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Title: A War-Time Wooing - A Story
Author: King, Charles, 1844-1933
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A War-Time Wooing - A Story" ***

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A WAR-TIME WOOING

A Story

by

CAPTAIN CHARLES KING, U. S. A.

Illustrated



New York
Harper & Brothers, Franklin Square
Copyright, 1888, by Harper & Brothers.
All rights reserved.



[Illustration: "_Colonel Putnam raises to the light of the first lantern
a hairy, bushy object._"--[See p. 50.]]


ILLUSTRATIONS.


  "COLONEL PUTNAM RAISES TO THE LIGHT OF
  THE FIRST LANTERN A HAIRY, BUSHY
  OBJECT"                                      _Frontispiece_

  "THE VIRGINIANS KNEW A BRAVE MAN WHEN
  THEY SAW ONE"                                _Facing page_           8

  "THE WHOLE TROOP IS HURRIEDLY SADDLING"               "             70

  "THEN BATHES, WITH COLOGNE, THE WHITE
  TEMPLES AND SOFT, RIPPLING, SUNNY
  HAIR"                                                 "             90

  "BACK COME THOSE DAREDEVILS OF STUART'S"              "            110

  "A CAVALRY ORDERLY MAKES HIS APPEARANCE
  AT THE DOOR"                                          "            136

  "THEN A YOUNG SOLDIER, IN HIS STAFF UNIFORM,
  TAKES THREE SPRINGING STEPS,
  AND IS AT HER SIDE"                                   "            172

  "DRAWS FORTH HER PRECIOUS PICTURE AND
  LAYS IT AT A RIVAL'S FEET"                            "            194



A WAR-TIME WOOING.



I.


After months of disaster there had come authentic news of victory. All
Union-loving men drew a long breath of relief when it was certain that
Lee had given up the field and fallen back across the Potomac. The
newsboys, yelling through the crowded streets in town, and the evening
trains arriving from the neighboring city were besieged by eager buyers
of the "extras," giving lists of the killed and wounded. Just at sunset
of this late September day a tall young girl, in deep mourning, stood at
a suburban station clinging to the arm of a sad, stern-featured old man.
People eyed them with respect and sympathy, not unmixed with rural
curiosity, for Doctor Warren was known and honored by one and all. A few
months agone his only son had been brought home, shot to death at the
head of his regiment, and was laid in his soldier grave in their shaded
churchyard. It was a bitter trial, but the old man bore up sturdily. He
was an eager patriot; he had no other son to send to the front and was
himself too old to serve; it had pleased God to demand his first-born in
sacrifice upon his country's altar, and though it crushed his heart it
could not kill his loyalty and devotion. His whole soul seemed with the
army in Virginia; he had nothing but scorn for those who lagged at home,
nothing but enthusiastic faith in every man who sought the battle-front,
and so it happened that he almost welcomed the indications that told him
his daughter's heart was going fast--given in return for that of a
soldier lover.

For a moment it had dazed him. She was still so young--so much a child
in his fond eyes--still his sweet-faced, sunny-haired baby Bess. He
could hardly realize she was eighteen even when with blushing cheeks she
came to show him the photograph of a manly, gallant-looking young
soldier in the uniform of a lieutenant of infantry. Strange as the story
may seem to-day, there was at the time nothing very surprising about its
most salient feature--she and her hero had never met.

With other girls she had joined a "Soldiers' Aid Society;" had wrought
with devoted though misguided diligence in the manufacture of
"Havelocks" that were bearers of much sentiment but no especial benefit
to the recipients at the front; and like many of her companions she had
slipped her name and address into one of these soon-discarded cap
covers. As luck would have it, their package of "Havelocks,"
"housewives," needle-cases, mittens (with trigger finger duly provided
for), ear-muffs, wristlets, knitted socks, and such things, worn by the
"boys" their first winter in Virginia, but discarded for the regulation
outfit thereafter, fell to the lot of the--th Massachusetts Infantry,
and a courteous letter from the adjutant told of its distribution.
Bessie Warren was secretary of the society, and the secretary was
instructed to write to the adjutant and say how gratified they were to
find their efforts so kindly appreciated. More than one of the girls
wished that _she_ were secretary just then, and all of them hoped the
adjutant would answer. He did, and sent, moreover, a photographic group
of several officers taken at regimental headquarters. Each figure was
numbered, and on the back was an explanation setting forth the names of
the officers, the item which each had received as his share, and, where
it was known, the name of the fair manufacturer. The really useful
items, it would seem, had been handed to the enlisted men, and the
officers had reserved for themselves only such articles as experience
had proved to be of no practical value. The six in the picture had all
chosen "Havelocks," and opposite the name of Bessie Warren was that of
Second Lieutenant Paul Revere Abbot. Reference to the "group" again
developed the fact that Mr. Abbot was decidedly the handsomest soldier
of the party--tall, slender, youthful, with clear-cut and resolute
features and a decidedly firm, solid look about him that was
distinguishable in a group of decidedly distinguished-looking men. There
followed much laughing talk and speculation and theory among the girls,
but the secretary was instructed to write another letter of thanks, and
did so very charmingly, and mention was made of the circumstance that
several of their number had brothers or cousins at the front. Then some
of the society had happened, too, to have a photograph taken in the
quaint uniform, with cap and apron, which they had worn at a recently
given "Soldiers' Fair," and one of their number--not Miss Warren--sent
a copy of this to the camp of the--th Massachusetts. Central figure in
this group was Bessie Warren, unquestionably the loveliest girl among
them all, and one day there came to her a single photograph, a still
handsomer picture of Mr. Paul Revere Abbot, and a letter in a hand
somewhat stiff and cramped, in which the writer apologized for the
appearance of the scrawl, explained that his hand had been injured while
practising fencing with a comrade, but that having seen her picture in
the group he could not but congratulate himself on having received a
"Havelock" from hands so fair, could not resist the impulse to write and
personally thank her, and then to inquire if she was a sister of Guthrie
Warren, whom he had known and looked up to at Harvard as a "soph" looks
up to a senior; and he enclosed his picture, which would perhaps recall
him to Guthrie's mind.

Her mother had been dead many years, and Bessie showed this letter to
her father, and with his full consent and with much sisterly pride wrote
that Guthrie was indeed her brother; that he, too, had taken up arms for
his country and was at the front with his regiment, though nowhere near
their friends of the--th Massachusetts (who were watching the fords of
the Potomac up near Edward's Ferry), and that she had sent the
photograph to him.

One letter seemed to lead to another, and those from the Potomac
speedily became very interesting, especially when the papers mentioned
how gallantly Lieutenant Paul Abbot had behaved at Ball's Bluff and how
hard he had tried to save his colonel, who was taken prisoner. Guthrie
returned the photograph to Bess, with a letter which the doctor read
attentively. He remembered Paul Abbot as being a leader in the younger
set at Harvard, and was delighted to hear of him "under the colors,"
where every Union-loving man should be--where, as he recalled him, he
knew Abbot must be, for he belonged to one of the oldest and best
families in all Massachusetts; he was a gentleman born and bred, and
would make a name for himself in this war. Guthrie only wished there
were some of that stamp in his own regiment, but he feared that there
were few who had the stuff of which the Abbots were made--there were too
many ward politicians. "But I've cast my lot with it and shall see it
through," wrote Guthrie. Poor fellow! poor father! poor loving-hearted
Bessie! The first volley from the crouching gray ranks in those dim
woods back of Seven Pines sent the ward politicians in mad rush to the
rear, and when Guthrie Warren sprang for the colors, and waved them high
in air, and shouted for the men to rally and follow him, it was all in
vain--all as vain as the effort to stop the firing made by the chivalric
Virginia colonel, who leaped forward, with a few daring men at his back,
to capture the resolute Yankee and his precious flag. They got them; but
the life-blood was welling from the hero's breast as they raised him
gently from the silken folds. The Virginians knew a brave man when they
saw one, and they carried him tenderly into their lines and wrote his
last messages, and that night they sent the honored body back to his
brigade, and so the stricken father found and brought home all that was
left of the gallant boy in whom his hopes were centred.

For a time Bessie's letters languished after this, though she had
written nearly every week during the winter and early spring. Lieutenant
Abbot, on the other hand, appeared to redouble his deep interest. His
letters were full of sympathy--of a tenderness that seemed to be with
difficulty repressed. She read these to her mourning father--they were
so full of sorrow for the bitter loss that had befallen them, so rich
with soldierly sentiment and with appreciation of Guthrie's heroic
character and death, so welcome with reminiscence of him. Not that he
and Abbot had met on the Peninsula--it was the unhappy lot of the
Massachusetts--th to be held with McDowell's corps in front of
Washington while their comrades were doing sharp, soldierly work down
along the Chickahominy. But even where they were, said these letters,
men talked by the hour of how Guthrie Warren had died at Seven
Pines--how daring Phil Kearney himself had ridden up and held forth--

  "The one hand still left,"

and asked him his name just before the final advance on the thicket. One
letter contained a copy of some soldierly verses her Massachusetts
correspondent had written--"Warren's Death at Seven Pines"--in which he
placed him peer with Warren who fell at Bunker Hill. The verses thrilled
through her heart and soul and brought a storm of tears--tears of
mingled pride and love and hopeless sorrow from her aging father's
eyes. No wonder she soon began to write more frequently. These
letters from Virginia were the greatest joy her father had, she told
herself, and though she wrote through a mist that blurred the page, she
soon grew conscious of a strange, shy sense of comfort, of a thrilling
little spring of glad emotion, of tender, shrinking, sensitive delight,
and by the time the hot summer was waning and August was at hand this
unseen soldier, who had only shared her thoughts before, took complete
and utter control. Why tell the old, old story in its every stage? It
was with a new, wild fear at heart she heard of Stonewall Jackson's leap
for the Rapidan, of the grapple at Cedar Mountain where the
Massachusetts men fought sternly and met with cruel loss. Her father
raged with anxiety when the news came of the withdrawal from the
Peninsula, the triumphant rush of Lee and Longstreet on Jackson's trail,
of the ill-starred but heroic struggle made by Pope along the banks of
Bull Run. A few days and nights of dread suspense and then came tidings
that Lee was across the Potomac and McClellan marching to meet him. Two
more letters reached her from the marching--th Massachusetts, and a
telegram from Washington telling her where to write, and saying, "All
well so far as I am concerned," at which the doctor shook his head--it
sounded so selfish at such a time; it grated on his patriotic ear, and
it wasn't such as he thought an Abbot ought to telegraph. But then he
was hurried; they probably only let him fall out of ranks a moment as
they marched through Washington. And then the newspapers began to teem
with details of the fierce battles of the last three days of August, and
he forgave him and fathomed the secret in his daughter's breast as she
stood breathing very quickly, her cheek flushing, her eyes filling, and
listening while he read how Lieutenant Abbot had led the charge of
the--th Massachusetts and seized the battle-flag of one of Starke's
brigades at that bristling parapet--the old, unfinished railway grade to
the north of Groveton. Neither father nor daughter uttered a word upon
the subject. The old man simply opened his arms and took her to his
heart, where, overcome with emotion, mingling pride and grief and
anxiety and tender, budding love, she burst into tears and hid her
burning face.

[Illustration: "_The Virginians knew a brave man when they saw one._"]

Then came the news of fierce fighting at South Mountain, where the--th
Massachusetts was prominent; then of the Antietam, where twice it
charged through that fearful stretch of cornfield and had but a handful
left to guard the riddled colors when nightfall came, and then--silence
and suspense. No letters, no news--nothing.

Her white, wan face and pleading eyes were too much for the father to
see. Though no formal offer of marriage had been made, though the word
"love" had hardly been written in those glowing letters, he reasoned
rightly that love alone could prompt a man to write day after day in all
the excitements and vicissitudes of stirring campaign. As for the
rest--was he not an Abbot? Did not Guthrie know and honor him? Was he
not a gallant officer as well as a thoroughbred gentleman? No time for
wooing now! That would come with peace. He had even given his consent
when she blushingly asked him if she might--"Well, _there!_ read it
yourself," she said, putting the closely written page into his hands. It
was an eager plea for her picture--and the photograph was sent. He chose
the one himself, a dainty "vignette" on card, for it reminded him of the
mother who was gone. It was fitting, he told himself, that his
daughter--her sainted mother's image, Guthrie's sister--should love a
gallant soldier. He gloried in the accounts of Paul Abbot's bravery, and
longed to meet him and take him by the hand. The time would come. He
could wait and watch over the little girl who was drawing them together.
He asked no questions. It would all be right.

And now they stood together at the station waiting for the evening cars
and the latest news from the front. It lacked but a few minutes of train
time when, with sad and sympathetic face, the station-agent approached,
a fateful brown envelope in his hand. The doctor turned quickly at his
daughter's gasping exclamation,

"_Papa!_ Mr. Hardy has a telegram!"

Despite every effort his hand and lip trembled violently as he took it
and tore it open. It was brief enough--an answer to his repeated
despatches to the War Department.

"Lieutenant Paul R. Abbot, dangerously wounded, is at field hospital
near Frederick, Maryland."

The doctor turned to her pale, pleading face, tears welling in his eyes.

"Be brave, my little girl," he murmured, brokenly. "He is wounded, but
we can go to him at once."

Nearly sunset again, and the South Mountain is throwing its dark shadow
clear across the Monocacy. The day has been warm, cloudless, beautiful,
and, now that evening is approaching, the sentries begin to saunter out
from the deeper shade that has lured them during the afternoon and to
give a more soldierly tone to the picture. There are not many of them,
to be sure, and this is evidently the encampment of no large command of
troops, despite the number of big white tents pitched in the orchard,
and the score of white-topped army-wagons, the half-dozen yellow
ambulances, and the scraggy lot of mules in the pasture-lot across the
dusty highway. The stream is close at hand, only a stone's-throw from
the picturesque old farmhouse, and the animated talk among the groups of
bathers has that peculiarly blasphemous flavor which seems inseparable
from the average teamster. That the camp is under military tutelage is
apparent from the fact that a tall young man in the loose, ill-fitting
blue fatigue-dress of our volunteers, with war-worn belts and a
business-like look to the long "Springfield" over his shoulder, comes
striding down to the bank and shouts forthwith,

"You fellows are making too much noise there, and the doctor wants you
to dry up."

"Tell him to send us some towels, then," growls one of the number, a
black-browed, surly-looking fellow with ponderous, bent shoulders and a
slouching mien. Some of his companions titter encouragingly, others are
silent. The sergeant of the guard flushes angrily and turns on the
speaker.

"You know very well what I mean, Rix. I'm using your own slang in
speaking to you because you wouldn't comprehend decent language. It
isn't the first time you've been warned not to make such a row here
close to a lot of wounded and dying men. Now I mean business. Quit it or
you'll get into trouble."

"What authority have _you_ got, I'd like to know," is the sneering
rejoinder. "You're nothing but a hospital guard, and have no business
interfering with us. I ain't under no doctor's orders. You go back to
your stiffs and leave live men alone."

The sergeant is about to speak, when the bathers, glancing up at the
bank, see him suddenly face to his left and raise his hand to his
shouldered rifle in salute. The next instant a tall young officer,
leaning heavily on a cane and with his sword-arm in a sling, appears at
the sergeant's side.

"Who is the man who questions your authority?" he asks, in a voice
singularly calm and deliberate.

There is a moment's awkward silence. The sergeant has the reluctance of
his class to getting a fellow-soldier into a scrape. The half-dressed
bathers stand uncomfortably about the shore and look blankly from one to
another. The man addressed as Rix is busily occupied in pulling on a
pair of soldier brogans, and tying, with great deliberation, the leather
strings.

Casting his clear eyes over the group, as he steps forward to the edge,
the young officer speaks again:

"You're here, are you, Rix. That leaves little doubt as to the man even
if I were not sure of the voice. I could hear your brutal swearing, sir,
loud over the prayers the chaplain was saying for the dead. Have you no
sense of decency at all?"

"How'n hell did I know there was any prayin' going on?" muttered Rix,
bending his scowling brows down over his shoe and tugging savagely at
the string.

"What was that remark, Rix?" asks the lieutenant, his grasp tightening
on the stick.

No answer.

"Rix, drop that shoestring; stand attention, and look at me," says the
officer, very quietly, but with setting teeth that no man fails to note.
Rix slowly and sullenly obeys.

"What was the remark you made just now?" is again the question.

"I said I didn't know they were praying," growls Rix, finding he has to
face the music.

"That sounds very little like your words, but--let it go. You knew very
well that men were dying here right within earshot when you were making
the air blue with blasphemy, and when better men were reverently silent.
It is the third time you have been reprimanded in a week. I shall see to
it that you are sent back to your company forthwith."

"Not while Lieutenant Hollins is quartermaster you won't," is the
insubordinate reply, and even the teamsters look scared as they glance
from the scowling, hanging face of Rix to the clear-cut features of the
officer, and mark the change that sweeps over the latter. His eyes seem
to flash fire, and his pallid face--thin with suffering and loss of
blood--flushes despite his physical weakness. His handsome mouth sets
like a steel-trap.

"Sergeant, get two of your men and put that fellow under guard," he
orders. "Stay where you are, Rix, until they come for you." His voice is
low and stern; he does not condescend to raise it for such occasion,
though there is a something about it that tells the soldier-ear it can
ring with command where ring is needed.

"I'd like to know what I've done," mutters Rix, angrily kicking at the
pebbles at his feet.

No answer. The lieutenant has walked back a pace and has seated
himself on a little bench. Another officer--a gray-haired and
distinguished-looking man, with silver eagles on his shoulders--is
rapidly nearing him and reaches the bank just in time to catch the next
words. He could have heard them farther back, for Rix is in a fury now,
and shouts aloud:

"If you knew your own interests--knew half that I know about your
affairs, Lieutenant Abbot--you'd think twice before you ordered me under
arrest."

The lieutenant half starts from the bench; but his self-control is
strong.

"You are simply adding to your insubordination, sir," he says, coldly.
"Take your prisoner, sergeant. You men are all witnesses to this
language."

And muttering much to himself, Teamster Rix is marched slowly away,
leaving an audience somewhat mystified. The colonel stands looking after
him with a puzzled and astonished face; the men begin slowly to edge
away, and then Mr. Abbot wearily rises and--again he flushes red when he
finds his superior officer facing him at not three paces distance.

"What on earth does that mean, Abbot?" asks the colonel. "Who is that
man?"

"One of the regimental teamsters, sir. He came here with the wounded,
and there appears to have been no opportunity of sending him back now
that the regiment is over in the Shenandoah. At all events, he has been
allowed to loaf around here for some time, and you probably heard him
swearing."

"I did; that's what brought me out of the house. But what does he mean
by threatening you?"

"I have no idea, sir; or, rather, I have an idea, but the matter is of
no consequence whatever, and only characteristic of the man. He is a
scoundrel, I suspect, and I wonder that Hollins has kept him so long."

"Do you know that Hollins hasn't turned up yet?"

"So I heard this morning, colonel, and yet you saw him the night of the
battle, did you not?"

"Not the night after, but the night before. We left him with the wagons
when we marched to the ford. I was knocked off my horse about one in the
afternoon, just north of the cornfield, and they got me back to the
wagons with this left shoulder all out of shape--collar-bone broken; and
he wasn't there then, and hadn't been seen since daybreak. Somebody said
he was so cut up when you were hit at the Gap. I didn't know you were
such friends."

"Well, we've known each other a long time--were together at Harvard and
moved in the same set; but there was never any intimacy, colonel."

"I see, I see," says the older officer, reflectively. "He was a stranger
to me when I joined the regiment and found him quartermaster. He was
Colonel Raymond's choice, and you know that in succeeding to his place
I preferred to make no changes. But I say to you now that I wish I had.
Hollins has failed to come up to the standard as a campaign
quartermaster, and the men have suffered through his neglect more than
once. Then he stayed behind when we marched through Washington--a thing
he never satisfactorily explained to me--and I had serious thoughts of
relieving him at Frederick and appointing you to act in his stead. Now
the fortune of war has settled both questions. Hollins is missing, and
you are a captain or will be within the month. Have you heard from
Wendell?"

"His arm is gone, sir; amputated above the elbow; and he has decided to
resign. Foster commands the company, but I shall go forward just as soon
as the doctor will let me."

"We'll go together. He says I can stand the ride in ten days or two
weeks, but neither of your wounds has healed yet. How's the leg? That
must have been a narrow squeak."

"No bones were touched, sir. It was only that I lost so much blood from
the two. It was the major who reported me to you as dangerously wounded,
was it not?"

"Yes; but when he left you there seemed to be very little chance. You
were senseless and exhausted, and with two rifle bullets through you
what was to be expected? He couldn't tell that they happened to graze no
artery, and the surgeon was too busy elsewhere."

"It gave them a scare at home," said Abbot, smiling; "and my father and
sister were on the point of starting for Washington when I managed to
send word to them that the wounds were slight. I want to get back to the
regiment before they find out that they were comparatively serious,
because the family will be importuning the Secretary of War to send me
home on leave."

"And any man of your age, with such a home, and a sweetheart, ought to
be eager to go. Why not go, Abbot? There will be no more fighting for
months now; McClellan has let them slip. You could have a fortnight in
Boston as well as not, and wear your captain's bars for the first time.
I fancy I know how proud Miss Winthrop would be to sew them on for you."

The colonel is leaning against the trunk of a spreading oak-tree as he
speaks. The sun is down, and twilight closing around them. Mr. Abbot,
who had somewhat wearily reseated himself on the rude wooden bench a
moment before, has turned gradually away from the speaker during these
words, and is gazing down the beautiful valley. Lights are beginning to
twinkle here and there in the distance, and the gleam of one or two tiny
fires tells of other camps not far away. A dim mist of dust is rising
from the highroad close to the stream, and a quaint old Maryland
cabriolet, drawn by a venerable gray horse, is slowly coming around the
bend. The soldiers grouped about the gateway, back at the farmhouse,
turn and look curiously towards the hollow-sounding hoof-beats, but
neither the colonel nor his junior officer seems to notice them. Abbot's
thoughts are evidently far away, and he makes no reply. The surgeon who
sanctions his return to field duty yet a while would, to all
appearances, be guilty of a professional blunder. The lieutenant's face
is pale and thin; his hand looks very fragile and fearfully white in
contrast with the bronze of his cheek. He leans his head upon his hand
as he gazes away into the distance, and the colonel stands attentively
regarding him. He recalls the young fellow's gallant and spirited
conduct at Manassas and South Mountain; his devotion to his soldier duty
since the day he first "reported." If ever an officer deserved a month
at home, in which to recuperate from the shock of painful wounds, surely
that officer was Abbot. The colonel well knows with what pride and
blessing his revered old father would welcome his coming--the joy it
would bring to the household at his home. It is an open secret, too,
that he is engaged to Genevieve Winthrop, and surely a man must want to
see the lady of his love. He well remembers how she came with other
ladies to attend the presentation of colors to the regiment, and how
handsome and distinguished a woman she looked. The Common was thronged
with Boston's "oldest and best" that day, and Colonel Raymond's speech
of acceptance made eloquent reference to the fact that of all the grand
old names that had been prominent in the colonial history of the
commonwealth not one was absent from the muster-roll of the regiment it
was his high honor to command. The Abbots and Winthrops had a history
coeval with that of the colony, and were long and intimately acquainted.
When, therefore, it was rumored that Genevieve Winthrop was to marry
Paul Abbot "as soon as the war was over," people simply took it as a
matter of course--they had been engaged ever since they were trundled
side by side in the primitive baby-carriages of the earliest forties.
This reflection leads the colonel to the realization of the fact that
they must be very much of an age. Indeed, had he not heard it whispered
that Miss Winthrop was the senior by nearly a year? Abbot looked young,
almost boyish, when he was first commissioned in May of '61, but he had
aged rapidly, and was greatly changed. He had not shaved since June, and
a beard of four months' growth had covered his face. There are lines in
his forehead, too, that one could not detect a year before. Why should
not the young fellow have a few weeks' leave, thinks the colonel. The
regiment is now in camp over beyond Harper's Ferry, greatly diminished
in numbers and waiting for its promised recruits. It is evident that
McClellan has no intention of attacking Lee again; he is content with
having persuaded him to retire from Maryland. Nothing will be so apt to
build up the strength and spirits of the new captain as to send him home
to be lionized and petted as he deserves to be. Doubtless all the
languor and sadness the colonel has noted in him of late is but the
outward and visible sign of a longing for home which he is ashamed to
confess.

