to Jesus--almost."

"Have you a wife--are these your children?"

"My ole woman is up at Marsa Hinton's; she's de nuss gal. Dese is my
boys; yes, sah."

"Very well; we're going into the Union lines. You know the country
hereabouts. Help us to find our friends in the swamp, and we will take
you all with us," Jack said; but feeling a good deal of compunction, as
he was not so sure that the freedom bestowed upon these guileless
friends might not, for a time at least, be more of a hardship than their
happy-go-lucky servitude. Meanwhile, in the expansion of renewed hopes
and full stomachs, no watch had been kept on the outside; a tallow dip
had been lighted, and the whole party busied in getting together such
necessaries as could be carried. One of the boys, passing the door,
uttered a stifled cry:

"Somebody comin' from de road."

"Where can we hide? Don't put out the light; that will look suspicions!"
Jack whispered, making for the window in the rear, "Is there a cellar,
or can we get on the roof?" But the dark group were too terrified to
speak. They ran in a mob to the doorway, luckily the most adroit
manoeuvre they could hit upon, for with the dip flaring in the current
of air, the room was left in darkness. Jack and Barney slipped through
the low lattice, and by means of a narrow shed reached the low roof.
They could hear the tramp of horses, how many they could not judge, and
then a gruff voice demanding:

"You, Rafe, what ye up to? What ye got a light burnin' this time o'
night fo'?"

"'Deed, marsa, it's nuffin'--fo' God, marsa! I was gittin' de stomach
bottle fo' Gabe--he eat some jelly root fo' supper and he's been
powerful sick--frow his insides out--I--"

"Leave your horses, boys. Rafe's got some of Hinton's best sorghum
whisky--you, there, nigger, get us a jug and some cups."

How many dismounted Jack couldn't make out, but presently there was a
heavy tramping in the cabin and then a ferocious oath.

"What does this mean; why have you got all these traps packed? Going to
cut to the Yankees! Don't lie, now--you'll get more lashes for it."

Jack listened breathlessly. Would the quavering slaves have presence of
mind to divert suspicion? There was a pause, and then the old man cried,
pleadingly:

"We'se gwine to lebe dis place; we's gwine up to de house in de mornin'.
My ole woman can't come down heah now, case de sojers is always firm',
and Mars' Hinton told us to come to de quarters, sah."

"I don't believe a word of it, you old rascal. I'll see whether Hinton
has ordered you to leave here. Likely story, indeed; leave one of his
best fields with no one to care for it. Git the whisky and stop your
mumbling. You, there, you young imps, step about lively--do you heah?"

There was the sound of a sharp stroke, then a howl of pain and a
boisterous laugh.

"You keep an eye on the rear and I will see how many horses there are,"
Jack's lips murmured in Barney's ear. He slid cautiously down the
slanting roof until he came to the corner where he saw the dark group of
horses. There were three--tied to the peach-trees. He made his way back
to Barney and whispered:

"There are but three horses. If you are up to an adventure I think we
can make this turn to our profit."

"I'm up to anything, as the cat said when Biddy Hiks's plug ran her up
the crab-tree."

"Very well. Come after me."

The sorghum, meanwhile, had been handed to the raiders in the cabin, and
the men could be heard making merry.

"You, Gabe, go out and mind the horses; see that they don't twist the
bridles about their legs."

Gabe sallied out and one of his brothers with him. As they neared the
horses Jack came upon them, and taking the elder, Gabe, in the shadow of
the house, he whispered:

"Have the soldiers' pistols?"

"Yes, sah."

"Where are they?"

"De put dem on de stool, neah de doah."

"Good. How many?"

"Free."

"Have they swords?"

"Yes, sah."

"Where are they?"

"On de stool, too."

"That will do; keep with the horses, and don't be frightened if you hear
anything. We'll give you freedom yet, if you'll be prudent."

He could hear the men grumbling because the food was not enough to go
around. The liquor had begun to work in their systems, drinking so
lavishly, and without nourishment to absorb its fiery quality. Jack let
enough time pass to give this ally full play in disabling the troopers,
then taking Barney to the rear of the cabin, whispered:

"I will dash in at the door, seize the weapons, and demand surrender.
You make a great ado here; give command, as if there were a squad. The
boys will make a loud clatter with the horses, and we shall bag the game
without a blow. Now, be prudent. Barney, and we will go into the Union
lines in triumph."

Inside the men were laughing uproariously, mingling accounts of love and
war in a confused medley--how a sweetheart in Petersburg was only
waiting for the stars on her lover's collar to make him happy; how the
Yankees would be wiped out of the Peninsula as soon as Jack Magruder got
his nails pared for fight; how three Yankees had been gobbled that day,
and how others were in the net to be taken in the morning. The bacchanal
was at its highest when Jack, dashing into the open doorway, placed
himself between the drinkers and their arms, and cried, sternly, as he
pointed his pistol at the group:

"Surrender, men! You are surrounded!"

"Close up, there! Keep your guns on a line with the windows; don't fire
till I give the order!" Barney could be heard at the window in
suppressed tones, as he, too, covered the maudlin company. Gabe and his
brother added to the effect of numbers by clattering the stirrups of the
horses, so that the clearing seemed alive with armed men.

The troopers, sobered and astonished, half rose, and then as these
sounds of superior force emphasized the menace of Jack's pistol in front
and Barney's in the rear, they sank back in their seats, the spokesman
saying, tipsily:

"I don't see as we've much choice."

"No, you have no choice.--Sergeant, bring in the cords," Jack ordered.

Barney at this came in with a clothes-line Jack had prepared from the
negroes' posts. The arms of the three men were bound behind them, and
then Jack retired with his aide to hold a council of war. Without the
negro they could never retrace their way to Dick. But how could they
carry the prisoners with them? Manifestly it could not be done. It was
then agreed that Barney should take the prisoners, the horses, and the
old man, with the younger boys, and make for the Union lines, not a mile
distant. Jack, meanwhile, with little Gabe, would go to the rescue of
Dick. If firing were heard later, Barney would understand that his
friends were in peril, and, if the Union outposts were in sufficient
strength, they could come to the rescue, and, perhaps, add to the
captures of the night. Barney was now serious enough. He was reminded of
no joke by the present dilemma, and remained very solemn, as Jack
enlarged on the glories of the proposed campaign. How all Acredale would
applaud the intrepidity of its townsmen snatching glory from peril!
Barney consented to leave him with reluctance, suggesting that the "ould
nagur" could take the prisoners "beyant."

"Gabe has shown sense and courage, and I shall be much more likely to
reach Dick and extricate him and Jones, alone, than if I had this
cavalcade at my heels."

Jack and Barney were forced to laugh at the big-eyed wonder in old
Rafe's eyes when he was informed of the imposing part he was to play in
the warlike comedy. To be guard over "white folks," to dare to look them
in the face without fear of a blow, in all his sixty years Rafael Hinton
had never dreamed such a mission for a man of color. The troopers, too
tipsy and subdued to remark the sudden paucity of the force that had
overcome them, were tied upon their own steeds, Barney in front of the
leader, and Rafe and his son in charge of the two others.

Rafe led the way in trembling triumph. He knew the ford, indeed, every
foot of the country, and had no misgivings about reaching the Union
lines. Jack watched the squad until it disappeared in the fringe of
trees, and then, turning to the tearful Gabe, said, encouragingly:

"Now, we must do as well when we go among the Union soldiers. You know
the point in the swamp I have told about. How long will it take us to
reach that the shortest way?"

"Ef we had dad's dugout we could save right smart."

"You mean we could get there by water?"

"Yes, sah. We ken go all froo de swamp in a boat."

"Then I'm afraid it is not the place I mean, for we found as much land
as water."

"Dey ain't no odder swamp neah heah, sah."

"Well, we'll try my route first. If that misleads us, we shall try the
boat. Can you find it?"

"Suah."

"Where is it?"

"Ober neah the blockhouse. De sogers done tuk it to fish."

"Ah, yes, the blockhouse! I must look into that! Now, we must hurry.
Skirt the edge of the water and make no noise."

This was a needless warning to the boy, who, barefooted and scantily
clad, gave Jack as much as he could do to keep up with him. They had
left the cabin a mile or more behind them to the southeastward, and were
somewhere near the spot Jack had emerged from the cypress swamp, when
both were brought to a halt by shifting clouds of smoke pouring out from
the underwood.

"Where does that come from?" Jack asked, throwing himself flat to catch
his breath.

"Dunno, sah. Most likely de sojers sot de brush on fiah."

When Jack was able to look again he saw far in among the trees a moving
wave of light now and then, as the heavy curtain of smoke was lifted
by the wind.

"Good heavens!" he ejaculated; "it was in there I left my friends. Can
we get to them?"

"No, sah; der ain't no crick dah."

"Then!" Jack thought, "have I sacrificed Dick and Jones in my zeal to be
adventurous? Ten minutes sooner, and we could have gone in and brought
them out. But I will find a way in, if I have to clamber over the
tree-tops."

The noise of whirring wings, the rush of startled animals, now drowned
all other sounds, until, through the tumult from the copse far in front
of them, they heard the clatter of swords, and then gigantic figures
breaking toward them, along the edge of the pond.

"Down, down; hug the ground!" Jack cried, pushing the boy down into the
reeds. Almost as they sank, a group of troopers dashed by, talking
excitedly.

"Fire at random, men; that will force them into cover! If we can keep
them in ambush till daylight, the dogs will be here, and we shall nab
them," Jack heard a voice say as the men rode past.

How could they have heard of the affair so quickly, for Jack took it for
granted that it was his exploit that the troopers were afoot to balk?
Still another group passed, and they were talking of the dogs that
were expected.

"You may depend upon it, they are in the swamp. They are making off that
way and hope to mislead us by firing the place. We must keep our eyes
peeled on the swamp. The creek will stop them down yonder, and we must
watch this break in the brush. As soon as the dogs come we shall have no
trouble. They'll run 'em down in no time."

Jack had heard enough to warn him that it was useless to try to
penetrate the swamp. With half of his usual wit, Dick would have been
_en route_ long before this, for the fiery glow in the woods showed that
the flames had been raging some time. Unless Jones's illness had
handicapped him, Dick would be on his way, following Jack's route as
closely as the darkness would permit. But now he must seek means to
evade the dogs. This could be done only by reaching the water and
getting into it far from the point where they proposed to leave it.

"Can you find the boat?" he asked Gabe, who chattered between his teeth.

"I think so, sah."

"Very well; we must find a small stream running into the pond, and then
lead me to the boat."

"Moccasin Brook is close yonder, sah. Shall I go dah?"

"Yes, like lightning."

In a few minutes they were in a sluggish current, running between masses
of reeds and spreading lily-leaves, into the pond. Here Jack repeated
Jones's manoeuvre, except that he was not wise enough in woodcraft to
make use of a tree to get into the water, and thus leave the dogs at the
end of the trail at a point far removed from his real entrance into it.
When they had reached the pond, Jack bade the boy head to the boat. This
they found moored under a bluff, and Gabe, pointing upward, said the
blockhouse was there.

"Very well, you stay here in the boat and wait for me. Don't stir, don't
speak, no matter what you see or hear. Will you do this?"

"Oh, yes, sah; 'deed, 'deed I will, sah!"

Jack crawled up the bank, keeping in the shadow of the uneven ground,
until he reached a point whence he could make out the blockhouse. It was
a half-finished structure of rough logs, and, from the stakes and other
signs of engineering preliminaries, he saw that it was intended as the
guard-house of a fortification. He could hear the drawl of languid,
half-sleepy voices, and, as he pushed farther to the eastward, saw a
group of troopers lounging about a dying fire. A sentry sat before the
doorway, which had no door. He was dozing on his post, though, now and
then he aroused himself to listen to the comments of the men at the
fire. While Jack waited, irresolute what to do, a volley sounded across
the pond, evidently the fellows whom he had seen, keeping up the
fusilade to distract the fugitives.

"They've wasted enough lead to fight a battle," he heard one of the men
say, scornfully.

"Well, that's what lead's for," a philosopher remarked, stirring the
embers. "So it don't get under my skin, I don't care a cuss what they
do with it."

"Oh, your skin's safe enough, Ned. You may adorn a gallows yet."

"If I do, you'll be at one end of the string--and I ain't a-saying which
end, neither," the other retorted, taking a square segment of what
looked like bark, but was really tobacco, and worrying out a circle with
his teeth, until he had detached a large mouthful. This affording his
jaws all the present occupation they seemed capable of undertaking, the
other resumed when the haw-haw that met the sally had subsided:

"Yes, it takes two to make a hangin', just like it takes two to make a
weddin', and you can't allus say just sartin which one has the
lucky end."

This facetious epigram was duly relished, and the sage was turning his
toasted side from the fire to present the other, when the clatter of a
horse coming up the hillside sent the group scouring toward their guns,
stacked near the unfinished walls.

"Sergeant Bland, the captain orders you to take four men and station
them along the north shore of the pond. The rascals are in the cypress
swamp, and are making their way out toward Moccasin Creek. One man can
watch the block-house, and the rest come with me.--Guard, we shall be
within a hundred yards of you. A shot will bring a dozen men to your
assistance; but it isn't likely an enemy can reach this point. The whole
regiment is deployed in the woods."

This was said to the sentry as the group, detailed for Moccasin Creek,
filed off at a double-quick down the hill. In a few moments the
blockhouse was deserted, save by the sentry, who had now risen and was
vigorously pacing before the doorway. Now was Jack's time, if ever. If
he could only whisper to one of the prisoners to call the sentry. But
how? He had nothing to fear in approaching the rear, and in a few
moments he had examined the walls. There was no opening where he could
get speech with those inside. What could he do? To boldly fall upon the
sentry was risky, for the slightest noise would bring rescue from the
front of the bluff. At the base of the wall, where the log-joists rested
upon a huge bowlder, his quick eye detected an air-hole. He examined it
hurriedly. It was evidently below the flooring. So much the better.
Putting his mouth to this, he called out in a piteous tone:

"For God's sake, sentry, give me some water! I'm choking--oh--oh water!
water!"

He waited to see if the sentry would heed the call. He knew that the men
inside could not betray him, for, if they were not asleep, they could
not be sure that the voice was not from among themselves. Sure enough,
the sentry's step ceased. Was he near the door? Jack crept to the
corner. Yes, he had halted at the aperture. Would he enter? Jack stepped
back to his post, as the guard called out:

"Where are you? Which of you wants water? Sing out!"

"Here!" Jack cried, "Here!" Then darting back to the corner, he was just
in time to see the man lean his gun against the door-post, and disappear
in the hut. In an instant the gun was in Jack's possession, and he was
behind the Samaritan in quest of the suffering victim. It was dark as a
tunnel. Jack's victim still gave him the aid he needed, for, as he
groped along the wall, he said, good-humoredly:

"Sing out again, my friend; I haven't got cat's eyes."

Jack's grasp was on his throat and Jack's mouth was at his ear.

"One sound, one word, and this knife goes to the hilt in your heart!"

The astounded man half reeled at this awful apparition in the black
darkness, and he limply yielded to his captor under the impression that
the prisoners were loose and upon him. Jack tied the man's unresisting
hands with his own canteen-straps; then seated him near the wall and
lighted a match. Four men, undisturbed by this swift and noiseless coup,
were stretched on the board floor, breathing the heavy, deep sleep of
exhaustion. Jack aroused them with the greatest difficulty, and found it
still harder to make them understand that, with courage and resolution,
they would be back in their own lines by daylight. When this became
clear to them they were as eager and energetic as their rescuer. The men
were to remain near the blockhouse, but not in it, until Jack returned
for the negro, and then under the lad's guidance they could find their
way to the Union outposts. Just as this was decided, a blood-curdling
baying of bloodhounds echoed across the pond from the distant cabin.
Jack trembled, his mind at once on Dick, so near and yet so far from him
now, in this new danger. There was not a moment to be lost. Perhaps even
now all the night's hard-won victories were to be turned to worse than
defeat--prison, death; for the liberation of slaves was at that time
punishable by hanging in the rebel military code.

"Courage," he said to himself, grimly; "courage, a dog's no worse than a
man. We've overcome them to-night, we ought to be able to tackle the
dogs." This new danger changed his plan slightly. Instead of leaving all
the men, he took one of the rescued four, Tom Denby by name, with him,
and set out for the water. But here another check met him. He suddenly
recalled that the guard at the blockhouse had been scattered along the
shore to watch the debouch from the swamp. This enforced a wide
_détour_, bringing him out in the rear of the boat and nearer the point
where Moccasin Creek emptied into the pond. They reached it finally, and
skirting along the shore kept a keen eye on the water for the boat. They
had skurried along half-way back toward the bluff, listening for a sound
on the water and peering into the black surface, when Denby suddenly
touched Jack's arm.

"There's a horse or cow standing in the water yonder. I've seen it move;
there, look!"

Yes, outlined against the low horizon, a monstrous shape could be
plainly seen. The yelp of the hounds suddenly broke through the air back
of them toward the creek. The monstrous figure started, moved heavily
forward, then seemed as if coming toward them. Both waited, wondering,
curious, terrified. It was within a rod of them, staggering, gasping.

"Oh, God help us! I can go no farther; better be taken than both drown
together."

Jack could hardly repress a cry:

"Jones--Dick! Is it you?"

But whoever it was or whatever it was had no speech to answer this eager
inquiry. They would have sunk in the shallow water if Jack and Denby had
not caught them. Jack had food with him, and, better than all, the
bottle of sorghum whisky. With this restorative, both were soon able to
sit upon the ground and eat. Jack left Denby to feed them, while he went
in search of the boat. He found it just where he had left it, and in a
few minutes, at the head of his little band, he was back at the
blockhouse. The food and Jack's hastily told news had restored Dick to
something like his old friskiness.

"Jericho!" he cried, as the released prisoners, having held back warily
until the color of the new-comers was known, ran forward. "The whole
army is here. I feel as if I were in the Union lines."

"Well, you ain't, by a long shot," Denby cried. "We've got a good hour's
march, and if you're wise, Captain Sprague, you won't waste time for
any frills."

"No time shall be wasted.--Jones, you and Dick take the rear. I, with
Denby, will skirmish; and you, Corporal Kane, shall command the center.
No firing, remember, unless superior force assails us.--Gabe, stick to
the waterside as closely as you can, but make the shortest cut to
the bridge."

Gabe was the most delighted darkey in all Virginia for the next hour. He
led them swiftly and surely, and why shouldn't he? He had passed all his
life in the vicinity, and with the first beams of the sun he pointed to
a narrow wooden bridge.

"Dar's whar de pickets fire across."

As they passed the bridge a loud sound of rushing horses could be heard
in the distance.

"Dick, you take two men and hurry down the road to assure our pickets
that we are friends. We'll take up the planks to give them time!" Jack
shouted, and Dick, with two of the rescued prisoners, dashed away. Many
hands and high hope made short work of the light timbers. As the
pursuing cavalry turned the bend in the road, in sight of the bridge.
Jack's squad gave them a volley and then dashed into cover. The fire was
returned. Dick, coming back at a run, with a dozen dismounted men, heard
the bullets whistling over his head and saw Jack's _posse_ dispersing to
the right and left in the bushes. All were forced into the woods, as the
rebels commanded the highway.

"Where is Jack?" Dick asked, rushing among the men. No one had noticed
him in the panic. He was not in the huddle that cowered in the reeds to
escape the balls, still hurtling viciously over the open. With a cry of
rage and despair, Dick flew into the road, and there, not a hundred
yards from the bridge, he saw the well-known figure prone on the red
earth motionless--dead? Heedless of the warning cries of the others,
Dick tore madly to the body, and with a wild cry fell upon the lifeless
figure, weltering in blood.



CHAPTER XXVII.

"THE ABSENT ARE ALWAYS IN THE WRONG."


Under Vincent's ardent escort Mrs. Sprague and Merry traveled from
Richmond northward in something like haste and with as much comfort as
was possible to the limited means of transportation at the command of
the Confederate commissary. Even in those early days of the war, the
railway system of the South was worn out and inadequate. Such a luxury
as a parlor car was unknown. The trains were filled with military
personages on their way to the field. Mrs. Sprague and Merry were the
only women in the car in which they passed from Richmond to
Fredericksburg. The route brought them through a land covered with
hamlets of camps, drilling squadrons, and the panoply of war. While the
elder lady gave a divided mind to the strange panorama, Merry watched
everything eagerly, amused and interested by this spectacle of
preparation. Such soldiers as she could see distinctly looked like
farmers in holiday homespun; the cavalry like nondescript companies of
backwoods hunters. There seemed to be no uniformity in infantry
equipment or cavalry accoutrements, and the discipline struck her as in
keeping with this diversity of dress and ornament. The men could be seen
hurrying in boyish glee toward the train as it drew near the temporary
station, where mail-bags were thrown out and sometimes supplies of food
or munitions of war. Jocular remarks were passed between the soldiery at
the windows when the wistful groups gathered along the railway line.

