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Title: From School to Battle-field - A Story of the War Days
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 "From School to Battle-field - A Story of the War Days" ***

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    FROM SCHOOL TO BATTLE-FIELD


    [Illustration: "Come down aff the top o' dthat harrse!"]


    FROM SCHOOL TO BATTLE-FIELD

    A STORY OF THE WAR DAYS

    BY CAPTAIN CHARLES KING, U.S.A. AUTHOR OF "TROOPER ROSS," ETC.


    ILLUSTRATED BY VIOLET OAKLEY AND CHARLES H. STEPHENS


    PHILADELPHIA J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY 1899


    COPYRIGHT, 1898, BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.



    ILLUSTRATIONS


    "COME DOWN AFF THE TOP O' DTHAT HARRSE!"

    ALMOST SENSELESS, TILL SHORTY STROVE TO LIFT HIS BLEEDING HEAD UPON
      HIS KNEE

    "I COULDN'T STAND IT. I HAD TO GO"

    SHE WAS PERMITTED TO READ AND TO WEEP OVER SNIPE'S PATHETIC LETTER

    FIRST CAPTURE OF THE ADVANCING ARMS OF THE UNION

    "WHERE'D YOU GET THAT WATCH?"



FROM SCHOOL TO BATTLE-FIELD.



CHAPTER I.


"If there's anything I hate more than a rainy Saturday, call me a
tadpole!" said the taller of two boys who, with their chins on their
arms and their arms on the top of the window-sash, were gazing gloomily
out over a dripping world. It was the second day of an east wind, and
every boy on Manhattan Island knows what an east wind brings to New York
City, or used to in days before the war, and this was one of them.

"And our nine could have lammed that Murray Hill crowd a dozen to
nothing!" moaned the shorter, with disgust in every tone. "Next Saturday
the 'Actives' have that ground, and there'll be no decent place to
play--unless we can trap them over to Hoboken. What shall we do,
anyhow?"

The taller boy, a curly-headed, dark-eyed fellow of sixteen, whose long
legs had led to his school name of Snipe, turned from the contemplation
of an endless vista of roofs, chimneys, skylights, clothes-lines, all
swimming in an atmosphere of mist, smoke, and rain, and glanced back at
the book-laden table.

"There's that Virgil," he began, tentatively.

"Oh, Virgil be blowed!" broke in the other on the instant. "It's bad
enough to have to work week-days. I mean what can we do for--fun?" and
the blue eyes of the youngster looked up into the brown of his taller
chum.

"That's all very well for you, Shorty," said Snipe. "Latin comes easy to
you, but it don't to me. You've got a sure thing on exam., I haven't,
and the pater's been rowing me every week over those blasted reports."

"Well-l, I'm as bad off in algebra or Greek, for that matter. 'Pop' told
me last week I ought to be ashamed of myself," was the junior's answer.

And, lest it be supposed that by "Pop" he referred to the author of his
being, and thereby deserves the disapproval of every right-minded reader
at the start, let it be explained here and now that "Pop" was the
head--the "rector"--of a school famous in the ante-bellum days of
Gotham; famous indeed as was its famous head, and though they called him
nicknames, the boys worshipped him. Older boys, passed on into the cap
and gown of Columbia (items of scholastic attire sported only, however,
at examinations and the semi-annual speech-making), referred to the
revered professor of the Greek language and literature as "Bull," and
were no less fond of him, nor did they hold him less in reverence. Where
are they now, I wonder?--those numerous works bound in calf, embellished
on the back with red leather bands on which were stamped in gold ----'s
Virgil, ----'s Horace, ----'s Sallust, ----'s Homer? Book after book had
he, grammars of both tongues, prosodies likewise, Roman and Greek
antiquities, to say nothing of the huge classical dictionary. One could
cover a long shelf in one's student library without drawing upon the
works of any other authority, and here in this dark little room, on the
topmost floor of a brownstone house in Fourteenth Street, a school-boy
table was laden at its back with at least eight of Pop's ponderous tomes
to the exclusion of other classics.

But on the shelf above were books by no means so scholarly and far more
worn. There they stood in goodly array, Mayne Reid's "Boy Hunters,"
"Scalp Hunters," "The Desert Home," "The White Chief," flanked by a
dusty "Sanford and Merton" that appeared to hold aloof from its
associates. There, dingy with wear though far newer, was Thomas Hughes's
inimitable "Tom Brown's School-Days at Rugby." There was what was then
his latest, "The Scouring of the White Horse," which, somehow, retained
the freshness of the shop. There were a few volumes of Dickens, and
Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales. There on the wall were some vivid battle
pictures, cut from the _London Illustrated News_,--the Scots Grays in
the mêlée with the Russian cavalry at Balaklava; the Guards, in their
tall bearskins and spike-tail coats, breasting the slopes of the Alma.
There hung a battered set of boxing-gloves, and on the hooks above them
a little brown rifle, muzzle-loading, of course. The white-covered bed
stood against the wall on the east side of the twelve-by-eight
apartment, its head to the north. At its foot were some objects at which
school-boys of to-day would stare in wonderment; a pair of heavy boots
stood on the floor, with a pair of trousers so adjusted to them that, in
putting on the boots, one was already half-way into the trousers, and
had only to pull them up and tightly belt them at the waist. On the post
hung a red flannel shirt, with a black silk neckerchief sewed to the
back of the broad rolling collar. On top of the post was the most
curious object of all,--a ribbed helmet of glistening black leather,
with a broad curving brim that opened out like a shovel at the back,
while a stiff, heavy eagle's neck and head, projecting from the top,
curved over them and held in its beak an emblazoned front of black
patent leather that displayed in big figures of white the number 40, and
in smaller letters, arching over the figures, the name, Lady Washington.
It was the fire-cap of a famous engine company of the old New York
volunteer department,--a curious thing, indeed, to be found in a
school-boy's room.

The desk, littered with its books and papers, stood in the corner
between the window and the east wall. Along the west wall was a
curtained clothes-press. Then came the marble-topped washstand, into
which the water would flow only at night, when the demand for Gotham's
supply of Croton measurably subsided. Beyond that was the door leading
to the open passage toward the stairway to the lower floors. In the
corner of the room were the school-boy paraphernalia of the day,--a
cricket bat, very much battered, two base-ball bats that the boys of
this generation would doubtless scan suspiciously, "heft" cautiously,
then discard disdainfully, for they were of light willow and bigger at
the bulge by full an inch than the present regulation. Beneath them in
the corner lay the ball of the year 1860, very like the article now in
use, but then referred to as a "ten shilling," and invariably made at an
old shoe-shop at the foot of Second Avenue, whose owner, a veteran
cobbler, had wisely quit half-soling and heeling for a sixpence and was
coining dollars at the newly discovered trade. All the leading clubs
were then his patrons,--the Atlantics, the Eckfords, the Mutuals, the
Stars, even the Unions of Morrisania. All the leading junior clubs swore
by him and would use no ball but his,--the champion Actives, the Alerts,
the Uncas. (A "shanghai club" the boys declared the last named to be
when it first appeared at Hamilton Square in its natty uniform of
snow-white flannel shirts and sky-blue trousers.) Base ball was in its
infancy, perhaps, but what a lusty infant and how pervading! Beyond that
corner and hanging midway on the northward wall was a portentous object,
an old-fashioned maple shell snare-drum, with white buff leather sling
and two pairs of ebony sticks, their polished heads and handles
proclaiming constant use, and the marble surface of the washstand top,
both sides, gave proof that when practice on the sheepskin batter head
was tabooed by the household and the neighborhood, the inoffensive stone
received the storm of "drags," and "flams," and "rolls." Lifting the
curtain that overhung the boyish outfit of clothing, there stood
revealed still further evidence of the martial tastes of the occupant,
for the first items in sight were a natty scarlet shell-jacket, a pair
of trim blue trousers, with broad stripe of buff, and a jaunty little
forage-cap, with regimental wreath and number. Underneath the curtain,
but readily hauled into view, were found screwed and bolted to heavy
blocks of wood two strange-looking miniature cannon, made, as one could
soon determine, by sawing off a brace of old-fashioned army muskets
about a foot from the breech. Two powder-flasks and a shot-bag hung on
pegs at the side of the curtained clothes-press. A little mirror was
clamped to the wall above the washstand. Some old fencing foils and a
weather-beaten umbrella stood against the desk. An open paint-box, much
besmeared, lay among the books. Some other pamphlets and magazines were
stacked up on the top of the clothes-press. Two or three colored prints,
one of Columbian Engine, No. 14, a very handsome Philadelphia
"double-decker." Another of Ringgold Hose, No. 7, a really beautiful
four-wheeler of the old, old type, with chocolate-colored running gear
and a dazzling plate-glass reel, completed the ornamentation of this
school-boy den. There was no room for a lounge,--there was room only for
two chairs; but that diminutive apartment was one of the most popular
places of resort Pop's boys seemed to know, and thereby it became the
hot-bed of more mischief, the birthplace of more side-splitting school
pranks than even the staid denizens of that most respectable brownstone
front ever dreamed of, whatever may have been the convictions of the
neighborhood, for Pop's boys, be it known, had no dormitory or
school-house in common. No such luck! They lived all over Manhattan
Island, all over Kings, Queens, and Westchester counties. They came from
the wilds of Hoboken and the heights of Bergen. They dwelt in massive
brownstone fronts on Fifth Avenue and in modest wooden, one-story
cottages at Fort Washington. They wore "swell" garments in some cases
and shabby in others. They were sons of statesmen, capitalists, lawyers,
doctors, and small shopkeepers. They were rich and they were poor; they
were high and they were low, tall and short, skinny and stout, but they
were all pitched, neck and crop, into Pop's hopper, treated share and
share alike, and ground and polished and prodded or praised, and a more
stand-on-your-own-bottom lot of young vessels ("vessels of wrath," said
the congregation of a neighboring tabernacle) never had poured into them
impartially the treasures of the spring of knowledge. They were of four
classes, known as the first, second, third, and fourth Latin,
corresponding to the four classes of Columbia and other colleges, and to
be a first Latin boy at Pop's was second only to being a senior at Yale
or Columbia. As a rule the youngsters "started fair" together at the
bottom, and knew each other to the backbone by the time they reached the
top. Few new boys came in except each September with the fourth Latin.
Pop had his own way of teaching, and the boy that didn't know his
methods and had not mastered his "copious notes" might know anybody
else's Cæsar, Sallust, or Cicero by rote, but he couldn't know Latin.
Pop had a pronunciation of the Roman tongue that only a Pop's bred boy
could thoroughly appreciate. Lads who came, as come in some rare cases
they did, from Eton or Harrow, from the Latin schools of Boston or the
manifold academies of the East, read as they had been taught to read,
and were rewarded with a fine sarcasm and the information that they had
much to unlearn. Pop's school was encompassed roundabout by many another
school, whose pupils took their airing under ushers' eyes, to the
howling disdain of Pop's unhampered pupils, who lined the opposite curb
and dealt loudly in satirical comment. There was war to the knife
between Pop's boys and Charlier's around the corner, to the end that the
hours of recess had to be changed or both schools, said the police,
would be forbidden the use of Madison Square. They had many faults, had
Pop's boys, though not all the neighborhood ascribed to them, and they
had at least one virtue,--they pulled well together. By the time it got
to the top of the school each class was like a band of brothers, and
never was there a class of which this could be more confidently asserted
than the array of some twenty-seven youngsters, of whom Snipe and his
smaller chum, Shorty, were prominent members, in the year of our Lord
eighteen hundred and sixty.

Yet, they had their black sheep, as is to be told, and their
scapegraces, as will not need to be told, and months of the oddest,
maddest, merriest school life in the midst of the most vivid excitement
the great city ever knew, and on the two lads wailing there at the attic
window because their fates had balked the longed-for game at Hamilton
Square, there were dawning days that, rain or shine, would call them
shelterless into constant active, hazardous life, and that, in one at
least, would try and prove and temper a brave, impatient spirit,--that
should be indeed the very turning-point of his career.

Patter, patter, patter! drip, drip, drip! the rain came pelting in
steady shower. The gusty wind blew the chimney smoke down into the
hollow of the long quadrilateral of red brick house backs. Three, four,
and five stories high, they hemmed in, without a break, a "plant" of
rectangular back-yards, each with its flag-stone walk, each with its
square patch of turf, each with its flower-beds at the foot of the high,
spike-topped boundary fence, few with visible shrubs, fewer still
diversified by grape arbors, most of them criss-crossed with
clothes-lines, several ornamented with whirligigs, all on this moist
November afternoon wringing wet from the steady downpour that came on
with the dawn and broke the boys' hearts, for this was to have been the
match day between the Uncas and the Murray Hills, and Pop's school was
backing the Indians to a man. One more week and winter might be upon
them and the ball season at an end. Verily, it was indeed too bad!

With a yawn of disgust, the shorter boy at the open-topped window threw
up his hands and whirled about. There on the bed lay the precious
base-ball uniform in which he was wont to figure as shortstop. There,
too, lay Snipe's, longer in the legs by nearly a foot. "There's nothing
in-doors but books, Snipy. There's only one thing to tempt a fellow out
in the wet,--a fire, and small chance of that on such a day. We might
take the guns up on the roof and shoot a few skylights or something----"

"Shut up!" said Snipe, at this juncture, suddenly, impetuously throwing
up his hand. "Twenty-third Street!"

Shorty sprang to the window and levelled an old opera-glass at the
summit of an odd white tower that loomed, dim and ghost-like, through
the mist above the housetops quarter of a mile away. Both boys' eyes
were kindling, their lips parting in excitement. Both were on tiptoe.

"Right! Down comes the lever!" was the next announcement. "Upper Fifth,
I'll bet a bat! Listen!"

Suddenly there pealed on the heavy air, solemn and slow, the deep,
mellow tones of a great bell. Even as he counted the strokes each boy
reached for his cap. One--two--three--four!

"Fourth!" cried Shorty. "Come on!" And, light as kittens, away scurried
the two, skimming down three flights of stairs, nearly capsizing a
sedate old butler, snatching their top-coats in the hall, letting
themselves out with a bang, leaping down the broad flight of brownstone
steps to the broader walk below, then spurting away for Union Square,
fast as light-heeled, light-hearted lads could run.



CHAPTER II.


A curious thing to look back upon is the old volunteer fire department
of New York as it was forty years ago. No horses, no fire-boats, few
steamers, no telegraph alarm-boxes, only a great array of practically
go-as-you-please companies, averaging forty or fifty men apiece,
scattered all over the inhabited parts of the island from Harlem to the
Battery. Sixty of these organizations, there or thereabouts, were hose
companies, each manning a light, high-wheeled, fancifully painted
carriage with its hose-reel perched gracefully above the running-gear,
decked out with fancy lamps and jangling bells,--a carriage so light
that a boy could start it on the level and a dozen athletic men could
make it fairly spin over the paved streets. Then there were fifty engine
companies, all but two or three specially favored bands "tooling" hand
machines, some of the old "double-deck" Philadelphia pattern, some with
long side levers, "brakes" they called them; others still with strange,
uncouth shapes, built by some local expert with the idea of
out-squirting all competitors. Down in Centre Street was the heavy
apparatus of the Exempt Company, only called upon in case of fires of
unusual magnitude. Near by, too, was stored a brace of what were then
considered powerful steamers, brought out only on such occasions; but
two companies that wielded strong political influence proudly drew at
the end of their ropes light-running and handsome steam fireengines, and
these two companies, Americus 6,--"Big Six" as they called her,--and her
bitter rivals of Manhattan 8, were the envied of all the department. Add
to these some nineteen hook and ladder companies that ran long, light,
prettily ornamented trucks, and you have the New York fire department as
it was just before the war. Famous men were its chiefs in those days,
and the names of Harry Howard and John Decker, of Carson and Cregier,
were household words among the boys at Pop's, most of whom were strong
partisans of some company on whose speed and prowess they pinned their
faith. Strange, indeed, to-day seems the system by which fire alarms
were communicated. There were no electric bells, no gongs, no telephones
in the various engine-houses, which were scattered all over the town,
generally in groups of two, an engine and a hose company being "located"
side by side, though a large number occupied single houses. On the roof
of the old post-office at Nassau Street, in a huge frame-work at the
rear of the City Hall, and in tall observation-towers of iron tubing or
wooden frame, placed at convenient points about the city, were hung big,
heavy, deep-toned bells that struck the hour at noon and nine at night,
but otherwise were used exclusively for the purpose of giving alarms of
fire. The city was divided into eight districts, and the sounding of the
tower bells of any number from one to eight, inclusive, meant that a
fire had been discovered within the limits of that district, and all
companies designated for service therein must hunt it up and put it out.
The seventh and eighth districts divided the lower part of the city, a
little below Canal Street, evenly between them. Then, as the city
broadened there, the great, far-spreading space between the East and
North Rivers, south of Twenty-second Street, was parcelled off into the
third, fourth, fifth, and sixth districts, beginning from the west.
These were quite narrow at the south, but flared out north and eastward.
Above them, on the east and west sides of the city respectively, lay the
first and second districts, the former extending almost to Harlem, which
had on Mount Morris its own bell-tower and at its foot a little
department of its own. Night and day a single watcher was perched in the
glass-enclosed lookout at the summit of each lofty tower, his sole
communication with the world below being a speaking-tube to the
engine-house at the base and a single wire that connected his "circuit"
with the main office at the City Hall, a circuit so limited in its
possibilities that it could only administer a single tap at a time upon
the tiny gong-bell over the watcher's desk, and finally the big, booming
bell that, hanging midway down in the lofty structure, was yet so high
above the neighboring roofs and walls that its sound bellowed forth in
unimpeded volume. It was struck by a massive swinging hammer, worked by
a long steel lever aloft in the watch-tower, the entire apparatus being
the design, as were some of the strange-looking engines, of ex-Chief
Carson, and one of the greatest treats that Pop's boys could possibly
have was to be piloted of a wintry Saturday afternoon or summer evening,
by one of their number who had the _open sesame_, up, up the winding
stairway, up past the huge, silent monster that hung midway. (You may
venture to bet they wasted no time there, but scurried past him, full
tilt, lest an alarm should come at the instant and he should suddenly
boom forth and stun them with his clamor.) Once well past him, they
breathed freer, if harder, for the climb was long, and at last, tapping
on a little trap-door, were admitted to the sanctum at the summit, and
could gaze in delight and wonderment about them and over the busy,
bustling world far, far beneath. Once well above the low ground of Canal
Street, the city rose, and from the Hudson to the East River, along
about the line of Spring Street, the ground was high, and here was
established the inner row of Gotham's picket guards against fire: three
tall towers, one away over at Essex Market, on the far east side,
guarding the sixth district; one on Marion Street, guarding the lower
fourth and fifth; one over at McDougal Street, guarding the lower third.
The next post to the northward was at Jefferson Market, on Sixth Avenue,
a tall white wooden shaft that seemed to pierce the skies, so low were
all the surrounding buildings, and from his eerie at its summit
Jefferson's ringer watched over the upper third and fourth districts.
The next tower was Twenty-third Street, near First Avenue, an open
affair of iron, like that at McDougal, and here the guardian looked out
over all the lower first and upper fifth districts, as well as having an
eye on the northeastern part of the fourth. Then came Thirty-second
Street, far over near Ninth Avenue, another open cage; and in the cozy,
stove-warmed roost at the top of each, snugly closed against wind and
weather, day and night, as has been said, and only one man at a time,
the ringer kept his ceaseless vigil. It was his duty to be ever on the
alert, ever moving about and spying over the city. If an unusual smoke
or blaze manifested itself anywhere, he would at once unsling his
spy-glass and examine it. If it lay long blocks or miles away and closer
to some other tower, the unwritten law or etiquette of the craft
demanded that he should touch the key of his telegraph. This instantly
sounded the little bell in the other towers on his circuit, and called
upon his fellows to look about them. At no time could he sit and read.
He must pace about the narrow confines of his rounded den, or on the
encircling gallery outside, and watch, watch, watch. Whenever he
discovered a fire, the first thing was to let down his lever and strike
one round of the district in which it lay,--fast if the fire was near,
slow if at a distance. This was all the neighboring companies had to
judge by, as the first arrivals at the engine-house, or the loungers
generally sitting about the stove back of the apparatus, or the bunkers
who slept there at night, sprang for their fire-caps, raced for the
trumpet that stood on the floor at the end of the tongue, threw open
their doors, manned the drag-rope, and "rolled" for the street. No
company could speed far on its route before meeting some runner or
partisan who could tell the exact or approximate location of the fire.
The first round from the tower would start every machine in its
neighborhood. Then the ringer would spring to his telegraph and rapidly
signal to the City Hall two rounds of the district, then add the number
of his tower. Then back he would go to his lever and bang another round.
If the fire was trivial four rounds would suffice; if a great
conflagration ensued he would keep on ringing for half an hour, and if
it proved so great that the chief engineer deemed it necessary to call
out his entire force, word would be sent to the nearest tower, and a
general alarm would result,--a continuous tolling until signalled from
the City Hall to cease. Well did Pop's boys remember the one general
alarm of 1859, when the magnificent Crystal Palace at Sixth Avenue and
Forty-second Street went up in smoke; and all in half an hour! And
thrilling and interesting it was to the favored few of their number
permitted sometimes to stand watch of an evening with the ringer, and to
peer down on the gaslights of the bustling streets and over dim roofs
and spires and into many an open window long blocks away! It was joy to
be allowed to man the lever with the silent, mysterious hermit of the
tower and help him bang the big bell when the last click of the
telegraph from the City Hall announced that the second-hand of the
regulator at the main office had just reached the mark at nine o'clock.
It was simply thrilling to sit and watch the keen-eyed sentinel as he
suddenly and intently scanned a growing light about some distant dormer
window, reached for his glass, peered through it one instant, then
clapped it into its frame, sprang for the lever, and in another moment
three or four or five deep, clanging notes boomed out on the night air
from below. It was wild delight to lean from the gallery without and
watch the rush and excitement in the streets,--to hear the jangle of the
bells of the white hose carriage as "she" shot suddenly into view and,
with a dozen active dots on the drag-rope, went spinning down the
street, closely followed by her next-door neighbor, the engine, with a
rapidly growing crew. It was keen excitement to watch the bursting of
the blaze, the roll of the smoke from the upper windows, to see it wax
and spread and light up the neighboring roofs and chimneys with its
glare, to mark from on high the swiftly gathering throngs on the broad
avenue, and under the gaslight to see company after company come
trotting out from the side streets, curving round into the car-tracks,
and the moment the broad tires of their engine, truck, or carriage
struck the flat of the rails, up would rise a yell from every throat and
away they would go at racing speed. It was thrilling, indeed, to see two
rival companies reach the avenue at the same point and turn at once into
the tracks. Then to the stirring peal of the alarm the fiercely
contending bands would seem fairly to spurn the stones beneath their
flying feet, and carts, carriages, "busses," everything except the
railway-cars themselves, would clear the track for the rival racers, and
the air would resound with their rallying-cries. Time and again, it must
be owned, so fierce was the strain for supremacy, that furious rows
broke forth between the contestants, and that between many companies
there were for months and years bitter feuds that often led to war to
the knife, and a fire was sometimes left to look out for itself while
the firemen settled their quarrel with fists, stones, and "spanners." As
a rule, though, there were so many companies at each fire that there
were more than enough to fight the flames, for every company had to run
to two districts as well as cover its own neighborhood. Rowdyism was
rampant in some of the organizations, but then a benignant "Tammany"
guarded the interests of a force so strong in numbers, so potent a
factor in politics, and only when a company had become repeatedly and
notoriously negligent of its proper duties in order to indulge its love
for fight was it actually disbanded. Compared with the system of to-day
it was almost grotesque; but in the years when Pop's boys were in their
glory the old volunteer fire department was on its last legs, yet was as
ignorant of its coming dissolution as of the approach of the great war
that should summon so many of its members to meet a foe far harder to
down than the hottest fire they had ever tackled. They were still
monarchs of all they surveyed, those red-shirted, big-hearted roughs,
and many a company had a jolly word of welcome for Pop's boys, who more
than once had given some favorite company first notice--"a still
alarm"--of a blaze, and thereby enabled the "Zephyrs" of 61 Hose or the
"Pacifics" of 28 Engine to be first at the fire, getting a "scoop" on
their nearest neighbors of the "Lexington" or the "Metamoras," for every
company besides its number had its name, and every company, high or low,
its swarm of boy admirers, adherents, and followers, most of them, it
must be admitted, street _gamins_.

And all this explanation as our two youngsters are scooting through the
dripping rain for Union Square.

As they sped across Fifth Avenue a long white seam flashed into view
just beyond the Washington statue, and went like a dim streak sailing
away up Fourth Avenue.

"There goes Twelve Truck!" panted Shorty, already half-winded in the
fierce effort to keep up with Snipe's giant strides. "Seven Hose must be
just ahead. Look out for Twenty-three now!"

Yes, out from Broadway, as he spoke, a little swarm of men and boys on
the drag-ropes, another company came, hauling a bulky little red
hand-engine, and went tugging in chase of the lighter hook and ladder. A
minute's swift run brought the youngsters to the open square, another
around to the broad space in front of the Everett, and there the misty
atmosphere grew heavy and thick, and the swarm of scurrying men and boys
breathed harder as they plunged into a dense drift of smoke. Just as our
youngsters noted that the crowds were running eastward through
Nineteenth Street, the old rallying cry of another company was heard,
and a light hose carriage came bounding across the car-tracks from the
direction of Broadway. Snipe by this time was a dozen yards ahead, and
could not hear or would not heed the half-choking, warning cry of
puffing little Shorty.

"Lay low, Snipe; that's the Metamora. Look out--look out for the----"

Too late! Half a dozen young fellows were sprinting along beside their
pet hose carriage. No more were needed on the ropes, and as Shorty
rounded the corner into Nineteenth Street and saw the flames bursting
from the roof of a stable close to Lexington Avenue, he saw, too, with
bursting heart, three of those young flankers spring up on the sidewalk
in chase of long-limbed Snipe, saw one of them overtake him, lay sudden
hand on his shoulder on one side and hurl him violently to the left,
just in time to be tripped over the tangling foot of another and tumbled
headlong into the reeking gutter, there to lie, stunned and almost
senseless, till Shorty, raging, yet breathless and helpless, strove to
lift his bleeding head upon his knee.

[Illustration: Almost senseless, till Shorty strove to lift his bleeding
head upon his knee.]



CHAPTER III.


Bigger crowds ran to fires, big or little, in those days than now. The
blaze which had well-nigh destroyed an old frame stable in Nineteenth
Street that rainy Saturday afternoon before a single fire company
reached the scene, and that drew to the spot in the course of half an
hour at least twenty companies,--engine, hose, or hook and
ladder,--would be handled now by one compact little battalion with
one-tenth the loss, with no more than forty men, without an unnecessary
sound, and in much less than half the time. Although aided by
sympathizing hands, Shorty had barely time to get Snipe on his shaky
legs and in the lee of a sheltering tree-box when another company came
tearing around from upper Fourth Avenue,--their old friends of Zephyr
Hose,--close followed by Engine 28, and Shorty lifted up his voice in a
yodel that instantly brought two or three panting young fellows to his
side,--big boys who had run with their pet company the half-mile from
Twenty-eighth Street. Instant suspicion, mingled with wrath, gleamed in
their eyes at sight of Snipe's pale face and bleeding temple. "Yes, the
Hulker fellows!" sobbed Shorty, now half mad with indignation and
excitement. "I saw just the two that did it. One of them belongs to the
first nine of the Metamoras,--the juniors,--and had a row with Snipe the
day of the match. Briggs was with them. Wait till we tend to Snipe, then
we can fix him."

The youngster's heart was beating hard and savagely, for the outrage was
brutal. There had been angry words between the rival clubs, the Uncas
and the Metamora, the day of their great game, and hosts of other
juniors had gathered about the wrangling nines, not utterly displeased
at the idea of a falling out between two of the strongest and, as
juniors went in those days, "swellest" organizations on the list. Then,
as luck would have it, several of the older boys of both clubs were
devoted followers, even "runners," of two rival hose companies, the
Uncas almost to a man pinning their fortunes on the white Zephyr, whose
home was but three short blocks above Pop's school, and one of whose
active members, the son of a Fifth Avenue millionaire, was the biggest
and oldest--and stupidest--of Pop's pupils, though not in the classical
department. The Metamoras, in like manner, swore by the swell hose
company of that name, whose carriage was housed on Fifth Avenue itself,
diagonally over across the way from the impressively dignified and
aristocratic brownstone mansion of the Union Club. And what Pop's boys,
the First Latin, at least, were well-nigh a unit in condemning was that
just two of their own number, residents of that immediate neighborhood,
were known to be in league with the Metamora crowd, even to the extent,
it was whispered, of secretly associating with the Hulkers, and by the
Hulkers was meant a little clique led by two brothers of that name, big,
burly young fellows of nineteen and eighteen respectively, sons of a
wealthy widow, who let them run the road to ruin and bountifully paid
their way,--two young scapegraces who were not only vicious and
well-nigh worthless themselves, but were leading astray half a score of
others who were fit for better things. No wonder the hearts of the Uncas
were hot against them.

Into the area doorway of a neighboring dwelling, with faces of gloom,
they had led their wounded comrade. Sympathizing, kind-hearted women
bathed his forehead and smoothly bandaged it, even as the uproar without
increased, and companies from far down-town kept pouring into the
crowded street. By this time half a dozen streams were on the blaze and
the black smoke had turned to white steam, but still they came, Gulick
and Guardian, hose and engine, from under the Jefferson tower, and natty
55 Hose,--the "Harry Howards,"--from away over near the Christopher
ferry, and their swell rivals of 38, from Amity Street, close at the
heels of Niagara 4, with her handsome Philadelphia double-deck engine,
and "3 Truck," from Fireman's Hall, in Mercer Street, and another big
double-decker, 11, from away down below the Metropolitan Hotel, raced
every inch of the mile run up Broadway by her east side rival, Marion 9.
Fancy the hundreds of shouting, struggling, excited men blocking
Lexington Avenue and Eighteenth Street for two hundred yards in every
direction from what we would call to-day a "two-hundred-dollar fire,"
and you can form an idea of the waste of time, money, material, and
energy, the access of uproar, confusion, and, ofttimes, rowdyism, that
accompanied an alarm in the days before the war. Remember that all this,
too, might result from the mere burning out of a chimney or the ignition
of a curtain in a garret window, and you can readily see why tax-payers,
thinking men, and insurance companies finally decided that the old
volunteer department must be abolished.

But until the war came on there was nothing half so full of excitement
in the eyes of young New York, and Pop's boys, many of them at least,
thought it the biggest kind of fun outside of school, where they had fun
of their own such as few other boys saw the like of.

It was inside the school, however, on the following Monday morning, that
the young faces were grave and full of import, for Snipe was there,
still bandaged and a trifle pale, and Shorty, scant of breath but full
of vim and descriptives, and time and again had he to tell the story of
the Hulkers' attack to classmates who listened with puckered brows and
compressed lips, all the while keeping an eye on two black sheep, who
followed with furtive glances Snipe and Shorty wherever they went; and
one of these two was the Pariah of the school.

The only son of a wealthy broker, Leonard Hoover at eighteen years of
age had every advantage that the social position of his parents and a
big allowance could give him, but he stood in Pop's school that saddest
of sights,--a friendless boy. Always immaculately dressed and booted and
gloved, he was a dullard in studies, a braggart in everything, and a
success in nothing. For healthful sports and pastimes he had no use
whatever. Books were his bane, and at eighteen he knew less of Latin
than boys in the fourth form, but Pop had carried him along for years,
dropping him back thrice, it was said in school traditions, until at
last he had to float him with the First Latin, where he sat week after
week at the foot of the class. It was said that between the revered
rector of the school and the astute head of the firm of Hoover, Hope &
Co. a strong friendship existed, but whatever regard "the Doctor"
entertained for the father he denied the son. Long years of observation
of the young fellow's character had convinced this shrewd student of boy
nature that here was a case well-nigh without redeeming feature. Lazy,
shifty, lying, malevolent, without a good word or kind thought for a
human being, without a spark of gratitude to the father who had pulled
him through one disgrace after another, and who strove to buy him a way
through life, young Hoover was, if truth were confessed, about as
abhorrent to the Doctor as he was obnoxious to the school. A plague, a
bully, a tyrant to the little fellows in the lower classes, a cheat and
coward among his fellows, filled with mean jealousy of the lads who year
after year stepped over his head to the upper forms, stingy though his
pockets were lined with silver, sneaking, for he was never known to do
or say a straightforward thing in his life, it had come to pass by the
time he spent his sixth year with Pop that Hoover was the school-boy
synonym for everything disreputable or mean. And, as though the
Providence that had endowed him through his father with everything that
wealth and influence could command was yet determined to strike a
balance somewhere, "Len" Hoover had been given a face almost as
repellent as his nature. His little black eyes were glittering and
beady, which was bad enough, but in addition were so sadly and
singularly crossed that the effect was to distort their true dimensions
and make the right optic appear larger and fuller than the left, which
at times was almost lost sight of,--a strange defect that even Pop had
had the weakness to satirize, and, well knowing that Hoover would never
understand the meaning, had in a moment of unusual exasperation referred
to him as "Cyclops," or Polyphemus, a name that would have held among
the boys had it not been too classical and not sufficiently
contemptuous. An ugly red birth-mark added to his facial deformity, but
what more than anything else gave it its baleful expression was the
sneer that never seemed to leave his mouth. The grin that sometimes,
when tormenting a little boy, distended that feature could never by any
possibility be mistaken for a smile. Hoover's white, slender, shapely
hands were twitching and tremulous. New boys, who perhaps had to shake
hands with him, said they were cold and clammy. He walked in his
high-heeled boots in a rickety way that baffled imitation. He never ran.
He never took part in any sport or game. He never subscribed a cent to
any school enterprise,--base ball, cricket, excursion, or debate. He
never even took part in the customary Christmas gifts to the teachers,
for in the days of this class of Snipe's and Shorty's and others whose
scholarly attainments should have won them first mention, there were
some beloved men whom even mischief-loving lads delighted to remember in
that way. One Christmas-tide Hoover had appeared just before the holiday
break-up, followed by a servant in dark livery, a thing seldom seen
before the war, and that servant solemnly bore half a dozen packages of
which Hoover relieved him one at a time, and personally took to the desk
of the master in each one of the five rooms, left it there without a
word of explanation, but with an indescribable grin, bade the servant
hand the sixth to the open-mouthed janitor, and disappeared. A
perplexed lot were Pop's several assistants when school closed that
afternoon. John, the janitor aforesaid, declared they held an informal
caucus in the senior master's room (Othello was the pet name borne at
the time by this gifted teacher and later distinguished divine), and
that three of the number, who had smilingly and gracefully thanked the
boys for the hearty little tribute of remembrance and good will with
which the spokesman of the class had wished each master a Merry
Christmas, declared they could accept no individual gift from any pupil,
much less Hoover, and that he, John, believed the packages had been
returned unopened.

And this was the state of feeling at the old school towards its oldest
scholar, in point of years spent beneath its roof, on the bleak November
morning following Snipe's and Shorty's disastrous run to the fire, when
at twelve o'clock the First Latin came tumbling down-stairs for recess.
Ordinarily they went with a rush, bounding and jostling and playing all
manner of pranks on each other and making no end of noise, then racing
for doughnuts at Duncan's, two blocks away. But this time there was
gravity and deliberation, an ominous silence that was sufficient in
itself to tell the head-master, even before he noted the fact that
Hoover was lingering in the school-room instead of sneaking off _solus_
for a smoke at a neighboring stable, that something of an unusual nature
was in the wind.

"Why don't you go out to recess, Hoover?" said he, shortly. "If any lad
needs fresh air, it's you."

No answer for a moment. Hoover stood shuffling uneasily at the long
window looking out on Fourth Avenue, every now and then peering up and
down the street.

Impatiently the master repeated his question, and then, sullen and
scowling, Hoover answered,--

"I can have trouble enough--here."

"What do you mean?" asked Othello.

"They're layin' for me,--at least Snipe is."

"By Snipe you mean Lawton, I suppose. What's the trouble between you?"
and the master sat grimly eying the ill-favored fellow.

"It's not a thing--I want to speak of," was the answer. "He knows that I
know things that he can't afford to have get out,--that's all." Then,
turning suddenly, "Mr. Halsey," said he, "there's things going on in
this school the Doctor ought to know. I can't tell him or tell you, but
you--you ask John where Joy's watch went and how it got there."

The master started, and his dark face grew darker still. That business
of Joy's watch had been the scandal of the school all October. Joy was
one of the leaders of the First Latin, a member of one of the oldest
families of Gotham, and this watch was a beautiful and costly thing that
had been given him on his birthday the year before. One hot Friday noon
when the school went out to recess, Joy came running back up the stairs
from the street below and began searching eagerly about the bookcases at
the back of the long school-room. A pale-faced junior master sat mopping
the sweat from his forehead, for the First Latin had executed its famous
charge but two minutes before, and he had striven in vain to quell the
tumult.

"What's the matter, Joy?" he asked. "I _beg_ pardon. _Mr._ Joy, I should
say. I wonder that I am so forgetful as to speak to a young gentleman in
the First Latin as I would to boys in the other forms in the school."

At other times when the weakling who had so spoken gave voice to this
sentiment it was the conventional thing for the First Latin to gaze
stolidly at him and, by way of acknowledgment of the sentiment, to utter
a low, moaning sound, like that of a beast in pain, gradually rising to
a dull roar, then dying away to a murmur again, accentuated occasionally
here and there by deep gutturals, "Hoi! hoi! hoi!" and in this
inarticulate chorus was Joy ever the fugleman. But now, with troubled
eyes, he stared at the master.

"My watch is gone, sir!"

"Gone, Mr. Joy? You terrify me!" said Mr. Meeker, whose habit it was to
use exaggerated speech. "When--and how?"

"While we were--having that scrimmage just now," answered Joy, searching
about the floor and the benches. "I had it--looked at it--not two
minutes before the bell struck. You may remember, sir, you bade me put
it up."

"I do remember. And when did you first miss it?"

"Before we got across Twenty-fifth Street, sir."

By this time, with sympathetic faces, back came Carey and Doremus and
Bertram and others of the First Latin, and John, the janitor, stood at
the door and looked on with puzzled eyes. It was not good for him that
valuables should be lost at any time about the school. All four young
fellows searched, but there was no sign. From that day to this Joy had
seen no more of his beautiful watch. Detectives had sought in vain.
Pawn-shops were ransacked. The Doctor had offered reward and Mr. Meeker,
the master, his resignation, but neither was accepted.

And now Hoover, the uncanny, had declared he had information. It was
still over an hour before the Doctor could be expected down from his
morning's work at Columbia. The head-master felt his fingers tingling
and his pulses quicken. He himself had had a theory--a most unpleasant
one--with regard to the disappearance of that precious watch. He knew
his face was paling as he rose and backed the downcast, slant-eyed youth
against the window-casing.

"Hoover," said he, "I've known you seven years, and will have no
dodging. Tell me what you know."

"I--I--don't _know_ anything, sir," was the answer, "but you ask John.
He does."

"Stay where you are!" cried the master, as he stepped to his desk and
banged the gong-bell that stood thereon. A lumbering tread was heard on
the stairway, and a red-faced, shock-headed young man came clumsily into
the room. Mr. Halsey collared him without ado and shoved him up
alongside Hoover. He had scant reverence for family rank and name, had
Halsey. In his eyes hulking John and sullen Hoover were about on a par,
with any appreciable odds in favor of the janitor.

"Hoover tells me you know where Joy's watch went and who took it. Out
with the story!" demanded he.

"I d-don't," mumbled John, in alarm and distress. "I--I only said
that--there was more'n one could tell where it went." And then, to Mr.
Halsey's amaze and disgust, the janitor fairly burst into tears. For two
or three minutes his uncouth shape was shaken by sobs of unmistakable
distress. Halsey vainly tried to check him, and angrily demanded
explanation of this womanish conduct. At last John seemed about to
speak, but at that moment Hoover, with shaking hand, grabbed the
master's arm and muttered, "Mr. Halsey,--not now!"

Following the frightened glance of those shifting eyes, Halsey whirled
and looked towards the stairs. Then, with almost indignant question
quivering on his lips, turned angrily on the pair. With a queer
expression on his white and bandaged face, Snipe Lawton stood gazing at
them from the doorway.



CHAPTER IV.


That famous charge of the First Latin is something that must be
explained before this school story can go much further. To begin with,
one has to understand the "lay of the land," or rather the plan of the
school-room. Almost every boy knows how these buildings facing on a
broad business thoroughfare are arranged:--four or five stories high,
thirty or forty or fifty feet front, according to the size of the lot,
perhaps one hundred to two hundred deep, with the rooms from basement to
attic all about of a size unless partitioned off on different lines. In
the days whereof we write Pop had his famous school in the second and
third floors of one of these stereotyped blocks. Two-thirds of the
second floor front was given up to one big room. A high wooden
partition, glazed at the top and pierced with two doors, divided this,
the main school-room, from two smaller ones where the Third and Fourth
Latin wrestled with their verbs and declensions and gazed out through
the long rear windows over a block of back-yards and fences. Aloft on
the third floor were the rooms of the masters of the junior forms in
English, mathematics, writing, etc. But it is with the second, the main
floor and the main room on that floor, that we have to do. This was the
home of the First Latin. It was bare as any school-room seen abroad,
very nearly. Its furniture was inexpensive, but sufficient. A big stove
stood in the centre of the long apartment, and some glazed bookcases
between the west windows and against the south wall at the west end. A
closet, sacred to Pop, was built against the north wall west of the
stairway, which was shut off by a high wooden partition, reaching to the
ceiling. A huge coat-rack stood in the southeast corner. A big open
bookcase, divided off into foot square boxes for each boy's books,
occupied the northeast corner, with its back against the northward wall.
Six or seven benches abutting nearly end to end were strung along the
south side, extending from the west windows almost to the coat-rack, the
farthermost bench being at an obtuse angle. The bookbox, doors, and
partitions were painted a cheerful lead color, the benches a deep dark
green. So much for the accommodation of the lads. Now for their masters.
On a square wooden dais, back to the light, was perched the stained pine
desk at which from one-thirty to three each afternoon sat glorified Pop.
Boy nor man ventured to assume that seat at other time, save when that
front, like Jove, gleamed above the desk to threaten and command, and
the massive proportions, clad in glossy broadcloth of scholarly black,
settled into the capacious depths of that wicker-bottomed chair. In
front of the desk, six feet away, the low stove, so often seasoned with
Cayenne pepper, warmed the apartment, but obstructed not his view. At an
equal distance beyond the stove was the table at which from nine A.M. to
three P.M. sat the master in charge of the room, and thereby hung many
and many a tale. It was a great big, flat-topped table, covered with
shiny black oilcloth, slightly padded, and was so hollowed out on the
master's side that it encompassed him round about like some modern boom
defence against torpedo attack, and many a time that defence was needed.
From the instant of the Doctor's ponderous appearance at the door law
and disciplined order prevailed within this scholastic sanctuary, but of
all the bear-gardens ever celebrated in profane history it was the worst
during the one hour in which, each day from eleven to twelve, Mr. Meeker
imparted to the First Latin his knowledge of the higher mathematics and
endeavored to ascertain what, if any, portion thereof lodged long enough
to make even a passing impression on the minds of that graceless
assembly. There were other hours during which the spirit of mischief had
its sway. There were other masters who found that First Latin an
assemblage of youths who made them wonder why the Doctor had, after
long, long years of observance, finally banished forever the system of
punishment which was of the breech--the _vis a tergo_ order, that was
the mainstay of grammar-school discipline in Columbia's proud past; but
it was left to Mr. Meeker to enjoy as did no other man the full
development of a capacity for devilment, a rapacity for mischief never
equalled in the annals of the school.