"Abbot," he says again, suddenly and abruptly, "I'm going back to
Frederick this evening as soon as the medical director is ready, and I'm
going to get him to give you a certificate on which to base application
for a month's leave Don't say no. I understand your scruples, but go you
shall. You richly deserve it and will be all the better for it. Now your
people won't have to be importuning the War Department; the leave shall
come from this end of the line."

The lieutenant seems about to turn again as though to thank his
commander when there comes an interruption--the voice of the sergeant of
the guard close at hand. He holds forth a card; salutes, and says:

"A gentleman inquiring for Colonel Putnam."

And the gentleman is but a step or two behind--an aging man with silvery
hair and beard, with lines of sorrow in his refined and scholarly face,
and fatigue and anxiety easily discernible in his bent figure--a
gentleman evidently, and the colonel turns courteously to greet him.

"Doctor Warren!" he says, interrogatively, as he holds forth his hand.

"Yes, colonel, they told me you were about going back to Frederick, and
I desired to see you at once. I am greatly interested in a young
officer of your regiment who is here, wounded; he is a college friend of
my only son's, sir--Guthrie Warren, killed at Seven Pines." The colonel
lifts his forage cap with one hand while the other more tightly clasps
that of the older man. "I hear that the reports were exaggerated and
that he is able to be about. It is Lieutenant Abbot."

"Judge for yourself, doctor," is the smiling reply. "Here he sits."

With an eager light in his eyes the old gentleman steps forward towards
Abbot, who is slowly rising from the bench. He, too, courteously raises
his forage cap. In a moment both the doctor's hands have clasped the
thin, white hand that leans so heavily on the stick.

"My dear young friend!" he says. "My gallant boy! Thank God it is not
what we feared!" and his eyes are filling, his lip is trembling
painfully.

"You are very kind, sir," says Abbot, vaguely, "I am doing quite well."
Then he pauses. There is such yearning and--something he cannot fathom
in the old man's face. He feels that he is expected to say still
more--that this is not the welcome looked for. "I beg a thousand
pardons, sir, perhaps I did not catch the name aright. Did you say
Doctor Warren?"

"Certainly, B--Guthrie Warren's father--you remember?" and the look in
the sad old eyes is one of strange perplexity. "I cannot thank you half
enough for all you have written of my boy."

And still there is no sign of recognition in Abbot's face. He is
courteous, sympathetic, but it is all too evident that there is
something grievously lacking.

"I fear there is some mistake," he gently says; "I have no recollection
of knowing or writing of any one of that name."

"Mistake! Good God! How can there be?" is the gasping response. The
tired old eyes are ablaze with grief, bewilderment, and dread
commingled. "Surely this is Lieutenant Paul Revere Abbot--of the--th
Massachusetts."

"It certainly is, doctor, but--"

"It surely is your photograph we have: surely you wrote to--to us all
this last year--letter after letter about my boy--my Guthrie."

There is an instant of silence that is almost agonizing. The colonel
stands like one in a state of shock. The old doctor, trembling from
head to foot, looks with almost piteous entreaty; with anguish and
incredulity, and half-awakened wrath, into the pale and distressed
features of the young soldier.

"I bitterly grieve to have to tell you, sir," is the sorrowful answer,
"but I know no such name. I have written no such letters."

Another instant, and the old man has dropped heavily upon the bench, and
buried his face in his arms. But for the colonel he might have fallen
prone to earth.



II.


An hour after sundown and the rattling old cabriolet has two occupants
as it drives back to town. Colonel Putnam comes forth with the old
gentleman whom he had so tenderly conducted to the farmhouse but a few
moments after the strange scene out on the bank, and is now his escort
to Frederick. The sergeant of the guard has been besieged with
questions, for several of the men saw the doctor drop upon the bench and
were aware of the melodramatic nature of the meeting. Lieutenant Abbot
with a face paler than before, with a strange look of perplexity and
smouldering wrath about his handsome eyes, has gone over to his own
tent, where the surgeon presently visits him. The colonel and his
civilian visitor are closeted together over half an hour, and the latter
looks more dead than alive, say the men, as he feebly totters down the
steps clinging to the colonel's arm.

"What did you say was the name of the officer who was killed--his son?"
asks one of the guards as he stands at the entrance to the tent.

"Warren--Guthrie Warren," answers the sergeant, briefly. "I don't know
whether the old man's crazy or not. He said the lieutenant had been
writing to him for months about his son, and the lieutenant denied
having written a line."

"He lied then, by----!" comes a savage growl from within the tent.
"Where is the old man? Give me a look at him!" and the scowling face of
Rix makes its sudden appearance at the tent-flop, peering forth into the
fire-light.

"Be quiet, Rix, and go back where you belong. You've made more than
enough trouble to-day," is the sergeant's low-toned order.

"I tell you I only want to see the old man," answers the teamster,
struggling, "Don't you threaten me with that bayonet, Drake," he growls
savagely at the sentry, who has thrown himself in front of the opening.
"It'll be the worse for you fellows that you ever confined me, no matter
by whose order; but as for that stuck-up prig, by----! you'll see soon
enough what'll come of _his_ ordering me into the guard-tent."

His voice is so hoarse and loud with anger that the colonel's attention
is attracted. He has just seated Doctor Warren in the vehicle, and is
about to take his place by his side when Rix's tirade bursts upon his
ear. The words are only partially distinguishable, but the colonel steps
promptly back.

"What is the matter with your prisoner, sergeant? Is he drunk or crazy,
that he persists in this uproar?"

"I don't think it either, sir," answers the sergeant; while Rix, at
sight of his commanding officer, pops his head back within the tent, and
shuts the narrow slit. "He's simply ugly and bent on making trouble."

"Well, stop it! If he utters another insubordinate word, have him bucked
and gagged at once. He is disgracing the regiment, and I won't tolerate
it. Do you understand?"

"I do, sir."

The colonel turns abruptly away, while the prisoner, knowing his man,
keeps discreetly out of sight, and correspondingly silent. At the gate
the older officer stops once more and calls to a soldier who is standing
near.

"Give my compliments to Lieutenant Abbot, and say that I will be out
here again to-morrow afternoon. Now, doctor, I am with you."

The old gentleman is leaning wearily back in his corner of the cab; a
strange, stunned, lethargic feeling seems to have come over him. His
eyes are fixed on vacancy, if anything, and the colonel's attempt at
cheeriness meets no response. As the vehicle slowly rattles away he
makes an effort, rouses himself as it were from a stupor-like condition,
and abruptly speaks:

"You tell me that--that you have seen Lieutenant Abbot's mail all summer
and spring and never saw a--our postmark--Hastings?"

"I have seen his mail very often, and thought his correspondents were
all home people. I am sure I would have noticed any letters coming
frequently in one handwriting, and his father's is the only masculine
superscription that was at all regular."

"My letters--our home letters--were not often addressed by me,"
hesitates the doctor. "The postmark might have given you an idea. I had
not time--" but he breaks off, weakly. It is so hard for him to
prevaricate: and it is bitter as death to tell the truth, now. And
worse--worse! What is he to tell--_how_ is he to tell her?

The colonel speaks slowly and sadly, but with earnest conviction:

"No words can tell you how I mourn the heartlessness of this trick,
doctor; but you may rest assured it is no doing of Abbot's. What earthly
inducement could he have? Think of it! a man of his family and
connections--and character, too. Some scoundrel has simply borrowed his
name, possibly in the hope of bleeding you for money. Did none of the
letters ever suggest embarrassments? It is most unfortunate that you did
not bring them with you. I know the writing of every officer and many of
the men in the regiment, and it would give me a clew with which to work.
Promise me you will send them when you reach home."

The Doctor bows his head in deep dejection. "What good will it do? I
thought to find a comrade of my boy's. Indeed! it must be one who knew
him well!--and how can I desire to bring to punishment one who
appreciated my son as this unknown writer evidently did. His only crime
seems to have been a hesitancy about giving his own name."

"And a scoundrelly larceny of that of a better man in every way. No,
doctor. The honor of my regiment demands that he be run down and brought
to justice; and you must not withhold the only proof with which we can
reach him. Promise me!"

"I--I will think. I am all unstrung now, my dear sir! Pray do not press
me! If it was not Mr. Abbot, who could it have been? Who else could have
known him?"

"Why, Doctor Warren, there are probably fifty Harvard men in this one
regiment--or were at least," says the colonel, sadly, "up to a month
ago. Cedar Mountain, Bull Run, South Mountain, and Antietam have left
but a moiety. Most of our officers are graduates of the old college, and
many a man was there. I dare say I could have found a dozen who well
knew your son. In the few words I had with Abbot, he told me he
remembered that there had been some talk among the officers last July
after your son was killed. Some one saw the name in the papers, and said
that it must have been Warren of the class of '58, and our Captain
Webster, who was killed at Manassas, was in that class and knew him
well. Abbot said he remembered him, by sight, as a sophomore would know
a senior, but had never spoken to him. Anybody hearing all the talk
going on at the time we got the news of Seven Pines could have woven
quite a college history out of it--and somebody has."

"Ah, colonel! There is still the fact of the photograph, and the letters
that were written about Guthrie all last winter--long before Seven
Pines."

The colonel looks utterly dejected, too; he shakes his head, mournfully.
"That troubles Abbot as much as it does me. Fields, gallant fellow, was
our adjutant then, and he and Abbot were close friends. He could hardly
have had a hand in anything beyond the photograph and letter which, you
tell me, were sent to the Soldier's Aid Society in town. I remember the
young fellows were having quite a lot of fun about their Havelocks when
we lay at Edwards's Ferry--but Fields was shot dead, almost the first
man, at Cedar Mountain, and of the thirty-five officers we had when we
crossed the Potomac the first time, only eleven are with the--th to-day.
Abbot, who was a junior second lieutenant then, is a captain now, by
rights, and daily expecting his promotion. I showed you several letters
in his hand, and they, you admit, are utterly unlike the ones you
received. Indeed, doctor, it is impossible to connect Abbot with it in
any way."

The doctor's face is covered by his hands. In ten minutes or less he
must be at _her_ side. What can he tell his little girl? What shall he
say? What possible, probable story can man invent to cover a case so
cruel as this? He hardly hears the colonel's words. He is
thinking--thinking with a bursting heart and whirling brain. For a time
all sense of the loss of his only son seems deadened in face of this
undreamed-of, this almost incredible shadow that has come to blight the
sweet and innocent life that is so infinitely dear to him. What can he
say to Bessie when he meets those beautiful, pleading, trusting, anxious
eyes? She has borne up so bravely, silently, patiently. Their journey
has been trying and full of fatigue, but once at Frederick he has left
her in the hands of a sympathetic woman, the wife of the proprietor of
the only tavern in which a room could be had, and, promising to return
as soon as he could see the lieutenant, he has gone away on his quest
with hopeful heart. A soldier claiming to be of the--th Massachusetts
told them that very morning at the Baltimore station that Mr. Abbot was
well enough to be up and about. It is barely nine o'clock now. In less
than an hour there will be a train going back. All he can think of is
that they must go--go as quick as possible. They have nothing now to
keep them here, and he has one secret to guard from all--his little
girl's. No one must know, none suspect that. In the bitterness of
desolation, still stunned and bewildered by the cruelty of the blow that
has come upon them, his mind is clear on that point. If possible no one,
except those people at the tavern, must know she was with him. None must
suspect--above all--none must suspect the bitter truth. It would crush
her like a bruised and trodden flower.

"If--if it had been a correspondence where there was a woman in the
case," begins the colonel again--and the doctor starts as though stung,
and his wrinkled hands wring each other under the heavy travelling-shawl
he wears--"I could understand the thing better. Quite a number of
romantic correspondences have grown up between our soldiers and young
girls at home through the medium of these mittens and things; they seem
to have lost their old significance. But you give me to understand
that--that there was none?"

"The letters were solely about my son, all that ever came to me," said
the doctor, nervously.

"That seems to complicate the matter. If it were a mere flirtation by
letter, such as is occasionally going on, _then_ somebody might have
borrowed his name and stolen his photograph; but I don't see how he
could have secured the replies--the girl's letters--in such a case. No.
As you say, doctor, that wasn't apt to be the solution, though I'm at a
loss to account for the letters that came from you. They were addressed
to Lieutenant Abbot, camp of the--th Massachusetts, you tell me, and
Abbot declares he has never heard from any one of your name, or had a
letter from Hastings. He would be the last man, too, to get into a
correspondence with a woman--for he is engaged."

The doctor starts again as though stung a second time. Was there not in
one of those letters a paragraph over which his sweet daughter had
blushed painfully as she strove to read it aloud? Did it not speak of an
entanglement that once existed; an affair in which his heart had never
been enlisted, but where family considerations and parental wishes had
conspired to bring about a temporary "understanding"? The cabriolet is
bouncing about on the cobblestones of the old-fashioned street, and the
doctor is thankful for the physical jar. Another moment and they draw
up at the door of the old Maryland hostelry, and the colonel steps out
and assists his companion to alight.

"Let me take you to your room now, doctor; then I'll have our staff
surgeon come over and see you. It has been a shock which would break a
younger man--"

But the old gentleman has nerved himself for the struggle. First and
foremost--no one must follow him to his room--none suspect the trial
there awaiting him. He turns sadly, but with decision.

"Colonel, I cannot thank you now as you deserve; once home, I will
write, but now what I need is absolute rest a little while. I am
stunned, bewildered. I must think this out, and my best plan is to get
to sleep first. Forgive me, sir, for my apparent discourtesy, and do not
take it amiss if I say that for a few moments--for the present--I should
like to be alone. We--we will meet again, sir, if it rest with me, and I
will write. Good-night, colonel. Good-night, sir."

And he turns hurriedly away. For a moment the soldier stands uncertain
what to do. Then he enters the hallway determined to bespeak the best
offices of the host in behalf of his stricken friend. There is a broad
stairway some distance back in the hall, and up this he sees the doctor
slowly laboring. He longs to go to his assistance, but stands
irresolute, fearing to offend. The old gentleman nears the top, and is
almost on the landing above, when a door is suddenly opened, a light,
quick step is heard, and in an instant a tall, graceful girl, clad in
deep black--a girl whom the colonel sees is young, beautiful, and very
pale--springs forward into view, places her hands on the old man's
shoulders, and looks eagerly, imploringly, into his face. What she asks,
what she says, the colonel cannot hear; but another moment solves all
doubt as to his proper course. He sees her clasped to the doctor's
breast; he sees them clinging to each other one instant, and then the
father, with sudden rally, bears her pale and probably fainting from his
sight. A door shuts with muffled slam, and they are gone; and with the
intuition of a gentleman Colonel Putnam realizes why his proffer of
services would now be out of place.

"And so there is a woman in the case, after all," he thinks to himself
as he steps forth into the cool evening air. "And it is for her sake
the good old man shrinks from dragging the matter into the light of
day--his daughter, probably; and some scoundrel has been at work, and in
my regiment."

The colonel grinds his teeth and clinches his fists at this reflection.
He is a husband and father himself, and now he understands some features
in the old doctor's trouble which had puzzled him before. He strolls
across the street to the sidewalk under the quaint old red-brick,
dormer-windowed houses where lights are still gleaming, and where groups
of people are chatting and laughing in the pleasant air. Many of them
are in the rough uniform of the army--teamsters, drivers, and slightly
wounded soldiers out on pass from the neighboring field hospitals. The
old cabriolet is being trundled off to some neighboring stable after a
brief confabulation between the driver thereof and the landlord of the
tavern, and the colonel is about hailing and tendering the Jehu another
job for the morrow, when he sees that somebody else is before him; and,
bending down from his seat, the driver is talking with a man who has
come out from the shadow of a side porch. There is but little light in
the street, and the colonel has turned on reaching the curb, and is
seeking among the windows across the way for one which may possibly
prove to be the young lady's. He is interested in the case more than
ever now, but the windows give no sign. Some are lighted, and occasional
shadows flit across them, but none that are familiar. Suddenly he hears
a sound that brings him back to himself--the tramp of marching feet, and
the sudden clash of arms as they halt; a patrol from the
provost-marshal's guard comes quickly around a corner from the soft dust
of a side street, and the non-commissioned officers are sharply halting
all neighboring men in uniform, and examining their passes. Several
parties in army overcoats shuffle uneasily up the street, only to fall
into the clutches of a companion patrol that pops up as suddenly around
the next corner beyond. "Rounding up the stragglers," thinks the
colonel, with a quiet smile of approval, and, like the soldier he is, he
finds time to look on a moment and watch the manner in which the work is
done. The patrol seems to have possessed itself of both sides of the
street at the same instant, and "spotted" every man in blue. These are
bidden to stand until their papers are examined by the brace of young
officers who appear upon the scene, belted and sashed, and bearing small
lanterns. Nor are uniforms alone subject to scrutiny. Ever since Second
Bull-Run there has been much straggling in the army, and not a little
desertion; and though a fortnight has passed since Antietam was fought,
the provost-marshal's men have not yet finished scouring the country,
and a sharp lookout is kept for deserters. Those civilians who can
readily establish their identity as old residents of the town have no
trouble. Occasionally a man is encountered whom nobody seems to know,
and, despite their protestations, two of those characters have been
gathered in by the patrol, and are now on their way to the office. The
colonel hears their mingled complaint and blasphemy as they are marched
past him by a file of the guard, and then turns to the nearest of the
officers--

"Lieutenant, did you note the man who ran back from where that cab is
standing?"

The officer of the patrol looks quickly up from the "pass" he is
examining by the light of his lantern, and at sight of Colonel Putnam
his hand goes up to the visor of his cap.

"No, colonel; was there one? Which way did he go?"

"Straight back to the shadow of the porch; just a minute ago. What
attracted my attention to him was the fact that he was deep in talk with
the driver when your men rounded the corner, and did not seem to see or
hear them. Then I turned to look at that corporal yonder, as he crossed
to halt a man on the east side, and at sound of his voice this fellow at
the cab started suddenly and ran, crouching in the shadow, back to the
side of the tavern there. It looks suspicious."

"Come with me, two of you," says the lieutenant, quickly, and, followed
by a brace of his guard, he crosses the street, and his lantern is seen
dancing around the dark gallery. The colonel, meantime, accosts the
driver:

"What took that man away so suddenly? Who is he?"

"I don't know, sir. I never seen him afore. He stopped me right here to
ask who the gentleman was I was drivin'. I told him your name, 'cause I
heard it, and he started then kinder queer, but came back and said 'twas
the citizen he meant; and the boss here had just told me that was Doctor
Warren, and that his daughter was up-stairs. Then the feller jumped like
he was scared; the guard had just come round the corner, and when he
saw them he just put for the barn."

"Is there a barn back there?" asks the colonel. The driver nods assent.
A moment's silence, and then the colonel continues: "I want to see you
in the morning. Wait for me here at the hotel about nine o'clock.
Meantime say nothing about this, and you'll lose nothing by holding your
tongue. What was his face like--this man I mean?"

"Couldn't see it, sir. It was dark, and he had a beard all over it, and
wore a black-felt hat--soft; and he had a cloak something like yours,
that was wrapped all over his shoulders."

"Remember, I want to see you here in the morning; and hold your tongue
till then."

With that the colonel hastens off on the trail of the searching-party.
He sees the lantern glimmering among some dark buildings beyond the
side-gallery, and thither he follows. To all appearances the spot is
almost a _cul de sac_ of wooden barns, board-fences, and locked doors,
except for a gateway leading to the yard behind the tavern. The search
has revealed no trace of the skulker, and the lieutenant holds his lamp
aloft as he examines the gate and peers over the picket fence that
stands barely breast-high and bars them out.

"May have gone in here," he mutters. "Come on!"

But the search here only reveals half a dozen avenues of escape. The man
could have gone back through several doors into the building itself, or
eastward, through some dilapidated yards, into a street that was
uninfested by patrols, and dark as the bottom of a well. "It is useless
to waste further time," says the lieutenant, who presently rejoins the
colonel behind the tavern, and finds him staring up at the rear windows.
To him the young officer, briefly and in low tone, reports the result of
his search.

"I presume there is nothing else I can do just here, is there, colonel?"
he asks. The colonel shakes his head.

"Nothing that I can think of, unless you look through the halls and
office."

"We are going there. Shall I light you back to the street?"

"Er--ah--no! I think I'll wait here--just a moment," says the colonel,
and, marvelling not a little, the subaltern leaves him.

No sooner is he gone, followed by his men, than Colonel Putnam steps
back to the side of an old chain-pump that he has found in the course of
his researches, and here he leans for support. Though his shoulder has
set in shape, and is doing fairly well, he has had two rather long
drives this day, and one fatiguing experience; he is beginning to feel
wearied, but is not yet ready to go to his bed. That was Doctor Warren's
shadow, bent and feeble, that he saw upon the yellow light of the
window-shade a moment ago, and he is worried at the evidence of
increasing weakness and sorrow. Even while he rests there, irresolute as
to what he ought to do--whether to go and insist on his right, as a man
and a father, to be of some comfort to another in his sore trial, or to
respect that father's evident wish to conceal his daughter's interest in
the trouble that had come upon them--he is startled to see another
shadow, hers; and this shadow is in hat and veil. Whither can they be
going at this hour of the night? 'Tis nearly ten o'clock. Yes, surely;
there is the doctor's bent shadow once more, and he has thrown on an
outer coat of some kind. Then they are going back by the night train.
They shrink from having it known that she was here at all; that she was
in any way interested. And the doctor wants to make his escape without
the pang of seeing or being seen again by those who witnessed his utter
shock and distress this day. So be it! thinks the colonel. God knows I
would not intrude on the sanctity of his sorrow or her secret. Later,
when they are home again, the matter can be looked into so far as
getting specimens of this skulking felon's handwriting is concerned, and
no one need know, when he is unearthed, that it was a young girl he was
luring under the name of another man. So be it! They may easily elude
all question now. Night and the sacred mantle of their evident suffering
will shield them from observation or question.