"I say, North Cal'ina, you'n's goin' straight through to Yankee land?" a
man in the throng shouts to some one on the train.

"Straight."

"Send us a lock o' Lincoln's hair to poison blind adders, will you?"

"No--promised his scalp to my sweetheart to cover the rocking-chair."

Then, as the laugh that met this sally died away, another humorist
piped, out:

"Tell Uncle Joe Johnston we're just rustin' down here for a fight; ef he
don't hurry up we'll go ahead ourselves. We're drilled down so fine now
that we can't think 'cept by the rule o' tactics."

"Jest you never mind, boys. Uncle Joe'll do enough thinkin' fur ye when
he gets ready to tackle the Yanks."

"Hurrah for Uncle Joe!" And as the cheery cry swelled farther and
farther, the train drew out, everybody looking from the windows as the
patient soldiery straggled back campward.

"Your soldiers seem very gay, Vincent. One would think that war, the
dreadful uncertainty of their movements, absence of friends, and lack of
good food would sadden them," Mrs. Sprague said wistfully at one of the
stations when raillery like this had been even more pointed and
boisterous.

"A wise commander will do all he can to keep his men gay; if they were
not jovial they'd go mad. Think of it! Day after day, week after week,
who knows but year after year, the wearisome monotony of camp and march!
Where the men are educated, or at least readers, they make better
soldiers, because they brood less. Brooding saps the best fiber of the
army. Your Northern men ought to have an advantage there, for education
is more general with you than it is with us. It is not bravery that
makes a man eager for the campaign, it is unrest. As a rule, the best
soldiers in action are those who have a mortal dread of battle."

"That surprises me."

"It is true. I always distrust men that clamor to be led on; they are
the first to break when the brush comes. Jack will tell you that, for we
are agreed on it."

"Jack himself was eager for battle," Mrs. Sprague said, sighing.

"No, Jack was eager for the field. When the battle comes he meets it
coolly, but he has no hunger for it, nor have I. General Johnston is as
brave a man as ever headed an army, yet he has often told us that his
blood freezes when the guns open. I'm sure no one would ever suspect it,
for he is as calm and confident as if he were in a quadrille when he
rides to the field."

"We in the North have heard more of Beauregard than Johnston, yet I
never hear you mention him. Wasn't it he who commanded at Bull Run?"

"Yes and no. General Beauregard is a superb soldier. He is, it has been
agreed among us, better for a desperate charge, or some sudden
inspiration in an emergency, than the complicated strategy that half
wins a battle before it is begun. For example, at Manassas he would have
been defeated, our whole army captured, if fortune had not exposed
General McDowell's plans before they were completed. As it was, we
should have been driven from the field if General Johnston had not come
up in time and rearranged the Confederate lilies."

"Yes, Jack has described that. Battles, after all, are decided by luck."

"And genius."

"Luck won Waterloo."

"Partly, but genius, too, for Wellington and Blücher practiced one of
Napoleon's most perfect maxims, and won because he despised them both so
much that he didn't dream them capable of even imitating him. Nor, left
to themselves, would they have been equal to it. But renegade Frenchmen,
taught under Napoleon's eye, prompted them."

"General Johnston was very considerate to us when we came down. I wish
you would make him know how grateful we are."

"Oh, he couldn't be anything else; he is the ideal of a chivalrous
knight."

"Yes, I believe you claim chivalry as your strong point in the South,
and accuse us of being a race of sordid money-getters."

"I don't, for I know better, but our people do. They will learn better
in time. Men who fought as your army fought at Manassas must be more
than mere sordid hucksters."

"And yet it is curious," Mrs. Sprague continued, musingly, "it is we who
are warring for an idea and you are warring for property."

"How do you mean?" Vincent said, quickly.

"You are fighting to continue slavery, to extend it; we to abolish it or
limit it. But even I can see that slavery is doomed. No Northern party
would ever venture to give it toleration after this."

"But if we succeed, it will exist in our union at least."

"Ah, Vincent, can't you see that such a people as ours may be checked,
beaten even, but they will never give up the Union? Why, much as I love
Jack, I would never let him leave the colors while there was an army in
the field. Don't you know every Northern mother has the same feeling?"

"And every Southern mother, too."

"Yes, I believe that, but there's this difference: Your Southern mothers
are counting on what doesn't exist--a higher physical courage--a prowess
in battle, I may call it, that you must know the Southern soldier has
not, as distinguished from the Northern. As time goes on and the war
does not end; as our armies become disciplined, the confidence that
supports your side will die, and then the struggle, though it may be
prolonged, will end in our triumph."

"I don't think it. I can't think it. But don't let us talk about it. We,
at least, are as much friends as though Jack and I were under one flag,
and if it depends on me it shall be always so."

"If it depends on us, it shall never be otherwise." She gave the young
man a kind, scrutinizing glance, which made his heart beat joyously and
his handsome cheeks mount color. At Fairfax Court-House they said
farewell, the ladies continuing the journey in an ambulance under
Federal guard.

They passed over the long bridge three days after the famous night at
Rosedale, of whose exciting sequel they were profoundly ignorant. In her
husband's time Mrs. Sprague had lived in hotels in the capital, as the
sessions were short; she had never remained in the city when the warm
weather set in, no matter how long the term lasted. But on her arrival
at the old hotel now, she was a good deal disturbed to learn that she
could not be accommodated in her former quarters. The military crowded
not only this but every hotel in the city, and it was only after long
search that a habitable apartment was found in Georgetown. On the whole,
the necessity that drove her thither was not an unmitigated adversity,
for Georgetown then was far more desirable for residence than
Washington. Nothing could be more depressing than the city at that
epoch. Every visible object in the vast circumference of its spreading
limits was then naked unkempt. Even the trees, that ranged themselves
irregularly in the straggling squares and wide street areas, stretched
out a draggled and piebald plumage, as if uncertain whether beauty or
ugliness were their function in the _ensemble_.

The photographic realism of the later newspaper correspondent had not
come into play in these earlier years of the war, and, as a consequence,
the thousands who poured down to the Army of the Potomac beheld the city
with something of the incredulous scorn with which the effeminate
Byzantines regarded the capital of the Goths, when the corrupt
descendant of Constantine made the savage Dacians his allies, rather
than fight them. Patriotism, however, not pride, marked the common mold
of the men of the civil war. It may have been that many an honest
plowman, marching through the muddy quagmires of Pennsylvania Avenue,
bethought himself that such a capital was hardly worth while marching so
far to protect--more emphatically so when the enemy was really to be
found on lines far north of it! Sentiment is the heart and soul of war;
if it were not, there would be no war, for war never gained as much as
it loses; never settled as much as it unsettles; never left victor or
vanquished better when the last gun was fired! In old times the capture
of a nation's capital meant the end of the war, but we have seen
capitals captured and the war not modified a bit by it. Washington was
seized and burned by the British in 1814, and the war went on; Paris was
held by the Germans for half a year, and the war went on.

Our civil war would have been three campaigns shorter--Burnside's,
Hooker's, and the stupid massacre of Pope--to say nothing of the saving
of untold treasure, had the political authorities abandoned a capital
which must be defended for a secure seat like New York or Philadelphia.
The sagacious Lincoln, whose action in army matters was paralyzed by
cliques, in the end saw through sham with an inspired clarity of vision,
and proposed the measure, but the backwoods Mazarin, Seward, prepared
such voluminous "considerations" in opposition that the good-natured
President withdrew his suggestion, and, as a consequence, the dismal
Ilium on the Potomac became the bone of a four years' contention, whose
vicissitudes exceed the incidents of the Iliad. Great armies, created by
an inspired commander, were wasted upon the defense of a capital that no
one would have lamented had it been again burned, and of which to-day
there is scarcely a remnant, save in the public buildings and the
topographical charts. A new race entered the sleepy city. The astute,
far-seeing Yankee divined the possibilities of the future, where the
indolent, sentimental Southerner had never taken thought of a nation's
growth and a people's pride! The thrifty and shifty patriots sent from
the North at once took a stake in the city, and thenceforward there was
growth, if not grace, in the capital.

Lincoln's Washington was to the capital of to-day what the Rome of Numa
was to the imperial city of Augustus. Never, in its best days, more
imposing than a wild Western metropolis of to-day, the sudden inrush of
armies and the wherewithal to supply and house them, soon gave the vast
spaces laid out for the capital the uncouthness and incompleteness of an
exaggerated mining town or series of towns. Contrasted even with its
rival on the James, Washington was raw, chaotic, squalid.

Long tenure of estates and little change in the people had given
Richmond the venerableness we associate with age. Many of her
picturesque seven hills were transformed into blooming fields or
umbrageous groves, under which vast villa-like edifices clustered in
Grecian repose. Save in the bustling main streets none of the edifices
were new or raw, or wholly unlovely in design or fabric. In Washington
nothing of this could be seen. Staring brick walls, buildings of unequal
height and fatiguingly ugly designs, uprose here and there in morasses
of mud that were meant for streets. Disproportionate outline, sharp
conjunctures of affluence and squalor, accented the disheartening
hideousness of the scene.

But upon this uncouth stage a great drama was going on; great figures
were in action; momentous events were hourly taking form and
consequence; men, and women at their best and worst were working out the
awful ends of Fate. In the large mansion yonder, the wisest, greatest,
simplest of mankind--by times Diogenes and Cromwell, Lafayette and
Robespierre was, in jest and joke, mirth and sadness, working out his
own and a people's sublime destiny. It was to this curiously unequal
personage that Mrs. Sprague, after fruitless pleading with her husband's
friends, came finally to secure action on behalf of her son. There was
little of the ceremonial needed to gain access to the Chief Magistrate
which is now the fashion.

She found a care-worn man, deeply harassed, standing in the low-ceiled
room, in which the Cabinet had met a few moments before. A sweet, wan
smile--the instinctive, inborn sensitiveness of a noble nature-flickered
over the rugged lines of the face as the usher, retiring, said:

"Mr. President, this is Mrs. Sprague, whom you ordered to be admitted."

"I am both glad and sorry to meet you, madam. I knew your husband, the
Senator, in other and happier times. I wish that it were in my power to
do for him or his what he was always doing for the unhappy or
distressed."

"Ah! how kind you are! How--"

She was going to say different from what she expected, but bethought
herself of the ungraciousness of this form, since at that time Mr.
Lincoln was the object of almost universal misreport and caricature.

"How can I say what a mother should say?"

While she spoke he began pacing the apartment, each time, as he came to
the double window near which she sat, peering out with a yearning,
far-away look toward the river and the red lines of the hills beyond it.
Then turning back, he strode the length of the long baize-covered table,
sometimes absently picking up a document, until, facing her again as she
narrated the story of Jack's misfortunes, he would fling it hastily on
the scattered heaps and fix his mild eye upon her.

"I know all this already, dear madam. It has come to me from the boy's
friends, and"--he hesitated a second--"and from his--or from those who
are not his friends."

"Not his friends?" the mother cried, half rising. "Why, Mr. President,
Jack hasn't an enemy in the world!"

"You came through from Richmond last week? Have you heard nothing from
your son since you saw him?"

"Nothing. Oh, is there anything about him?"

"You have not even read the newspapers, I see."

"No, no; I have been so uncertain, so agitated, so constantly in
attendance upon our members, that I have had no time to read or even
talk. But, pray tell me! Your manner indicates that something has
happened. O Mr. President, think of my anxiety! My only son!"

"Ah, Mrs. Sprague! It is I that should be pitied here. You came to me
for comfort. You came in reliance on my power to restore your son, and
I--I have the burden of telling you very grievous news. No, no, your son
is not dead, have no fear of that, if in the end it prove a comfort.
Last night your townsman, Elisha Boone, came to me with his heart-broken
daughter, demanding vengeance for his son's death, whom your boy had
slain the very night you left him on the James. He shot Captain Boone in
the house you visited, and defeated a well-arranged plan to capture the
rebel chief, Davis. Not only this, but he endangered the escape of a
number of sorely-worn prisoners who had succeeded in reaching the
Rosedale place and halted only to make Davis's capture certain."

"My son shot Wesley! oh no, no; it can not be; or, if he did, it was
because his own life was in peril. Ah! no, no, Mr. President, do not
believe this. I know my son. I know the misery he endured in Wesley's
company; endured like a hero; endured like a Sprague. He must have been
in peril of his life."

"Dear madam, I feel for you. I feel with you, but these facts are all in
the possession of the Secretary of War. Mr. Boone will no doubt give you
all the details. If it can be made to seem as you say, have no fear that
I will wink at mere revenge, or make the machinery of justice an
instrument of family feuds. Get your lawyer; have the matter
investigated, and rely upon me for every proper clemency and aid in your
hard lot."

She had arisen long before, and, recognizing this as a dismissal, she
bowed, unable to speak, and, with blinded eyes, staggered toward the two
steps leading upward from the room. She would have fallen had the ready
arm of the President not been near to support her. In the anteroom he
said, huskily:

"Captain, send an orderly to accompany this lady to her carriage."

Merry was in the carriage. One glance at Mrs. Sprague's face told that
dire news had been heard. She did not ask a question, but, embracing and
supporting the sobbing mother, awaited patiently for the dreaded
revelation. When at length the miserable story came in gaspings and
sobs, the spinster exhibited an unexpected firmness.

"I don't believe a word of it. If Jack shot Wesley, it was because he
was in some sort of treacherous business. You may depend upon it, that,
when we get the true story, Jack's part will prove him in the right. I
am going this instant to Boone to learn his source of information. He
can have nothing but rumors."

"I will go. It is better for me to see Mr. Boone. He will not venture to
misrepresent to me."

At Willards, where Boone was stopping, the ladies were obliged to wait a
long time, and, in the end, it was Kate who appeared before them in deep
black, with a half-yearning, half-defiant expression in the sadly worn
face. They would never have recognized her, and, as it was, Merry
started with a slight scream as the dark figure stopped before them.

"Papa begs to be excused. He supposes that you want to hear the
particulars of the--the affair at Rosedale, and bids me tell you."

"O Kate, Kate, it is not true! it can not be true. Oh, you who knew Jack
so well, you know that he never could have--have--"

Kate had seized a chair and drawn it before the two who sat on one of
the long sofas that filled without adorning the vast hotel parlor, dim
even at noonday in its semi-subterranean light.

"Yes, Mrs. Sprague, your son shot Wesley deliberately; shot him as
deliberately as if I should draw a pistol and take your life now
and here."

"And--and killed him?"

"He never spoke again. He--he--ah! I can not, I can not! We brought him
here. His body is in the cemetery, waiting the military formalities."

"But tell us how it happened, Kate," Merry sobbed, entreatingly. "We
know nothing but what you have told us. Tell us all. It is so startling,
so awful, that we can not comprehend such a thing happening where we
left everybody in the most friendly spirit."

Kate, struggling with her tears, told the story so far as she knew it,
but of course she knew little beyond the mere fact that Wesley had come
to his death in Mrs. Atterbury's room; that Jack stood over him with the
smoking pistol, and owned that he had fired in the darkness. She told
the tale as gently as might be, her own heart secretly pleading for
everything of extenuation that might lessen Jack's guilt, but she had
insensibly taken the darker view her father had instantly adopted, that
Jack's enmity had led him to seize the chance to rid himself of a rival
and enemy under cover of defending the Atterburys. She did not hint this
to the mother, but Merry, knowing Boone, at once saw what the
President's words meant. Boone had charged Jack with deliberate murder.
Dreading the realization of this by Mrs. Sprague at this time, Merry
made a sign to Kate, who, comprehending at once, arose and begged to go
back to her father, who was in need of her.

"Oh, if Olympia were here! she has so much self-control! she would
advise so well what should he done!" the mother moaned, as she passed
down through the long, barrack-like parlor.

"But, dear Mrs. Sprague, Olympia is just where her good sense is most
needed. She is near Jack. He needs comfort and counsel. You can have
your lawyer, and you shall see the case isn't so bad as we have heard.
You must remember that the Boones are not likely to take an impartial
view. It is only human nature that they should think the worst of
the--the death of son and brother. Wait till we hear Jack's story, and
you will see that it puts a different face on the matter."

"But it's Jack's disgrace and death they want. That was what the
President meant. I didn't understand it then: I do understand it now.
They shall not murder him! I shall command him to remain in Richmond. I
shall command him to join Vincent. The North is unworthy of such men as
my son. He is too pure, too innocent, too high-minded to be understood
by the coarse natures that have come to power in the country. I shall
not let this odious Boone destroy him as he ruined your brother."

"O Mrs. Sprague, think what you are saying! Think how fatal such words
would be, if Jack were brought to trial. You see every day in the press
how all are suspected of treason who were Democrats in the old days. I
know very well that you do not mean this. Much as I love Jack, I would
rather see him in his grave with the Union flag over him than in the
rebel lines, a soldier of that bad cause. As to my poor brother, Boone
was only an accident in his ruin. If it had not been Boone, it would
have been some one else. Put the whole matter in the hands of Simon
Brodie. He is almost a Sprague. He will see that the son of his old
patron has justice."

Simon Brodie, of Warchester, was the chief advocate of the three
counties. He had studied law with the late Senator Sprague, and, at his
death, from partner succeeded to his lucrative law practice. He came at
once to Washington at Mrs. Sprague's summons, and set about learning the
status of the case. The affair was no easy matter to trace, but, after
inconceivable delays and persistent misleading, he found that Jack was
in the military archives charged with desertion, murder, and treason:
desertion in quitting his company and regiment without orders, treason
in consorting with armed rebels, and murder in joining with the enemies
of the country to take the life of his commanding officer. Meanwhile,
Mrs. Sprague and Merry had returned to Acredale, and the lawyer sent
letters to Richmond setting forth the case to Jack--letters which, by
some mysterious jugglery, never reached their address, as we have seen.
Nothing could be done until Jack was either exchanged or until his
advocate had made out a documentary case that could be presented to the
military authorities. As he surmised, every one in authority had been
prejudiced against Jack. The Congressman from Warchester dared not work
against Boone, who was potent as a Cabinet minister in the councils of
the Government. One of Senator Sprague's old friends, still in the
Senate, advised Brodie to let Jack remain at Richmond till the peace
came, "for," said he, "no Democrat nor any one identified with that
party can hope for impartial justice here."

"But what am I to do? I can get no assistance here. Every bureau
containing documents bearing on the poor boy's case is either closed to
me, or the officials so hostile that I can not work with or
through them."

"You must go about the affair as if it were a State matter. You must go
to McClellan. He is a young man of the most spotless honor, the most
generous sympathies. He is as rigid as a Prussian in discipline, but his
methods are enlightened and above board. He is the only man in authority
that has any real conception of the magnitude of the struggle the North
has entered upon. He is, however, miserably hampered. The new rulers
have come down to Washington very much in the spirit of the Goths when
they captured Rome. Every one is on the make. The contract system is
something beyond the wildest excesses I ever read of in pillage and
chicanery. Shoes by the million have been accepted that melt as soon as
they are wet; garments are stacked mountain-high in the storehouses that
blow into rags so soon as the air goes through them. Food, moldy,
filthy, is accumulated on the wharves of Washington, Baltimore, and
Alexandria that would be forbidden as infectious in any carefully
guarded port in the world. Contracts for vessels have been signed where
steamships are called for, and the contractor sends canal-boats. Lines
of ships are paid for to run to ports not known in navigation; and the
chief men in the great departments share the money with the rings--"

"But why don't you expose it?"

"Expose it? A word in the Senate against these villainies is set down as
disloyalty. All that a rascal needs to gain any scope he pleases, is to
say 'rebel sympathizer,' and Fort Warren or Lafayette is held up as
a menace."

Among the confidential aides of McClellan Brodie knew intimately a young
officer, the son of a distinguished lady, whose writings delighted
cultivated people fifty years ago. This young man, Captain Churchland,
had often been a guest at the Spragues, and to him Brodie went for
advice. Inheriting a great deal of his mother's intellect, with a droll
sense of humor, not then so well understood as the lighter school of
writers have since made it, Churchland was the delight of the
headquarters. He listened to the melancholy story of Jack's
compromising plight.