Whenever the class was formed for recitation it took seats on those
northward-facing benches, the head of the class in a chair, with his
back to the avenue window, close by the westernmost bench. The others of
the "Sacred Band," as that guileful First Latin had once been derisively
named, strung out in the order of their class rank along the benches,
with Hoover, nine times out of ten, alone at the bottom. The system of
recitation was peculiar to the school, and proved that the "copious
notes," so often scornfully, yet enviously, referred to by outsiders,
were only blessings in disguise. It might be that Virgil was the subject
of the hour, the lesson say some fifty lines in the third book, and in
this event Beach, not Meeker, was in the chair, a man of firmer mould,
yet not invulnerable. One after another, haphazard, the youngsters were
called upon to read, scan, translate, and at the very first slip in
quantity, error in scanning, mistake of a word in translation, the
master would cry "Next," and the first boy below who could point out the
error and indicate the correction stepped up and took his place above
the fellow at fault. A perfect recitation was a rarity except among the
keen leaders at the head, for no error, big or little, was ever let
pass. It was no easy thing for the average boy to read three lines of
the resounding dactylic hexameters of "P. Virgilius Maro" according to
the Columbia system of the day without a slip in quantity. Scanning,
too, was an art full of traps for the unwary, but hardest of all for one
of Pop's boys was it to translate. No matter how easy it might be by the
aid of the oft-consulted "pony" to turn the Latin into English, it was
the rule of the school that the Doctor's own beautiful rendition should
be memorized word for word wherever it occurred, and the instances, like
the notes, were all too copious. At the word "Enough" that checked his
scanning the boy began to translate, and having given the poetic and
flowery version of the great translator, then turned to and, word by
word, followed with the literal meaning. Then came the prodding
questions as to root, verb, subject, etc., and lucky was the youngster
who, when he took his seat, found himself no more than half a dozen
places below where he started. At the end of the hour the marks were
totted up, and he who had the highest number marched to the head of the
class, the others being assigned according to their score. It was all
plain sailing when the Doctor himself was in the chair. Few boys
ventured on fun with him. On the other hand, few other masters could
maintain order on a system that gave such illimitable possibilities for
devilment. To illustrate: It is a brisk October morning. School has
"been in" an hour. The First Latin is arrayed for recitation in the
Æneid, and the boys have easily induced an Italian organ-grinder to
come, monkey and all, to serenade them, and to the lively notes of
"Patrick's Day in the Morning" one of the confirmed scamps of the class
is called upon to begin. He himself was the heaviest subscriber to the
fund which secured the services of the dark-eyed exile and his agile
monkey. Bliss knows nothing whatever of the lesson and is praying for
the appearance of the red-capped simian at the window. The janitor has
been sent down to bid the organ-grinder go away, but the boys have
blocked that game by bidding higher, and the Italian is warned to pay no
attention to such orders, but to hold his ground,--the neighborhood
approves of him and he'll be short a quarter if he goes. John comes
panting up-stairs to report his ill success, and meantime the recitation
cannot go on. Bliss is finally told to pay no attention to "Patrick's
Day" and to push ahead on the most beautiful lines in the book,

     "_Non ignara mali, miseris succerere disco_,"

and Bliss slips on the quantity of the first syllable of the third word,
is promptly snapped up by Doremus, next below, who tallies one on his
score and jumps above him. Bliss shuts his book despairingly. "Mr.
Beach," he begins, in tones of deepest injury, "I know that just as well
as anybody else; but I protest, sir, I'm so distracted by that grinding
I can't do myself justice--or the subject either." And if the astute
Beach had any lingering doubt as to whether the boys worked that game
themselves or not the doubt is banished now. Bertram, Doremus, Snipe,
Shorty, all are on their feet and pleading with the master to have that
impudent music stopped. Mr. Beach vainly warns them to their seats and
commands silence.

"Mr. Beach, let me go down and drive him away,--I can do it," implores
Beekman, the pigmy Gothamite. It is three minutes before the master can
compel silence in the class, so great is its sense of the outrage upon
its peace and dignity.

"Mr. Beach, let me fetch a policeman," cries Shorty, who knows there
isn't a blue-coat nearer than the Harlem depot at Twenty-sixth Street,
and is spoiling for a chance to get out-of-doors.

"The next boy who speaks until bidden will have five marks struck off,"
says Beach, and with one accord the First Latin opens its twenty-seven
mouths, even Hoover swelling the chorus, and, as though so many
representatives in Congress assembled were hailing the chair, the
twenty-seven ejaculate, "Mr. Beach, nobody's got five yet." Then little
Post jumps up, in affected horror, and runs from his seat half-way to
the master's table. "Mr. Beach!" he cries, "the monkey!"

"Aw, sit down, Post," protests Joy, in the interest of school discipline
and harmony. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself making such a fuss
about a monkey." Snipe and Carey seize the first weapons
obtainable--the sacred ruler and the Japan tray on the Doctor's
desk--and make a lunge for the windows.

"Lawton--Carey! Back to your seats!" orders Beach.

"We only want to drive the monkey away, sir," protests Snipe, with
imploring eyes. "Post'll have a fit, sir, if you let the monkey stay.
He's subject to 'em. Ain't you, Post?"

"_Yes_, sir," eagerly protests Post, on the swear-to-anything principle
when it's a case of school devilment, and two minutes more are consumed
in getting those scamps back to their places and recording their fines,
"Ten marks apiece," which means that when the day's reckoning is made
ten units will be deducted from their total score. The settlement, too,
is prolonged and complicated through the ingenuity of Snipe and the
connivance of Bagshot and Bertram, who have promptly moved up and
occupied the place vacated by their long-legged, curly-pated, brown-eyed
comrade, and who now sturdily maintain that Snipe doesn't know where he
belongs. As a matter of fact, Snipe doesn't; neither does he greatly
care. He's merely insisting on the customary frolic before the class
settles down to business, but to see the fine indignation in his
handsome face and listen to the volume of protest on his tongue you
would fancy his whole nature was enlisted in the vehement assertion of
his rights.

Mr. Beach fines Snipe another five for losing his place, and then
stultifies himself by ordering Bertram and Bagshot back to their
original station, thus permitting Snipe to resume his seat, whereupon he
promptly claims the remission of the fine on the ground that he himself
had found it, and Bertram, a youth of much dignity of demeanor, gravely
addresses Mr. Beach, and protests that in the interests of decency and
discipline Lawton should forfeit his place, and to prove his entire
innocence of selfish motive offers to leave it to the class, and go to
the foot himself if they decide against him, and the class shouts
approval and urges the distracted Beach to put Snipe out forthwith. Then
somebody signals "Hush!" for Halsey, the head-master, the dark Othello,
has scented mischief from afar, and is heard coming swiftly down from
the floor above, and Halsey is a man who has his own joke but allows no
others. Bliss is the only boy on his feet as the stern first officer
enters and glances quickly and suspiciously about him.

"Go on with the recitation, Mr. Beach," he says. "That Italian was
doubtless hired by these young gentlemen. Let them dance to their own
music now, the eloquent Bliss in the lead. Go on with your lines,
Bliss."

And as this is just what Bliss can't do, Bliss is promptly "flunked" and
sent to the foot, where Hoover grins sardonically. He's ahead of one
fellow anyhow. Just so long now as that organ-grinder does must Halsey
stay--and supervise, and scorch even the best scholars in the class, for
well he knows the First Latin and they him, and their respect for him is
deeper than his for them, despite the known fact that Pop himself looks
upon them with more than partial eyes. The class is getting the worst of
it when in comes an opportune small boy. "Mr. Meeker says will Mr.
Halsey please step into the Fourth Latin room a minute," and Halsey has
to go.

"If those young gentlemen give you any trouble, Mr. Beach, keep the
whole class in at recess," he says, and thereupon, with eyes of saddest
reproach, the class follows him to the door, as though to say, How can
such injustice live in mind so noble? But the moment Halsey vanishes the
gloom goes with him. Beach's eyes are on the boys at the foot of the
class, and with a batter and bang the Japan tray on the Doctor's desk
comes settling to the floor, while Joy, who dislodged it, looks straight
into the master's startled eyes with a gaze in which conscious
innocence, earnest appeal, utter disapprobation of such silly pranks,
all are pictured. Joy can whip the bell out from under the master's nose
and over the master's table and all the time look imploringly into the
master's eyes, as though to say, "Just heaven! do you believe me capable
of such disrespect as that?" Three boys precipitate themselves upon the
precious waiter, eager to restore it to its place, and bang their heads
together in the effort. Five marks off for Shorty, Snipe, and Post.
Bagshot is on the floor, and announces as the sense of the First Latin
that a boy who would do such a thing should be expelled. Mr. Beach says
the First Latin hasn't any sense to speak of, and tells Bagshot to begin
where he left off. Bagshot thereupon declares he can't remember. It's
getting near the "business end" of the hour, and the whole class has to
look to its marks, so it can't all be fun. Thereupon Beach, who is
nothing if not classical, refers to Bagshot's lack of acquaintance with
the Goddess of Memory. "Who was she, Bagshot?" "Mnemosyne." "Very good;
yes, sir." ("Thought it was Bacchante!" shouts little Beekman. "No, sir.
Five marks off, Beekman. No more from you, sir.") "Now, Bagshot, you
should be higher than ten in your class to-day, and would be but for
misbehavior. What was the color of Mnemosyne's hair?" Bagshot glares
about him irresolute, and tries the doctrine of probability.

"Red!"

Beach compresses his lips. "M--n--no. That hardly describes it. Next."

"Carnation," hazards Van Kleeck.

"Next! Next! Next!" says Beach, indicating with his pencil one after
another of the eager rank of boys, and, first one at a time and
distinctly, then in confused tumbling over each other's syllables, the
wiseacres of the class shout their various guesses.

"Vermilion!"

"Scarlet!"

"Carrot color!"

"Solferino!"

"Magenta!"

"Pea-green!"

"Sky-blue!"

"Brick-red!" (This last from Turner, who makes a bolt for a place above
Bagshot, and can only be driven back and convinced of the inadequacy of
his answer by liberal cuttings of ten to twenty marks.) Then, at last,
Beach turns to Carey, at the far head of the class, and that gifted
young gentleman drawls,--

"Fl-a-a-me color."

"Right!" says the master, whereupon half a dozen contestants from below
spring to their feet, with indignation in their eyes:

"Well, what did I say, sir?"

"That's exactly what I meant, sir."

"I'll leave it to Bliss if that wasn't my answer, sir."

And nothing but the reappearance of Othello puts an end to the clamor
and settles the claimants. Shorty submits that his answer covered the
case, that Mnemosyne herself couldn't tell carrot color from flame, and
is sure the Doctor would declare his answer right, but is summarily
squelched by Mr. Halsey, and he has the "_nous_" to make no reference to
the matter when the Doctor comes. The hour is nearly over. Only three
minutes are allowed them in which to stow their Virgils in the big open
bookcase and extract their algebras. Halsey vanishes to see to it that
the Third Latin goes to the writing-room without mobbing the Fourth. The
marks of the First are recorded, not without a volume of comment and
chaff and protest. Then silence settles down as the master begins giving
out the next day's lesson, for the word has been passed along the line
of benches, "Get ready for a charge!" A moment later the janitor sounds
the bell on the landing without, and twenty-six young fellows spring
into air and rush for the bookcase. Not a word is spoken,--Hoover,
alone, holds aloof,--but in less time than it takes to tell it, with
solemnity on every face except one or two that will bubble over in
excess of joy, the First Latin is jammed in a scrimmage such as one sees
nowadays only on the football field. The whole living mass heaves
against those stout partitions till they bend and crack. From the
straining, struggling crew there rises the same moaning sound, swelling
into roar and dying away into murmur, and at last the lustier fight
their way out, algebras in hand, and within another five minutes order
is apparently evolved from chaos.

In such a turmoil and in such a charge Joy's watch disappeared that
October day, and the school had not stopped talking of it yet.

It has been said that two boys were the observed of gloomy eyes the
Monday following Snipe's misfortune. One, Hoover, of course. The other a
fellow who in turn had sought to be everybody's chum and had ended by
being nobody's. His name was Briggs. He was a big, powerful fellow,
freckle-faced, sandy-haired, and gifted with illimitable effrontery. He
was a boy no one liked and no one could snub, for Briggs had a skin as
thick as the sole of a school-boy's boot, and needed it. One
circumstance after another during the previous year had turned one boy
after another from him, but Briggs kept up every appearance of cordial
relations, even with those who cold-shouldered him and would have naught
to do with him. During the previous school-year he had several times
followed Snipe, Shorty, and their particular set, only to find that they
would scatter sooner than have him one of the party. He had been denied
admission to the houses of most of the class. He had been twice
blackballed by the Uncas, and it was said by many of the school when
Briggs began to consort with Hoover that he had at last found his proper
level. One allegation at his expense the previous year had been that he
was frequently seen at billiard-rooms or on the streets with those two
Hulkers, and even Hoover had hitherto eschewed that association. Perhaps
at first the Hulkers would not have Hoover. The class couldn't tell and
really didn't care to know. One thing was certain: within the fortnight
preceding the opening of this story Briggs and Hoover had been together
more than a little and with the Hulkers more than enough.

"Are you sure of what you say?" both Carey and Joy had asked Shorty that
exciting Monday morning, as the eager youngster detailed for the tenth
time the incidents of the assault on Snipe.

"I'm as sure of it as I am of the fire," said Shorty, positively. "Jim
Briggs was with the Metamora crowd, running in the street. He looked
back and laughed after he saw Snipe down."

But when confronted with this statement by the elders of the "Sacred
Band" Briggs promptly and indignantly denied it.

"I never heard of it till to-day!" said he. "'Spose I'd stand by and see
one of my class knocked endwise by a lot of roughs? _No_, sir!"

It was a question of veracity, then, between Briggs and Shorty, the
class believing the latter, but being unable to prove the case. Snipe
himself could say nothing. Being in the lead, he had seen none of the
runners of the Metamora except the heels of a few as they bounded over
him when he rolled into the street. There was an intense feeling
smouldering in the class. They were indeed "laying" for Hoover as they
had been for Briggs when they tumbled out for recess. The latter, with
his characteristic vim and effrontery, denied all knowledge of the
affair, as has been said, and challenged the class to prove a thing
against him. The former, as has been told, lurked within-doors. What had
he to fear? He was not at the scene of the fire and the assault. He
never had energy enough to run. There was some reason why he shrank from
meeting or being questioned by the boys. There was some reason why Snipe
Lawton should have left them and returned to the school, and was
discovered standing there at the doorway, looking fixedly at the
head-master's angered face as it glowered on Hoover and the tearful
John. Whatever the reason, it could not well be divulged in the presence
of Mr. Halsey. Hoover stood off another proposed demonstration in his
honor after school at three o'clock by remaining behind, and only coming
forth when he could do so under the majestic wing of the Doctor himself.
Pop looked curiously at the knots of lingering First Latins, and raised
his high-top hat in response to their salutations. Hoover huddled close
to his side until several blocks were traversed and pursuit was
abandoned. Then he shot into a street-car, leaving the Doctor to ponder
on the unusual attention. And so it happened that while the class was
balked for the time of its purpose, and the victim of Saturday's assault
was debarred from making the queries he had planned, Mr. Halsey was
enabled to pursue his bent. Just as the little group of five, gazing in
disappointment up the avenue after the vanishing forms of the Doctor and
Hoover, was breaking up with the consolatory promise that they'd
confront Hoover with their charges first thing in the morning, the
open-mouthed janitor came running.

"Oh, Lawton!" he panted, "Mr. Halsey says he wishes to speak with you,
and to please come right back."

"I'll wait for you, Snipe," said Shorty. "Day-day, you other fellows."
And wait he did, ten, twenty minutes, and no Snipe came, and, wondering
much, the smaller lad went whistling down the avenue, forgetful, in the
fact that he still wore the jacket, of the dignity demanded of a lad of
the First Latin and full sixteen. He wondered more when eight o'clock
came that evening and without Snipe's ring at the door-bell. He wondered
most when he saw Snipe's pallid, sad-eyed face on the morrow.



CHAPTER V.


There was something in the friendship between those two members of the
First Latin not entirely easy for the school to understand. In many ways
they were antitheses,--Snipe, over-long; Shorty, under-sized; Snipe,
brown-eyed and taciturn, as a rule; Shorty, blue-eyed and talkative
(Loquax was Pop's pet name for him); Snipe was studious; Shorty quick to
learn, but intolerant of drudgery. Both loved play, active exercise, and
adventure. Both took naturally to everything connected with the fire
department, but in addition the smaller boy had a decided love for the
military, and was a member of the drum corps of a famous organization of
the old State militia, and vastly proud of it. Snipe loved the
fishing-rod, and Shorty had no use for one. Shorty loved drill, Snipe
couldn't bear it. Take it all in all, they were an oddly assorted pair,
but when forty-eight hours passed without their being in close
communion something had gone sadly amiss; and that was the case now.

Everybody knew that Snipe Lawton had little or no money of any kind, but
few knew why. His own father had been dead many years. His mother had
remarried when he was twelve years old, and between the boy and his
step-father there was no love whatever. Nor was this the boy's fault.
Open-hearted, affectionate, and of gentle nature, he had really tried to
like and to win the regard of the man who had won his mother's heart and
had given her an attractive, even a beautiful, home. But there are men
who have no sympathy whatever with boys. Mr. Park was one of these, and,
after two years of experiment, gave up trying to understand his
step-son, and declared that the boy must be sent away to school. It is
needless to describe what those two years were to the mother or to the
son. Both welcomed the decision, though it cost the former many tears. A
younger sister was married and living in New York City. Mr. Park was a
Columbiad and a fervent admirer of the great Doctor. It was arranged
that the boy should have his home under the roof of his aunt, Mrs.
Lawrence, and his lessons under Pop. He grew rapidly, and his clothes
were generally short for him. He was shy, sensitive, and hated to ask
for money from home, because it had to come from his step-father. Time
and again he could not go to the little social gatherings of his
schoolmates, with whom he became popular almost from the start, solely
because of his outgrown coat and trousers. His aunt had a houseful of
company much of the time; her husband's kindred were numerous and
prevalent, and, to tell the truth, she was a little ashamed of the tall,
shy, sometimes awkward, if not gawky, boy, whose wrists were always in
evidence and whose trousers were so short and shabby. And so it resulted
that poor Snipe had his little bedroom in her garret, which the servants
soon learned they could neglect with impunity, and a place at her table
when they were not entertaining company; but home, he really had none.
Breakfast was served at the Lawrences' at nine o'clock, but before that
time Snipe was expected to come down to forage for himself and be off to
school and out of the way. Luncheon he could take with him, if he chose
to put it up and carry it, but as none of the other boys did this Snipe
soon ceased, and one of Duncan's doughnuts was the mid-day sustenance,
washed down by a glass of what the Doctor referred to as "copious cold
Croton" (the Doctor loved that word copious), and on this rather meagre
diet Snipe worried through the day till dinner-time, which with Uncle
and Aunt Lawrence was half-after six, and a very hungry boy was he who
silently, even humbly, took his seat among the lively, chattering party
(there were always six or eight in the family circle), and, as soon as
his appetite was appeased, was permitted to withdraw, presumably, to his
studies, though the fact that he was at Shorty's home was always
comforting to Aunt Lawrence, for she had great regard for certain
feminine relatives of the smaller boy, and believed that wherever they
presided her nephew could not possibly get into mischief. It is not that
Aunt Lawrence was either knowingly neglectful or actively unkind. She
was a busy woman, a fashionable woman, a woman full of pleasant impulse.
She had told George to be sure and come to her whenever anything went
wrong, when he needed advice or aid, or--rather vaguely--anything else.
She had told the butler to be sure to see that Master George had coffee
ready every morning at quarter-past eight, and the seamstress was
ordered to keep his wardrobe in repair, and for a month or so both did
as they were bid, and then let Master George look out for himself. Mr.
Park had requested Mr. Lawrence to see that George was given fifty cents
each Saturday for his spending money, out of which he was to provide his
own shoes and gloves. This was Park's own allowance in the old days when
he was a boy at the grammar school and Columbia was away down-town,
about on line with the City Hall, and the boys lunched sumptuously at
Shaddle's for thrippence; but Park had not to buy his shoes in those
days, though he said he bought his gloves out of his little sum. He
simply argued that it would be good discipline for his step-son to learn
to economize. Gloves and shoes cost much less in the ante-bellum days
than now, and less in Park's school-days than in those of his step-son.
George took what was given him silently and without appeal, and during
his three years at Pop's that was every cent of money he received from
home. But gloves, he said, he had no use for, and boots were far beyond
him. Furthermore, low shoes, summer and winter both, were best to run
in, and not another boy at the Doctor's dreamed of the true state of the
case, unless it was little Shorty, for to that boy the hungry heart of
the lonely fellow seemed to go out from the start. He, too, was an
alien; he, too, had left the mother wing to find a nest in the great,
thronging city; he, too, was probably not a little in the way, but for
him at least there was warmth and interest and sympathy and kindliness,
and many a time and oft did Snipe roost all night long in that snug
white bed of Shorty's, with no one "at home" the wiser. And many and
many a time had he been made welcome at the bountiful board where Shorty
sat among an affectionate kindred, and the tall boy's soft brown eyes
seemed mutely to thank each member of the big family circle for every
pleasant word. They had grown to like him, despite his silence, or
perhaps because of it and its contrast with Shorty's chatter. They took
no note of his short-sleeved, skimpy sack-coat or the low shoes at which
Briggs had sneered and other fellows at school had levelled their
witticisms until they saw it hurt, and then, wonder of wonders, the
latter quit it. With all their impulse for fun and frolic and mischief,
Pop's boys had the leaven of gentlemen. Even Hoover had never twitted
Lawton on the evidences of his poverty, and there were others of that
immortal twenty-seven little better off than he. In all the First Latin,
Briggs had been the only one to continue the torment after the discovery
that it brought pain and distress, and even Briggs no longer dare
attempt it when certain of the class were near, for Julian, overhearing
him one day, had called him aside at recess and told him that only a
mean-spirited whelp would be guilty of such a thing, slapped his face,
and invited him into a neighboring stable to fight it out, which
invitation Briggs declined. Even little Shorty, overhearing Briggs one
day, had flown at him like a young bull-terrier and drawn blood from
Briggs's nose before they could be separated. The class stood up for
Snipe most loyally in these days of his early tribulations, and by the
time Second Latin year was over no one seemed to think of his worn and
undeniably shabby garb. Snipe himself was "all right," said they. But
there was lingering venom in the soul of Briggs, and as for Hoover, his
soul was that of Ishmael and his hand against everybody, and when these
two crabbed natures drifted together in alliance, offensive and
defensive, it meant trouble for somebody, and there was no fun in the
First Latin when Tuesday came, for to one and all it was plain that
Snipe Lawton's heart was heavy, and his big brown eyes were full of
nameless misery.

Twice that morning had Shorty tried to get him aside with sympathetic
question, but the elder shook his head. There was no time. At recess,
when Shorty counted on seeing his chum and hearing the whole story,
Lawton never came out at all. John, the janitor, said he was having a
talk with Mr. Halsey, trying to get him not to report something to the
Doctor, but John himself seemed ill at ease and anxious to avoid
question. The class communed together and instinctively connected Briggs
and Hoover with the mystery, but Hoover had disappointed everybody by
remaining away from school that day, and as for Briggs, he was in
everybody's way. Wherever he saw a group in low-toned conference he
would make for it, and by his very presence and loud-voiced questions
and conjectures put an end to their confidences. Everybody seemed to
feel that when the Doctor came down that afternoon there would be a
sensation of some kind, and school reassembled after recess and the
First Latin went to its benches without even accidentally upsetting one
of them. Snipe was sitting at the end of the upper bench looking
drearily out on the avenue, and Mr. Halsey, with darker face than usual,
had taken his accustomed place.

A spiritless recitation was begun, Snipe losing his head and memory and
place after place. There were boys who knew the answers to questions at
which he only shook his head and who presently refused to speak and go
above him. Halsey's face grew darker and darker at these evidences of
sympathy. The "next! next! next!" became incessant. Up even towards the
head of the class, above the seat to which the sad-eyed fellow had
drifted, there was no animation. The leaders gave their answers in low
tones, as though to say, "We've got to go through with this, but we've
no heart in it. Snipe's proper place is up here among us." It was
actually a relief to everybody when at last, towards the close of the
hour, the Doctor's heavy tread was heard, slow and majestic, ascending
the wooden stairs.

It was his custom to halt at the doorway, and from that point of view
survey his waiting scholars, the foot of the class coming in for
invariable comment. I can see him now, portly, erect, scrupulously neat
and exact in dress from the crown of his deeply weeded high top hat to
the tip of his polished shoes. Clean shaved, the wide upper lip, the
broad massive chin, the great sweep of jaw. Collar, cuffs, and
shirt-front immaculate; coat, waistcoat, and trousers, and the broad
stock of flawless black. The gold seal dangling from his watch ribbon
the only speck of color, the gold top of his stout, straight, black cane
concealed in his hand. Under their shaggy brows the deep-set gray eyes
twinkle, as slowly he lifts the long ferule and points it at the
luckless wight on the lowermost bench; then with inquiring gaze sweeps
the line of intent young faces, looking for some one.

"What!" he says. "Another occupant! Where, then, is the

     '_Monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens, cui lumen ademptum_'?"

And at any other day the class, barring Hoover, would have shouted with
appreciative joy; but not to-day. Despite Hoover's absence a cloud has
lowered over their house. They cannot laugh, even in counterfeited glee,
and the Doctor's face changes on the instant as he steps within. He has
noted Lawton's unusual position and his strange, white face.

"Anything wrong, Mr. Halsey?"

The head-master rises and turns to his revered senior. In low tone he
says, so that only one or two can catch the words, "A matter I'll have
to tell you after school, sir." And school must last over an hour
longer. Silently the class exchanges the text-book for Xenophon. The
Doctor's own hour has come, sacred to Greek, and silently the boys
retake their places. But the occasion weighs upon the Doctor's mind.
Something tells him there is worry ahead, and the sooner it is met the
better. One expedient never fails him. "How have they done to-day, Mr.
Halsey?"

The head-master purses up his lip. He knows that since recess at least,
so far as recitation is concerned, they have done unusually ill; but he
knows what the Doctor desires.

"_Behaved_ rather better than usual, sir."

"One good turn deserves another," says Pop. "How many young gentlemen of
the First Latin deserve half holiday? All hands up!" And up go the
hands, but with only half the usual alacrity.

"The ayes have it. The class may retire."

And slowly the First Latin finds its legs and lingers, for Halsey
whispers to Pop, and the latter, with somewhat grayer shade to his face,
says, "Lawton will remain."

The boys dawdle unaccountably about the big bookcase, glancing over
their shoulders at Lawton, who sits with drooping head and downcast eyes
opposite Halsey's table. Briggs, panting a little, slinks through the
silent group to the doorway, and scuttles quickly down the stairs. When
Joy and Beekman reach the street he is peering round the stable at the
corner, but slips out of sight an instant later. Three or four of the
class, Shorty among them, still hover about the coat-rack. Shorty says
he can't find his overshoes, which is not remarkable, as he did not wear
them. Halsey is nervously tapping his desk with the butt of his pencil
and glancing at the dawdlers with ominous eyes. At last the Doctor
uplifts his head and voice. He has been looking over some papers on his
desk.

"Those young gentlemen at the coat-rack seem reluctant to leave school,
Mr. Halsey. Hah! Julian, cestus bearing! Dix, ecclesiasticus! Et tu,
puer parvule, lingua longissima!" He pauses impressively, and, raising
hand and pencil, points to the door. "If one of 'em comes back before
to-morrow, Mr. Halsey, set him to work on Sallust."

And then the three know enough to stand no longer on the order of their
going. Their faces are full of sympathy as they take a farewell peep at
Snipe, and Shorty signals to unseeing eyes "I'll wait." And wait the
little fellow does, a long hour, kicking his heels about the cold
pavement without, and then the Second Latin comes tumbling down-stairs,
scattering with noisy glee, and marvelling much to see Shorty looking
blue and cold and mournful. He will not answer their questions; he's
only waiting for Snipe. And another quarter-hour passes, and then for an
instant the boy's eyes brighten, and he springs forward as his tall chum
appears at the doorway, cap downpulled over his eyes, coat-collar
hunched up to his ears, a glimpse of stocking between the hem of his
scant trousers and those inadequate shoes. But the light goes out as
quickly as it came, for with Lawton, similarly bundled up and well-nigh
as shabby, is the head-master, who silently uplifts his hand and warns
Shorty back; then, linking an arm in one of Lawton's, leads him away
around the corner of Twenty-fifth Street.

It is more than the youngster can stand. Long-legged Damon, short-legged
Pythias, the two have been friends since Third Latin days and chums for
over a year. Shorty springs after the retreating forms, but halts short
at sound of his name, called in imperative tone from above. At the open
window stands the Doctor gazing out. He uses no further words. His right
hand is occupied with his snowy cambric handkerchief. With his left he
makes two motions. He curves his finger inward, indicating plainly
"Come back!" and then with the index points down the avenue, meaning as
plainly "Go!" and there is no cheery, undignified whistle as Shorty
hastens to tell his tale of sorrow to sympathetic ears at home.



CHAPTER VI.


There were three more school-days that week, and they were the quietest
of the year. On the principle that it was an ill wind that blew nobody
good, there was one instructor to whom such unusual decorum was welcome,
and that was poor Meeker, who noted the gloom in the eyes of most of the
First Latin, and responsively lengthened his face, yet at bottom was
conscious of something akin to rejoicing. His had been a hapless lot. He
had entered upon his duties the first week in September, and the class
had taken his measure the first day. A better-meaning fellow than Meeker
probably never lived, but he was handicapped by a soft, appealing manner
and a theory that to get the most out of boys he must have their
good-will, and to get their good-will he must load them with what the
class promptly derided as "blarney." He was poor and struggling, was
graduated high in his class at college, was eager to prepare himself for
the ministry, and took to teaching in the mean time to provide the
necessary means. The First Latin would have it that Pop didn't want him
at all, but that Meeker gave him no rest until promised employment, for
Meeker had well known that there was to be a vacancy, and was first to
apply for it. But what made it more than a luckless move for him was
that he had applied for the position vacated by a man Pop's boys adored,
"a man from the ground up," as they expressed it, a splendid,
deep-voiced, deep-chested, long-limbed athlete, with a soul as big as
his massive frame and an energy as boundless as the skies. He, too, had
worked his way to the priesthood, teaching long hours at Pop's each day,
tutoring college weaklings or would-be freshmen in the evenings,
studying when and where he could, but wasting never a minute. Never was
there a tutor who preached less or practised more. His life was a lesson
of self-denial, of study, of purpose. Work hard, play hard, pray hard,
might have been his motto, for whatsoever that hand of his found to do
that did he with all his might. Truth, manliness, magnetism, were in
every glance of his clear eyes, every tone of his deep voice. Boys
shrank from boys' subterfuges and turned in unaccustomed disgust from
school-boy lies before they had been a month in Tuttle's presence; he
seemed to feel such infinite pity for a coward. Never using a harsh
word, never an unjust one, never losing faith or temper, his was yet so
commanding a nature that by sheer force of his personality and example
his pupils followed unquestioning. With the strength of a Hercules, he
could not harm an inferior creature. With the courage of a lion, he had
only sorrow for the faint-hearted. With a gift and faculty for
leadership that would have made him a general-in-chief, he was humble as
a child in the sight of his Maker, and in all the long years of his
great, brave life, only once, that his boys ever heard of, did he use
that rugged strength to discipline or punish a human being, and that
only when courtesy and persuasion had failed to stop a ruffian tongue in
its foul abuse of that Maker's name. It was a solemn day for the school,
a glad one for the church militant, when he took leave of the one to
take his vows in the other. There wasn't a boy among all his pupils that
would have been surprised at his becoming a bishop inside of five
years,--as, indeed, he did inside of ten,--and the class had not ceased
mourning their loss when Meeker came to take his place. "Fill Tut's
shoes!" said Snipe, with fine derision. "Why, he'll rattle around in 'em
like shot in a drum." No wonder Meeker failed to fill the bill.

And yet he tried hard. Something told him the First Latin would decide
whether he should go or stay. Halsey had not been consulted in his
selection, or Halsey would have told the Doctor in so many words that it
took a man of bigger calibre to handle that class. Beach had not been
consulted. He had known Meeker in undergraduate days and thought him
lacking in backbone. Pop had "sprung" him, so to speak, upon the
school, as though he really felt he owed his boys an apology, and, with
the ingenuity of so many unregenerate young imps, the First Latin set to
work to make Meeker's life a burden to him.

It was one of the fads of the school that the individual slate should be
used in mathematical hour instead of a wall slate or blackboard. It was
one of the practices to give out examples in higher arithmetic or
equations in algebra and have the pupils work them out then and there,
each boy, presumably, working for himself. Meeker introduced a
refinement of the system. He announced one example at a time, and
directed that as soon as a pupil had finished the work he should step
forward and deposit his slate, face downward, on the corner of the
master's table. The next boy to finish should place his slate on top of
that of the first, and at the end of five minutes the pile of slates
thus formed was turned bottom side up. All boys who had not finished
their work in the given time--four, five, six, or eight minutes,
according to the difficulty of the problem--were counted out. All whose
work proved to be incorrect were similarly scored, while those who had
obtained by proper methods the right result were credited with a mark of
three, with an additional premium for the quickest, the first boy
counting six, the second five, the third four. Meeker introduced the
system with a fine flourish of trumpets and marvelled at its prompt
success. Even boys known to be lamentably backward in the
multiplication-table were found to present slates full of apparently
unimpeachable figures in cube root or equations of the second degree,
and the whole twenty-seven would have their slates on the pile within
the allotted time. "Of course," said Meeker, "it is beyond belief that
young gentlemen of the First Latin would be guilty of accepting
assistance or copying from a competitor's work," whereat there would be
heard the low murmur, as of far-distant, but rapidly approaching,
tornado, and the moan would swell unaccountably, even while every pencil
was flying, every eye fixed upon the slate. This thing went along for
two or three days with no more serious mishap than that twice, without
an apparent exciting cause, while Meeker would be elaborately explaining
some alleged knotty point to Joy or Lawton, the half-completed stack
would edge slowly off the slippery table and topple with prodigious
crash and clatter to the floor. Then Meeker bethought himself of a
stopper to these seismic developments, and directed that henceforth,
instead of being deposited at the corner, the slates should be laid
directly in front of him on the middle of the desk. This was most
decorously done as much as twice, and then an extraordinary thing
occurred. It had occasionally happened that two or even three of the
boys would finish their work at the same moment, and in their eagerness
to get their slates foremost on the stack a race, a rush, a collision,
had resulted. Then these became surprisingly frequent, as many as four
boys finishing together and coming like quarter horses to the goal, but
the day that Meeker hit on the expedient of piling the slates up
directly in front of him, and at the third essay, there was witnessed
the most astonishing thing of all. Snipe was always a leader in
mathematics, as he was in mischief, and he, Carey, Satterlee, and Joy
were sure to be of the first four, but now, for a wonder, four, even
five, minutes passed and not a slate was in. "Come, come, gentlemen,"
said Meeker, "there's nothing remarkable in this example. I obtained the
result with the utmost ease in three minutes." And still the heads bent
lower over the slates and the pencils whizzed more furiously. Five
minutes went by. "Most astonishing!" said Meeker, and began going over
his own work to see if there could be any mistake, and no sooner was he
seen to be absorbed thereat than quick glances shot up and down the long
bench-line and slates were deftly passed from hand to hand. The laggards
got those of the quicker. The experts swiftly straightened out the
errors of the slow, and some mysterious message went down from hand to
hand in Snipe's well-known chirography, and then, just as Meeker would
have raised his head to glance at the time and warn them there was but
half a minute more, as one boy up rose the twenty-seven and charged upon
him with uplifted slates. Batter, clatter, rattle, bang! they came
crashing down upon the desk, while in one mighty, struggling upheaval
the class surged about him and that unstable table.

    "But those behind cried 'Forward!'
    And those before cried 'Back!'"

Turner, Beekman, Snipe, and Shorty vigorously expostulating against such
riotous performances and appealing to their classmates not to upset Mr.
Meeker, who had tilted back out of his chair only in the nick of time,
for the table followed, skating across the floor, and it was "really
verging on the miraculous," said he, "that these gentlemen should all
finish at the same instant." But that was the last of the slate-pile
business. "Hereafter, young gentlemen," said Meeker, on the morrow, "you
will retain your seats and slates, but as soon as you have obtained the
result hold up your hand. I will record the name and the order and then
call you forward, as I may wish to see your slates." This worked
beautifully just once, then the hands would go up in blocks of five, and
the class as one boy would exclaim "Astonishing! Miraculous!" Then
Meeker abandoned the speed system and tried the plan of calling up at
thirty-second intervals by the watch as many boys as he thought should
have finished, beginning at the head of the class. And then the First
Latin gave him an exhibition of the peculiar properties of those
benches. They were about eight or nine feet long, supported on two
stoutly braced "legs," with the seat projecting some eighteen inches
beyond each support. Put one hundred and forty pounds on one end of an
eight-foot plank, with a fulcrum a foot away, and the long end will tilt
up and point to the roof in the twinkling of an eye. Meeker called his
lads up three at a time, at the beginning of the next new system, and
smiled to see how smoothly it worked and how uncommonly still the lads
were. Then came exhibit number two, and in the most innocent way in the
world Doremus and Ballou--the heavy weights of the class--took seats at
the extreme lower end of their respective benches. The sudden rising of
the three other occupants when called forward resulted in instant
gymnastics. The long bench suddenly tilted skyward, a fat young
gentleman was spilled off the shorter end, vehemently struggling and
sorely bruised, and then back the bench would come with a bang that
shook the premises, while half the class would rush in apparent
consternation to raise their prostrate and aggrieved comrade. Hoover's
bench was never known to misbehave in this way, for he had it usually
all to himself, except when some brighter lad was sent to the foot in
temporary punishment. But no matter how absurd the incident, how
palpable the mischief, it was apparently a point of honor with the class
to see nothing funny in it, to maintain an expression of severe
disapproval, if not of righteous indignation, and invariably to denounce
the perpetrators of such indignity as unworthy to longer remain in a
school whose boast it was that the scholars loved their masters and
would never do aught to annoy them. The most amazing things were
perpetually happening. Meeker's eyes were no sharper than his wits, and
he could not understand how it was that Snipe and Joy, two of the
keenest mathematicians in the class, should so frequently require
assistance at the desk, and when they returned to their seats, such
objects on his table as the hand-bell, the pen-rack, or even the
ink-stand, would be gifted with invisible wings and whisk off after
them. Nothing could exceed Snipe's astonishment and just abhorrence when
it was finally discovered that a long loop of tough but almost invisible
horse-hair was attached to the back of his sack-coat, or the
condemnation in the expressed disapprobation of the class when Joy was
found to be similarly equipped. Then Meeker's high silk hat, hung on a
peg outside Pop's particular closet, began to develop astonishing powers
of procreation, bringing forth one day a litter of mice, on another a
pair of frolicsome kittens. Meeker abandoned the hat for a billycock as
the autumn wore on, and the class appeared content; only the Doctor was
allowed a high hat. But Meeker was of nervous temperament, and started
at sudden sounds and squirmed under the influence of certain others,
noting which the class sympathetically sprinkled the floor with
torpedoes and jumped liked electrified frogs when they exploded under
some crunching heel, and the fuel for the big stove presently became
gifted with explosive tendencies that filled Meeker's soul with dread,
and the room with smoke, and the breasts of the First Latin with amaze
that the janitor could be so careless. Then there was a strolling
German band, with clarinets of appalling squeak, that became speedily
possessed of the devil and a desire to "spiel" under the school windows
just after the mathematical hour began, and Meeker's voice was uplifted
from the windows in vain protest. The band was well paid to come and the
policeman to keep away. I fear me that many a dime of poor Snipe's
little stipend went into that unhallowed contribution rather than into
his boots. All this and more was Meeker accepting with indomitable
smiles day after day until the sudden withdrawal of George Lawton from
the school,--no boy knew why, and all the fun went out of the hearts of
the First Latin when they heard the rumor going round that Pop himself
had written to his old pupil, Mr. Park, suggesting that his step-son
would better be recalled from a city which seemed so full of dangerous
temptation to one of George's temperament, and yet Pop had really seemed
fond of him.

The whole thing was unaccountable. The most miserable lad in school,
apparently, was Shorty. He had gone to the Lawrences to inquire for his
chum right after dinner that Tuesday evening, and the servant checked
him when he would have bolted, as usual, up the stairs to George's room.
Mrs. Lawrence was entertaining friends at dinner, but had left word that
if Master Reggie came he was to be told that George could see no one
that evening, that Mrs. Lawrence would explain it all later. Shorty
went there Wednesday on his way to school, and the butler said Master
George was still in his room, and that he was not to be disturbed.
Wednesday at recess the leaders of the class held a council and
determined to appoint a committee to ask an explanation of the Doctor,
since not a word could be extracted from Halsey or Beach, and the
committee called right after recitation and "rose and reported" within
two minutes. Pop silently pointed to the door. Then seeing that Shorty
and Joy still lingered, half determined, supplemented the gesture by
"Young gentlemen, pack yourselves off! When I am ready to tell you,
you'll hear it and not before."

But the woe in Shorty's face was too much for him, after all. He knew
the lads and the friendship they bore each other.

"Here you, sir!" he cried, with affected sternness, "sit there till I
want you," and he pointed to a bench, even while frowning at the others
of the disheartened delegation, who scuttled away down-stairs in dread
of the Doctor's rising wrath. When all were gone and the big, bare
school-rooms were still, Pop looked up from a letter he was writing,
beckoned with his long forefinger, then reversing the hand, pointed
downward at the floor beside his desk, and Shorty, recognizing the
signal, with leaping heart and twitching lips, marched up and took his
stand, looking dumbly into the Doctor's pallid face. The great man
shoved his gold-rimmed spectacles half-way up across the expanse of
forehead the lads had likened to "a ten-acre lot," folded his hands
across the voluminous waistcoat, and leaned back in his chair. Then his
eyes swept downward.

"Has our friend Snipe often been in need of money?" he asked.

"He had hardly any at all, sir," blurted Shorty, with something like a
sob. "There are holes in the soles of his shoes and corresponding holes
worn in his stockings, and the skin of the soles of his feet'll go next.
He never had enough to get a decent lunch with, and couldn't join our
first nine last year because he hadn't the uniform and wouldn't ask for
one. The Club subscribed and bought it,--he was so bully a player. All
the----"

The Doctor knows that Shorty is not named because of brevity in speech,
and upraises a white hand. "Did he owe any of the boys,--Hoover, for
instance?"

"He wouldn't borrow," said Shorty, indignantly; "last of all from
Hoover. None of us ever owe _him_ anything except----" And Shorty gulps,
and the tears that were starting to his eyes burn out before the sudden
fire of his wrath.

"Except what?" asks Pop, deliberately.

"A lickin'," says Shorty, with reddening face, whereat the Doctor's head
tilts back and the great stomach heaves spasmodically. The grim lines
about the wide mouth relax. It is his way of laughing and he enjoys it,
but Shorty doesn't.

"I wish you'd tell me what's the trouble with--with Lawton, sir," he
almost sobs again. "They won't let me see him, and the boys say it's all
a----" But here Shorty breaks off, which is unlike him.

"Yes," suggested Pop, "they say it's all a--what?"

"Shame," said Shorty, well knowing that that shame is mentally qualified
by a most unqualified adjective.

Pop ponders a moment. "Has none of the boys missed anything besides
Joy,--no trinkets, rings, anything?"

"Hoover and Briggs are always missing something, sir, and Seymour lost a
gold pencil."

"But Lawton never borrowed and didn't owe anybody,--in school, I mean?"
asks Pop.

"Didn't owe anybody _anywhere_ that I know of!" protests Shorty. "He
says it makes him sick to owe anything. If Hoover says anything
different, he's lying. That's all."

"What's the reason Hoover isn't at school?" asks Pop, and while his face
does not change the eyes study closely.

"He's afraid of trouble because some of that Metamora set tripped and
hurt Snipe, running to a fire last Saturday."