The colonel draws deeper into the shade of the barn. It seems a
sacrilege now to be thus spying upon their movements, and he is ashamed
of the impulse that kept him there. He decides to leave the yard and
betake himself to his lodgings, when he is suddenly aware of a dark
object rising from under the back porch. Stealthily and slowly the
figure comes crouching out into the open yard, coming towards where the
colonel stands in the shadow of the black out-buildings; and then, when
close by the pump where he stood but a moment before, it rises to its
full height, and draws a long breath of relief. It is a man in a soft
black-felt hat, with a heavy, dark beard, and wearing one of the biggest
of the great circular capes that make a part of the officer's overcoat,
and are most frequently worn without the coat itself, unless the weather
be severe.

The colonel is unarmed; his pistols are over at the room he temporarily
occupies in town; he is suffering from recent injury, and one arm is
practically good for nothing, but he loses no time in lamenting these
points. The slight form of the girl approaches the window at this very
instant as though to pick up some object on the sill, then disappears,
and the light vanishes from the room. From the figure at the pump he
hears a stifled exclamation of surprise, but no articulate word; and
before the figure has time to recover he stands close beside it and his
voice breaks the stillness of the night.

"Your name, sir, and your regiment? I am Colonel Putnam."

He has laid his hand on the broad shoulder under the cloak and plainly
feels the start and thrill with which his words are greeted. He even
fancies he can hear the stifled word "God!" The man seems stricken
dumb, and more sharply the colonel begins his stern query a second time,
but gets no farther than "Your name," when, with a violent wrench, the
stranger is free; he makes a spring, trips over some loose rubbish, and
goes crashing to earth.

"The guard!" yells the colonel, as he throws himself upon him, but the
man is up in an instant, hurls off his antagonist, and, this time, leaps
off into the darkness in comparative safety. But he has left a clew
behind. As the soldiers of the provost guard come running around into
the yard and the windows are thrown up and eager heads peer forth in
excited inquiry, Colonel Putnam raises to the light of the first lantern
a hairy, bushy object that he holds in his hand; it is a false beard,
and a big one.

"By Jove!" says the lieutenant. "It must be some rebel spy."



III.


Daybreak, and the broad expanse of valley opening away to the south is
just lighting up in chill, half-reluctant fashion, as though the night
had been far too short or the revels of yester-even far too long. There
is a swish and plash of rapid running waters close at hand, and here and
there, where the stream is dammed by rocky ridge, the wisps of fog rise
slowly into air, mingling with and adding to the prevailing tone of
chilly gray. Through these fog-wreaths there stands revealed a massive
barrier of wooded and rock-ribbed heights, towering aloft and shutting
out the eastern sky, all their crests a-swim in floating cloud, all
their rugged foothills dotted with the tentage of a sleeping army. Here,
close at hand on the banks of the rushing river, a sentry paces slowly
to and fro, the dew dripping from his shouldered musket and beading on
his cartridge-box. The collar of his light-blue overcoat is muffled up
about his ears, and his forage cap is pulled far down over his blinking
eyes. As he paces southward he can see along the stream-bed camps and
pale-blue ghosts of sentries pacing as wearily as himself in the wan and
cheerless light. Trees are dripping with heavy charge of moisture that
the faintest whiff of morning air sends showering on the bank beneath;
and a little deluge of the kind coming suddenly down upon this
particular sentry as he strolls under the spreading branches serves to
augment the expression of general weariness and disgust, which by no
means distinguishes him from his more distant fellows, but evokes no
further comment than a momentary huddling of head and shoulders into the
depths of the blue collar, and the briefest possible mention of the last
place of all others one would be apt to connect with cooling showers.
Facing about and slouching along the other way the sentry sees a picture
that, had he poetry or love of the grand and beautiful in his soul,
would a thousand-fold compensate him for his enforced vigil. Every
moment, as the timid light grows bolder with its reinforcement from the
east, there opens a vista before his eyes that few men could look upon
unmoved. To his right the brawling Shenandoah, swift and swirling, goes
rushing through its last rapids, as though bent on having one final
"hurrah" on its own account before losing its identity in the welcoming
waters of the Potomac. Hemming it in to the right--the east--and
shutting out the crimson dawn are the massive bulwarks of the Loudon
Heights climbing towards the changing heavens. Westward, less bold and
jagged, but still a mighty barrier in almost any other companionship,
are the sister heights of Bolivar, scarred and seamed with earth-work
and rifle-pit, and bristling with _abattis_ and battery. Down the
intervening valley plunges the Shenandoah and winds the macadam of the
highway, its dust subdued for the time being; while, straight away to
the front, mist-wreathed at their base from the sleeping waters of the
winding canal, cloud-capped at their lofty summit from the bank of vapor
that hovers along the entire range, rock-ribbed, precipitous,
magnificent in silent, stubborn strength, the towering heights of
Maryland span the scene from east to west, and stand superb, the
background to the picture. All as yet is sombre in tone, black, dark
green, and brown and gray. The mist hangs heavy over everything, and the
twinkle of an occasional camp-fire is but the sodden glow of ember
whose life is long since burned out. But, see! Through the deep, jagged
rift where runs the Potomac, along the rock-bound gorge through which in
ages past the torrent burst its way, there creeps a host of tiny shafts
of color--the skirmishers, the _éclaireurs_, of the irresistible array
of which they form but the foremost line--the coming army of the God of
Day. Here behind the frowning Loudon no such light troops venture; but,
skilled riders as they are,

  "Spurring the winds of the morning,"

they pour through the rocky gap, and now they find their lodgment on
every salient of the grim old wall beyond the broad Potomac. Here,
there, everywhere along the southern face are glinting shafts or points
on rocks or ridge. Seam and shadow take on a purplish tinge. The hanging
mass of cloud beams with answering smile upon its earthward face as gold
and crimson and royal purple mantle the billowy cheeks. Now the rocks
light up with warmer glow, and long, horizontal shadows are thrown
across the hoary curtain, and slowly the gorgeous cloud-crests lift away
and more and more the heights come gleaming into view. Now there are
breaks and caverns here and there through the shifting vapors, and
hurried little glimpses of the cliffs beyond, and these cloud-caves grow
and widen, and broad sheets of yellow light seem warming up the dripping
wall and changing into mist the clinging beads of dew. And now, far
aloft, the fringe of firs and stunted oaks is seen upon the summit as
the sun breaks through the shimmering veil, and there, fluttering
against the blue of heaven, circled in fleecy frame of vapor, glowing,
waving in the sky, all aflame with tingeing sunshine, there leaps into
view the "Flag of the Free," crowning the Maryland heights and shining
far up the guarded valley of the Shenandoah. A puff of smoke juts out
from the very summit across the stream; the sentry eyes it with a sigh
of reviving interest in life; five, ten, twenty seconds he counts before
the boom of the salute follows the sudden flash and wakes the echoes of
the opposite cliffs.

Listen! Up on the westward heights, somewhere among those frowning
batteries, a bugle rings out upon the air--

  "I can't get 'em up, I can't get 'em up,
  I can't get 'em up in the mo--orning,"

it merrily sings, and the rocks of Loudon echo back the spirited notes.
Farther up the valley a distant drum rattles, and then, shrill and
piercing, with hoarse, rolling accompaniment, the fifes of some infantry
regiment burst into the lively trills of the _reveille_. Another camp
takes up the strain, off to the left. Then the soft notes of the cavalry
trumpets come floating up from the water-side, and soon, regiment after
regiment, the field-music is all astir and the melody of the initial
effort becomes one ringing, blaring, but most effectually waking
discord. Loud in the nearest camp the little drummers and fifers are
thumping away at "Bonnie Lass o' Gawrie." Over by the turnpike the rival
corps of the--th Connecticut are pounding out the cheerful strains in
which Ireland's favored bard declared he would "Mourn the hopes that
leave," little dreaming that British fifes and drums would make it
soldier music--"two-four time"--all the world over. Halfway across the
valley, where the Bolivars narrow it, an Ohio regiment is announcing to
the rest of the army, within earshot, that it wakes to the realization
that its "Name it is Joe Bowers," tooted and hammered in "six-eight
time" through the lines of "A" tents; and a New York Zouave organization
turns out of its dew-dripping blankets and cordially blasphemes the
musicians who are expressing as their conception of the regimental
sentiment, "Oh, Willie, we have missed you." And so the chorus goes up
and down the Shenandoah, and the time-worn melodies of the earliest
war-days--the days before we had "Tramp, tramp," and "Marching through
Georgia" (which we never _did_ have in Virginia), and even lackadaisical
"When this crew-el war is o-ver," are the matins of the soldiers of the
Union Army.

At last the uproar dies away. Here in the neighboring camp the sergeants
are rapidly calling the rolls, and some companies are so reduced in
number that no call over is necessary--a simple glance at the baker's
dozen of war-worn, grisly looking men is sufficient to assure the
sergeant of the presence of every one left to be accounted for. In this
brigade they are not turning out under arms just now, as is the custom
farther to the front. It has been cruelly punished in the late battle,
and is accorded a resting-spell pending the arrival of recruits from
home. One first sergeant, who still wears the chevrons of a corporal, in
making his report to his company commander briefly says:

"Rix came back last night, sir; returned to duty with his company."

"Hello, Hunnewell!" sings out the officer addressed, calling to the new
adjutant, who is hurriedly passing by. "What does this mean? Are the
wagons back?"

"No," says the adjutant, halting short with the willingness of a man who
has news to tell. "Some of the provost-marshal's men came up last night
from Point of Rocks and fetched Rix with them, and letters from the
colonel. Both he and Abbot made complaint of the man's conduct, and had
him relieved and sent up here under guard. Heard about Abbot?"

"No--what?"

"He's appointed major and assistant adjutant-general, and goes to staff
duty; and the colonel will be back this week."

"Does he say who's to be quartermaster?" asks the lieutenant with eager
interest, and forgetting to record his congratulations on the
good-fortune that has befallen his regimental comrade.

"No," says Mr. Hunnewell, with some hesitancy. "There's a hitch there.
To begin with, does anybody know that a vacancy exists?"

"Why, Hollins has been missing now ever since the 18th of September,
and he must be either dead or taken prisoner."

The adjutant looks around him, and, seeing other officers and men within
earshot, though generally occupied with their morning ablutions, he
comes closer to his comrade of the line and the two who have joined him,
and speaks with lowered voice.

"There is some investigation going on. The colonel sent for such books
and papers of Hollins's as could be found about camp, and an order came
last night for Captain Dodge to report at once at Frederick. He was
better acquainted with Hollins than any one else--among the officers
anyway--and he knew something about his whereabouts the other times he
was missing. This makes the third."

"Three times and out, say I," answers one of the party. "I heard some
talk at division headquarters when I was up there last night: the
general has a letter that Colonel Raymond wrote soon after he was
exchanged, but if it be anything to Hollins's discredit I wonder he did
not write to Putnam. He wouldn't want his successor to be burdened with
a quartermaster whom he knew to be--well--shady, so to speak."

"That's the one thing I never understood about Abbot," says the captain,
sipping the cup of coffee that a negro servant had just brought to him.
"Some more of that, Belshazzar; these gentlemen will join me. How he,
who is so blue-blooded, seems to be on such terms of intimacy with
Hollins is what I mean," he explains. "It was through him that Hollins
was taken into companionship from the very start. He really is
responsible for him. They were class-mates, and no one else knew
anything of him--except vaguely."

"Now there's just where you wrong Abbot, captain," answers Mr.
Hunnewell, very promptly, "and I want to hit that nail on the head right
here. I thought just as you did, for a while; but got an inkling as to
the real state of the case some time ago. It wasn't Abbot who endorsed
him at all, except by silence and sufferance, you may say. Hollins was
at his tent day and night--always following him up and actually forcing
himself upon him; and one night, after Hollins had that first scrape,
and came back under a cloud and went to Abbot first thing to intercede
with the colonel, I happened to overhear a piece of conversation between
them. Abbot was just as cold and distant as man could possibly be. He
told him plainly that he considered his course discreditable to the
whole regiment, and especially annoying to him, because, said Abbot,
'You have virtually made me your sponsor with every man who showed a
disposition to repel you.' Then Hollins made some reply which I did not
fully catch, but Abbot was angry, and anybody could have heard his
answer. He told Hollins that if it had not been for the relationship to
which he alluded he could not have tolerated him at all, but that he
must not draw on it too often. Then Hollins came out, and I heard him
muttering to himself. He fawned on Abbot while he was in the tent, but
he was scowling and gritting his teeth when he left; and I heard him
cursing _sotto voce_, until he suddenly caught sight of me. Then he was
all joviality, and took me by the arms to tell me how 'Paul, old boy,
has been raking me over the coals. We were chums, you know, and he
thinks a heap of me, and don't want the home people to know of my
getting on a spree,' was the way he explained it. Now, if you remember,
it was Hollins who was perpetually alluding to his intimacy with the
Abbots. Paul himself never spoke of it. What Palfrey once told me in
Washington may explain it; he said that Hollins was distantly related to
the Winthrops, and that there was a time when he and Miss Winthrop were
quite inseparable--you know what a handsome fellow he was when he first
joined us?"

"Well," answers the captain, with the half-way and reluctant withdrawal
of the average man who has made an unjust statement, "it may be as you
say, but all the same it was Abbot's tacit endorsement or tolerance that
enabled Hollins to hold a place among us as long as he has. If he has
been sheltered under the shadow of Abbot's wing, and turns out to be a
vagabond, so much the worse for the wing. All the same, I'm glad of
Abbot's promotion. Wonder whose staff he goes on?"

"Lieutenant," says a corporal, saluting the group and addressing his
company commander, "Rix says he would like to speak with the major
before breakfast. He was for going to headquarters alone just now, but I
told him he must wait until I had seen you."

The lieutenant glances quickly around. There, not ten paces away--his
forage cap on the back of his head, his hulking shoulders more bent
than ever, hands in his pockets and a scowl on his face--stands, or
rather slouches, Rix. He looks unkempt, dirty, determinedly ugly, and
very much as though he had been in liquor most of the week, and was
sober now only through adverse circumstances over which he had no
control.

"What do you want of the major, Rix?" demands the lieutenant, with
military directness.

"Well, I _want_ him--'n that's enough," says the ex-teamster, with
surly, defiant manner, and never changing his attitude. "I want t' know
what I'm sent back here for, like a criminal."

"Because you look most damnably like one," says the officer,
impulsively, and then, ashamed of having said such a thing to one who is
powerless to resent, he tempers the wrath with which he would rebuke the
man's insubordination, and, after an instant's pause, speaks more
gently.

"Come here, Rix. Stand up like a man and tell me your trouble. If you
have been wronged in any way I'll see that you are righted; but
recollect what and where you are."

"I'm a man, by God! Good as any of you a year ago; better'n most of you
five years ago; an' now I'm ordered about by boys just out of their
teens. I'm not under Abbot's orders. Lieutenant Hollins is my officer;
he'll fix me all right. Where's _he_, lieutenant? He's the man I want."

"Rix, you will only get into more trouble if you don't mend your
manners," says the lieutenant, half agreeing with the muttered comment
of a comrade, that the man had better be gagged forthwith, but
determined to control his own temper. "As to Lieutenant Hollins, he has
not been heard of since Antietam. Nobody knows what's become of him."

The effect of this announcement is startling. Rix turns ghastly white;
his bloodshot eyes stare fearfully at his informant, then blink savagely
around on one after another of the party. His fingers twitch nervously,
and he clutches at his throat.

"Are--are you sure, lieutenant?" he gasps, all his insolence of manner
gone.

"Sure, sir. He hasn't been seen or heard of since--"

"Why, my God! He told me back there at Boonsboro' that he would ride
right over to camp--time I was going back with the colonel through the
Gap."

"Boonsboro'! Why, man, that was several days after the battle that you
went back with the colonel's ambulance! Then you've seen him since we
have. Where was it?"

But Rix has recovered his wits, such as they are. He has made a damaging
admission, and one that places him in a compromising position. He
quickly blurts forth a denial.

"No, no! It wasn't then. I misremembered. 'Twas when we went over the
first time. He says to me right there at Boonsboro'--"

"You're lying, Rix," interposed the senior officer of the party, who has
been an absorbed listener. "You didn't go through Boonsboro' at all,
first time over. We followed the other road, and you followed us. It
must have been when you went back. Now what did the quartermaster say?"

But Rix sets his jaws firmly, and will tell no more. Twice he is
importuned, but to no purpose. Then the captain speaks again.

"We need not disturb the commanding officer until breakfast-time, but
there is no doubt in my mind this man can give important evidence. I
will take the responsibility. Have Rix placed in charge of the guard at
once."

And when the corporal reappears it is with a file of men, armed with
their Springfields. Between them Rix is marched away, a scared and
haggard-looking man.

For a moment the officers stand in silence, gazing after him. Then the
captain speaks.

"That man could tell a story, without deviating a hair's-breadth from
the truth, that would astonish the commonwealth of Massachusetts, or I
am vastly mistaken in him. Does anybody know his antecedents?"

"He was our first quartermaster-sergeant, that's all I know of him,"
answers Mr. Hunnewell; "but he was in bad odor with the colonel, I
heard, long before Cedar Mountain. He would have 'broken' him if it had
not been for Hollins's intercessions."

"I mean his antecedents, before the outbreak of the war, not in the
regiment. Where did Hollins get him? _Why_ did he get him, and have him
made quartermaster-sergeant, and stick to him as he did for months,
after everybody else was convinced of his worthlessness? There is
something I do not understand in their relations. Do you remember, when
we were first camped at Meridian Hill, Hollins and Rix occupied the same
tent a few days, and the colonel put a stop to it? Hollins was furious,
and tried to raise a point against the colonel. He pointed to the fact
that in half the regiments around us the quartermaster was allowed to
have his sergeant for a tent-mate if he wanted to; and if Colonel
Raymond had any objections, why didn't he say so before they left the
state? He had lived with him a whole month in camp there, and the
colonel never said a word. I confess that some of us thought that Rix
was badly treated when he was ordered to pitch his tent elsewhere, but
the colonel never permitted any argument. I heard him tell Hollins that
what was permissible while we were simply state troops was not to be
considered precedent for his action when they were mustered into the
national service. In his regiment, as in the well-disciplined regiments
of any state, the officers and enlisted men must live apart."

"But Hollins claimed that Rix was a man of good birth and education, and
that he was coaching him for a commission," interposes one of the group.

"That was an afterthought, and had no bearing on the case anyway. I know
that in this, as in some other matters, there were many of us who chafed
a little at the idea of regular army discipline among us, but we know
now the colonel was right. As for Rix, he turned out to be a drunkard
before we got within rifle-range of Virginia."

"Yet he was retained as quartermaster-sergeant."

"Because Hollins shielded him and kept him out of the way. I tell you,"
puts in the captain, testily, "Colonel Raymond would have 'broken' him
if he had not been taken at Ball's Bluff. Putnam didn't like to
overthrow Raymond's appointee without his full knowledge and consent,
and so he hung on till after we got back to Alexandria. Even then
Hollins had him detailed as driver on plea that his lame foot would
prevent his marching. But Hollins is gone now and Mr. ex-Q. M. Sergeant
Rix is safely jugged. Mark my words, gentlemen, he'll be needed when
Hollins's papers are overhauled."

"Hullo! What's up now?" suddenly demands the adjutant. "Look at
headquarters."

From where they stand the broad highway up the valley is plainly visible
for a mile or more, and to the right of the turnpike, on a little rising
ground, are pitched the tents of the division commander and his staff.
Farther away, among some substantial farm-buildings, are to be seen the
cavalrymen of the regular service who are attached, as escort and
orderlies, to the headquarters of the Second Corps, and a dozen of these
gentry are plainly visible scurrying about between their little tents
and the picket-line, where their horses are tethered. It is evident that
the whole troop is hurriedly saddling and that orderlies are riding off
beyond the buildings, each with one or more led horses--the "mounts" of
the staff. Here, close at hand, among the tents of the Massachusetts
men, the soldiers have risen to their feet, and with coffee steaming
from the battered tin cup in one hand and bread or bacon clutched in the
other they are gazing with interest, but no sign of excitement, at the
scene of evident action farther to the front. A year ago such signs of
preparation at headquarters would have sent the whole regiment in eager
rush for its arms and equipments, but it has learned wisdom with its
twelve-month of campaigning. Not a shot has been heard up the valley. It
can be no attack there. Yet something unquestionably has happened. Yes,
the escort is "leading out." See! far up on the heights, to the west,
the men are thronging on the parapets. They have a better view from
there of what is going on at Sumner's headquarters. Next, shooting
around the building on the low rise to the right front, there comes a
staff-officer at rapid gallop. Down the slope he rides, over the low
stone wall his charger bears him, and down the turnpike he speeds,
heedless of the shouts of inquiry that seem to greet him from the camps
that flank the road. Sharp to his right he turns, at a little lane a
quarter-mile away, and disappears among the trees. "Going to the cavalry
camps," hazards the adjutant, and determines that he had better get over
to the major's tent--their temporary commander--and warn him
"something's coming." Another minute, quick, pealing, spirited, there
rings on the air the sound of a trumpet, and the stirring call of "Boots
and saddles!" startles the ear of many a late sleeper among the
officers. The sun is not yet shining in the valley; the dew is sparkling
on every blade and leaf: but the Second Corps is all astir, and there is
a cheer in the cavalry camp that tells of soldierly doings close at
hand. A light battery is parked just across the highway, and as the aide
reappears, spurring from the lane out into the pike again, the officers
see how its young commander has vaulted into saddle and is riding
down to intercept him so that not a minute be lost if the guns are
needed. They are. For though the aide comes by like a shot, he has
shouted some quick words to the captain of the battery, and the latter
waves his jaunty forage cap to his expectant bugler, standing, clarion
in hand, by the guard-fire. "Boots and saddles!" again; and--drivers and
cannoneers--the men drop their tin cups and plates, and leap for the
lines of harness. Down comes the aide full tilt as before. Captain Lee
runs to the roadside and hails him with familiar shout:

"What's up, Win?"

[Illustration: "_The whole troop is hurriedly saddling._"]

And gets no further answer than

"Tell you as I come back."

Meantime other aides have been scurrying to and fro; and far and near,
up and down the Shenandoah and out across the valley, where the morning
sunshine triumphs over the barring Loudon, the same stirring call rings
out upon the air. "Boots and saddles!" everywhere, and nowhere the
long-roll or the infantry assembly.