"It's a bad fix--no mistake," he said, gravely; "but I suggest that your
fiery young friend come home and shoot the father, marry the daughter,
and, as a wife can't testify against the husband, your client
is secure."

"Ah, captain, it's not a matter for joking. Think of his wretched
mother."

"That's just what I do think of--murder's no joke, though it's more of a
fine art than it was when De Quincey wrote. I'm perfectly serious. I
would shoot the scoundrel Boone. Why, do you know the man has cleared a
million dollars on rotten blankets since he came here? McClellan ordered
a report made out showing his rascalities a few weeks ago. It was
disapproved at the War Office, and the condemned blankets have gone to
Halleck's army. Doesn't that deserve shooting? Napoleon directed all the
army contractors to be hanged. I say shoot them. For every one put out
of the way a thousand soldiers' lives will be saved."

"Well, well, let Boone go. It's Sprague I'm interested in."

"So am I. It is Sprague that Boone seems to be interested in, too, for
he has filled the new Secretary with, what he himself would call,
righteous wrath against the poor boy and his friends. But make your mind
easy. The exchange of prisoners will soon begin. Sprague's turn will
come among the first, and then I will keep track of the affair. Beyond
that I can promise nothing. You may be sure, so far as purely military
men have to do with the business, there will be impartial justice. When
the politicians take hold, I can give no assurance."

And with this cold comfort the disheartened lawyer betook himself to
Acredale, where his report, guardedly given, brought no very strong hope
to the anxious mother.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE WORLD WENT VERY ILL THEN.


Acredale was not the sleepy, sylvan scene we first saw it, when Mrs.
Sprague and Merry drove through the wide main street from the station,
four months after they had quitted it in search of their soldier boys.
The stately elms still arched the highway to Warchester, but here and
there rough gaps were seen in the trim hedge-rows. Staring new edifices
jutted through these breaks upon the grassy walks, and building material
lay heaped in confusion all along the graveled walks. Merry railed at
these evidences of commercial invasion, wondering who had come to the
village to transform it into city hideousness. Mrs. Sprague did not give
much heed to her companion's speculations. Her mind was far away on the
James, wondering where her boy was. It was very hard to settle down to
the commonplaces of home life; but, even in all her distraction, Mrs.
Sprague saw that a change had come upon the people as well as the place.
With the war and its desolating sights fresh in her memory, she saw,
with sorrow and aversion, that social life was gayer than it had ever
been, that the rush for wealth had become a fever, and that the simple
ways and homely joys of the past were now remitted to the very elderly.
The story of Dick's mad pursuit of Jack and the Caribees, after the
disaster at Bull Run, was soon known in every home in the county.
Friends came from far and near to hear the exciting adventure; and the
younger boys, who had been the lad's classmates in the academy, at once
made up a company of youngsters, adorned by the name of the "Perley
Rangers," to be in readiness for the hero's command when he
should return.

The feud between the adherents of the houses of Sprague and Boone had
become acrimoniously embittered by the point of view from which each
side saw the conduct of Jack. Among the Boone feudatories he was set
down as a traitor, a spy, a murderer. The first malignant rumors that
reached the village after the battle were still maintained stoutly by
the Boone lictors. Jack had ingloriously shirked his part in the battle
with the Caribees; he had skulked in the bushes until the issue was
decided, and then had followed the sympathies of his secession family;
he had gone to the Atterburys, well known for their hatred to the North.
It was to prove his sincerity in the Southern cause that he had wormed
himself into the confidence of Wesley Boone's comrades, and in order
that he might be chief agent in the frustration of the plan of escape.

He had won high regard in the Confederacy by saving Davis from capture.
He had, with his own hand, shot Wesley Boone when the plan of capture
was on the verge of success. Could anything be clearer than his odious
treason? Hadn't he, of all the unfortunates of the battle, found favor
and luxurious quarters in Richmond? Hadn't he cunningly cajoled the
Boones into the visit to the rebel household, in order to wrest the
secrets of the Union rescue from them? It was in vain that the Perleys
and others set forth the real case. "Very likely, indeed," the Boone
side cried, "that rebels like the Atterburys would receive true
Unionists into their house, and treat them as friends! A real Unionist
would have refused hospitality from the enemies of his country." There
was talk among the more zealous patriots of having the Sprague family
expelled from Acredale. Loyal zealots looked up the law on expatriation
and attainder, and complained bitterly that no applicable provisions
were found in the statutes. Stirring addresses were sent to the member
from Warchester, imploring him to have laws enacted that would enable
the patriots to deal summarily with covert treason. It was true that the
Spragues had contributed many thousand dollars toward the equipment of
the Caribees, had endowed twenty beds in one of the city hospitals for
the wounded--but this was when Jack expected high command in the
regiment. Failing in that ignoble self-seeking, he had gone where his
heart was, while the family, to retain their property, remained among
the loyal, to insult their woe and gloat over their misfortunes.

At a great "war meeting" in the town-hall, over which Boone presided,
one thrilling orator hinted that fire, if not the law, could "relieve a
loyal community of the Copperhead's nest!" "It was an insult, as well as
a menace, to have the patrician palace of disloyalty flaunting its
grandeurs among a people loyal and devoted, whose sons and brothers were
battling for the Union. Every rebel sympathizer driven from the North
would strengthen the Union cause; ashes and salt sowed on the ground
their insolent homes had desecrated, would be a holy reminder to the
loyal, a warning to the secret foes of the Union."

There were loud expressions of approval, and a solemn "Amen" to this
intrepid plan of campaign. Lawyer Brodie, who was present, arose under a
thunder of discordant notes--"Copperhead!" "Traitor!" "Dough-face!" "We
don't want to hear from rebel sympathizers! Out with him!" and other
more opprobrious taunts. Now, Brodie was Boone's counsel, and had been
identified with him in some very difficult litigation. It would not do
to have him discredited. The chairman rapped loudly for order.

"I can vouch, my friends, for Mr. Brodie's patriotism. He is a Democrat,
it is true; but he loves the Union. I know that to be a fact. You can do
the Union no better service than listening to what he has to say."

Brodie, who had held his place, calmly smiled as Boone sat down, and,
surveying the audience from side to side, began:

"Free speech was one of the cries that aroused the North in the late
campaign, I believe in free speech. I have done my share toward securing
it, but I never was refused it before. I look among the men here and see
among you neighbors whom I have known since boyhood, neighbors who have
known me since boyhood, and when I arise here to take a citizen's part,
in a meeting called to aid and comfort the cause of the Union, I am
permitted to speak only by the personal request of one man. If that is
your idea of free speech, if that is your notion of aiding the Union
cause, and strengthening the hands of the Administration, I don't need
to be in the confidence of the rebel authorities to tell you that they
could ask no more powerful allies than you! [Sensation.]

"There are three hundred men in this hall. The light is good, and my
eyesight is not impaired; but I can not see a man among you who was not
a Democrat a year or two ago. There are not fifty men among you that
voted for Abraham Lincoln. [Murmurs.] Are the two hundred and fifty,
then, traitors? Are they rebel sympathizers? Are they Copperheads? One
thousand men marched under the Caribee flag; not a man of them voted for
Lincoln. Are they Copperheads? This township, by its vote at the last
election, was five to one Democratic. Is this a Copperhead community?
Nearly a half million dollars have been subscribed for bounties and war
measures; the tax-payers, almost to a man, are Democrats. Is it
possible, then, that the Copperheads are supplying the money to carry on
the war? You propose to burn the mansion of my old partner, Senator
Sprague! Why? Because his estate has given more to the Union cause than
any other family in the township?"

"The son has gone over to the rebels," a voice cried.

"Thank you. There--I'm glad you have given me the chance to crush that
cowardly calumny--the invention of some envious malefactor. Jack Sprague
has gone over to the rebels, just as Anderson and his men went over at
Sumter; just as fifteen hundred of his comrades went over at Bull Run;
just as some of our sons and brothers here in Acredale went over; just
as my friend, Boone's son, went over--because he was surrounded
and wounded."

"Stop a moment, if you please, friend Brodie; I protest against your
making anything in common between my son and this young man. The matter
is to be investigated, and then we can tell better."

Boone spoke in great excitement, and the audience, now feverishly
wrought up, urged the lawyer to say his say out. He continued in the
trained, impassive tones of the advocate:

"Every one in this room knows the two young men. It would be waste of
time for me to strive to make anything in common between John Sprague
and Wesley Boone. Here, where they both grew up, that is quite
unnecessary."

"I--I--referred to their conduct as soldiers," Boone cried, hoarsely.
"My son lost his life in the service of his country. I can't have his
name coupled with a--murderer's--with a traitor's."

"Ah, my friend, when hate draws your portrait it is bound to be black.
When prejudice holds the pen, your virtues stand in the shade of vice. I
will tell John Sprague's story from the day he quit Acredale to the
unhappy hour his comrade was killed in the dark, in the sleeping-room of
the mother and daughter who had nursed him from the very jaws of death.
He was in that house by his father's urgent request, though it would
have needed none to open its doors to any one in want of succor. Nor,"
he added, significantly, "can it be told who killed Wesley Boone until
all the shots fired in Mrs. Atterbury's chamber are accounted for."

Then he narrated rapidly, but tellingly, the substance of what has been
already set down in this history--the facts taken from Jack's letters
and attested by the corroboration of Barney, Dick, and the company's
officers. There was a visible revulsion in the larger part of the
audience as the tale went on; and when the lawyer wound up with the
story of Mrs. Sprague's baffled efforts in Washington to have her boy
brought North, there was an outburst of applause and a faint cheer from
the younger men for "glorious old Jack."

The factions shifted a good deal after this official rendering of the
affair. There was no longer any talk of burning the Sprague property,
and opinion was about evenly divided as to Jack's conduct. December had
come, and the township was busy packing boxes to send to the army. No
news had come North from Richmond. Active movements were looked for
every day, and in the momentous expectation such lesser incidents as
exchange were forgotten or ignored. The daily journals were filled with
details of contemplated expeditions, and one morning Mrs. Sprague read
with beating heart this paragraph in the _Herald_:

"A score or more of the men who escaped from the Richmond prison a few
weeks ago, arrived at Washington to-day from Fort Monroe. The party
endured untold privations in the swamps between Williamsburg and our
line on the Warwick, but all came in safely, except two men who died
from the results of their wounds. The expedition was planned and carried
out by an agent of General Butler, who has been in Virginia since the
unfortunate attempt to rescue Captain Boone of the 'Caribee' regiment.
At the moment the party reached the Union outpost, one of the most
daring of the Union men, Sergeant Jacques of the Caribees, was, it is
thought, mortally wounded."

Merry, too, had seen the story, and came over to show it to Mrs.
Sprague.

"I have seen it, I have seen it. Who of the Caribees can these be? Who
is Jacques? I never heard that name here."

"Ah! he must be one of the town recruits. It's a French name."

"Yes, it is part of a rather famous French name," Mrs. Sprague replied,
half smiling at Merry's innocence. "Something must be done to get into
communication with these escaped men. Some of them must have seen Jack.
If there are Caribees among them, you may be sure they have messages
from our boys. I think I shall set out for Washington, or ask Mr.
Brodie to go."

"That's better. Mr. Brodie can get at the men and you couldn't. I shall
be in a fever until we have heard from them."

Brodie agreed with the ladies when, later, they discussed the matter
with him, and that evening he set out for Washington. Mrs. Sprague at
the tea-table with Merry, who made it a point to give the lonely mother
as much of her time as she could spare, was still pondering the
paragraph when the sound of carriage-wheels came in through the closed
curtains. Then the front door opened without knocking, and there was a
rustle in the hallway, and then, with a simultaneous scream, three
agitated females, to wit, Mrs. Sprague, Merry, and Olympia, in a
confused mass.

"O my child! my child!"

"Mamma!"

"Dearest, dearest Olympia," Merry splutters, wildly embracing both.

"Oh, how delightful to be here, to see you, mamma as peaceful and serene
as in the old days! I thought I should never get home. I left Richmond
three weeks ago. I was held at Fredericksburg for ten days. Then I had
to turn back when we got to Manassas, through some red tape lacking
there. But here I am. Here I am at home--ugh!--I shall never quit it
again--never."

"But, my child. Tell us--Jack!"

"Jack? Haven't you heard from him? He escaped three weeks ago. It was he
who got the men out of the prison. Dick was with him. Surely you have
heard of that?" and Olympia sank into the nearest chair, all the gayety
gone from her face, her eyes questioning the two wretched women. Neither
could for the moment control her agitation; neither was capable of
thinking. All that was in their minds was this dire specter of a month's
silence. Alive, Jack or Dick would have found means to relieve
their anxiety.

"Surely you heard that a party had escaped from Libby and made their way
to Fort Monroe?" Olympia cried, desperately.

"Fort Monroe?" Mrs. Sprague echoed mechanically. "Yes, ah, yes. Merry,
where's the paper?"

Olympia devoured the meager scrap and then dropped the journal on her
knees. Her mind was in a whirl. In Richmond the escape had been
announced, then the news that the party had been surrounded in the
swamp, then day by day details of the taking of straggling negroes and
one or two soldiers, but no name that even resembled Jack's. The
Atterburys, after the first painful sensation, had given their approval
of Jack's going, and used all means in their power to get such facts as
would comfort Olympia. They assured her that Jack had reached the Union
lines, and then she had set out northward, expecting to find him at home
or in communication with his family. No word from Dick? No word from
Jack? They were dead, and she--she had urged them to the mad adventure!
She had given Jack no peace, had fired Dick to the fatal enterprise. She
dared not look in the tearless eyes of her mother. She dared not face
the ghastly questioning in Merry's meek eye. Brodie had gone down to see
the escaped men. Perhaps he would discover something. This was the small
comfort left the three when, near midnight, they ended the woful
conference.

The next day Olympia was visited by a representative of the _Crossbow_,
the chief journal of Warchester, and urged to write a narrative of her
adventures in the rebel capital. Until her friends made her see how much
effect it would have in clearing Jack's reputation she shrank from the
publicity, but with that end in view--Jack's honor--she wrote, and wrote
with strength and clearness, the moving incidents of her brother's
capture, captivity, and escape--or his bold effort to escape. This she
told so simply, so directly, so vividly, that the truth of it at once,
struck the most prejudiced reader, who had no cause to continue in his
prepossession. After the publication in the Warchester paper scores who
had sided with the Boone faction either called or wrote to confess their
error. Even the Acredale _Monitor_, a weekly sheet notoriously in the
interest of Boone, felt constrained to copy parts of the account and
publish with it a shambling retraction of previous criticism, based on
imperfect knowledge, that it had printed concerning Sergeant Sprague.
"Death," it declared, "has obliterated all feeling that existed against
our young townsman, whose conduct, though open to grievous doubt in the
early part of his military career has been amply atoned for in the
intrepid enterprise in which he seems to have lost his life."



CHAPTER XXIX.

A WOMAN'S REASON.


The still, small voice that makes itself a force in the heart, which the
poets call our mentor and the moralists conscience, had been painfully
garrulous in Kate Boone's breast since the angry parting with Jack at
Rosedale. At first, in the wild grief of Wesley's death, she had hugged
hatred of Jack to her heart as a sublime revenge for the murder. But
with the hot partisanship allayed in the long weeks of reflection
preceding the rumor of Jack's own death, she began dimly to admit of
palliation in her lover's fatal act. Her father, the Boone faction, all
who had access to her, held the shooting to be a craftily planned
murder, calculated to bring advantage to the assassin. To check the
sacrilegious love she felt in her heart, she too had been forced to
believe, to admit the worst. But when the image of Jack came to her
mind, as it did day and night, it was as the gay, frank, chivalrous
Hotspur, as unlike a murderer as Golgotha to Hesperides. She had never
dared to confide to her father that vows had been exchanged between,
them--that they were, in fact, affianced lovers. He, never suspecting,
talked with her day after day of the signal vengeance in store for the
miscreant; how he had enlisted the aid of the most powerful in
Washington; how he had instructed the emissaries sent to Richmond to
effect Wesley's release, to direct all their energies to entrapping the
murderer into the ranks of the escaping prisoners.

She had often been startled by her father's far-seeing, malignantly
planned vengeances, and, now that the rumor of Jack's death began to
settle into belief, she was appalled by a sudden sense of complicity in
a murderous plot. Not that she believed her father capable of murder or
its procuration, but, knowing his potency with the authorities, she saw
that there were many ways in which Jack might be sacrificed in the
natural course of military duties. She had heard things of the sort
discussed--how inconvenient men had been sent into pitfalls and never
heard of again.

She began dimly to see that, at worst, Jack's act was not the calculated
murder her father held it to be. In her own tortured mind there had been
at first but one clear process of reasoning. That process, whenever she
began to gather the shreds, had led her mind straight to the conviction
that Jack's shot had been premeditated, that the chance had been
prearranged with the enemies of her brother. At first her only distinct
thought was that the hapless Wesley had been lured to his death. The
hand of the man she loved had sent the fatal shot into the poor boy's
body. Had it been in self-defense--even in the heat of uncontrollable
anger--she could have found mitigation for Jack; but there was neither
the justification of self-defense nor the plausible pretext of anger.
One word of warning, which Jack could have spoken, would have saved
Wesley from the rash, the dastardly attempt upon the Rosedale household.
The plot, in all its details, must have been known to Jack or Dick, else
how explain their presence in the chamber, armed and ready for
the murder?

It had been a conspiracy of delusive kindness from the day Wesley
entered Rosedale. The frankness and kindliness of the Atterburys had
been assumed to lure him to his fatal adventure. Boone himself believed
that Jack's ignoble ambition and envy had been the main motives in the
murder. To this Kate, from the first, opposed a resolute incredulity.

"You don't know the fellow, I tell you," Boone doggedly argued. "He's as
like his father as two snakes in a hole. Old man Sprague never let a man
stand in his way. Jack's the same. He thought Wes' kept him from the
shoulder-straps, and he got him out of the way. Wasn't he always
snooping 'round in the regiment trying to undermine your brother? Wasn't
he always trying to be popular? Ah, I know the Spragues. But I'll give
them a wrench that'll twist their damned pride out of them. I'll have
that cold-blooded young villain shot in a hollow square, and I'll have
it done in this very district, that the whole county may know the
disgrace of the high and mighty Spragues."

"No, father." Kate had heard all this before, but she, for the first
time, resolved upon setting her father right. "No, Jack hasn't a
particle of the feeling you ascribe to him. I don't think he liked poor
Wesley. They were totally unlike in nature, and I think that Jack felt
deeply that he had been wronged by Wesley's appointment. But it was not
in his nature to seek revenge. He would have fought Wesley openly, but
he would never be one of a gang of murderers. I think I can see how Jack
was led into the part he played. It does not lessen the guilt, but it
relieves him of the odious suspicions I first felt."

Then Boone, in irritable impatience, reminded her of her own earlier
utterances; how from his first coming Wesley had been treated with
studied distrust; how he had been denied the boyish intimacy that
existed between Jack and Dick; how he was insensibly made to feel that
he was in the house under a different cartel from that of Jack and Dick;
that he was a prisoner on parole, and his word was doubted. Nothing
could make him believe, he declared, getting up moodily, but that the
whole lot of them had set out to drive Wesley into a corner and then
kill him, as they had done.

Kate sighed wearily as her father left the room. If she could only be as
well assured as her strong words implied! Ah! if she could fetch back
her lover by getting at the truth, how willingly she would fly to
Rosedale and learn all! But she dared not question, lest questioning
should confirm, where she now at least had the miserable solace of
doubt. Could it be true? Could Jack be the base schemer her father
depicted him? Then her mind ran back to Rosedale. She lived again all
the enchanting days of that earthly paradise. She saw Wesley's furtive
starts, his strange disappearances, his growing melancholy, his moody
reticence when she questioned him. Ah! if he had but confided to her! If
she had but dreamed of the desperate purpose born of the loneliness he
lived in! If Jack had been loyal to him, loyal to her, Wesley would have
been warned that eager eyes were upon him, ready wits reading his
purposes, and revengeful hatred ready to slaughter him.

When the news came that Jack had lost his life in the very enterprise
Wesley had contemplated, Kate collapsed under the shock. Now, when it
was too late, she convinced herself that he was innocent. If she could
have recalled him to life, she cried in self-reproach, she would not ask
whether he was all her first impulse had painted him. She had borne up
with something like composure when Wesley's death came upon her; but
now, tortured by a sense of responsibility in Jack's fate, she gave way
to the grief she had so long repressed. If she had not upbraided him, if
she had not accused him, in so many words, of murder, he would never
have embarked on the mad plot of escape.