"That's what you get for running to fires, sir. Young gentlemen have no
business mingling with crowds and rowdies. That's why you lost the head
of the class in Latin three weeks ago. You spent hours at that big fire
down-town when you should have been at your Virgil."

Shorty reddens, but attempts no defence. He knows it is so. He knows,
furthermore, that if the bell were to strike the next minute he'd be off
like the wind,--Latin, and even Snipe, to the contrary notwithstanding.
What he doesn't understand is how the Doctor knows all about it.

"Youngster," says the Doctor, after a moment's reflection, "I want
Hoover back at school at once, and there must be no harming him in any
way. What's more, I have told Lawton to stay away until I send for him.
There are reasons for this, and you can say so to the class. To-night
you will see him yourself, and he will tell you the whole story. Now, I
must write to Hoover _paterfamilias_. Run along!"

But Pop is mistaken in one matter. Shorty does not see Snipe that night,
nor the next day, nor the next. He waits vainly until late in the
evening, then goes to the Lawrences', and Mrs. Lawrence, with scared
face, comes down to ask what he means. George had asked permission soon
after dark to go and spend one hour with his friend and chum and tell
him his troubles. It is now ten o'clock. He has not been there, and he
has not returned.



CHAPTER VII.


Forty-eight hours passed without a trace of George Lawton, and they were
the saddest two days the First Latin ever knew. "All the life went out
of the school with Snipe," was the way Joy expressed it, though no
fellow in the whole establishment was credited with more mischief than
the speaker. Lessons and recitations, despite the best efforts of Halsey
and Beach and the lamb-like bleatings of Meeker, seemed to fall flat.
Even the leaders went through with them in a style more dead than alive,
and at every sound upon the stairs all eyes would be fixed on the
doorway and matters would come to a stand-still in the class. It was
plain that every boy was thinking only of the missing comrade and
praying for tidings of him. The masters, too, were weighed down with
apprehension--or something. Othello's dark face wore a yellowish hue,
and Meeker looked the picture of nervous woe. His complexion, always
pallid, now seemed ashen, and he started at every sudden sound. Thursday
went by without a word of any kind of news. The class huddled together
at recess, taking no notice whatever of Hoover, who skulked away for his
smoke, followed by many unloving eyes but without audible comment, for
Shorty had conveyed Pop's dictum to the class, and when Pop took his
boys into his confidence, as, through some one or two of their number he
sometimes did, and told them thus and so, there was no question. That
class at least observed his wishes to the letter. Hoover had been told
to return to school and no questions asked, and the First Latin was
virtually pledged to the arrangement.

     "_Aut impendere viam, aut poscere causas._"

But a wretched-looking Hoover it was that emerged from the Doctor's
closet at two that afternoon and slunk back to the accustomed place at
the foot of the room. Even Briggs had steered clear of him, and every
one noted how Briggs flitted about from group to group during recess,
his old-time "cheek" apparently vanished, his effrontery replaced by
nervous appeal. He had seized on Shorty, as the boys turned out for
recess, with eager question about Snipe, but the youngster impatiently
shook him off and shot away, light of foot as he was heavy of heart, and
the eyes of the others followed him as he turned into Twenty-fourth
Street, for all seemed to know he was using his half-hour to speed to
the Lawrences' for news of Snipe. Before the bell recalled them he was
back, mournfully shaking his head, and they trooped up-stairs,
low-voiced and disconsolate, Hoover slinking in alone, last of all, his
hands in his pockets, his shoulders hunched, his eyes flitting nervously
about. All through the half-hour the talk had been as to the possible
cause of Snipe's mysterious withdrawal from the school and later and
more mysterious disappearance. Everybody felt that John, the janitor,
could tell something, even if it were only a lie--or a pack of lies, for
John's veracity was a thing held up to scorn at the end of a hair. But
John kept under the wing of some teacher and could not and would not be
approached, and John looked white and scared. The Doctor came at the
usual time, made the usual impressive pause at the doorway, pointed, as
usual, to the usual foot of the class, who blinked and shifted rather
more than ever. Then Pop removed his hat and strode with his usual
deliberation to the closet, hung it on its peg, produced his gold-rimmed
spectacles, and, as usual, wiped the glasses with his spotless cambric
handkerchief as he looked over the notes and letters on his desk, while
in subdued, half-hearted way the recitation went on. Then, with only a
glance along the line of young faces, all studying him and none
regarding Halsey, who at the moment had little Beekman on the rack, he
signalled to Shorty, and the boy sprang to his side.

"Hear anything?" he asked, in undertone, as though he needed not to be
told that Shorty had gone to inquire.

"No news, sir," said Loquax, with lips that twitched alarmingly. "Mrs.
Lawrence will be here right after school."

"Then you stay. I may need you," said the Doctor, and pointed to the
bench.

Five minutes later, after rapidly reading the brief missives on his
desk, the Doctor arose, signalled to Hoover, ushered him into the
lead-colored closet, followed and shut the door, from which quarter of
an hour later Hoover emerged, as has been said, looking limp and
woe-begone, and the moment school was over slunk away homeward without a
word. By this time the First Latin was half mad with mingled curiosity
and concern, when an elegantly dressed woman, followed by a manservant
with a compact little parcel under his arm, appeared at the Fourth
Avenue entrance, where the group still lingered, waiting for Shorty, and
the whisper went round that it was Mrs. Lawrence, Snipe's aunt. The
excitement rose to fever heat. Doremus and Satterlee, scouting about the
avenue an hour later, declared that she had been crying when she came
forth again and walked away to Twenty-fourth Street. Friday came. Shorty
was ten minutes late at first recitation and failed in every lesson, yet
not a word of rebuke came from any one of the masters. Halsey merely
inclined his dark head, and with a tinge of sympathy in his tone,
wherein they had long known only cutting sarcasm or stern admonition,
said, "Never mind going further to-day." At recess, again, the boy
bounded away to the Lawrences' and came back five minutes late, with
face as hopeless as before, but he bore a note, which he laid upon the
Doctor's desk, and without a word accepted the "ten marks off" for his
delay, which at any other time would have caused a storm of protest. Pop
arrived three minutes ahead of time, saw at a glance that little Pythias
was down near the foot of the class, and made not the faintest allusion
to it. He had barely taken his seat and looked over the two or three
notes when a heavy tread was heard upon the stair, and despite Halsey's
efforts the recitation hung fire, and every boy stared as a tall,
grim-visaged, angular man of middle age stepped within the door, and in
another moment was clasping hands with the Doctor, who left his dais to
greet him. There was a brief, low-toned exchange of words, then Halsey
and the new-comer caught each other's eye, despite the former's effort
to stick to his work, and, faintly flushing, Halsey arose, and they too
shook hands.

"How have they done to-day, Mr. Halsey?" promptly queried the Doctor;
and as nobody had done well or behaved ill, Halsey hesitated. He could
not dissemble. Pop saw the hitch and cut the Gordian knot.

"Gentlemen of the First Latin," he said, "the school is honored by a
visit from one of Columbia's most distinguished alumni. Shall we give
him an exhibition performance in the Anabasis or--take half holiday?"

The class would rather stay but not exhibit; and so in five minutes the
decks are clear, and, next to Beekman, the shortest boy in the highest
class is being presented to the tall graduate. Before the name was
mentioned he knew that it must be Lawton's step-father, Mr. Park.

First there has to be another conference of some ten minutes' duration
between the Doctor and his visitor, who had taken the youngster's hand
and looked down into his anxious face with solemn, speculative eyes and
without the ghost of a smile. Shorty feels his soul welling up in
mightier sympathy with Snipe. There is not a thing in Park's manner to
invite a boy's trust or confidence. Then the two turn to Shorty, and he
is summoned to rejoin them.

"The Doctor tells me you have been my--er--young Lawton's most intimate
friend,--that most of his hours out of school have been spent with you.
I had heard as much before through his mother and his aunt, whom I
believe you know,--Mrs. Lawrence."

The boy looks up, unspeaking, his blue eyes clouded. It needs but faint
encouragement, as a rule, to relax his tongue; but neither in word nor
manner does he find encouragement here. He looks, and his gaze is
fearless, if not a little defiant, but he answers never a word.

"What I wish to know is something of your haunts, occupations, etc. We
supposed that when in your company and in the home of such eminent
persons as your grandparents our boy would be safe."

Shorty reddens. Many a time when Snipe would have studied he has coaxed
him out for a run afar down-town, a visit to some bell tower or some
famous fire company, where they were never without kindly welcome.

"I gather," continues Park, "from what has been told me at his aunt's,
that your associates were not always of the better class of boys."

Shorty turns redder still. Many a time when he would have been glad to
spend an evening at the home of Joy or Beekman, Doremus or Satterlee,
Snipe had held back. "You go," he said: "I'll stay here and read," and
it wasn't long before Shorty fully understood the reason. Snipe could
not bear to go in such shabby attire, but he had no better, and could
get none without importuning his mother. No one in the houses of the
fire department looked or said critical things about his clothes. Snipe
was just as welcome as Shorty, and the rough fellows of the red shirts
seemed to enjoy explaining everything about the different styles of
engines and all the intricacies of their running rules to the brown-eyed
boy, who seemed to ponder over what he was told and to remember
everything. And so it had resulted that whenever a cold or rainy
Saturday came round and they couldn't play ball, big Damon and little
Pythias had spent many an hour going from one engine-or hose-house to
another, studying the different "machines," learning to know the foremen
or leaders of the rival companies, and often climbing to the tall
perches of the bell towers and gazing out through the watcher's long
glass over the far-spreading city, the smoky shores of Jersey or Long
Island, the thicket of masts bordering the rivers, and the distant
glimmering bay. It was all of vivid interest. True, they heard language
that was eminently unclassical. They penetrated into sections of the
great city where the fashionable garments of their wealthier schoolmates
would have become the target for the satire of the saloons and the
missiles of the street Arabs. They saw and heard all manner of things at
which Aunt Lawrence would have shrunk in dismay, and concerning which
Shorty's own people were sometimes apprehensive. But as neither boy
cared to imitate the language or the manners thus discovered, it was
held that no great harm resulted. That they might have been far better
employed every right-thinking moralist will doubtless declare, and that
they would have been better employed even Snipe, down in the bottom of
his heart, would have admitted--but for his clothes. It is astonishing
how much one's garb has to do with one's goodness, even among
school-boys.

And all this was passing through Shorty's mind as the steely blue eyes
of Mr. Park were searching his flushing face, and more things, too. With
all her ambition and moderate wealth, Mrs. Lawrence occupied a social
position just a plane below that on which moved Shorty's kith and kin.
Beautiful old homes on the lower avenue and around Washington Square
where they were welcome knew not Mrs. Lawrence. She had encouraged,
unquestioning, Snipe's growing intimacy with his little friend, because
it "brought the families together," as she once gushingly explained to
Shorty's favorite aunt, and, as she confided to her husband, might lead
to even more. Much, therefore, did she question Snipe as to what took
place at table, in the parlor and music-room of the big household in
Fourteenth Street, and, in the engrossing interest she felt in the
doings of certain of its elder inmates, lost all thought of those of the
boys themselves. Not until within the past few days had she been
required to give an account of her stewardship, and now the butler's
revelations, gathered mainly, as he stated, from market conferences with
the magnate who presided over the board at Shorty's, had filled her with
dismay.

"Them boys, ma'am," was that dignitary's comprehensive summing up, "do
be seeing the worst society in New York, 'stead of rejoicin' in the
best--with their relatives."

"You do not answer," at last says Park. "Could you find no better way of
spending your play hours than going around among low firemen?"

"We spent 'em at base ball when the weather was good," says Shorty,
shortly, and there is glowing temper in the tone which the Doctor knows
of old, and he sees it is time to interpose.

"I have never said anything to you about this, my young friend," says
he, "because I found that your relatives knew all about it, and thought
you capable of keeping out of trouble; but I did not know Lawton was so
often with you. What Mr. Park wishes to know is why you spent so much
time among the firemen and so little among your classmates?"

Shorty turns to the Doctor fearlessly. Him he knows and trusts. Twice
for boyish misdemeanors has the great teacher bidden him take his books
and leave the school, and both times has he reinstated him, as he had
others, within twelve hours. "I don't care for these Sammy-go-softly
boys," he had confided to Shorty. "I don't mind a little fun, but it
must not take the form of impertinence to teachers or disobedience of
their orders. If they are unjust, I'll straighten it out myself, but
don't you try." Like most of the boys in the First Latin, Shorty knows
he has the Doctor's sympathy and friendship, and so the answer comes
pat. "The reason was because he had no money and was ashamed of his
clothes."

Mr. Park is severely judicial. School-boy impetuosity must not be
permitted to ruffle him. With great dignity he begins,--

"I do not approve of young lads having unlimited pocket-money or
fashionable clothes, much less so in the case of a lad who must make his
own way in the world, as George will have to do."

"That's what Snipe said," was Shorty's quick reply. "Most of the class
have both, however; and as he had neither and I only a little, we
couldn't keep up with the crowd, so we spent our time together."

"I am amazed that your grandparents should approve of such pernicious
association for so young a lad as you," says Park, shifting the point of
attack, for he feels that a revelation is imminent, and doesn't care to
have the rector know how little he gave and how much he demanded. But it
is bad fencing, for Shorty "disengages" with equal skill and follows
with a palpable hit. Ignoring Park's comment, he faces the Doctor again.

"You know, sir, that there isn't another boy in the class has to get his
boots and gloves and pay his way on fifty cents a week." And Pop,
inwardly convulsed, feels compelled to reprove.

"Tut, tut!" he says. "These are matters for parents and guardians to
settle. Little boys must hold their tongues." And when Pop means to be
especially crushing he "little boys" the First Latin.

"Any proper and necessary expense incurred by George would have been
promptly allowed," says Park, loftily, "had he seen fit to confide in me
or in his mother."

"He _couldn't_ tell his mother, even when he was nearly barefoot,"
blurts out Shorty. "She wrote him last year she'd rather sell her watch
than ask you for money for him!" And now Park, too, reddens, for he
realizes that the statement is probably true. Hastily he returns to the
charge. This boy knows and talks too much. It isn't safe to allow him
the floor. Pop turns away, with evidences of earthquake-like
disturbances underneath that silken waistcoat.

"Then this is the excuse," says Park, severely, "for his resorting to
pawnbrokers--with stolen property."

And Shorty bursts out indignantly, "He never stole a thing, or sold it
either!" And now his eyes look pleadingly to the Doctor as though to
say, "You know this can't be so! Why do you let him lie?"

And as though to answer the appeal and come to the rescue of a maligned
and beloved pupil, Pop turns instantly, every sign of merriment gone.

"Surely you are misinformed, Park," he says. "There was nothing but some
last year's books and his father's old shotgun. He told us everything."

"He didn't tell you everything," answers Park, with emphasis. "How much
of this is due to evil associations you can judge better than I; but
look here," and from a bulging pocket of his overcoat he produces a
package wrapped in a red silk handkerchief. A minute later and he lays
upon the desk Seymour's handsome gold pencil-case, an old-fashioned
watch and chain, such as women wore twenty years earlier, and some
cameo earrings, with breastpin to match. "These," says he, solemnly,
"were recovered this morning. They represent only a small portion of
what his aunt, his benefactress, has found to be missing from her box of
disused trinkets and heirlooms. The boy was shrewd enough to confine his
stealings to things that wouldn't have been missed for weeks or months,
perhaps, had not a faithful domestic's suspicions been aroused. This
will be a sore blow to his poor mother. It has almost prostrated his
aunt, and I dare say we don't begin to know the worst. Has nothing been
missed by his classmates here at school?"

There are beads of sweat on the Doctor's pale forehead as he turns away,
Joy's watch instantly occurring to him. As for Shorty, in distress and
consternation, mingled with vehement unbelief, for once in his life he
is dumb.



CHAPTER VIII.


Another week began. Pop's boys gathered on Monday morning, and the first
question on every lip was for Snipe, and all in vain. He had disappeared
as from the face of the earth. Shorty looked an inch shorter and several
pounds lighter. His chatter was silenced, his young heart heavy as lead.
He had had two miserable days, and there were more before him. He had
been closely questioned, both at home and at the Lawrences', over and
over again, as to all their haunts and habits, which he and poor Snipe
had shared in their leisure hours, and stoutly he maintained that never
had Snipe entered a pawnshop while they were together,--never had he
mentioned such a thing. The one piece of information he could give, that
went to confirm the suspicions attaching to the missing boy, was that
during the three weeks previous to his disappearance George had seemed
to have much more money than usual. He had ordered a new pair of shoes,
had bought some collars and neckties, had "stood treat" two or three
times, and had got Shorty to go with him to a great clothier's, much
affected by the school, to try on some overcoats. He had totally
outgrown the one he brought from home two years previous, and was going
without one, and seemed divided in his mind whether to buy a new one for
winter or a new suit of clothes. Another thing Shorty had to tell was
that of late Snipe had missed several evenings when Shorty expected him,
or had come very late and said he had been of an errand. Of course, it
was now apparent to poor Mrs. Lawrence that her nephew's suddenly
discovered crimes were all due to her intrusting him entirely to Shorty
and his kindred, and Mr. Park was oracularly severe in his comments on
youthful depravity of so glaring a character that it could be satisfied
with no association less disreputable than that of the rowdies of the
fire department. He went so far as to make some such assertion to
Shorty's uncle, who was called into a conference, and this was lucky for
Shorty,--one of the few lucky things that happened to him that sorrowful
winter. Ordinarily he would doubtless have been made the recipient of
several lectures of the same tenor as Mr. Park's, only less radical, but
the moment Park ventured to assert that his step-son had been led
astray, and that Shorty's kindred had shut their eyes to the boys'
misdoings and let them go their wicked ways, he stirred up the whole
tribe and put them on the defensive. Uncles and aunts might even have
thought somewhat as did Park, but not after he laid his accusation at
their door. Shorty submitted his whole cabinet of possessions to prove
that nothing of his was missing, except one pair of gold sleeve-links,
which he had lent Snipe, and gladly lent him. "If Snipe ever stole, why
didn't he steal my watch?" he chokingly asked. "It was as good as Joy's,
and hadn't any name on it, as his had, and he could have sold it
easier." All the evidence in creation couldn't make that butt-headed boy
believe that Snipe was a thief. What he probably _had_ stolen, since
they were missing from his room, were his school-books of previous
years, a set of Marryat's novels that had belonged to his father, and
his father's old shotgun, which he had brought to New York with him, and
had no use for whatever. Perhaps he was thinking, poor fellow, of
selling his father's old watch, a bulky, yellow "turnip," too big for
him to wear, in order to get the money to buy those sorely needed
clothes. Shorty well remembered Snipe's story of how his mother cried
during that summer's vacation because she could give him so little when
he needed so much; but Park's dominion was absolute. "That boy must
learn the value of money," he constantly said. "He must know as I knew
what it is to plan and contrive to make five cents do the work of
twenty-five. _Then_ he may amount to something." Park said the boy's
clothes were better than he wore in his school-days, when he had to
sweep shop and make the fires and sleep in an attic, without a curtain
to his window or a rag to the floor. Shorty began to realize at last how
great must have been Snipe's temptations, and still he wouldn't believe
he stole. Even the sight of Seymour's pencil failed to convince
him,--even the fact that Snipe had certainly run away, if indeed he had
not made away with himself.

But in the class there was gloom and sadness almost equal to Shorty's,
and by Monday noon all the story was out and much besides. Nothing could
exceed the virtuous amaze of Briggs. He always had suspected Lawton,
"but you fellows would not believe." Nothing more sardonic than Hoover's
grinning face could be imagined. His blinking eyes seemed fairly to snap
with comfort over the contemplation of Lawton's turpitude. By this time
it was being asserted that Snipe had stolen his aunt's diamonds, Joy's
watch, and every missing item, big or little, that had disappeared
during the three years of his membership in the school. John, the
janitor, was overhauled, questioned and cross-questioned. He dodged,
parried, broke away, but by implication confessed that he found out that
Lawton was going to a certain pawnshop on Third Avenue, and had been
there two or three times within the previous month. Park paid the school
another visit that afternoon and had brief conference with the Doctor,
looked steadily and with stern disapproval at poor Shorty, sitting
midway down the line and drifting gradually towards the foot. The First
Latin took Park's measure, as they had Meeker's, and disapproved of him.
They wondered would he attempt to address them. If he did, not one
applauding hand could there be, except Briggs's or possibly Hoover's, if
he referred to Snipe's to-be-expected fall. Snipe might have fallen, but
if ever a boy was pushed and driven over a precipice he was, said they,
and, take them by and large, the First Latin would have gone out of
their way to shake hands with Snipe or to avoid shaking hands with his
step-father. Park left before school closed, but to Joy's request of the
Doctor, in the name of the class, for news of Snipe, the answer was
given that they still had nothing authentic, though they thought they
had a clue. He had once spent a month with some kinsfolk of his poor
mother's in Pennsylvania, and Park opined that he would presently be
heard of there, where his peculations, he might hope, had not yet become
known.

There were half a dozen of the boys walking together down the avenue
that afternoon, Shorty in their midst. They were plying him with
questions and conjectures. No, he was not going to the Lawrences', he
said. He would never, probably, go there again. No, he hadn't been
around among the engine-houses. He didn't at all believe in Snipe's
guilt, and wouldn't believe he was hiding on that account. How did he
account for Seymour's pencil? He couldn't account for it. All he could
say was, that he'd bet anything he owned that Snipe wasn't a thief, and
some day they'd find it out, and find out who was. It so happened that
Briggs had gone on ahead with Hoover, the two lads with their heads
close together in eager conference, but at Eighteenth Street he held
back and stood waiting for the little knot of excited boys. Bertram and
Joy were of the lot, tall young fellows on whose upper lips the down was
sprouting and who on Sundays went to church in their first tophats. They
were the elders, the senate of the school, and at sight of Briggs they
muttered malediction and cautioned silence.

"Say, Shorty!" cried the pachyderm, as Pop had named him, "twice last
week I went to your house and asked for you, and the man said you
weren't home. You were up in your room with Snipe Lawton, and I know it.
I watched, and saw you come out with him half an hour later. What you
'fraid of? Think I was policeman with a search-warrant?"

The little fellow's blue eyes blazed up, but Bertram grabbed him and Joy
turned savagely on the leering tormentor. "Shut up! you sneaking whelp!"
he cried, "or I'll smash you here and now!" And glaring and red-faced in
his wrath, Joy looked fully capable of doing it.

"Why, what have I done?" sneered Briggs. "He's the fellow that stood by
the thief that's been robbing us right and left, and didn't dare let his
own classmate come up in his room."

"You used to ring the bell and bolt up there the moment the door was
opened, you cad!" answered Joy, "just as you did at my house and others
until orders had to be given not to let you in. Get out of the way! No
one in this party wants to be seen in the same street with you."

"Oh, all right," snarled Briggs. "If you want to run with thieves and
pickpockets you're welcome. I don't."

But now there was a crash on the broad flagstones as the red-labelled,
calf-bound, tightly-strapped volumes of Virgil and Xenophon went
spinning to the curb, and, wrenching himself free from Bertram's
relaxing grasp, Shorty flew at Sandy Briggs like a bull terrier at some
marauding hound. Quick, alert, active, the surest-footed boy in the
school, there was no dodging his spring. The whack of the leather on the
flagging was echoed on the instant by the biff-bapp of two knotty fists,
and Briggs reeled back before the sudden storm and tumbled into the
gutter. Instantly the others threw themselves on Shorty or between the
two. Briggs bounded up in a fury, the blood streaming from his nose,
rage and blasphemy rushing from his swelling lips. He was ready enough
to fight a boy so much smaller, and disdained Julian's prompt proffer of
himself as Shorty's substitute. A policeman at the Everett corner came
sprinting across at sight of the swift-gathering crowd. Joy and Julian
saw him, and grabbing Briggs, darted with him down the stairway to the
Clarendon's barber-shop. Bertram, Beekman, and Gray snatched up Shorty
and Shorty's books and fled with him eastward towards Lexington Avenue.
The row was over as quick as it began, but not, alas! the results. "I'll
pay that blackguardly little cur for this,--you'll see if I don't!"
shrieked Briggs at his captors, and they all knew that even as he could
dissemble, that fellow could hate.

Late that afternoon the Doctor sat in the midst of his books and
manuscripts in the solemn library, the sanctum in which he rarely
permitted himself to be disturbed, yet he lifted his massive head and
listened eagerly as a servant entered with a message.

"Send him right in here," said he, throwing down his pen, and the words
were hardly out of his mouth when in came Shorty, bounding, breathless,
excited, and with snapping eyes. "Ha, lad! So you've heard from Lawton!
What does he say?" And trembling, rejoicing, triumphing, yet troubled,
the youngster read from a letter in his hand.

     DEAR SHORTY,--I couldn't stand it. I had to go, and, please
     God, I'll never come back, only I want you to know the reason
     and you won't blame me much. I begged Halsey not to tell the
     Doctor or anybody what that low sneak of a janitor told him.
     It's no disgrace to be so poor that a fellow has to pawn his
     old books and things to get shoes, and you know how I was
     fixed; you know that I was on my bare feet, almost, and that my
     clothes wouldn't cover me. I couldn't ask a penny of Aunt
     Lawrence, and they didn't seem to see or care how I looked. I
     couldn't worry mother any more, so what _was_ there to do? They
     gave me a shilling apiece for the school-books, and then I took
     over my Marryats--I hadn't even read some of 'em--and got
     twenty cents apiece, and finally father's old shotgun. It was
     mine; mother had given it to me. It was no use to me. Why
     shouldn't I sell it and buy clothes? I didn't know it was so
     costly and valuable, but Aunt Lawrence says now it was worth
     one hundred and fifty dollars. It came from London. I thought I
     was lucky to get seven dollars for it. Of course old Binny saw
     me one night ["Binny is the butler," explained Shorty. "He
     hated both of us, I suppose, having to answer door so
     much,--Aunt Lawrence wouldn't let Snipe have a key"], and I
     guess he must have sneaked after me; but when Halsey told me it
     was known I visited the pawnbroker's (it wasn't a pawnbroker's.
     It was just a second-hand store), and demanded to know what I'd
     sold, and talked of the disgrace and all that, and hinted
     things about Joy's watch and other missing items I never even
     heard of, I told him the whole thing, and begged him not to
     make trouble for me,--I had enough. But he said the Doctor must
     know, and the Doctor sent me round with him and I showed him
     the shop, and he rowed the man in charge and said my aunt must
     be told at once. You never heard such a row as she made,--the
     shame and the disgrace I'd brought on them all. She could never
     show her face in society again. Selling my father's books! my
     father's beautiful gun, that my poor mother had so proudly
     intrusted to me! Why, Shorty, she drove me nearly mad. Even
     Halsey tried to stop her after a while, and to say it didn't
     begin to be as bad as she made it, but she ordered me to my
     room, and then came up and jawed until I was near crazy, and
     then when she'd talked herself out up comes Cousin Maud, and
     she just belched fire and brimstone for an hour; and after
     dinner that night Uncle Lawrence,--why, he never so much as
     noticed me generally, and you know how he used to pass us on
     the street and never see us,--he went on at a perfectly
     infernal rate. I was an ingrate and a thief and a consorter
     with the lowest order of humanity (rough on _you_ that was,
     Shorty), and when he got through I'm blessed if they didn't
     wind up by sending my little cousin, Queenie,--I always liked
     her,--but she went on and preached about disgrace and shame
     just like Aunt Lawrence, and how good they'd all been to me,
     and how shocking was my ingratitude! She supposed I spent the
     money in liquor and cigars for my rowdy friends (I did stand
     treat to milk and custard pie as much as twice); and then Aunt
     Lawrence comes up again, and read me what she'd written to
     mother, and that was the last pound. I had five dollars left
     that I was saving for some clothes, and planning to sell the
     old watch and get the rest of the money I needed, but she took
     that away, lest I should steal that too, she said, and I was to
     be sent back to Rhinebeck as soon as mother could be heard
     from. She'd been to the Doctor and told him I don't know what,
     and came back and said the Doctor and teachers as much as
     declared they thought me the thief that stole Joy's watch. She
     told me to go and say good-by to you and confess everything,
     but I shall never disgrace the home where I was so kindly
     welcomed by setting foot inside its doors again. I've started
     out for myself, Shorty, dear old boy, and I'll make a living,
     never you fear, and I'll write to you sometimes when I can do
     so without being followed or found out. Don't let the fellows
     think too mean of me. Here's the one thing I've got to confess,
     and you tell it to Seymour. I found his pencil under the fourth
     bench that afternoon Beach kept me in two hours for welting
     Beekman with a putty-ball, and instead of giving it to Beach,
     as the rule is, I stuck it in my pocket and never thought of it
     again until next morning, just as I got to school and saw
     Seymour. I hunted in my pocket and it was gone. I ran home at
     recess and hunted everywhere, and asked the girl who makes
     believe do up my room, but couldn't find a trace of it. That
     was two weeks ago, and all this time I've been hoping to find
     it, or when I got the money on the watch to buy him another and
     tell him the whole story. Now I can't do either.

     Good-by, Shorty, dear old fellow! Say good-by to Bonner and
     Hank and Keating and Joe Hutton. Forty's boys were always kind
     to us, weren't they? And if any of the class feel that I am not
     altogether a disgrace to them, give them a bit of love, from
     yours till death.
                                                           SNIPE.

[Illustration: "I couldn't stand it. I had to go."]

The little reader was almost sobbing when he got through, but the Doctor
was on his feet and listening in undisguised interest and sympathy.

"But that pencil was found among those things Mr. Park brought to the
school!" he exclaimed. Then, as a sudden light seemed to flash over the
case, he took the missive in his big, white hand and pored over the last
two of its many pages. "You have shown this to----?" he began.

"Nobody, sir. Nobody was at home. I brought it right to you."

"Then leave it with me and say nothing about it till I tell you. I will
see your grandfather to-morrow."



CHAPTER IX.


A week later the First Latin was divided against itself,--a most unusual
thing. That it generally despised Hoover and hated Briggs was an old
story. These two of the twenty-seven had long been excluded from the
fellowship of the twenty-five; but that twenty-five was now reduced to
twenty-four by the loss of Snipe, and the twenty-four was split, much to
the comfort of the two outsiders. A grievous burden had been imposed on
Shorty when the Doctor bade him tell no one about Snipe's letter,--that
he had good reason and desired to investigate on his own account. Shorty
couldn't listen to an insinuation of any kind against his chum, and
there were members of the class who now couldn't help entertaining
suspicion and saying so. Shorty's intentions of observing the Doctor's
caution were of the best, but indignation would find vent, and so would
the boy nature that impelled him to say that he had information when
Snipe's accusers had not. Then he had to lose a point and admit that
his knowledge was of such a character that it must be kept concealed
awhile, which statement many of the class decided to accept, but not a
few to deride. Turner was one of the latter, and at recess one day
openly taunted Shorty with professing what he couldn't prove. Briggs was
on the outskirts of the knot of excited lads at the first sign of
trouble. He was still raging in his heart against Shorty because of the
stinging blows that sent him reeling into the gutter the previous Friday
afternoon. Here was a chance for vicarious vengeance. Shorty was half a
head smaller than his long-armed accuser. Briggs knew that Joy, Julian,
any of the bigger members of the class, would pounce on him if he dared
lay hand on the "little 'un," but Turner was nearer the youngster's
weight. Those were the days when Heenan and Sayers were the models of
the fistic art, when Charlier's boys at Wood's gymnasium or Pop's at
Ottignon's were accustomed to putting on the gloves with the master, and
school affairs were settled in the neighboring stable after the manner
of Tom Brown and Slogger Williams in "School-Days at Rugby." Cooler
heads in the little crowd counselled peace and strove to stem the angry
torrent of words between the boys. Even Turner himself, seeing Shorty's
rage, would probably have been willing to take back what he had said,
but Briggs had other plans. Stooping underneath the elbows of the boys
at Turner's back, he suddenly straightened up, giving Turner a powerful
shove that sent him lunging against his fuming little antagonist, and
like a flash came the first blow, the counter, an instant's clinch, and
then, as the boys broke away, two stinging whacks before the elders
could interpose. "Come round to the stable and finish it!" yelled
Shorty, in his fury. "Come on yourself!" shouted Turner; and, despite
the pleadings of those who hated to see class harmony destroyed, away
went the excited crowd, Hoover and Briggs leering and grinning after
them, while John, the janitor, bolted miserably up-stairs to give
warning to Othello, who had determined there should be no more
stable-fights, and who came breathless into the arena just as the
combatants had shed their coats and collars and, with clinched fists and
flashing eyes, were facing each other for business. The ring broke and
scattered pell-mell at sound of Halsey's voice, but the principals were
caught. Recess was ordered suspended. The bell summoned the class
in-doors, and, in sullen silence, slowly the boys obeyed. Shorty's
prominent nose had suffered in the preliminary skirmish, and he had to
go and stanch the blood. Turner, scowling, was sent to the foot of the
class, where Hoover welcomed him with a malignant grin, and there, along
its accustomed line, sat the First Latin in gloom and despond, while the
head-master penned brief memoranda of the circumstance. Everybody felt
there would be tragedy when the Doctor came. "The next boys I hear of as
fighting around school," he had said the week before, "I'll pack 'em
home to their parents." And yet the First Latin had reason to believe
the Doctor had nothing but disdain for boys who quarrelled and called
names and perhaps cuffed, scratched, or kicked, and couldn't or wouldn't
fight "fair and square." Only a few months before, just at the close of
the school-year, when the twenty-seven were still the Second Latin,
there had been a laughable scuffle between two big, lanky lads in the
senior class. Full ten minutes had they clinched, wrestled, slapped, and
sparred in the vestibule, many of the Second Latin looking--and
egging--on and indulging in satirical comment, until Beach swooped upon
the surging crowd and ordered DeForest and Dominick, the principals, to
their benches. The classes recited together then in Latin Prosody, a
Second Latin boy many a time "taking a fall" out of the First and
getting the head of the combined array. There was no love lost between
the two. Pop was unquestionably partial to the juniors, and had frequent
occasion to torment the seniors with satire over the fact that the
youngsters knew better Latin, if not more, than did the other class. He
listened to Beach's report of the affair with frowning brows, until it
transpired that full ten minutes were consumed before the combatants
were separated. Then his broad features expanded in a smile of
amusement. "What!" he exclaimed, as he studied the crestfallen faces of
the culprits. "Ten minutes' battling and not a scratch to show for it!
Scandalous! _Et tunc pugnabant pugnis_---- Hold! Young gentlemen,
there's a capital start on a fine, sonorous line, dactylic hexameter.
Half-holiday to the class that first completes it! Half-holiday except
to those wielders of the wind-stuffed cestus. Set your wits to work--and
your pencils." With that he seated himself in his chair of state, his
fine cambric handkerchief came forth to mop his glowing face, and, still
chuckling with suppressed merriment, the massive rector looked down
along the crowded ranks of his boys, forty-five in all, and then he
wiped his gold-rimmed spectacles and laid them on his desk, and then
little Beekman darted up to his side, a scrap of paper in his hand, and
gave it hopefully to the magnate in the chair. The Doctor glanced over
it, shook his head, and frowned. "No, no," said he. "What we want is
sound and sense combined. You've only got the sound, like the blows of
our gladiators. There's nothing behind them. The words mean nothing.
Mark the rhythm and majesty of mine. _Et tunc--pugna--bant pug_---- All
spondaic. And then--they were--fighting--with fists---- Come, come,
gentlemen, that line needs appropriate close. Ha! the versatile Second
Latin again tenders a contribution!" and the big Doctor took the next
youngster's slate, leaned back in his chair, read, a beaming light shot
into his eyes; then the eyes closed, the massive head fell back, the
capacious waistcoat began to heave and shake from internal convulsion,
and the whole array of boys looked up expectant. For a full minute Pop
lay back in his big chair in solitary enjoyment of his fun, and at last,
bubbling over with merriment, he straightened up and began, "Listen,
young gentlemen of the First Latin, to the satire of the Second.
Triumph, gentlemen of the Second, in the victory of your laureate.

     '_Et tunc pugnabant pugnis sine sanguine nasi._'

"And then they were fighting with fists (full ten minutes understood)
and not a drop of blood was drawn from the nose. Poetic license set at
naught! Stern facts related! Half-holiday to the Second Latin! Take your
books and go rejoicing! Gentlemen of the vanquished First, remain where
you are."

That episode widened the breach between the classes and strengthened the
conviction that Pop was "down on" bloodless encounters. Pop was
thorough, argued the boys. He wanted no quarrelling, but if quarrels
came, they were soonest ended when fought to a finish on the spot.

And so despite the frown on Halsey's dark face most of the First Latin
hoped that when the Doctor came he would look with leniency on the
misconduct of the belligerents. Hoover, defrauded of his smoke, pleaded
for permission to go to Duncan's to get his fine silk handkerchief,
which he claimed to have dropped during their brief ten minutes of
recess. This was killing two birds with one stone. He needed his
cigarette, and he hoped to create the impression that he was not among
the crowd at the stable. There had been a solemn conference between the
Doctor and Hoover senior, and solemn warning to the young man on part of
both, and Hoover junior felt that he could risk nothing with the rector
in his present frame of mind. The head-master, with doubtful glance in
his eyes, said go, and not three minutes later wished he hadn't. There
was a sound of angry altercation below-stairs. John's whining voice was
uplifted in protestation. At any other time the class would have had fun
out of it, but the class was in no mood for frolic now.

"Stop that noise and come up here at once!" ordered the master from the
head of the stairs, and sullen and swollen-faced, the janitor came.

"I couldn't help it, sir," he began at once. "I ain't going to be cursed
for obeying orders by any such sneak as that."

And when Halsey could check the angry torrent of his words, it
transpired that Hoover had taken occasion, with much blasphemy and bad
language, to abuse him for having told about the fight. Hoover came in
ten minutes later, glancing shiftingly around. "Say, did that cur tell
on me?" he whispered to Turner, as he sidled into his seat, and Turner
turned his back and bade him go to Halifax, but Briggs nodded yes. It is
an ill wind that blows nobody good. The Doctor came with gloom in his
eye and thunder on his tongue. Things had been going amiss. Not another
word had been heard of Snipe. A favorite pupil had disappeared because
of troubles brought to light at school, and the Doctor felt that his
system, his methods, his discipline and supervision were all being
challenged and dissected by his rivals and opponents, and, like every
successful man, he was the target for the shafts of all the envious. A
high authority at faculty meeting that day had demanded news of the
missing boy and particulars as to the causes of his going, had intimated
that such things ought not to be in a well-regulated school, and the
rector came down ruffled and wrathful. The first thing to attract his
eyes was the sight of Shorty sitting ruefully on the "mourners' bench,"
as the boys called the settee at the foot of the class. Hoover, Turner,
and Briggs were the other occupants.

"Hiyee!" he exclaimed, as he halted at the doorway. "The lad of the long
tongue has let it run away with him again, I suppose! What's he been
saying, Mr. Halsey?"

"Nothing, sir," said Halsey, briefly. "Fighting again."

"What! And after my prohibition! Here, you, sir!" he exclaimed, with
indignation in his tone. "Take your books and pack yourself out of
school, at once!"

Slowly Shorty found his legs and, uttering no word, went drearily to the
bookcase, obeying the pointing, menacing cane in the rector's hand, and
trembling and with heavily beating heart began to gather and strap his
few possessions. For a moment there was dead silence. Pop still
standing at the doorway, glaring at the culprit, perhaps wishing the boy
would speak. But Shorty's spirits were crushed by the sorrows of the
past ten days, and he didn't much care what happened. It was Bertram who
broke the silence.

"May I say a word, sir?" he asked, as he rose respectfully.

"Not unless you wish to quit the school the same way, sir. Young people
will speak when spoken to and not before. Come, you, sir," he continued,
turning again on Shorty, "I am waiting for you to go."

"So'm I, sir," said the youngster, desperately, "but I can't--till you
get out of the way."

For an instant the silence was intense. The Doctor stared, then dropped
his threatening cane, closed his eyes and began to shake. In another
instant the room rang with a shout of laughter, even the saturnine
features of Halsey relaxing in a grin.

"Who's the other belligerent, Mr. Halsey?" asked Pop, as soon as he
could regain severity of mien. "The illustrious Turner, I apprehend.
What did you wish to say, Bertram?"

"Nothing, sir, in view of the penalty," was the prompt answer.

"It wasn't his fault, I suppose you wish to imply," said the Doctor. "Go
back to the bench, sir," was his stern order to Shorty. "Remain after
school, both of you, until I investigate this and send you home with a
letter apiece. Any other enormities to report, Mr. Halsey?"

"Yes, sir,--Hoover. The janitor says that he cursed and abused him at
recess for obeying your orders."

The Doctor's face had mellowed a moment before; now it hardened. He
stood with his cane tucked under his arm, his top-hat in one hand, the
polishing handkerchief in the other, flicking away the dust and
smoothing the glossy crown. Foul language on part of boy or man was
something he abhorred, and Hoover had been reported more than once. For
John, the janitor, the Doctor had but faint regard. He was a blundering
booby, said he. But that in no wise relieved Hoover. Watching his
angering face, the silent boys could almost foretell the words they saw
framing on his compressed lips. "Out of my school, sir," were beyond
doubt the first he would have spoken, but there sat two other culprits
who deserved the temporary expulsion that was at the time his favorite
method of punishment. If Hoover went, they too must go, or Hoover senior
would hear and ask the reason, and the Doctor hated to be
cross-questioned about his school. His methods were his own; one might
almost say the boys were too.

"Using blasphemous and profane language again!" he finally began, as he
stood and glared at the scowling pupil. "Gentlemen never abuse a servant
for obeying orders. Gentlemen avoid the use of profanity. We must have a
new name,--a more descriptive title for our _monstrum horrendum_, our
roaring Polyphemus. What say you, Bertram, Imperator? What say you, Joy?
Come, wake your nimble wits, young gentlemen. The astute head of the
class is silent, the second is dumb, the third sits mute," and now the
great but shapely white hand, with its taper index, points to one after
another, "the fourth, the fifth, the sixth. What? Have we no wits left
to-day? You, Beekman; you, Satterlee; the iconoclastic Bagshot, the
epicurean Doremus" (a titter now, for Doremus's taste for cream-puffs is
proverbial). Speak up, Van Sandtvoordt. Gihon, Post, Dix, Bliss,
Seymour, Grayson, next, next, next; the late belligerent Mr. Turner, the
benignant Briggs, Hoover we'll skip, and now the other gladiator,
Loquax. _What?_"

"Polyblasphemous!" says Shorty, with twitching lips, the Irish in him
coming to the top despite his weight of woe.

An instant of silence, then, shaking from head to foot, the tears fairly
starting from his eyes, unable for the moment to speak at all, laughing
himself to the verge of apoplexy, the Doctor motions the youngster from
the foot to the head of the class, and it is a full minute before order
is restored and the laughter of the First Latin subsides. Even then,
every little while some boy bursts out into a chuckle of merriment, and
Hoover glares at him with new malevolence. Every little while the Doctor
settles back in his chair and shakes anew. That _jeu d'esprit_ saves
three culprits from deserved suspension and brings sunshine through the
storm-clouds for the day at least. But it thickens the hide of Hoover's
hate.

"You think you were smart this afternoon" (with an adjective to the
smart), sneers Hoover to the youngster after school. "You'll find out
where the smart comes in before you're a month older, young feller."

And Hoover means it.

[Illustration: She was permitted to read and to weep over Snipe's
pathetic letter.]



CHAPTER X.