"Back to your breakfast, boys," says a tall and bearded sergeant.
"Whatever it is, it don't amount to shucks. The infantry isn't called
for."

But that it amounts to more than "shucks," despite the footman's
epigram, is presently apparent when the staff-officer comes more slowly
back, easing his panting horse. The major has by this time turned out,
and in boots and overcoat is striding over to the stone wall to get the
news.

"What is it, Win?" he asks.

And the aide-de-camp, bending low from the saddle and with grave face,
replies,

"Stuart again, by Heaven! He whipped around our right, somewhere near
Martinsburg, last night, and is crossing at Williamsport now."

"_What!_ Why, we've got three corps over there about Antietam yet."

"Yes; and he'll go around them, just as he did round us, and be up in
Pennsylvania to-morrow. Where are your wounded?"

"Some over near Keedysville; the others, those we lost at South
Mountain, somewhere near Frederick. The colonel and Abbot were there at
last accounts. Why?"

"Because it will be just like him to go clean around us and come down
the Monocacy. If he should, they are gone, sure."



IV.


Two days after the excitement in Frederick consequent upon the escape of
the supposed spy Colonel Putnam was chatting with the provost-marshal
and the landlord of the tavern where Doctor Warren had paid his brief
visit. They were discussing a piece of news that had come in during the
morning. From the very first the proprietor of the old tavern had
scoffed at the theory of there being anything of a Southern spy about
the mysterious stranger. He was a Southern man himself, and, though
hardly an enemy to the Union, he had that personal sympathy for a host
of neighbors and friends which gave him something of a leaning that way.
He did not believe, he openly said, that anything on earth could whip
the South so long as they kept on their own soil; but things looked
black for their cause when they crossed the Potomac. Maryland had not
risen in tumultuous welcome as Lee hopefully expected. The worn, ragged,
half-* starved soldiers that had marched up the valley in mid-September
had little of the heroic in their appearance, despite the fame of their
exploits; and in their hunger and thirst they had made way,
soldier-fashion, with provender for which they could not pay. The host
himself had suffered not a little from their forays, and while his
sentiments were broadly Southern his business instincts were
emphatically on the side of the greenbacks of the North. He had found
the Union officers men of means, if not of such picturesquely martial
attributes as their Southern opponents; and while he would not deny his
friendship for many a gallant fellow in the rebel gray, neither would he
rebuff the blue-coat whose palm was tinged with green. He liked the
provost-marshal because that functionary had twice rescued his bar from
demolition at the hands of a gang of stragglers. He admired Colonel
Putnam as a soldier and a gentleman, but he was enjoying a triumph over
both of them; he had news to tell which seemed to sustain his theory and
defeat theirs as to the identity of the man who left his beard behind
him.

"I am told you knew this Doctor Warren, colonel," he was saying, "and up
to this time I had not spoken of him for reasons which--well, because
he had reasons for asking me to make no mention of his being here. Now,
if he was a Doctor Warren, from the North, and a loyal man, what would
he be doing with a spy?"

"I did not know he saw him at all," said Colonel Putnam, quickly.

"Nor do I; but I do believe that he was here purposely to meet him; that
he, the man you tried to arrest, was here at this house to meet your
friend who followed you out to camp. If Doctor Warren is a loyal man, as
you doubtless believe him, he would have no call to be here to get
papers from a man who could only meet him in disguise. I'm told the
doctor made himself all clear to you as to who he was."

Colonel Putnam's face is a study. He is unquestionably turning pale, and
his eyes are filled with a strange, introspective, puzzled look. He is
startled, too.

"Do you mean to tell me he _did_ have communication with the doctor?" he
asks.

"My wife is ready to swear to it," replies mine host. "Her story is
simply this: She had come down-stairs just as the doctor returned. She
had been sitting with the young lady, who was very nervous and ill at
ease while he was away, and had gone into the kitchen at the back of the
house to get her a cup of tea. She was startled by a rap at the door,
and in walks a man wrapped up in a big military cape. He wore spectacles
and a full black beard, and he took off his hat, and spoke like a
gentleman. He said he desired to see either Doctor Warren or the young
lady at once on business of the utmost importance, and asked her if she
would conduct him up by a rear stairway. My wife told him to go around
to the office, but he replied that he expected that, and hastened to
tell her that it was because there were Union officers in the hallway
that he could not go there. There were personal reasons why he must not
be seen; and she said to him that a man who looked like an officer and
spoke like a gentleman ought not to be afraid to go among his fellows;
and he said he was not an officer, and then asked her, suddenly, if she
was a friend to the North or the South; and before she could answer they
both saw lights dancing about out there in the yard, and he was
startled, and said 'twas for him they were searching, and begged her, as
she was a woman, not to betray him; he was the young lady's lover, he
said in explanation, and had risked much to meet her. And my wife's
heart was touched at that, and she showed him a place to hide; and when
she went up she heard the young lady sobbing and the old man trying hard
to comfort her; and she knocked, but they begged to be left undisturbed
until they called, and she went down and told the man; and he was
fearfully nervous and worried, she said, especially when told about the
crying going on; and he wrote a few lines on a scrap of paper, gave it
to her with a little packet, and she took them up to the doctor; and
they were just coming out of their room at the moment, and the doctor
put the papers in his pocket, and said to her and to me that he begged
us to make no mention of his daughter's being there to any one--there
were reasons. And her face was hidden in her veil, and he seemed all
broken down with anxiety or illness, and said they must have a carriage
or something to take them at once to the railway. They probably went
back to Baltimore that night, but the doctor took the packet in his
pocket; and the man whom you saw come up from under the back piazza,
colonel, was the man who sent it him."

The provost-marshal is deeply interested. Colonel Putnam sits, in a
maze of perplexity, silent and astounded.

"The doctor was well known to you, was he not, Putnam?" asked the
marshal.

The colonel starts, embarrassed and troubled.

"No. I never saw him before."

"He brought letters to you, didn't he?"

"No letters. In fact, it wasn't me whom he came to see at all."

"Whom did he want, then?"

"Mr. Abbot," answers the colonel, briefly, and with growing
embarrassment.

"Oh! Abbot knew him, did he?"

"No; he didn't. That is the singular part of it. The more I recall the
interview the more I'm upset."

"Why so?"

"Because he said he had come to see an old friend of his son's whom he
mourned as killed at Seven Pines. He named Abbot, and said he had been
in correspondence with him for a year. As luck would have it, Abbot was
sitting right there beside me, and I said at once, 'Here's your man,' or
something like it; and then Abbot didn't know him at all; declared he
had never written a line to him; never heard of him. The old gentleman
was completely floored. He vowed that for a whole year he had been
receiving letters from Lieutenant Paul Revere Abbot, and now had come to
see him because he was reported severely wounded."

"Did he show you any of the letters?"

"Why, no! He said there were none with him. He--I declare I do not know
what excuse he _did_ give," says the colonel, in dire distress of mind.

The provost-marshal's eyes are glittering, and his face is set and
eager. He thinks intently one moment, and then turns on the silent
colonel and their perplexed landlord.

"Keep this thing perfectly quiet, gentlemen; I may have to look further
into it; but at this moment, colonel, circumstances point significantly
at your friend, the doctor. Do you see nothing suspicious in his
conduct? His confident claim of a year's correspondence with an officer
of your regiment was possibly to gain your friendship and protection. As
ill-luck for him and good-luck for us would have it, he named the wrong
man. Abbot was there, and could deny it on the spot. The old man was
floored, of course; but his only way of carrying the thing through was
to play the martyr, and tell the story that for a year somebody had been
writing to him daily or weekly over the name of Abbot. What a very
improbable yarn, Putnam! Just think for yourself. What man would be apt
to do that sort of thing? What object could he have? Why, the doctor
himself well realized what a transparent fiction it must appear, and
away he slips by the night train the moment he gets back. And now our
friend, the landlord, throws further light upon the matter. He was here
to meet that night visitor, perhaps convey valuable information to him,
but was frightened by the blunder he had made, and got away as speedily
as possible, and without seeing the owner of the beard, although a
packet of papers was duly handed to him from that mysterious party.
Doctor Warren may turn out a candidate for the fortress of that name in
your own harbor, colonel."

And, thinking it all over, Putnam cannot make up his mind what to say.
There is something in his impression of the doctor that utterly sets at
naught any belief that he was acting a part. He was so simple, so
direct, so genuine in his manner and in his distress. On the other
hand, analyzing the situation, the colonel is compelled to realize that
to any one but himself the doctor's story would appear unworthy of
credence. He is in this uncomfortable frame of mind when a staff-officer
comes to see him with some papers from the quartermaster-general that
call for an immediate investigation of the affairs of the missing
Lieutenant Hollins, and for two or three days Colonel Putnam is away at
the supply depot on the railway. It is there that he learns the pleasant
news that his gallant young comrade has been promoted to a most
desirable staff position, and ordered to report for duty in Washington
as soon as able to travel. He writes a line of congratulation to Abbot,
and begs him to be sure and send word when he will come through, so that
they may meet, and then returns to his patient overhauling of the
garbled accounts of the quondam quartermaster.

No answer comes from Abbot, and the colonel is so busy that he thinks
little of it. The investigation is giving him a world of insight into
the crookedness of the late administration, and has put him in
possession of facts and given rise to theories that are of unusual
interest, and so, when he hears that Abbot was able to leave the
hospital and ride slowly in to the railway and so on to Baltimore, he
merely regrets not having seen him, and thinks little of it.

But the provost-marshal has been busily at work; has interviewed Abbot
and cross-examined the landlady. He has found an officer who says that
the night of the escapade at Frederick his horse was taken from in front
of the house of some friends he was visiting in the southern edge of the
town, and was found next morning by the pickets clear down at the bridge
where the canal crosses the Monocacy; and the pickets said he looked as
though he had been ridden hard and fast, and that no trace of rider
could be found. Inquiry among patrols and guards develops the fact that
a man riding such a horse, wearing such a hat and cape as was described,
but with a smooth face and spectacles, had passed south during the
night, and claimed to be on his way to Point of Rocks with despatches
for the commanding officer from General Franklin. He exhibited an order
made out for Captain Hollister, and signed by Seth Williams,
adjutant-general of the army in the field. No such officer had reached
Point of Rocks, and the provost-marshal becomes satisfied that on or
about the 4th or 5th of October this very party who was prowling about
the town of Frederick has gotten back into Virginia, possibly with
valuable information.

When, on the evening of the 10th, there comes the startling news that
"Jeb" Stuart, with all his daring gray raiders at his back, has leaped
the Potomac at Williamsport, and is galloping up the Cumberland Valley
around McClellan's right, the provost-marshal is convinced that the bold
dash is all due to information picked up under his very nose in the
valley of the Monocacy. If he ever had the faintest doubt of the justice
of his suspicions as to "Doctor Warren's" complicity, the doubt has been
removed. Already, at his instance, a secret-service agent has visited
Hastings, and wires back the important news that the doctor left there
about the 25th of September, and has not returned. On the 11th he is
rejoiced by a telegram from Washington which tells him that, acting on
his advices, Doctor Warren had been found, and is now under close
surveillance at Willard's.

Then it is time for him to look out for his own movements. Having leaped
into the Union lines with all his native grace and audacity, the
cavalier Stuart reposes a few days at Chambersburg, placidly surveying
the neighborhood and inviting attack. Then he rides eastward over the
South Mountain, and the next heard of him he is coming down the
Monocacy. McClellan's army is encamped about Sharpsburg and Harper's
Ferry. He has but few cavalry, and, at this stage of the war, none that
can compete successfully with Stuart. Not knowing just what to do
against so active and calmly audacious an opponent, the Union general is
possibly too glad to get rid of him to attempt any check. To the vast
indignation and disappointment of many young and ardent soldiers in our
lines, he is apparently riding homeward unmolested, picking up such
supplies as he desires, paroling such prisoners as he does not want to
burden himself with, and exchanging laughing greetings with old friends
he meets everywhere along the Monocacy. At Point of Rocks, whither our
provost-marshal and Colonel Putnam are driven for shelter, together with
numerous squads of convalescents and some dozen stragglers, there is
arming for defence, and every intention of giving Jeb a sharp fight
should he attempt to pick up supplies or stragglers from its sturdy
garrison. Every hour there is exciting news of his coming, and, with
their glasses, the officers can see clouds of dust rising high in air
far up the valley. Putnam has urgent reason for wanting to rejoin his
regiment at once. What with the information he has received from the two
or three officers whom he has questioned, and the papers themselves, he
has immediate need of seeing the ex-quartermaster sergeant, Rix. But he
cannot go when there is a chance for a fight right here. Stuart may dash
in westward, and have just one lively tussle with them to cover the
crossing of his valuable plunder and prisoners below. Of course they
have not men enough to think of confronting him. Just in the midst of
all the excitement there comes an orderly with despatches and letters
from up the river, and one of them is for Putnam, from the major
commanding the regiment. It is brief enough, but exasperating. "I
greatly regret to have to report to you, in answer to your directions
with regard to Rix, that they came too late. In some utterly
unaccountable way, though we fear through collusion on part of a member
or members of the guard, Rix made his escape two nights ago, and is now
at large."



V.


To say that Paul Abbot was made very happy over his most unexpected
promotion would be putting it mildly. He hates to leave the old
regiment, but he has done hard fighting, borne several hard knocks, is
still weak and shaky from recent wounds; and to be summoned to
Washington, there to meet his proud father, and to receive his
appointment as assistant adjutant-general from the hands of the most
distinguished representative "in Congress assembled" of his
distinguished state, is something to put new life into a young soldier's
heart. Duties for him there are none at the moment: he is to get strong
and well before again taking the field, and, for the time being, he is
occupying a room at Willard's adjoining that of his father. His arm is
still in a sling; his walk is still slow and somewhat painful; he has
ordered his new uniform, and meantime has procured the staff
shoulder-straps and buttons, and put them on his sack-coat; he has had
many letters to write, and much pleasant congratulation and compliment
to acknowledge; and so the three or four days succeeding his arrival
pass rapidly by. One afternoon he returns from a drive with his father;
they have been out to visit friends in camp, and talk over home news,
and now he comes somewhat slowly up the stairs of the crowded hotel to
the quiet of the upper corridors. He smiles to himself at the increasing
ease with which he mounts the brass-bound steps, and is thankful for the
health and elasticity returning to him. He has just had the obnoxious
beard removed, too; and freshly shaved, except where his blond mustache
shades the short upper lip, with returning color and very bright, clear
eyes, the young major of staff is a most presentable-looking youth as he
stops a moment to rest at the top of the third flight. His undress
uniform is decidedly becoming, and all the more interesting because of
the sling that carries his wounded arm. And now, after a moment's
breathing-spell, he walks slowly along the carpeted corridor, and turns
into the hallway leading to his own room. Along this he goes some twenty
paces or more, when there comes quickly into view from a side gallery
the figure of a tall, slight, and graceful girl. She has descended some
little flight of stairs, for he could hear the patter of her slippered
feet, and the swish of her skirts before she appeared. Now, with rapid
step she is coming straight towards him, carrying some little glass
phials in her hand. The glare of the afternoon sun is blazing in the
street, and at the window behind her. Against this glare she is revealed
only _en silhouette_. Of her features the young soldier can see nothing.
On the contrary, as he is facing the light, Major Abbot realizes that
every line of his countenance is open to her gaze. Before he has time to
congratulate himself that recent shaving and the new straps have made
him more presentable, he is astonished to see the darkly-outlined figure
halt short: he sees the slender hands fly up to her face in sudden panic
or shock; crash go the phials in fragments on the floor, and the young
lady, staggering against the wall, is going too--some stifled
exclamation on her lips.

Abbot is quick, even when crippled. He springs to her side just in time
to save. He throws his left arm around her, and has to hug her close to
prevent her slipping through his clasp--a dead weight--to the floor. She
has fainted away, he sees at a glance, and, looking about him, he finds
a little alcove close at hand; he knows it well, for there on the sofa
he has spent several restful hours since his arrival. Thither he
promptly bears her; gently lays her down; quickly opens the window to
give her air; then steps across the hall for aid. Not a soul is in
sight. His own room is but a few paces away, and thither he hastens;
returns speedily with a goblet of ice-water in his hand, and a slender
flask of cologne tucked under his arm. Kneeling by the sofa, he gently
turns her face to the light, and sprinkles it with water; then bathes,
with cologne, the white temples and soft, rippling, sunny hair. How
sweet a face it is that lies there, all unconscious, so close to his
beating heart! Though colorless and marble-like, there is beauty in
every feature, and signs of suffering and pain in the dark circles about
the eyes and in the lines at the corners of the exquisite mouth. Even as
he clumsily but most assiduously mops with his one available hand and
looks vaguely around for feminine assistance, Major Abbot is conscious
of a feeling of proprietorship and confidence that is as unwarranted,
probably, as it is new. 'Tis only a faint, he is certain. She will come
to in a moment, so why be worried? But then, of course, 'twill be
embarrassing and painful to her not to find some sympathetic female face
at hand when she does revive; and he looks about him for a bell-rope:
none nearer than the room, and he hates to leave her. At last comes a
little shivering sigh, a long gasp. Then he holds the goblet to her lips
and begs her to sip a little water, and, somehow, she does, and with
another moment a pair of lovely eyes has opened, and she is gazing
wildly into his.

"Lie still one minute," he murmurs. "You have been faint; I will bring
your friends."

But a little hand feebly closes on his wrist. She is trying to speak;
her lips are moving, and he bends his handsome head close to hers;
perhaps she can tell him whom to summon.

But he starts back, amazed, when the broken, half-intelligible, almost
inaudible words reach his ears,

"Paul! Papa--said--you were killed. Oh! he will be so glad!"

And then comes a burst of tears.

[Illustration: "_Then bathes, with cologne, the white temples and soft,
rippling, sunny hair._"]

Abbot rises to his feet and hurries into the hall. He is bewildered by
her words. He feels that it must be some case of mistaken identity,
but--how strange a coincidence! Close by the fragments of the phials he
finds a door key and the presumable number of her room. Only ten steps
away from the little flight of stairs he finds a corresponding door,
and, next, an open room. Looking therein, he sees a gentle, matronly
woman seated by a bedside, slowly fanning some recumbent invalid. She
puts her fingers on her lips, warningly, as she sees the uniform at her
door.

"Do not wake him, it is the first sound sleep he has had for days," she
says. "Is this the army doctor?"

"No," he whispers, "a young lady has just fainted down in the next
corridor. Her room adjoins this. Do you know her?"

"Oh, Heaven! I might have known it. Poor child, she is utterly worn out.
This is her father. Will you stay here just a few moments? His son was a
soldier, too, and was killed--and so was her lover--and it has nearly
killed the poor old gentleman. I'll go at once."

Still puzzling over his strange adventure, and thinking only of the
sweet face of the fainting girl, Abbot mechanically takes the fan the
nurse has resigned and slowly sweeps the circling flies away. The
invalid lies on his right side with his face to the wall; but the soft,
curling gray hair ripples under the waves of air stirred by the languid
movement of the fan. The features have not yet attracted his attention.
He is listening intently for sounds from the corridor. His thoughts are
with the girl who has so strangely moved him; so strangely called his
name and looked up into his eyes with a sweet light of recognition in
hers--with a wild thrill of delight and hope in them, unless all signs
deceive him. The color, too, that was rushing into her face, the sudden
storm of emotion that bursts in tears; what meant all this--all this in
a girl whom never before had he seen in all his life? Verily, strange
experiences were these he was going through. Only a week or so before
had not that gray-haired old doctor shown almost as deep an emotion on
meeting him at Frederick? And was he not prostrated when assured of his
mistake, and was it not hard to convince him that the letters to which
he persistently referred were forgeries? Some scoundrel who claimed to
know his son was striving to bleed him for money, probably, and using,
of all others, the name of Paul Abbot. And this poor old gentleman here
had also lost a son, and the sweet, fragile-looking girl a lover! How
peacefully the old man sleeps, thinks Abbot, as he glances a moment
around the room. There are flowers on the table near the open window;
books, too, which, perhaps, she had tried to read aloud. The window
opens out over Pennsylvania Avenue, and the hum and bustle of thronging
life comes floating up from below; a roar of drums is growing louder
every minute, and presently bursts upon the ear as though, just issuing
from a neighboring street, the drummers were marching forth upon the
avenue. Abbot glances at his patient, fearful lest the noise should wake
him, but he sleeps the sleep of exhausted nature, and the soldier in his
temporary nurse prompts him to steal to the window and look down upon
the troops. They are marching south, along Fourteenth Street--a regiment
going over to the fortifications beyond the Long Bridge, and, after a
glance, Abbot steps quickly back. On the table nearest the window lies a
dainty writing-case, a woman's, and the flap is down on a half-finished
letter. On the letter, half disclosed, is the photograph of an officer.
It is strangely familiar as Abbot steps towards it. Then--the roar of
the drums seems deafening; the walls of the little room seem turning
upside down; his brain is in some strange and sudden whirl; but there in
his hands he holds, beyond all question--his own picture--a photograph
by Brady, taken when he was in Washington during the previous summer. He
has not recovered his senses when there is an uneasy movement at the
bed. The gray-haired patient turns wearily and throws himself on the
other side, and now, though haggard and worn with suffering, there is no
forgetting that sorrow-stricken old face. In an instant Major Abbot has
recognized his visitor of the week before. There before him lies Doctor
Warren. Who--_who_ then is _she_?



VI.