She had driven him to his death. She had sat silent while Acredale rang
with calumnies against him. It was not too late yet to make reparation.
She would proclaim publicly that her brother had rashly courted his own
death; that Jack had unknowingly shot him down, as many a man does, in
battle, shoot his best friend. She resolved on the instant to go to the
stricken family and make such expiation there as was in her power. But
was there any certainty that the report of Jack's death was true?
Grievous mistakes of the same sort had been made repeatedly in the
public journals. She was not able to formulate any plan at first. Her
father was more morose than ever. He seemed in his way to deplore the
young man's death, but not in pity, as she soon learned. Death had
robbed him of a cruelly meditated revenge. She wisely made no comment
when this brutal feeling betrayed itself; but for the first time in her
life the girl shuddered at the sight of her father. The vague rumors of
years, that had been whispered about him--rumors which of old had fired
her soul with hot indignation, came back insidiously. She shuddered. Was
she to lose all--brother, lover, father--in this unnatural strife? She
had been so loyal to her father. She had been so proud of him when
others reviled. She had felt so serenely confident of the nobleness of
his heart, the generosity of his impulses. She had always been able to
mold him, as she thought. Could it be possible that he was human to her,
inhuman to the rest of the world? Then her mind, tortured by newly
awakened doubts, ran back over the events leading to the rupture with
the Spragues. She groaned at the retrospect. It was injustice that had
displaced Jack in the command of the company. It was injustice that had
marked her father's conduct in the Perley feud.

Grief is a logician of very direct methods. Its clarifying processes
work like light in darkness. Kate saw the past in her father's conduct
with terrifying vividness. She realized that it was her father's harsh
purpose that had arrayed Acredale against him. It was his pride and
arrogant obstinacy that had brought about the loss of all she loved. The
fates had immolated the helpless; were the fates preparing a still
bitterer expiation? Life had very little left for her now, but she
resolved that she would no longer be isolated by her father's enmities.
The great house had been gloomy enough for father and daughter during
the last miserable months, but he still fled to her for comfort. It was
one evening when he came in, apparently in better spirits than he had
shown since Wesley's death, that she told him what had been filling her
mind since Jack's death.

"O father, I think I see that our lives have been unworthy, if not
altogether wrong. Surely such neighbors as ours could not all take sides
against you, if you were in the right in all the feuds that have divided
us as a family from the people of Acredale."

Then, in an almost imploring tone of reproach, she retraced the harsh
episodes in the father's dealings with the Perleys, with the community,
and, finally, the quarrel with the Spragues, involving in it the lives
of Wesley and Jack. Her voice softened into tremulousness. She arose,
and in her old pleading way pulled the shaggy head down on her breast,
pressing her lips on the high, bare forehead.

"Dear father, all this is unchristian; you have in reality been waging
war against women and children. Jack was a mere boy, Richard is a boy. I
don't go into other enmities, where you have used the enormous power of
wealth to crush the helpless. If you had not alienated the Spragues and
encouraged Wesley in overbearing Jack, my brother would be alive to-day.
My sweetheart--yes, Jack was dearer than all the world to me--he would
not be dead to-day. Ah! father, father, what good comes of anger--what
joy of revenge? You have brought about the death of these two boys. Is
it not time to look at life with a new heart--with clear-seeing eyes?"

Elisha Boone sat quite still. He had listened at first with a flush of
anger, which deepened as the girl pleaded, until it died away and left
his face very pale. He pushed himself away from the clinging figure, as
if the better to see her face. Then his head drooped. He sighed heavily,
rose and without a word left the room. Kate heard him ascending the
stairs, then the sound of his room door softly closing. Had the hateful
fires of vengeance been quenched? It was her father's way, when
resolutely opposed, to quit the scene and without confessing himself in
the wrong, do as Kate urged. The next morning he was gone before she
reached the breakfast-table. There was a note on her plate in his
handwriting. She read with a sinking heart:

"MY DAUGHTER: If what you said last night is true, you
can not be the daughter to me that you have been. I am
going to Washington, and when I come back you will know
that your brother was deliberately murdered, and that his
murderer, even in the grave, is held guilty before all men
of the crime."

The servant confirmed the tidings. Her father had arisen early and
departed on the first train. What could it mean? Had he some evidence
that she had not heard? Had Jack left papers incriminating him? Ah! why
carry the hideous feud further? Why blast the melancholy repose of the
living, by fastening this stain upon the dead? But they could not. She
knew it. She could herself refute any proof brought forward. She would
tell all. She would reveal their tender relationship, and surely then
any one, knowing the young man's nature, would scout the assertion of
his willfully shooting Wesley. But surely Olympia and Mrs. Sprague must
be able to tell, and tell decisively, the circumstances in the tragedy.
She would go to them. She owed this to the living; she owed it still
more imperatively to the dead. She had not seen Olympia since her
return. Mrs. Sprague had been too infirm to see her when she called. But
she would not heed rebuffs now. In such a cause, on such a mission, she
would have stood at the Sprague door a suppliant until even the
obstinacy of her father would have relented. On her way across the
square she saw Merry coming from the post. She turned out of her way,
and hurrying to the near-sighted spinster held out her hand,
saying, softly:

"Ah, Miss Merry, I'm so glad to see you! I have been meaning to call on
you ever since I heard of your return, but, what with sorrow and
illness, I have put it off, and now I want you to take me home with you.
Will you not?"

The pleading tone, the caressing clasp of the hand, the sadly changed
face, the somber black weeds, made the voice and figure so much unlike
the old Kate, that Merry stood for an instant confused and blushing as
she stammered:

"Bless me, Miss Kate, I--I--shouldn't have known you. Ah, I am very glad
to see you; sisters will be very glad to see you, too. Do, do come right
along with me. I'm afraid the parlor won't be very sightly, but you
won't mind, will you?"

Kate squeezed the hand still resting in her own, and drawing the long
veil back over face, she walked silently with the puzzled spinster,
unable to broach the theme she had at heart. Merry spared her the
torture of going at it obliquely.

"I have just been at the Spragues. Poor dears, they are in dreadful
distress. Mrs. Sprague is preparing to go in search of the body, but
Olympia won't give in that Jack is killed. She says that if he had been
she certainly would have known it in Richmond, for there are couriers
twice a day from the rebel outposts to the capital; that the Atterburys
had taken special measures to learn the fate of the escaped prisoners;
that, besides this, several young men in Richmond, who knew Jack well,
had been sent down the peninsula with the prisoners, to befriend him in
case he were retaken."

"And Olympia believes that Jack is alive?"

"Yes, firmly."

"Where does she think he is?"

"She believes that he is among a squad separated from the rest of the
prisoners, near the Union lines. It was asserted in Richmond that many
had crossed the James River, and were making for the Dismal Swamp, or
into Burnside's lines in North Carolina."

"Dear Miss Merry, I--I--think I won't go in now," Kate said,
tremblingly. "I must see Olympia. Perhaps I can help them in the search
for Jack, and you know there is no time to lose. I shall come and see
you all soon."

She squeezed the astonished Merry's hand, convulsively, and shot off,
leaving the bewildered lady quite speechless, so speechless that, when
she reached the stately presence of Aunt Pliny, she forgot the
commissions she had been sent to execute, and was at once reviled by the
parrot as "a no-account dawdler."

Meanwhile, Kate, with wild, throbbing hope in her heart that kindled
color in her pale cheeks and light in her weary eyes, sped away to the
Spragues. There was no tremor in the hand that raised the dragon-headed
knocker, nor hesitancy in the voice that bade the servant say that "Miss
Boone requested a few moments' conversation with Miss Sprague."

Olympia came presently into the reception-room, and the girls met with a
warm embrace.

"Ah, Olympia, I have been made so--so--glad by what Merry tells me!
You--do--not believe that your brother is dead?" Her voice faltered, and
Olympia, gazing at her fixedly, said:

"No, I shall not believe Jack is dead until I see his body. Poor mother,
who believes the worst whenever we are out of her sight, has given up
all but the faintest hope. I shall not. I know Jack so well. I know that
it would take a good deal to kill him, young and strong as he is.
Besides that, I know that the Atterburys would find means to let us
know, if there were any certainty as to his fate. Poor Jack! It would be
an unendurable calamity if he were to die before the monstrous calumnies
that have been published about him are proved lies."

"Dear Olympia, that is one reason of my coming. In my horror at
Rosedale, I, too, believed that John had been in a plot to entrap
Wesley; but I--I--know better now, and I have come to tell you that it
is no less my duty than my right to see that your brother's memory is
made as spotless as his life."

"I knew it; I knew you would, do it; I told Jack so in Richmond, almost
the last words I said before he set out on this miserable adventure. I
told him you were not the girl I took you for if you could believe him
to be such a dastard, when you had time to get over the shock of poor
Wesley's death. You never heard the whole story of that dreadful night.
I must tell it to you--as he would if he were here, and I know you would
believe him." The two girls sat down, hand in hand, and Olympia told
the tale as it has been set down in these pages.

Kate was sobbing when the story ended. She flung her arms about
Olympia's neck, and for a time the two sat silent, tearful.

"Oh, why didn't he tell me this at the time? It was not Jack's bullet
that entered poor Wesley's body. Jack was at his right, at the side of
the bed. Wesley's wound was on the left side, and the shot must have
come from Jones's pistol!"

"I remember that; but Jack's remorse put all thought of everything else
out of my head. I recall, perfectly, that the wound was in Wesley's left
side. Oh, if I could only get that word to Jack! I If--"

"I'll get it to him if he's alive. I, or mine, have been his undoing! I
shall make amends. Ah, Olympia, I--I am ashamed to feel so full of
joy--forgive me."

"It isn't your fault, dear, that you didn't know Jack as we do," Olympia
said, tenderly.

"What are your plans?" Kate asked, presently.

"Mother insists upon going to the peninsula and examining the ground,
questioning all who took part in the pursuit, and seeing with her own
eyes every wounded man in the neighborhood. I don't know whether we can
get passes, but we shall set out at once and do our best."

"O Olympia. I must--I must go with you! I shall die if I remain here
doing nothing--helpless! Let me go. I can aid you much. I can surely get
all the passports required. I can do many things that you couldn't do,
for my father--"

She stopped and colored. Her father! What was she rashly promising for
him? Dead, he was bent on Jack's dishonor; living, he would never rest
until Jack's life was condemned.

"Ah, yes--that's true. Your father is potent at headquarters. I can
answer for mamma. We shall be delighted and comforted to have you. I
shall need you as much as mamma needs me. We are only waiting for Mr.
Brodie's report. I don't expect much from his researches. It is only a
woman's heart that upholds one in such trials as this search means."

The plans were agreed upon at once and the two girls separated, knit
together by the same bond in more senses than one, for, while Olympia
set out to rescue her brother, she secretly hoped that the search would
bring her near some one else; and so, as soon as Kate had gone, she sat
down and wrote Vincent of Jack's disappearance, asking his aid in
finding such traces as might be in the rebel lines. She merely alluded
to their projected plan, adding, in a postscript, that she would write
him as soon as the party approached the outposts. Kate wrote at once to
her father, at his Washington address, narrating her visit to the
Spragues, telling him of the new hope that had come to her, and
beseeching him to lend his whole heart to the distressed mother and
sister. He should see her in Washington within a few days, and she
counted on his sympathy with her to help to restore the lost son and
brother if alive, to co-operate in giving the body honorable burial if
he were dead. These letters dispatched, the party waited only to hear
from Brodie. He came a day or two later, but he could give them no hope.
He had been repelled from all sources of information, insulted in the
War Office, and denied access to the President. He was convinced that
there were secret influences at work to obscure the true facts in the
case of the escaped prisoners, but what the agencies were he could not
guess. When Olympia told this to Kate, she was surprised at her look
and response.

"I know the influences, I think, and I can discover the agencies. Take
comfort. I believe Jack is alive. I promise you that I shall never rest
until he is found, alive or dead."

"O Kate, what an impulsive ally we have gained! I wish Jack could have
heard that speech; it would have put power in his arm, as poor Barney
used to say."

Twenty-four hours later the three women were in Washington, Kate
remaining with her friends, instead of joining her father at Willard's.



CHAPTER XXX.

A GAME OF CHANCE.


It was the end of January, 1862, when Olympia and her mother found
themselves in Washington for the second time in quest of the missing
soldier. They took lodgings in the same quiet house, not far from
Lafayette Square--Kate with them. Kate counted upon her father's aid,
active or passive; but when her messenger returned from Willard's with
word that Mr. Boone had gone from the hotel several days before, she was
numb with a dreadful foreboding. He was avoiding her deliberately. She
drove at once to the hotel. The clerk summoned to her aid could only
inform her that her father had given up his room and had left the hotel
late at night. She could get no further clew. She telegraphed at once to
Acredale and returned to the Spragues, not daring to breathe her
apprehensions. Yes, her father was plainly keeping away from her. He
meant to persist in his savage vengeance. What had he learned? Was Jack
indeed dead, and was his good name the object of her father's hatred?
Whither should she turn? Why had she not thought of this--her fathers
passivity or even opposition? How could she reveal her terrors to the
mother and sister? How make known to them the unworthy side of her
father's character? If in the morning no telegram came from Acredale, it
would be proof that her father was bent, implacably in his purpose to
undo Jack, living or dead. When she reached the lodging, Olympia was
dressed for the street.

"You are just in time. I have matured my plans. First, we must find out
at the proper quarter the names of all the wounded brought here from
Fort Monroe. Then we must trace the report in the _Herald_ down to its
origin. Then we must visit every hospital in and near Washington to find
out from actual sight of each man whether Jack or Dick, or any one we
know, is in the city. As we go on, we shall learn a good deal which may
modify this plan, or perhaps make the search less difficult."

Olympia said this with composure and a certain confidence in herself
that struck Kate with admiration. She felt ashamed of herself. Here was
Olympia, unconscious of Jack's real peril if living, the menace to his
reputation if dead, planning as composedly as if it were an every-day
thing to have a brother lost in the appalling mazes of war; and she had
been weakly depending upon her father, Jack's most persevering enemy!
She recoiled from herself in a shiver of self-reproach as she said:

"Olympia, you have the good sense of a man in an emergency. I am ashamed
of myself. I, who ought to do the thinking for you, am as helpless as a
kitchen-maid set to playing lady in the parlor. I can at least help you;
I can make my body follow you, if I haven't sense enough to suggest."

"Dear Kate, it isn't sense, or insight, or any fine quality of mind that
is needed here. All I ask is, that you won't get dispirited, or, if you
do, don't let mamma see you are. Poor mamma! She is as easily influenced
as a baby. Jack is her darling, remember. All the world is a small
affair to her compared with our poor boy. I fancy, if we were as much
wrapped up in him as she is, we should make poor pioneers in the
wilderness before us."

But Kate could stand no more of this. With a choking sob she turned and
fled up the stairway, crying as she disappeared: "Wait--wait a moment; I
must get my purse."

When she reappeared, the heavy mourning-veil was drawn down, and
Olympia, with a reassured glance, opened the door.

"You must affect confidence, if you have it not--even gayety. I warn you
not to be shocked at my conduct. I must keep up mamma's spirits, and to
do it I must play indifference or confidence, and you must be careful to
say nothing, to do nothing, to excite her suspicions."

Kate's cab had driven off, and the two girls walked through Lafayette
Square into Pennsylvania Avenue to get another. The wide streets were
filled, as of old, with skurrying orderlies, groups of lounging
officers, and lumbering army wagons. But even the untrained eyes of
Olympia soon took account of the better discipline, the more
businesslike celerity of the men on duty as well as the flying couriers.
The White House was gay with hunting, and salutes from the distant forts
were signalizing the news that had just come of Union successes at Mill
Spring and Roanoke Island. The girls, procuring a hack, were driven to
the provost-general's office. Here, after an interminable delay they
were admitted to the presence of a complacent young coxcomb in spotless
regimentals, who, so soon as he saw Olympia's face and bearing, threw
off the listlessness of routine, and, rising deferentially, asked her
pleasure. She told her story simply, and asked his advice as to the
course to be followed. When the extract from the _Herald_ was shown to
him, he examined an enormous folio, and then rang a bell.

"It is more than likely that these names are wrong. This happens
constantly. The operators are raw and some of them can barely read. The
names are given hurriedly, and if not written plainly they make wretched
work of them. The newspapers make many a fool famous, while neglecting
many a hero who deserves fame, simply through the blundering or
carelessness of the writers or operators. Here is an orderly who will
take you to the surgeon-general. You will find in his books the names of
all the wounded in hospital in the Eastern armies. But if your brother
was wounded or brought in wounded at Fort Monroe, his name will be on
the books of the Army of the Potomac or the Department of Eastern
Virginia."

They were treated with the same deferential gallantry at the
surgeon-general's office; the young doctors, indeed, became almost
obtrusive in their eagerness to spare the young women the drudgery of
scrutinizing the long lists of invalids. But, after two days' careful
search, no names resembling Sprague or Perley could be found.

"I wonder who this can be?" Kate said, returning to an entry made a
month before: "Jones, Warchester; Caribee Regiment."

"I know no one of that name," Olympia said, "but perhaps he might know
something of Jack. Let us go to him. It will do no harm to find out
who he is."

The surgeon's clerk readily gave them Jones's address, reminding them
that the hospital was in Georgetown, and that they would be too late to
obtain entrance to the patient that day. Next morning Mrs. Sprague was
too ill to rise from her bed, and Olympia could not leave her alone.
Kate undertook the investigation into the Jones affair alone. When she
reached the hospital there was some delay before she could see the
personage intrusted with the admission of guests. She was shown into an
office on the ground-floor and given a seat. As she sat, distraught and
eager, she heard her own name in the next room, the door of which
stood open:

"It's at Boone's risk. He would have him moved, and the surgeon-general
gave him _carte blanche_ with the patient."

"Well, it will cost the man his life. I'll stake my diploma on that.
Why, the journey to Warchester alone is enough to down the most vigorous
convalescent."

Kate trembled. What did this mean? What was she hearing?
Boone--Warchester? Whom had her father been taking from the
hospital--Jack? Her heart gave a wild leap. Yes--Jack. Who else did her
father know in the army? She arose trembling, fainting, but resolute.
She reached the open door, but tried for a moment in vain to ask:

"If you please, tell me, tell me--" But she could say no more. The
occupants of the room, in undress uniform, turned upon her at first in
hostile surprise, but, as she threw her veil farther back in alarm, the
elder of the two said:

"Pray, madam, what is it; are you ill?"

"No; may I sit down, please? Thank you. I am come to, to--" What should
she say? How expose the doubt of her father? How find out for certain
who had been removed to Warchester--abducted was the word her agitated
thoughts shaped. Oh, if Olympia, intrepid, self-possessed, were only
with her!--but no, not Olympia; no one must ever know the unutterable
crime she suspected her father of. She must be brave. She must be
resolute. Oh, where were her arts now, when she most needed them? She
tried to speak. A hoarse gasping came in her throat and died there.

"Ah--ah--some water!--I--I am faint."

In an instant a goblet of cool water was at her lips. She drank slowly,
deliberating all the time to recover her senses; the surgeons--both
young men, mere lads--waiting respectfully, inferring much from the
melancholy robes. The water cooled her head, and she began to be able to
think coherently.

"I have the surgeon-general's permit to visit a patient in your fever
ward--Jones, the name is. Can I see him?"

"Pray, let me see the permit, madam?" He glanced at it, looked
significantly at his comrade, and said:

"This man was removed three days ago."

"Whereto?"

"Warchester."

"Ah!" Kate's veil, by an imperceptible gesture, fell over part of her
face. A great trembling came upon her again. The young surgeons
exchanged glances.

"Who--who--did--who asked for his removal?"

"A Mr. Boone, also of Warchester."

"Thank you--I am too late--I wanted to--to ask this Mr. Jones some
questions concerning a dear friend in his regiment. But I can write, if
you will kindly give me the address."

"I am very sorry--beyond Warchester we have no record here of his
whereabouts. If he had been officially transferred to another government
hospital, we should have all the facts. But the removal was a personal
favor to Mr. Boone. He is well known both here and in Warchester, and
you can have no difficulty in communicating with him."

"Ah, true; I had forgotten that."