Another month had come and not another word from Snipe. All the Doctor's
explorations were in vain. There was grief at the Lawrences', for the
poor mother had been visiting her sister, imploring full particulars in
one minute and denouncing her informants in the next. The most yielding
and self-forgetful of women ordinarily, she had risen in rebellion
against those whom she believed had wronged her boy. There was a rupture
at Rhinebeck, where George Lawton's step-father was given to understand
by George Lawton's mother that she would never believe that her boy had
stolen. That he had sold the books and the gun and might have sold the
watch was probably true. He had to do it to buy even the coarsest
clothes to hide his nakedness. She had come to Shorty's home, and, with
that sad-hearted youngster as her guide, had been conducted to the
Doctor's study, and there she was permitted to read and to weep over
Snipe's pathetic letter. She drew from Shorty all the details of the
boy's effort to get along on his scanty allowance, to spare her, and to
make his worn shoes and shabby, outgrown garments answer for another
year. The interview between the now roused and indignant woman and her
husband on her return to Rhinebeck must have been a source of amaze to
him as well as discomfiture. In forty-eight hours she was back at Mrs.
Lawrence's. "Do not put yourself out for me any more than you did for
George," she said to her sister, with a tinge of irrepressible
bitterness. "I will sleep in his little hall bedroom and sit at his
corner of your table--when you are not entertaining." And Mrs. Lawrence
made no reply. She knew well there had been much to warrant the mother's
accusation. George might indeed be the culprit her husband, her
brother-in-law, and her butler asserted, but he might not, probably
would not, have been but for the indifference or neglect which had been
his portion. Down at the bottom of her heart Aunt Lawrence was a
sympathetic woman, and not entirely unjust, for after the first few days
of excitement, at which times those at fault are sure to strive to fix
the blame on others, she realized that what she had said of George's
playmate and his people, even of George's misguided methods of spending
his recreation hours, was something she would gladly recall.

But all this time the search for the absent boy had gone on
unremittingly. Shorty had promised faithfully that if another letter
came from Snipe he would bring it to the mother at once, and Pop had
given his sanction. He refused to promise to come every day to see her,
as she had at first almost demanded. He told her frankly that after what
Mrs. Lawrence had said of him and his leading George astray, he couldn't
come. The Doctor had certain theories about the missing jewelry, and
had, on his own account, employed detective aid, and abandoned his
theory more perplexed than ever. Privately he let it be known to the
police that he would pay a handsome reward for the recovery of Joy's
watch and information that would lead to the apprehension of the thief,
but not a trace of it had been found. School work had to be kept up, but
Shorty's standing suffered. The weekly reports that so often bore in
Pop's remarkable chirography the word "_Imperator_," in Halsey's big,
round hand the inscription "_Nulli Secundus_," and over the sign manuals
of the other teachers some tribute to his scholarship and industry, now
spoke of him as "falling off," "losing ground," etc., and a gentle hand
was laid on his troubled head at home ere it signed the receipt, and
kind and sympathetic words would send him hurrying away to his own
little den, there to give way to a passion of tears. It was bad enough
to lose Snipe. It was cruel to think of the boy's loneliness and
suffering, but it was getting to be worst of all at school, where, true
to the old, old saying, the absent was sure to be wrong. Little by
little sneer, rumor, and insinuation had done their work, and, with no
one to defend but Shorty, Snipe's name had become clouded with suspicion
that was verging into certainty. If innocent of all the misdeeds laid at
his door, why had he run away? Why did he not come home to face his
accusers?

And so it happened that Shorty saw less of his schoolmates and more of
his and Snipe's old friends, the firemen, than ever before. At home this
was looked upon as decidedly unfortunate, but the lad was so unhappy and
restless that no active opposition was made. "No good can ever come from
such association," said the one oracular and dogmatic member of the
household. But that prophecy was destined to be put to the blush.

Quarter day had come at Pop's,--a day marked in the annals of the school
and celebrated in its traditions. More stories centred on that momentous
date than on all the other school-days combined. On the Friday of the
last week of the expiring quarter each of the Doctor's pupils would be
handed an envelope addressed to his responsible parent or guardian, and
each envelope so addressed contained the school bill for the ensuing
quarter, filled out in the Doctor's unique and dainty hand. No writing
was ever like it. Pop had a system of penmanship, as he had of
punishment, of instruction, and school discipline, peculiarly his own.
His capital letters were always large, clear, and well formed. His small
letters, except those extending above and below the line, were indicated
by tiny, back-handed dashes that individually conveyed no idea and
collectively were unmistakable. Not a word of instruction accompanied
the presentation of the missive, but every boy knew infallibly what to
expect. From time immemorial in the history of the school the unwritten
law had been that every boy appearing with the cash or check in payment
of the bill early on the following Monday morning might go his way on
whole holiday. If the money came on Tuesday the bearer was released at
twelve o'clock; but if it failed to come on Wednesday the pupil found
himself drifting from one scrape into another until it did come, and old
boys used to declare that pretexts were never lacking, when they were of
the school, to warrant the Doctor in flogging, every day until the money
came, the hapless lad whose parents failed to meet the demand on time.
Small wonder that Pop's boys developed phenomenal powers as bill
collectors and that Pop himself had no dunning letters to write.

The late autumn had given way to early winter, sharp and frosty. A great
presidential election had been held some weeks before. The East was
excited and the South enraged over the victory of a far Western
candidate, almost unknown to Gotham. Rumors more and more alarming of
Southern force and fury flew from lip to lip as November drew to its
close, and December, frosty but kindly, was ushered in. The boys had
separated Friday afternoon, taking the bills with them, and early Monday
morning Othello sat "for such occasions only" at the Doctor's desk, in
readiness to receipt for checks or cash before the opening hours of
school. A dozen at least of the First Latin had gleefully gone their
way. Another dozen, less fortunate, lolled dejectedly on the benches,
devoutly wishing their _paters_ were as well to do as those of the
holiday-makers (which many were, but held to a theory that Pop found too
many excuses for holidays). Shorty was neither with one nor the other.
Nine o'clock came and two of the First Latin had not reported; Hoover
was the other. The bell rang. Beach was told off to put the supposedly
derelict through their paces in Sallust, while Halsey went on signing
receipts, shoving money into the drawer, and saying, "You may go,"
briefly as possible, to the boys who came provided. The rule held good
for the entire school, and by quarter-past nine the rector's drawer was
stored with something over a thousand dollars in checks, bank-notes, and
coin. It was fully half-past nine when Hoover came slowly and sullenly
up the stairs and entered the room. Briggs, sitting at the foot of the
incarcerated dozen, jocularly hailed him with, "Hullo! for once in his
life Hoover won't have to sit on the mourners' bench."

"Go there yourself, sir!" said Beach, sternly, bringing Briggs instantly
to his feet with whining expostulation. "Why, what did I say, sir?" And
it takes more fines and much frowning to settle him, Othello never
interposing, for this money taking and changing is his bane. He has to
do it in the Doctor's absence, but he hates it. He counts over every
penny slowly and carefully, for the rector requires account to the
uttermost farthing, and small boys waiting for their receipt fidget
impatiently.

Hoover, mean time, is removing coat, gloves, and muffler with
exaggerated deliberation, and seizes the opportunity when Beach turns to
the head with a question, and while the stove-pipe hides Othello's eyes,
to administer a fervent kick to Briggs and send that sandy-haired young
fellow's Sallust flying to mid-floor, Briggs, of course, lending
unnecessary and additional centrifugal impetus to his belongings, and in
the midst of the acrimonious debate that follows a bounding step is
heard on the stair and in comes Shorty, flushed, panting a bit, and
filled with suppressed excitement and evident importance. He squeezes in
between Hoover and the rack to hang up his top-coat, Hoover swaying
backward, of course, to make it as difficult and disagreeable a process
as possible.

"Come out of that, Hoover, and take your seat," orders Beach, sternly.
But "Polyblasphemous" is ugly and rebellious. Not until Shorty has a
second time squeezed by is Hoover made to obey. Even then he turns back
and rummages among the coat pockets, claiming that he has left his
handkerchief therein. Hoover's handkerchief, like charity, is made to
cover a multitude of sins. He feels in a dozen pockets, apparently,
before he finds it. So engrossed is the class, or what is left of it, in
the effort to bring order out of chaos at the foot of the room--and
Hoover from among the overcoats--that few see that Shorty has handed
Othello a note before silently taking his seat. Hoover is presently
settled below Briggs, fined five marks for being late and another five
for trifling, and the recitation goes on, Beach evidently ruffled. Then
Othello looks up and beckons to Shorty, who silently goes to his side.

"When did the Doctor give you this?" he asks, in low tone; but now the
boys are still as mice and listening intently.

"Just at nine, sir, up at his house. I caught him going up to college
and gave him the letter, and he turned back and wrote that." Shorty
never could explain a thing in few words.

There is a sound as of shouting and excitement on the avenue above the
school and of swift-running feet, but at the moment no attention is
paid. "The Doctor says you are to have whole holiday," continues Halsey,
in his monotonous tones. The noise without is increasing.

"I--don't care to go, sir," says Shorty, hesitating, and the class looks
up in astonishment. The noise has spread to the rooms to the east,--the
nursery,--where the small boys are; a banging of windows and shades, a
rush of many feet, and all of a sudden the leaden-colored door flies
open and Meeker appears, pale and excited.

"Mr. Halsey!" he cries, "a house right back of us is all in a blaze.
Shall I dismiss my class?"

"Wait a moment," answers the head-master, ever deliberate, and away he
goes, long striding, the First Latin, despite Beach's effort, tearing
after him. Then Beach follows the tide. The house in flames is not just
back of them, but near enough to prove a source of tremendous interest
and excitement, if not of danger. It faces on Twenty-fifth Street, just
beyond the stable, and backs up into the grape-vined, fence-crossed
rectangle at the back. Smoke in thick volumes is pouring out of the back
windows. A tongue of flame licks out under the narrow gallery at the
rear of the main floor as Halsey forces his way through a mob of
shouting small boys to the open window. The First Latin comes tumbling
after him, shoving Meeker aside. Borne on the breath of the rising east
wind, a single, solemn "bong" of the Twenty-third Street tower tells
that the watcher has quickly descried the unusual smoke-cloud billowing
up from the doomed dwelling. People in adjoining houses are throwing
open blinds and shouting unintelligible things. Boys and men come
clambering over fences from adjoining yards. Cooks and housemaids gather
on back galleries, huddling together with shawls over their heads and
red arms wrapped in flimsy aprons. A pile of bedding comes hurtling down
through the smoke from a third-story window, followed by a lot of
books. Somebody has fetched a ladder, and a dozen boys and men have
scrambled to the tar and pebble roof of the stable, and there they dance
and shout and run hither and yon, but still no firemen appear. The
nearest hook and ladder company "lies" seven blocks away. The school is
down at the foot of the First (fire) District. The jangling bells of 61
Hose can be heard coming on the jump down the avenue, and every boy
knows Pacific Engine can't be a block behind. But now the "hot black
breath" rushing from the basement and first-floor windows bursts all at
once into furious red flames, and Halsey says resignedly, "School's
dismissed till the fire's out." The boys go tumbling over each other's
heels in mad dash for the door, and the thunder of feet, as they go
leaping down the narrow stairway, shakes and scandalizes the watchmakers
in the little shop below, and Mr. Foley, rushing out at the first boy he
can lay hands on, shakes him in turn until, amazed and wrathful, the
young fellow breaks loose, whirls about, and lands a stunning
left-and-right full in Foley's angry face, and turns it even redder,
while every other big boy springs to the aid of "28," just lowering her
long side levers and "taking the butt" from "61," while two or three
stalwart, black-helmeted fellows dart up the brownstone steps and into
the smoke-vomiting doorway, glistening pipe in hand, the copper-riveted,
black leather hose trailing behind them. Before the water gushes from
the corner hydrant and swells the snake-like coils that connect with the
engine, the pipemen come reeling out before the jetting flames, and
everybody knows that that fire will burn itself out and not succumb to
water. In their haste, many lads have left their overcoats on the rack,
and from the midst of these emerges Hoover, twisting the silken muffler
about his throat, the only pupil left in the main school room, as Halsey
suddenly recollects himself--and the cash in the Doctor's drawer--and
comes hurrying back to that abandoned desk. The drawer is half-way open,
the checks and bank-notes seem undisturbed, but Halsey knows there were
a number of ten-dollar gold pieces in the lot, and now there isn't one.
Long before that lively blaze is out and only bare burned walls are left
standing, the Doctor himself arrives upon the scene, and the
head-master, with rueful face, reports himself about one hundred dollars
short.



CHAPTER XI.


When the order "Take up" was finally given that afternoon to the array
of fire companies that covered the first and second fire districts, most
of Pop's boys were still among the swarm of spectators. The fire had
broken out soon after nine o'clock, and not until one were some of the
companies sent home. Under the system existing in those days every
engine, hose, and hook and ladder company whose station was north of
Twenty-second or south of Sixtieth Street had had to answer that
alarm,--old "Black Joke," Engine Company 33, having to drag their heavy
"Carson" machine all the way from the neighborhood of Fifty-ninth Street
and Broadway. There was nothing left of the house in which the fire
started, and neighboring buildings were badly scorched in places and
more or less damaged by water. There were no "chemicals" then. The
stable had been in danger several times, and Pop's boys had performed
prodigies of valor early in the affair, leading out the affrighted
horses and wheeling buggies and wagons into the street. The cars on
Fourth Avenue had to stop for over an hour, so numerous were the lines
of hose, and both that avenue and Twenty-fifth Street and the roofs and
windows of adjoining buildings were thronged with lookers-on. The Doctor
was much displeased on his arrival to find his back windows occupied on
both floors by total strangers, who made themselves perfectly at home
and couldn't be induced to leave by any intimation of the janitor that
the principal would like to close up. The Doctor was more than
displeased when he heard from Halsey of the filching of the gold. No
pupil saw that interview. A few of the smaller boys were at the back
widows, but only John noted the two in their grave consultation, and he
was promptly ordered to leave the room, and could only guess what was
going on until the following day. As the firemen stretched their
drag-ropes and started for home Halsey suggested summoning the boys back
to their seats and studies, but Pop said no,--it was too late in the
day. He wished to think, and, tucking the cash and checks in an inside
pocket and his cane under his arm, leaving Halsey to see to the closing
up of the rooms, the Doctor went slowly down-stairs and out upon the
crowded street. He had had to thread his way through the jam at
Twenty-fifth Street, and wanted no more of that. A line of hose
stretched along the sidewalk from the hydrant at the corner below, and
he looked upon it with stern and scholastic disapproval, but followed
its lead and came upon a familiar face. It being a "neighborhood" fire,
the Metamora Hose had run over from Fifth Avenue and Twenty-first
Street, being almost as soon upon the scene as 61. Taking the hydrant at
Twenty-fourth Street, her men had unreeled up the avenue and around the
stable, giving their "butt" to Lexington 7, who, with their big
double-decker, came speeding over from Third Avenue. And now the
prettily painted hose carriage was drawn up close to the curb at
Twenty-fourth Street, and half a dozen young fellows were lolling about
the wheels and tongue, smoking and talking loudly, with much exaggerated
imitation of the Bowery dialect of the day. But the slangy, swaggering
talk came to sudden stop. Two cigars, at least, were tossed or dropped
into the flooded gutters, and two or three hats were lifted as Hoover,
Briggs, and a "horsey" young man, whose specialties were cock-fights and
"canine sports," suddenly recognized the Doctor. With grave dignity Pop
lifted his beaver, and his stern eyes gazed in disapprobation upon the
party. He knew the others, as he did his own black sheep, at a glance.
There were the Hulkers, the flashiest of New York youths, the objects of
his especial dislike. He had known their father, a worthy man despite
his swiftly acquired wealth, and the boys, too, had spent six months
within the Doctor's walls before the death of that lamented financier.
But a doting mother had long since withdrawn them from the tyranny and
oppression to which her beloved sons were there subjected. The Doctor
had his regular habits and his regular route. No boy there had ever
known him to turn southward from his school door before this day, and
his coming suddenly upon them was a shock so severe that it dashed for
the moment even Briggs's effrontery. Hoover turned a sickly yellow, and
looked as though he would have been glad to crawl under the hose
carriage. Briggs "made a sneak" to get the reel between him and the
Doctor's glowering eyes, but Pop halted short and stood with pointed
cane, and Briggs saw it was useless and crawled out again. "Smoking!"
said the rector, comprehending the sextette in general condemnation.
"Idling! Wasting the substance of honest men in forbidden and stolen
indulgence. Here, you, sir!" to Briggs, "get you gone out of this. Go
home and study, and if you miss a line of to-morrow's lessons I'll pack
you out of school." "Pack" as a verb and "copious" as an adjective were
pets in the rector's school vocabulary. "The same to you, my horsey
young friend, Mr. Brodrick. As for you," he continued, addressing the
Hulkers and their companion, who, with hands in pockets and hats tipped
back, were striving to keep up appearance of bravado, "I shall reach you
through another channel." Then, his manner suddenly changing, he turned
on Hoover, now blinking and sidling away through the quickly gathering
knot of inquisitive folk. "Hoover, come with me," he said, and Hoover,
who looked as though he would give a year of his life to get out of the
way, meekly slunk along at the Doctor's side.

Majestically the rector strode across the street and went on southward,
vouchsafing no word to the culprit on his left. There were still curious
knots of loungers along the avenue. One or two companies were manning
the brakes in Twenty-fourth Street, the hose of their engines being
carried through the basements of the red brick houses to the rear of the
wrecked premises. Furtively Briggs and Brodrick watched the pair until
lost to sight, all but the Doctor's hat, in the throngs along the walk.
Then an anxious, nervous glance was exchanged, and Brodrick whispered to
his freckle-faced schoolmate. "What's he heard, d'you s'pose?" was his
query.

"We'd better look up 61 and see what the other fellows know," said
Briggs, in low tone, while the Hulkers, now that the rector was well
away, resumed their loud laughter. "You go, Brod; I can't show up in
that crowd just now." The memory of the assault on Snipe was still fresh
in the minds of some of the lads. Very possibly it was this that held
the Hulkers and their henchmen so far away from the fire itself and from
the spot where, over a block away, 61's white hose-reel and silver lamps
could be seen above the crowd. Even now that shame and suspicion
attached to George Lawton's name, those fellows, lately his accusers, if
not indeed his active assailants, felt it unsafe to venture among a lot
of the First Latin.

Brodrick peered up the street and shook his head. "Not if the court
knows herself," he said, with the Bowery drawl; then, turning to Hulker,
"Sa-ay, Skinny, gimme 'nother seegar." But the Hulker apostrophized as
"Skinny" declined.

"You've cleaned me out of the last one. Go buy some if you want 'em."

"I ain't got a dime. Hope to drop dead next minute if I have. Sa-ay,
lend me five dollars till Christmas on that watch-chain?" he pleaded,
lifting a clumsy production from a waistcoat-pocket. But the next minute
he thrust it back in haste and confusion. Beach, with observing eye,
came sweeping down upon them. "Mr. Halsey wishes to see you both at
once," said he, with scant ceremony. "Lose no time," and, though the
message filled them both with uneasiness, neither dare disregard it.

Halsey sat at the old table as they slunk into the school-room. Two or
three First Latin men and Second Latin boys were grouped about him;
John, the janitor, was dodging about the door. Every boy in the number
had on his overcoat, but at least half a dozen others had left theirs
hanging on the rack.

"Yes, sir, I know whose they are," Doremus was saying. "There's
Beekman's, and there's Bagshot's, and that's Prime's, and those are
Second Latin coats," he added, with proper indifference to the infant
garments. Halsey thought a moment.

"They must still be somewhere about," he said, tentatively, as Briggs
and Brodrick ranged up behind the smaller lads. "Where's Hoover?" he
questioned. "He was with you a moment ago."

"Gone with the Doctor, sir," said Briggs, glad enough to have no harder
question to answer.

A long hook-and-ladder truck that had been standing for some hours in
front of the school was being reloaded with its ladders, and its gong
was sounding to recall scattered members of the company. Some small boys
had tiptoed to the window to feast their eyes on the unaccustomed sight.
"There's some of our fellows over by 61's Hose now, sir," piped a
junior, and John was bidden to go and again summon all stragglers into
school. Ringing of his bell had only resulted in derisive comment among
the firemen. Some company just starting for home was receiving the
customary "hi, hi" of the hangers-on about the other machines, and
John's mandates produced no immediate effect. At last, however, the boys
came straggling up in knots of two or three, and presently perhaps a
dozen were added to the group about the master's table. He was listening
rather absently to the excited talk. No less than six or eight of the
youngsters had personally rescued as many horses apiece, despite the
fact that there never were more than twenty of those quadrupeds, all
told, in the adjoining stable. Halsey made Briggs repeat his statement
as to Hoover and seemed disappointed. "Is this all you can find?" he
finally said to the janitor, and John declared it was.

"Didn't you tell me Prime was down there, somewhere?" asked Halsey of
Doremus.

"He's sure to be, sir. His coat's here yet."

So again the janitor was sent forth, and again came back to say he could
see nothing of the lad, and at last the master decided to keep the
others no longer. Bagshot took his coat and left. There were only two
remaining on the rack when the usual hour for closing school drew nigh.
The occupants of the rear windows by this time had satisfied their
curiosity and departed, and John had been ordered to keep the doors
closed and to admit no more. For some reason Halsey seemed to hang on to
Briggs to the very last, and he and Brodrick were still fretting about
the benches, awaiting the master's permission to retire and glancing
apprehensively at each other from time to time.

At last Halsey beckoned them to his side.

"Where were you when the class followed me into the other room?" asked
he of Briggs.

"_With_ 'em, sir!" said Briggs, with eagerness. "Wasn't I, Brodrick? We
were among the first to follow."

"Yes, sir," asseverated Brodrick as positively. "We chased right in
after you."

"How long did you stay in there?" asked Halsey. "I'm told you were among
the first to bolt down-stairs--before school was dismissed."

"A minute or two, anyhow," declared Briggs. "I thought school was
dismissed or I wouldn't 'a' run."

"Did the whole class follow? Did any remain?" he asked, searching the
anxious features before him. He and Beach had already talked this over
among themselves. John, too, had been examined, but further testimony
was needed. Briggs reflected.

"Hoover was there, sir, and Shorty Prime."

"When you came out, do you mean?"

"Ye-ye-yes, sir. 't least Prime was. I didn't see Hoover."

"Where was Prime? Are you sure he was there?"

"Right up at the Doctor's desk, sir, where you were sitting."

"He was there still when you came out?"

"Ye-yes, sir. Wasn't he, Brodrick?"

Brodrick thought so, but couldn't be sure. He had "grabbed his cap and
run." "They were all rushing down from the English department
up-stairs."

Halsey's dark face was very dark now. His eyes were full of doubt and
dread. "I want you to be very careful of what you say, Briggs, and to
say nothing to anybody of what you have said." And while they were still
in conference steps were heard upon the stairs, and presently in came
the two pony members of the First Latin, Prime and Beekman, and Prime
was a sight to behold.

"What on earth have you been doing with yourself?" queried Halsey, as he
half turned and looked the youngster over from head to foot. Shorty's
clothes were wet and bedraggled, his face smudged with soot, but his
eyes sparkling with life and animation. He had not looked so much like
his old self since Lawton's disappearance.

"Had 28's pipe, sir, the last hour," said the boy, with a grin of pride.
"They were only pumping easy to soak down the ruins, and their fellows
were tired out and let me and Julian have it."

"Where's Julian?"

"Gone home, sir. He's wet through."

"So are you, but--don't go just yet. That's all, you others," said
Halsey, whereat the three slowly vanished, leaving only the janitor
staring at the door.

"Go out and shut that door, and keep it shut," said Halsey, shortly, to
the open-mouthed servitor, and then he turned on the boy, now warming
his hands at the big stove. "Prime," said he, "you were with me at the
desk when that alarm came. What became of you? What did you do?"

"I, sir? I went like a streak for 61."

"At once, do you mean?--right after the class ran after me into Mr.
Meeker's room?"

"_Before_ the class ran after you," said Shorty, with an injured air. No
fireman would waste so many valuable seconds. "I was down-stairs and
out of the school before they were fairly off the benches."

"How could you get your cap, sir?"

"Didn't take it, sir! I ran bare-headed to Twenty-sixth Street, hoping
to be the first to give 'em a still before I saw 'em coming."

"Give them a still! What's that?"

"A still alarm, sir. Give them a tip to the fire. But it must have been
going some minutes. They were spinning down the avenue by the time I got
half-way. Then I came back for my cap, and school was coming out."

"Did you speak to any of them? What boys saw you coming back?" asked
Halsey, thoughtfully.

"Oh, I don't know, sir," answered the youngster. "Everybody was excited,
I suppose, but me. I've always run to fires since I was knee-high. They
were all shouting. You were just coming out of Mr. Meeker's room, and I
nearly ran into you."

"Do you mean you ran to Twenty-sixth Street and back in that time?"

"_More_'n that, sir. I ran half-way to Twenty-seventh and out into the
street and grabbed hold of 61's rope. There were only six or seven
fellows on her, and I ran with 'em to the corner hydrant."

Something of the master's trouble was now reflecting in the pupil's
face. Something in the minuteness of Halsey's questioning suggested
graver trouble. "I hope nothing's wrong, sir," said Prime, anxiously.
"I know I oughtn't to have run when I did without permission, but--we
don't have a fire next door every day."

Halsey rose and placed the long, lean hand on the little fellow's
shoulder. Two years and more he had known him. He and "Tut" had given
him the first touches in Latin and Greek, and, as head-master, Halsey
had had many an occasion to reprove or reprimand, for high spirits or
mischief led to many a scrape, yet there was kindness, there was even a
touch of tenderness, in the master's tone as he answered.

"Perhaps you ought not to have run when you did," said he, "but, as it
is, I'm thankful."

And Shorty could have sworn Othello's swarthy hand was trembling.

Two minutes later the master had taken the names of two of 61's men who
were on the rope when Shorty joined them. Then, bidding him say nothing
of this conversation to any schoolmate until after the Doctor's coming
on the morrow, Halsey bade him hurry home and get a rub-down and dry
clothes. As Shorty turned to the rack for his overcoat a sudden thought
struck the master.

"Where was the letter written--Lawton's letter--that you took to the
Doctor this morning?"

"It didn't say, sir. It was postmarked Bridgeport, but--that don't prove
anything. Somebody else could have put it in for him there."

Jerking the overcoat from its peg and tossing it carelessly over his
arm, something bright came spinning out of the pocket, bounded to the
floor, and rolled in easy circle up in front of the master's table,
where it struck a crack, spun on edge a second, and then settled with a
metallic buzz and bur-r-r, and then lay still and shining opposite the
middle bench. Halsey started and stared, with a gleam in his eyes.
Shorty, surprised, sped after it, stooped and picked it up, then held it
between his thumb and forefinger, gazing at it in astonishment. "Why,
Mr. Halsey," he cried, "it's a ten-dollar gold piece!"

"Yes," said Halsey, "I know. See if there are any more."



CHAPTER XII.


When school reassembled the following day the First Latin knew to a man
by nine o'clock that the cause of Shorty's "late" the previous day was a
letter from Lawton. Warned by Jim Hulker that the rector had taken
Hoover to the Clarendon, Briggs scouted miserably down the avenue on
their trail, filled with no one knew what nervous apprehension of
trouble to come, and, dodging in at the office a moment later,
ascertained from a bell boy that they had gone into a parlor on the
second floor. Briggs knew what that meant. The Doctor was
cross-questioning his sullen pupil, and there were all manner of things
Hoover might be driven into confessing if closely and scientifically
pressed, and what might that not mean for Briggs? Not five minutes
later, down they came, the Doctor erect, stately, and deliberate as
ever, Hoover slinking wretchedly alongside. A carriage had been called,
and into this Hoover was practically hustled by his preceptor, and
together they were driven away towards Fourteenth Street, and Briggs
was left behind. They were going to see Hoover's father, was the
apparent explanation, and it boded ill. A ten-minute walk took Briggs
over to the house of the Metamora. The hose carriage had just returned,
and was being washed. The Hulkers had dropped off at a certain
billiard-hall, said one of the firemen, and thither sped Briggs. It was
a resort much frequented by certain of the Columbia students in those
days, and there were a dozen or more scattered about the big room at the
moment. Over in a corner, whispering together, were the two Hulkers with
a brace of followers. Over against them, across the room,
ostensibly--even ostentatiously--engaged in a game of billiards, were
Joy and Julian, and all the little pluck that Briggs had left went
oozing out of his finger-tips at the sight. Quickly he slunk back into
the vestibule and crouched there, peering through the glazed doors,
uncertain what to do. A bar-boy, coming up from below at the moment with
cigars and mixed drinks on a tray, found him peering in through the
crack, and knew him at once.

"Sa-ay," whispered Briggs, the moment he discovered who had come. "Tell
Mr. Hulker I want to speak to him out here a minute, will you?"

The boy looked hard at him, made no reply, went deliberately in with his
tray-load, deposited the glasses on little tables near the big ones,
where a jovial party of Columbians were playing, collected his pay,
counted it carefully over, then with exaggerated impudence of manner
dawdled over to where the Hulker set were in eager conference in their
corner, and said something to them. Briggs saw, and so did Joy and
Julian, the backward toss of the head, the over-the-shoulder jerk of the
thumb towards the entrance, saw the four young fellows start and glance
questioningly thither; then presently, hands in pockets and head in air,
Hulker major came sauntering out, just as Julian caught sight of a
carroty head ducking behind the framework of the doorway.

"There's that sneak Briggs now," he quickly whispered to his chum. "What
are those fellows planning, do you s'pose?"

There was a brief confabulation in the hallway without, and then back
came Hulker,--no loitering now,--said a word or two to his fellows, and
the four picked up their canes and overcoats and started for the door.
The bar-boy went running after them.

"I'll pay you to-morrow," Hulker major answered, impatiently; and Julian
heard it. The boy was importunate, and glanced at the desk. The clerk
came out from behind his barricade.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Hulker, but the manager left strict orders that that
account must be settled before you could be served again. You told the
boy you would settle everything before you left, and to get those
cigars. Now, I've got to take the money out of the till and pay for 'em
if you don't."

Angrily, and with ugly words, the elder Hulker turned on the clerk. "I
haven't any money just now, I tell you. We've been at that fire all the
morning. It's too late to get a check cashed. I'll bring you the money
to-night, Billy, I'll swear to----"

But the controversy was cut short by the sudden entrance of the manager
himself. He was a man who prided himself on the "respectability" of his
place. Order and decorum were things he insisted on. Even the mildest of
sherry-cobblers, for which the bar was famous, was forbidden to the
student or youth who showed the faintest symptom of over-stimulation.
Case-hardened politicians and men about town avoided Martigny's, for the
reason that they could never get enough there. Student trade was
something he catered to only so long as it came through the well-bred
and well-behaved of their number. The Hulker set he much disapproved of
and had frequently cautioned, but money was an object, and for a time
those young fellows had it and spent it in abundance. Of late there had
come a change. Something had occurred to limit their supplies, and
within a month they had run up bills at every neighboring bar or
billiard-room where they could get credit, and now Martigny, after
thrice presenting his account, had drawn the line. Quietly but firmly he
told the elder that that bill must be settled then and there or it would
be sent by a messenger to his mother at once. It was impossible for the
players at the tables not to hear what was going on. There were sly
winks and quizzical glances. Columbiads, old or young, fought shy of the
Hulkers, but even they were unprepared for the scene that followed.

"I haven't got a cent with me, Johnny," protested the elder, while the
others crowded about in indignant chorus. "I swear I'll fetch it to you
to-night, or in two hours, if you must have it."

"You've sworn to the same effect twice before, Mr. Hulker," said the
manager, calmly, "and I cannot trust you. I was down in the bar-room
when your orders came for this round of drinks and cigars, and the boy
declared that you showed him gold, and declared further that you'd
settle the whole account. It's fourteen dollars and seventy-five cents,
and I want that money now."

"It ain't mine, Johnny. It was given me for a particular purpose,"
protested Hulker. "That was just bluffing. I didn't think he'd take it
in earnest."

"But he did, Mr. Hulker, and so did I, and so will your mother when my
messenger gets there ten minutes from now. Get your coat, Mr. Tracy," he
said, turning to his assistant. "I'll send you around with the message.
That's all, gentlemen. I won't detain you further than to say that you
will not be allowed in this room hereafter."

"Sa-ay, stop! Hold on!" cried Hulker. "Here, I'll--I'll pay it now. But
of all the dash, dash, dashed mean----"

"No bad language, Mr. Hulker," said Martigny, calmly. "A special
policeman is at the door." He glanced at the coin tendered by the
trembling hand of the leader. "Give Mr. Hulker five dollars and
twenty-five cents," said he, calmly, to the desk. "There's a friend of
yours peeking in at the door. You might inquire now what he wants." And
with unruffled civility the manager led the way to the door, closed it
after the crestfallen quartette, and came back thoughtfully chinking the
coins, just as Joy and Julian, laying aside their cues, hurried to the
desk to pay for their game.

"Was that red-headed specimen there yet when you came up, Martigny?"
asked Julian.

"Yes, sir; but he scuttled away down-stairs as soon as he saw me. Who is
he?"

"One of the Hulker set, and none of ours," was the brief answer, as
Julian's keen eyes took in the two coins Martigny was still mechanically
passing back and forth from the fingers of one hand to the other.
"Ten-dollar gold pieces," said he to Joy, as the two hurried down the
stairs and out on the busy street. There, "scooting" along in the keen
December wind, heads bowed and half hidden in high coat-collars, and
huddling together, the discomfited quartette, reinforced at the corner
by Briggs, were just turning to cross Broadway when a carriage came
driving rapidly by. Seated therein, erect and majestic, was the Doctor,
apparently lost in thought. By his side a pasty-faced young fellow,
with flitting, beady black eyes, glanced furtively out and recognized
his fellows, made some quick signal with the hand, waved it from the
window, and pointed towards the northeast corner of Madison Square.

"I'll bet I know what that means," said Julian, as the five halted,
irresolute, and gazed after the carriage. "Pop's had him in limbo for
over an hour, and the moment he gets out he wants those fellows to meet
him. We could find something worth knowing, old man, if we could see
them together again." But not until long after did Julian dream how
much.

The Doctor left Hoover at the steps of the brownstone mansion, saw him
safely within-doors, summoned the grave butler to his carriage, said a
few words in low tone, and was about to order "drive on," when he was
aware of two young gentlemen running up, panting a bit and red in the
face.

"Ha, Joy! Julian!" he cried, as they raised their caps. "What brings you
here?"

"What news of Lawton, sir? Doremus just told us there was a letter." And
to substantiate the story, Doremus himself came puffing after the pair.

"Where'd you hear it?" asked the Doctor of the third youngster, desirous
first of ascertaining where the leak occurred.

"I was over at the school a few minutes ago. The janitor told me, and
Mr. Halsey and Prime were just going away together."

"Just going away together! Why, I supposed everybody had left the
building an hour ago."

"So did I, sir, but John said Mr. Halsey had kept Prime. He was having a
long talk with him 'bout something, and John heard him say that now they
had proof it wasn't Lawton that took Joy's watch, and that they'd have
him back in less than a week."

"Indeed!" exclaimed Pop, now well-nigh as vehemently interested as his
pupils. "Then you young gentlemen will be wise to go direct to your
respective rooms and get to work on the lessons for to-morrow. It's
almost dark now. Be off with you!" and, with exaggerated sternness, the
cane was displayed.

"But was it so, sir? Have you heard of Lawton?"

"Yes," said the Doctor, instantly relapsing into the confidential manner
known only to the boys he trusted and liked. "He writes that he had been
ill, but is strong again, and we are going to try and fetch him back.
Now, no more until to-morrow. Off to your books!"

If John, the janitor, had not been in such a hurry to get home, he might
have given out some news that would have surprised them, and that was
that when Mr. Halsey and Shorty Prime left the school together they went
up the avenue instead of down, and, of all places in Gotham, Halsey led
straight to the house of 61 Hose. Out in front on the cobble-stones the
dainty white Zephyr was being sponged off and rubbed dry by three or
four red-shirted experts, who glanced up and grinned affably at "the
little 'un" and looked critically but in no surprise at the master. A
New York fireman of the late '50s thought it bad form to be unprepared
for anything. "Here are two who can back up my statements," said the
boy, with confident eyes, as he beckoned to the nearest member of the
Zephyr. "Will you tell Mr. Halsey where I met you on the way to the fire
this morning, and what we said?"

The hoseman straightened up and squeezed the dirty water out of a huge
sponge, shifted a quid in his cheek, thought a moment, and answered,
"Why, cert'nly, Shorty; right down there opposite the Harlem depot. We'd
hardly gone a block when I see this little fellow come a-running.
'What's a-fire, Shorty?' says I. 'Big house next the stable,' says he.
'Where's your cap?' says I. And he just kind a' nodded at the school as
he grabbed the rope. You ain't going to do nothing to him for coming to
give us a still on a fire, are you?" he asked, with something like
menace in his eye.

"No," said Halsey, with one of his rare smiles. "We're glad to know it.
That'll do, Prime. Come on." And Halsey, who never wasted a second of
time, touched his hat to the Zephyrs and went streaking off down the
avenue again, the tails of his worn black frock-coat streaming in the
breeze, Shorty, much disappointed because he wasn't called upon to
produce further evidence of prowess as a fireman, skipping along after
him. The lad's heart was bounding with excitement and joy. Another day,
and if successful in the quest on which she had already started, Mrs.
Park, George Lawton's mother, would have Snipe once more back in school,
and his accusers would stand confounded. Not for days had Shorty seemed
so like his old self, bright, buoyant, and chatting like a parrot, to
the discomfiture of a most tolerant home circle.

Morning came and all the school was early "on deck," and the news of
Snipe went buzzing from lip to lip, and Briggs nervously flitted from
group to group, swallowing snubs as though they were sugar. Meeker came
wearily in, his pale face paler than ever, his eyes seeking Halsey, who
glanced up and gravely shook his head, whereat the junior master made a
despondent gesture with both hands and went on into his own room. Beach,
his ruddy skin glowing with the exercise of a long, vigorous walk, swung
out of his top-coat and into his seat as though lessons were to begin at
the instant. He and Halsey merely exchanged nods. They were on
civil--not confidential--terms. The janitor came and reached for the
bell, lifted it by the handle from the table, and was turning with it
when, unaccountably, it was jerked from his grasp and went clanging and
clattering to the floor. The news of Snipe had restored heart to the
First Latin, and as one boy the class turned on John in voluble
sympathy. John dove for the bell, straightened up, and started anew,
when there was a jerk to the table, a snap, and the little clapper of
the bell shot half-way across the room. Turner dashed upon it and held
it up to public view, a fine steel wire firmly attached to it and
stretching to the leg of the table.

"Awe, see here, Mr. Beach, any boy that would play such a trick as that
ought to be packed out of school. I move you, sir, that it is the sense
of the First Latin----"

But Beach is in no mood for trifling. Bang! comes the heavy ruler on the
desk. "To your seat!" he orders. "Ten marks off for Turner," and the
class subsides, while John speeds away to borrow the bell from the shop
below, and the master mentally calls the roll. "One absentee, Hoover,"
he notes; instantly calls Bertram to his feet and begins the work of the
day. Poor work it proves to be, for between yesterday's fire and the
morning's tidings the First Latin has neglected its studies. Poorer it
proves after ten o'clock, at which hour a policeman appears at the door
and asks for the rector. Poorer still after a recess at twelve, at which
time Mr. Hoover himself drives up in his carriage, Halsey comes down to
meet him, and together they drive away. At any other time the fact that
Halsey was away from his post at the reassembly after recess would lead
to a riot, but the sight of the face of Hoover, _pater_, is more than
enough for the class. "He looks like a ghost," says Bliss. "What's
coming next?"

Nothing came--ahead of the Doctor. At the usual moment he appeared, and
as usual levelled his stick at the boy at the foot. "No
message--telegraphic?" he asked of Beach, after brief glance at the
missives on his desk. A shake of the head, an inaudible "no" framed by
the lips were the answers. A look of grave concern spread over the
Doctor's face. He glanced at his watch, turned to the window, then back
to the door, for the rustle of skirts, most unusual sound, could be
heard on the stairs. Another moment and there entered Mrs. Park, George
Lawton's mother. She reached the chair the Doctor promptly placed for
her, sank into it, limp and despairing, and burst into tears. "Doctor,
Doctor!" she wailed. "My boy has not been near Bridgeport. I couldn't
find a trace of him--or of any one who knew anything about him."



CHAPTER XIII.


There was a change in the composition of the First Latin when the
Christmas holidays came on, and the erstwhile "band of brothers" broke
up for a fortnight of frolic at home. Hoover had not reappeared at
school at all. He had been sent South to visit relatives in Mobile "for
the benefit of his health," the rector said to the class, but there was
no twinkle of merriment in his eye as he spoke, and no responsive laugh
along the line of young faces. Strange interviews had occurred between
the Doctor, Joy, and Julian, from which "the senate" came forth with
sealed lips. Long conferences had taken place between the Doctor,
Halsey, and Beach, and twice had Briggs been bidden to stay after
school. "They wanted me to tell on lots of you fellows," was his
explanation to the class. "Pop and Halsey tried to get me to tell where
you spent your time and your money out of school, and threatened to
dismiss me if I didn't." But the First Latin answered unanimously that
Briggs was a liar. All the same they did wish they knew what was really
the matter with Hoover. There was one lad who could have given a new
direction to their theories had he not promised both the Doctor and
Halsey to say nothing whatever about that ten-dollar gold piece, and a
hard time he had keeping his word, and that was Shorty. Neither from the
Doctor nor any one, until long after, did he learn nor did the school
know that at least one hundred dollars had disappeared from the drawer
of the Doctor's desk the eventful morning of the fire. Yet what made it
strange was that rumors of such a thing had been heard, and they came
from outside the school. Columbia students heard it whispered at
Martigny's. Martigny himself admitted, when cornered, that he had had an
interview with the rector at the residence of a gentleman in Madison
Avenue, by request, but he would say no more. One thing was certain.
None of the Hulker set reappeared at Martigny's. Another thing was
announced, that Mrs. Hulker, who for the years that followed her
husband's death had followed his example and consulted Hoover senior in
all her investments, etc., had turned against that substantial citizen
and was filling the ears of society with tales of his treachery, tales
to which Mrs. Lawrence and her coterie listened with bated breath. Then,
as has been said, the Hulker boys, too, went South, "visiting relatives
in Savannah," and the widow followed a fortnight later. Ten days before
Christmas, the so-called Hulker gang was without head, foot, or
finances, both Hulker and Hoover having disappeared. There were "no more
cakes and ale," no more cigars and tobacco for the few hangers-on about
the quarters of Metamora Hose. But, after all, the matter over which
Pop's boys talked and wondered most was: Where was Snipe Lawton and why
did nothing further come from him?

There was a mystery about the letter that had taken Shorty up to the
Doctor's early that December morning and sent an eager, anxious,
loving-hearted woman out on the New Haven Railway by the noon train. It
had come by post to Shorty just as he was starting for school, and he
had run first to the Lawrences' and then, after five minutes' eager,
excited talk with Mrs. Park, nearly all the way to Murray Hill, and
caught the Doctor on his customary tramp to college before he reached
the reservoir. It was only a little note. It said that Snipe had been
ill of some kind of fever, that he had found work and was feeling
independent and happy, hoping soon to make enough to send five dollars
to Seymour, when he was taken ill. Snipe thought he "must have been
flighty a few days," but people had been very kind to him. He had helped
two boys--his employer's sons--with their arithmetic every night until
his prostration, and it had pleased their mother and father both, but he
had let out something about his own mother, and now they were telling
him how cruel he had been to her and how he ought to go back to her and
put an end to her suffering. Snipe said he couldn't go back to
Rhinebeck and wouldn't go back to Aunt Lawrence, but if Shorty would
send the enclosed note to his mother she would know that he loved her
and thought of her constantly; and then he asked Shorty to write to him
how the boys were and whether they missed him, and what Seymour said.
"Address your letter care Massasoit House, Bridgeport, and I'll get it
safely, only don't tell anybody." And, instead of writing, Shorty had
run to Pop and Pop had turned back with him, had sent notes by him to
Mrs. Park and to Halsey, bidding the latter give Shorty whole holiday,
which, to the astonishment of the school, he had declined.