Sitting by the open window and looking out over the bustling street
Major Abbot later in the evening is trying to collect his senses and
convince himself that he really is himself. "It never rains but it
pours," and events have been pouring upon him with confusing rapidity.
Early in the summer he had noted an odd constraint in the tone of the
few letters that came from Miss Winthrop. That they were few and far
between was not in itself a matter to give him much discomfort. From
boyhood he had been accustomed to the household cry that at some time in
the future--the distant future--Viva Winthrop was to be his wife. He had
known her quite as long as he had been conscious of his own existence,
and the relations between the families were such as to render the
alliance desirable. Excellent friends were the young people as they grew
to years of discretion, and, in the eyes of parents and intimate
acquaintances, no formal betrothal was ever necessary, simply because
"it was such an understood thing." For more than a year previous to the
outbreak of the war, however, Miss Winthrop was in Europe, and much of
the time, it was said, she had been studying. So had Mr. Hollins, who
withdrew from Harvard in his second year and read law assiduously in the
office of Winthrop & Lawrence, and then went abroad for his health. They
returned on the Cunarder in the early part of April, and Mrs. Winthrop
was ill from the time she set foot on the saloon deck until they sighted
the State House looming through the fog, and nothing could have been
more fortunate than that Mr. Hollins was with them--he was so attentive,
so very thoughtful. When he wasn't doing something for her he was
promenading with Viva on deck or bundling that young lady in warm wraps
and hedging her in a sunny corner. Pity that Mr. Hollins was so poor and
rather obscure in his family--his immediate family--connections. His
mother was Mr. Winthrop's first cousin, and she had been very fond of
Mr. Winthrop when she was a child, and he had befriended her son when a
friend was needed. She died years ago, and no one knew just when her
husband followed her. He was a person no one ever met, said Mrs.
Winthrop, a man who had a singular career, was an erratic genius, and
very dissipated. But he was a very fascinating person, she understood,
in his younger days, and his son was most talented and deserving, but
entirely out of the question as an intimate or associate. Viva would not
be apt to see anything of him after their return; but the question never
seemed to occur to her, how much had the daughter been influenced by
their frequent companionship abroad? It really mattered nothing. Viva
was to marry Revere Abbot, as Mrs. Winthrop preferred to call him, and
such was distinctly the family understanding. Miss Winthrop had been
home but a few weeks when all the North was thrilled by the stirring
call for volunteers, and the old Bay State responded, as was to be
expected of her. In the --th Massachusetts were a score of officers, as
has been said, whose names were as old as the colony and whose family
connections made them thoroughly well known to each other at the
earliest organization of the command. That Paul Abbot should be among
the first to seek a commission as a junior lieutenant was naturally
expected. Then with all possible hesitancy and delicacy, after a
feminine council in the family, his mother asked him if he did not think
there ought to be some distinct understanding about Viva Winthrop before
he went away to the front. The matter was something that he had thought
of before she went to Europe, but believed then that it could wait, Now
that she had returned, improved both physically and intellectually, Mr.
Abbot had once or twice thought that it would not be long before he
would be asked some such question as his mother now propounded, but
again decided that it was a matter that could be deferred. They had met
with much hearty cordiality, and called each other Paul and Viva, as
they had from babyhood, and then she had a round of social duties and he
became absorbed in drills, day and night, and they saw very little of
each other--much less than was entirely satisfactory to the parental
councils, and these were frequent. While the masters of the households
of Abbot and Winthrop seldom interchanged a word on the subject, they
had their personal views none the less; and, as to the mothers, their
hearts had long been set upon the match. Miss Winthrop had abundant
wealth in her own right. Paul Abbot's blood was blue as the doctrines
of the Puritans. Without being a beauty in face or form, Miss Winthrop
was unquestionably distinguished-looking, and her reputation for a
certain acerbity of temper and the faculty of saying cutting things did
not materially lower her value in the matrimonial market. There was,
however, that constantly recurring statement, "Oh, she's engaged to Paul
Abbot," and that, presumably, accounted for the lack of those attentions
in society which are so intangible when assailed, and yet leave such a
void when omitted. Mrs. Abbot put it very plainly to Paul when she said:

"Everybody considers her as virtually engaged to you and expects you to
look after her. That is why I say it is due to her that you should
arrive at some understanding before your orders come."

Paul had come up from camp that day--a Saturday afternoon--and he stood
there in the old family gathering room, a very handsome young soldier.
He had listened in silence and respect while his mother spoke, but
without much sign of responsive feeling. When she had finished he looked
her full in the face and quietly said:

"And is there any other reason, mother?"

Mrs. Abbot flushed. There was another reason, and one that after much
mental dodging both she and Mrs. Winthrop had been compelled to admit to
each other within a very few days. Mr. Hollins was constantly finding
means to come over to the city and see Miss Winthrop, and the ladies
could not grapple with the intricacies of a military problem which
permitted one officer to be in town three or four days a week and kept
the others incessantly drilling at camp. Mrs. Abbot, motherlike, had
more than once suggested to her son that he ought to be able to visit
town more frequently, and on his replying that it was simply impossible,
and that none of the officers could leave their duties, had triumphantly
pointed to Mr. Hollins.

"But he is quartermaster," said Paul, "and has to come on business."

"He manages to combine a good deal of pleasure with his business," was
the tentative response, and Abbot knew that he was expected to ask the
nature of Mr. Hollins's pleasures. He was silent, however, much to his
mother's disappointment, for he had heard from other sources of the
frequency with which Mr. Hollins and Miss Winthrop were seen together.
Finding that he would not ask, Mrs. Abbot was compelled to suppress the
inclination she felt to have her suspicions dragged to light. She wished
he had more curiosity, or jealousy, or something; but in its absence she
could only say,

"Well, I wish you were quartermaster, that's all."

And now that he _had_ asked her if there were no other reason, there was
something in his placid tone she did not like. A month agone she wanted
him to know of Mr. Hollins's evident attentions to Genevieve because it
would probably, or possibly, spur him into some exertion on his own
account. Now that she felt sure he had heard of it, and it had not
spurred him, she was as anxious to conceal the fact that, both to Mrs.
Winthrop and herself, these attentions were becoming alarming. If he did
_not_ care for Viva, the chances were that so soon as he found that
public attention had been drawn to her acceptance of such devotions,
Paul would drop the matter entirely, and that would be a calamity.
Knowing perfectly well, therefore, what was in his mind when he asked
the question, Mrs. Abbot parried the thrust. Though she flushed, and
her voice quivered a little, she looked him straight in the face.

"There is, Paul. I--think she has a right to expect it of you;
that--that she does expect it."

Abbot looked with undisguised perplexity into his mother's face.

"You surprise me very much, mother; I cannot, see how Viva would betray
such an idea, even if she had it; it is not like her."

"Women see these things where men cannot," was the somewhat sententious
reply. "Besides, Paul--"

"Well, mother, besides--?"

"Mrs. Winthrop has told me as much."

That evening, before returning to camp, Lieutenant Abbot went round the
square--or what is the Bostonian equivalent therefor--and surprised Miss
Winthrop with a call. He told her what he had not told his mother, that
Colonel Raymond that morning received a telegram from Washington saying
that on the following Tuesday they must be in readiness to start.

"We have been good friends always, Viva," he said; "but you have been
something more to me than that. I did not mean to make so sudden an
avowal, but soldiers have no time to call their own just now, and every
hour has been given up to duty with the regiment. Now this sharp summons
comes and I must go. If I return, shall we--" (he had almost said,
"shall we fulfil our manifest destiny, and make our parents happy?" but
had sense enough to realize that she was entitled to a far more personal
proposition). He broke off nervously.

"You have always been so dear to me, Viva. Will you be my wife?"

She was sitting on the sofa, nervously twisting the cords of a fan in
and out among her slender white fingers. Her eyes were downcast and her
cheeks suffused. For an instant she looked up and a question seemed
trembling on her lips. She was a truthful woman and no coward. There was
something she was entitled to know, something the heart within her
craved to know, yet she knew not how to ask, or, if she did, was too
proud to frame the words, to plead for that thing of all others which a
woman prizes and glories in, yet will never knowingly beg of any
man--his honest and outspoken love. She looked down again, silent.

His tone softened and his voice quivered a little as he bent over her.

"Has any one else won away the heart of my little girl-love?" he asked.
"We were sweethearts so long, Viva; but have you learned to care for
some other?"

"No. It--it is not that."

"Then cannot you find a little love for me left over from the childish
days? You were so loyal to me then, Viva--and it would make our home
people so happy."

"I suppose it might--them."

"Then promise me, dear; I go so soon, and--"

She interrupted him now, impetuously. Looking straight up into his eyes,
she spoke in low, vehement tone, rapidly, almost angrily.

"On this condition, Paul; on this condition. You ask me to be your wife
and--and I suppose it is what is expected of us--what you have expected
all along, and are entitled to an answer now. Promise me this, if ever
you have a thought for another woman, if ever you feel in your heart
that perhaps another girl would make you happier, or if--if you feel the
faintest growing fancy for another, that you will tell me."

He smiled gravely as he encircled her in his arm. She drew back, but he
held her.

"Why, Viva, I have never had a thought for any other girl. I simply
thought you might care for some one more than you did for me. It is
settled, then--I promise," and he bent and softly kissed her.

They met again--twice--before the regiment took the cars. It had been
settled that no announcement of the engagement should be made, but there
are some secrets mothers cannot keep, and there were not lacking men and
women to obtrude premature "congratulations" even on the day she came
with mothers, sisters, cousins, and sweethearts by the score to witness
the presentation of colors and say adieu. That afternoon the regimental
quartermaster returned from the city after a stay of thirty-six hours,
thirty of which were unauthorized, and it was rumored that Colonel
Raymond was very angry and had threatened extreme measures. It was this
prospect, possibly, that shrouded Mr. Hollins's face in gloom, but most
people were disposed to think that he had taken the engagement very much
to heart. There were many who considered that, despite the fact of his
lack of fortune, birth, and "position," Mr. Hollins had been treated
very shabbily by the heiress. There were a few who said that but for his
"lacks" she would have married him. What she herself said was something
that caused Mr. Abbot a good deal of wonderment and reflection.

"Paul, I want you to promise me another thing. Mr. Hollins has very few
friends in the regiment. He is poor, sensitive, and he feels it keenly.
He is our kinsman, though distant, and he placed me under obligations
abroad by his devotion to mother, and his courtesy to me when we needed
attention. He thinks you dislike him, as well as many of the others.
Remember what he is to us, and how hard a struggle he has had, and be
kind to him--for me."

And though his college remembrances of Mr. Hollins were not tinged with
romance, Paul Abbot was too glad and proud in the thought of going to
the front--too happy and prosperous, perhaps, to feel anything but pity
for the quartermaster's isolation. He made the promise, and found its
fulfilment, before they had been away a fortnight, a very irksome thing.
Hollins fairly lived at his tent and better men kept away. Gradually
they had drifted apart. Gradually the feeling of coldness and aversion
had become so marked that he could not conceal it; and finally, after
one of the frequent lapses of which the quartermaster was guilty, there
had come rupture of all social relations, and the only associate left to
Mr. Hollins was the strange character whom he had foisted upon the
regiment at its organization--the quondam quartermaster-sergeant, Rix.

But in all the marching and fighting of the battle summer of '62, these
things were of less account than they had been during the inaction of
the winter and early spring, until, at the Monocacy, Mr. Abbot's
curiosity was excited by the singular language used by Rix when ordered
under guard. What could such a man as he have to do with the affairs,
personal or professional, of the officers of the regiment? It was rabid
nonsense--idle boasting, no doubt; and yet the new-made major found that
melodramatic threat recurring to his mind time and again.

Another thing that perplexed him was the fact already alluded to, that
during the winter Viva's letters, never too frequent or long, had begun
to grow longer as to interval and shorter as to contents. He made
occasional reference to the fact, but was referred to the singular
circumstance that "he began it." Matters were mended for a while, then
drifted into the old channel again. Then came the stirring incidents of
June; the sharp, hard marches of July and August; the thrilling battles
of Cedar Mountain and Second Bull Run; and he felt that his letters were
hardly missed. Then came the dash at Turner's Gap; his wounds, rest,
recovery, and promotion. But there was silence at home. He had not
missed _her_ letters before. Now he felt that they ought to come, and
had written more than once to say so.

And now, alone in his room, he is trying to keep cool and clear-headed;
to fathom the mystery of his predicament before going to his father and
telling him that between Genevieve Winthrop and himself there has arisen
a cloud which at any moment may burst in storm.

Her letter--the first received since Antietam--he has read over time and
again. It must be confessed that there is a good deal therein to anger
an honest man, and Abbot believes he is entitled to that distinction:

     "You demand the reason for my silence, and shall have it. I did not
     wish to endanger your recovery, and so have kept my trouble to
     myself, but now I write to tell you that the farce is ended. You
     have utterly broken your promise; I am absolved from mine. The fact
     that you could find time to write day after day to Miss Warren,
     and neglect me for weeks, would in itself be justification for
     demanding my release from an engagement you have held so lightly.
     But that you should have sought and won another's love even while
     your honor was pledged to me, is _more_ than enough. I do not ask
     release. I break the bond--once and for all.

     "You will have no place to receive your letters at the front. They,
     with your ring, and certain gifts with which you have honored me
     from time to time, will be found in a packet which is this day
     forwarded to your mother.

                                            "GENEVIEVE WINTHROP."

Abbot is seated with his head buried in his hands. That name again! the
girl who fainted at sight of him! the old man who was prostrate at his
denial on the Monocacy! the picture of himself in _her_ desk! and now,
this bitter, insulting letter from the woman who was to have been his
wife! Rix's words at the field hospital!--what in Heaven's name can it
all mean? What network of crime and mystery is this that is thrown
around him?

There is a sudden knock at the door--a negro waiter with a telegram:


                           "POINT OF ROCKS, MD., _Oct._ --, 1862.

                                            "Major PAUL R. ABBOT,
                                     Willard's Hotel, Washington:

     "Hollins still missing; believed to have followed you to
     Washington. Use every effort to secure arrest.

                                                        "PUTNAM."



VII.


There is an air of unusual excitement about the War Department this
bright October day. It is only a month since the whole army seemed
tramping through the streets on its way to the field of the Antietam;
only three weeks since the news was received that Lee was beaten back
across the Potomac, and every one expected that McClellan would be hot
on his trail, eager to pursue and punish before the daring Southerners
could receive accessions. But though two corps managed to reoccupy
Harper's Ferry and there go into camp, the bulk of the army has remained
where Lee left it when he slipped from its grasp, and McClellan's cry is
for reinforcements. Three weeks of precious time slip by, and then--back
come those daredevils of Stuart's, riding with laugh and taunt and jeer
all around the Union forces; and there is the mischief to pay here in
Washington, for if he should take a notion to pay the capital a visit on
his homeward trip, what would the consequences be? Of course there
are troops--lots of them--all around in the fortifications. The trouble
is, that we have so few cavalry, and, after all, the greatest trouble is
the old one--those fellows, Stuart and Jackson, have such a consummate
faculty of making a very little go a great way. All that is known of
Stuart's present move is, that he is somewhere up the Cumberland Valley;
that telegraphic communication beyond McClellan's headquarters is
broken, and that it is more than likely he will come hitherwards when he
chooses to make his next start.

[Illustration: "_Back come those daredevils of Stuart's._"]

Going to the War Department to make inquiries for the provost-marshal,
and show him Putnam's telegram, Major Abbot finds that official too busy
to see him, "unless it be something urgent," says the subaltern, who
seems to be an aide-de-camp of some kind.

"I have come to show him a despatch received last night--late--from
Point of Rocks."

"You are Major Abbot, formerly--th Massachusetts, I believe, and your
despatch is about the missing quartermaster, is it not?"

"Yes," replies Abbot, in surprise.

"We have the duplicate of the despatch here," says the young officer,
smiling. "You would know Hollins at once, would you not?"

"Yes, anywhere, I think."

"One of the secret-service men will come in to see you this morning if
you will kindly remain at your room until eleven or twelve o'clock.
Pardon me, major, you saw this Doctor Warren at Frederick, did you not?"

"Yes. The evening he came out to the field hospital."

"Did he impress you as a man who told a perfectly straight story, and
properly accounted for himself?"

"Why--You put it in a way that never occurred to me before," says the
major, in bewilderment. "Do you mean that there was anything wrong about
him?"

"Strictly _entre nous_, major--something damnably wrong. He was all
mixed up on meeting you, we are told. He claimed to have known and been
in correspondence with you, did he not?"

"Yes; he did. But--"

"That is only one of several trips he made. There are extraordinary
rumors coming in about spies around Frederick, and there seems to be an
organized gang. It is this very matter the general is overhauling now,
and he gave orders that he should be uninterrupted until he had finished
the correspondence. Will you wait?"

"Thank you, no. I believed it my duty to show him this despatch, but he
knows as much as, or more than, I do. May I ask if you have any inkling
of Hollins's whereabouts."

"Not even a suspicion. He simply dropped out of sight, and no man in the
army appears to have set eyes on him since the night before Antietam.
Colonel Putnam is investigating his accounts at Point of Hocks, and is
most eager to get him."

Major Abbot turns away with a heavy weight at heart. All of a sudden
there has burst upon him a complication of injustice and mystery, of
annoyance and perplexity that is hard to bear. In some way he feels that
the disappearance of the quartermaster is a connecting link in the chain
of circumstance. He associates him, vaguely, with each and every one of
the incidents which have puzzled him within the month past--with Rix,
with Doctor Warren's coming, with that cold and bitter letter from Miss
Winthrop, and finally with the shock and faintness that overcame this
fair young girl at sight of him.

To his father he has shown Miss Winthrop's letter, and briefly sketched
the visit of Doctor Warren, and the sudden meeting with his daughter the
evening previous. Mr. Abbot is in a whirl of indignation over the
letter, which he considers an insult, but is all aflame with curiosity
about the doctor and the young lady. He has been preparing to return to
Boston this very week, but is now determined to wait until he can see
these mysterious people, who are so oddly mixed up in his son's affairs.
It is with some difficulty that the major prevails upon him not to write
to Miss Winthrop, and overwhelm her with reproaches. That letter must be
answered only by the man to whom it was written, says Abbot, and it is
evident that he does not mean to be precipitate. He has much to think
of, and so drives back to Willard's and betakes himself to his room,
where his father awaits him, and where they are speedily joined by an
official of the secret service, who has a host of singular questions to
ask about Hollins. Some of them have a tendency to make the young major
wonder if he really has been the possessor of eyes and ears, or powers
of discernment, during the past winter. Then come some inquiries about
Rix. Abbot is forced to confess that he knows nothing of his
antecedents, and that he was made quartermaster-sergeant at Hollins's
request, at a time when nobody had a very adequate idea of what his
duties might be.

"Who had charge of the distribution of the regimental mail all winter
and spring?" asks the secret-service man, after looking over some
memoranda.

"The quartermaster, ordinarily. The mail-bag was carried to and from the
railway about thrice a week, while we were at Edward's Ferry in the
fall. Rix looked after it then, and when we came down in front of
Washington the matter still remained in his hands. There was never any
complaint, that I can remember."

"Did any of your officers besides Mr. Hollins have civilian dress or
disguise of any kind?"

"I did not know that he did--much less any of the others."

"He wore his uniform coming to the city, but would soon turn out in
'cits,' and in that way avoided all question from patrols. As he gambled
and drank a good deal then, we thought, perhaps, it was a rule in the
regiment that officers must not wear their uniforms when on a lark of
any kind; but he was always alone, and seemed to have no associates
among the officers. What use could he have had for false beard and wig?"

"None whatever that I know of."

"He bought them here, as we know, and, presumably, took them down to
camp with him. If he has deserted, he is probably masquerading in that
rig now. I tell you this knowing you will say nothing of it, Major
Abbot, and because I feel that you have had no idea of the real
character of this man, and it is time you had."

Abbot bows silently. If the detective only knew what was going on at
home, how much the more would he deem the missing quartermaster a
suspicious character.

Then there comes a knock at the door, and, opening it, Major Abbot finds
himself face to face with the nurse whom he had seen the previous
afternoon in Doctor Warren's room. She looks up into his face with a
smile that betokens a new and lively interest.

"The doctor left us but a few minutes ago," she says, "and he tells me
my patient is on the mend. Of course, we have said nothing to him as yet
about Miss Bessie's fainting yesterday, but--I thought you might be
anxious to know how they are."

"I am indeed," says Abbot, cordially, "and thank you for coming. How is
Miss Warren to-day?"

"She keeps her room, as is natural after one has been so agitated, and,
of course, she does not like to speak of the matter, and has forbidden
my telling the doctor--her father, I mean. But he will be sitting up
to-morrow, probably, and--I thought you might like to see them. He is
sleeping quietly now."

"Yes, I want very much to see him, as soon as he is well enough to talk,
and, if the young lady should be well enough to come out into the parlor
this afternoon or take the air on the piazza, will you let me know?"

The nurse's smiles of assent are beaming. Whether she, too, has seen
that photograph Abbot cannot tell. That she has had the feminine
keenness of vision in sighting a possible romance is beyond question.
The secret-service official is at Abbot's side as he turns back from the
door.

"I shall see you again, perhaps to-morrow," he says; "meantime there is
a good deal for us to do," and before the nurse has reached the sick
man's door, she is politely accosted by the same urbane young man, and
is by no means sorry to stop and talk with somebody about her sad-faced
old patient and his wonderfully pretty daughter.

It was Abbot's purpose to devote a little time that afternoon to
answering the letter received but yesterday from Miss Winthrop. It needs
no telling--the fact that there had never been a love-affair in their
engagement; and no one can greatly blame a woman who is dissatisfied
with a loveless match. Viva Winthrop was not so unattractive as to be
destitute of all possibility of winning adorers. Indeed, there was
strong ground for believing that she fully realized the bliss of having
at least one man's entire devotion. Whatsoever evil traits may have
cropped out in Mr. Hollins's army career, _she_ had seen nothing of
them, and knew only his thoughtful and lover-like attentions while they
were abroad, and his assiduous wooing on his return. Paul Abbot had
never asked for her love--indeed, he had hardly mentioned the word as
incidental to their engagement. Nevertheless, yielding to what she had
long been taught to consider her fate, she had accepted the family
arrangement--and him--and was the subject of incessant and enthusiastic
congratulation. Abbot's gallant service and distinguished character as
an officer had won the hearty admiration of all the circle in which she
lived and moved and had her being, and she was thought an enviable girl
to have won the love of so brave and so promising a man. A little more
reserved and cold than ever had Miss Winthrop become, and the smile with
which she thanked these many well-wishers was something wintry and weary
in the last degree. If he had only loved her, there might have bloomed
in her heart an answering passion that would have filled her nature, and
made her proudly happy in her choice. But that he had never had for her
anything more than a brother-and-sister, boy-and-girl sort of
affection--a kind, careless, yet courteous tenderness--was something she
had to tell herself time and again, and to hear as well from the letters
of a man whose letters she should have forbidden.

Even in his astonishment at the charge brought against him, and in his
indignation at the accusation of deceit, Paul Abbot cannot but feel that
allowances must be made for Viva Winthrop. He meant to marry her, to be
a loyal and affectionate husband; but he had not loved her as women
love to be loved, and she was conscious of the lacking chord. That she
had been deceived and swindled, too, by some shameless scoundrel, and
made to believe in her _fiancé's_ guilt, was another thing that was
plain to him. She had probably been told some very strong story of his
interest in this other girl. Very probably, too, Hollins was the
informer and, presumably, the designer of the plot. Who can tell how
deep and damnable it was, since it had been carried so far as to induce
the Warrens to believe that he was the writer of scores of letters from
the front? Then again, ever since he had raised that fainting girl in
his arms, especially ever since the moment when her lovely eyes were
lifted to his face and her sweet lips murmured his name, Paul Abbot has
been conscious of a longing to see her again. Not an instant has he been
able to forget her face, her beauty, her soft touch; the wave of color
that rushed to her brow as he met her at her father's door when the
nurse brought her, still trembling, back to the old man's bedside. He
had murmured some hardly articulate words, some promise of coming to
inquire for her on the morrow, and bowed his adieu. But now--now, he
feels that not only Genevieve, but that Bessie Warren, too, has been
made a victim of this scoundrel's plottings, and, though longing to see
her and hear her speak again, he knows not what to say. It was hard
enough to have to deny himself to the poor old doctor when he came out
to the Monocacy. _Could_ he look in her face and tell her it was all a
fraud; that some one had stolen and sent her his picture? some one had
stolen and used his name, and, whatsoever were the letters, all were
forgeries? No! He must wait and see Doctor Warren, and let her think him
come back to life--let her think they _were_ his letters--rather than
face her, and say it was all a lie. Yet he longs to see her once again.