"If we can be of any service to you, Miss Sprague," the young man said,
handing Kate back the permit, made out in Olympia's name, which Kate had
never thought of, "you can always reach us through the surgeon-general's
office." He handed her a card with his own and his comrade's name
in pencil.

Thanking the young man with as much self-possession as she could summon,
Kate reached the carriage in a whirl of wild imaginings, more terrifying
as she strove to reduce them to definite shape. Who was this Jones? Why
remove him to Warchester? If it were not Jack, what interest could her
father have in his removal? But. first, what could she say to Olympia?
She could say she did not know Jones, but Olympia would surely ask what
questions she had put to him. What should she say? That he had been
taken away from the hospital? She knew Olympia well enough to know that
this vague story would only incite her to further inquiry. She would
find out the father's handiwork in the affair, and she, too, would be
set on the rack of suspicion.

When the carriage reached the door, Kate dared not enter. She dismissed
the man and set out toward the green fields below the rounded slope of
Meridian Hill. Here she could breathe freely. "I can think clearly now,"
she panted, with a gush of warm tears. If she could only remain calm,
she could look Into the black abyss with the eye of reason, rather than
terror. Calmness came soothingly as she walked, and she began at the
beginning, weighing probabilities. All seemed dark and hopeless, until
she came back to the record in the surgeon-general's office. Jones, sent
from Hampton Hospital, December 13th. This was about the time Jack had
reached the Union lines. He had left Richmond late in November. All
Brodie's inquiries at Fort Monroe had been fruitless in finding the
whereabouts of the fugitives that came through the lines at that time.
Dick had been one of them. If Jones were not Jack himself, he must have
been one of the group that escaped with Jack. It all led back to the
first frightful conjecture. Her father was abducting a witness who could
divulge Jack's whereabouts, or he was secreting Jack until be could work
him harm. The walk began to revive Kate's courage as well as her
faculties. She must act with energy. The hardest part of the problem was
to get clear of Olympia, for Kate at once made up her mind to quit
Washington that very night for home. She must evade Olympia's inquiries
as best she could, and make some excuse for journeying thither.

When she reached home, fortune had intervened to save her conscience
from the falsehoods she feared she would have to employ. The landlady
met her in the hallway with a white face.

"O Miss Boone, Mrs. Sprague is taken very bad. The doctor's with her
now. I think it is typhoid fever."

Up-stairs misfortune gave her a further release. Olympia came into
Kate's room, agitated and in tears.

"All, Kate, mamma is suffering pitiably. The doctor thinks it is
typhoid, and he ordered me to remain away from her. You must leave the
house. It won't do for all of us to be ill together. I may not be able
to see you for days, until the crisis is past. But you must continue the
search, and you must let me know, from day to day, what you learn. There
are letters for you--I hear mamma. I will be back in a moment."

Kate fairly hated herself for the passing thrill of relief over the
timely illness that had intervened to expedite her mission. She glanced
over the letters. There was one in her father's hand, postmarked
Acredale. It contained no clew to his purposes, but she read
tremblingly:

"My daughter: You are doing a foolish thing. The search you propose can
lead to nothing. All that can be done has been done by his friends. They
have found no trace of him. Women can not hope to succeed where so keen
a man as Brodie has failed. I have every confidence that in good time
the matter will be cleared up, but you must remember that the Government
and its agents have all they can do to manage and keep track of the
millions of soldiers in the field, and they can not be expected to take
much interest in the fate of the wounded or dead. Always affectionately.

"Your Father."

All doubt of her father's sinister intervention in Jack's disappearance
now took the form of certainty in the girl's mind. When Olympia came
back, a few moments later, Kate said, tenderly:

"I have news from home. I must go back at once. It is less of a grief to
me, since I should be banished from you if I were here. I shall not be
gone long. I shall certainly be back as soon as you can receive me. In
the mean while, don't despair. I have been put on a new trail that I can
not explain to you now. But I can say this much, when you see me again
you shall know whether Jack is alive or dead."

Olympia, who had been so strong, cheery, and masterful when it had been
a question of reassuring her mother, was now the stricken spirit. She
looked at Kate through swimming eyes, and her voice was lost in sobs as
she tried to speak. The girls held each other in a tearful silence,
neither able to say what was in the minds of both. Even the uncertainty
had a sort of solace compared with the dreadful possibility of
the worst.

"Remember, dear, you have your mother. What is our poor grief to hers;
what is our loss to hers? It ought to comfort you to know that whatever
human thought, courage, love can do to recover Jack, I shall do, just as
you would in my place. I am very strong and resolute now, and I am
filled with hope--so filled that I can not talk to you. I dare not let
you see how much I hope, lest if it be not fulfilled you will hate me
for inspiring you with it."

"I will hope. I do believe you will do better than I should. The loving
are the daring--you will find Jack. I know it."

"Ah, God bless you, Olympia! That removes a curse from me--I--I mean
that fills me with a courage that is not my own, I have learned yours or
stolen it. But you will forgive me, for I mean to use it all in
your behalf."

Olympia smiled sadly, and the two parted. By the night express Kate left
the city, and, the next afternoon, reached Acredale. As she anticipated,
her father was not at home. He had only been an hour or two in the house
since his return. The servants had no idea where he was. His letters
were forwarded to him under cover of his lawyers in Warchester. If, as
she fearfully surmised, her father were engaged in some cruel scheme to
the hurt of Jack, her best way with him would be perfect frankness. She
had never yet failed in swerving him from his most headstrong impulses
when she could talk with him. She must have him now to herself. Her best
plan, therefore, would be to write. Yet she hardly knew how to frame the
note, reflecting bitterly, as she sat twirling her pen, on the monstrous
state of things that made writing to her own father almost a duplicity.
At length she wrote:

"DEAREST PAPA: I am come all the way from Washington, leaving poor Mrs.
Sprague very low with fever, and her daughter tormented and ill with
anxiety. I feel, I know, that you can relieve the distress of this
miserable mother and devoted sister. I must see you. I felt sure of
seeing you in Washington, and you can imagine my surprise and grief when
they told me at the hotel that you had gone. Do come to me, or let me
come to you. Your daughter's place is with you or near you now. We have
only each other in this world; pray, dear father, let nothing come
between us; let nothing make you doubt the constant love of
your daughter.

"KATE."

The note dispatched, she went immediately to the Perleys. Perhaps they
had news that might be of help. No. The three ladies met her with
agitated volubility. Had she heard from their nephew? Had Dick escaped
with Jack? Olympia had assured them that he had quitted Richmond with
her brother. They had written to the Caribee regiment, and received word
that no trace of him could be found. The regiment, or what was left of
it, was home refilling its ranks. The officers, indeed, knew nothing of
such a person as Richard Perley. McGoyle, who was now colonel, did
vaguely recall the lad at Washington, but had no idea what became of
him. Kate found a new grief in the misery of the helpless ladies. But
she could give them no comfort, and returned home to await her father's
coming. In the evening a messenger brought her a note. It was in the
straight, emphatic hand of her father. He wrote:

"DEAR DAUGHTER: I am just now engaged in very important matters that
require me to move about considerably. I shall not be home for some
days. I am glad you have come home. That's the place for you. You had
better let the matter you speak of alone. The mother and sister are
enough in the business. I don't see how it concerns you or me. If the
man is dead it will be known as soon as the commissioners of exchange
hand in their lists. If he is not dead, it is certainly no business of
yours or mine to bring him home. I will write you soon again. Love your
father. Keep the house well till I come."

That was all. More than evasive. Subtly calculated to make her believe
that he had dismissed all thought of Jack and was immersed in his own
affairs. She sat staring and helpless, a cold horror creeping into her
heart and a nameless terror taking outline in her senses. Hideous
alternative. To be coherent she must suspect, nay, accuse, her father of
a dreadful duplicity. He was deceiving her; else why no mention of his
mission to Washington--his abduction of Jones? Jones! Who was he? Oh,
blind and senseless that she had been! Why had she not asked the young
men at Georgetown to describe Jones? That would have revealed all she
needed to know. Was it too late to write them? Yes; but could she throw
suspicion upon her father by writing to strangers, and of necessity
exposing the sinister secrecy of her father's action. But she could
hurry back to Washington, and, without letting the young men know, got a
descriptive list. This she resolved to do. Twenty-four hours later she
was in Washington. The journey was thrown away. The descriptive list had
been sent by the hospital steward with the invalid. He could be found in
the military hospital in Warchester. His name was Leander Elkins. This
was something gained. Two days later she was at the hospital in
Warchester. The steward, Elkins, came to her in the waiting room. He was
a young giant in stature, with light flaxen hair, a merry blue eye, and
so bashful in the presence of a woman that he colored rosily as Kate
asked him if he was the person she had sent for.

"Yes'm. I'm Lee Elkins," he stammered, very much perplexed to find ease
for his large hands and ample feet.

"Are you--is Mr. Jones, who came from the Georgetown Hospital, in your
case?" Kate had thought out her course in advance, and had decided that
the direct way was the best. Unless the man had been charged to conceal
facts, an apparent knowledge of Jones's movements would be the surest
way of eliciting his whereabouts.

"Oh no, miss. Jones wa'nt brought here; he was took to a private place.
I don't rightly know where, but I calculate I ken find eout of ye
want to know."

"Yes, I should like very much to know. I am deeply interested in him,
Did you have charge of him?"

"I can't say I did. I was sent from Washington in the same train, but
the old chap that got Jones removed did all the nussing. I only got a
sight of him as he was lifted into the carriage."

"Should you know him again if you saw him?"

"Think I should. Yes'm, think I should. His head was about as big as a
pumpkin."

"He had been wounded?"

"Well, I should say so."

"Have you seen the gentleman that brought him on from Washington
lately?"

"Not here, mum; I did see him in the street the other day. He was in a
wagon--leastwise, it looked mighty like him."

Kate began to breathe more freely. Her father had, at least, avoided any
collusion with inferiors. His handiwork had been natural, involving no
conspiracy or bribing of menials.

"Do you think you could find out for me where Mr. Jones is?"

"Wall, I reckon it could be done. It may take some days, as I must trust
to the luck of running upon old Dofunny again."

Kate started. "Old Dofunny"--the unsuspecting humorist meant her father
by this jocular _nom de guerre_, and she dared not resent it. How should
she gain her end and yet save herself from the humiliation of seeming to
spy upon her father? It wouldn't do for Elkins to go to him, for he
would at once suspect, inquire, and learn that she had come upon his
tracks. If she could only see him face to face, she would be spared all
this odious complotting. But she dared not reject the means Providence
had put in her hands. And yet, how use them, and avoid throwing
suspicion upon her father in cautioning Elkins not to approach him? She
was not equal to the invention of a plan on the moment, and said in a
doubting, reflective way:

"Never mind. I may be able to learn from some of his friends where he
is. The gentleman you speak of does not live in this city, and you would
hardly be able to find him. If I could, find him I could find
Mr. Jones."

"Ah, yes; jes' so. Wall, I think I can find him in another way. I
remember the carriage that took him from the station, I can find out
from the driver. 'T'wan't no mystery, I reckon."

Kate looked into the innocent blue eyes as the young fellow scratched
his tow head, wondering whether he was as simple-minded as he seemed. He
stood the scrutiny with blushing restiveness, in which there was nothing
of the malign, and she resolved that he was to be trusted.

"Very well," she said, indifferently, "that does seem the shortest way
to find out the poor fellow's whereabouts. Get the facts, and you shall
be well paid for your trouble."

"'Tain't no trouble, miss, if it's a service to you. It would make me
powerful glad to do anything for a comrade or his sister."

Kate smiled at the astute mingling of sly fun and questioning implied in
the gently rising inflection in this query.

"Yes," she said, "you will be relieving the anxious heart of a sister if
you find what I am seeking."

"Nuff said, miss. Just as soon as I get my relief I'm off like a shot.
Where shall you be?"

"Ah, yes; you can come to me at the Alburn House. Here is my card, and
you will doubtless be at some expense. Here is money to pay--spare
no expense."

The big eyes opened in wonder as Kate handed him three new ten-dollar
greenbacks, just then something of a novelty to soldiers especially, who
got their pay infrequently. It was a bold stroke to intrust her name to
this unconscious agent of her father, for, if he were really playing a
part, his first act would be to reveal her visit and thus set her father
on his guard. But she trusted him implicitly. His wide-open blue eyes,
the artless admiration mingling with his bashful diffidence, all were
proof that he could not be deceiving her. She took rooms at the Alburn
House, which was not the chief hotel, as being better adapted for her
purpose of seclusion. At the big hotel she was known, and if her father
were in town she would be under his espionage without the solace of
writing him. Late in the evening her agent came in radiant. He had
found the man.

"Easy as rolling off a log." The hackman had taken him to the house
where Jones was lying. It was on the outskirts of the city toward
Acredale. He described the house. Kate knew it very well. It was the
property of her father.

"Did you see the patient?"

"No, indeed. You didn't tell me to, and I had nothing, to see him for.
Ef you had told me that you wanted I should see him, I'd have seen him
as easy as greased lightning."

"Thank you. I am relieved of a great burden through your kindness. You
must permit me to give you something to show my gratitude. Here, use
this money for some one who needs it, if you do not need it yourself."

"But I don't need it. Here is what you gave me this morning, 'cept a
half-dollar I spent in treating John. I couldn't think of taking so much
money. It's more'n Uncle Sam allows me for five months' pay."

"No, I shall feel distressed if you do not accept it. You can find use
for it. It will bring you luck, for it is the reward of a very important
service. Perhaps some time we may meet again, and then you shall know
how important."

The tow hair stood up in wild dismay, and the blue eyes were perfect
saucepans, as Kate gently forced the money into the big palm.

"Wall, I vum, miss, I feel like I was a-robbing you, but ef yeou deu
want I should take it, why I will, and send it to my old mother, who
will find plenty o' use for it. Good-by, miss. Ef you should want me
again, I'm at the hospital. I shall be mitey tickled to do anything for
yeou or your brother."



CHAPTER XXXI.

TWO BLADES OF THE SAME STEEL.


It was too late to follow up the discovery that night. Kate, after a
feverish rest, set out early in the morning. She went first to Acredale,
where she could get her own equipage and driver. The tenants of the
house did not know her. She rang boldly at the door, and when a maid
answered, quite taken aback by the girlish figure in deep black, Kate
asked, confidently:

"I want to see the sick man, Mr. Jones."

"Yes'm, come right in. This way, please, ma'am." The girl led the way up
a flight of stairs, but if she had been part of the balustrade Kate
could not have been more immovable. Whom was she about to see? Jack,
wan, emaciated, on the verge of the grave? They had said in Washington
that the journey would kill him; was it to that end her relentless
father had persisted in the removal? Was she about to see the dying
brought to death's door by her own flesh and blood? She reeled against
the stair-post and brought her veil over her face. The girl had turned
above and was waiting in wonder. With a desperate gathering together of
her relaxed forces, she mounted the stairway. In the corridor the girl
turned to a closed doorway and knocked lightly. There was no sound
within; but the door swung open, and Elisha Boone stood on the
threshold. He did not in the dim light observe the figure in black, but,
looking at the maid, said, softly:

"What's wanted, Sarah?"

"A young lady to see Mr. Jones, sir," and, stepping slightly aside for
Kate to enter, the father recognized the visitor.

"You here, Kate? What does this mean?"

With a great throb of joy she flung herself into his arms; too happy,
too relieved to take into consideration the defeat of her purpose
involved in the meeting. For an instant she lost all thought of anything
but that her estranged parent was in her arms, that she would not let
him quit her sight again, that her pleading would keep him from any act
that could cause her or any one else unhappiness.

"Ah, father, I'm so relieved, so glad! I was miserable, and did not know
where you were. I--I will not let you leave me again."

"But my child, you must not be here; this is a house of sickness; there
is dangerous illness here."

"It's no more dangerous for me than for you. I know who is here." She
looked archly at him, as he started in surprise. "I will help nurse Mr.
Jones." She said this with immense knowingness in her manner as she
squeezed the astonished man to her heart. The maid meanwhile had
retreated to a safe distance, where she lurked in covert to make report
of the extraordinary goings on.

"Impossible, Kate; you must not be here. I will not have it; you must
go." His voice grew stern. "You must go, I say, Kate; you must go
down-stairs this instant."

"Come, Boone, I say, this isn't fair; let the lady come in if she wants
to see valor laid low." Boone, who had been insensibly moving Kate from
the open doorway, caught her eye fixed on the room, and looking over his
shoulder at these jocular words he saw Jones leaning against the post, a
wan smile on his face. Boone turned, almost flinging Kate from him, and,
fairly lifting the invalid, carried him back into the room.

"This is madness; you are in no condition to rise. I won't be
responsible for your life if you persist in this course."

"So much trouble off your hands, old man. I'll be more use to you dead
than living. Better let me blow my own flame out. It won't burn long at
best or worst."

In the overwhelming revulsion of feeling brought about by the actual
sight of Jones, Kate stood, interdicted, in the corridor, uncertain what
to do. She heard the man's words and shuddered at the bantering levity
with which he spoke of his own death. Who could it be? It was not Jack,
as she had feared and hoped. But he must know something of Jack. She
must speak with him. How? It would not do to irritate her father. She
caught Boone's almost whispered words:

"I tell you, Jones, you shall be brought about, but you know the danger
of seeing any Acredale people. My daughter knows you--knows the Perleys.
I should think that would be reason enough why you should not be seen
by her."

"Oh, I don't mind; the sight of a pretty girl is the best medicine I
know of. I'd risk all Acredale for that."

Kate turned softly and waited at the foot of the stairs for her father.
He came presently, looking worried and embarrassed.

"Now don't go to imagining mysteries here. This is a man who has been on
my hands a good many years. He is an irreclaimable spendthrift. He was
in other days a man of repute and station. I am interested in him,
through old ties, since the days we were boys."

"The carriage is here, papa; won't you come home with me?"

"Yes; you get into the carriage."

He reappeared presently, the face of a strange woman, that Kate had not
seen, peering over his shoulder into the carriage as he came down the
steps. Kate instantly divined that he had been warning the landlady
against admitting strangers to the sick man's room. During the drive
home Kate strove to reassert her old dominion over the moody figure at
her side. It was useless. As the carriage stopped at the door he turned
toward her and said, not unkindly:

"Daughter, there are some things I know better how to manage than you
do. You have been spying on your father. This is another count in the
long score of grudges I owe the Sprague tribe and their scoundrel son.
Understand me clearly, my child; you must not speak of this matter
again. The whole business will soon be at an end; that end is in my
hands, and no power this side the grave can alter a fact in the outcome.
You are very dear to me; you are all I have left in the world; you must
trust me, and you must believe that I am doing everything for the best.
Try to think that the world is not coming to an end because I insist on
having my own way for once."

Nothing but the sense of having giving hostages to good behavior rather
than honor upheld Kate in the line she had marked out for herself. She
was not, in the modern sense of the word, a strong-minded young woman,
this sorely beset champion of the overborne. She hadn't even the
perversity of the sex in love. Chivalrously as she loved the lost
soldier, she loved her father with that old-fashioned veneration which
made her see all that he did with the moral indistinctness, without
which there could not be the perfect filial devotion that makes the
family a union in good report and evil. She had not even that, by no
means repellent, secondary egoism which upholds us in doing ungrateful
things that abstract good may follow. Opposition, which becomes
delightful when we can call it persecution, had no charm for her. If her
father had suddenly adopted the _rôle_ of the stern parent in novels and
ordered her to her chamber, Kate would have regarded it as a joke, and
felt rather relieved that she could thus escape the pledge given to the
Spragues. But, as it was, she felt morally bound by her promise to
Olympia; and, though she realized dimly that her instrumentality was
slowly involving her father in a coil of unloveliness, she resolutely
braced herself for the worst. In spite of herself she had believed in
conquering her father's severity and changing his mind. She had rescued
him from revenges quite as dear to him as this, at least so far as she
understood it, forgetting that her father believed himself to be
pursuing the deliberate murderer of his son. When we have achieved a
victory over our own less noble impulses and put the sophistries that
misled us behind us, it is impossible to realize that others have not
the same vision, the same mind as our own. Kate had accused Jack of
cold-blooded murder. She had reasoned herself out of that hateful
spirit, and, forgetting that her father had not the vital force of love
to act as a fulcrum, she could not quite comprehend how difficult it was
to shift the wrathful burden in his mind. She had gone too far to recede
now with honor. Olympia had trusted her, had indeed given over into her
hands the active work of finding the strangely lost clew of Jack's
whereabouts. Perhaps for her father's sake it was better that she should
be the instrument. She might be able to dissemble his intervention,
shield him from obloquy--if, as she feared, he was responsible for
anything doubtful.