"Why did you do that?" Halsey had asked him during their memorable
conference after the discovery of the gold in his overcoat-pocket, and
Halsey was thinking how, unconsciously, the boy was weaving a strong
thread in the net of suspicion that would have been thrown about him but
for the lucky accident of the afternoon. "Beyond all question," said
Halsey to himself and to the Doctor, "it was the intention of the thief
to cast suspicion on Prime and divert it from himself," and there were
just three lads, so far as Halsey could figure, who besides "Loquax"
were in the room during his few minutes' absence, and had opportunity to
rob that till,--Briggs, Hoover, and the janitor. The later discovery of
the gold at Martigny's narrowed the number to Briggs and Hoover, with
the chances in favor of the latter. And all these facts combined had
led to that solemn conference between the Doctor and Hoover senior, and,
despite all his protests of innocence, to the withdrawal of the
ill-favored and unfortunate young fellow from the school. There was to
be no scandal,--no allegation of crime. Pop would have dropped a
thousand dollars rather than have it openly said that such things had
happened among his boys. His own suspicions for months past had centred
on his hulking, clumsy janitor, and for weeks the detectives had dogged
and dogged in vain. What confounded and troubled the Doctor was young
Hoover's vehement and persistent denial of guilt, and Hoover senior's
prompt assertion that on the Saturday afternoon previous to quarter day,
when giving his son the check for his school bill, he had also given him
twenty-five dollars in gold and silver to pay certain debts the young
man had confessed to him, and he was certain there were two ten-dollar
pieces in the lot.

Those were solemn days for the elder Hoover and rueful days for the son.
There were conferences, crossexaminations, and almost inquisitions at
the solemn old mansion, Pop, Halsey, Martigny (most unwillingly), and
Beach taking part. But the boy stood firm to his first statement. He had
had no more money from any source than that twenty-five dollars. He long
refused to say what he had done with it, as only a little silver
remained, but at last owned that he had given the two tens "for
safe-keeping" to the elder of the Hulker brothers as they stood there
by the hose carriage. There was an unsettled account between them,
covering only a few dollars, Hoover claimed, but the Hulkers said a
great deal more, and while they were trying to straighten it out the
Doctor swooped down on him and bore him away. This, if true, would
account for the money Hulker gave Martigny. But who took the money from
the Doctor's drawer? Who put that ten-dollar piece in Shorty's
overcoat-pocket? Why didn't Shorty wish to take the whole holiday with
the other boys as proffered by the Doctor? Halsey had to ask him, and it
was plain the little fellow hated to answer, but answer he did. He was
being educated at the expense of his relatives. They had made occasional
criticism of the Doctor's proclivity as to half-holidays, and when this
quarter day came Shorty had been not unkindly told that the money
expended in payment for those school bills was for his instruction, not
his amusement, that Saturday and Sunday were holidays enough in the
week, and, finally, that he should have his check on Wednesday, and
meantime they expected him to attend school.

One more question had Halsey to ask, and over it the youngster pondered
long, though he answered instantly. "It was not four minutes--not much
more than three--between the time you came in and the moment of the
announcement of the fire. Was there no sign of it when you crossed
Twenty-fifth Street? Didn't you know that the alarm would be given in a
minute?"

"No, sir, there wasn't a sign or a sound of it on the avenue; besides, I
came through Twenty-fourth Street, from the direction of the
Lawrences';" and that ended Halsey's cross-examination. To clinch
matters, he had taken Shorty with him, as has been told, and questioned
a fireman of 61 Hose, then sent him home for dry clothing, happy in the
importance of having held 28's pipe a whole half-hour, and hungry as a
bear. Small wonder that the family decided after dinner that evening
that it was time to call a halt on this craze for running to fires on
the part of their junior member. But events were looming up that were
soon to spare them further care in that direction.

What the First Latin and Pop and Halsey and Beach now longed to know,
however, was, where was Snipe, and why had Mrs. Park failed in her
mission? The rector and his head-master had now good reason to know that
whether Lawton had anything to do with the disappearance of Joy's watch
(which none of them could really believe), he was not the only thief in
the school, for the loss of the hundred dollars long after his
disappearance conclusively settled that. There were now not more than
half a dozen lads who believed that Snipe was dishonest to the extent of
stealing a watch, not more than a dozen who doubted his integrity at
all, and as for his saying in his letter that he could be reached
through the Massasoit at Bridgeport, there were theories in abundance to
explain the fact that neither in person nor by letter had Snipe
"reported." He never said where he had found work; he had not given the
address of his benefactors; he still, it seemed, dreaded that his
step-father would enforce his return to a life that was torment to a boy
of his character and spirit. He had merely told Shorty that a letter
addressed care of the Massasoit, Bridgeport, would reach him; and,
learning this through the admissions wrung from his sorely badgered
"chum," and never waiting to write, the impulsive woman had gone at once
in person, and the Massasoit people knew nothing whatever of the son. No
one answering his description had been there, and as for letters being
sent in care of the house, they showed her a bundle of missives so
addressed. Every day guests would arrive, register, ask if letters had
come for them, ransack the packet, select their own, and toss the others
back. Some they showed her had been waiting a month for claimants. If
she were to leave a letter addressed in their care for her son and if he
were to call for it, they would telegraph to her, but that was all they
could promise, and, after consulting the city authorities and, of
course, the minister of the church to whose doctrines she had pinned her
faith, and all without hearing of a lad who in the least resembled her
George, the sad-hearted woman had gone miserably back to Gotham and to
Pop.

Then, of course, she wrote, and so did Shorty. Both letters begged Snipe
to return, but by this time Mr. Park himself had come to New York to
persuade his wife to go back to her home and to promise that he himself
would seek and find the wandering boy and fetch him to her arms,--the
worst piece of strategy that could have been adopted, as Shorty, boy
that he was, could have told her and would have told Park. Left to his
mother and to his chum, the lad's heart might have relented and his
stubborn pride dissolved, but there are men sublimely gifted with the
faith that they alone are competent to deal with affairs, either public
or personal,--that without their aid and guidance everything is sure to
go amiss. Park sped away to the Massasoit on the heels of the letters,
and when George Lawton drove in with the hope of finding the longed-for
messages from home, and went from the stable where they had put up the
sleigh straight and eager to the Massasoit, there, with his back to the
huge, red-hot stove and facing the office desk, as though to guard that
package of letters, there, grim, unbending, repellent as ever, stood
George Lawton's step-father, and the lad, scenting treachery, turned and
fled.

When the school assembled for the eventful year of '61, the First Latin
found itself reduced to twenty-five. Hoover, it was announced, would
spend some months in Mobile with a private tutor and rejoin after
Easter. From Snipe Lawton there came neither message, missive, nor
token. A rumor flew from lip to lip one April morning that a lad
answering every description of the missing boy had fallen from the
steps of a New Haven train through a gap between the beams of the Harlem
bridge and was lost in the murky waters. The brakeman who saw the
accident was well known to members of the school who lived at New
Rochelle, and so impressed the Doctor with his story that reward was
offered for the body, and men dragged the river for several days. "What
you need," said one of the wiseacres of the First Latin, "is to fire
cannon over the stream, and that'll bring him up if anything will," and
the words were recalled when, within another day, the guns of Sumter
boomed from shore to shore, rousing a nation from its lethargy, bringing
many a man and boy to vivid life and action such as they had never known
or dreamed before.



CHAPTER XIV.


The great city had gone wild. Not a month before many of Pop's boys had
ridiculed the lads of a rival school who had employed a drill-master
from the Ninth Regiment and met two evenings a week. But Shorty, after
vainly trying to start a rival company among his own mates, had gone
over and enlisted in the ranks at Mulholland's. As a drum-boy he was not
allowed to handle a musket and "fall in" with the famous regiment to
which he was attached. Indeed, he would have had to stand on a
step-ladder to load "according to tactics" the long, glistening musket
with which the troops were at that time armed. Mulholland's boys had
hired a lot of old-fashioned cadet musquetoons, heavy and cumbrous, but
they were marvellous weapons in the eyes of the lads. Officers on duty
at Governor's Island were frequent visitors at the Primes' at Fourteenth
Street, and Shorty could not but hear of the preparations at the
arsenal, the effort to send reinforcements and provisions to Major
Anderson at Fort Sumter. All the world knew at this time how the "Star
of the West" was fired on and forced to put back to sea, but still not
one man in five would admit there should be war, and, in the great
Democratic community, hundreds and hundreds of people and not a few
papers almost openly took sides with the South. Two lads at Pop's
actually came to school wearing the colors of South Carolina in their
waistcoats, and in the First Latin the Ballous, whose father had
embarked his capital in steamships trading with Charleston and Savannah,
and Seymour, whose relatives were nearly all Southern, and the Graysons,
who were Northerners by birth, but had many kindred in Virginia and
Alabama, were all openly "secesh" in their talk. And still lessons went
on, and the boys even had time to talk of Snipe and wish him back, and
of Hoover and wish him in Jericho. Long ere this, now that there were
two absent and Briggs had not a friend or a believer left in the school,
all the First Latin had swung round into the conviction that poor Snipe
was the victim of circumstances and conspiracy, and that Hoover was the
cause of all his woes. The story of the hundred-dollar stealing had
begun to be accepted as a fact, though Pop and his assistants could
never be got to admit it. The further fact that Hoover and those
notorious scamps, the Hulkers, had not been seen in New York since the
Christmas holidays had set afloat a story that they had been discovered
to be connected in many a piece of rascality. Everything missing at
school for over a year was now attributed to Hoover. He had been able,
said the boys, to dispose of his plunder through those Hulker fellows,
who, despite the money lavished on them by their foolish mother, had
debts in many a bar-, billiard-, and pool-room, and were known to have
pawned valuable jewelry from time to time. She was with them somewhere
in the South, and the gloomy old house in Twenty-first Street was cared
for by the servants, who were glad enough to have their young masters
away and suspicion attaching to themselves at last removed. But still
that watch of Joy's and certain valuables of Aunt Lawrence's remained
unaccounted for. Still the police were baffled. Still there came no news
as to Snipe's whereabouts, and his mother, deeply distressed, had gone
home to Rhinebeck and had to be content with receiving once a month a
few lines saying her boy was well, working, and would return to her one
of these days when he had earned enough to make him independent. Those
letters bore only the date, which often differed by three days from that
of the post-mark, but the post-mark helped them not at all. One letter
was posted in New York, another in Boston, a third in Philadelphia. It
was evident that Snipe was determined to give his step-father no further
chance to find him. Once he wrote to Shorty, upbraiding him gently for
being instrumental in putting "old Park" on his track, but that was all.
Shorty felt it keenly, but with that poor mother and the Doctor and his
home people all importuning him and telling him what was his duty, the
boy had weakened and given the clue, with the result that they had
gained nothing and he had lost his friend. There was little comfort in
the assertions of the one whom he referred to as his "Sunday-school
aunt," that he ought to be thankful to be rid of so undutiful and
undesirable a companion. Shorty, to use the vernacular of the day,
"couldn't see it," and fell from grace for saying so. But now the
thrilling days of suspense were on the nation, and, while everybody who
knew the South knew well the South meant fight, the baa lambs of the
pulpit and the braying leaders of the press kept on preaching about the
ties of brotherly love, the right of the people to assemble peaceably
("even when under arms"), and the wrong of interference or intimidation,
so "Let the erring sisters go in peace." As late as the 8th of April,
one night when the boys were drilling in the big gymnasium on the upper
floor of Mulholland's school, and quite a number of people were looking
on, a venerable patron of the school stepped forward during the rest and
proceeded to address them.

"Cease all this waste of time, boys. Put away your cruel weapons.
Abandon this senseless strutting and marching. War is a relic of the
dark ages,--of barbarism. The world has grown wise with years, and of
the enlightened nations of the earth America stands foremost. Trust to
the broad views of our statesmen and the good sense of the people. They
will ever stand between us and the horrors of a civil war."

There was much applause among certain mothers and sisters sitting along
among the spectators, but Mulholland and the boys did not join. It was
significant of what the drill sergeant thought that the moment the
handclapping subsided he commanded attention and then "Fix bayonet!"
Within the week that followed, the broad views of many a Southern
statesman were manifest in the shotted guns trained on Sumter. The good
sense of the people, so far from "standing between us and the horrors of
civil war," boiled over in a genuine Anglo-Saxon exuberance of battle
fervor. The news that the stars and stripes were lowered in Charleston
Harbor sent them to the peak of every staff throughout the North, and
men, women, and children swarmed upon the streets, decked with the
badges of red, white, and blue. All Gotham had caught the war fever. The
President's call for the services of the State militia to defend the
capital until the volunteers could be enrolled sent the Sixth
Massachusetts through the city the very next morning, the famous New
York Seventh following by special train late the following day, and the
Eighth Massachusetts marched down Fifth Avenue the same evening the
Seventh went away. The best blood and brawn of the metropolis and of the
Bay State were the first to respond. The Sixty-ninth, Seventy-first,
and Seventy-ninth, Irish, American, and Scotch regiments of the great
city, followed within the week, the jaunty Frenchmen of the Fifty-fifth,
the Grays of the Eighth, the Blues of the Twelfth were promptly under
arms. Every able-bodied man of the tribe of Prime was in uniform and
away to the front before the month of May was ushered in, and Shorty,
with breaking heart, had shut himself in his room and sobbed himself
sick because he was forbidden to even think of going. He listened to the
thrilling strains of the Seventh's splendid band until the last sound of
their favorite "Skyrockets" was drowned in the hoarse cheers of the
crowds that saw them off. He went to school as ordered and got "flunked"
in every lesson. He sat on the mourners' bench in utter misery and
despond all through the week that followed the going of the city troops,
after having deliberately absented himself from every session during
which a regiment happened to be marching away, and in all the two weeks
that followed the coming of the news from Sumter only once had there
come into his life a moment of joy and comfort, and that was the day
following the departure of the Seventy-first (red-jacketed drum corps
and all,--all except poor Shorty), when, as the First Latin bustled out
into the street at recess, and Shorty, last of all, came drearily down
with his hands in his pockets, ordered out, in fact, by Mr. Beach, he
was greeted on the sidewalk by a jeering laugh and Briggs's taunting,
sneering words. "Hullo, drummer! So you thought you'd better stay home
where there wasn't going to be any show of fighting, did you?" and
Briggs might have known what would happen. Just as before, in a sudden
whirl of fury, the youngster flew at him, landed both fists on the
freckled "mug" before Briggs could either dodge or guard; bore him
backward in the full force of the instant attack; the carroty head
banged on the curb and knocked him stupid, and then the peace-makers
really might have been less deliberate in pulling Shorty off. Briggs was
a wreck when his raging assailant was dragged away, and Halsey,
wild-eyed, came rushing out to stop the fray. "Prime, Prime!" he said,
as he held him by the collar. "You've tried the rector's patience to the
utmost this last week, and I fear this will end it all."

"I don't care if it does!" panted Shorty. "I'd rather be killed than
kept here any longer. I hope he _will_ expel me. Then perhaps they'll
let me go where I belong!" And in a torrent of wrath the youngster's
swelling heart burst over all bounds, and he was led sobbing away.

Still dazed, half blind, and bleeding, Briggs was lifted to his feet.
"It served you right, you hulking coward," said Joy, as he and Bertram
led the battered object to the horse-trough in the stable. "You couldn't
have insulted him more brutally."

"It's of no use," said the Doctor that evening, gravely, to a
gray-haired grandsire, who was himself burning with longing to go to the
front. "That boy can't study now. You see he was regularly enlisted as
a drummer. He fully believed that when his regiment was called out that
nothing could keep him back, and, boy-like, he has said so among his
fellows,--probably bragged of it a little. He who had been so boastfully
confident now has to stay and face the sneers of the school, while big
boys of eighteen and nineteen like Dix and Julian have gone with the
Seventh. It breaks his heart, my friend. There's no likelihood of
fighting just now. The rebels won't be fools enough to attack
Washington. Send him down there to his uncle. Let him have a taste of
camp life. The city troops will come home as soon as the volunteers
begin to arrive. In fact, if you don't there'll be incessant war right
here at school."

"But there's his examination for college," said the head of the Primes,
himself a don of Columbia.

"Well, didn't you assure Dix and Julian that Columbia would admit them
without examination whenever they knocked at the doors? Didn't you at
faculty meeting say that three seniors, who never could have got their
diplomas in the world, should have their degrees without further
question, despite the fact that they have dragged along at the foot of
their class for the last two years, all just because of the fact that
they have gone to the front with their regiments?"

"But then he's so small for his years," was the next objection.

"All the better soldier! Those big, long giants break down. Those
stocky little fellows are the stayers. Besides," says Pop, with a
twinkle in his eyes, "size doesn't seem to count for much. You--ought to
have seen Briggs."

"Was he well pounded?" asked the head of the house, with interest ill
becoming his years and station. Perhaps he is thinking of old, old days
at "Harrow on the Hill," when he, too, had been under the ban for more
than one forbidden fight.

"Halsey says he looked as though he'd been mauled by a wildcat;" and to
save his reputation the Doctor cannot repress a grim smile.

"The young rascal!" says the head of the house.

Shorty, meantime, remanded to his room to cool off and meditate on his
sins, has done neither. The drum which was his joy and the jaunty
uniform are gone. To his unspeakable grief, there had come an order for
them from the adjutant the day before the regiment marched. Another boy
had been accepted in his place, a bigger boy, who could hardly squeeze
into either jacket or trousers, but, of course, did not return them.
They were regimental property, and yet Shorty felt a sense of personal
indignity that, even when he couldn't go, the adjutant should permit any
other one to take his place. Of his misery when, clinging to his perch
on a lamp-post above the cheering throngs, he saw those twenty
red-jacketed lads, led by the drum-major, coming proudly trudging down
Broadway at the head of the splendid command, it would be impossible to
tell; and now, twitted and insulted at school because he was bound to
obey the decree of his grandparents, virtually suspended for resenting
the insult, and, last of all, practically a prisoner in his room, poor
Shorty's cup was full.

There came a step in the hallway without, a knock at the door, and the
butler's boy, a stanch friend, ally, and fellow-fireman, stood and
waited. There was no answer, and he stooped and hailed through the
keyhole.

"Mr. Shorty, father sent me up with some dinner,--and there's a letter,
looks like Mr. Snipe's writin'."

The door flew open and the letter was seized.

       *       *       *       *       *

     "DEAR SHORTY," it read,--"I used to think nothing would ever
     make me a soldier any more than nothing could keep you from
     being one, but here I am, high private in the rear rank, and as
     big if not as broad as the rest of 'em. I swore I was eighteen
     and over. I have the height and looked strong. They wanted to
     fill the company up to a hundred, and there was no further
     question. Fancy my delight when we went into camp next your
     regiment and my surprise when I couldn't find you among the
     drum-boys. Billy Archer says you nearly went crazy when they
     came away without you. What's the matter? You _are_ coming,
     aren't you? I saw your Uncle Hal in his captain's uniform
     yesterday, and stood up and saluted with the rest. I shan't
     tell you my regiment or address this time, though Park
     couldn't take me away from Uncle Sam even if he did come. But
     when you get here hunt up Billy Archer, and he'll tell you
     where to find your old chum.
                                                       "SNIPE."

       *       *       *       *       *

That night, late, it occurred to some one that it might be well to go up
and see Shorty and try to reason with him and comfort him, or "do
something," as it was vaguely expressed. The room door was wide open,
the dinner stood untasted on the tray, the tray was on the bed, and
Shorty was gone.



CHAPTER XV.


It was a starlit summer night following a day of moist, debilitating
heat. It had rained at dawn, and then, as the clouds of heaven broke
away and went sailing off towards the distant heights on the western
horizon, the sun had poured hotly down on open fields and sodden red
roads and long rows of wet, white tentage, veiling the landscape with
miniature clouds from the teeming earth. All day long soldiers
innumerable lolled about the camps and thronged the sentry-posts that
lined the roadway, chaffing the passers-by or dickering with darky
vendors of fruit, cakes, and pies,--amateur soldiers were these, as any
veteran could tell at a glance, some in gayly trimmed regimentals, some
in antiquated tail-coats, more in fancy jackets, few in serviceable
garb, and nearly all with their hands in their pockets. A bored, jaded,
time-killing lot they looked. The ground was too wet and muddy for
drill. The first flush of patriotic fervor had worn away. They had
rushed to the front at the earliest call, expectant of tremendous
doings, and, except the street-fight of the Sixth Massachusetts in
Baltimore and a few shots heard at the picket-posts, there had been no
taste of battle. They were the three-months men, mainly State militia,
hurried down to hold Washington against attack, while the volunteers,
the "three-years men" of the war, were organizing and drilling behind
them. Their three months had nearly expired, and most of them were eager
to go home so long as there was nothing going on at the front. Some,
indeed, were ready to go anyhow, many with the promise of commissions in
the volunteers, many with the resolve to re-enlist for the war, but all
anxious to visit home and friends and families and get a more deliberate
start than that initial impulse which sent them forward the latter part
of April, burdened with knapsacks they knew not how to pack or wear and
guns that they had never shot.

And here, along the main pike to Fairfax and Centreville, one on each
side of the way, a New York and a New England regiment of militia had
been swapping comments and criticisms most of the afternoon, badgering
each other when there came no one else to bear the brunt of their
shafts, and mischievously turning with one accord on passers-by whose
lack of rank or escort suggested improbability of effective resentment.

But as the day wore on and the mud thickened in the middle of the road,
and staff-officers, orderlies, and ambulances passing by began to veer
out to right and left and encroach on the sentry-posts and the grinning
groups that lay just back of them, "the boys" waxed more savage and
sarcastic. They had occupied those camps full six weeks, and thought
they owned the neighborhood. Back towards Washington, on every rising
ground, the red embankments showed where earthworks had been thrown up
to defend the front. Along the beautifully wooded slopes to the north
and west the fair contours were scarred and defaced with freshly spaded
parapets, and through gaping embrasures here and there frowned the black
muzzles of the Union guns. Over a rounded knoll half a mile to the
northwest of the camp of the New-Yorkers the stars and stripes hung
lazily from a white staff, and there were the quarters of a division
commander, whose aides and orderlies had been oddly busy all day long,
responding, according to rank, with a frown of annoyance or a grin of
amusement, to the hail of comment or question from the loungers along
the line. But at four in the afternoon a whole squadron of regular
cavalry, with high-collared, yellow-trimmed jackets and jaunty
forage-caps, came silently squashing by, taking the mud and the middle
of the road as a matter of course, and the chaff and comment as of no
consequence whatever. Hardly had their flapping silken guidons
disappeared around a bend of the pike three hundred yards farther to the
west than there came jogging into view from the rear a long column of
horses, gun-carriages, and caissons, the cannoneers sitting motionless
on the chests, the drivers carefully guiding their powerful teams. A
wiry captain, followed by his bugler, came trotting forward, surveyed
the mud that interposed along the defile between the two camps, nodded
cheerily to the "Going out ahead, Cap?" sung out to him by the nearest
New-Yorkers, and signalled with gauntleted hand to the leading chief of
section to incline to the right and take the turf at the roadside; and
so they, too, went clinking steadily by, twelve long teams of six horses
each, hauling six bronze "Napoleon" guns, heavy fellows, and six loaded
caissons. Behind them came their forge and battery wagon, a mule-drawn
baggage-wagon or two, and one of the famous light batteries of the
regular army had passed through the thronging lines of the State
militia, who emptied their tents to see the procession and to hurl
question after question as to the meaning of it all. And this was only a
beginning, for right behind it came the flaunting red silk guidon of
another battery, differing from the first only in that the men wore
red-trimmed jackets instead of dark-blue blouses, and that the
cannoneers were skipping along the roadside or squashing through the
mud, their captain holding sternly, even on a short march, to one of the
rules of the light artillery, that the horses should have to pull as
little weight as possible. And no sooner was he fairly by and his men
well within the lane of the militia camps than the storm of fun and
chaff rose to uproar, silenced only when the tail of the column had
passed beyond. By this time, too, the officers were coming out to take a
look. Then there rose a burst of martial music and a sound of cheering
up the roadway, and, preceded by a band, there rode into sight some
mounted officers, behind whom gleamed the sloping barrels of the arms of
a battalion of infantry; and now New York and New England dropped cards,
checkers, or chat, and the last laggards of both regiments come
streaming to line the roadway and scan these bold invaders. Even the
colonels mount their horses and ride in among their men, and as the
music ceases and the regiment picks its way gingerly through the mud,
the cry goes up from the eastward skirts of camp, "The Fire Zouaves!"
and that cry is taken up and passed from lip to lip, and order and
discipline, even of these primitive war days, all are forgotten, and as
the long column comes winding down the gentle slope in the afternoon
sunshine, and bright bits of scarlet glow through the sombre tone of
gray, and the old familiar fire shirts are recognized, as one man the
New-Yorkers set up the welcoming fireman chorus of the streets of
Gotham, and the welkin rings with shouts of "Hi, hi, hi!" mingled with
rapturous cheers. Prompt comes the answer from a thousand lusty throats.
Caps and hats are tossed in air, ay, and, as the column and the colors
mingle, canteens, tossed from bystanders to marchers, are pressed to
thirsty lips and passed from hand to hand. Officers and men alike,
militia and volunteers, the soldiers of Manhattan are shouting greeting
and rejoicing, and the next moment, despite all efforts of the senior
officers to stop it, the Zouaves are forcibly seized and dragged from
the marching ranks, hugged and hauled and slapped on arm and chest and
leg and shoulder, wherever knapsack, blanket, and cartridge-box do not
interpose below the neck, and men come running with more canteens, and
Zouaves are lugged bodily away to the neighboring sutler's tent, and
when, finally, the last unmolested files of the Fire Zouaves have gone,
cap-waving and cheering, on in the trail of the batteries, the camp of
their fellow-townsmen is filled with stragglers who are only recovered
an hour later through the medium of strong patrols.

But meantime the batteries have "gone into park," unhitched and
unharnessed back of the Virginia farm-house just beyond the bend. The
Zouaves have trailed off into an open field between them and the tents
of the New-Yorkers. Staff-officers have conducted the commanders to the
designated spots for their bivouac. Two other regiments of the new
volunteers have followed, marching somewhat wearily past the now
thoroughly roused camps of the militia, and as the sun sinks to the west
and heavy knapsacks are unslung and arms stacked in the fields and
sentry-posts established, everybody begins to realize among the tents of
the earlier comers that a move to the front is in contemplation, just
when they were counting on a homeward move to the rear.

And now as the tattoo drums are bracing up, a score of officers are
gathered about the tents of the New York colonel, chatting over the
probabilities. With them are two of the New England officers, one a
grave, taciturn captain who has listened for half an hour without a
word. By several officers the idea has been advanced that if a forward
move is intended in response to the "on to Richmond" cry of the press,
many of the men will demur. They were called into service in mid-April;
it is now mid-July. Many of them are clerks who will lose their
positions, married men who have made no provision for their families,
staid citizens who from sense of duty sprang to the front at the first
summons, so as to help hold the fort until the nation could organize its
army of volunteers. Of regulars at the time there were less than ten
thousand, scattered from Maine to Oregon, from Mackinaw to the Gulf of
Mexico. Now the first levies of the volunteers were pouring in. Here
already in front of Washington were regiments from New York, New Jersey,
Michigan, Ohio, even far away Wisconsin. Why should the government
require of the State militia, rallied at the capital solely to defend,
that it should march away southward to attack an enemy in position?
Similar views were being expressed in other militia camps, said the
speaker, and the colonel looked worried.

At last he turned to the stalwart, silent captain from the regiment over
the way.

"What do your people say, Captain Stark?" he asks.

"Nothing," is the answer, as the tall, bearded man puffs meditatively at
the brier-root pipe, his head resting on his hand, his elbow on his
knee.

"Well, you were mustered in about the same date we were. Don't some of
your boys talk of going home, and wanting to?"

"Not--audibly," says Stark.

"Well, they must be thinking a lot. They are fixed pretty much as ours
are," hazards a field-officer.

"Possibly," says Stark, tapping out the ashes on the leg of the
camp-stool. "But we made no stipulation as to the duty to be required of
us. We tendered our services and expect to take our chances."

"Do you mean your boys would all go, no matter how far south they were
ordered?" asks a young officer who has already had much to say about his
own.

"My men will go wherever they're ordered," answers Stark, briefly. "I
haven't any boys, except one, and he's so much of a man I never found
him out till we got here."

"That brown-eyed young fellow I've seen round your tent?" queries the
colonel, deeming it wise to change the tenor of the talk.

"The very one."

"How'd you come to take him? He's too light built for heavy work. He's
outgrown his strength and he don't look eighteen," says the major, glad
enough to shift implied criticism to the rival regiment.

"Well, his employers said he was worth three men around the shop, and he
was bound to go. The inspectors passed him, and there he was in my
company."

"Looks all legs," hazards the colonel.

"And is all head," says Stark. "That's why he's always studying tactics
and regulations round my tent instead of fooling away time with the
company. There goes tattoo. Good-night, gentlemen," and the
New-Englander rises and presently strides away.

Over within the lines of his own regiment Stark passes line after line
of company streets where the men are skylarking or chatting, waiting for
the "fall in" signal at the close of the sounding of tattoo. The drums
and fifes are hammering noisily down along the color line as he reaches
his own company and his first sergeant comes forward and, saluting,
says, "Did young Lawton find you, sir?"

"No. What did he want?"

"Permission to go out of camp, sir. Said he knew an officer in the Fire
Zouaves. The lieutenant signed a pass, and he took it to the colonel,
but he wished the captain should know."

"Very well. Form your company," says the captain.

The long wailing notes of the tattoo and the roll of the drums came
abruptly to an end. The silent, shadowy double rank stood to attention,
and, lantern in hand, the sergeant called his roll. Two names met with
no response besides those of men on guard. Two men were reported absent.
One of them came on the run as the company broke ranks.

"I was with Lawton, sir," said he, to his soldierly commander. "They let
us into the Zouave camp all right, but didn't want to let us out. Lawton
couldn't get away at all. As many as twenty of those red-shirted fellows
nabbed him, and there he is a prisoner."

"In fun, I suppose?"

"Why, yes. They seem to know him well and be mighty glad to see him. I
told my brother, who is in one of their companies, that Lawton must come
home with me or he'd get into trouble, but the crowd just laughed."

"Very well. Go to your tent," said Stark, and went to his own. There on
the little camp-desk was a note which he tore open and read. Briefly it
said that Lawton had recognized some old friends among the Fire Zouaves,
and had sought the captain to get permission to go and see them early in
the evening. Even though the lieutenant took the responsibility and
signed the pass, and the colonel too, he wanted his captain to know
whither he had gone and that he would be back at tattoo.

But he wasn't back at tattoo, nor at taps. Not until eleven o'clock did
Stark hear the sound of the young soldier's voice. Lawton was
scratching at the tent-flap.

"What is it?" shouted the captain.

"It's Lawton, sir,--come to report return. I was held by those men,
quite a lot of them, and simply couldn't make them understand about our
discipline."

"Never mind," interposed Stark. "Go to bed now and get all the sleep you
can. You may need it;" and the captain rolled over on his cot, anxious
to try his own prescription.

But the late comer hesitated. For a moment he stood irresolute. Plainly
there was something which he wanted to say to his commander. The officer
of the day, lantern in hand, came along at the moment, his red sash
crossed upon his broad chest. He raised the lantern and peered at the
tall young soldier, whose coat and trousers looked as though they had
been made for a shorter lad, and the face that was revealed seemed white
and full of trouble.

"I was just speaking to my captain, sir," explained the young soldier,
and the officer of the day went briskly one way, the soldier,
dejectedly, another.

"Homesick, and wants to go and see his mother," said the officer of the
day to himself. "Well, he needn't waste time pleading with Stark. Might
as well talk to a stone."



CHAPTER XVI.


"On to Richmond," said the Northern papers. "Sweep the flag of rebellion
to the Gulf!" And obedient to popular clamor, and in defiance of common
sense, the Government ordered its little army--a handful of regulars and
marines, three dozen regiments of State militia, or of half-drilled,
unseasoned volunteers--to advance and attack an army of equal size, made
up of enthusiastic Southerners as undrilled as the Northern volunteers,
but the flower of their manhood, defending their own soil, in their
chosen position. The July sun beat hotly down on the long column,
plodding south-westward through Fairfax. Many a poor fellow fell by the
wayside, unable to keep up the pace and carry his heavy burden. Many a
regiment broke ranks at sight of a farm well or at mention of a spring,
and scores of stragglers stopped to pick blackberries by the way,
defiant of the pleadings of their officers. Some Pennsylvania
militiamen, at the last moment, refused to go farther than Centreville,
and, with a New York militia battery, demanded their discharge on the
plea that their time had expired. Some others succeeded in persuading
the authorities in individual cases, and, to the scandal of those who
tried and did not succeed, turned back to Washington. Those jaunty red
jackets of the drum-boys in Shorty's old regiment looked worn and tawdry
by this time, and the youngster whose wrists protruded far beyond the
limit of the sleeves designed for the "little un" had more than once
wished the original occupant back in his old place and his successor out
of it. But that drum corps had seen the last of their smallest member,
and he of them, for many a day. Billy Archer, he who was to tell Shorty
when he came where to find Snipe, had been sent home sick at the end of
the first month, and only seven of the biggest and strongest remained to
beat the old "six-eights" and "two-fours" when the regiment marched for
Manassas. There had come a letter from Shorty to Billy Archer with an
enclosure to Snipe, but Snipe and his regiment disappeared the night
before, and Archer didn't know enough to have it forwarded. He thought
they would meet again within a day or two, when, in point of fact, they
did not meet at all. Shorty's old regiment was assigned to a brigade on
the north side of the Potomac, and Snipe's new-comers were marched over
the Long Bridge to the sacred soil of Virginia and brigaded with troops
from three different States, and there, as the grave, big Captain Stark
had said, the representative of the First Latin spent hours at his
commander's tent, studying tactics and regulations and a little book
called "Mahan's Outposts," when Stark wasn't using them, and twice it
had happened that when the New England regiment was called upon to
furnish the details for grand guard and picket, the tall, slender,
brown-eyed boy in Company "C" was able to tell corporals and sergeants
things about their duties they never had dreamed of. So, too, on
battalion drill, Snipe, who used to hate such things, and even now bent
under the weight of his long musket, had a more intelligent idea of the
purpose of each formation and movement than most of the file-closers,
some lieutenants not excepted. Before they had been a month in Virginia
Captain Stark had taken a strong fancy to the youngster, and was
seriously thinking of decorating his arms with chevrons when the order
for the advance and Stark's promotion came together. The
lieutenant-colonel, finding that his health could not stand the climate
and exposure, had resigned and gone home, and just the very morning
after the incident described in the last chapter a batch of new
commissions reached the New-Englanders. Stark became major, vice
Proctor, promoted lieutenant-colonel, and turned his company over to its
new captain, the former first lieutenant. Stark's first act, after
taking the oath and signing his acceptance, was to send for Lawton. The
regiment, with much glee and excitement, was packing knapsacks for the
move, and the lad came, pale and troubled.

"Are you ill, Lawton?" demanded Major Stark.

"No, sir. I just--got some bad news."

"Folks ill?"

"No, sir; it's something a sergeant in the Fire Zouaves told me."

"You don't wish to go home, do you?"

"I do, sir; but I won't. I'm going with the company."

"Lawton," said the major, after a moment's scrutiny of the lad's solemn
face, "you've never told me where you live and I've never asked. I
believed in you, and that's enough. The colonel has given me permission
to choose my orderly from my old company. I have bought Colonel Poague's
horses. The orderly will ride my spare horse and look after both. I want
you, if you care to take the place."

"Yes, sir; I do."

"It leaves you out of the race for vacancies among the corporals."

"No matter, sir. That'll come when we reorganize for three years."

And so Snipe turned his long musket and heavy cartridge-box over to the
first sergeant, dumped his knapsack and blanket into the field-officer's
wagon, and straddled the major's spare horse. At any other time he might
have felt the sense of exaltation that is inevitable to the boy or man
who knows how to ride, but the young soldier's spirits were dashed and
drooping. There was no time for brooding, however. The New-Englanders
were on the march for Manassas. The dusty roads were thronged with
troops, trudging buoyantly ahead, confident in the strength of their
numbers and counting upon a conqueror's entrance into Richmond within
ten days. Somewhere about noon, midway between Fairfax and Centreville,
the "route march" was suddenly changed to silence and to cadence step. A
staff-officer had accosted the colonel. The commands "halt" and "front"
brought them into line facing the left; then the regiment was dressed
back to the right until it stood aligned at the roadside, and Snipe
found himself seated in saddle just to the left rear of his major, who
had reined up at the left of the line. Looking back along the
dust-covered route, the lad could see that the regiments following them
in column were also halting and "fronting," as soon as closed to proper
distance, and then, with ordered arms, standing at ease and wondering
what was coming. Presently, far back towards Fairfax, there uprose a
cheer that was taken up along the line, and Lawton and his major,
craning their necks, could see a body of horsemen coming through the
slowly settling dust-clouds, following the lead of a soldierly-looking
man on a big gray. A band struck up "Hail Columbia;" the regiment
directly to their left began to take up the shout of acclaim, beginning
away down at the tenth company, and the handsome horseman raised his
forage-cap and spurred rapidly on. Again he raised it as he passed the
colors, and the shout of greeting rolled into the right wing; and now
the New England lads could see the yellow sash and the gold-embroidered
belt, and knew a general officer was coming, and they, too, prepared to
relieve their dusty lungs and overflowing spirits with a cheer. But all
on a sudden the old colonel's shrill voice was heard, "Attentio-o-on
battalion!" and talk and laughter ceased. "Shoulder-r-r _homps_!" and
every musket jumped from the ground. "Prese-e-e-nt _homps_!" and nine
hundred glistening barrels bounced out in front of nine hundred martial
noses. The silken colors, State and National, drooped forward in homage
to the coming dignitary. The major sat bolt upright and looking straight
over his horse's ears, his sword lowered to the salute, and Snipe's hand
went up to the visor of his grimy cap, and the major-general smiled
affably as he came trotting by, his horse shying sidewise with eyes and
ears attent, and the grizzled colonel got a word of soldierly praise
from the cap-tipping commander as he sped swiftly on, the staff trying
hard to look dignified and keep their seats and distance at the same
time, which several of them, being new to the business, found it hard to
do. Behind them jogged a troop of regular cavalry,--the general's
escort,--veterans who had spent years in saddle and showed it; and then
with gratified pride that he and his regiment had given proper and
soldierly recognition to the chief, "instead of yelling like a
town-meeting," said the colonel, that veteran of the Mexican war days
permitted his men once more to "order" and rest and await developments.
They were not long in coming. Away down to the left, over the shouts and
greetings of other commands, could be heard the characteristic "Hi! hi!
hi!" of the Fire Zouaves, and presently in long column of pieces,
cannoneers mounted, two business-like batteries of the regulars came
clinking along, their powerful, mettlesome horses moving like so much
perfect machinery at steady walk, their drivers responding to the chaff
and cheers and comments of the militia and volunteers by occasional
droll wink or thrust of tongue into the nearest cheek, their nimble gun
detachments grinning exuberantly, but rarely uttering a word. And then
at last, when even their baggage-wagons had trundled by, a band was
heard along the thoroughfare behind them, and through the dust came
stalking a superb drum-major, his baton swinging in one hand, his huge
bear-skin shako dangling from the other arm; and then the halted column
coughed and sneezed as a strong regiment of infantry marched silently by
in column of fours, determined, evidently, to impress upon the rest of
the division their martial appearance and discipline. And then, in vivid
contrast, right behind them, came the loose gray jackets and trousers,
the red shirts and faces of the Fire Zouaves, grinning, chaffing, "hi,
hiing" every foot of the way, and Major Stark turned and signalled to
his orderly, and the lad rode up alongside.

"These are your old friends, I take it, Lawton. Sit here where you can
see them."

The colors went sweeping by, flaunting in the sunshine despite the
besmirching dust, and the seventh company came swinging along, and all
of a sudden a wiry-looking sergeant file-closer glanced up and shouted,
"Hullo, Snipey! How are _you_?" after the Bowery fashion of the day.
"Hullo, Snipey!" came the greeting from half a dozen brawny throats.
"Say, sonny, did you git square with that Metamora gang before you come
away?" "Hullo, Snipe! Where's Shorty all dis time?" "Say, boy, what
deestrick d'you run to now?" And before anybody could say a word to
prevent it, half a dozen laughing, rollicking fellows sprang from the
ranks and were crowding about Lawton as he sat blushing, half pleased,
half ashamed, and shaking the lad by the hand. "Come over and see us
when we git to camp," they cried in chorus, as, clamping their heavy
sword-bayonets to their sides with the left hand, and trailing the brown
barrels of their "special" rifles, they hurried on to catch their
company. It was all over in a minute, but the New-Englanders looked
curiously at the major's orderly, and that quiet-mannered, taciturn
officer finally turned, with something like a smile.

"One would hardly say those fellows could have brought you ill news,
Lawton. They seem like old friends."

"I knew them well when at school in New York, sir."

"Who is Shorty?"

"He was my chum, sir. I thought he'd be here long ago. He was a drummer
in the Seventy-first New York. His relatives wouldn't let him come, I
suppose."

"Would yours, do you think,--if they knew?"

"No, sir. But my father's been dead a long time. My mother married
again, and--I've been shifting for myself of late."

"I understand," said the major, inclining his head; "but does your
mother know now?"

"I write to her every month, sir. She knows I'm with the army. They
would get me out if they knew where to find me, but I should enlist in
another regiment under another name, so what would be the use?"

And then once more came the command attention. Again the dusty march was
resumed. Again the column alternately tramped and halted. Other generals
and staff-officers rode to and fro, and were curiously inspected by the
rank and file. Again the New-Englanders were led off into an open field
some distance from the pike, and, late in the afternoon, stacked arms
and unslung knapsacks in a skirt of woods. Pots, kettles, and canteens
were filled from the cisterns and wells of the neighboring farm-house,
whose inmates looked on in silent disapproval, and just as the sun was
sinking toward a distant line of heights some twenty miles away to the
west, that a school-master in the color company said were called the
Bull Run Mountains, somebody held up a warning hand and said "Listen!"
There was a throb and pulsation in the heavy, heated, breathless air. A
dull booming sound at irregular intervals came floating from the distant
front. Men sprang to their feet from under the trees and listened
eagerly, their faces paling a little; some lips uncontrollably
twitching. It was the first note of the grand overture so soon to burst
in the magnificence of its volume on their unaccustomed ears. Somewhere
out toward that winding fringe of timber in the low ground five miles
away to the south a field battery had sighted the enemy in sufficient
force to warrant unlimbering and letting drive. The hostile armies were
within striking distance.

For a moment the men from the land of the Puritan listened in awed
silence. There had been a sharp encounter down that way two days before
between the leading division and a concealed enemy, and rumor had it
that many were killed and wounded, but the ambulances had been sent
another way, and this brigade saw none of them. Over toward the roofs of
Centreville a Western regiment sent up a cheer. Somewhere through the
woods, down toward the right, the uproarious "Hi, hi" of the Zouaves,
like the yelp of a pack of prairie wolves, rose swift from wing to wing,
and in the midst of the distant clamor the major's quiet voice fell on
Snipe's listening ears, and the lad started, gulped down some strange
feeling as of faintness and nausea that had stolen over him, and pulled
himself together.

"The horses? Yes, sir, they'll be through feeding in ten minutes."

"Very well. I'm to go forward with four companies at dusk. You needn't,
if you wish to write--or anything."

But when the major led that silent detachment into the winding
bridle-path through the trees, following the lead of a young
staff-officer who rode jauntily ahead, Snipe Lawton followed close at
his commander's heels.



CHAPTER XVII.