But to Viva he must write without further delay. Her letter
unquestionably frees him, and does it with a brusqueness that might
excuse a man for accepting the situation without a word. If the
engagement has ever been irksome to him it is now at an end, and he is
in no wise responsible. Giving him no opportunity for denial, she has
accused him of breach of faith and cast him off. Wounded pride, did he
love her deeply, might now impel him to be silent. A sense of indignity
and wrong might drive many a man to turn away at such a juncture, and
leave to the future the unravelling of the plot. There are moments, it
must be confessed, when Major Abbot is so stung by the letter that he is
half disposed to take it as final, and let her bear the consequences of
discovery of the fraud; but they are quickly followed by others in which
he is heartily ashamed of himself for such a thought. Right or wrong,
Viva Winthrop is a woman who has given her life into his hands; a woman
who has been reared in every luxury only to be denied the one luxury a
woman holds most precious of all. He has not been a devoted lover any
more than he has been disloyal; and now that trouble has come to her,
and she is deceived, perhaps endangered, Major Abbot quietly decides
that the only obvious course for a gentleman to follow is to crush his
pride under foot and to act and think for her. And this, after several
attempts, is what he finally writes her:

     "Your letter came last night, dear Viva, and I have thought long
     over it before answering. It is all my fault that this constraint
     has hung over your letters. I have seen it for months, and yet made
     no effort until lately to have it explained. Long ago, had I done
     so, you would probably have given me the reason, and I could have
     assured you of the error into which you were led. Now it seems
     that you and I are not the only ones involved.

     "Neither to Miss Warren nor any other girl have I written since our
     engagement; but her father has been to see me, and tell me that
     many letters purporting to come from me have been received, and I
     have hardly time to recover from that surprise when your indignant
     charge is added. Taken together, the two point very strongly to a
     piece of villainy. You could never have believed this of me, Viva,
     without proofs; and I feel sure that letters must have been sent to
     you. Now that we are pushing every effort to detect and punish the
     villain who has wrought this, and I fear other wrongs, such letters
     will be most important evidence, and I conjure you to send them to
     me by express at once. Father would come for them, but I need him
     here. I do not seek to inquire into your personal correspondence,
     Viva, but letters that bear upon this matter are of vital weight.

     "As to my dismissal, may I not ask you to reconsider your words,
     and, in the light of my assurance that I am innocent of the sin
     with which you have charged me, permit me to sign myself, as ever,
     lovingly and faithfully yours? PAUL."

It is no easy letter to write. He wants to be calm and just, and that
makes it sound cold and utterly unimpassioned. Beyond doubt she would be
far happier with a fury of reproaches, cutting sarcasm, and page after
page of indignant denial. He also wants to be tender when he thinks of
what he has not had to lavish on her in the past, and that prompts him
to the little touch of sentiment at the close--a touch that is perhaps
unwarranted by the facts in the case. There is a third matter, one that
he does not want to mention at all, a name he hates to put on any page
addressed to her; but he knows that it is due her she should be told the
truth, and at last, just as sunset is coming, he adds a postscript:

     "I feel that I must tell you that Mr. Hollins has been missing ever
     since Antietam, under circumstances that cloud his name with grave
     suspicion. It is no longer concealed that his conduct and character
     have left him practically friendless in the regiment, and that he
     could not long have retained his position. He is not worthy the
     friendship you felt for him, Viva; of that I am certain."

He is still pondering over this when his father comes in for a word or
two.

"I am going over to call at Doctor Warren's room and ask how he is.
Possibly he may be able to see me. Have you written to--"

And he stops. He does not feel like saying "Viva" to or of the girl who
has so misjudged his boy.

Abbot holds up the letter and its addressed envelope.

"Yes, and it must go at once or miss the mail."

"I'll post it for you, then, as I have to go to the office a moment,"
is the answer, and the elder stands looking at his son, while the latter
quickly scans the last page, then folds and encloses it. Paul smiles
into his father's eyes as he hands it, and the letter-bearer goes
briskly away.

His footsteps have hardly become inaudible when there is a tap at the
door, and behold! the nurse.

"You told me you would like to know when Miss Warren came out, major.
She is on the veranda now."



VIII.


Throwing over his shoulders the cape of his army overcoat, Major Abbot
hastens from his room in the direction of the little gallery or veranda
at the side of the house. Evening is just approaching, and the lights
are beginning to twinkle on the broad avenue below. He has not yet had
time to determine upon his course of conduct. If, as he begins to
suspect, it is Bessie Warren who received all those guileful letters,
his will be a most difficult part to play. He longs to speak with her as
well as to see her, but at this moment he knows not what may be expected
of him, and, rather than have to inflict mortification or pain upon so
sweet a girl, he is almost ready to wish that it had been his privilege
to write to her. The fact that her father was so overcome at his denial,
the fact that she fainted at sight of him, the fact that her first words
on reviving were to the effect that her father had told her Paul Abbot
was dead--all seemed to point to the conclusion that she had received
love-letters, and that she had become deeply interested in her unseen
correspondent. It would be no difficult matter to act the lover, and
endorse anything these letters might have said to such a girl, thinks
Abbot, as he hastens along the carpeted corridor, but then there is his
letter to Viva; there is the fact that he has virtually declined to
release her. It is this thought that suddenly "gives him pause," and, at
the very moment that he comes to the doorway leading to the veranda,
causes him to stop short and reflect.

There is a little sitting-room opening off this hallway. One or two
couples are chatting and gossiping therein, but Abbot steps past them to
the window and gazes out. As he expected, there is a view of one end of
the veranda, and there she stands, looking far out into the gathering
night.

A sweeter, lovelier face one seldom sees; so delicate and refined in
every feature, so gentle and trusting in its expression. Her deep
mourning seems only to enhance her fragile beauty, and to render more
observable the grace of her slender form. She leans against the iron
trellis-work, and one slim white hand sweeps back the sunny hair that
is playing about her temple. Her thoughts are not so very far away. He
is standing in the shadow of a curtained niche in a room whose light
comes mainly from the flickering coal-fire in the grate, for the October
evening is chill. She stands where the light from the big lamps at the
corner is sufficient to plainly show her every look and gesture. Abbot
marks that twice or thrice, as footsteps are heard in the hall, she
glances quickly towards the doorway; then that a shade of disappointment
gathers on her brow as no one comes. Then, once or twice, timidly and
furtively, she casts shy, quick glances aloft and towards the front of
the building. It requires little calculation to tell Major Abbot that
those glances are towards the window of his room. Then can it be that
she is there, waiting him, impatient of his coming?

Whether or no, this is no place for him. He has no business here spying
upon her. He has had his look; has seen again the sweet face that so
fascinated him. Now, though he could gaze indefinitely, he feels that he
should either go forth and meet her openly or, perhaps better, retire
and avoid her entirely. Before he can summon courage to go he turns for
one last look, and his course is decided for him.

A footstep, somewhat slow, either from a disposition to saunter on the
part of the promenader or possible languor and weakness, is coming along
the hallway. She hears it, too, and he sees how her white hands clasp
the rail of the balcony, and how she turns her bonnie head to listen.
Nearer it comes; he cannot see who approaches, because that would
involve his stepping back and losing sight of her; and as it nears the
doorway he marks her eager, tremulous pose, and can almost see the
beating of her heart. She has not turned fully towards the hall--just
partially, as though a sidelong glance were all she dared give even in
her joyous eagerness. Then a form suddenly darkens the portal, and just
as suddenly a shadow of keen disappointment clouds her face. She turns
abruptly, and once more gazes wistfully down the street.

The next thing Abbot sees is that the man is at her side; that he has
accosted her; that she is startled and annoyed; and that although in
totally different garb, her caller is no less a person than the
secret-service official who visited him that morning. What on earth can
that mean?

Whatever the conversation, it is very brief. Obedient to some suggestion
or request, though not without one more quick glance at his window,
Abbot sees her turn and enter the house. Quickly she passes the doorway
and speeds along the hall. Regardless of the opinions and probable
remarks of the gossipers in the sitting-room, Major Abbot hastens to the
entrance and gazes after her until the graceful form is out of sight.
Then he turns and confronts the sauntering detective--

"I did not know you knew Miss Warren," he says.

"I don't," is the answer. "Neither do you, do you?"

"Well, we never met before yesterday, but--"

"You never wrote to her, did you, or to her father?"

"Never, and yet I think there is a matter connected with it all that
will require explanation."

"So do I. One of the worst points against the old gentleman is that very
bad break he made in claiming that you had been a constant correspondent
of his and of his daughter's."

"_One_ of the worst! Why, what is he accused of?"

"Being a rebel spy--not to put too fine a point upon it."

Abbot stands aghast a moment.

"Why, man, it's simply impossible! I tell you, you're all wrong."

"Wish you'd tell my chief that," answers the man, impassively. "I don't
like the thing a particle. They've got points up at the office that I
know nothing about, and, probably, have more yet, now; for the package
of papers was found upon him just as described from Frederick."

"What papers?"

"Don't know. They've taken them up to the office. That's what makes the
case rather weak in my eyes; no man would carry a packet of implicating
papers in the pocket of his overcoat all this time. Such a package was
handed to him as he left the tavern there by the landlord's wife, and
she got it from the rebel spy who escaped back across the Potomac the
next morning. He's the man your Colonel Putnam so nearly captured.
Doctor Warren broke down on the back trip, it seems, and was delirious
here for some days; but even then I should think he would hardly have
kept these papers in an overcoat pocket, unless they were totally
forgotten, and _that_ would look vastly like innocence of their
contents, which is what he claimed."

"Do you mean that he knows it? Has he been accused?" asks Abbot.

"Certainly. That's what I came down here for; he wanted his daughter. He
is perfectly rational and on the mend now, and as the physicians said he
would be able to travel in a day or two, it was decided best to nail
him. There are scores of people hereabouts who'll stand watching better
than this old doctor, to my thinking; but we are like you soldiers, and
have our orders."

"Was my father up there when he was notified of his arrest," asks Abbot.

"No; Mr. Abbot has gone over to Senator Wilson's. He was met by a
messenger while standing in the office a while ago."

The major tugs his mustache in nervous perplexity a moment. He needs to
see the doctor. He cannot rest satisfied now until he has called upon
him, assured him of his sympathy, his faith in his innocence, and his
desire to be of service. More than that, he longs to tell him that he
believes it in his power to explain the whole complication. More and
more it is dawning upon him that he has had an arch-enemy at work in
this missing Hollins, and that his villainy has involved them all.

"Can I see Dr. Warren?" he suddenly asks.

"I don't know. I am not directly in charge, but I will ask Hallett, who
is up at the room now."

"Do; and come to my room and let me know as soon as you can."

In less than five minutes the officer is down at his door.

"I declare I wish you _would_ come up. It seems more than ever to me
that there's a blunder somewhere. The old man takes it mighty hard that
he should be looked upon as a spy by the government he has suffered so
much for. He says his only son was killed; captain in a New York
regiment."

"Yes, and I believe it. I knew him at college."

"Well, if that don't beat all! And now that pretty girl is all he has
left, and she's breaking her heart because she don't know how to comfort
him."

"Come on," says Abbot. "I know the way."

And, for a lame man, he manages to make marvellous time through the
hallway and up that little flight of stairs. The room door is open as
before. A man is pacing restlessly up and down the hall. There is a
sound of sobbing from within, and, never stopping to knock, Paul Abbot
throws off his cloak and enters.

She is bending over the bedside, mingling entreaty and soothing words
with her tears; striving to induce her raging old father to lay himself
down and take the medicine that the panic-stricken nurse is vainly
offering. The doctor seems to have but one thought--wrath and
indignation that he, the father of a son who died so gallantly, should
have been accused of so vile a crime; he has but one desire, to rise and
dress, and confront his accusers. If ever man needed the strong arm of a
son to rest on at this moment, it is poor old Warren. If ever woman
needed the aid and presence of a gallant lover, it is this sweet,
half-distracted Bessie; and if ever man looked thoroughly fit to fill
all requirements, it is the self-same young major of staff who comes
striding in and grasping the situation with a soldier's glance.

Heaven! How her eyes light and beam at sight of him! How even through
her tears, the flush of hope and joy springs to her cheek. How eagerly,
trustfully, she turns to him, as though knowing all must now be well.

"Oh, papa! here is Mr. Abbot," she exclaims, and says it as though she
felt that nothing more could ever be needed.

He steps between her and the staring eyes of the old gentleman; bends
quickly down over him.

"Yes, doctor. Paul Abbot, whom you thought killed," and he gives him a
significant glance; a glance that warns him to say no word that might
undeceive her. "I have just had news of this extraordinary charge. I've
come to you, quick as legs can carry me, to tell you that you are to lie
perfectly still, and rest this burden with me. Don't stir; don't worry;
don't say one word. I'm going straight to the provost-marshal's to tell
them what I know, and explain away this whole thing. A most
extraordinary piece of scoundrelism is at the bottom of it all, but I am
beginning to understand it, fully. Doctor, will you trust me? Will you
let me try and be Guthrie to you to-night; and promise me to lie still
here until I come back from the provost-marshal's?"

"Do, father!" implores Bessie, bending over him, too.

There is a look of utter bewilderment in the doctor's haggard face, but
he says no word. For a moment he gazes from one to the other, then drops
back upon the pillow, his eyes fixed on Abbot's face.

"I am all unstrung, weak as a child," he murmurs; "I cannot understand;
but do as you will."

There are voices in the hall; the clink of spurs and sabre; and a
cavalry orderly makes his appearance at the door.

"I was to give this to Major Abbot, instantly," he says, saluting and
holding forth an envelope. Abbot takes and tears it open. The message is
brief enough, but full of meaning:

"Your presence necessary here at once to explain the papers found on
Doctor Warren. Looks like a case of mistaken identity."

It is signed by the young officer whom he met on the occasion of his
last visit.

[Illustration: "_A cavalry orderly makes his appearance at the door_"]

"I thought so, doctor!" he says, triumphantly. "They are shaky already,
and send for me to come. Depend upon it I'll bring you glad tidings in
less than no time, and have an end to these mysteries. Now try and
rest."

Then he turns to her. Can he ever forget the trust, the radiance, the
restfulness in the shy, sudden look she gives him? His heart bounds with
the sight; his pulse throbs hard as he holds forth his hand, and, for
the first time, her soft warm palm is clasped in his.

"Don't worry one bit, Miss Bessie; we'll have this matter straightened
out at once."

Then there is a pressure he cannot resist; a shy, momentary answer he
cannot mistake; and, with his veins all thrilling, Paul Abbot goes forth
upon his mission, leaving her looking after him with eyes that plainly
say, "There walks a demi-god."

At the office he is promptly ushered into the presence of three or four
men, two of them in uniform.

"Major Abbot, here is a packet of letters in a lady's hand, addressed to
you. They were found on Doctor Warren, in the very pocket where he
placed the package that was given him at Frederick. Have you lost such,
or can you account for them?"

"I can account for them readily," answers Abbot, promptly. "They are
mine, written by Miss Warren, and were stolen from me, as I believe; was
there no explanation or address?"

"Nothing but this," is the answer, and the speaker holds forth a wrapper
inside which is written these words:

"For your daughter. Ruined though I am, I can never forgive myself for
the fearful wrong I have done her. Tell her it was all a lie. He never
wrote, and she will never know the man who did."

Abbot stands staring at the paper, his hands clinching, his mouth
setting hard. No word is spoken for a moment. Then, in answer to a
courteous question, he looks up.

"It is as I thought. His villainy has involved others besides me. Doctor
Warren is no more spy than I am. This writing is that d----d scoundrel
Hollins's, who deserted from our regiment."



IX.


It is late that evening when Major Abbot returns to Willard's. He has
found time to write a brief note to the doctor, which it was his
intention to send by the orderly who bears the official order releasing
the Warrens from surveillance. It suddenly occurs to him, however, that
she may see the note. If so, what will be her sensations on finding that
the handwriting is utterly unlike that in which all her letters had come
to her. Abbot tears it into shreds, and contents himself with a message,
saying that he is compelled to see the adjutant-general on immediate
business, but will soon be with them.

It is true that the adjutant-general has business with Major Abbot, but
it is some time before audience is obtained. There is still a whirl of
excitement over Stuart's movements, and it is ten o'clock before the
young officer is able to see his chief. The general is courteous, but a
trifle formal and cold. Staff officers, he says, are now urgently
needed, and he desires to know how soon the major will feel able to
resume duty.

"At once, sir," is the answer.

"But you are still far from strong, and--I do not mean office duty here;
we have abundance of material for that sort of work."

"Neither do I, sir. I mean duty at the front. I can sit around
headquarters in the field as comfortably as I can anywhere, and, to the
best of my observation, the duty performed by the adjutant-general at
corps or division headquarters is not such as involves much physical
exertion."

The general smiles benignantly upon the younger officer, and with the
air of a man who would say, "How little you know of the importance and
responsibilities of the labors to which we are assigned; but you will
soon understand."

"But can you ride yet?" he asks.

"I can; if a forward movement is in contemplation; and every day will
bring me strength," answers Abbot. "In brief, general, if you have a
post for me at the front I can go at once."

"One other thing. Have you any idea of the whereabouts of Mr. Hollins of
your old regiment, or can you give us any idea as to where he would be
likely to go? He has forwarded his resignation, dated Keedysville,
Maryland, September 18. It was post-marked Baltimore, October 8, and
came direct. Of course it cannot be accepted. What is needed is some
clew as to his movements. Could he or would he have gone back to Boston?
Had he anything to draw him thither?"

Abbot reflects a moment. "I can form no idea where he has gone," he
answers.

"It was proposed to send an officer of your regiment back to confer with
the police authorities, Major Abbot, and there are reasons why I prefer
you should go. A few days' visit at your old home may not be
unacceptable, and you can probably render valuable service. I have been
told that there is reason to believe that Lieutenant Hollins is lurking
somewhere around Boston at this very minute, and that is the first duty
on which you are needed. Your instructions can be written later. Now can
you go in the morning?"

There is a moment's silence. This is not the duty which Major Abbot
expected, nor is it at all what he desires. He wonders if his father has
not been in collusion with the senator, and, between the two, if some
pretext has not been devised to get him home for a few days. It looks
vastly that way.

"I confess that my hopes were in the opposite direction, general. I had
visions of immediate employment at the front, when you spoke."

The bureau official is evidently pleased. He likes the timber the
younger soldier is made of, and his grim, care-worn face relaxes.

"Major Abbot, you shall have your wish, and, depend upon me, the moment
there is prospect of a forward move you shall join a division at the
front. Your old colonel will have one this very week if it can be
managed here, and he will be glad of your services; but I tell you,
between ourselves, that I do not believe McClellan can be made to budge
an inch from where he stands until positive orders are given from here.
You go--not on leave, but on duty--for a week, and then we'll have work
for you in the field. I have promised it."

Then the bewildered young major is notified that his father is waiting
for him at the senator's, and thither he drives, half determined to
upbraid them both; but the delight in the old gentleman's face is too
much for him. It is nearly eleven when they reach Willard's, and,
before he will consent to pack his soldier kit, Paul Abbot goes at once
to the Warrens' room, and his father follows.

The secret-service man has gone. The physician is there and the nurse,
both conversing with their patient, when the two gentlemen appear. Major
Abbot presents his father and looks around the room somewhat
disappointedly. Despite his excitement of the day, and possibly because
of it, Doctor Warren seems in higher spirits and better condition than
Abbot has imagined it possible for him to be. The two old gentlemen
shake hands, and Mr. Abbot speedily seats himself by the side of the
invalid, and frees himself of his impressions as to the extraordinary
charges that had been preferred, and his satisfaction at their speedy
refutation. The local physician, in low tones, is assuring Major Abbot
that a day or two will restore their patient to strength sufficient to
journey homewards, and that he believes the "set back" of the early
evening will be of no avail if he can get him to sleep by midnight.
Abbot hastily explains that he leaves at daybreak for Boston, and had
only come in fulfilment of a promise. Then he accosts his father.

"I know we have both a great deal to say to Doctor Warren, father, but
it is a pleasure only to be deferred. We must say good-night, so that he
can sleep, and will meet in New York next week."

Doctor Warren looks up inquiringly. He is far from willing to let them
go, but the physician interposes. They say their adieux and still Abbot
hesitates; his eyes wander to the door which communicates with Bessie's
room, and, as though in answer, it opens and she softly enters.

"I am so glad you have come," he says, in low, eager tone. "Let me
present my father," and the old gentleman bows with courtly grace and
comes forward to take her hand. She is a lovely picture to look at, with
the sweet, shy consciousness in her face. The very gaze in Abbot's eyes
has sent the color to her brows, and he holds her hand until he has to
transfer it to his father's out-stretched palm.

"The doctor tells us we must not stay, Miss Bessie," he continues, "but
I could not go without a word. I am ordered to Boston by first train in
the morning, but shall see you--may I not--in New York?"

Brave as she is, it comes too suddenly--this news that she must part
with her knight just as he has done her such loyal service, and before
she has even thanked him by look or word. All the radiance, all the
bright color fades in an instant, and Paul Abbot cannot but see it and
divine, in part at least, the reason. He has in his pocket letters from
her own fair hand, that he knows were written for him, and yet that he
has no right to see. He reads in her lovely eyes a trust in him, a pain
at this sudden parting, that he thrills in realizing, yet should steel
his heart against or be no loyal man. But he cannot go without a word
from her, and it is a moment before she can speak:

"Is--is it not very sudden? I shall never thank you enough for what you
have done for father--for _us,_ this evening. What would we have done
without you?"

"That is nothing. There is no time now--but next week--New York--I may
see you there, may I not?"

May he not? What man can look in her eyes and ask less? He holds her
hand in close pressure one instant and hastens from the room.