She knew her father too well to suppose that he would flinch from any
measure he had proposed to himself. She knew that she need not count any
further upon her accustomed powers of persuasion. His own words were
final on that score. If she could only learn his intentions! If she
could be sure that he was ulteriorly shaping events against Jack--was
acquainted with his whereabouts--she would have known exactly what to
do. But, pilloried in doubt, shackled by the dread of exposing him in
some hateful malevolence which would forever disgrace him in the
community, she hardly dared stir, though she felt that every hour's
delay was a new peril to Jack in some way. The more she thought of the
scene of the morning, the surer she felt that Jones--or Mr. Dick, as her
father sometimes called him--was in some way an instrument in the
paternal scheme. If she could but see Jones ten minutes! Her father, she
well knew, had guarded against that. Whom could she send in her place?
Ah! there was the double check. She couldn't expose her father to a
stranger; yet if her apprehensions were grounded on anything more
substantial than fear, strangers must in time know all. Could Merry be
made use of? No--that would not do. The libertine tone of the invalid,
his impudent allusion to herself, convinced Kate that a man must be her
agent, if any one were to be. But what man did she know? If she sent any
of the servants, her father would recognize them, and the attempt fail.
She had trusted Elkins. He seemed an honest, incurious lad, just the one
to be trusted in the business. She could invent a fable which would
satisfy his ready credulity without compromising her father. It was
plain that he was the only resource. She dressed at once and returned to
the Alburn. Thence she dispatched a note to Elkins, begging him to call
at his earliest leisure. While waiting his return, she wrote a letter to
be handed to Jones. This was a work of no little ingenuity, forced as
she was to avoid all allusion to her father and the scene of the
morning. When completed, this stroke of the conspiracy ran:

    "DEAR SIR: A mother and sister who have exhausted all
    official sources in vain to get trace of a lost son and brother,
    John Sprague of the Caribees, have reason to believe that
    you can give them a clew to his whereabouts. Will you
    therefore kindly confide in the bearer of this letter, giving
    him by word of mouth such facts as will enable John
    Sprague's relatives to work intelligently in the search for
    him, living or dead?

    "Very truly yours,

    "KATHERINE BOONE."

It was hardly written when Elkins himself appeared, radiant with
satisfaction and blushing like a peony under lamplight.

"Yeour note came just in th' nick o' time. I have leave of absence for
twenty-four hours, and was just goin' inter teown."

"If you can spare me the day, I have a very important matter I think you
can attend to for me. I want you to go to the sick man Jones. You must
see before entering whether he is alone or not. I don't know how you can
find out, but you can invent some way. If you see the man who brought
him from Washington, you are not to enter. But if you find that he is
not in the house, ask boldly for Jones, and when you reach him hand him
this note. He will give you an answer, and you must be careful not to
lose a word, for life depends on the accuracy of your report. I fancy
that your regimentals and hospital badge can gain you admission, if, as
I have reason to believe, there are orders to refuse strangers
admission. I depend on you to overcome any difficulty you may meet. If
you knew how much depends upon it, I'm sure you would not be baffled by
anything less than force."

The big blue eyes were fairly bulging, like two monster morning-glories,
as Elkins, putting the note carefully in his jacket pocket,
said, softly:

"Ef I don't get thet 'ere letter into Jones's hands, you may have me
drummed out o' camp by the mule-drivers."

"I believe you, and trust you. I shall be here to-morrow morning early,
and shall hope to hear something from you. Good-by."

"Good-by, miss. Just you make up your mind I am goin' to do what you
command."

When she reached home she found her father in the library. He looked at
her inquiringly as she came over and kissed him.

"I have been in town all day, and am run out."

"Still plotting?"

"Yes, still plotting."

"You're wasting your time, my dear. You'll know all you care to soon
enough, if you'll just keep quiet."

"Yes; but I can't. I want to know all you know, and I want to know it
now."

"All I know wouldn't be much, according to the Spragues, who gave me my
status in this town, long ago, as an ignoramus."

"Perhaps you were then, papa."

"Yes; I hadn't been schooled fifteen years by my accomplished daughter."

"A lie is truth to those who only tell the truth."

"What does that mean?"

"It's simple enough--a home-made epigram. People who tell nothing but
the truth are easiest made to believe a lie. The Spragues had heard of
you as ignorant, and believed it. You can't blame them for that."

"I don't blame them because it was a lie. I blame them because it was
the truth. I don't care a straw how many lies are told about me--it's
the ill-natured truth I object to."

"I'm afraid that you will have a hard time in life if you like lies
better than the truth."

"I didn't say that."

"Then I don't understand English."

"You don't understand me."

"Ah, yes I do, papa. I do understand you. I know that at this moment you
are doing something that you are ashamed of--something that later you
will bitterly repent. You are carrying on now through pride what you
began in wrath. Stop where you are. The dead can not be avenged. That's
a barbarous code. Remember, in all the petty irritations of the past,
when you have been hurt by your neighbors, you were never so triumphant
as when you surprised those who injured you by a magnanimous return--"

"There, I made an agreement with you that we should not speak of these
things. I mean it. I find that you take advantage of me. I shall be
banished from the house if you do not keep to your bargain."

Kate sighed. She had hoped that the early banter was paving the way for
a reconciliation. She took up some work and tried to busy her hands.

"Suppose you read me something? You haven't read in an age."

"What shall it be?"

"Oh, something from Dickens--anything you like."

"Very well, I shall show you a counterfeit presentment of yourself,"
and, with an arch-smile, she began to read from The Chimes.

He listened soberly until the last page was turned, and then, rising,
said abstractedly:

"I sha'n't see you for a few days. I wish you would remain at home as
much as possible. Get some of the neighbors' girls to keep you company,
if you're lonesome."

"Oh, I shall not be lonesome. I shall have too much to do--too much to
think about."

He laughed. "You are enough like your father, my girl, to pass for him.
Very well, you'll be penitent enough when I come back."

He was gone in the morning, as he had said, and she was free to keep her
appointment with Elkins. He was waiting for her when she readied
the hotel.

"Well?" she cried, breathlessly.

"I saw him."

She seized the blushing lad's two hands. "Ah, you splendid follow! And
then?--"

"He wrote this note for you," and he handed her an envelope with her own
name written on it in an uneven, uncertain scrawl. She tore it open
and read:

"DEAR MADAM: I can not understand why there should
be any difficulty in finding what became of Sprague and his
party. We all reached the lines together, but, as I was hit
by a bullet in the head at the moment of rescue, I knew
nothing of their movements after reaching the Union lines.
I, too, am interested in the young man. I should like to see
you or some of his friends at once, as I suspect foul play of
some sort.

"Obediently yours,

"JONES."

"Did you get to him without trouble?" Kate asked, keenly, disappointed
by the result of all this strategy.

"I made them believe I was on hospital business. I showed them a large
official envelope, and they let me go up. Jones told me to tell you that
he would see you there in the parlor if you would come; that he is
unable to leave the house, or he would come to see you."

"Can you take me there now?"

"I have four hours of my leave still. It does not expire until two
o'clock."

"Then we will go at once. Will you call a carriage?"

While he was gone, Kate read the note again. She was more puzzled than
ever. The man wrote as if he had no idea that Jack was not easily
traceable, yet all the Spragues' money and influence had been spent in
vain. He expected her. Where could her father be? He wrote as though he
had no idea that he had been virtually a prisoner. When she reached the
house, the servant made no difficulty in admitting her. Elkins remained
outside in the vehicle, with an admonition from Kate to remain unseen
unless she called him. Jones, the shadow of the burly soldier we saw in
the famous escape, was seated in a deep, reclining chair, and, as Kate
entered, rose feebly.

"Pray, don't rise, don't disturb yourself in the least. I will sit here
near you, and we can talk, if it won't make you ill."

"No. It isn't talking that troubles me--but never mind that. Your note
has pulled me down a good deal. I was given to understand that the boys
were home and all right."

"The boys?"

"Jack and young Perley."

"Who gave you--who told you that?"

"Your father. He is the only person I have talked with since I got my
wits back."

Kate drew back with a shuddering horror.

"Are you quite sure, Mr.--Mr. Jones that my father told you that?"

"Perfectly certain. Do you suppose that I would not have taken measures
to find out where my own--I mean where friends were? These boys saved me
from prison once and from a death nearly as dreadful as Libby. Could I
be indifferent to them?"

"But why should papa tell you they were safe, when--when our hearts have
been tortured? Ah! I see. He wanted to spare you the anxiety. Ah! yes.
He knew that you would fret and worry, and that you could not recover
under the strain." Kate's heart swelled with a triumphant revulsion. She
had vilely suspected without cause. She must now do justice. Jones eyed
her pensively, holding his head with both his hands.

"Nothing has been heard of the boys since when?"

"Nothing directly since the escape from Richmond. Miss Sprague brought
that news, and about the same time a paragraph in the _Herald_ announced
that prisoners from Richmond had reached the Union lines on
the Warrick."

"When was that?"

"Late in November."

"Yes, I was one of them. I escaped from Richmond. Jack and young Perley
got me out of the tobacco warehouse. We reached the Warrick after a hard
week of marching and hiding, and the boys were alive and well when we
reached the Union outpost. I was last to cross the bridge, and as I
plunged into the thick bushes a bullet struck me, I knew no more until I
found myself here. I had agents at Fort Monroe waiting for me. They
probably forwarded me at once. But I don't understand how there can be
any difficulty in tracing the two boys. Haven't they written?"

"Not a line, not a word concerning them has been heard. Mrs. Sprague
sent agents so soon as the _Herald_ paragraph was shown to Olympia. They
are in Washington now on the quest. It was there we got track of
you--before you were sent here,"'

"Why was I sent here?"

Kate was about to speak. Again the shadow of her first fear--again the
dread of some malevolent purpose on her father's part--choked
her speech.

"I--I--don't know," she faltered.

"Who came with me?"

"My father."

"Ah!" Jones's eyes were penetrating her now. She felt the questioning in
them, and turned her face to the clinging folds of the veil.

"Miss Boone, you seem to be deeply interested in these boys. Are you
really their friend?"

"Ah, believe me, I am heart and soul their friend!"

"Does your father know it?"

"Yes: he knows that I am seeking them."

"Does he approve your search?"

"No, he does not."

"Good. Now listen. We have short time to work in. You have a carriage
outside. Your father will be here any moment. I could never keep from
him my indignation and even distrust. I shall get into that carriage
with you, and you must conceal me somewhere and give me time to set the
proper machinery in motion to find these boys. There is no other way.
Your father has some reason for keeping their whereabouts concealed. I
may know the purpose and I may not. The boys may have been killed in the
volley that struck me. It will require a mere telegram to find out. I
know whom to address, but I must be where I can use trusted agents. I
have no money. You can, I hope, provide me with that, or the Spragues if
you can't."

He spoke with a flush deepening on his face, and arose with something
like vigor.

"Ample means--you shall have any sum you need," Kate said, handing him a
well-filled purse.

"Good--I have one or two articles in my room. I will fetch them and
follow you to the carriage."

Ten minutes later the carriage was whirling over the broad road to
Warchester. By Jones's advice it was stopped at the hospital. Here he
proposed remaining for the night, to mislead suspicion if any one had
taken the precaution to follow.

"I will remain with our friend Elkins to-night, as you suggest," Jones
said; "to-morrow I will send you word of my whereabouts, and you may
expect to have news of the boys within the week."

"My address will be in Washington," Kate said. "I shall go at once to
the Spragues. They have been there, as I told you, to seek every
possible source of information. I left them to follow you, hoping that
through you I should find the missing."

"You made no mistake. I shall find them. You can tell your friends
that," and he added, with a gleam of savage malice, "God help the man
that has raised the weight of a feather against them, for he has put a
heavy hurt on me if he has harmed them!"

Kate shuddered. Was she never to emerge from this hideous circle of
vengeful hatred--this condition of passionate vendetta--where men were
seeking each other's harm? On reaching home she addressed a note to her
father explaining frankly that she had entered into communication with
Jones; that who had been pained by all that she had heard; that the
inquiry had now passed out of her hands and was in that of the
authorities, and begging him to drop any participation he might have
meditated In a late letter Olympia had given good news of her mother,
saying that Kate could return with safety, and, informing her father of
this, Kate bade him good-by for a time.

When Kate reached Washington she found Mrs. Sprague convalescent, but
painfully feeble. The poor mother reproached herself for the
interruption of the search, and implored the two girls to begin again
without a moment's delay. Kate gave her as much hope as she dared. She
hinted something of the outlines of what she had done and the new agent
in the field. With this Mrs. Sprague was greatly comforted, but begged
then to remit no efforts of their own. It was after three days'
fruitless searching among the records of the department and among the
men of the Caribee regiment, now returned to Washington _en route_ to
the front, that Kate bethought herself of her father's probable presence
in the city. She got out of the carriage and entered the long reception
room of Willard's to make inquiry. The boy who came at her call said, as
soon as she asked for Mr. Boone:

"Why, I jast saw him at the desk, paying his bill. He is probably there
still. Wait here until I see."

But Kate, fearing that he might be gone before she could reach him,
followed the boy. There was no sign of her father at the desk, and,
turning hastily out of the main corridor, filled with officers and the
clank of swords almost stunning her, she reached the porch just as a cab
set out toward the station. She might a glimpse of her father's face in
it. He was leaving the city. She must see him. The inspiration of the
instant suggested by a cabman was followed. She hastily entered the
vehicle and bade the driver keep in sight of the one her father was in
until it came to a stop. The driver whipped up his horses, but there
wasn't much speed in them. Kate dared not look out of the window, and
sat in feverish anxiety while she was whirled along Pennsylvania Avenue,
almost to the Baltimore Station, then the only one in the city
connecting with the North. To her surprise, the driver stopped near the
curb a block or more short of the railway. She looked out, and as she
did so the driver pointed to her father's carriage halted just ahead.
She took out her purse, but was delayed a moment in getting the fare,
keeping her eye, however, on her father as he hurried from the cab to a
building before which a sentry was lazily pacing. She was not two
minutes in reaching the doorway, but he had disappeared.

The soldier asked her no questions, and of course she could ask none, as
probably her father was unknown to the military filling the place. She
must follow on until she overtook him. There were clerks busy at long
desks, military officials moving about with files of documents. The
presence of a few women in widow's weeds reassured Kate, and as no one
molested her she persisted in her design. He was not on the lower floor,
and, coming back, she ascended a broad stairway. The hall was wide, and
filled with people all in uniform. She could hear a monotonous voice
reading in front, where the crowd clustered thickest. She looked about
helplessly, and tried to push forward. Suddenly she heard the words:
"Guilty of taking the life of the same Wesley Boone. Specification
third: And that the said John Sprague is guilty of the crime of spying
inside the lines of the armies of the United States." For a moment Kate
stood stupefied--rooted to the floor. Jack was undergoing an ignominious
trial for murder--for desertion! All fear, all timidity, all sense of
the unfitness of feminine evidence in such a place fled from her. She
pushed her way through the astonished throng which fell aside as they
saw her black dress and flowing drapery. She reached the last range of
benches, where men were seated, some writing, some consulting documents,
while the clerk read the charges. Her eye fell upon her father seated
near the place of the presiding officer. She grew confident and
confirmed by the sight: it was a signal to the daring that fired her.
"Stop!" she said, in a clear voice. "I don't know what this place is; I
don't know what meaning these proceedings have. I heard a charge that is
not true. It is false that John Sprague murdered Wesley Boone. Wesley
Boone was my brother, and he was killed in the dark by one of several
shots fired at the same instant. Furthermore, my brother was armed and
in the sleeping-room of the mistress of the house at the dead of night.
If John Sprague's bullet killed him it was shot in self-defense and in
the safeguarding of two terrified women. He had no more idea of whom he
was struggling with than--than the soldier who fires in battle.
Furthermore, he is no spy. He risked his life to rescue prisoners. He
saved the life of one of them who can be brought here to testify. He--"

But here Kale broke down. She had spoken with a passionate, resentful
vehemence, her mind all the time seething with the fear and shame of her
father's responsibility for this hideous attack upon the absent. She
stretched out her hand exhaustedly for support. A young officer near her
pushed up a chair and helped her into it. Boone had turned in speechless
amazement as the first words of the voice sounded in his ears. His back
was toward the door, and he had not seen Kate. He turned as she broke
into this fervid apostrophe. Whether from surprise, prudence, or anger
he sat silent, uninterrupting till she tottered into the seat placed for
her by a stranger. Then he arose and went to her side, in nowise angry
or discomposed so far as his outward demeanor betrayed him. The
presiding officer of the court-martial had attempted to silence Kate by
a gesture, but with eyes fixed steadily upon him she had disregarded his
command. Now, however, he spoke:

"Madame, you must know this is highly disorderly and indecorous. The
court can take no cognizance of this sort of testimony. Do you desire to
be heard by counsel? If you do, the judge-advocate will give you all
lawful assistance."

"If the court please, this lady is my daughter. She is somewhat excited.
I will take the necessary measures in the matter," Boone began.

Kate pushed her father from before her and again addressed the
president.

"I refuse my father's aid in this case. I don't know what is necessary,
but I ask this court, if it has anything to do with John Sprague, to
give his friends an opportunity to present his story truthfully and
without prejudice."

"The judge-advocate will give you all necessary information. Meanwhile,
the case will be adjourned until to-morrow."

Elisha Boone stood beside his daughter, a figure of perplexity and
chagrin. He dared not remonstrate openly. He was forced to hear the
judge-advocate question this extraordinary witness, and instruct her on
the steps necessary to be taken; worse than all, hear him inform Kate
that the citations to John Sprague had been regularly issued, and that
the evidence of his desertion rested wholly on the fact that he had put
in no answer to the charges promulgated against him by his commanding
officer; that the trial was proceeding on the ground that Sprague had
deserted to the enemy, and refused to answer within the time allowed
by law.

"But he has never heard of the charges," Kate cried, indignantly. "He
has not been heard of since he escaped from Richmond."

"As we understand it, he reached the Union lines merely to ambuscade our
outposts, and then returned to Richmond."

"His sister left Richmond ten days after his flight, and he had then
passed into our lines, as she had the surest means of knowing."

"There is some extraordinary error in all this. If Sprague can be
produced before the term fixed by the regulations, he can vindicate
himself by establishing the facts you have told me. If not, we have no
alternative but to condemn him to death as a spy and deserter. The
testimony on these specifications is uncontradicted. The murder we may
not be able to establish, though we have witnesses of the shooting."

It was arranged that Sprague's counsel should see the judge-advocate at
once, Kate giving him the address in case by any accident she should be
prevented from seeing the Spragues. As she left the room, under a
fusillade of admiring glances, she leaned on her father's arm, trembling
but resolute. She now knew the worst, and she had no further terror. As
they reached the door, her father asked:

"Where are you going? I suppose I need not tell you that I was on my way
home when I came here, for I suppose you have been spying on my
movements."

"Never. I feared you were acting unwisely, but I never dreamed of
watching you. Providence has put your plans in my hands at nearly every
step, but I was so ignorant that, of myself, the information would have
done but little service to poor Jack. I came into the court by the
merest chance. I saw you get into the cab at Willard's, and as I had
only reached Washington, I wanted to see you before you went away. I
drove after you--followed without the slightest suspicion of the place
or your purpose in it."

"Well, all your running about is useless. He will be sentenced to death
and the family disgraced. Nothing can now prevent that."

"Yes, Jack can prevent it! I can prevent it!"

"How?"

"Jack will be found. Surely they dare not commit such a monstrous crime
against the absent, the undefended!"

"Well, we won't talk of it. I suppose you are with the Spragues?"

"Yes; I shall remain with them until this is ended."

"What if I should tell you to come home with me?"

"I should, of course, obey you if you commanded me. But before doing so
I should have to put my statement in legal shape--that is, swear to it,
and give my address to the court that I might be regularly summoned."

"You know something of law, too, I see. I sha'n't ask you to go home,
nor shall I go myself. I shall remain to see how this affair turns out."

They were driving down Pennsylvania Avenue now. Kate, recalling her
departure, asked, "You did not get the letter I left for you at home?"

"No, I did not know you were gone."

"I left a few lines to tell you that I had seen Jones." She watched him
as she said this. He did not start, as she expected. His lips were
suddenly compressed and his eye grew dark; then he smiled grimly.