In more than a dozen regiments of raw soldiery camping in the fields
about Centreville that hot July evening were lads no older than George
Lawton. Among the seasoned regulars, few as they were, serving either as
fifers or drummers in the infantry and marines, buglers in the batteries
or trumpeters in the cavalry, were some who were even younger,--boys
born in the army far out on the frontier, perhaps, or at the few
garrisoned forts on the Atlantic coast,--sons of soldiers who knew no
other life and who would have felt awkward in any dress but the uniform.
But there were few who did not at first feel, as Snipe felt, a nervous
tremor about the knees at sound of those swift banging guns. Veteran
soldiers soon learn that cannon may boom all day and little damage be
done, and that the real sound that tells of deadly battle is the
sustained crackle and crash of musketry. All through the excited army
the news had gone that there had been a "meeting" Thursday down at
Blackburn's Ford to the left front, "a reconnoissance in force," a
staff-officer described it to silent, serious Major Stark, "merely to
develop the enemy." But that reconnoissance had developed something
else,--the fact that some of the raw regiments, bursting with eagerness
to march to Richmond ten days earlier, couldn't stand fire to-day, for
the moment the screaming shells from the Confederate guns on the
southern bank of Bull Run came crashing through the timber on the north
side, a new volunteer command, shoved in there to support a battery,
scurried out of it in most undignified haste. Others, no older in
service, but better led, stood their ground like men, despite their
pale, anxious faces, and roundly jeered the "salt-workers." One thing
was settled to the satisfaction of General McDowell, commanding the
Union force, and that was that the routes to Manassas Junction, either
by way of the Stone Bridge straight ahead on the broad pike, or more
directly by the several fords farther down-stream, were vigilantly
guarded, so that "the longest way round" would probably be the shortest
way to that centre of rebel activity. There at Manassas the railways
from the South and from the Shenandoah joined. There were the stores and
supplies. There was the strategic point, and scattered along the wooded
bluffs that hemmed the stream on the southern side, all along for nearly
eight miles were stationed the Southern brigades. With Manassas at their
backs five miles away, with Bull Run directly in their front, with only
one broad road and four or five bridle-paths or wagon-tracks leading
down to it, the Southern general felt well assured in his position and
equally confident of his men.

On the other hand, the Union leader was schooled in strategy and grand
tactics and quick to see his opportunities. Bull Run was as "crooked as
a ram's horn," said the staff-officers sent forward to reconnoitre, but
its general course below the Stone Bridge was southeastward, despite its
deep bends and twists, while above the bridge, within four miles or so,
from the neighborhood of Sudley Springs, it had three sharp elbows, and
flowed alternately east and south. Below the bridge the woods were thick
on both banks; above it, toward Sudley Church, were many open fields and
patches. All Friday and Saturday the Union troops were closing up on
Centreville, bringing with them, worse luck, a gang of curious
spectators in carriages and buggies,--people coming out the twenty-five
miles from Washington as though to a picnic,--and all this motley crowd
was scattered through the fields and orchards and shady groves and
swarming through the farm enclosures about the once placid, sleepy
little Virginia village this still Saturday afternoon that preceded the
momentous Sunday of the first real battle of the civil war.

It was seven o'clock by the major's watch as the rear of his silent
column swung clear of the bivouac where comrade soldiers stood and
longed to cheer them off, but for the caution of their officers passed
company by company down the line of stacked rifles. There had been a
brief conference between the gray-haired, shrill-voiced colonel and his
junior field-officer. The latter had received his orders direct from the
commanding general. That accomplished soldier had keenly looked the
major over, and, as the latter remounted and rode silently away, had
turned to his adjutant-general with the comprehensive remark, "He'll
do!" And now, as the twilight deepened and the stars began to twinkle in
the eastern skies, through a winding wood-path the column moved,
snake-like, swiftly, confidently, yet noiselessly, on. There was barely
a farm-wagon track along the springy turf. Each man carried his
knapsack, blanket, and his forty rounds. Light marching order would have
been welcome after the heat and heavy burdens of the past few days.
Route step was the command when clear of the sentry lines, but silence
the caution. Quarter of a mile out, and in a little grove, the leaders
came upon a company of infantry clustered about their stacked rifles.
The wood road forked here, one branch going straight on north, the other
bearing farther to the west. A word from the young lieutenant of
regulars, riding side by side with Major Stark, and the commander of the
picket reserves stood back, and, without a moment's pause, the battalion
swung steadily on, taking the right-hand path. A few hundred yards and
there was momentary check. A subaltern officer and some twenty or
thirty soldiers stood under arms at a bend in the path, and now the
light was so dim that the stars directly overhead were beginning to peep
down at the drowsing world beneath. The two lieutenants, the
professional of the staff, the volunteer of the infantry, held brief
parley, while Major Stark looked back toward his coming battalion,
signalled to the foremost captain marching sturdily by the side of his
first sergeant, and that officer stepped out a yard or two, faced back
toward the long column, and, first waving his sword aloft to attract
attention, took it in both hands, the left near the point, held it
horizontally over his head an instant, and then suddenly lowered it;
whereat, without a sound, all who saw as quickly halted short, softly
placing the shod butts of the rifles on the ground, and all others
almost instantly followed the example. It was part of a silent drill the
New-Englanders had been taught for just such emergencies.

With beating heart Snipe listened to the low-toned colloquy. The
lieutenant of the picket-guard, a trifle excitedly, was dictating some
report just received from the outposts.

"No, I didn't see 'em myself," he replied, in answer to question, "but
Sergeant Holman says he couldn't be mistaken. The outermost sentries,
three of them, all say the same. There were at least twenty-five
horsemen. They forded the Run right down here to the southwest of us,
and rode northward so as to cross this slanting path, if they kept on
in the same direction, just about a mile from here. Holman's with the
outposts now, sir."

The staff-officer turned to Major Stark. "They may have been sent to
destroy the very bridge we are ordered to guard," said he, in low tone.
"It isn't two miles ahead."

"Then the sooner we get there the better," was the prompt answer, and,
glancing over his shoulder, the major signalled again, his right hand
high in air at first, then pointing to the front, but in the gathering
darkness the gesture was not fully understood. "Ride back, Lawton, and
tell Captain Flint to follow with the battalion," and the two mounted
officers rode rapidly ahead, and in a moment were lost to sight among
the shadowy trees.

It was Snipe's first mission as an orderly, and well he remembered it.
Whirling his horse about, he trotted back to where the head of the
column stood silently with ordered arms, the men leaning on their
muskets. "Major Stark says to follow with the battalion, sir," he
promptly announced to the alert captain, using as nearly as possible, as
he had read was the duty of staff-officers and messengers, the exact
words of the commander; and then, seeing the column instantly obeying,
he again turned, rode sharply past the silent picket-post, and,
straining his eyes for a sight of his major, while threading the dim
vista of the wood path, he soon overtook the two again, halted once
more and in earnest converse with a bearded, sturdy-looking sergeant,
who, with a little squad of dark-uniformed infantry, formed the outpost.

"The sentinels are not a hundred yards beyond us," he heard him say.
"All three saw them. The ground slopes gradually to the south and west.
It's quite open. They crossed the Run down yonder, and rode straight
away northward," and the sergeant pointed to a distant ridge. "None of
'em came within range. They didn't seem to think anybody would be out
here at all."

The staff-officer sat listening quietly and attentively until the
sergeant finished. Then he turned to the major. "I chose this ground
myself," he said. "The sentries are hidden by bushes from the front, and
have a clear view for nearly a mile, by day at least, and looking back
you could see the roofs of Centreville on the high ground to the east. I
reconnoitred all through here yesterday and came across that bridge
about three o'clock. There's a deep wide ditch, marshy in places, wet
and miry everywhere for a mile either way, and the banks are steep. Foot
troops and cavalry can cross all right, but we've got to keep that
bridge for the guns, especially that big thirty-pound Parrott General
Hunter's to bring along. I wish we'd been sent out earlier, though of
course we might have been seen crossing the open fields. Look!" and
Lieutenant Upton led a few paces to the edge of the scattered trees, and
there the whole westward firmament was visible, even down to the black
lines of the Bull Run Mountains, just setting its own "sentinel stars"
for the long night-watch.

"I wish so, too," said the major. "Lawton, ride back and guide the
column. It may lose the way."

Again the lad turned and trotted away, but before he had gone a hundred
yards he could see the faint gleam of steel come dancing through the
glade, and almost instantly there followed the stern, sharp, low-voiced
challenge. "It's Lawton," he answered quickly. "The major feared you
might lose the way, and told me to guide you."

The men were panting a little now, for Flint was forcing the pace.
Something told them there was work ahead. "Know what's up, orderly?"
muttered the captain.

"No, sir. The pickets say some rebel cavalry crossed the front just
before dark, somewhere about two dozen of 'em." And as Snipe now rode
along, with over three hundred stalwart fellows trudging at his back,
despite all the excitement of the moment his thoughts went back to the
school-days and the First Latin, and he wondered what the fellows would
think to see him now, guiding a whole battalion to its post of duty,
perhaps to its place in battle. He wondered with clinching teeth and
quickening breath who could have made those fellows he had so sworn by
believe that he, Snipe Lawton, was a common thief. Was that the reason
Shorty never wrote again? Was that why no one now seemed to care where
he was or what had become of him? The boy's wounded heart beat
vehemently in protest and in indignation, and there in the darkness of
that 'cross country wood path his lips murmured a prayer for guidance
and protection, that he might live to give the lie to that
slander,--might so live as to win honor and credit for the name his
enemies had besmirched. Two nights before, following his major through a
dark lane when visiting sentries, the boy's heart had bounded
uncontrollably, and his knees had trembled so hard that his horse, too,
seemed to shake, all because a nervous raw recruit had fancied he saw a
rebel stealing on him through the blackness of the night, and after
vainly challenging a wandering mule, had roused the whole division and
nearly killed his major with a single wildly aimed shot. To-night as
Snipe thought of the story he had wrung from the unwilling lips of
Sergeant Keating, of the Fire Zouaves, one of 40's old "bunkers," the
sense of pride and indignation bore down all thought of fear, and Snipe
Lawton, who the year before hated drill and wouldn't be a soldier for
anything, even now in the dark, where Napoleon himself had said most men
were cowards, was praying that the rebels might be there at the bridge,
and that he might be foremost in the dash upon them.

On past the peering, shadowy knots of soldiers of Sergeant Holman's
party he led them, the hard-breathing, swift-striding Yankees swinging
along behind. Out over the starlit open to where, well across the field,
he could dimly descry the forms of two horsemen. "Well done, orderly,"
muttered the regular. "You've lost not a second. Now, major, we'll push
ahead. Better caution them not to make a sound."

"They won't," said Stark, in answer, and resumed the northward way. Five
minutes and they were skirting an old snake-fence, well out beyond the
hail of the last sentry or vedette of the Union lines. Any moment now
they might meet scouting parties of the rebel horse, and here Lieutenant
Upton warned the major to keep with his command, while he himself,
bending low on his horse's neck, pushed out ahead. Ten minutes more they
went without halt of any kind, but now Stark noted how hard the men were
breathing, and ordered Flint to take it easy. "Soldiers need their wind
if it comes to fighting," said he. Fifteen minutes, and there was a long
fringe of timber ahead, and farther off to the north a light was
shining, like a candle, in a farm-house window, but still the dim
cart-track led on, and the young staff-officer kept out ahead. Little by
little they drew closer to the trees, and eyes and ears were strained
for sight or sound. The major, too, was bending low by this time, and
eagerly, anxiously, scanning the shadowy line ahead. Presently he drew
rein and muttered a call to Snipe, and the lad spurred up alongside.
Both horses were pricking up their ears. "This horse acts as though
there were others ahead there," whispered Stark. "It may be only the
lieutenant's. Here he comes now!"

It was Lieutenant Upton, riding cautiously back. "Major," he muttered,
"that bridge is just across the next field, and I could hear voices and
the sound of horses' hoofs on the planks. If it's that patrol, we've got
'em. We can't deploy yet. We must creep through these woods and deploy
beyond them. I know the ground."

The column had not even halted, for the moment the staff-officer joined
the leader he reined about and rode on, talking eagerly in low tone as
he rode, then once more pushed cautiously ahead, the hoof-beats hardly
audible on the springy turf, and was soon lost among the trees. Five
minutes more and the major and his faithful orderly emerged again under
the open starlight, and there they found their alert guide. "Let them
halt in the timber a moment," whispered Upton. "Look at that light." And
while the head of column abruptly ordered arms, and each succeeding set
of fours almost bumped up against that which preceded it before it could
do likewise, the aide-de-camp pointed southward.

Upon some dark height full three miles away toward the Junction, and
evidently some distance beyond the stream, a bright light, as of a
lantern with brilliant reflector at its back, was shining steadily.
"There was another a mile to the north of us as we crossed the last
open common," said Stark. "Why, look! There it is again, yet it was dark
just now."

And then, suddenly as that northern light appeared, it was extinguished
or hidden. Then, before any one could speak, again it flamed. Again it
disappeared, and the explanation occurred to all three at the same
instant. "Signalling, of course," muttered Upton. "Now get two companies
into line, facing west; then we'll leave our horses with them and creep
out toward the bridge."

Another moment, and while Flint was noiselessly leading the foremost two
into line, the major and the staff-officer had dismounted, handed their
reins to silent Snipe, and out they went, crouching low, into the
westward darkness, while every man breathed hard and listened. Then the
southern light began to flash and disappear alternately. "We are far out
to the west of Centreville," murmured Flint. "Those windows are hidden
from that point. They doubtless think no one can see them here."

Five minutes, and still no sound came from their venturesome scouts.
They had had time to go all the way across if need be. "What d'you
s'pose they signal for?" whispered a young soldier in the leading set,
whereupon the sergeant turned and muttered, "Hush!" and men began to
realize that it was a time to listen--not to talk.

All of a sudden, low, clear, and distinct, a whistle was sounded not
four hundred yards away. The first thought to strike every man was, the
major! but the major had gone straight to the west; this sound came from
across the wide field well to the northward of the supposed position of
the bridge. Before there was time to comment the answer was given
straight out ahead, soft, yet just as distinct. Then all three horses
left with Snipe pricked up their ears and whirled toward the northwest,
for from that quarter came the sound of hoof-beats, the low thud and
rumble of horses moving at lively lope. Swift, invisible, they swooped
down from the northward across the front. Then came sudden check, then
silence, then the next minute the hollow sound of iron-shod hoofs upon
resounding boards. First one horse, at a walk, then two, three, half a
dozen together, and then silence again.

Two minutes later, back from the front, running, came the major.
"Forward, just as you are!" he muttered to Flint. "The bridge is safe,"
and, swinging into saddle and bidding Snipe come on with the
lieutenant's horse, he sped swiftly away across the field. At its
western limit, at the edge of a deep, black trench that stretched away
southward toward Bull Run, they found the staff-officer, standing at the
old wooden bridge.

"They've left it intact," murmured Upton, gleefully, "and they've been
scouting around our right flank for indication of any attack from this
direction, and have missed us entirely. Now let 'em come back and get it
if they can!"

In ten minutes three of Stark's strong companies had stacked arms among
the timber to the west of the clumsy yet precious structure. The fourth
was chosen for guard and picket duty, and, under the guidance of the
energetic young staff-officer, every approach was covered. Wary sentries
were stationed five hundred yards away, up and down the unsightly trough
and well out toward the winding run, with supports and small reserves
intervening between them and the main body. Even the open field to the
east was guarded, for Major Stark meant that no enemy should come upon
him unawares. Finally, deep in the shelter of the grove, they struck a
light and consulted their watches. "Just half-past nine," said Upton,
"and at midnight the move begins. Now I'll ride back and report. What
splendid luck thus far!"

"You have no orderly, lieutenant," said Major Stark. "Let Lawton ride
back with you until you reach our lines. I'd be better satisfied."

"There is no need, thank you, major. There is no likelihood of my
meeting rebel patrols between this and our pickets. Those fellows are
back across Bull Run by this time and riding away to tell Beauregard the
Yanks have no idea of reaching round him this way."

Snipe, listening in silence, hoped, despite the brave resolution of the
earlier evening, that nothing would happen to change the lieutenant's
mind. It wasn't the riding back with him that he dreaded to think of, it
was the solitary trot to rejoin the major after seeing Upton safely to
the lines. There on the distant heights the lights around Centreville
were twinkling, and, even while the officers were consulting a moment
before, the lad noted that while they could no longer see the gleam on
the high ground south of the Run, the men were again whispering together
about that signal to the north of them.

Then the staff-officer held out his hand. "Good-night, Major Stark. I
shall take pleasure in telling the general how prompt and soldierly your
command has been. After all the go-as-you-please business I have had to
note on the march it is good to see a regiment behave like regulars.
Good-night to you, too, my lad. If I ever get a regiment I'd like to
have a hundred young fellows of your calibre," said he, and to Snipe's
surprise and delight Lieutenant Upton was grasping his hand too.

But just as the young officer turned away a thought occurred to him.
"The general will be anxiously awaiting my report, and I must hurry. If
it weren't for that I'd find out what's going on where that light is up
yonder. Good-night again. Look for us along about two o'clock."

The muffled sound of the hoof-beats died away across the open field. The
men close at hand unrolled their blankets and stretched themselves upon
the turf. No fires were allowed, but many a pipe was lighted well within
the shelter of the trees, and, too excited to sleep, they lay chatting
in low tones. Several of the officers grouping about had heard the young
regular's closing words. "That light can't be more'n a mile off," said
Captain Flint. "I would like to know what's going on there myself."

The major had dismounted, and by the gleam of a little folding lantern
was jotting down some memoranda at the moment in the note-book he always
carried. Method was second nature to Stark. Not until he had finished
his writing did he reply. Then, even while glancing over his lines, he
quietly said,--

"You shall. Bring twenty men and come along."

Quarter of an hour later, with the senior captain left in command at the
bridge, Major Stark, Lawton as ever riding close behind him, was leading
slowly and cautiously out of the shadows and across an open field that
sloped gradually toward a low ridge against the northern sky. Behind
them, treading softly, came Flint, a lieutenant, and twenty men. The
latter had fixed bayonets and discarded anything about their equipment
that would rattle. The north star gleamed right over what seemed to be a
little grove along the ridge, and on the edge of the dark patch stood,
against the sky, regular and square in outline, an object like a house.
Not five minutes back a light was shining in the midst of it, but now
that was gone. Slowly, cautiously, the little party continued its silent
move, rising gradually with every rod, and at last the leader came to
another snake-fence, and three or four stout fellows sprang forward and
threw down a panel or two. While this was being done the major looked
back, and there, shining over the low ground from the distant heights
beyond Bull Run, that clear, steady light was gleaming again, powerful,
almost, as the head-light of a locomotive. Away to the southeast,
grouped about Centreville, the camp-fires of the Union troops were
blazing, and from along this ridge their position was plainly visible.
No wonder Virginia sympathizers chose the spot from which to signal! Now
what message might they not be sending two hours later when the army
began to move? It was after ten o'clock, and that house had been dark
for over ten minutes, yet Stark felt confident their stealthy approach
was unsuspected. Then comes the stifled cry, "Ha! there it is
again!--the light in the upper window, well under the eaves!" Snipe's
heart bounds almost into his throat in his excitement, for now it is
barely long pistol-shot away, and he is the proud possessor of a new
Colt's revolver, much handier, he thinks, than the long, cumbrous
musket. And now it's out again; and now, five seconds later, shines
anew, and so it goes,--darkness alternating with light three times, then
all is black and unbroken. A sergeant is somewhere ahead looking for the
next fence. The little party scrambles on up the steeper slope. If only
there are no dogs about! Hear them baying over there toward Centreville?
and over there yonder to the west toward Sudley Church? Surely if there
are dogs here they would be out and baying their reply. Bigger and
blacker looms the house ahead, and still no challenge from dog or man.
Can it be that the farm folk have deserted it, and that only lurking
scouts or spies are here?

And now they come upon a dilapidated picket-fence; beyond it a row of
bushes. The sergeant in advance turns back and tells the major there's a
wide open gateway at the east, and into this he cautiously rides, Snipe
still following. But, oh, how the boy heart is thumping! The roadway is
soft Virginia earth, and the hoofs strike no pebbles. Presently the
major dismounts, and, handing his reins up to Snipe, bids him wait there
in a little open space. Then, noiselessly, he and Flint lead on with the
men, and Snipe feels, rather than sees, that they are surrounding the
house and stationing soldiers at every door and under every window. All
these now are dark save two on the lower floor in front. There are thick
shades within, but they show a dull light, as from a table-lamp. Not a
sound beyond a creaking of a shoe or plank is heard. The men move like
kittens, but it is their first experience of the kind, and most of them
are excited, even nervous. As for Snipe, he rages to see how he is
trembling.

And then all of a sudden the major's horse, rejoicing that the weight is
gone, gives himself a thorough shake, rattling housing and stirrups and
accompanying the shake with a loud b'r-r-r-r of satisfaction. All too
late Snipe springs from saddle and seizes both horses by the nostrils.
Almost instantly booted heels are heard within, and manly, ringing
voices. Somebody comes striding to the door and throws it open. A tall,
slender, shapely fellow is outlined against the dim light within, and a
voice hails cordially,--

"Hullo! What brings you back? Anything the matter over yawnduh?" And
that "yawnduh" betrays the Virginian.

"Nothing," is the answer, in Stark's quiet tone. "But your house is
surrounded by the troops of the United States and I'll trouble you to
come out."

For answer, out goes the light in the room, slam goes the door, and then
there is dead silence just about five seconds. Then the order, "Break it
in!"

Up the low steps spring a sergeant and two men. Crash goes the door
before their heavy rifle-butts, and then, bayonets advanced, in they go.
The major, following coolly, strikes a light, and holds aloft his little
lantern. The candles on the table are still smoking, and are quickly
again ablaze. "Come in here, three or four more of you," orders Stark,
while Flint comes hurrying round to the front. There is a rush of feet
on the upper floor, a back window is hurled open. "Head 'em off there!"
shouts Flint, as again he runs back. There is a sound of sudden scuffle,
and some stern order within. Then Snipe can stand it no longer and leads
his excited horses closer to the house. He hears the rifle-butts go
banging at the doors up-stairs and more men hurrying into the hall. He
hears Flint repeat the cry, "Watch every window!" And now he shifts the
bight of both reins into the left hand and whips out his revolver, still
towing his suspicious and reluctant steeds, and just as he nears the
front, almost at his feet, the doors of a cellarway, hitherto unseen and
unsuspected, fly open. Two dark figures burst forth. He feels again,
rather than sees, that a murderous blow is aimed at his head, and even
as he ducks out of the way a revolver flashes and barks just at his ear,
and, now instinctively, he pulls trigger. At the flash and bang of the
pistols the startled horses both jerk back, pulling him with them. One
rein is torn from his grasp, but the captor gains nothing, for before he
can reach pommel or stirrup, two long-legged Yankees are on him, and he
is dragged back into the light. A third stumbles over a prostrate form
writhing in the road, as Snipe quickly finds his feet; and, as Major
Stark comes striding out and brings his lantern to bear upon the scene,
the lad, pale, breathing hard, but with flashing eyes and that revolver
grasped in his clinching hand, is standing over his stricken
prisoner,--first capture of the advancing arms of the Union,--a young
Confederate officer, whose brand-new uniform is richly laced with gold,
but whose face is now white as death as he swoons away.

[Illustration: First capture of the advancing arms of the Union.]



CHAPTER XVIII.


War was a new, strange, and terrible thing to George Lawton. For a few
minutes after his thrilling adventure, while the soldiers were binding
with bed-cords the wrists of the three unscathed captives, and Stark and
Flint were ministering to the wounded officer, Snipe leaned against a
tree, the same feeling of nausea and faintness overcoming him now as it
did one day when he saw the brutal beating of an Irish wagoner on Fourth
Avenue. Others of the New England men were searching the premises from
garret to cellar, finding no human beings but two trembling old negroes,
who had never been allowed to regard themselves as possessed of any
rights a white man was bound to respect. The prisoners, sullen,
scowling, and very much amazed that such a thing could happen on the
sacred soil of Virginia, refused to answer questions as to the owners of
the place. The young officer was only just recovering from the swoon
that followed upon the shock of his wound, but the darkies humbly told
all they knew. They were household servants,--slaves, of course. The
farm was owned by a wealthy resident of Alexandria. The farmer and his
family had gone. The young officer was "Marse Grayson," a nephew of the
owner. The other gentlemen belonged to his troop in the cavalry, and
there were four more of them somewhere over toward Centreville. They had
been round there for several days, and signalling to their comrades over
where "Marse Henry" and "Marse Robinson" lived, on the heights beyond
Bull Run. Up in the attic the New-Englanders found candles, a polished
tin reflector, and a flat board screen that just fitted in the window. A
fine telescope and smaller field-glass were also there. A bountiful
spread was on the table in the dining-room. The larder and cellar were
well stocked, and the men from the land of steady habits did not disdain
to "sample" the fluid refreshment found in the cool depths below the
house or the delicacies in the pantry. Out in a wooden shed were four
fine horses, with new saddles and bridles. Opulence was the rule in the
Confederacy the first few months of the war; and now the sergeant and
half a dozen men moved out to the front gate to look for those four
troopers who were supposed to interpose between their feasting comrades
and the possibility of surprise from the direction of the Yankees, and
who, so early in the war, had not dreamed of foemen coming from the
south. Possibly they had heard the sound of shots at the farm-house and
would come galloping back to ascertain the cause. The young officer was
reviving. The flow of blood was stanched. He was laid upon a mattress
and, with six men to carry him, was started down the slope toward the
main body at the bridge. Stark then ordered the party to bring the
horses, captives, arms,--everything that could be considered legitimate
spoil of war,--and follow at once. The signal outfit was smashed, and
Flint, a veteran of the old Covenanter type, was for burning the house,
which Stark forbade, if for no other reason than that it would instantly
bring patrols of Southern cavalry out to inquire the cause. Indeed, it
was a problem with him what to do about the signals. Through the
powerful glass he was able to see that the light still burned on the
distant heights to the south, and at any moment it might brightly blaze
again, asking some question and demanding reply. "Better let them waste
time in endeavors to extract an answer than lose none in galloping over
to investigate a fire," he reasoned, and then turned to where his young
orderly stood, again silently holding the reins of the horses.

"We will push ahead," he said, as he mounted. A few minutes of search
and they found the gap in the rail-fence, and overtook the party
carrying the wounded Confederate. His youth and gentle breeding had both
impressed the taciturn major, and now the fortitude which enabled him
without a moan to bear the pain of this swaying motion roused the
major's admiration. "Gently, men. There's no hurry. We'll have a
surgeon for you in a short time, lieutenant," he said, encouragingly,
then spurred on to rejoin his battalion at the bridge. Sharp and clear
came the "Halt! Who goes there?" of the northernmost sentry, and Stark
reined back instantly as he answered, "Friends,--Major Stark and
orderly." "Dismount, both," was the order, as from a dew-dripping clump
of blackberry-bushes the rifle-barrel glinted in the starlight. A dark
form came running up from the rear, bayonet advanced, and peered
searchingly into the major's face. They had no countersign, but those
lads had learned their duty from a veteran colonel who had practised it
before the Seminoles, the Sioux, and Mexicans, too, and Stark could not
forbear a word of praise to both sentry and corporal as he bade the
latter summon the officer of the guard. In ten minutes the entire
detachment, with its prisoners, was safe within the wakeful lines, and
the whole battalion roused up as one man to welcome and rejoice. A year
later the incident would have been too trivial to stir a man from sleep.
Now it was of tremendous importance. Eagerly Flint's men were detailing
their share in the exploit, some of them, exhilarated both by the event
and the potent apple-jack, telling rather more than their share. Gently
the bearers laid the young officer under the trees. Stark motioned back
the inquisitive circle that promptly formed, gave his patient a long
pull at a flask and another of cool spring water from a canteen, and
then gently asked him which he would prefer,--to be carried into
Centreville or wait there until a surgeon could come out.

"I do not care," said the wounded boy, with a sigh. "Can't you suppress
this somehow?"

"The bleeding?" asked Stark, anxiously. "Why, I thought I had."

"No,--the whole business. I don't want mother to know I'm hurt."

Stark scratched a match and looked at his watch. Just twenty-five
minutes past eleven. In half an hour, as Upton said, the army would be
astir and moving. There would be many another name added to the list
before the setting of another sun. Already, North and South, the papers
were ablaze with tidings of that misguided "reconnoissance in force"
toward Blackburn's Ford, which had felled some sixty men on each side,
sent Tyler's men back to Centreville disgusted, and inspired those of
Longstreet and Ewell with a craze of undeserved triumph. By two o'clock
in the morning the column of Hunter and Heintzelman would be crossing
that guarded bridge on the way to the upper ford, but they would not
wish to be burdened with wounded and prisoners when going into action.
The battalion would undoubtedly be ordered to join its own regiment as
it came tramping along. The general might extract from these prisoners
information which would be of value. Stark's mind was made up quickly. A
lieutenant and half a dozen men were selected as guards, another six to
carry the mattress and wounded prisoner. Lieutenant Payne was given his
choice of the captured horses while Stark wrote brief report of the
affair. In ten minutes everybody was ready. Still bound with bed-cords,
the three silent rebs were bidden to fall in, and then for the first
time did Stark open his lips to his orderly since the brief words at the
farm. In the hearing of half his little command, the major turned to
where the latter stood, silent and a trifle awed and wearied.

"Lawton," said he, "I send you back to the general with this party for
two reasons: first, because you know the way and can guide them; second,
because you made to-night the most important capture of the campaign
thus far, and I mean that you shall have full credit."

For a minute there wasn't a sound. Snipe felt dizzy with the sense of
instant elation, following as it did the languor and depression of the
moment before. Then some sympathetic soul among the listeners began a
soft clapping of the hands. The example was contagious. Before a
repressing word could be heard, the New-Englanders gave vent to their
feelings in a volley of hearty, if suppressed applause. The major had to
order silence and caution. Then handing a folded paper to his orderly,
with a grim smile and a friendly pat on the shoulder, bade him mount and
be off, and like a boy in some wild dream, incredulous, unrealizing,
yet with a heart throbbing with thankfulness, George Lawton remounted
and rode out into the starlight, over the echoing bridge, and took the
front of the little detachment, his cheeks, so pale awhile ago, burning
now with pride and hope, his thoughts drifting back to mother and the
boys. What wouldn't Shorty give to be in his place this night?

An hour later a knot of newspaper correspondents, orderlies, stragglers,
and servants clustered about the party as it rested in the starlight in
front of an old Virginia homestead. On a bed in the rear room the
surgeons had laid the wounded Confederate. In the main room, with two or
three of his staff and half a dozen correspondents pencil-driving about
him, sat the commanding general. Before him, silent and respectful,
stood brown-eyed, long-legged Snipe. The camp lanterns burned brightly
on mantel and table. The sound of many voices, low-toned but impatient,
came from without. Something had blocked the road in front, and the
march of the rear divisions was stayed. The general was vexed, as all
could see,--impatient and indignant. But as he read the pencilled lines,
handed him by the adjutant-general, something like pleasure shone on his
florid, soldierly face.

"You chose the right man, Burnside," he suddenly exclaimed, as he turned
to a stalwart, heavily whiskered officer who entered at the moment, clad
in a pleated flannel blouse, with heavy riding-boots and breeches.
"Look at this," he added, handing up the brief despatch. "I wish I could
inject as much sense into some--generals." Then he turned on Snipe, his
stern face relaxing:

"You have done admirably, my lad. How old are you?"

For a moment the light went out of Lawton's eyes, giving way to trouble
and embarrassment. He twisted his forage-cap in his trembling fingers.
At last, huskily, but with reviving hope, he answered.

"I told them I was eighteen. To-night I tried to prove I was as good as
my word."

A smile went round the room. The general beamed.

"You answer well, sir, and you do well. Major Stark probably can't spare
you or you should join my head-quarters' party and wear the chevrons of
a sergeant. Look after this young gentleman, captain, and see that he
has coffee and supper before he starts back," he said to one of his
aides, who had been silently gazing at the orderly's face. "Your
regiment's time expires next week. Perhaps you would like to come to me
then. If so, there'll be a place for you, and meanwhile the home people
will be proud when they read in Monday's papers how their boy captured
the first rebel officer at Bull Run."

And with these words ringing in his ears, the lad was marched away to a
shed outside where aides and officers of every rank were snatching a
hurried bite from a camp-table, and here he was regaled with sandwiches
and coffee, and plied with questions by men whose pencils sped like mad
over their pads of paper, and they noted instantly his embarrassment
when they asked him about home and parents.

"I have no home," he said, simply. "My father has been dead some years.
My mother remarried. I've been making my own way, and that's all there
is to it." But more they would have. His name, of course, was known.
"George Lawton, private, Company 'C,' First New England, orderly to
Major Stark," and at last the lad said his mother lived in Rhinebeck,
her name was Park, and then he broke away in search of the young captain
to whose care the general had committed him. There was something oddly
familiar about that officer's face as he greeted Snipe again.

"Come in here," said he, leading the way within the hall, and thence to
a little bedroom. Then he turned and faced the wondering lad. "Haven't I
seen you at the Primes' in Fourteenth Street," said he, "and aren't you
Regy Prime's--Shorty's--chum whom they called Snipe?"

There was no answer for a moment, but out came both the young captain's
hands in cordial clasp. "Why, of course you are! I was sure I had seen
your face before. I'm one of Pop's old boys myself, and there are more
of them round here. Shorty's uncle isn't a mile away at this minute.
Lots more of the tribe are somewhere with the army. Why, your teacher,
Beach, is with General Wilcox. He was a classmate of mine, and we're all
proud of you, Snipe. Now you've got to get back to your major to-night,
and I suppose all of us will be fighting to-morrow. However, don't you
forget what the general said. Come to him when your regiment goes home
next week it you want to stay in service, and go on to Richmond with
us."

Alas for soldier hope and projects! Long before the midnight hour came
again all the general's army, some of it in mad panic, was rolling back
on Washington. The Monday morning papers, indeed, gave thrilling account
of the heroism of Private George Lawton in capturing at the risk of his
life a daring young rebel officer of the famous Black Horse Cavalry.
Then there were details of Lawton's prospective promotion, and of the
general's complimentary remarks, and Monday morning's papers teemed,
too, with tremendous tales of battle, and all Gotham cheered itself
hoarse over the vivid reports of the annihilation of the rebel cavalry
by the terrific fighters of the Fire Zouaves. But by noon came other
tidings and a turn in the tide,--by afternoon details of fell disaster.
"The Fire Zouaves annihilated by the cavalry!" was the way it read now.
"Our splendid batteries swallowed up and gone." "Our army cut to
pieces." Many generals, colonels, and captains killed. Hosts of gallant
soldiers slain, and at last, when full reports--authentic reports--were
published a long week later, among the wounded and missing were the
names of Major James Stark and Corporal George Lawton, of the First New
England, and Sergeant Keating, of the famous Fire Zouaves.



CHAPTER XIX.


Back again through the starlit night, through dew-dripping aisles of
shrubbery, through dark, leafy groves, with the glint of the picket's
rifle ever before his eyes, the cautious yet excited challenge falling
constantly upon his alert ear, time and again had Snipe to dismount and
account for himself before he reached the outposts along the pathway to
the north, and finally, after finding its junction with the wood road
along which Upton had led the battalion at dusk, the lad came upon
officers and sentries who were obdurate. Oh, yes; they believed him to
be the young feller that twice had gone through the lines, once with the
major and Lieutenant Upton and once with prisoners; but now he was
alone, and how'd they know he wasn't going with information to the
enemy, or going to be a deserter? Snipe argued and pleaded. Major Stark
was waiting for him away out toward Sudley Ford. General McDowell
himself and General Burnside told him he might rejoin his command. Then
why didn't they give him a pass through the lines? was the question. The
countersign didn't amount to shucks out along the pickets, said they.
Anybody could get the countersign,--which wasn't altogether an
exaggeration,--and, well, he might be all right, and then again he might
be all wrong. It was now nearly two o'clock, the hour Upton said they
might expect the head of column at the farm bridge, and Snipe, whose
heart was full of glory and elation an hour before, found himself
compelled either to wait there or retrace his weary way past all those
inner posts again to the now crowded turnpike.

He chose the latter, and after an almost perilous ride, for more than
one raw sentinel took him for a rebel army and wanted to shoot, he
reached the broad thoroughfare about a quarter of three, to find it
still blocked by troops of the same general who had made the mistaken
move on Blackburn's Ford, who was ordered to have his division on the
road to the stone bridge and well out of the way two hours before,--the
same fellows that "broke ranks at every blackberry-bush and spring and
well along the route from Washington," and before the first crash of the
shells on Thursday afternoon. Now they seemed to be lost in the darkness
when routed out at midnight, and not until long after the proper
time--three hours at least--could the guns of Hunter's division get the
road; not until nearly dawn did they cross that old suspension bridge
across Cub Run and then, turning to the right, march off into the
fields along that guarded wood path. Not until broad daylight did the
head of column reach the farm bridge. Then, as the sun came up hot and
strong, and Snipe, after a long night in saddle, was able to rejoin his
anxiously waiting major, and Stark's battalion fell in once more with
the left wing of the New-Englanders and followed in the wake of
Burnside's Rhode Island battery, the long column moved on, snake-like,
through fields wherein the dew too soon gave way to dust, and not until
nine o'clock, heated, weary, hungry, after nine hours of exasperating
delays, of alternate halt and march, were the leading files plashing
through Sudley Ford. There stood the little church, and this was Sunday
morning, and these silent, solemn fellows who came plodding up the
southern bank on the trail of the gun-wheels were of the old Puritan
stock, but there was no halt or time for worship. McDowell himself,
commander of the army, had accompanied the turning column that by this
long, circuitous path had essayed to make safe crossing of Bull Run and
bear down on the rebel left, while the rest of the army waited in front
of the stone bridge. Only twenty-eight thousand men all told, with
twenty-nine guns and a single battalion of cavalry, had the Union
general with which to assault in their chosen position thirty-two
thousand enthusiastic Southerners with fifty-seven guns.

No wonder there was anxiety in the wearied eyes of the Union leaders, as
at last the little division of General Hunter deployed in the fields
south of Sudley Ford and came cautiously feeling its way onward,
Porter's brigade on the right of the road, Burnside's on the left, the
Rhode Island battery jogging along the dirt track and watching for a
chance to form forward into line. After the battery rode the grizzled
old colonel of the New-Englanders, and after him trudged the long column
of his silent men; and with the left wing rode Major Stark, and ever at
his heels rode Snipe. How slow seemed the advance! how tedious the
incessant halts and waits while somebody reconnoitred! and at last,
issuing from the woods, they saw before them a long ridge running east
and west between the road on which they were marching and the winding
stream away off to the east, and out in the intervening open were two of
Burnside's regiments in line of battle, slowly moving southward, and on
the west side Porter's infantry was filing into the fields, and in
regimental succession facing south and following the general move.
Nearly a mile ahead, until lost behind that ridge, they could see the
trees and walls and fences bordering a straight line across their front
that they knew must be the turnpike they had quit a mile or so west of
Centreville, and now, having left it behind them there, here they were
facing it again with four regiments, at least, in battle line parallel
with its general direction. Off to the right front it gently rose and
was lost among groves and trees. Directly ahead it dipped into a sort of
hollow where a little stream came purling out from the wooded uplands
farther on. "Young's Branch, they call that," Snipe heard the major say
to Captain Flint. There were a few farm-houses and enclosures down near
the crossing of the pike. Then the road they had been following could be
seen red and dry rising toward the south, running straight away for
Manassas Junction, until it disappeared over the wooded crest another
mile beyond the pike. East of this road the ground rose abruptly to a
broad open plateau, skirted east, southeast, and south by a
semi-circular fringe of thick woods. At the edge of the plateau, and
near the bold, bluff-like slopes leading up to it, were two roomy houses
of brick and stone, surrounded by fruit-trees and gardens,--one away up
almost overhanging the pike, the other well down to the south, closer to
the wood road they had been following from Sudley Springs,--the first
the Robinson, the other the Henry house. From which of these were they
signalling last night? was the question that went from lip to lip.
Eleven o'clock, and though there had been some sound of musketry down
toward the stone bridge, and the big thirty-pounder gun had let drive a
shell or two into the woods, and there had been some popping of rifles
among the skirmishers well ahead, not a uniformed force of rebels had
the New-Englanders seen, unless some scattering horsemen galloping
through distant lanes could be so regarded. Out in front of Burnside's
ranks a long thin line of skirmishers was now making for the curtaining
ridge in front of the pike, and all on a sudden a pale blue smoke-cloud,
like a long string of cotton wool, flew along that crest as though the
command fire was given from the far right, and the nervous, waiting
fingers pulled trigger as the order came, borne on the hot, sluggish,
summer air. Snipe's heart gave a great leap as he saw the dust fly up in
a hundred places just back of the distant skirmish line and the
skirmishers themselves, with much alacrity, come sprinting back to the
line, and then there was prodigious waving of swords and shouting of
orders and galloping furiously about on part of field-officers who had
never before smelled powder, much unnecessary exciting of their men,
much whoop and hurrah on part of the advanced line, despite the efforts
of the few veterans to set the example of calm and quiet. The instant
the skirmishers came ducking in out of the way the long battle line
opened a rattling fire upon the ridge, doing tremendous havoc along the
hill-side, if one could judge by the rising dust, but finding no
lodgment among its hidden defenders. Then a field-gun banged somewhere
over east of the ridge, and a shell, whizzing overhead, burst with a
puff and crash among the trees back of Burnside's reserve, and hundreds
of men crouched instinctively and sprang back laughing loud and
nervously. And then another gun, over by the pike, west of the ridge,
barked angry challenge, and sent its shell whistling over among Porter's
men, and the battle lines broke anew into rattling, crashing fusillade,
known as the "fire at will," and then, instead of pushing straight
onward as they would be doing another year, the two brigades halted
short and took to long-range shooting. Then Snipe saw the battery ahead
of them beginning to joggle, and the next thing "Forward, double quick,"
was repeated along the column, and off to the left front across the
fields the snorting teams went galloping, the guns bounding, the
cannoneers racing after them, and the adjutant came running back afoot
to shout something to Major Stark, who still rode, grim and silent,
along the advancing column. Up to this moment the only thing Snipe had
heard him say since the first volley was. "Steady, men. Keep quiet.
Listen for orders." Now he turned round. "Ride back, Lawton; find the
ammunition-wagon and bring it up. It's the colonel's order."

They are half across the field at the moment. The air is ringing with
the blare of battery bugles and the sputter of file-firing. Smoke is
drifting across the eager column of New-Englanders, and there are queer
whistlings on the wind as Snipe, digging spurs into his tired horse's
ribs, whirls about and goes darting back to the Sudley road. But there
he has to draw rein. The narrow track is blocked. With set faces, but
flashing eyes, a battalion of regulars is hastening forward. Then, with
cracking whips and straining traces, strong, mettlesome horses prancing
in the fulness of their strength and spirit, Griffin's West Point
battery comes tearing through the lane. Wagons, either of ammunition or
rations, or even ambulances, are cut off somewhere far to the rear. Able
only to move at the trot, halted every now and then, and forced aside,
sometimes even compelled by over-zealous officers to halt and explain
why he is going to the rear, Snipe is full half an hour passing the
batteries and battalions of Heintzelman's division pressing forward into
action. Well-nigh another half-hour is he in finding the needed wagon
and compelling its reluctant negro drivers to whip their startled mules
out into the track. It is after one o'clock when at last he comes
spurring out upon the open field again, and now, what a change in the
picture! General Hunter has been borne to the rear, wounded, but the
thin line of the rebels has fallen back to the plateau beyond the
Robinson place, the splendid regular batteries are far over on an open
field near the Dogan house, to the north of the turnpike, hurling shell
upon the retiring rebel lines. Some of Burnside's command, still halted,
are apparently repairing damages, but one regiment has gone on, and with
tumultuous cheers the Union men are pressing up the slopes at both the
Robinson and Henry houses, the New-Englanders somewhere with them.

The road is blocked in front, the fields are strewn here and there with
little groups hanging about prostrate soldiers, killed or wounded, and
Snipe nibbles at a hardtack to still that queer feeling of faintness
that again assails him when he recognizes among the pallid wounded a
lieutenant of his own company. Before he can find words to speak he
hears the voice of the adjutant, and that young officer has a
handkerchief bound about his head and blood is trickling down his neck.
"Ride forward," he says. "The regiment is straight ahead over that first
ridge, and the major needs his horse. Yonder lies the other. I'll bring
up the wagon."