       *       *       *       *       *

Forty-eight hours later he is in the presence of the woman who had
promised to be his wife. The evening has seemed somewhat long. She was
out when he called at an earlier hour, but was to be found at a
dinner-party in the neighborhood. Major Abbot feels indisposed to meet
her in presence of "society," and leaves word that he will return at ten
o'clock. He finds her still absent and has to wait. Mr. Winthrop is at
his club; Mrs. Winthrop has begged to be excused--she had retired early
with a severe headache. She does not want to see me, thinks Abbot, and
that looks as though Viva were obdurate. It is a matter that has served
to lose its potency for ill, and the major is angered at himself because
of a thrill of hope; because of the thought of another face that _will_
intrude. It is nearly eleven o'clock when he hears the rumble of
carriage wheels at the door. He steps to the front window and looks out
upon the pavement. Yes, there is the old family carriage drawn up in
front in the full glare of the gas lamp. The footman is opening its door
and Viva Winthrop steps quickly forth, glances up and down the street as
though expectant of some one's coming, and turns quickly to speak to
some one in the carriage. Abbot recognizes the face at the open window
as that of an old family friend nodding good-night. The footman still
stands, but Viva speaks to him; he touches his hat respectfully, but in
some surprise, and then springs to his perch; the two ladies nod and
exchange cordial good-nights again, and away goes the carriage, leaving
Miss Winthrop standing on the sidewalk, where she is still searchingly
looking up and down and across the street. As though in answer there
comes springing through the dim light the hulking, slouching,
round-shouldered figure of a big man. He is across the street and at her
side in a few vigorous leaps, and away as quick as he came. No word has
been interchanged, no sign on his part. He has handed her a small white
parcel. She has placed in his hand a dark roll of something that he
eagerly seizes and makes off with. It all happens before Abbot has time
to realize what is going on, then she scurries up the stone steps and
rings the bell. His first impulse is to go and open the door himself,
but that will produce confusion. She will have no time to dispose of
that packet, and Major Abbot will not take advantage of what he has
inadvertently seen. He hears the old butler shuffling along the marble
hallway, and his deferential announcement.

"Mr. Abbot is in the parlor, Miss Winthrop."

And then he steps forward under the chandelier to meet her.

It is a moment before she enters. Evidently his coming is a shock for
which she is unprepared. She comes in with swiftly changing color and
lips that tremble despite the unflinching courage of her eyes.

"This is indeed a surprise," she says, as she gives him her hand.
"Why--when did you come, and how did you come, and how well you look for
a man who has had so much suffering--I mean from your wounds," she
finishes, hurriedly. It is all said nervously and with evident purpose
of simply talking to gain time and think. "Won't you sit down? You must
be so fatigued. Take this chair, it's so much more comfortable than that
one you are getting. Have you seen mamma! No? Why? Does she know you are
here? Oh, true; she did speak of a headache before I went out. Mrs.
Laight and I have been to dinner at the Farnham's and have just
returned. Why didn't you come round there--they'd have been so delighted
to see you? You know you are quite a hero now."

He lets her run on, sitting in silence himself, and watching her. She
continues her rapid, nervous talk a moment more, her color coming and
going all the time, and then she stops as suddenly. "Of course you can
answer no questions when I keep chattering like a magpie."

She is seated now on the sofa facing him, as he leans back in one of
those old-fashioned easy-chairs that used to find their way into some
parlors in the _ante-bellum_ days. When silence is fully established,
and she is apparently ready to listen, he speaks:

"I came to-night, Viva, and to see _you_. Did you get my letter?"

"Your last one, from Washington? Yes. It came yesterday."

"I have come to see the letters."

"What letters?"

"Those which you must have received or been shown in order to make you
believe me disloyal to you."

"I have no such letters."

"Did you send them to me, Viva?"

"No."

"What did you do with them?"

She hesitates, and colors painfully; then seeks to parry.

"How do you know I ever saw any letters?

"Because nothing less could explain your action; nor does this justify
it. Still, I am not here to blame you. I want to get at the truth. What
did you do with them?"

"They--went back."

"When? Before or after you got my letter?"

No answer for a moment, then:

"Why do you ask that? What possible difference can it make? They were
shown me in strict confidence. I had long believed you cared more for
another girl than you did for me, and these letters proved it."

"I do not admit that, Viva," is the grave, almost stern reply. "But do
you mean that, after receiving my letter, you returned those that I
asked for--that I had a right to see?"

"They were called for; and they were not mine to do as I chose with."

"Will you tell me how and by whom they were called for?"

He has risen now, and is standing under the chandelier, drawn to his
full height.

"I do not wish to speak of it further. I have told the person that you
denied the truth of them, and that is enough."

"I am sorry that you mentioned me to the person, or weighed my
statements in any such scale."

"Paul Abbot!" she breaks in impetuously, rising too. "You say you never
wrote to this girl, and I believe you; but tell me this: have you never
seen her? do you not at this moment care for her infinitely more than
you do for me?"

He considers a moment. It is a leading question; one he had not
expected; but he will not stoop to the faintest equivocation. Still, he
wants her to understand.

"Listen, Viva. Up to the time of your letter's coming she was a stranger
to me. Now I have met her. She and her father were in the same hotel
with us at Washington; and she, too, has been victimized by forged
letters as you have."

"Enough, enough! Why not end it where it is? You know well that if you
cared for me _that_ would be the first assurance. Granted that we have
both been cheated, fooled, tricked, why keep up the farce of a loveless
engagement? That, at least, must end _now_."

"Even if it should, Viva, I am not absolved from a duty I owe you. It
is my conviction that you have been drawn into a correspondence with a
man against whom it is my solemn right and duty to warn you at once. You
have no brother. For Heaven's sake be guided by what I say. Whatever may
have been his influence in the past, you can never in the future
recognize Mr. Hollins. If not captured by this time, he is a disgraced
exile and deserter."

"He is nothing of the kind! You, and imperious men like you, denied to
him the companionship of his brother officers, and his sensitive nature
could not stand it. He has resigned and left the service, that is all."

"You are utterly mistaken, Viva. What I tell you is the solemn truth.
For your name's sake I implore you tell me what has been his influence
in the past. I well know he can be nothing to you in the future, Viva.
You are not in communication with him now, are you?"

A ring at the bell. The old butler comes sleepily shuffling along the
hall again, and appears at the parlor with a telegram. "They sent it
after you, sir," is the explanation. Abbot, with curious foreboding,
opens, and hurriedly reads the words,

"Rix also deserted; is believed to have gone to Boston."

"Viva!" he exclaims, "the man you gave that packet to was Rix, another
deserter. My God! Do you _know_ where Hollins is?"

But Viva Winthrop has fallen back on the sofa, covering her face with
her hands.



X.


Major Abbot's stay in Boston is but brief. He had a hurried conference
with the police late at night, after his painful interview with Miss
Winthrop, and there is lively effort on part of those officials to run
down the bulky stranger to whom she had intrusted that packet. There has
been a family conference, too, between the elders of the households of
Abbot and Winthrop, and the engagement is at an end. Coming in suddenly
from his club, Mr. Winthrop entered the parlor immediately after the
receipt of the telegram, and he is overwhelmed with consternation at the
condition of affairs. He has insisted on a full statement from Viva's
lips, and to her mother the story has been told. She withholds no point
that is at all material, for her pride has been humbled to the dust in
the revelation that has come to her. She is not the first woman, nor is
she at all liable to be the last, to undertake the task of championing a
man against the verdict of his associates, and the story is simple
enough. With his sad, subdued manner, his air of patient suffering, and
his unobtrusive but unerring attentions, Mr. Hollins had succeeded in
making a deep impression while they were abroad. Not that her heart was
involved; she protests against that; but her sympathy, her pity, was
aroused. He had never inflicted his confidences upon her, but had deftly
managed to rouse her curiosity, and make her question. By the time they
returned to America she believed him to be a sensitive gentleman, poor,
talented, struggling, and yet burdened with the support of helpless
relatives, too distant of kin for her father's notice. She had come back
all aflame with patriotic fervor, too; and his glowing words and
soldierly longings had inspired her with the belief that here was a man
who only needed a start and fair treatment to enable him to rise to
distinction in his country's service. Through her father's influence he
was commissioned in the--th, then being organized, and in her friendship
she had sought to make his path easy for him. But he was certainly deep
in her confidence even then, and shrewd enough to take advantage of it.
He had frequently written before, and it was not unnatural he should
write after the regiment left for the front--letters which intimated
that he was far from content among his associates, which hinted at
distress of mind because he daily saw and heard of things which would
cause bitter sorrow to those who had the right to command his most
faithful services. He had shown deep emotion when informed of her
engagement to Mr. Abbot, and it was hard to confess this. It soon became
apparent to her that he desired her to understand that he deeply loved
her, and was deterred only by his poverty from seeking her hand. Then
came letters that were constructed with a skill that would have excited
the envy of an Iago, hinting at other correspondences on part of Mr.
Abbot and of neglects and infidelities that made her proud heart sore.
Still there were no direct accusations; but, taken in connection with
the long periods of apparent silence on his part and the unloverlike
tone of his letters when they reached her, the hints went far to
convince her that she had promised her hand to a careless and
indifferent wooer. This palliated in her mind the disloyalty of which
she was guilty towards him, and at last, in the summer just gone, she
had actually written to Mr. Hollins for proofs of his assertions. For a
long time--for weeks--he seemed to hold back, but at last there came
three letters, written in a pretty, girlish hand. She shrank from
opening them, but Mr. Hollins, in his accompanying lines, simply bade
her have no such compunction. They had been read by half a dozen men in
camp already, and the girl was some village belle who possibly knew no
better. She did read, just ten lines, of one of them, and was shamed at
her act as she was incensed at her false _fiancé_. The ten lines were
sweet, pure, maidenly words of trust and gratitude for his praise of her
heroic brother; and in them and through them it was easy for the woman
nature to read the budding love of a warm-hearted and innocent girl.

This roused her wrath, and would have led to denunciation of him but for
the news of his wounds and danger. Then came other letters from Hollins,
hinting at troubles in which he was involved; and then, right after
Antietam, he seemed to cease to write for a fortnight, and his next
letter spoke of total change in all his prospects--resignation from the
service, serious illness, possibly permanently impaired health, and then
of suffering and want. A foul accusation had been trumped up against
him by enemies in the regiment; he was alleged to have stolen letters
belonging to officers. In part it was true. He had bribed a servant to
get those three letters which he sent her, that she might be saved from
the fate that he dreaded for her. It was for her sake he had sinned; and
now he implored her to keep his secret, and to return to him all his
letters on that subject, as well as those he had sent as proofs. He dare
not trust them to the mails, but a faithful friend, though a poor man
like himself, would come with a note from him, and he would be a trusty
bearer. The friend had come but the morning of Abbot's arrival. He
humbly rang at the basement door; sent up a note; and, recognizing
Hollins's writing, she had gone down and questioned him. He sadly told
her that the quartermaster was in great trouble. "His enemies had
conspired against him;" his money accounts were involved, and there lay
the great difficulty. Mr. Hollins would never forgive him, said the man,
if he knew he was hinting at such a thing, but what he needed to help
him out of his trouble was money. It made her suspicious, but she reread
the note. "He is devoted to me, and perfectly reliable. I have cared
for him and his sister from childhood. Do not fear to trust the letters,
or anything you may write, to him."

Mr. Hollins was too proud ever to ask for money and could not
contemplate the possibility of its being asked in his behalf, she
argued. But if anything she might write was to be trusted to the
messenger, surely she could trust his statements, and so she questioned
eagerly. The bearer thought a thousand dollars might be enough to
straighten everything, and she bade him be at the front of the house
that night by half after ten, to bring her a little packet he spoke of
as having received from Hollins--her own letters to him--and the money
would be ready. There was something about the man's face and carriage
that was familiar. She could not tell where she had seen him, but felt
sure that she had, and it seemed to her that it was in uniform. But he
denied having ever been in service, and seemed to shrink into shadow as
though alarmed at the idea. During the day she got the money from the
bank and gave it, as Abbot saw, and then when the telegram came it all
flashed across her--the messenger was indeed Rix. Rix was a deserter
beyond all peradventure. Then, doubtless, she was all wrong and Abbot
all right as to the real status of Mr. Hollins. No wonder she was
overwhelmed.

But in all her self-abasement and distress of mind Viva Winthrop was
clear-headed on the question of the dissolution of that engagement. "He
does not love me and I do not deserve that he should," was her epitome
of the situation. "It will cause him no sorrow now, and it must be
ended." And it was. He called and asked to see her, if she felt well
enough to receive him; he acquiesced in her decision, but he wanted to
part as friends. She begged to be excused, explaining that she had not
left her rooms since the night of his arrival, which was true. And now,
with a heart that beats more joyously despite the major's proper and
conscientious effort to believe that he is not happier in his freedom,
he is hastening back to the front, for his orders have come.

Two things remain to be attended to before reporting for duty. He makes
every effort to find Hollins's hiding-place, but without avail. Miss
Winthrop tells him that beyond the postmark, Baltimore, there is not a
clew in any of the letters, and that they have ceased coming entirely.
Rix made no mention beyond saying that he was in Baltimore among people
who would guard him, and Rix himself has gone--no man can say whither.

The other matter is one to which he hastens with eager heart. Twice he
has written to Doctor Warren since their parting at Washington, and he
has asked permission to call upon them at Hastings before returning. His
orders come before any reply. He therefore writes to Hastings the day
before he leaves home, begging that a telegram be sent to meet him at
the Metropolitan, the war-time rendezvous of army men when in New York
on leave, and his face is blank with disappointment when the clerk tells
him that no telegram has been received. He has a day at his disposal,
and he loses no time, but goes up the river by an afternoon train, and
returns by the evening "accommodation" with uneasy heart. Doctor Warren
and Miss Bessie had not yet come back was the news that met him at the
pretty little homestead. The doctor had been ill in Washington, and when
he was well enough to start the young lady was suddenly taken down.
Abbot is vaguely worried. He anxiously questions the kindly old
housekeeper, and draws from her all that she knows. She is looking for
letters any moment; but the last one was from Willard's, four days
since, saying they would have to stay. Miss Bessie was suddenly taken
ill. Won't the gentleman come in? and she will get the letter. He takes
off his cloak and forage cap, and steps reverently into the little
sitting-room, wherein every object is bathed in the sunshine of late
afternoon, and everywhere he sees traces of her handiwork. There on the
wall is Guthrie's picture; there hangs his honored sword and the sash he
wore when he led the charge at Seven Pines. With the soldier-spirit in
his heart, with the thrill of sympathy and comradeship that makes all
brave men kin, Abbot stands before that silent presentment of the man he
knew at college, and slowly stretches forth his hand and reverently
touches the sword-hilt of the buried officer. He is not unworthy; he,
too, has led in daring charge, and borne his country's flag through a
hell of carnage. They are brothers in arms, though one be gathered
already into the innumerable host beyond the grave. They are comrades in
spirit, though since college days no word has ever passed between them,
and Abbot's eyes fill with emotion he cannot repress as he thinks how
bitter a loss this son and brother has been to the stricken old father
and fragile sister. Ah! could he but have known, that day on the
Monocacy; could he but have read the truth in the old man's eyes, and
accepted as a fact his share of that mysterious correspondence rather
than have unwillingly dealt so cruel a blow! His lips move in a short,
silent prayer, that seems to well up from his very heart; and then the
housekeeper is at his side, and here is the doctor's letter. It is too
meagre of detail for his anxiety. He reads it twice, but it is all too
brief and bare. He is recalled to himself again. The housekeeper begs
pardon, but she is sure this must be Mr. Abbot, whose letters were so
eagerly watched for all the time before they went away. She had heard in
the village he was killed, and she is all a-quiver now, as he can see,
with excitement and suppressed feeling at his resurrection. Yes, this is
Mr. Abbot, he tells her, and he is going straight to Washington that he
may find them. And she shows him pictures of Bessie in her girlhood,
Bessie at school, Bessie in the bonnie dress she wore at the Soldiers'
Fair. Yes, he remembers having seen that very group before, at Edwards's
Ferry, before Ball's Bluff. She prattles about Bessie, and of Bessie's
going for his letters, and how she cried over them. He is all sympathy,
and bids her say on as he moves about the room, touching little
odds-and-ends that he knows must be hers; and he is loath to go, but
eager too, since it is to carry him back to her. He writes a few lines
on a card to tell them of his visit and his orders, should they fail to
meet; he begs the doctor to write, and warns him that he must expect
frequent letters; and then, with one long look about the sunlit,
love-haunted room, with one appeal for brotherly sympathy in his parting
gaze at Guthrie Warren's picture, he strides back to the station, and by
sunrise of another day is hurrying to Washington. In his breast-pocket
he carries the compact little wad of letters, all addressed to himself,
all written in her own delicate and dainty hand, yet sealed from his
eyes as securely as though locked in casket of steel. Though he longs
inexpressibly to read their pages and to better know the gentle soul
that has so suddenly come into his life, they are not his to open. What
would he not give for one moment face to face with the man who had lured
and tricked her--and with his name!

They are not at Willard's, says the clerk, when Major Abbot arrives and
makes his inquiries. The doctor paid his bill that morning and they were
driven away, but he does not think they left town. Yes, telegrams and
letters both had come for the doctor, and the young lady had been
confined to her room a few days, and was hardly well enough to be
journeying now. Abbot's orders require him to report at the War
Department on the following day, and he cannot go to rest until he has
found their hiding-place. Something tells him that she has at last
discovered the fraud of which she has been made the victim, and he longs
to find her--longs to tell her that if the real Paul Abbot can only be
accepted in lieu of the imaginary there need be no break in that strange
correspondence; he is ready to endorse anything his fraudulent double
may have written provided it be only love and loyalty to her.

It is late at night before he has succeeded in finding the hack driver
who took them away, and by him is driven to the house wherein they have
sought refuge. All distressed as he is at thought of their fleeing from
him, Paul Abbot finds it sweet to sit in the carriage which less than
twelve hours ago bore her over these self-same dusty streets. He bids
the hackman rein up when he gets to the corner, and wait for him. Then
he pushes forward to reconnoitre. Lights are burning in many rooms, but
the neighborhood is very silent. Far down an intersecting avenue the
band of some regiment is serenading a distinguished senator or
representative from the state from which they hail, and Abbot can hear
the cheers with which the great man is greeted as he comes forth to
tender his acknowledgments, and invite the officers and such of his
fellow-citizens as may honor him, to step in and "have something." It is
a windy night in late October. The leaves are whirling in dusty spirals
and shutters bang with unmelodious emphasis, and all the world seems
dreary; yet, to him, with love lighting the way, with the knowledge that
the girl he has learned to worship is here within these dull brick
walls, there is a thrill and vigor in every nerve. No light burns in the
hallway; none in the lower floor of the number to which he has been
directed. He well knows it is too late to call, even to inquire for
them, but the army has moved, and at last is pushing southward again,
feeling its way along the Blue Ridge, and he so well knows that the
morrow must send him forward to resume his duties. If he cannot see
_her_, it will be comfort, at least, to see her father. He is half
disposed to ring and ask for him when a figure comes around a
neighboring corner and bears slowly down upon him. The night lamps are
dull and flickering and the stranger is a mere shadow. Where Major Abbot
stands enveloped in the cloak-cape of his army overcoat there is no
light at all. Whoever may be the approaching party he has the
disadvantage of being partially visible to a watcher whose presence he
cannot be aware of until close at hand. When he has come some yards
farther Abbot is in no doubt as to his identity, and steps forward to
greet him.

"Doctor Warren, I am so glad to have found you, for I must hurry after
the army to-morrow, and only reached Washington this evening. Tell me,
how is Miss Bessie?"

The doctor is startled, as a matter of course, but there is something in
the young soldier's directness that pleases him. Perhaps he is pleased,
too, to know that his own views are correct, and that the moment Paul
Abbot reached Washington he has come in search of them. He takes the
proffered hand and holds it--or, rather, finds his firmly held.

"Bessie has been ill, but is better, major; and how did you leave them
all at home? I have just been taking a walk of two or three blocks
before turning in. Fresh air is something I cannot do without. How did
you find us?"

"By hunting up your hackman. I was grievously disappointed at not
finding you at Hastings, where I went first, or here at Willard's. Did
you not get my letters and telegrams?"

"They were forwarded, and came last night."

"Then you moved this morning to avoid me, doctor. Does it mean that I am
to be punished for another man's crime? Guthrie's picture had no such
unfriendly welcome for me, and I do not believe you want to hide her
from me. Tell me what it is that makes Bessie avoid me of her own
accord. Has she heard the truth about the old letters?"

Doctor Warren is silent a moment, looking up into the young soldier's
face. Then he more firmly grasps his hand.

"I do _not want_ to avoid you, Abbot, but it is only natural that now
she should find it hard to meet you. Three days after you left she
caught me fairly, and finding that the letter in my hand was yours, she
noted instantly the difference between the writing and that of the
letters that came to her at home. Something else had roused her
suspicions, and I had to tell her that there had been trickery, and she
would have no half-way explanation. She probed and questioned with a wit
as keen as any lawyer's. She made me confess that that was why I told
her Paul Abbot was dead when I got back to her at Frederick. He was dead
to us. And so, little by little, it all came out, and she was simply
stunned for a while. It made her too ill to admit of our travelling, and
she made me tell her when you were expected back, and bring her here. In
a day or two we will start homeward."

"And meantime I shall have had to start for the front. Doctor Warren,
give her this little package--her own letters. Tell her that I have read
no line of one of these, but that, until I can win for myself letters in
her dear hand there will be no peace or happiness for me. These are the
letters that were sent to you at Frederick, with a few remorseful lines,
from the scoundrel who wrought all the trouble. His original motive was
simply to injure me, in the hope that he might profit by it. He sought
to break an engagement of marriage that existed between me and Miss
Winthrop, of Boston. Before he succeeded in making this breach it is my
belief that he had become so touched and charmed by the letters she
wrote that even his craven heart was turned to see its own baseness. He
had every opportunity of tampering with our mail. He felt, when I was
left wounded at the Monocacy, that that would end the play; and then, in
his despair and remorse, he deserted. He was around Frederick a day or
two in disguise, and sought to see you and her. Failing in that, he sent
you by the landlady the packet that was afterwards taken from your
overcoat by the secret-service men; and the next thing he came within an
ace of being captured by his own colonel. Escaping, he was believed to
be a rebel spy, and so implicated you. It was to search for him I was
sent to Boston. There Miss Winthrop formally broke our engagement, and I
would be a free man to-day, doctor, but for your daughter; and now it is
not freedom I seek, but a tie that only death can break. You came to
Paul Abbot when you thought him sorely wounded, and she came with you.
Now that he is sore stricken he comes to you. If it will pain her I will
ask no meeting now, but don't you think I owe her a good many letters,
doctor? Won't you let me pay that debt?"

It is a long speech for Abbot, but his heart is full. The old
gentleman's sad face seems to thaw and beam under the influence of his
frank avowal and that winning plea. Abbot has held forth his other hand,
and there the two men stand, both trembling a little, under the
influence of a deep and holy emotion, clasping each other's hands and
looking into each other's face. They are at the very door-step of the
old-fashioned boarding-house which was so characteristic a feature of
the capital in the war-days. The door itself is but a few arms'-lengths
away, and all of a sudden it softly opens, and, with a light mantle
thrown over her shoulders, a tall, slender, graceful girl comes forth
upon the narrow porch.

"Is that you, papa? I heard your step, and wondered why you remained
outside. Was the door locked?"