"I hope you felt repaid for your trouble."

"Yes. I felt amply repaid. Jones has undertaken to find out what became
of Jack after his arrival at the Union outposts."

"Did you discuss the whole affair with him?"

"Yes. I was greatly relieved by what I learned. I was afraid you had
some sinister purpose in secreting him as the only link between Jack and
his friends. It gave me new life to find that you had been so tender and
thoughtful to Jones, for, as the event proved, he no sooner learned that
there were apprehensions as to Jack's safety, than he set about his
discovery."

"Did Jones share your grateful sentiment?"

"I think he did. To spare you agitation, he set out at once alone, in
order that you might be relieved of all responsibility."

"Ah!" And Elisha Boone sank far back in the cushion. The carriage
stopped in front of Willard's; then he said: "I shall remain here now. I
will order the driver to take you home. Come to me as often as you can."
He kissed her in the old friendly way and hurried into the hotel.

On reaching her lodgings she found a telegram waiting her. It read:
"Jones gone South. He will advise you of his movements. ELKINS."



CHAPTER XXXII.

THE LOST CARIBEES.


Meanwhile war, in one of its grim humors, had prepared a comedy when the
stage was set in tragic trappings. In the withdrawal of Johnston's army
from Manassas--signalized in history as the Quaker campaign, because our
army found wooden guns in the deserted works--that ardent young Hotspur,
Vincent Atterbury, ran upon a disagreeable end to a very charming
adventure. In chivalric bravado, to emphasize the fact that the
withdrawal of the Confederates was merely strategic, not forced, the
young man, with a lively company of horsemen, hungering for excitement,
formed themselves into a defiant rear-guard. The Union outposts, never
suspecting that Johnston's army was not behind the enterprising cavalry,
withdrew prudently to the main forces.

Then, when they were convinced that the little band was merely on an
audacious lark, forces were sent out on either flank, while the main
body feigned the disorder of retreat. The result was, that Vincent's
squadron was handsomely entrapped, and in the savage contest that ensued
the intrepid major was hustled from his horse with a dislocated shoulder
and broken wrist. He was brought, with a half-dozen more of his
dare-devil comrades, into the Union lines, and in the course of time
found himself in the hideous shambles allotted rebel prisoners at Point
Lookout, Maryland. Too weak at first, or too confused, to bethink
himself of his Northern friends, Vincent shared the hard usage of his
companions and resigned himself patiently to the slow procedure of
exchange, which was now going on regularly, since the Union victories in
the West and South had given the Northern authorities ten prisoners to
the Southerners' one. The prospect of his own release was, under these
circumstances, rather distant, as without special intervention he would
have to await his turn, the rule being that those first captured were
first exchanged. He knew that his family's influence and his own
intimacy with General Johnston would probably hasten the release, but he
could not count upon an immediate return to his duties, and in view of
this he was not very reluctant to undergo convalescence in the North.

Jack's influence, he counted, would soon relieve him from the hardships
of confinement, and then he should see Olympia--that, at least, was
recompense for his misfortune. His mother and Rosa would immediately
learn of his capture, and he might count upon hearing from them, as very
generous latitude was allowed in such cases by the authorities on both
sides. He caused a letter to be written to Jack, addressing it to his
regiment, in care of the War Department, and waited patiently the
response. His disappointment and anxiety, as days passed and he got no
answer, began to tell on his health, already weakened by his wounds.
Thus, one day, when a young lady was shown to his bedside--who fell upon
him with a glad cry, and held his head to her breast--he was too far
gone in delirium to distinguish his sister.

"My darling! O Olympia, I knew you would come," he murmured, and Rosa,
terrified, but composed, soothed the fevered lover as best she might. He
grew worse in spite of all her devotion. The physicians, burdened with
patients far in excess of their powers, assured her that her brother
would require the most patient care and enlightened nursing; that
medicine would do him but slight good, and that she must make up her
mind to a prolonged illness. Rosa was alone in the vast hospital, save
for the presence of her maid Linda, who had come through the lines with
her and was, of course, under the Northern laws, free. Worse than all,
she was poorly provided with money, and this need, rather than Vincent's
love-lorn babbling about Olympia, reminded Rosa to call upon the
Spragues for help. She wrote at once to Olympia, telling the distressing
story, and then set about bettering Vincent's surroundings.

Point Lookout had been selected for its natural prison-like safeguards.
A rank bog surrounded the place on three sides, and thus but few troops
were needed to guard the great mass of rebel prisoners lodged in wooden
barracks and long lines of tents. Vincent's case seemed to have grown
stationary after her coming. He slept a fitful, troubled sleep half the
day. At night he grew delirious and restless. Rosa and Linda divided the
hours into watches, and administered the draughts prepared by the
stewards. Through the humanity of the physician in charge, the invalid
had been transferred to an A tent, where Rosa could remain day and night
unmolested with her maid. Vincent thus cared for, Rosa began to think of
the other poor fellows in her brother's squadron, and set about a
systematic search for them. Many of them she found in the general wards
of the hospital. It was on this kindly mission one day that she heard
her brother's name mentioned by a civilian, who was talking with an
official in uniform.

"Major Atterbury? Oh, yes; he was removed to division D. You will find
him in a separate tent. He has a woman nurse. I will send an orderly
with you."

Rosa did not recognize the civilian at first, but as he turned to
accompany the soldier she remembered where she had seen him before. He
was the prisoner Jack had spoken with in Richmond the day the party
visited the tobacco warehouse. She hastened her step, and, as she came
up with the men, she said, tremulously:

"I am Major Atterbury's sister. My brother is unconscious. Can I attend
to the business you have with him?"

Jones turned and stopped, glancing in surprise at the girl.

"I'm sorry to learn that your brother's so low. But you can do all that
I hoped from him. Here is a letter addressed to John Sprague. It was
received at his regiment three days ago. I happened to be there making
inquiries for him, and the colonel handed it to me. Under the
circumstances I felt justified in reading it, and it turns out that I
did well."

"John Sprague is missing?" Rosa cried, her mind instantly at work in
alarm for some one else.

Jones, dismissing the orderly, told her the facts as we have already
followed them. Leaving out all mention of Kate, he told her how he had
hurried down to Newport News, and thence to the outposts on the Warrick.

There he had learned that Jack and Dick had been wounded, fatally the
story went, in the final volley fired by the pursuers. They had been
carried to the hospital at Hampton. But there all trace had been lost.
The steward who received them and the surgeon who had taken their
descriptive list had been transferred to St. Louis. There was, however,
no record of their deaths, and upon that he based the hope that they
were either in hospital, or had been, through some strange confusion,
assigned among rebel wounded, a thing that had frequently happened in
the hurry of transporting large numbers of wounded men.

"And does Mrs. Sprague know all this?" Rosa cried, understanding now why
Vincent's letter and her own had not brought a response.

"Partly, I think. Mrs. Sprague and her daughter are in Washington, in
the state of mind you may imagine, and exhausting bales of red tape to
reach the lost boys."

Poor Rosa! She had thought her grief and terror too much to endure
before. Now how trivial Vincent's fever in comparison with this
appalling disappearance of Dick and Jack! She walked on over the sparse
herbage, over her shoes in the soft sand, when Linda came running from
the tent in joyous excitement.

"De good Lord, Miss Rosa, she's here; she's done come!"

"Who is here--who is come?" Rosa cried, impatiently; "not mamma?"

"'Deed no, Miss Rosa; Miss Limpy."

"What?"

"Yes, indeedy; and, oh, bress de Lord, Massa Vint knows her, and is
talkin' like a sweet dove!"

It was true. Miss "Limpy," blushing very red, was surprised by Rosa in a
very motherly attitude by the patient's cot. The two girls melted in a
delirious hug, mingled with spasmodic smacks of the lips and a soft,
gurgling _crescendo_ of exclamation, not very intelligible to Jones and
Linda, who discreetly remained near the door on the outside.

Vincent's eyes were fixed on Olympia. For the first time in ten days
they shone with the light of reason. He smiled softly at the scene and
murmured lightly to himself. Warned not to tax the feeble powers of the
invalid, Rosa and Jones withdrew, leaving Olympia to recover from the
fatigues of her journey in the tent with Vincent.

"Now, you're not to talk, you know," Olympia said, with matronly
decision, "I shall remain here to mesmerize you into repose. You know I
am a magnetic person. Be perfectly quiet, and keep your eyes off me.
They make me nervous."

"I can only keep my eyes away on condition you put your hand in mine,
Then the magnetic current can have full play."

"My impression is that you have not been ill at all. I believe you have
been shamming, to escape the harder lines of the prison. Very well, you
needn't answer. I'll take that shake of the head as denial and proof for
want of better. Now, I will give you the history of our doings since I
saw you at Fairfax Court-House in January. I got home safe. I found
mamma in painful excitement."

He moved impatiently, and said, beseechingly:

"But tell me how you got here so soon. How did you learn I was here?
Jack told you when he got my letter?"

"O Vincent, that was what I was coming to! Jack has never been seen or
heard from since he escaped from your troops near the Warrick. I did not
know you had written. I got a letter from Rosa yesterday morning and
went at once to the War Department, where we have a good friend--"

"I can't understand it. All these things are done with system in an army
like yours. Men can't disappear like this, leaving no record. I'll stake
my head there's foul play, if the boys can't be found. Have you made
inquiry in the company on duty where Jack and his companions got into
your lines?"

She explained all the efforts that had been made--how Brodie had been
baffled, and how letters had been sent to the commanding officer at
Fort Monroe.

"We had begun to think that Jack had been recaptured; but surely, if he
were, you would have known of it."

"Of course I should."

"Then that confines the search to our own lines. I can not make myself
believe that Jack is dead, though mamma has nearly made up her mind to
it. The mysterious part of the affair is, that we can not find one of
the men who escaped with Jack, though it was announced in the papers
weeks ago that a party of them had arrived at Fort Monroe."

"And young 'Perley'?"

"He, too, we can get no trace of."

"Good heavens! I'm glad Rosa doesn't know that; she'd be in every camp
and hospital in the North until she had found her sweetheart."

"That sounds something like a reflection on us--mamma and me."

"Ah! never. What I mean is, that Rosa is such an impulsive, silly child,
she would do all sorts of imprudent things. How could you do such a
thing? Preposterous!"

"Well, I began it yesterday morning. As I said, so soon as I read Rosa's
letter, I went to headquarters, where we have a good friend and gave my
word for your safe keeping. You are to be our prisoner; but if you
escape you will get us into trouble, for we are none too well considered
by the folks in power."

"God forgive me, Olympia! escape is the last thing I think of now, when
I am near you. I was going to say I should never care to go back, but I
know you wouldn't think the better of me for that."

"I don't know. Why should you go back? The South is sure to be beaten.
We are conquering territory every day, from the armies at Donelson to
the forts at New Orleans. We shall beat you in Virginia so soon as
General McClellan gives the word."

"Even if that were the case, my duty and my honor would point to but one
course--to return to the natural course of exchange."

"Honor? Vincent, it is a vague term under such circumstances--"

"I could not love you, dear, so much, loved I not honor more. You know
you gave me that for a motto."

"Poetic rubbish, Mr. Soldier; but I must leave you now. You will insist
on talking, and, as I shall be held responsible to your mother and Rosa,
I must be firm--not another syllable! Besides, the imprudence will keep
you here longer, and if you are to be carried away you must get well at
once. I can't leave mamma alone in Washington with such grief preying
upon her."

He answered with a glance of pitying pleading. He looked so helpless--so
woe-begone--that she bent over near his face to smooth his disordered
bandages. When she withdrew she was blushing very prettily, and Vincent
was smiling in triumph. "On these terms," the smile seemed to say, "I
will be mute for an age."

What an adroit ally war is to love! Here was the self-contained
Olympia--so confident of herself--fond and yielding as Rosa; when war
rushed in, infirmity came to the rescue of Vincent's despairing passion.

Meanwhile, Jones began a systematic search among the prisoners for the
missing Caribees. Rosa joined with impatient ardor. There were three
thousand inmates of the improvised city, but no one resembling Jack or
Dick could be found. Linda, ministering to some of Vincent's comrades,
was piteously besought to ask her mistress's good offices for an orderly
in the small-pox ward. This was a tent far off from the main barracks on
the beach, attended only by a single surgeon and a corps of rather
indifferent nurses. Two of Vincent's men were in this lazar, shut off
from the world, for the soldier, reckless in battle, has a shuddering
horror of this loathsome disease. Rosa instantly resolved that she would
herself nurse the plague-smitten rebels. She had no fear of the disease,
the truth being that she had only the vaguest idea of what it was. With
great difficulty she obtained permission to visit the outcast colony.
She was forced to enter the noisome purlieu alone, even the maid's
devotion rebelling against the nameless horror small-pox has for
the African.

Once within the long marqueé, however, Rosa was relieved to find that
the casual spectacle was not different from that of the other seriously
sick-wards. A melancholy silence seemed to signalize the despair of the
twoscore patients, each occupying a cot screened from the rest by thin
canvas curtains. Double lines of sentries guarded each opening of the
marqueé, so that no one could pass in or out without the rigidly _viséd_
order of the surgeon-in-chief. Braziers of charcoal burned at the foot
of each bed, while the atmosphere was heavy with a strong solution of
carbolic acid, then just beginning to be recognized as a sovereign
preventive of malarious vapors, and an antiseptic against the germs of
disease. Rosa inquired for the _protégés_ she was seeking. They were
pointed out, on one side of the tent, the steward accompanying her
to each cot.

"All have the small-pox?" she inquired, shuddering, as she glanced at
the white screens, behind which an occasional plaintive groan could
be heard.

"Oh, no! there are some here that have no more small-pox than I have."

"Then why do you keep them here?" Rosa asked, indignantly.

"Oh, red tape, miss. There's two men that were brought here three months
ago. They'd no more small-pox than you have, miss; but they were
assigned here, and I have given up trying to get them taken to the
convalescent camp. The truth, is the surgeon in charge is afraid to show
up here. The others make by the number they have in charge, for we are
allowed extra pay and an extra ration for every case on hand."

"Why, this is infamous!" Rosa cried. "It is murder. Why don't you write
to the--the--head man?"

"And get myself in the guard-house for my trouble? No, thank you, miss.
I wouldn't have spoken to you if it hadn't been for the sympathy you
showed coming in, and to sort o' show you that you are not running so
much danger as folks try to make you believe."

Rosa had a basket on her arm filled with such comforting delicacies as
the surgeon had advised. She set about administering them to her
brother's orderly, when a feeble voice in a cot a few feet away fell
upon her ear. She started. Though almost a whisper, there was a strange
familiarity in the low tone. She turned to the steward--

"Who is in the third cot from here?"

"Let me see. Oh, yes, number seven; that's a man named Paling."

"And the next?"

"Number eight; that's a man named Jake, or Jakes, I'm blessed if I am
certain. They've been out of their head since they come. They're the two
I spoke of who ain't no more small-pox than I have."

"May I see them?"

"Certainly. I'll see that they're in shape for inspection, and call
you."

He disappeared behind the curtain and could be heard in a kindly, jovial
tone:

"There, sonny, keep kivered; the lady is coming to bring you something
better than the doctor's gruel, so lie still."

Beckoning to Rosa, he made way for her to enter the narrow aisle of
number seven, but he nearly fell over the man across the bed, when Rosa,
with a shriek, fell upon the body of number seven, crying:

"O, my darling, my darling, I have found you!"

It would have required the eyes of maternal love of Rosa's to recognize
our jaunty Dick in the emaciated, fleshless face that lay imbedded in
the disarray of the cot. Dick's blue eyes were sunken and dim, his lips
chalky and parched. He made no sign of recognition when Rosa drew back
with her arm under his head to scrutinize the disease-worn face.

"Sometimes, miss, he is in his right mind--but he goes off again like
this. Is the other man his brother? They seem to understand each other
when they are at the worst. Once when we separated them they fought like
maniacs until we were forced to let them be near again."

"Oh, yes--the other." Rosa started and hastened to the next cot. Yes, it
was Jack--or a piteous ghost of him. He was sleeping, and she
withdrew gently.

"Please distribute the contents of the basket to the men I named. I will
be back presently."

With this she darted out, running at the top of her speed, heedless even
of the peremptory challenge of the sentries, who thought her mad or
stricken with the plague, and made no attempt to molest her. She ran
straight to Jones's quarters. He was writing, and started in surprise as
she entered panting and breathless.

"Ah! I have found them; I have found them!" She could say no more. Jones
helped her to a seat and held a glass of water to her lips. Then she
regained breath.

"They are in the small-pox ward, but they haven't the disease. Ah! they
are there, they are there. Come at once and take them away. Ah! take
them away this minute."

"By 'they' do you mean Perley and Sprague?" Jones asked, breathlessly.

"Yes, ah, yes. Thank God! thank God! Ah! I could say prayers from now
until my dying day. But, oh, Mr. Jones, do, do hurry; because they may
die if we do not get them away from that dreadful pest-house."

"It will take some time to get the order for the removal. Meanwhile,
they will need good nursing. If you hope to help them you must be calm;
you must keep well. Now go to your brother. It is just as well that Miss
Sprague went away this morning. Before she comes back, her brother will
be in a place she can visit with safety. You can not go back there. You
must remain patient now until I get them away from that
dangerous place."

It was not until the next day that the red tape of the establishment was
so far cut as to warrant the surgeon in charge in making a personal
inspection of the two invalids. He at once, and in indignant
astonishment, pronounced the two untouched by the disease set against
their names in their papers of admission. Early in the afternoon they
were carried on a stretcher to a clean, fresh tent on the sandy beach,
where the laurel bushes almost ran into the water. Letters had been
dispatched to Olympia in forming her that Jack was found, and urging her
to come on at once. The next evening the three ladies arrived--Mrs.
Sprague, Olympia, and Kate. With them they brought a renowned physician
who had been uniformly successful in treating maladies of the sort the
lads were described as suffering.

Days of painful anxiety followed. Once, all hope of Dick was abandoned,
and his aunts were telegraphed for. But, in the end, he opened his big
blue eyes, sane and convalescent. There was rapid mending after this,
you may be sure. Kate had, through Olympia's unobtrusive manoeuvring,
been forced to bear the burden of Jack's nursing, and, somehow, when
that impatient warrior mingled amorous pleadings with his early
consciousness, she forgot upon which side the burden of repentance and
forgiving lay. She listened with gentle serenity to his protestations,
checking him only by the threat to quit the place and return to
her father.

During all this, Rosa was divided in her mind. She resented the
assiduity of Jones in the recovery of Dick. That reticent person had
installed himself in Dick's tent and never quitted the lad, day or
night, unless to relinquish him to Rosa's arbitrary hand. When, one day,
Pliny and Merry Perley entered the tent, Jones changed color. The two
ladies, not heeding the stranger, fell upon the convalescent on the cot,
and Jones slipped away. Thereafter Rosa had her invalid to herself,
Jones only reappearing at night, to keep the vigils of the dark. A month
later, the invalids were strong enough to be removed. An inquiry had
been set on foot to account for the presence of the two Union soldiers
among the rebel prisoners. The result was confusing, however. The facts
seemed to point out design in the original entry of the young men's
names at Hampton, where they had been taken when brought in by
the outposts.

The dispersion of the rest of their companions from Richmond was
accounted for by furloughs granted them so soon as they reached the
provost-marshal's office. Just before leaving Point Lookout Jack
received a much-directed letter that gave signs of having been in every
mail-bag in the Army of the Potomac. It was from Barney Moore, bristling
with wonder and turgid with woful lamentation at Jack's coldness in not
writing him. He had been sent by mistake to Ship Island, near New
Orleans, to join his regiment, and had only at the writing of the letter
reached Washington, where the Caribees were expected every day to move
to the Peninsula in McClellan's new campaign.

So soon as he was sufficiently recovered to write, Jack reported by
letter to the regiment. He had received no reply. The explanation was
awaiting him so soon as he reached Washington. While seated with his
mother in Willard's, a heavy knock came on the door. It was thrown open
before the maid could reach it. A provost corporal stood on the
threshold, a file of men behind him:

"I have an order for the arrest of Sergeant John Sprague."

"I am John Sprague. Of what am I accused?"

"I have no orders to tell you. My orders are to deliver you at the
provost prison. You will hear the charges there."

"But I am still under the doctor's charge. I am on the hospital list."