There is a lull in the fight as Snipe goes riding along in rear of the
battle line, seeking the New-Englanders. Other brigades have crossed the
run, and now the Fire Zouaves are marching in column toward the regular
batteries, and right at the edge of the pike Snipe finds his old
regiment, with Stark in rear of the right wing. Lieutenant-Colonel
Proctor is gone, shot dead, say the rearmost men, as they were crossing
the ridge behind them, though that, happily, turns out later to be
untrue. The major, however, has secured his late superior's horse, and
gravely bids his orderly welcome with the other. Far over along that
semicircular fringe of woods to the southeast an exultant chorus of
yells is rising, and a staff-officer, riding by, says something about
the rebs trying to keep their spirits up. But the dust is rolling in
heavy clouds along the Manassas road, and the captured wounded, and
prisoners overhauled during the triumphant forward movement of the Union
line, long delayed though it was, say that they are of Johnston's army
from the Shenandoah. Then all Beauregard's must be yet to come. Are
they the ones now doing all this cheering? Snipe, dismounted and holding
both drooping horses, stands watching the faces of his gray-haired
colonel and his beloved major, now in earnest, low-voiced conference,
and it is plain to see, if not to hear, that the former is far from
satisfied at the way things have gone. Over an hour passes without
another forward movement, although long columns continue arriving from
the direction of the fords just above Bull Run, the fords discovered by
General Sherman. Many of the regiments right and left are tossing caps
and hats in air, cheering like mad, and demanding the word to advance
and finish up the rebels. The steady cannonade of the Union guns has
been stopped. The batteries suddenly limber up and move deliberately out
upon the pike, then turn southward into that road leading toward
Manassas, and next are seen breasting the slopes to their left, marching
up the height, Ricketts well in front, Griffin some distance in rear,
and when they disappear over the edge of the plateau south of the Henry
house, the Zouaves and some other regiment following rather slowly in
support, the colonel ventures to say that those batteries will be in
mischief before they are quarter of an hour older. Twenty minutes more
and they are heard again, reopening in fury upon the enemy unseen by the
halted battalions here under the Robinson bluff. And now it is after
two, long after, and brigades from Tyler's first division, fording the
run above the stone bridge, are strengthening the attack. Sherman,
Howard, Wilcox, all are there. Victory seems assured if only the line
may advance, crown those heights, sweep the plateau where now the
batteries stand almost alone, and drive the yelling rebels from the
woods. A dense smoke-cloud rises over the thundering guns. Who can
withstand so fierce a cannonade? Snipe, too, wants to toss his cap in
air and cheer, but the anxiety in his colonel's face forbids. Thicker
grows that shrouding smoke-cloud, heavier the thunder, but louder,
clearer, and nearer the crash of musketry, the chorus of exultant yells.
Surely there should be an infantry division, at least, to line that
crest and support those guns, say veteran soldiers, and all too late the
order comes. Out from the woods to the right of the twin batteries
issues a long, well-ordered line of troops, commanded by a general who
knows his trade. Straight, swift, and silent, in through the hanging
smoke, he drives them. Instantly at sight of them the nearest battery
commander whirls his muzzles around to deluge them with canister.
Instantly from his misguided senior comes the order, "Don't fire. Those
are our friends." Quick the reply, "They are Confederates! As sure as
the world, they are Confederates!" But Griffin, certain as he is, can
but obey when Barry sternly says, "They are our own supports. You must
not fire!" Already half of Ricketts's horses and many of his men are
down when that menacing line suddenly halts, aims, and at short range
pours in one fearful volley that rips through the batteries like a flash
of lightning. Down go dozens more,--officers, gunners, drivers,
cannoneers, horses,--and then, in wild panic, what are left of the poor,
affrighted beasts turn short about, and, snorting with terror, despite
every effort of the drivers, come tearing down the slopes, limbers and
caissons bounding after them, straight through the ranks of the startled
supports; the precious, priceless guns, the stricken wounded, the heroic
dead, the gallant officers, abandoned to their fate. Brave as they were
in face of fire at home, this was something the Zouaves had never
dreamed of. No Ellsworth raged among them now, holding them to their
duty. One wild volley they fire, mostly in the air, and down, too, they
come, streaming like sheep along the hill-side, leaping the stone wall
and scattering for shelter. The panic of Bull Run has begun. Down among
the scary mules of the wagons tear the riderless battery horses, and
away go darky drivers, mules, and all. Vain the dash of generals to the
front, ordering regiments and brigades to charge and retake the guns,
now being dragged to the woods. The rebel lines are mad with joy, drunk
with triumph, invincible against the half-hearted assaults that follow.
No longer is there any concerted effort on the Northern side. Some Union
regiments, indeed, charge home, only to find themselves isolated,
abandoned right and left by less disciplined comrades. Twice the
New-Englanders breast that fire-flashing slope, their gray-haired old
colonel cheering them on. Twice they come drifting back, bringing their
scores of wounded with them; but when, at last, with tears coursing down
his powder-blackened cheeks, Burnside tells them all is over, and to
follow the retreat, it is the old Covenanter, Flint, who leads the
remnant from the field. Their colonel, limp and senseless from loss of
blood, is borne away on the muskets of a squad of wearied men. The
major, pinned under his dying horse close to the Henry house, is
surrounded by a throng of rebels when the right gives way. If not dead,
he and Snipe are prisoners, for the last seen of the youngster he is
trying to drag the major out and get him on another horse, even while
the rebels are swarming all about them.



CHAPTER XX.


In the month that followed the panic and disaster of Bull Run the nation
seemed to realize at last what was before it. "Little Mac," the idol of
the soldiery, had been summoned to Washington to organize and command
the rapidly arriving regiments of volunteers,--splendid regiments from
all over the Northland, and though the flag of rebellion waved on
Munson's Hill, in full view of the unfinished dome of the Capitol, and
every afternoon the Southern bands played "Dixie," in full hearing of
the guards to the approaches of the Long Bridge, the Southern generals
were wise and refrained from farther advance.

Within that month, too, almost all the officers and many of the men
reported missing after the battle were accounted for. Many turned up
safe and sound, if much "demoralized." Many were heard of as at Libby
and Belle Isle, the Richmond prisons, but not one word of any kind came
from Major Stark, not a thing could be learned of his devoted orderly,
appointed corporal, said the survivors of Stark's battalion, the very
morning of the battle. The New-Englanders had gone home with the thanks
of the President and Secretary of War for their gallant conduct at the
battle, and their faithful service days after their time had expired.
The gray-haired colonel, though still unable to remount and take command
in the field, had been made a brigadier-general. Flint reappeared at the
front as lieutenant-colonel of the reorganized regiment. Everybody said
that Major Stark would have been made its colonel had he survived.

In Gotham there was grief in many a household, but there was trouble in
the Lawrences'. Poor Mrs. Park, as was to be expected, could give them
little peace. "Everybody" now knew that the youthful captor, so lauded
in the papers, of the young Confederate cavalryman was the George Lawton
who had fled from Aunt Lawrence's roof rather than listen to more
upbraidings. Mrs. Park had first gone wild with pride, exultation, and
delight when the Monday morning _Herald_ reached her,--and then to New
York and Aunt Lawrence the very next day. And there she learned the
later news, and stayed a dreadful fortnight, dreadful for herself and
everybody else. One thing, at least, was comfort to the younger sister,
and comfort she certainly needed now,--the mother steadfastly refused to
believe her boy was dead. What she wished to do and what perhaps she
would have done, but that her husband came and forbade, was to go to
Washington and lay siege to the War Department. Mrs. Park could see no
just reason why the government should not send forth a strong column to
scour and scourge Virginia until "the Mother of the Presidents"
surrendered her boy. School was closed for the summer. The First Latin
had passed its examinations, matriculated at Columbia, and was to start
as freshmen in the fall, minus two members at least, Hoover, who had
apparently abandoned his academic career, and had not been seen around
New York, and Briggs, ignominiously "flunked" at the examination. Two
others of its list were spoken of as duly admitted should they return to
the fold in time to enter with the class,--Snipe Lawton and Shorty
Prime. Where the first was no one could conjecture. Where the second was
everybody knew, as Shorty took good care they should, if letters could
accomplish it. There wasn't a happier lad in all the lines around
Washington as August wore on, and the army "got its second wind"--and
reinforcements. Short and small as he was, he rode as big a horse as
anybody, and had reached almost the pinnacle of his boyish ambitions. He
had been made mounted orderly at brigade head-quarters, and could ask no
more, except that Snipe should know, and Snipe should turn up safe and
sound.

The Doctor's wisdom had prevailed. The scare that followed Shorty's
disappearance was short as he. Ellsworth was organizing the Fire Zouaves
at the time, and the lad, in longing and misery and in envy of Snipe's
inches, had stolen away to the old haunt at "40's" house down in Elm
Street to beg the boys to tell their enthusiastic young colonel how well
he could drum and how mad he was to go. He was home again by midnight,
and late to school and lax in conduct and lessons the following day. It
was all settled within a week, and as the Doctor had advised, and almost
crazy with joy the youngster was hurried on to the capital to join his
soldier kindred, was welcomed and set to work to teach other and bigger
boys the army calls and beats for the snare-drum, and then, along in
August, the general, for whom he had run many an errand and delivered
many a message, ordered him to duty at head-quarters and set him in
saddle.

Then presently McClellan found himself strong enough to risk a slight
forward movement, and two brigades crossed the Potomac one night in face
of the pickets at Chain Bridge, and, hardly waiting for dawn, began
tossing up earthworks on the heights beyond, and here the saucy rebels
came and "felt" the pickets and, riding through the wood lanes, made
some effort to dislodge them, but there was evidently heavy force behind
those strong picket-posts, and though rifles and revolvers were popping
day and night all along the guarded lines from the Potomac below
Alexandria to the Potomac above Chain Bridge, no real attempt was made
by the "Johnnies" to push through at any point. Night after night, at
first, gay young gallants from the Southern lines would mount their
horses and ride out ahead just to "stir up the Yanks," and then there
would be no end of a bobbery along the front, picket firing in every
direction and the long roll in every camp, and everybody would turn out
under arms and form line on the designated parade-ground, and stand and
shiver and say unpublishable and improper things for an hour or more,
and then go back to bed disgusted. After a week or so at this the
colonels would no longer form line, but let the companies muster in
their respective streets in camp, and the long waits were reduced to an
hour, and then to a half, and in course of a fortnight it became
difficult even to rouse a drummer when the long roll was actually
ordered. And when the sputter and crackle of musketry began far out at
the picket-posts in the dead hours of the night, men in camp would roll
over and grunt something to the effect that those fellows were making
dashed fools of themselves again. And so by the end of August it became
a sign of "scare" or "nerves" when pickets began firing at night, and
when Shorty's brigade took post along those densely wooded heights and
had got fairly shaken down to business, matters at the front, out toward
the hamlet of Lewinsville and the lanes to Vienna and Ball's
Cross-Roads, became almost professionally placid and disciplined, and
the lad was in a sort of military seventh heaven, trotting about with
orders and despatches, recognized and passed without check at almost
all the posts of the main guards, where even officers below certain
grades had to show their permits, welcomed at every regimental camp for
the news and gossip he could bring,--ay, and it must be owned, for items
much more stimulating than even the latest rumors from the War
Department, for Shorty was many a time the bearer of despatches to
McClellan's head-quarters or the office of some high dignitary in the
city, and his saddle-bags were never inspected by provost-marshals and
patrols, and, now that the sutlers were forbidden to sell the fiery
liquids of the first weeks of the war, many a flask of forbidden
"commissary" found its way to some favored tent among the brigade lines,
and in return, when Sergeant This or Corporal That was out on picket,
the lad was sure of friends at court when he strove for a peep outside
the lines, and one of his absorbing crazes was to ascertain what might
be going on around that mysterious hamlet, nearly two miles out there in
the lovely Virginia slopes beyond the pickets.

The fact is that Shorty was consumed with ambition to "do something"
like Snipe. He envied his former chum the distinction of that capture of
Lieutenant Grayson infinitely more than he envied "Little Mac" the
command of the army. Just to think that the first Confederate officer
caught in front of Washington should turn out to be a first cousin of
the very Graysons who were with them at school! Just to think that it
should be Snipe of all others--Snipe, a First Latin boy--to make the
capture! Just to think that Snipe should have been all through Bull Run,
while he, Shorty, was far to the rear where he could only hear the
thunder of the guns and the tales of the stragglers! Just to think that
the old men in the reorganized New-Englanders declared that Snipe was
the best soldier in the ranks of Company "C" if he was the
youngest!--Snipe who couldn't shoot a gun six months ago without
shutting his eyes, and who would rather fish all day or figure out
equations than follow the band of the Seventh itself! Just to think that
the old colonel's written report of Bull Run should include among the
few names of those deserving especial credit and commendation that of
Corporal George Lawton, Company "C," "who sacrificed himself in the
heroic effort to save Major Stark from death or capture, and was last
seen fighting hard over his prostrate body,"--Snipe who used to turn
sick at sight of a fist fight, even though he was the "bulliest" first
baseman the Uncas ever had.

Time and again the general's diminutive orderly would ride to Colonel
Flint to inquire if any news had been heard, and to talk with the old
men of Company "C" about his chum. There were two drawbacks to this. It
began to bore Flint, who felt a trifle jealous of the praises sung of
Stark, and it gave the New-Englanders abundant opportunity to chaff the
lad about his old friends, the Fire Zouaves, whose conduct or
misconduct at Bull Run was the subject of the derision of the "steady"
regiments of the army. It wasn't that the "b'hoys" lacked nerve,
stamina, courage. They had lost their soldierly little colonel, shot
dead by a fanatic the very day they entered Alexandria. There was no one
to discipline them, with Ellsworth gone, and the bravest men in the
world are of no account in battle except when acting in disciplined
unison. Other regiments ran down that hill as hard as did the Fire
Zouaves, and without half the provocation; but everybody pitched on the
red shirts and made them the scapegoats because they had come with such
a tremendous swagger and had boasted so much. Shorty believed in his old
friends and stood up for them, and lost his temper and said things to
the New-Englanders in turn that they didn't like. "How came it that you
could stand and see your major down with a dozen rebs around him and
make no effort at rescue?" he demanded, and this was a home thrust that
made many men wince, and at last it leaked out somehow, as such things
will, that none of the left wing saw or heard of it until too late. The
smoke was thick. They were falling back as ordered, but the senior
captain had been wounded and sent to the rear. Flint was acting as wing
commander, and when two companies on the right begged their officers,
after the confusion, to let them rush back and bring off the major,
Flint himself refused. "We have lost far more now than our share," he
said, "and the general orders us back."

And still there lived among the New-Englanders that abiding faith that
the honored major was not dead and would yet be heard from. "And when he
is," said Shorty, "you can bet your buttons Snipe and Sergeant Keating
will prove to be the ones that pulled him out, and they were firemen."

The fact of the matter is that Shorty was getting "too big for his
boots," as Colonel Flint began to say. He was indulged and spoiled to
such an extent by guards and sentries around Chain Bridge, greeted so
cordially by generals and colonels, and hailed with such confident
familiarity by the line, that the youngster's head was probably not a
little inflated. He was getting "cheeky," said a spectacled
adjutant-general of a neighboring brigade. "He talks too much," said
staff-officers about their own head-quarters. "He'll run up against
somebody some day that'll take the shine off him if he isn't more
careful with that big horse of his," said a certain few, who hated a
horseman on general principles; and this proved a true prediction.

The big bay ridden by Shorty had a very hard mouth, and when once he got
going it was a most difficult thing to stop him. Galloping about the
neighborhood of Chain Bridge, where almost everybody knew the youngster
as the general's orderly, it made little difference (although an irate
Green Mountain boy of Baldy Smith's brigade did threaten to bayonet him
if he ever galloped over his post again); so, too, on the road to
Washington, where permanent guards were placed at different points.
But, to put an end to straggling and visiting town without authority,
the provost-marshal had taken to sending patrols here, there, and
everywhere in Georgetown and Washington with orders to halt every
soldier and examine his pass. The regular infantry, now recruited to a
war footing, were assigned, much to their disgust, to patrol duty. A
number of new regiments of regulars were being raised. A number of the
New York Seventh and other crack regiments of the militia reappeared at
the front with the uniforms and commissions of lieutenants in the
regular army. It even happened that not a few young fellows who had
never even served in the militia, and who knew nothing whatever of duty
or discipline of any kind, had secured through family or political
influence, which the administration was glad to cultivate, commissions
denied to better men, and these young fellows were now wearing their
first swords, sashes, and shoulder-straps in the onerous duty of running
down the merry-makers from surrounding camps, who, dodging the guards,
had managed to make a way to town.

One night there came a heavy storm, and down went the telegraph line.
Morning broke, radiant after the deluge. The Potomac had risen in its
might and swept away some bridge and crib work as well as certain
pontoons. The general wrote a despatch to army head-quarters, and called
up Shorty. "Gallop with that," said he, "and don't stop for anything."

What the general meant was, don't stop for breakfast or nonsense, but
the lad took it literally. He and "Badger" were a sight to behold when
they came tearing into the main street of Georgetown about eight
o'clock. Badger was blowing a bit, after laboring through nearly five
miles of thick mud, but, once he struck the cobble-stones and sent the
last lumps of clay flying behind him, he took a new grip on the bit and
lunged ahead as though on a race for his life, Shorty sitting him close
and riding "hands down" and head too, his uniform besmeared, but his
grit and wind untouched.

Out came the regulars at the second cross street. "Halt! Halt!" were the
shouted orders, but Shorty's instructions were to stop for nothing, and
he couldn't stop short of three blocks anyhow, no matter how much he
might want to. Past the first soldiers he shot like a dart, but their
yells resounded down the avenue, and out came others,--too late at the
second crossing but formidably prompt at the third. Two of them levelled
their bayonets, a third making ready to leap at the reins. In vain
Shorty reached in his saddle-bag and brandished his papers and yelled,
"Despatch for General McClellan! Ordered not to stop!" The soldiers
could not or would not understand, so he had to lie back and tug at the
reins; but "Badger" only pricked up his ears at sight of the human
obstacles, and when six great strides brought him close to them, made a
magnificent dash to one side, and left them raging behind. But now all
the avenue seemed alive with blue coats and bayonets. A dozen men lined
up at the next crossing, and with a sob of rage and dismay, Shorty
realized that they'd bayonet Badger rather than let him defy orders, and
so, with all his might and main he pulled, and at last, plunging,
panting, heaving, and sweating, the splendid brute was brought to a
halt, two or three big Irish infantrymen at his head, while, scowling
and threatening, others came thronging around him.

"Come down aff the top o' dthat harrse!" shouted a Milesian veteran who
knew his trade.

"Despatches for General McClellan! Most important!" panted Shorty.
"Ordered not to lose a minute----"

"Ah-h-h! none av yer guff! Who'd be sendin' anything 'portant by the
likes av you? Tumble off, Tom Thumb!" and the sergeant had seized the
official envelope and was trying to lug it away.

"Don't you dare touch that!" almost screamed the lad. "I tell you, I'm a
general's orderly!"

But for answer the sergeant thrust a brawny hand under the hooded
stirrup, and with sudden hoist sent Shorty tumbling over to the other
side. Furious at the indignity, he grasped the mane and let drive a
skilful and well-aimed kick at the Irishman's head, which the latter
ducked and dodged only in the nick of time. More patrolmen came running
to the spot,--corporals and sergeants whose orders had been
defied,--and in less than a minute the bumptious youngster was dragged
from his horse and led fuming to the sidewalk, just as there appeared at
the doorway of the corner building the spruce and dapper figure of the
youthful officer of the guard, his uniform spick and span, his sash and
sword and gloves of the daintiest make.

"Now, then, you young tarrier, make yer manners an' tell yer lies to yer
betthers!" said the big sergeant, half grinning as he spoke, his hand on
Shorty's collar all the time. The throng of soldiers gave way right and
left, their white-gloved left hands striking the promptly shouldered
muskets in salute to their young superior, and then, covered with mud,
flushed with wrath and the sense of his wrongs, writhing in the grasp of
his captor, Shorty Prime stood staring into the pallid features, the
shifting, beady eyes, the twitching, bluish lips of the butt of the
First Latin and the whole school,--Polyblasphemous in the garb of a
second lieutenant of the regular infantry.

Dead silence for a moment, then,--

"Put him in the cell," said Hoover, and turned loftily away.



CHAPTER XXI.


There is not room in this brief chronicle to tell the story of Shorty
Prime's sensations this eventful day. Wrath, amazement, burning shame,
and indignation, all were struggling for utterance, but, above all, at
the moment the youngster felt the importance of the despatch of which he
was bearer, the need for its immediate forwarding to general
head-quarters. His steaming, hard-panting horse had been led one way and
he himself, to his unspeakable rage, had been hustled, protesting,
through a grimy hall, past groups of grinning soldiery, a burly sergeant
fairly rushing him into the square court beyond, never loosing his hold
on the collar, and then, as Shorty still kicked, struggled, and
protested, reinforcing that grasp by nipping the boy's left ear with
thumb and forefinger of the other hand. The precious despatch had been
torn from his grasp, despite his stout resistance. Even in his rage he
had sense enough to refrain from any denunciation of the lieutenant,
but against the laughing Irishman who had dared to address him as Tom
Thumb Shorty launched a torrent of threat and invective. It was only
with the utmost difficulty that he could repress the flood of passionate
tears that a year before would have overcome him. The storm of sobs that
seemed imminent would only have made him ridiculous and rejoiced his
captors the more, so with all his strength he fought against it. He
demanded his release. He declared again that he had only obeyed his
orders. He gave his name and that of his general, and insisted that
every man who had treated him with indignity would suffer for it. At
first they only laughed the more, as he was led across the
stone-flagged, sunlit court, on three sides of which were heavily barred
and latticed "cells," or rather alcoves, many of them occupied by
disconsolate stragglers. But, even as a corporal was unlocking one of
these and throwing open the gate, there came stalking majestically over
from a little office on the east side a tall man whose upper lip, chin,
and cheeks were shaved after the fashion of the Mexican war days, who
still wore the high black leather stock at the throat, whose buttons
glistened, every one in its place, and whose sleeves were decorated with
the chevrons of a first sergeant.

"Let go that ear," he said, in quiet tone, and jeer and laughter ceased.
"Who ordered this?" he asked.

"The lieutenant, sir," answered Shorty's conductor, obeying instantly,
and speaking with a deference much exceeding that which he had shown to
the suckling subaltern commanding the guard.

"Who did you say you were?" asked the veteran regular, professionally
grave, his steely blue eyes seeming to penetrate beneath the mud with
which Shorty's face and dress were smeared.

"Mounted orderly at brigade head-quarters, Chain Bridge," came Shorty's
quick answer, as he stifled his rising sobs. "Ordered to get my
despatches to General McClellan and stop for nothing. The river's washed
away the pontoons----"

"Where is the despatch? Let go that collar, Sergeant Hanley," and Shorty
stood released.

"Stolen from me by these----" And Shorty gulps. Even now he knows it
won't do to call names. "I told them my orders. I begged them, and the
officer of the guard, to let me----"

"What did you do with them?" interrupted the sergeant, glowering at
Hanley.

"Sure I don't know, sergeant. The lootenent ordered him into the cells.
He was sassin' everybody."

"I never said a wrong word to the lieutenant," burst in Shorty,
indignant that he should be accused of disrespectful language to an
officer, no matter how much contempt he might feel for the individual.

"What became of the despatch, I say?" demanded the first sergeant,
frowning around upon the now silent circle.

"Corcoran took it, sir," ventured a young soldier, presently.

"Go you and fetch Corcoran," were the sergeant's instant orders to
Hanley, and the big Irishman lunged away. Here was a power indeed! the
majesty of the discipline of the old army as exemplified in the first
sergeant of thirty years' service. "Bring that bench, and water, soap,
and towel," was the next order, short and crisp, and two young recruits
jumped to obey. In a minute the bench, with a tin basin, a bucket with
fresh water, and towel and soap were placed before the bedraggled lad.

"Wash," said the sergeant, and Shorty pulled off his jacket and flannel
shirt and tossed them, with his natty cap, to the pavement. "Pick those
up and clean 'em," said the sergeant, and a soldier whipped them off the
flags, while the lad buried his hot face in the brimming bowl. It cooled
and steadied him and gave him time to think,--time to recover breath and
wits and self-control. Corporal Corcoran was marched in by Hanley,
looking queer. The tall sergeant gazed about at the circle of listening
private soldiers. Non-commissioned officers, said the regulations, must
never be rebuked in presence of the men. It weakens their authority.
"Get you out of this, all of you!" was his order, and they stood not on
the order of their going, but were gone in less time than it takes to
tell it.

"Where's the papers you took from this--young man?"

"Sure I put 'em on the officer of the guard's table, sir."

"Where's he?"

"Gone to breakfast, sir."

If the sergeant had then and there ordered Corcoran to "go and fetch the
lieutenant," Corcoran would have gone and tried, and it wouldn't have
surprised Shorty. "Fetch me my cap," he said instead; then turning to
the prisoner, now rubbing hard with the towel, he continued in the same
crisp, curt tones.

"Obey orders. Sit in there," and he pointed to the open cage, "till I
come back. I'll see to the despatches."

And though still raging over his misfortunes, measurably relieved,
Shorty saw him stride away through the dark hall, saw how the soldiers'
eyes followed him, how at the outer gate the loungers stood up as he
passed by. Then, without a word to the Irishmen or another word from
them, Shorty stepped into the wooden-barred cage and sat him down upon
the wooden bench, still rubbing with the now grimy towel. A change had
come over the situation. Corcoran presently slipped away and speedily
reappeared with a clean towel, which he handed to Shorty with a queer
mingling of anxiety and bravado in his manner, and as silently took the
soiled one away. Hanley, after a minute's perturbed pondering over the
matter, scratched his head and slunk--there is no other word for
it--into the neighboring barrack-room. Over in one of the other cells a
drunken soldier had set up a maudlin song, and it was a relief to the
big sergeant's soul to stop and tell him to shut up. Four or five other
prisoners, each in his own barred cage on the west side, were standing
or sitting and peering out into the court, curious spectators of the
scene. The cages or cells to Shorty's right seemed to be empty. But
presently there came a soft knocking and scratching on the boards that
separated him from the occupant of the one on his right. Lumber was
bought in a hurry that summer, much of it only half seasoned. The planks
had warped and shrunk. There was a wide crack, and at that crack
appeared an eye, and through that crack came the whisper of "Shorty,
Shorty. Don't ye know me?"

Some of our brigade, thought the lad, as he edged up to the wooden wall.
Some poor fellow overstaying pass. "Who is it?" he asked.

"Don't ye remember Desmond, 28's Engine?"

"Desmond! Of course. Why, what brought you here?"

"The same squint-eyed, pasty-faced pup that did you, I s'pose. Sa-ay,
Shorty, _you_'re all right. They can't keep you 'soon as they know who
you are. The officer of the day comes at nine o'clock and you'll be let
off all right. But I'm in a hole. Say a good word for me. Help me out,
and I can tell you things about that school you'd give a heap to know.
Remember the day of the fire in Twenty-fifth Street?--the day the peeler
wasn't going to let you pass, and I pulled you through?"

How could the lad forget it! A policeman had tried to drive him back
when he would have worked his way up along 28's line of hose, and
Desmond gave him the big nozzle to take forward to the pipeman. Of
course he remembered it, and how proud he was that when it came to
"soaking down," and the big nozzle was screwed on in place of the
three-quarter inch, the wearied pipeman let him take hold. Of course he
remembered.

"But how'd you get here?" he asked. "How'd you know me so quick?"

"Lord! I seen you every day for a week when we were camped near you up
there at Kalorama. Second Fire Zouaves I'm in,--Major Moriarty. We was
down here on a frolic the other night, an' could 'a' got back all right,
but there was a fire on the avenue, an' we piled out onto an engine, an'
when the fire was out the fellers took us round to their house and
salooned us to the best in the market, an' the next thing the patrol got
us, and this shanghai lieutenant out here shoved us into the cells for
offerin' to lam him in front of the guard. Sa-ay, ain't I seen that
feller smokin' cigarettes round the stable next the school? If 'tain't
him, it's like enough to him to be his twin brother. If 'tis him, you
get me out of this and I can tell you things you and Snipe ought to
know. Lay low, Shorty; here comes that big shanghai sergeant. Sa-ay,
ain't he a rooster? Do what you can for us, boy, will you?"

And there was no time for more. Straight to the cage the sergeant
stalked, and for the life of him Shorty couldn't help standing
attention, as he did to his brigadier-general.

"I got those despatches," said the sergeant, "and sent them right on,
and I've sent word to the officer of the day, and he'll be here
presently. Better let me explain. You're too excited yet."

And under ordinary circumstances such might, indeed, have been the wiser
course, but there were other surprises in store for Shorty and his
guardians too. Even while the tall sergeant was asking certain questions
there came the hoarse cry of the sentry in front of the building, "Turn
out the guard! Officer of the day!" There was a scurry of feet, a
banging of musket-butts, a word of command, a clash of steel, and after
a moment or two of parley without there came through the dark hallway an
officer whom Shorty saw to be a captain of infantry. His sash was old
and weather-stained, his uniform a trifle shabby, but in every move
there was the ease and swing of the old soldier. Hurrying after and
ranging up beside him came another, an officer whose sash, belt, and
dress were as spick and span, new and glossy as those of the officer of
the guard, an officer who looked a trifle less at home in them than did
the veteran on his right, but at sight of his face the light danced up
in Shorty's eyes, and, forgetful of discipline, of regulation, of
martial etiquette, propriety, he sprang forward with a cry of joy.
Barely four months earlier, from his perch on the lamp-post and through
blinding tears, the boy had marked him striding down Broadway at the
head of a famous company of a famous regiment. Now here again he
appeared, in the garb of the regular army.

"Mr. Winthrop--Captain Winthrop! Don't you know me? Regy Prime!"

And another of Pop's old boys, another Columbiad, another of New York's
National Guardsmen, turned regular soldier,--the new captain threw aside
his book and grabbed the youngster's hands.

"In the name of all that's preposterous, Regy, what are you doing here?"

And then, unnerved and overcome at last, fearful of breaking down, the
lad looked imploringly at the big sergeant, and in twenty words the
story was told.

"Who ordered him confined? Who took his despatches away?" demanded the
older captain, the old officer of the day, with threatening eyes.

Not for the wealth of India would Sergeant Brennan sully the
unimpeachable record of thirty years by a word of even inferential
disapproval of the deed of a superior officer.

"Call Sergeant Hanley," said he, and Hanley came. The question was
repeated.

"The officer of the guard, Lieutenant Hoover," said he, in answer.

"My compliments to the lieutenant, and say I wish to speak with him,"
said the veteran captain; and there was painful silence as, a moment
later, the junior officer came clinking in, his black eyes flitting
nervously about, his blue lips twitching. "This way, if you please, Mr.
Hoover," said the senior captain. "Captain Winthrop, will you favor me?"
And ushering them both into the little guard-room, the captain closed
the door.

Less than four minutes lasted that interview. Meanwhile there was
silence in the sunny court-yard. Brennan paced majestically up and down.
Hanley stood uncomfortably a moment or two, then tiptoed back to the
guard still standing in ranks in front of the building, and Shorty was
left practically alone. There was a delighted whisper behind. "Sa-ay,
Shorty, just wouldn't I rather be here than in that feller's shoes! Get
us out of this now, and you'll see."

Presently the glass door opened and Hoover came forth, slinking,
crestfallen, twitching, but if he had been a conquering hero Brennan
could no more magnificently have saluted. Halting, facing him, his
white-gloved hand snapped up to the polished visor of his cap, and there
it stayed unnoticed, until the dismayed officer was swallowed up within
the hall.

Two minutes more and two soldiers were sent on the run to clean the
orderly's horse and equipments. A little darky was set to work on his
besplashed leggings. "I'll see you in a few minutes again," said Captain
Winthrop, as he and his predecessor hastened away to report to their
commanding officer. The guards changed on the pavement outside. A new
lieutenant came in and looked curiously at Shorty, now being regaled
with soldier coffee and a huge crust of "Capitol Bakery" bread. Fifes
squeaked and drums banged on the avenue as the old guard turned off, but
Hoover came no more.

When Winthrop reappeared in course of half an hour, "Badger" was ready
in front and Shorty was once more in trim for a ride. A receipt for his
despatches was stowed in his belt, and then as the captain would have
led him forth, the lad thought of Desmond, and briefly he told the
story. Winthrop nodded, went back, spoke a few words to the Zouave, and
rejoined the lad. Desmond waved his hand. Winthrop grasped Shorty's and
shook it warmly.

"Now don't let this mishap trouble you, Regy. No harm has been done.
Good will come of it. Now, good luck to you."

How much good was to be the result of that mishap Winthrop could never
have guessed at the time. How much poor Shorty had lost through that
storm, that morning mud ride, that arrest and incarceration and the
consequent fatigue, he was to learn within another day.



CHAPTER XXII.


The general was an indignant man when, late that afternoon, he heard the
details of Shorty's misadventures, but the general was just. He knew
that battles had been lost and kingdoms ruined because of orders hastily
or carelessly worded. He might have known, as he said to the staff when
discussing the incident, that if he "told that little bunch of springs
and impetuosity to stop for nothing and put him on a hard-mouthed horse
of similar temperament, the provost guard wouldn't have a picnic." The
general knew he could not ignore the authority of the provost-marshal,
but he might have known that Shorty would be little apt to stop for
sergeants, corporals, or privates when told to stop for nothing.

Only a day or two before several generals and their staffs had an
amusing illustration of Shorty's immense conception of his official
position. A big working party from _the_ brigade was chopping trees in
the woods a mile up the Potomac, and a big pleasure party from
Washington was visiting General "Baldy" Smith on the opposite bank. For
the entertainment and instruction of his guests this accomplished
officer had ordered out a light battery, and with much precision that
battery was driving shells into that very wood--and the axemen out.
Bearing fragments of iron in his hands, the indignant officer in charge
of the work galloped in to his general to say that his party had had to
run for their lives, and the work was at a stand. Shorty's horse stood
ready saddled, so the general bade the boy orderly carry the fragments,
with his compliments, to General Smith, and tell him the battery was
shelling his men, and Shorty and "Badger" went off like a shot. Over the
Chain Bridge they tore, to the amaze and disgust of certain sentries
long accustomed to halting everybody that didn't wear a star, and
straight up to the brilliant group at head-quarters they galloped, and
with scant apology and only hurried salute, the youngster panted his
message and exhibited his collaterals. The general listened with
unruffled calm, inspected a fragment or two with professional gravity
and interest, noted the fresh powder black on the fracture and concave
surface, passed them on to his visitors with some placid remark about
the force of the bursting charge, and, to Shorty's unspeakable wrath,
appeared to be in no wise impressed with the peril to which he had
subjected the men of a comrade brigade, and even less with the presence
of the bearer of the message. Shorty had counted on creating a
sensation, and he and "Badger" were the only ones to show the least
agitation. Bethinking himself of a supplementary remark of the officer
who brought in the news--and the fragments, the lad returned to the
attack. "One shell burst so close to Captain Wood's head it almost
stunned him, sir."

"Ah, did it?" queried the general, with provoking calm. "And was nobody
hurt?"

"Nobody was _hit_, sir," answered Shorty, with temper rising still
higher. "But a dozen might have been."

"Ah, well, ride back and tell the general I'm glad nobody was hurt," was
Baldy's imperturbable ultimatum, and the lad spurred back in a fury. Of
course the firing was stopped, and later the generals grinned affably
over the incident, but Shorty's self-esteem was ruffled, and he told the
senior aide, to that officer's infinite delight, that further messages
to General Smith would "better be carried by some other man on the
staff," and of course that story went the rounds of both brigades, much
to the merriment of many a camp-fire, but not altogether to Shorty's
detriment.

Now, if such was Shorty's conception of the gravity and importance of
his duties when bearing a verbal message from one brigadier to a junior,
what was not his immensity when a hastily written despatch, conveying
tidings of flood and disaster, was intrusted to him by the commander at
the front to be delivered to the general-in-chief in town. Shorty rode
like a demon that day, and even "Badger" was amazed, and that he, bearer
of despatches to head-quarters of the army and ordered to stop for
nothing, should have had to stop for bayonets and be lifted by the
collar into the presence of the officer of the guard,--that he should
find in the person of that officer the butt of the whole First
Latin,--that he should be ordered by that--thing--to the common cells
wherein were penned the drunkards and deserters, and led thither by the
ear, and an impudently grinning Paddy if he _was_ a sergeant, all this
was, in truth, too much for Shorty. No comfort Winthrop could offer
would soothe his wounded soul. He went back ablaze to brigade
head-quarters. The general was away up the Potomac, and didn't return
till late. Even then when Shorty tried to tell his tale his excitement
and wrath made him incoherent. The general was amazed to think that an
officer of regulars would hold his messenger after discovering that he
was actually the bearer of despatches. But Shorty's animated description
of that callow soldier, and by no means guarded references to his school
history, gave the general a clue. He fully intended, of course, to
follow the matter up, but other and more important issues came to claim
his time and attention.

That night at nine o'clock the general decided to make a personal
inspection along his front. Horses for himself and two aides were
ordered, and Marmion, the colored hostler, presently came round to the
big tent.

"Marse Prime's horse done gone stiff, sir," he said to the
adjutant-general, "and I reckon Marse Reggy don't feel much like night
ridin'. He's sleepin' da' on de hay."

The officer went and took a peep. Wrapped in his blanket, his head on
his arms, the youngster had curled up for a nap, worn out by the
excitement and emotions of the day. "Don't wake him," was the order, and
the three horsemen rode away.

It was a still, starlit night. The roads were yet heavy with mud. The
horses sank to their fetlocks and squashed noisily through the mire
until the little party were able to turn into the cart-tracks through
the thick woods, and, joined now by the field officer of the day, they
pushed on to the outposts. It was the dark of the moon. The blackness of
the groves and copses was intense. Objects, except on the open field or
against the sky, could hardly be distinguished five feet away. But every
now and then there would come the muffled challenge of sentries at inner
posts of the guard, and it was over half an hour before they reached the
outermost groups, with the line of night sentinels some distance ahead.
To every inquiry at every station of officer or sergeant, the answer was
the same, all quiet, all alert. There had been much shooting at patrols
and pickets for over a month, a practice both sides soon abandoned, but
at the time there was hazardous, nerve-trying duty at the front, and few
men welcomed it except for the excitement. Somewhere in the neighborhood
of ten o'clock, following in single file a winding wood track, a
sergeant leading afoot, the party approached the southern edge of a
strip of woods and halted while the corporal stepped ahead to assure the
sentinel. Then the general rode quietly up to question the man, the
sergeant assuming his watch the while, for even in presence of the
commander-in-chief there must be no cessation of vigilance.

To the queries as to where the nearest sentries were posted? what were
his own instructions? what he would do in certain emergencies? the
soldier answered promptly, perhaps a bit impatiently, even as though he
might have enjoyed the catechism at another time, but had some weightier
matter in hand at the moment. He kept turning and glancing out across
the open field to the south, stooping once or twice as though to peer at
something against the sky, and the general saw and questioned.

"Anything unusual about?"

"Why, yes, sir; at least I think so. The patrol that came by ten minutes
ago said that they had heard horses galloping out across the fields, and
I could have sworn I heard hoofs on this here bridle-path where it dips
into yon woods. By day nobody can come across here without our seeing
them. By night we can't see unless we lie flat and look up, and then
they could get within a rod or two."

The general bent over his horse's neck and listened. There was not wind
enough to rustle a leaf. The sky was almost cloudless; the fields in
front were open and silent; the dark, shadowy woods, beyond, merged in
the general gloom. Far off to the right front, over a mile away, a faint
light gleamed in some farm-house window. Far off to the left front, the
south, there was a dim, lurid tint upon the night that might have come
from dozens of watch-fires. Straight away in front the cart-track dove
into the darkness on its way across the field, and, over against them,
there was a dent or depression in the outlines of the fringe of timber,
as it stood against the southern stars, that told where the road entered
the opposite grove. It was there, right there, said the sentinel, he was
almost sure he had heard horses' feet, but nothing else, not another
sound.

"Did the patrol stop at your outpost?" the general asked the sergeant.

"No, sir. It went right along the line of sentries. I crawled out during
the afternoon and climbed a tree in the field to our right. You can see
it standing there, sir" (and, indeed, its outline was faintly visible
against the stars). "I could see some distance off to the south and
southwest. Lewinsville and the barns are in plain view, and some
scattered farm-houses."

"Did you see any troops?"

"No, sir, but some saw me, and the bullets came a-singing, and I had to
quit and crawfish back. But this path leads into a road half a mile or
so out there."

And while the sergeant spoke the soldier had resumed his watch, and
suddenly they heard him whisper, "Hist!"

"What do you see or hear?" murmured the sergeant, springing to his side.

"There is something out there, by thunder! coming this way. These
gentlemen had better get back a bit. I can't tell how many there may
be."

Somebody,--some party, possibly, stealing up to feel the pickets again,
and here were the general and staff-officers unescorted! What a plum for
Southern cavalry to pluck, did they but know! In breathless silence the
watchers waited. The general refused to retire. Not a sound could the
horsemen hear, but that sentry sprawled on the ground could not be
mistaken. Not an object moving was visible. Suddenly, though low and
cautious, they heard the click of a gun-lock. The sentry had brought his
rifle to the ready. Then, indeed, must there be something in the wind.
Ten seconds later, and low, firm, so as to be heard only a few paces
away, there came the order, "Halt!" A brief pause, then, with menace in
the tone, the challenge, "Who goes there?" For an instant no reply. Then
in tremulous voice came an answer in the field to the right of the road.

"It's only me, suh; Marse Finlay's Brennus, suh," and there can be no
doubting the Ethiopian accent.

"Who's with you, nigger? Who's back of you there?"

"Nobody, suh. I'se all alone, suh, but they's some gen'lemen way back,
suh. They done give me a letter."

"Come in here, Brennus. Let's see your letter," called the sergeant,
stepping warily forward, his gun, too, at the charge. And presently out
from under the stars steps a tall negro boy, lithe, active, and alert.
He is trembling a bit and uncertain of his whereabouts. He needs to know
something before he can impart anything, and presently it comes.

"Is you gen'lemen--Yankees?"

"Yankees from the general down," answers the sergeant. "Half a dozen
right here ready to hear your story." And the negro seems to recognize
alien accent in the Western twang of the speaker, and to take heart at
once.

"Dey done gimme a paper," he whispers, and the general interrupts.

"Bring him back to the reserve, where there's a fire. We'll examine him
there, sergeant." And, turning his horse, the general leads the way.

It is nearly eleven o'clock when, a little later, half a dozen officers
are grouped about the slender, tattered, weary negro, a lad barely
twenty years of age, if that. To the general he has handed a roll of
tin-foil, on which, as it is unfolded by the gleam of the camp-lanterns,
the word "Solace" is stamped, and the thin tissue-paper it encloses
bears some writing, over which the general strains his eyes and studies
eagerly; bends closer to the light and studies again. Then,
straightening up suddenly, he turns upon the young negro.

"Where'd you leave them? How far out?"

"'Bout two miles, suh; p'r'aps not dat much."

"Are you sure about the troops,--about the number? There are none
others?"

"Ye-as, suh. Dey ain't any udder companies near."

"And you can guide us right to the spot?"

"Ye-as, suh. Certain, suh."

The general turns sharply on his senior aide. "There's not a moment to
be lost. What a pity we have no cavalry! Ride straight to Colonel
Connor. Tell him to rouse his regiment instantly and without a sound.
Leave knapsacks and blankets in camp. Guide them here as quick as you
can. Now, captain, this boy must have a rousing supper. He deserves it."



CHAPTER XXIII.