There is an instant of silence. Then a young soldier, in his staff
uniform, takes three quick, springing steps, and is at her side. The
doctor seems bent on further search for fresh air, for he turns away
with a murmured word to his trembling companion, and Bessie Warren
finds it impossible to retreat. Major Abbot has seized her hand, and is
saying--she hardly hears, she hardly knows, what. But it is all so
sudden; it is all so sweet.

[Illustration: "_Then a young soldier in his staff uniform takes three
springing steps, and is at her side._"]



XI.


Cold and gray in the mist of the morning the long columns have filed
down from the heights, and are massed at the water's edge. It is chill
December, and the frost has eaten deep into the ruddy soil of Virginia,
but the Rappahannock flows swiftly along, uncrusted by the ice that
fetters Northern streams, yet steaming in the biting air. Fog-wreaths
rise from the rippling surface, and all along the crowded shore the
clouds hang dense and heavy. Nowhere can one see in any direction more
than a dozen yards away; all beyond is wrapped in swirling, eddying
fog-bank. Here in the thronging ranks, close at hand, men speak in low
tones as they stamp upon the frozen ground or whip their mittened hands
across the broad blue chests to restore circulation and drive the ache
and numbness away. Here and there are some who have turned their light
blue capes up over their heads, and take no part in the low-toned chat.
Leaning on their muskets, they let their thoughts go wandering far
away, for all men know that bloody work is coming. The engineers are
hammering at their bulky pontoons now, and down at the water's edge the
clumsy boats are moored, waiting for chess and balk carriers to be told
off, and the crews to man the heavy sweeps. Up on the heights to the
rear, planted thickly on every knoll and ridge, are the black-mouthed
guns, and around them are grouped the squads of ghostly, grisly,
fog-dripping cannoneers. One may walk along that line of heights for
mile after mile, and find there only grim ranges of batteries and
waiting groups of men. All is silence; all is alertness; all is fog.
Back of the lines of unlimbered cannon, sheltered as far as possible
from returning fire, the drivers and horses and the heavy-laden caissons
are shrouded in the mist-veil, and the staff officers, groping to and
fro, have to ask their way from battery to battery, or go yards beyond
their real objective point. Little fires are burning here and there, and
battery-lanterns are flickering in the gloom. Out on the face of the
stream, too, one can see from the northern shore weird, dancing lights,
like will-o'-the-wisps, go twinkling through the fog; and far across
the waters, from time to time, there is heard the sudden crack of rifle.
The Southern pickets are beginning to catch faint glimpses of those
lights, and are opening fire, for vigilant officers are there to
interpret every sound and sight, and with the first break of the wintry
dawn they grasp the meaning of the murmur that has come for hours from
the upper shore. "The Yanks are laying bridges" is the word that goes
from mouth to mouth, and long before the day is fairly opened the
nearing sounds and the will-o'-the-wisp lights out there in the fog tell
the shivering pickets that the foe is more than half-way across.
Daybreak brings strong forces into line along the southern bank, all
eyes straining through the fog. Out to the front the ping! ping! of the
rifles has become rapid and incessant, and by broad daylight all the
river bank and the walls of the buildings that command a view of it are
packed with gray riflemen ready for work the instant those bridge-heads
loom into view. When seven o'clock comes, and the fog thins just a
little, there are the bridge-ends, sure enough, poking drearily into
space, but the only signs of the builders are the motionless forms in
blue that are stretched here and there about the boats or planks, only
faintly visible through the mist; the working parties have been forced
to give it up. Back they come, what is left of them, and tell their tale
among the sympathizing blue overcoats in the wearying ranks, and
officers ride away up the slopes, and there are moments of suspense and
question, and then the thud of sponge-staff and rammer among the
batteries, and a sudden flash and roar, tearing the mists asunder;
another, another; and then, up and down along the line of heights, the
order goes, and gun after gun belches forth its charge of shot and
shell, and back from the walls of Fredericksburg comes the direful echo
and the crash of falling roof or gable. "Depress those muzzles!" is the
growling order. "The whole bank is alive with rebs, and we must shell
'em out before those bridges can be finished." The elevating screws are
spun in their beds, the shell fuzes cut down to the very edge. Some guns
are so near the river that they are rammed with grape and canister; and
so, for an hour, the thundering cannonade goes on, and the infantry
crouch below, and swear and shiver, and once in a while set up a cheer
when occasion seems to warrant it. And then, covered by this furious
fog-bombardment, the engineers again push forward their
bridge-builders, and cram their pontoons, and launch them forth upon the
stream. It is all useless. No sooner do they reach the bridge-end when
down they go by the dozens before the hot fire of a thousand Southern
rifles. So dense is the fog that the gunners cannot aim. Shot, shell,
and canister go shrieking through roof and wall, and ripping up streets
and crossings; but the plucky riflemen hug the shore in stern
determination, and again the bridges are abandoned.

And so a cold and cheerless morning ebbs away; and at last, towards
noon, there comes relief. The sun bursts through the clouds, and licks
up the fog-bank. The mist-veil is withdrawn, and there stands
Fredericksburg, with shattered roof and spire, backed by a long line of
gun-bristling heights, and there are the unfinished bridges jutting
helplessly out two thirds across the water. A number of the heavy
pontoons are still moored close to shore, and while all along under the
bank the regiments are ranging into battle order, two or three of them
are tumbling into those clumsy arks, cramming them with armed men, and
then pushing off into the stream. Failing in working across a narrow
causeway, the "Yanks" are taking to their boats and sending over a
flotilla. It is a daring, desperate feat, but it tells. Despite the
fierce resistance, despite the heavy loss that befalls them, animated by
the cheers of their comrades, they push ahead, answering the fire as
well as they can, and at last, one after another, the boats are grounded
on the southern shore, and, though sadly diminished in numbers, the men
leap forth and go swarming up the bank, driving the gray pickets to
cover. Others hurry across and reinforce them; then more and more, until
they are strong enough to seize the nearest buildings and hold the
approaches, and then the working parties leap forward; the bridge is
finished with a will, and the comrades of their brigade come tramping
cheerily across. Three splendid regiments are they which made that
daring venture, mere companies in numbers as compared with their early
strength, and one of them is the--th Massachusetts, now led by a
captain. Colonel Putnam stands at his side at this moment of triumph and
partial rest. He commands the brigade that has done this brilliant work,
and now is receiving the thanks sent over from corps headquarters; and
the mounted officer, the first one across the bridge, who bears the
general's congratulations, is his young chief-of-staff, Major Abbot.

There has been fierce fighting through the streets, stubborn resistance
on part of the occupants of the town, and determined effort on part of
the thronging force of Union men who are constantly gaining accessions
as the brigades come marching over. Just at sunset, with the town fully
in their possession, there is sudden turmoil and excitement among the
blue-coats gathered around an old brick building near the western edge.
There is rushing to and fro; then savage exclamations, shouts of "Kill
him!" "Hang him!" "Run him down to the creek and duck him!" and the
brigade commander, with Major Abbot and one or two other mounted
officers, has quite as much as he can do to rescue from the hands of an
infuriated horde of soldiers a bruised, battered, slouching hulk of a
man in a dingy Confederate uniform. He implores their protection, and it
is only when they see the piteous, haggard, upturned face, and hear the
wail of his voice, that Putnam and Abbot recognize the deserter, Rix.
Abbot is off his horse and by his side in an instant. Sternly ordering
back the men who had grappled and were dragging him, the major holds
Rix by the coat-collar and gazes at him in silent amaze.

"In God's name, how came you here, and in this garb?" he finally asks.

Weak with sickness, suffering, and the horrible fright he has undergone,
the bully of former days simply shudders and cringes now. He crouches at
Abbot's feet, gazing fearfully around him at the circle of vengeful,
powder-blackened faces.

"Don't let them touch me, Mr. Abbot! Oh, for God's sake help me. I'm
'most dead, anyhow. I can't talk now. We're 'most starved, too, and
Mr. Hollins is dying."

"Hollins!" exclaims Abbot, almost losing his hold on the collar and
dropping the limp creature to earth. "What do you mean? where?"

"In there; in the bedroom up-stairs. Oh, major, don't leave me here;
these men will murder me!" he implores, clutching the skirts of Abbot's
heavy overcoat; but Colonel Putnam signals "Go on," and, leaving his
abject prisoner, Abbot hastens up the stairs of the old brick house, and
there, in a low-ceilinged room, stretched upon the bed, with wild,
wandering eyes and fevered lips, with features drawn and ghastly, lies
the man who has so bitterly sinned against him, and whom he has so
often longed to meet eye to eye--but not this way.

And it is an awful look of recognition that greets him, too. Shot
through and through as he is, tortured with thirst and suffering,
praying for help and longing for the sight of some friendly face, it
seems a retribution almost too cruel that, in his extreme hour, the man
sent by Heaven to minister to his needs should be the one he has so
foully wronged, the one of whom he lives in dread. He covers his eyes
with a gesture of dismay, and turns fearfully to the wall. There is a
moment of silence, broken only by the rattle of the window in its casing
as it shudders to the distant boom of the guns far down the line. Then
Abbot steps to the bedside and places his gauntleted hand upon the
shoulder of the stricken man.

"Hollins! How are you wounded? Have you seen a surgeon?"

No answer for a moment, and the question is gently repeated.

"Shot through the body--rifle-ball. There was a surgeon here last night,
but he's gone."

"Lie still then until I get one. I would bring Doctor Thorn, but he has
too much to do with--too much to do just now." He comes near saying
"with our own men," but checks himself in time. He cannot "kick the man
that is down" with such a speech as that, and it is not long before he
reappears, and brings with him a surgeon from one of the arriving
regiments. Colonel Putnam, too, comes up the stairs, but merely to take
a look at the situation, and place a guard over both the wounded man and
his strange, shivering companion, Rix. Some of the soldiers are sent for
water, and others start a fire in the little stove in the adjoining
room. The doctor makes his examination, and does what he can for his
sinking patient, but when he comes out he tells Abbot that Hollins has
not many hours to live, "and he wants to see you," he adds. "Did you
know him?"

There is a strange scene in the cramped little room of the quaint old
house that night. By the light of two or three commissary candles and
the flickering glare from the fire one can see the features of the
watchers and of the fast-dying man. Abbot sits by the bedside; Colonel
Putnam is standing at the foot, and the adjutant of the--th
Massachusetts has been reading aloud from his notes the statement he
has taken down from the lips of the former quartermaster. One part of it
needs verification from authority not now available. Mr. Hollins avers
that he is not a deserter to the enemy as appearances would indicate,
but a prisoner paroled by them.

The statement, so far as it bears upon his official connection with the
regiment, is about as follows:

"I had personal reasons for going back to the Monocacy--reasons that
could not be explained to the satisfaction of a commanding officer. I
_had_ to see Mr. Abbot to explain a wrong I had done him, and avert, if
possible, the consequences. I left without permission, and rode back,
but found all the roads picketed, and I was compelled to hide with a
farmer near Boonsboro' until Rix reached me. He had been my clerk, and
was an expert penman. He fixed the necessary papers for me, and, with
the aid of certain disguises I had, it was not so hard to get around. I
meant to resign, but feared that, if offered through the regular
channels, it would be refused, and I be brought to trial because of the
condition of my accounts. Then I found that I was too late to undo the
wrong I had done, and it was while trying to make partial amends that I
came so near being captured by Colonel Putnam at Frederick. It made me
desperate. That night I took the first horse I could find, and rode down
the valley, believing all was lost, and that I must get away from that
part of the country. Money found me a hiding-place when my papers would
no longer serve. Then money bribed a messenger to carry word of my
condition to Rix, who had been sent to the regiment at Harper's Ferry.
He got away and joined me, and made out some more papers for me, and
then started, by night and alone, to get home, where he said he had
money. Mine was about gone by that time, and here I lay in hiding until
Stuart came sweeping down the Monocacy on his way back to Virginia, and
I was glad to be captured and carried along. I gave him my proper name
and rank, and when Rix came back the army had left that part of the
country, and he followed me into Virginia. He said he would be shot,
anyway, if captured; and the next I heard of him--I being then a
prisoner in Richmond--was that he had enlisted in a Virginia regiment,
and was dying here in Fredericksburg. He had been devoted to me, and
needed me. I gave my parole, and was allowed to come here to nurse him.
He was recovering and able to be about when the bombardment opened, and
I was shot at the river bank, whither I had gone to bid him good-bye,
and was carried here. The rest that I have to say is for Major Abbot
alone to hear."

Putnam and the adjutant, after a few questions, withdraw; and at last,
with even the soldier nurse excluded, the dying man is alone with the
one officer of his regiment who had striven to befriend him, and whom he
has so basely rewarded.

"There is no time for lamenting or empty talk of forgiveness and
remorse. It is time you heard the truth, Abbot. I always envied you at
college. I envied every man who had birth or wealth or position. I had
some brains, but was poor, burdened with the care of a vagabond brother
who was well-nigh a jail-bird, and whose only talent was penmanship. He
would have been a forger then if it hadn't been for me. For me he
afterwards became one. You know who I mean now--Rix. Mr. Winthrop gave
me opportunities, and I worked. I had little money, though, but time and
again I was called to his house, saw his daughter, and I was ambitious.
When she went abroad I followed; was as discreetly attentive as my wit
could make me--and when I failed to make the impression I hoped, and we
returned, I learned the reason--she was engaged to you. It made me
determine that I would undermine it. You did not love her, nor she you.
It was a family match, and not one that would make either of you happy.
My life in the regiment was a hell, because they seemed to--seemed to
know me for what I was. And you simply tolerated me. It made a devil of
me, Abbot, and I vowed that proud girl should love me and turn from you
if I had to hang for the means that brought it about. I was
quartermaster at Edwards's Ferry, and Rix was the man who fetched and
carried the mails. 'Twas easy enough to abstract her letters or yours
from time to time, but the case needed something more than that. Neglect
would not rouse her; jealousy might. One day there came the picture of
those girls at Hastings (Abbot's hands begin to clinch; he has listened
coldly up to this point), and I saw the group that was sent to them, and
the pretty letter written by their secretary, Miss Warren. Then came her
letter saying she was Guthrie Warren's sister. I knew him well at
college, and an idea occurred to me. I took your picture, wrote a note,
and had Rix copy it, and sent it in your name. When the answer came Rix
and I were on the lookout for it, and got it, and wrote again and again.
I had matter enough to work on with my knowledge of Warren, and then his
death intensified the interest. I don't care to look in your face now,
Abbot, for I'm not a fearless man; nothing but a beaten, broken,
cowardly scoundrel; but I began trying on that sweet and innocent
country girl the arts against which your _fiancé_ my highbred kinswoman,
had been proof; I was bound to punish _her_ pride. But I found my pretty
correspondent as shy, as maidenly and reserved, with all her sister-love
and pride, as the other was superior. It was game worth bringing down,
by Heaven! and I grew desperate. I was drinking then, and getting
snarled up in my accounts, and you had turned a cold shoulder on me; and
then came the campaign and Rix's break and more difficulties, and I was
at my wit's end to keep the letters from you; and just before Second
Bull Run came Miss Winthrop's letters challenging me to prove that you
did not care for her, and I sent her three of Miss Warren's letters.
But, worse than that, I had been wooing another in your name; and,
because she would not betray an undue interest, I became more engrossed;
became more warmly interested; and soon it was not for the sake of
showing your _fiancé_ a love-letter from another woman, but to satisfy
the cravings of my own heart. I began more and more to strive to win
this dainty, innocent, pure-minded girl. Aye, sir, I was wooing over
your name; but 'twas _I_ who loved; yes, loved her, Abbot. _Now_, what
think you of me and what I suffered?"

He pauses a moment, choked and quivering. He motions with his hand to
the cup of stimulant the doctor has left him. Abbot coldly hands it to
him, and finds that he must raise him from the pillow before he can
swallow. He is stirred to his inmost soul with wrath and indignation
against this ruthless traitor, even when the fates have laid him low. It
is hard to touch him gently, but he steps to his side and does what he
can, bidding him use no exertion and be calm as possible. A few painful,
hurried breaths, and then Hollins goes on again.

"Though not once had she confessed her love, I felt I was gaining. She
sent me her photograph. It is here, on my breast; I have carried it day
and night." Abbot's muscles grew rigid again and his stern face sets
with a sterner look. "But I was in constant worry about my affairs and
the coming of those letters. Then when you were wounded and left behind
at South Mountain I felt that the crisis had come. I _had_ to get back
there. Something told me she would hasten to you. They came, and I had
the agony of seeing him--her father--returning from his visit to you;
Rix told me of it afterwards. Then I strove madly to see her; to tell
her the truth, though I knew she would only despise and spurn me. I
scrawled a note confessing my crime, but sending no name; gave it to the
woman to give to the doctor, and then tore myself away. I was the rebel
spy the colonel nearly caught, and from that time I have been a
fugitive; and now--a chance shot ends it all. Rix has been faithful to
me, poor devil, and I came here to do what I could for him. _Voila
tout!_ Abbot, don't let them shoot him. He isn't worth it. Give me more
of that brandy."

He lies back on the grimy pillow, breathing fast and painfully. Abbot
stands in silence a moment. Then his voice, stern and constrained, is
heard in question:

"Have you any messages, Hollins? Is there any way in which I can serve
you?"

"It seems tough--but the only friend I have to close my eyes is the man
I plotted against and nearly despoiled of his lady-love," mutters
Hollins. Either he is wandering a little bit or the brandy is potent
enough to blur his sense of the nearness of death. "I wanted to tell you
the truth--not that I look for forgiveness. I know your race well
enough. You'll see fair play, but love and hate are things you don't
change in much. I've no right to ask anything of you, but--who _is_
there? My God! I believe your wife that is to be was about the only
friend I had in the world--except Rix. He brought me back the letters,
and says she was so good to him. I hope he didn't ask her for money. He
swears he didn't, but he's such a liar! We both are, for that matter.
I'm glad, though, now, that my lies didn't hurt you. They didn't, did
they, Abbot? You're still engaged?"

"I--am engaged."

"Oh, well; if I only hadn't brought that damnable sorrow to that poor
child, and if I could only feel that they wouldn't shoot Rix, it
wouldn't be so bad--my going now. What _will_ they do with Rix?"

"He must stand trial for desertion, I fancy. The men nearly lynched him
as it was."

"I know, and you saved him. Isn't it all strange?" Here for over a year
we two have been plotting against you, and now, at the last, you're the
only friend we have. "Where is he?"

"Down below, under guard. You shall see him whenever you feel like it.
Is there any one else you want to see, Hollins?"

"Any one--any one? Ah, God! Yes, with a longing that burns. It is _her_
face. It is she--Bessie!" His hand steals feebly into his breast, and he
drags slowly forth a little packet of oiled silk. This he hugs close to
his fluttering heart, and his eyes seek those of the young soldier
standing there so strong, so self-reliant and erect. His glance seems
envious, even now, with the fast-approaching angel's death-seal dimming
their light, and the clammy dew gathering on his brow.

"It was your picture I sent her, just as you seem to stand there now. It
was I who won her, but she thinks I looked like you."

"Pardon me, Hollins," breaks in Abbot, with a voice that trembles
despite every effort at self-control, and trembles, too, through the
very coldness of the tone. "Colonel Putnam is not far off. There are
others whom you might like to see; and shall I send Rix to you?"

"No--not now--no use. Promise me this, Abbot. No matter where or how I'm
buried--never mind coffin, or the flag, or the volleys, or the prayers;
I don't deserve--They won't help me. _You_ see to it, will you, that
this is buried on my heart? It's her picture, and some letters.
Promise."

Abbot slowly bows his head.

"I promise, Hollins, if it will comfort you."

"If there were only some way--some way to tell her. I loved her so. She
might forgive when she knew how I died. You may see her, Abbot. Stop!
take these three letters; they're addressed to you, anyway. Take them to
her, by and by, and tell her, will you? but let the picture go with me."

The clutching fingers of one hand clasp about the slim envelope that
contains the little photograph; the fingers of the other hand are
plucking nervously at the blanket that is thrown over the dying man.
There is another moment of silence, and then Abbot again asks him if he
will have his brother brought to him. Hollins nods, and Abbot goes to
the door and whispers a few words to the orderly. When he returns a
feeble hand gropes its way towards him, and Hollins looks up
appealingly.

"I'm so much weaker. I'm going fast. Would you shake hands, Abbot? What!
Then you bear me no ill-will?"

"I do not, Hollins."

The clouding eyes seem to seek his wistfully, wonderingly.

"And yet--I wronged you so."

"Do not think of me. That--all came right."

"I know--I know. It is _her_ heart I may have broken--Bessie's. My God!
What could she have thought when he came back to her--after seeing you?"

"He told her her lover was dead. I made inquiries."

"Thank God for that! But all the same--she is sorrowing--suffering--and
it's all my doing. I believe I could die content, almost happy, if I
knew she had not--if I knew--I had not--brought her misery."

"Are you sure, Hollins?"

"Sure! Heaven, yes! Why, Abbot? Do you--do _you_ know?"

"She seems happy, Hollins. She is to be married in the spring; I don't
know just when."

[Illustration: "_Draws forth her precious picture and lays it at a
rival's feet._"]

There is another moment of intense silence in the little room. Outside
the muffled tramp of the night patrols and the gruff challenge of
sentries fall faintly on the ear. Within there is only the quick
breathing of the sinking man. There is a long, long look from the dying
eyes; a slow movement towards the well-nigh pulseless heart. Then comes
the sound of heavy feet upon the stair, and presently the uncouth form
of Rix is at the threshold, a piteous look in his haggard face. Abbot
raises a hand in warning, and glances quickly from the prisoner at the
door to the frame whence fast is ebbing the imprisoned soul. The hand
that had faintly clasped his is slowly creeping up to the broad and
brawny chest, so feeble now. Far across the rippling waters of the
Rappahannock the notes of a bugle, prolonged and distant, soft and
solemn, float upon the still night air. 'Tis the soldiers' signal
"Lights Out!"--the soldiers' rude yet never-forgotten lullaby. An
instant gleam as of recognition hovers in the glazing eyes. Then follow
a few faint gasps; then--one last gesture as the arm falls limp and
nerveless; but it draws forth her precious picture and lays it at a
rival's feet.

THE END.


       *       *       *       *       *


     BY AMELIE RIVES.

     A BROTHER TO DRAGONS, AND OTHER OLD-TIME TALES. Post 8vo, Cloth,
     Extra, $1 00.

     VIRGINIA OF VIRGINIA. A Story. Illustrated. Post 8vo, Cloth, Extra,
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     One is permitted to discover qualities of mind and a proficiency
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     work of genius may be anticipated in American literature.--_Boston
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     oftenest spoken of as masculine. Moreover, she is exquisitely
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     It was little more than two years ago that Miss Rives made her
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     It is evident that; the author has imagination in an unusual
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     There are few young writers who begin a promising career with so
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       *       *       *       *       *

     NARKA, THE NIHILIST.

     By KATHLEEN O'MEARA. 16mo, Cloth, $1 00.


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       *       *       *       *       *

     H. RIDER HAGGARD'S STORIES.


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