"I don't know what condition you are in. My orders are to arrest you,
and you know I have no option. All can be remedied at the
provost's office."

"I will go with you, my son," Mrs. Sprague said, trying to look
untroubled. "It is some error which can be explained."

"No, mamma, you can't come. Send word to the counsel you engaged in the
search. I fancy it is some mistake; but I wish it hadn't occurred just
now. I wouldn't write Olympia about it." Olympia had gone on to Acredale
with Kate, to set the house in order for a season of festivity. Jack,
Vincent, Dick, and the rest, were to join them so soon as the invalid
had taken rest in Washington.

The guard indulged Jack in a carriage to headquarters. Here he was
handed over to a lieutenant in charge, and conducted to a prison-like
apartment in the rear.

"What is the charge against me?" Jack asked, as the officer touched a
bell.

"I am not acquainted with the papers in your case. My instructions are
to hold you until called for.--Sergeant," he added, as a soldier in
uniform entered, "the prisoner is to be confined in close quarters, and
is not to be lost sight of night or day."

The soldier saluted and motioned Jack to follow him, two other soldiers
closing in behind him as he set out. At the end of a short hallway the
sergeant stopped, took a key from a bunch at his belt, unlocked a
heavily-barred door and motioned Jack to enter. It was useless to
protest, useless to parley. He knew military procedure too well to think
of it, but his heart swelled with bitter rage. This was the reward of an
almost idolatrous patriotism--this was the _patrie's_ way of cherishing
her defenders. He flung himself on the cot in a wild passion of tears
and rebellious scorn. But his humiliation was not yet ended; while he
sat with his face covered by his bands, he felt hands upon his legs, and
the sharp click of a lock. He moved his left leg. Great God! it was
chained to an enormous iron bolt. He started to rise; the sharp links of
the chain cut his ankle as the great ball rolled away from him. With a
cry of madness he flung himself on the harsh pine pallet, groaning his
heart out in bitter anguish and maledictions. In time food was brought
him, but he sat supine, staring ghastly at the dull-eyed orderly,
silent, unquestioning. Dim banners of light fell across the corridor.
They were broken at regular intervals by the passing figure of a sentry.
The night wore on. There was a lull in the monotonous tramp. Steps came
toward Jack's cell--stopped; the key grated in the lock; some one
touched him on the shoulder. He never stirred.

"Cheer up, Sprague; it's all a mistake." It was the voice of the lawyer.

At this Jack started, his eyes gleaming wildly. "Ah, I thought so. I
knew I could never have been disgraced like this in earnest. They have
discovered the wrong done me?"

"No, no; not exactly that, Jack, but we shall show them the mistake, I
make no doubt."

"Why am I dishonored? Of what am I accused? Why am I here?" Jack cried,
shivering under the revulsion from despair to hope, and from hope back
to horror.

"You are dishonored, my poor young friend, because a court-martial has
found you guilty of murder, desertion, and treason against the articles
of war, and you are here because you are sentenced to be shot one week
from Friday, in the center of a hollow square, seated on your
own coffin."



CHAPTER XXXIII.

FATHER ABRAHAM'S JOKE.


In her own mind, as the train rolled toward Acredale from Washington,
Kate was enjoying in anticipation the victory she had to announce to her
father. He had written her regularly from Warchester, where he was
engaged in an important suit. She had written more frequently than he,
but she had made no allusion to the happy ending of her troubles. It was
partly dread that the knowledge of Jack's restoration might bring on
more active hostility, as well as a whimsical feminine caprice to spring
the great event upon him when all danger was over. She watched Dick and
Rosa in the seat near her, for they, too, were of the advance guard to
Acredale, where, when Olympia had arranged the house, Vincent and Jack
were to come for final restoration to health. When the party arrived at
the little Acredale Station there was a great crowd gathered.

A company of the Caribees was just setting out for the front. Some of
the old members recognized Dick, and then straightway went up a cheer
that brought all the corner loiterers to the spot to learn the goings
on. It was in consequence rather a triumphal procession that followed
the carriage to the Sprague gateway, and even followed up the sanded
road to the broad piazza. Rosa remained with Olympia, while Kate carried
Dick off to commit him to the aunts waiting on the porch to welcome the
prodigal. Kate had telegraphed her coming, and her father was at the
door to meet her. He was plainly relieved and delighted to have her with
him again, for he held her long and close in his arms. "Then all's
forgiven; we're friends again," she said, laughing and crying together.

"There is nothing to forgive. It may be a matter of regret that you are
a Boone in blood rather than an Ovid, and that you imitate the Boones in
obstinacy. But justice has been done, and there's no need to quarrel
about strangers."

She didn't understand in the least what he meant about justice being
done. Remembering that all was well, she smiled as they entered the
library, and when she had removed her wraps, said, in repressed triumph:
"You need never attempt the role of Shylock again. I play Portia better
than you play the Jew. You have lost your pound of flesh."

"Well, be magnanimous. Don't abuse your victory. I shouldn't, in your
place; but women are never merciful to the fallen."

"I am to you. For, see, I kiss you as gayly as when I believed you all
heart and goodness."

"Now you believe me no heart and badness?"

"I didn't say that, I say you are given over to sinful hates, and I must
correct you."

"Well, I'm willing now to be corrected."

"But the correction will be a severe one; you must prepare for a very
grievous penance."

"Knowing you, I can foresee that you won't spare the rod. Very well,
I'll try to get used to it."

At this moment a servant came to the door.

"A note for Miss Kate," she said. Kate tore it open and read:

"Come to me at once. I have frightful news from
Washington. As it concerns Jack you ought to know it.

"OLYMPIA."

She read the lines twice before she could seize the meaning. Frightful
news concerning Jack! Had he suffered a relapse? Had he been
accidentally hurt? No; if it had been news of that sort, Olympia would
have come herself. A gleam of prescience shot through her brain. The
court--the charges against Jack! That was it. That was the secret of her
father's equanimity under her raillery. She turned with a rush into the
library. The bad blood of the Boones was all up in her soul now. She
walked straight at, not to her father, and, holding Olympia's note
before him, said in bitter scorn:

"Tell me what this means. I know that you know."

He took the paper with leisurely unconcern, affecting not to remark
Kate's flashing wrath; he read the lines, handed the paper back, or held
it toward Kate, who put her hands behind her.

"Since it concerns you, my child, suppose you go over and ask Miss
Sprague. How should I know the affairs of such superior people?"

"Could nothing soften you?--humanize you, I was going to say. Could
nothing satisfy you but the death of this injured family?--for this blow
will kill them. Kill them? Why should they care to live when that noble
fellow has been dishonored by your cruel acts? Ah, I know what you have
done! You have brought the court to disgrace Jack--to make him appear a
deserter. You it was who, in some mysterious way, caused him to be
abducted into the small-pox ward among the rebel prisoners. But it shall
all be made known. I shall myself go on the stand and testify to your
handiwork. Yes, I am a Boone in this. I will follow the lesson you have
set me. I will avenge the innocent and save him by exposing the guilty."

"On second thought, daughter, you are not in a frame of mind to see
strangers to-night. You will remain home this evening. To-morrow you can
see your friend and advise her in her sorrow, whatever it is." He went
to the door and called the servant. "Go to Miss Sprague with my
compliments, and tell her my daughter is not able to leave the house
this evening." As the man closed the outer door, Kate made a step
forward, crying:

"You never mean to say that I am a prisoner in my own father's house?"

"Certainly not. We're not play-actors. I think it best that you should
not go to the neighbors to-night, and you, as a dutiful daughter, obey
without murmur, because I have always been an indulgent parent and
gratified every whim of yours, even to letting you consort with my
bitterest enemies for months." As he spoke, there was a ring at the
doorbell. Presently the servant entered the room and announced "Mr.
Jones." Before Boone could direct him to be shown into another room
Jones entered the library, fairly pushing the astonished menial aside.
Boone held up his hand with a warning gesture, and nodded toward Kate;
but, without halting, Jones advanced to Boone's chair, and, seizing him
by the shoulder, held up a copy of the afternoon paper.

"Read that? What does it mean?"

Boone's eyes rested a moment on the paragraphs pointed out. Then,
throwing the paper aside, he asked, coldly:

"Why should you ask me what it means? If you are interested in the
affair, you might find out by writing to the court."

At this, Jones, looking around the room, marked the two doors, one
leading to the hall, the other to the drawing-room. He deliberately went
to each, and, locking it, slipped the key in his pocket. He glanced
reassuringly at Kate, as she sat dumfounded waiting the issue of this
singular scene. He confronted Boone, leaning against the mantel.

"It's just as well that we have a witness to this final settlement,
Elisha Boone.--Twenty years ago, Miss Boone, I was a citizen of this
town. I was the owner of these acres. I am Richard Perley. In those days
I was a wild fellow--I thought then, a wicked one; but I have learned
since that I was not, for folly is not crime. In those days--I was
barely twenty-five--your father had a hard ground to till in his way of
life. I became his patron, and from that I became his slave. I never
exactly knew how it came about, but within a few years most of my
property was mortgaged to Elisha Boone. I won't accuse him, as the world
does, of inciting me to drink and gambling. God knows he has enough to
answer for without that! In the end I was driven to a deed that
imperiled my liberty, and Elisha Boone put the temptation and the means
to do it within my reach. Detection followed, and the detection came
about through Elisha Boone. All my property in his hands, my name a
scorn, and my person subject to the law, Elisha Boone had no further
fear of me, and thenceforth doled me out an income sufficient to supply
my modest wants. I strove to turn the new leaf that recommends itself to
men who have exhausted the so-called pleasures of life. I was living in
honesty and seclusion in Richmond, when Boone, who had never lost sight
of me, came with a mission for me to perform. I was engaged as an agent
of the detective force of the United States, with the special duty of
rescuing Wesley Boone from captivity.

"I was further commissioned to get evidence against John Sprague, fixing
upon him the crime of betraying his colors and aiding the Confederacy.
In the attempt to rescue Captain Boone at Bosedale circumstances pointed
to the guilt of young Sprague, but that was all dissipated a few weeks
after, when, at the peril of his own life, not once, but a score of
times, he rashly liberated a score or two of prisoners, and personally
led them through an entire rebel army to the Union lines. I, who would
have been abandoned by a less noble nature, for I was weakened by
captivity and bad fare, broke down, but Sprague and--and--young Dick--my
son, clung to me with such devotion as few sons would exhibit under such
trials, and brought me safe to the outposts. Here, by some mysterious
means, we were all dispersed. When I found my senses I was under Elisha
Boone's Samaritan care in the house where you saw me at first. The two
boys, Sprague and Perley, spirited away from the hospital at Hampton,
where they had been entered under assumed names, Jacques and Paling,
were by some curious instrumentality hidden in the small-pox ward of the
rebel prison at Point Lookout. While they lay there, and while some one
in Washington knew that they were there, a court martial in that city
hurriedly convened, found John Sprague guilty of murder, desertion, and
treason, and the evening dispatches from Washington state that John
Sprague is to be shot a week from Friday in a hollow square, in which a
company of the Caribees is to do the shooting.

"Miss Boone, you worked faithfully to rescue the life of this young man,
but your father has brought that work to ruin. Worse, the death you
dreaded when you gave heart and soul to the rescue of the lost was a
mercy compared to that in store for him. He is to be shot by a file of
his own company, seated upon a rough board coffin, ready to receive his
mangled remains. You will--"

But Kate, at this hideous detail, fell with a low, wailing cry to the
floor, happily dead to the woful consciousness of the scene and its
meaning. Jones ran to the door, and, unlocking it, shouted for the
servants. When they came, she was carried to her room and the physician
summoned. Almost at the same time Olympia, in her traveling-dress, drove
up. She was informed by the servants of Kate's state, and, without
stopping to ask permission, ran up to the sick-room. Kate was now
conscious, but at sight of Olympia she covered her face, shuddering.

"Ah, Kate! Kate! what is it? Have you learned the dreadful news? I am
going to take the train back this evening."

"I, too, will go with you. Stay with me; don't leave me!"

She stopped, put out her hand, as if to make sure of Olympia, then broke
into low but convulsive sobs. Her father, with the doctor, entered the
room; but at the sight Kate turned her head to the wall, crying,
piteously:

"No, no--not here, not here! I can't see him now! Oh, spare me! I--I--"

"Do your duty, doctor," Boone said, in a quick, gasping tone, and with
an uncertain step quit the chamber. Olympia explained to the physician
that Kate had heard painful news from an unexpected quarter, and that
her illness was more nervous than physical.

"I don't know about that," the doctor said, decisively. He felt her
pulse, then with a quick start of surprise raised her head and examined
the tongue and lining of the palate. A still graver look settled on his
face as he tested the breath and action of the heart. When he had
apparently satisfied himself he turned to Olympia with a perturbed air,
and, beckoning her into the dressing-room, said:

"Miss Sprague, this is no place for you. Miss Boone has every symptom of
typhoid fever. She has evidently been exposed to a malarial air. Her
complaint may be even worse than typhoid--I can't quite make out certain
whitish blotches on her skin. I should suspect small-pox or varioloid,
but that there has not been a case reported here for years. Where has
she been of late?"

Olympia turned ghastly white with horror.

"O doctor, she has been nursing Jack, who was for weeks in the small-pox
ward at Point Lookout!"

"Good God! Fly, fly the house at once! I wondered if I could be deceived
in the symptoms. I must insist on your leaving at once."

"But the poor girl must have some one of her own sex with her. Whom can
she get if not a friend?"

"She can get a professional nurse, and that is worth a dozen friends.
Indeed, friends will be only a drawback for the next ten days."

He took her gently by the shoulders and pushed her out of the room. He
was an old friend of the family, and she was accustomed to his
tyrannical ways. He held her sternly under way until the front door
closed and shut her out. Then, turning into the library, he saw that the
host was alone. Closing the door, he said:

"Mr. Boone, your daughter has been exposed to a great danger. We may be
able to save her, but it will require great patience."

"Danger, doctor! What do you mean?"

"Your daughter has caught the most hideous of all diseases--small-pox!"

Elisha Boone started to his feet. "Great God! where could she catch
small-pox?"

"She caught it nursing young Sprague. I thought you knew of that;" and
the doctor regarded the incredulous, terror-stricken face of the father
with bewildered fixity. Well he might. The first rod of the moral law
had just struck him. The vengeance he had so subtly planned had turned
into retributive justice. He had refused Kate's prayer; he had driven
her to this mad search and the contagion now periling her life, or, if
it were spared, leaving her a hideous specter of herself. This passed
through his shattered mind as the doctor stood regarding him.

"What do you propose doing?" he finally asked, to get his thoughts from
the torturing grip of conscience.

"I propose to install two trained nurses in the house. You are not to
let a soul know what your daughter is suffering from. I hope to be able
to check the evil in the blood, but I must be secure against any form of
meddling. You must avoid your daughter's chamber--indeed, it would be
better if you could quit Acredale for a few days. You would be less
embarrassed by intrusive neighbors and keep your conscience clear of
evasions."

So it was settled that Boone should take up his quarters in Warchester,
coming out late every night for news.

Meanwhile, Acredale had read with amazement, first, of the finding of
Jack Sprague among the rebels at Point Lookout, then, the extraordinary
story of the court-martial and death-sentence. Every one called at the
Sprague mansion, but it was in the hands of the servants, Olympia and
her guest having returned to Washington so soon as the story of her
brother's peril reached her. Dick, too, had flown to his adored Jack,
and Acredale, confounded by the swift alternations in the young
soldier's fortunes, settled down to wait the outcome with a tender
sorrow for the bright young life eclipsed in disgrace so awful, death so
ignominious.

We have looked on while most of the people in this history worked
through night to light in the moral perplexities besetting them. We have
seen warriors in love and danger gallantly extricating themselves and
plucking the bloom of safety from the dragon path of danger. We have
seen a moral combat in the minds of most of the people who have had to
do with our luckless Jack. But all herein set down has been the merest
November melancholy compared to the charnel-house of dead hopes and
baffled purposes that tortured Elisha Boone. Unlovely as Boone has
seemed to us, he had one of the prime conditions of human goodness--he
loved. He had loved very fondly his son Wesley. He loved very tenderly
his daughter Kate.

With this love came the sanctification that must abide where love is. I
don't think he had much of what may be called the second condition of
human goodness--reverence. If he had, we should never have seen him push
revenge to the verge of crime. Richard Perley, it is true, accuses him
of a turpitude that makes a man shudder and abhor; but allowances must
be made for the exaggeration of a careless spendthrift--a "good fellow,"
than whom I can conceive of nothing so useless and mischievous in the
human economy. For my part, I think I could endure the frank
heartlessness of a man like Boone more philosophically than the false
good-nature of the creature men call a good fellow.

Obviously, Boone did not take Dick Perley's estimate of him very
seriously. He, too, could have told a tale not without its strong
features of a shiftless set, constantly borrowing, constantly
squandering, constantly provoking the thrifty to accumulate unguarded
properties. All this, however, had faded from the old man's mind now. He
had avenged himself upon the life-long scorners of his name and fame;
but the blow that shattered their pride had sent a dart to his own
heart. His beautiful Kate, his big-hearted, high-spirited, man-witted
girl!--she would bear a leper-taint for life, and his hand had put the
virus on her perfect flesh!

In a few days the black in his hair withered to an ashen white. His
flesh fell away. He could neither eat nor sleep. He shambled through the
obscure streets of Warchester, or lingered wistfully in the beech woods
behind his own palatial home in Acredale, staring at the window of his
daughter's chamber. The week passed in such mental torture as tries the
strong when confronted by the major force of conscience. Then the doctor
told him that he had balked the plague; that Kate was recovering from
varioloid; that beyond a transparency of skin, which would add to her
beauty rather than impair it, there would be no sign of the attack.

Elisha Boone slept in his own home that night, and, for the first time
in forty years, he fell upon his knees--upon his knees! Indeed, the
doctor found him so at midnight, when he came with a request from his
daughter to come to her room. The doctor, with a word of warning against
agitating the sufferer, wisely retired from the solemn reconciliation
which, without knowing the circumstances, he knew was to take place
between father and child. She was propped up upon pillows whose texture
her flesh rivaled in whiteness. She opened her arms as the specter of
what had been her father flew to her with a stifled cry.

"O father, we have both been wicked! we have both been punished! Help me
to do my part; help me to bear my burden."

It was hope, mercy, and peace the meeting brought. The next day Elisha
Boone bade Kate a tender farewell. She did not ask him where he was
going. She knew, and the light in her eye shone brighter as he rode in
the darkness over the bare fields and through the sleeping towns to the
capital, where Jack's fate was hanging in the balance. With Boone's
influence to aid them, Jack's friends found a surprising change in the
demeanor of the officials, hitherto captious and indifferent. Boone
himself laid the case before the President, omitting certain details not
essential to the showing of the monstrous injustice done a brave
soldier. The President listened attentively, and with the expression,
half sad and half droll, with which he softened the asperities of
official life, said, humorously:

"I wish by such simple means as courts-martial we could find out more
such soldiers as this; we need all of that sort we can get." He touched
a bell, and, when a clerk appeared in response, he said, "Ask General
McClellan to come in for a moment before he leaves."

What need to go into the details? The court reconvened, and traversed
the charges, which were disproved or withdrawn. John Sprague was
pronounced guiltless on every specification, and, on General McClellan's
recommendation, was promoted to a captaincy and assigned to the
headquarters staff. I might go on and tell of Jack's daring on the
Peninsula and his immeasurable usefulness to McClellan in the
Williamsburg contest and the final wondrous change of base from the
Chickahominy to the James; how his services were recognized by promotion
to a colonelcy on the battle-field of Malvern; and how, when McClellan
was wronged by Stanton, and removed from the army, Jack broke his sword
and swore that he would never serve again. But, thinking better of it,
he applied for a place in Hancock's corps, and was by his side from
Fredericksburg to Gettysburg. You have seen from the very first what was
going to happen. The marriages all took place, just as you have guessed
from the beginning. Young Dick was too impatient and too skeptical to
wait until the end of the war, and, to the amazement of his aunts and
the amusement of Acredale, he carried Rosa off, one day, and was
secretly married in the rector's study at Warchester, so that his first
son was born under the Stars and Bars in Richmond, while Dick was
beleaguering the walls at Fort Walthall, four miles away. The other
young people waited rationally until a month or two after the peace, and
while they were still entitled to wear the blue, and then they were
wedded. It was said that Kate made the most beautiful bride ever seen in
Warchester, for it was there they were married.

THE END.





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