And now if there is a boy reader of this story who doesn't say it is
high time he is told what had become of Snipe Lawton, then the narrator
never knew a thing about boys. Leaving Shorty to sleep over his injured
dignity and lose another of the opportunities of his life, we will turn
back the page and look again over the stirring fields thirty miles to
the south. As neither Snipe nor his major nor his friend Keating, of the
Zouaves, had been recognized among the dead, as they were not apparently
among the prisoners, and as they certainly had not reappeared among
their comrades along the Potomac, they must be looked for where last
seen, close to that old brick and stone Virginia homestead, bowered in
the midst of vines and fruit-trees, known as the Henry house.

Not until weeks after--long, weary, perilous weeks--was the story told,
and then Snipe was not the narrator. The grave, taciturn major waxed
eloquent and even diffuse for once in his life, and the burden of his
song was Snipe and Sergeant Keating.

After their second brave advance along the plateau the New-Englanders
found themselves unsupported on both flanks, and their men falling from
the hot fire that poured in from almost every direction. The old colonel
hung on to the last, but saw that to save his regiment he must withdraw,
and so gave the order. They fell back fighting, closing to the centre,
and only once was there anything like confusion, and that occurred close
to the Henry house, when some other regiment that had suddenly marched
up the slope to the west almost as suddenly broke and came surging over
the right companies, carrying two of them in the rush. It was while
staying this disorder that Major Stark was suddenly dashed to earth. His
horse, disembowelled by a whirring fragment of shell, reared and plunged
violently, falling on his rider and crushing him in his frantic agony.
Almost wild with grief and excitement, Snipe sprang from his saddle and
ran to the major's aid, even though a dozen gray-clad fellows came
bounding at them through the smoke. "I declare," he said, afterwards, "I
thought they were coming to help me. They _did_ help,--three or four of
them. They pulled that poor horse off just as we've seen a crowd pull a
fallen horse out of a tangle on Broadway, and they lifted the major up
and stood him on one leg, and one of 'em gave him a drink from his
canteen, and another, a boy like myself, actually began brushing him
off. Everybody was so crazy with yelling and shouting that for a minute
they didn't seem to realize the situation."

But realization came quickly enough. The major's right leg was broken
below the knee. He had received severe internal hurts and was dazed and
sick, and Snipe and a "reb" between them were supporting him, when some
officer shouted, "Get those prisoners to the rear! Here comes another
charge." Two or three men strove to carry the crippled officer, who was
in great pain, and Snipe was bidden to bear a hand, which of course he
did; but their progress was slow, and in the midst of it somebody
yelled, "Look out! Lie flat!" And down went everybody as a red volley
flashed through the smoke veil from the west, and then, loudly cheering,
another Union regiment, a big one, came charging across the plateau, and
the "Johnnies" had to scramble to their feet and scurry out of the way.
The regiment bounded right over them, it seemed to Snipe, and went on at
the guns the rebs were dragging away, and presently it, too, was
swallowed up in smoke and fire on every side, and wounded officers and
men came drifting back. One of the former recognized Major Stark at
once, and made some soldiers lift and carry him, and in this way they
got back down behind the Henry house, where there were hundreds of
stragglers,--hundreds,--and among them were a number of the Fire
Zouaves, and Snipe caught sight of Keating, and the little sergeant
joined them at once. "It's all up," said he. "We hain't got no
dis_cipp_line, or we'd a cleaned them fellers out quick as Forty could
snuff out a fire." All the same he stood by Snipe and the party carrying
Major Stark, and so made a way through groups of scattered soldiery
until, somewhere ahead toward the Warrenton pike, they could see blue
regiments still in solid line, and ambulances and wagons, and thither
they bore their officer until at last they laid him behind the shelter
of a stone wall; and there they found one of Burnside's regiments
waiting orders, and its surgeon hurried to their aid, and slit up the
major's trousers and knocked the lid of a cracker-box into splints, and
deftly set and bandaged the fractured leg while the battle raged at the
front. Sherman and Wilcox and Burnside still had unbroken and reliable
regiments. The little detachment of regular cavalry was drawn up out
there to the south on the heights near the Chinn house. The captured
batteries might still be retaken if only some practised hand could put
in a brigade or two together. But just as they were getting the major
into an ambulance there came fierce, crashing volleys through the woods
in the direction of the Junction, and a grand chorus of exultant cheers
and yells. A fresh line of troops burst from the fringe of woods
directly at the south and from the west of the Sudley Springs road. The
regiments then advancing up the slope were struck in flank and rear. The
cavalry came whirling down off the height with many a saddle empty, and
everybody seemed to realize at once that more of Johnston's troops had
arrived and turned the right of the line, and then everything seemed to
melt away in earnest.

"Still," said the major, in telling of it later, "we could not realize
we were badly whipped. We knew we must have punished them as hard as we
were punished, all but the mishandling, perhaps, of those batteries, and
all that seemed necessary was to fall back on the heights of Centreville
and there stand our ground." But instead of going thither by the direct
route along the pike, which would have held the commands together,
through some further mischance the brigades, left finally to shift for
themselves, drifted back the way they came, and this led to the further
disaster to the north of Bull Run. No sooner had the retiring troops
"uncovered" the stone bridge than Confederate guns and cavalry pushed
forward, and one well-handled battery found a position from which it
could easily command that suspension bridge over Cub Run, some two miles
farther east. And then the fun began in earnest--for the rebs. That
bridge was the sole means of escape of all Union batteries and a whole
menagerie of draught animals, wagons, ambulances, and even buggies and
carriages of sightseers from Washington, all surging back that way. A
shell exploding on the bridge killed and wounded the mules of a heavy
wagon, which was instantly overturned, completely blocking the passage
for other wheels. More shells burst about the ears of the now
demoralized drivers and teamsters, who cut their traces, mounted their
animals, and rode madly away. As darkness fell gradually upon the scene,
a dozen more splendid guns and several dozen wagon-loads of stores and
supplies were left, and among the abandoned vehicles was the ambulance
conveying the wounded major, watched over by faithful Snipe and Sergeant
Keating.

But even now the lad did not despair. At the steep bank of Cub Run, half
a mile north of the fatal bridge, a two-horse, two-seated open farm
wagon had been left by its terror-stricken owners, who half waded, half
swam, across and scurried up the opposite slope. A bright idea struck
the boy. It was impossible to get across Cub Run with a wagon. But there
were the open fields to the west of it. There were those wood roads that
he had traversed the night before. Why not try that way? Somehow,
between them, he and Keating got that team and wagon turned about. Then
they "boosted" the major to the rear seat, where Keating supported him,
while Snipe took the reins and, turning sharp to the north, with dozens
of fugitives yelling caution, comment, or suggestion, he drove away from
them all into the cool, dark woodland lanes that wound along east of the
route the disordered column was following, and just about dusk, emerging
on the other side, Snipe caught sight of the ridge and the farm-house,
the scene of his exploit the night before. How changed were all
conditions now! Away down on the lowlands near Bull Run, in long column
of twos or fours, some regimental fragments were still strung out,
trailing wearily from Sudley Ford. They still interposed, therefore,
between the fugitives and the enemy. The major, though making no moan,
was ashen with the agony caused by the jolting of the wagon. The sweat
was starting in beads from his forehead, and Keating said they must give
him rest. Huddled behind the farm-house they found the two trembling old
negroes left there as caretakers. Though unnerved by the sound of
battle, they had not dared desert their post. Snipe bade them bring out
instantly a mattress and blankets. The seats were taken from the wagon.
The mattress and blankets were spread upon the bottom. One of the old
darkies cooked a substantial supper. The horses were watered and fed.
Provisions, wine, and apple-jack were stowed in the wagon. The major,
rested and partially revived, was lifted in. Then with Snipe and Keating
trudging alongside, once more under the starlight they drove eastward on
the road leading, as the old darkies said, right over to the turnpike.

But a sore trial awaited them. A mile or more they moved cautiously
along, and then began the descent of a slope, at the bottom of which
Snipe felt sure they would find Cub Run. There was the Run, placid,
deep, steep-banked as ever, but the vitally important bridge was cut
away. Grayson's troopers, to secure themselves against surprise, had
destroyed it two days before. Farther in that direction they could not
go. Here they could not stay. Any moment might bring the Black Horse
Cavalry, of which so much had been said and so little seen, scouting
around that flank of the retreating army. Away off to the southeast,
about Centreville, they could hear the confused sounds of bugle calls.
Away off to the south Blenker's reserve brigade was still in line of
battle, covering the Union retreat. Every now and then the rising night
wind would bear the distant crackle and crash of file firing, but the
bigger guns were still, and here in the pitchy darkness, with a strange
team, in a strange land, were Snipe and Keating, sole guardians of a
precious life,--that of the wounded and suffering major. "It's of no
use, boys," said Stark, faintly. "Drive slowly back to the house and
leave me with the old darkies. Then you go and make the best of your way
to Fairfax. You'll be safe there."

They did turn about and drive to the farm-house and "rout out" the
darkies again, but only to make one of the old servitors come as a
guide, for Snipe and the sergeant both declared no rebel should lug that
Yankee major off to prison so long as wit or work could save him.

All night they plodded slowly on, twisting and turning through country
lanes or bridle-tracks. Time and again they had to halt and scout, for
the poor bewildered negro lost the way again and again, and when at
last morning dawned, they were not nine miles on a bee-line north of
Sudley church, but were hopelessly far from Fairfax. And now the rain
that always follows a heavy battle began to fall. They hid in the
thicket all the hours till darkness came again, drowsing by turns. They
hitched in and again pushed northward at nightfall, but the stars were
hidden. There was nothing to guide them. They groped into another
thicket and hid another day, the rain still pouring steadily. Snipe
"shinned" up a tree and took the bearings of the farm-houses within
sight; took heart because he saw no signs of scouting cavalry,
everything being now afar off to the eastward along the main roads to
Washington, and, turning his jacket inside out, after brief conference
with Keating he stole away through the dripping thickets, and lurked
about the nearest farm until he succeeded in making a negro hear his
cautious signals. Money was potent and the major had plenty. The darky
brought grain for the horses, and chickens, eggs, and milk, and that
night guided them through many a devious way until within an hour of
dawn they were again hidden in the thick woods, still farther to the
northwest and away from the travelled roads. The nearest village now
seemed eight or ten miles away. Before the negro left them he hunted up
a friend to take his place. Ten dollars for his night's work! It was a
fortune, and eagerly his successor sought to earn as much.

And so, guided and fed by darkies, hiding by day and journeying
occasionally by night, they kept on for nearly a week, heading for the
Potomac about Edwards' Ferry, hoping to dodge all patrols meantime and
to discover some way of slipping past the pickets as they neared the
river. Nearer Washington every bridle-path they knew would be guarded.
Through the relays of darkies they learned that General Beauregard's
army had enveloped the defences of the capital on the south side of the
Potomac, and that troops were passing to and fro all over the country
between Leesburg and Alexandria. Major Stark said, therefore, their only
chance was to lie in hiding somewhere until his leg had knit. Money he
still fortunately had in sufficient quantity. Keating still had his
rifle and revolver, though the major and Snipe had been bereft of their
pistols. Their negro friend led them to a dense thicket in a deep
ravine, far from the highways and byways. Wood and water were abundant.
Shelter they made of boughs. Food and news the darkies brought them in
quantities, and here they nursed their plucky major and studied the
country toward the Potomac until at last the bone seemed knitting, and
then, one starlit night, late in August, pushed cautiously on again,
still taking their wagon, and with the dawn of the next day they were
across the Leesburg road and deep in the woods toward the ferry. Here
another stay became necessary. Southern pickets and patrols lined the
banks of the stream, and a day or two later their new guide, a negro
boy of eighteen, crept to them in terror to say he felt sure somebody
must have "peached," for "cavalry gemmen" were inquiring at every house
and hamlet. A whole company had ridden out from Vienna that very day,
and they were asking if any one had seen a two-horse farm wagon, with a
sick man in it, and two other men driving. Troopers were beating up the
wood roads then. In half an hour the wagon was in ashes, the tires and
iron work hidden in the brush, and with Stark astride one horse, Snipe
and Keating alternating on the other, they pushed through the forest to
another hiding-place, hearing the whoops and yells and signal shots of
the cavalry every hour until dusk. Then, with their negro guide, they
kept on all night long, halting and dodging every little while; hid in
the woods within sound of the Southern bugles all another day; stole on
southeastward all another night, until their guide said Lewinsville was
not a mile away to the south, and the Yankee pickets in front of Chain
Bridge only a mile or so to the northeast. That day proved most eventful
of all. Hungry, thirsty, and weary, they were waiting the return of
Brennus, as was the classic name of their guide, when about dark he
reached them empty-handed. Not a moment was to be lost, said he. The
cavalry had struck their trail and were following the horse-tracks
through the woods. There was an abandoned hut, a woodman's, half a mile
away, and thither Stark limped painfully, leaning hard upon his
friends. They managed to reach it just in time, their horses being left
to shift for themselves. They were now close to the Union lines, yet the
gray pickets and patrols guarded every path. They could not hope to
carry Stark through such a net-work, and he could only painfully limp
and only occasionally bear a portion of his weight upon that leg. Nor
could they hope to remain undiscovered another day. There was only one
thing to be done. Get word through the lines to the Yankees, and beg for
rescue.

Stark quickly pencilled the message on tissue-paper, torn from before a
picture page in the little testament he always carried. "Major Stark,
crippled, Sergeant Keating, and Corporal Lawton are hiding just south of
the rebel outposts. One troop of cavalry the only force nearer than
Lewinsville except usual reserves. Unless rescued to-night will surely
be recaptured in the morning. The bearer can guide. If possible help."
This he signed officially and rolled in "Solace" tin-foil. "Now,
Brennus," said he, "crawl past the rebs; get that to the Lincoln
soldiers, and it's your freedom and fifty dollars to boot."

We know the rest.



CHAPTER XXIV.


Far back along the wooded shores of the Potomac, where the mist is
slowly creeping from the silent stream, the sentries are pacing the
beaten path bounding each regimental camp. An odd custom, originating
among the volunteers, has been the rule in several commands. Each sentry
marched just fifty paces along his post in common time, then the cry
"About!" would go ringing from post to post in every conceivable key and
pitch, girdling one battalion with a chain of petulant yelps, another
with a series of mournful groans. Fun for the sentries, and, for a time,
for the camps, but a foe to soldier repose. The object was to cause the
sentries to march in the same direction, and thereby prevent their
turning their backs to each other, in which event there would be left
unwatched a long stretch of sentry-post through which marauder might
creep or roisterer escape. The custom lasted but a little while, proving
more of a nuisance than a benefit. But there were three new regiments
in which it obtained this lovely night, and they are brigaded with a
veteran command that lords it over them because it has smelled powder
and shed blood, which they have not. It is a ragged regiment, a rusty
regiment, for it is still clad in the relics of the gray uniform in
which its proud State sent it to the field three months before. It is
saucy, and slouchy and independent, individually, as rag wearers are apt
to be the world over. But it is wonderful to see that regiment brace up
when it gets in line, and that is what it has done this night, without a
sound beyond the low-voiced "Turn out here" of the sergeants, as they
sped from tent to tent,--without confusion or even question. Ten minutes
from the time the general's aide has "routed out" the colonel, he has
routed out his captains and the sergeants are routing out the men.
Twenty minutes, and these silent companies are elbow to elbow on the
color line in front of camp. The colonel rides out on his sure-footed
old charger. His field-officers join their wings. Such commands as are
given are in low voice and passed down the line. "Right face! Right
shoulder shift arms! Forward, march! Route step and keep your mouths
shut!" Out along the winding road they go, aide and colonel riding in
front, over six hundred stalwart ragamuffins swinging behind. Men murmur
or whisper to each other "What's up?" Here and there a canteen clinks,
and there is a dull sound of swift-moving feet. Out they go past the
lines of their own sentries, some of whom shout for the corporal and
want to be "relieved off post" and allowed to go with their companies.
All around the wooded heights south of Chain Bridge a dozen other
regiments are placidly sleeping. Maine, Vermont, New York, Indiana, and
Wisconsin there are represented, but only one State or regiment appears
in the stealthily marching column. On it goes down a winding slope,
file-closers edging in between the sets of fours as the roadway narrows.
Up the rise beyond where stand or squat wondering groups of the picket
reserves. On--another quarter of a mile where they find the supports. On
past outposts and pickets, and at last, after a sharp sprint of a mile,
the word "Halt!" is muttered, and the rifle-butts are lowered to the
foot, and the regiment stands among the whispering trees and waits. The
leading company has not long to wonder. They hear and know the low voice
of their general, giving brief directions to the little colonel. They
hear the words "Open field--thin woods beyond.--Rebel pickets lining
opposite skirt.--Supports, etc., along the road. Deploy your skirmish
line. Drive in pickets. Capture all you can, but utter not a sound. Do
not fire unless you have to. Push straight ahead along this wood road,
swift as you can. We go with you."

A trembling negro boy crouches by the general's stirrup. Colonel
Connor's horse almost treads on him in the dark. The colonel speaks a
quiet word to the captain of the foremost company, and in low tone that
officer orders, "'Tention, Company 'A!' Load at will! Load!" There is a
sound of fumbling at heavy cartridge-boxes, of tearing paper, the
whee-ep of the rammers springing from the pipes, a phosphorescent gleam
of steel as they whirl in air, a muttered malediction as some fellow's
cap is knocked off by an awkward neighbor. There is a dull pounding, as
the heavy bullets are driven home, a clicking of gun-locks, as the
little copper caps are thrust upon the cones; then the low thud of the
iron-shod butts upon the ground and all is still. The lieutenant-colonel
rides back along the column until he reaches the colors, each company in
succession loading as silently. The left wing is bidden to remain where
it is as a reserve, and to await orders. The leading company, with arms
trailed, forms line at the edge of the wood. The second platoon steps
back three paces as reserve. The first receives the low-toned command,
"As skirmishers, by the right and left flanks take intervals," a thing
at which these Bull Run veterans have been drilling since early in May,
and can do in even thicker darkness. In a minute the long line of
dispersed shadows is formed, facing southwest, and in two minutes, with
officers close up to the line, the general and his aides only a few
yards behind, and five companies following noiselessly along the
roadway, out they go across the starlight open. Everybody seems to know
the enemy's sentinels will be found along that opposite skirt of woods.
Everybody listens with straining ears and thumping heart for the first
challenge. Those young Southrons are no fools on picket, and even in the
dark a cat-footed skirmish line cannot hope to crawl upon them
unobserved. Half-way across goes the long jagged line,--two-thirds of
the two hundred yards that interpose between the groves,--and now the
centremost, those along the pathway, backed by half a dozen fellows from
the reserve, make ready for a rush. Ten yards more, then some luckless
skirmisher trips on some unseen root, stumbles forward, and swears under
his breath. Instantly from the clump of trees nearest the road there
comes the sharp order "Halt!" and the click of a lock, but before the
challenge can follow, there is a swift rush of stooping foes along the
roadway, a heavy blow, a struggle, a sharp report, a stifled cry, then
"Forward! Forward! double quick!" everywhere along the column, and with
the skirmishers leaping and crashing ahead through the timber, tumbling
over the startled sentinels and pickets, with occasional crackling of
rifle and shouting of warning and command, with officers darting along
among the men, with the general and his aides and Colonel Connor
spurring close after, with a dozen men swarming ahead along the dim
pathway, and with the sturdy column still swiftly following at the
double, the little command sweeps over the scattered outposts and
reserves in front of it, the Southerners standing their ground like men,
but being utterly overmatched, and finally, as the aroused and startled
reserves, farther to the rear, fall slowly back toward their main body
in the direction of Falls Church, the negro guide, bounding along with
the foremost officers, leads the column farther to the southwest, past
all infantry outposts and reserves until finally they go scrambling over
a snake-fence on the edge of an open field, while away to the southeast
guns are firing, bugles sounding the alarm, drums hoarsely rattling, and
here as they stop to breathe and close up on the head of column, they
are greeted by the stirring peal of a cavalry trumpet certainly not a
half a mile away. It is the signal "To horse!" "Look out for those
fellows, and give 'em a volley if they approach!" orders the colonel to
his panting men. "Form a skirmish line fronting south, captain." And
then, behind that living curtain, the rearmost companies come running up
and forming battle line, while the general, with a dozen followers,
rides into a little grove at the heels of their darky guide. There is a
moment of gleeful shouting and out they come again, slowly, a dark
cluster of forms, some apparently supporting an enfeebled man, others
grouping about some shadowy companions. Around these a whole company is
rallied as escort and bidden to retrace its steps, and then the general
rides back, beaming, under cover of the little battle line, and he and
Connor shake hands and listen for a moment to the distant uproar of the
alarm. And now the Union lines have taken it up, and far back toward
the Potomac some new arrivals, as yet untried, have turned loose their
bugles and drums, and the general says, quietly, "Let the command fall
back slowly, but keep an eye open for the cavalry." Three minutes more
and Connor has four companies back on the narrow road, with the
skirmishers still out toward the south, and then, with sudden storm and
thunder of hoofs, with trumpets sounding a spirited charge, without so
much as deigning to see what force might be in front of them, there
comes dashing up the turfy woodroad, in slender column, following,
fearless, the lead of a daring young Virginian captain, a troop of
yelling horsemen, the very fellows, doubtless, who for two days past
have been scouring the woods for our fugitives. "It is a mad-brained
trick." What possible object is to be gained? All they know is that
somewhere along that road is a body of Yankee troops, and they have been
burning for a chance to get at them ever since Bull Run. They do not
even seem to see--they do not heed--the thin skirmish line through which
they bear resistless. The few scattering shots fired are answered by the
wild crackle of revolvers. On they come, straight down the road,
invisible as yet, but unmistakable. "Halt! Spread out there, men!" are
Connor's orders. At least forty or fifty blue-coats line up quickly and
solidly from fence to fence, every rifle at ready or aim, and none too
soon. Five seconds more and out from the fire-spitting blackness at the
south looms the charging column, and a blinding glare lights up the
wood, a crashing volley wakes the echoes. Half a dozen horses come
plunging, kicking and struggling, to the very feet of the stern array.
Half a dozen gallant fellows are hurled to earth. The whole column is
brought up standing, and then, realizing the peril of its position,
breaks and turns and tears away, leaving two dead at the front and two
or three more wounded, tumbling out of saddle as they rush back for the
rear.

Foremost, half stunned and sorely wounded, but a fighter to the last,
the Virginia captain struggles to his feet. Bayonets are levelled at his
dauntless heart, but a sharp order restrains them. Strong hands seize
and disarm him. Strong arms bear him, struggling faintly, within the
ranks of his captors. The dead are left to their friends, the wounded
tenderly raised and borne as gently as possible to the rear. Then once
again the column resumes its homeward march, and in half an hour is safe
within the Union lines.

Meantime where is Shorty, whose craze it was to see what might be going
on about that hamlet of Lewinsville, whose longing it was to "do
something" like Snipe, and who was sleeping the sleep of healthful,
hearty boyhood, when he would have given his ears to be with that
raiding column? Somewhere about midnight he became conscious of excited
whisperings about him. Marmion was bustling around. Horses were being
saddled, and, sitting bolt upright, he heard the clamor of bugles and
drums, and, rushing out in front of head-quarters, could distinguish the
distant crash of musketry. Then out came two officers, buckling on
revolvers and swords. Marmion came running with their horses, and to
Shorty's excited question, "Where's the general?" he got the heartless
answer, "Gone hours ago, youngster, while you were asleep." Never
stopping to saddle, only whipping through "Badger's" rattling teeth the
bit of his bridle and throwing the reins over his head, Shorty is
astride in a second, and, hardly yet wide awake, is away at a sputtering
gallop after the departing officers. Before they have reached the little
run half a mile out he has overtaken them. The sound of skirmish firing
is still lively at the distant southwest front. He knows every inch of
the road, and is mad to get ahead, for the officers ride slowly and with
caution.

"Let me lead, captain!" he cries, regardless of martial propriety. "I
know the way." And it is a case for common sense, not ceremony, and the
staff-officers say, "Go on." And now there is a race through the night,
"Badger" having a big lead and easily keeping it. But the road narrows,
the sounds of fight subside, and when at last the little party reaches
the outposts they meet the left wing of the regiment briskly marching
homeward. They see the light of a guard-fire in a hollow a little
farther to the front, and there a dense throng of Connor's men in
tattered gray, mingling with the blue of the picket-guards, groups
about a little knot of officers and three gaunt, ragged, haggard
fellows, one a bearded man of forty-five or fifty, who leans heavily on
the shoulder of a supporter, while he grasps the hand of the general and
looks gratefully into his eyes. Another is a wiry little specimen in the
relics of a Fire Zouave jacket, the chevrons of a sergeant on his
sleeve. The third is a tall, lank, long-legged youth, with hollow cheeks
and big brown eyes, and a brownish fuzz just sprouting on lip and cheeks
and chin,--a tall lad to whom the elder man turns suddenly, laying a
thin hand upon his shoulder, a tall lad who looks up shyly and silently
as the general grasps his hands and begins some words of hearty praise.
But the general's remarks are brought to sudden stop by the impetuous
rush of a snorting horse into the midst of the group, the precipitate
leap of a half-crazed lad from his back to the ground, and the general's
voice is drowned by that of his graceless orderly, half squeal, half
choking cry, as the "little 'un" springs upon the tall youth, twining
legs and arms, both, about him, and the only intelligible word he says
is "Snipe!" The only answer is a long, straining hug and the almost
bashful murmur, "Shorty!"

One would say that in that meeting there was interest sufficient for one
night--and two boys,--but it was by no means all. A few minutes later
two trooper prisoners, led in beside the litter of their wounded
captain, were being examined by the general. Both were silent, badly
shaken by the fall of their horses. One was slightly wounded; neither
wished to talk. The leader had swooned, and the surgeons were doing
their best for him.

"What is your captain's name?" was asked the unhurt cavalier, a dashing
young sergeant who might well lay claim to being of one of the famous
"first families of Virginia"--a dandy trooper.

"Grayson," was the short reply.

Major Stark and Snipe glanced quickly at each other, and then the former
spoke. "Pardon me, general; that was the name of the cavalry lieutenant
captured by Corporal Lawton, here, just before Bull Run. Is this another
Grayson?" he asked of the prisoner.

"No. You asked our captain's name. He was wounded and has not rejoined
yet. That's our first lieutenant." And then, as though to emphasize his
disgust at being bored by "mudsill" questions, the young gallant
languidly yawned; then, thrusting his hand into the breast of his jaunty
trooper jacket, with admirable assumption of supreme indifference to his
surroundings, he drew forth a fine watch, coolly stepped to the fire,
held it so that the light would shine upon its face, and then was about
returning it, when the irrepressible Shorty sprang forward into the
fire-lit circle.

"Where'd you get that watch?" he cried. "Look, Snipe! General! It was
stolen at school last fall! It's Joy's!"

[Illustration: "Where'd you get that watch?"]



CHAPTER XXV.


The week that followed was one not soon to be forgotten by two at least
of Pop's old boys. To begin with, after all the wear and tear and
exposure of the month, it was several days before Major Stark, with his
gallant companions, was able to go into Washington. He lay in a big tent
close to brigade head-quarters, the guest of the general and the object
of assiduous attentions from high officials, accomplished surgeons, and
enthusiastic soldiers, Snipe and Keating coming in for many a word of
praise and promise of advancement and reward. Even the great President,
accompanied by Secretary Seward, drove out in his carriage and visited
the invalid New-Englander and listened to his story, and sent for
Sergeant Keating and the "two boys." He wanted to see that queerly
assorted team, said he, and whimsically remarked, after looking them
over, with a smile for both and a hearty shake of the hand, "Well, the
long and short of it is, you're both bound to be soldiers, I see.
Perhaps we can help."

Keating, promptly commissioned a lieutenant in the Second Fire Zouaves,
was ordered to join that command. Stark, as soon as he was able to move
with comfort, was to go home and accept the colonelcy of a new regiment
awaiting him in its camp, Snipe with him. But meantime Mr. and Mrs. Park
had reached the capital, and had been driven out to Chain Bridge, where
the fond mother had a very warm reception from all who by this time had
heard Snipe's school story (and who that got within hail of Shorty any
day that week had failed to hear it?) and the grim step-father a
correspondingly cool one. Park had borne more than his share of worry
and woe for long months past, and as means to the end, had come with the
cool determination of making George an offer, either to put him through
college with a fair allowance, or start him in business at Rhinebeck,
for Park had been in correspondence with the Doctor and with Halsey, and
had reluctantly come to the conclusion that the boy couldn't have been
the thief he thought, though of course he was an ingrate and lacking in
appreciation. But Park found that step-parental authority was not
recognized in the army. The boy himself was bent on following the
fortunes of his soldier friends. Major Stark had told the mother of his
own plans and the President's promises with regard to her son, and the
fond mother, proud, yet full of fears, yielded to the wishes of her boy
and the advice of his comrades, and decided against those of her lord
and master. Park found the atmosphere of the camp uncongenial. It
chilled him like a channel fog, and he left for home, and pressing
business, within another day, while Mrs. Park remained. There were other
sympathetic women there, wives of officers visiting in camp, and she did
not lack for friends.

But for Snipe and Shorty there came a day of thrilling interest when
Captain Beach, of the "First Long Island," together with Keating and
Desmond, of the Zouaves, met at the provost-marshal's in Washington, and
what a meeting it was! The story of the school-boy days had been told
the general, who listened with vivid interest. It was he who planned
further movements and arranged the necessary preliminaries at the War
Department. Among the few Confederate prisoners in the city at the time
were young Grayson, captured as a lieutenant just before Bull Run, and
Spottswood, captured as sergeant the night of the rescue in front of
Chain Bridge, both of the Virginia cavalry. The latter had wrathfully
declined to surrender the watch claimed by Shorty to be stolen property
(those were the earliest--the callow--days of the war, when the wishes
of prisoners as to their personal property were occasionally respected),
and a tremendous scene had ensued. But within three days there appeared
at Washington two young gentlemen, Pop's boys, sent thither in response
to telegraphic inquiries,--Messrs. Paul Grayson and Clinton Joy,--and
they had been taken to the Capitol prison by Captain Winthrop, a former
Pop boy, and there had been an interview between the cousins, Northern
and Southern; then, a conference between Grayson the Confederate and his
bumptious statesman, and then Mr. Spottswood very gracefully surrendered
the watch, which Mr. Joy positively and conclusively identified as his
own, notwithstanding the obliteration of the name, and Spottswood told
how it came into his possession. He had spent some time the previous
winter and spring in Mobile, Savannah, and Charleston, had seen a good
deal of two young--gentlemen--and he used the word with hesitation--from
New York, two brothers by the name of Hulker. There had grown up
something of an intimacy. They had money in abundance at first, but
finally seemed to run out, and they had to "baw-wo," said Mr.
Spottswood, with a blush, from their friends. In fact, they had
"baw-woed" so much from friends to whom he had presented them that he
felt in honor bound to make it good, and as the young men had to get out
of the South in a hurry in May, and he had become suspicious as to their
solvency, he had felt compelled, he said it regretfully, to demand some
security, and they had left with him diamonds and this watch. The
diamonds were at his home in Richmond. The watch he unhesitatingly
turned over, as became a gentleman, to its proper owner. When Lieutenant
Grayson was told that all this was necessary to clear the good name of
the young scholar soldier who had captured him, you can imagine his
interest in the case was by no means diminished.

This matter settled, and a joyous meeting having taken place between the
four schoolmates, Captains Beach and Winthrop, brother officers now and
ex-Columbiads, affably supervising, the next thing was to follow up the
trail of Desmond's statements to Shorty, and this duty was intrusted to
Keating. An odd feature with the old fire department was the alliance,
offensive and defensive, which existed among certain companies, in
contradistinction to the bitter rivalries which were inevitable. In the
long-continued feud between Big Six and Manhattan Eight whole
communities were involved. Political societies and clubs took sides with
one or the other, and rows innumerable went on for years. Downtown
companies, generally at odds with their neighbors, swore eternal
friendship with some up-town organization which "ran" in lower
districts. Marion 9 and Lady Washington 40 "lay" within three blocks of
each other in the lower Fifth Fire District, but did duty, the former in
the Fourth and Fifth, the latter in the Sixth and Seventh; turning out,
of course, for all fires within a few blocks of their respective
stations; and these two companies were on terms of very distant and
dignified reserve. Away up-town, in like manner, were Lexington 7 and
Pacific 28, both of which answered alarms from the Fifth District, both
of which ran down Third Avenue to the Bowery in so doing, and as a
consequence, time and again met and raced every inch of the way. The
long run from Twenty-seventh Street to the Cooper Institute or beyond
would almost exhaust their own men, but by the time they got far
down-town there were swarms of allies to man the drag-ropes, 9's men
with No. 7, 40's lively lads with 28, and, counting on this old
alliance, Keating called on Desmond to redeem his promise to Shorty and
tell what he knew about the school or its scholars, and Desmond's story
was what boys of a later generation would have called "a corker."

He used to be hard up himself, he said, and more than once had had to
"spout" his watch, and several times in other ways to raise money at a
pawnbroker's, and there were some young fellows, whom he had twice
encountered there, regular young Fifth Avenue swells, and one night
while he was in a stall at the counter, he heard two of them come into
an adjoining box, and they had a beautiful gold watch on which they
wished to make a raise. He could not see it even by leaning away
forward, for the partition prevented, but he could hear distinctly all
the talk. The pawnbroker didn't want to take it. He said he was afraid.
He knew both the "young fellers;" they'd often been there before, and he
knew that watch didn't belong to either of the two. They swore, however,
that it belonged to a friend in their set who didn't wish to be known,
but had to have money that very night, and, "why, that watch must have
been worth over three hundred dollars!" It was a beautiful thing, they
said, and all they wanted was fifty; their friend would redeem it the
very next week and pay high. They were so earnest about it that Desmond
forgot his own troubles in listening to theirs. At last they got some
thirty or forty dollars and left in a hurry. Desmond looked after them.
Both wore fur caps pulled down over their ears, and coat-collars up
almost hiding their heads, although it was quite early in the fall, and,
though a raw east wind was blowing and a rain pouring, it was not cold
enough for such attire. Outside the shop they were joined by others who
were in waiting, three of them, and they scooted back toward the west in
a hurry. Not two months afterwards Desmond was there again, and a big,
smooth-faced, smug-looking fellow came in, with his head all bundled up,
and he had the pawn ticket for that very watch, Desmond knew by the
talk; and the pawnbroker had some words with the fellow because he tried
to get it back for less by a good deal than the young men agreed to pay,
and both got mad and abused each other, and each said he could send the
other to jail. It was fun to hear them, said Desmond, and he wondered
who the big man could be, and followed him out and saw him meet the same
two "young fellers" that were there before. The big man took off his hat
and wiped his face, he was "so blown with jawing," and Desmond said he
had a good long look at him, and would know him again anywhere.

Now he was sure he had seen some of those young fellers with the school
crowd that used to be up at Duncan's every day for luncheon, and in the
"Shanghai" set that ran with Metamora Hose. But from that time they quit
going to that pawnshop. The owner told him the police came round there
looking for that very watch, and he was glad he was rid of them, and of
that "big, smug-faced feller," too. He felt sure he was a thief. As for
the boys, the broker said two of them had been there time and again
before, and they were a hard lot. "Would you know the two if you were to
see them again?" Keating asked the Zouave.

"I didn't see them, plainly. I couldn't, they were wrapped up so, but I
could hear them plain, and I'd know their voices among a million."

All this having been duly reported, and Beach, Winthrop, and one or two
senior officers having been in consultation, this strange meeting was
decided upon, and, not knowing why they were bidden, Snipe and Shorty
found themselves one bright September morning in the anteroom of the
provost-marshal's office. Beach and Winthrop were already there. It was
just one week after the arrest of the general's orderly by the patrol
and his incarceration by order of the lieutenant of the guard. There was
a moment of greeting and quiet chat. Then the boys were shown into a
side room, and there sat Keating and Desmond. Beach called to the
latter. "I wish you to sit here with me close to the door and listen to
every word spoken in the office during the next five minutes." Then he,
too, seated himself. There was silence a moment or two, then a low-toned
conference between the provost-marshal and Winthrop, and presently a
door opened, a somewhat unsteady, clinking step was heard, and then a
voice, at sound of which Snipe and Shorty started and looked into each
other's faces, while Beach sat watching Desmond.

"Did you wish to see me, sir?"

The speaker was invisible, but there was no mistaking the voice, with
its odd, jerky, nervous accent.

"Yes, sir. I have been called upon to explain why the guard held a
bearer of despatches and an important message last week. You were
officer of the guard at the time. What have you to say?"

"Why--major--I don't know much about it. The men said they ordered him
to stop all the way for half a mile, and he defied 'em. He--was all
covered with dirt and looked like some common volunteer drummer-boy out
on a drunk. I didn't suppose any general would trust despatches
to--anybody like that. I thought he was lyin'."

"In point of fact, sir," interposed the provost-marshal, "did you not
recognize the messenger and have reason to know that his story was true?
Did you not order him to the cells, refusing to listen?"

"P'r'aps I did, and just because I _did_ know him to be a no-account
little ragamuffin that used to be runnin' round with the firemen and
such like----"

Sir Toby Belch listening from ambush to Malvolio's soliloquy at his
expense could not have looked more amazed and wrathful than did Shorty
at this. Beach, unable to repress a grin, suppressed him with a gesture.

"You may retire, Mr. Hoover. Remain at the guard-room. I may want you in
a moment."

And then the party was summoned from its concealment, and then all eyes
were on Desmond, and Winthrop propounded this question:

"Well, did you recognize any voice?"

"That young feller's--that was in here just now? I couldn't see him
through the screen, but I never heard his voice before in all me life."

And this ended the first lesson. But there were others to come, for the
Doctor and Beach had been in rapid correspondence, and when three days
later still Major Stark, a celebrity now whom Gotham was eager to honor,
arrived at the Cortlandt Street ferry, faithful Snipe still at his side,
and Lieutenant Keating, furloughed that he, too, might be lionized,
there accompanied them the little corporal of Zouaves, Desmond, late of
"28's Engine."

Aunt Lawrence, with her carriage, was at the ferry, effusive in her
regrets that Colonel Stark had to go on at once, but grateful that he
could permit George to remain, for nothing would answer but that dear,
brave George must spend a few days under her roof before reporting at
the camp of his new regiment. And with Aunt Lawrence, obsequious, smug,
assiduous in his attentions to Mahster George, loading up with Mahster
George's light luggage, and bowing low in homage to Mahster George's
distinguished commander, as that gallant officer was driven away, was
Aunt Lawrence's most expensive household luxury, the English butler, and
as that dignitary closed the door of the Lawrence carriage and lifted
his hat and wiped his glowing face, and then waddled pompously off in
quest of a horse-car, Desmond grabbed his officer by the arm. "There's
the Shanghai that got the watch and jawed the pawnbroker and ran with
that gang of young fellers," said he. And only another day and Aunt
Lawrence's butler marched away in the grip of the law, and Aunt
Lawrence's house-maid lay screaming in simulated hysterics.

A precious pair were these, as events and detectives speedily disclosed,
and words can hardly describe the shame and horror with which Aunt
Lawrence presently realized that, to divert suspicion from themselves,
her own domestics had found means of attaching it to George. Their
stealings had as yet been confined to old-fashioned trinkets and
jewelry, which she seldom looked at and the loss of which would not soon
be discovered. It was not the jewels, but the good name the servitor had
stolen, that now arrayed all the household against him and his unhappy
victim, the damsel who so neglected George's room and linen. Binny, the
butler, went to the police station without a chance to caution her, so
she went to the priest, and one confession led to another. The girl was
Irish and had a conscience or compunctions, and returning to her
mistress, threw herself at her feet, and sobbed out her story. Binny had
her completely in his power, or made her think he had. It was he who
compelled her to take the cameo and other jewelry from time to time, and
who planned more extensive raids to follow. It was he to whom she
surrendered Seymour's gold pencil-case, which she found on the floor of
Mahster George's room, but stoutly she declared, when questioned by Mrs.
Lawrence, that of Joy's beautiful watch she had never even heard.

And this was more than Binny could say when confronted by Desmond, the
pawnbroker, and certain members of the police force who had had an eye
on him, especially when within twenty-four hours of his incarceration
there was landed in the neighboring cell the person of Mr. Briggs, late
of the First Latin, but no longer on the rolls of Columbia. Others, long
since fathomed as to character by Pop, were under the watchful eye of
"the force," and Messrs. Brodrick and the Hulkers, both, betook
themselves to summer resorts, despite the fact that the tide of fashion
was turning back from the sea-shore and the mountains. Then Briggs the
elder, a broken-down politician and former office-holder, was sent for
and closeted with the Doctor, Halsey, Hoover senior, Martigny, and the
detective, with the result that within an hour Briggs junior was
summoned into the presence of the same tribunal, and then his last
remaining trace of nerve gave way.

Even then he lied, shifted, dodged, accused, but one after another his
lies were met and overthrown, and at last the miserable story came out
in driblets, but the chain was complete. To raise small sums he had
begun selling books, sometimes from his father's scant stock, then from
other boys' fathers. Binny, on some similar errand bent, had twice
encountered him and recognized him as the young "fellar" that used to
come to see Mahster George, and bolt up to his room even when the lad
was out. Binny found that discovery worth working. He gave Briggs a
bracelet, once worn by "me sainted wife, now in 'eaven," but Binny said
he was in need of funds and must dispose of it, and wouldn't mind giving
Mahster Briggs something "'ansom'" out of what he could get for it. Then
Binny had Briggs "by the hair," so to speak, and held him for future
service. Hoover, too, and the Hulkers, had used him as a cat's-paw. They
loaned him money, and then when he could not repay, demanded service in
kind. Then the Hulkers themselves were emboldened to try their luck at
the pawnbroker's, and by going only at night--and generally stormy
nights--they managed to keep their identity concealed. Briggs was
dreadfully in debt to both Hoover and the Hulkers when one day in the
early fall the First Latin indulged in one of its famous charges.
Briggs, crushed against the bookcase, and making as much noise as
anybody, was one of the last to quit the spot. Joy's beautiful watch
caught his eye, dangling at the end of its chain, as the class was
disentangling, and a quick jerk transferred it to his capacious pocket.
He swore he never meant to keep it. He only wanted to "have some fun
with Joy," and to prove it, he said, he ran round to Brodrick's stable
and told him and the Hulkers all about it, and left it with the Hulkers
for safe-keeping, and that night they pawned it. He didn't dare report
it, for they could tell far worse things about him than he could about
them, but all were scared when they heard of the Doctor's vigorous
measures, and not daring to return for it themselves, Briggs bethought
him of Binny, and between them they raised the money necessary to redeem
it and sent him, Binny, as their emissary. Then the Hulkers hid it
somewhere, and the next thing Briggs knew Binny, and the Hulkers, too,
were demanding tribute of him. Briggs vowed he was horrified when he
found that Snipe was suspected and accused; he always liked Snipe,
Hoover wouldn't lend him another cent, and he was at his wit's end where
to raise the money to meet their demands and forestall the threatened
exposure, when quarter day and the fire came. He saw his opportunity
when Halsey left the desk unguarded, and ran and scooped some gold out
of the drawer, poked some of the pieces in his trousers, some in his
waistcoat, and some in his overcoat-pocket when at the rack. If he poked
any in Shorty's, which hung next to his, it was all a mistake. He
wouldn't have done that for the world, he said, and then, as he daren't
be found with the money, he gave most of it to the Hulkers, as before,
"for safe-keeping" and to square accounts, and that was about all poor
Briggs's inquisitors cared to know. A warrant went out for Brodrick, who
managed to precede it to Montreal, but the Hulkers were quietly
apprehended and escorted back to Gotham. And here ended the last of the
cabal against Snipe. Now came the reaction.

One glorious day in late September the old First Latin reassembled in
strong force at the old school, the occasion being a flag-raising. There
they were, the same glad-hearted lot of boys that had made merry in the
old school-room many and many a day, Hoover and Briggs being conspicuous
by their absence. "Regimental duties," wrote the father of the former,
would prevent his son's attendance on the auspicious occasion, whereat
the Doctor winked over his spectacles at the grinning array of
listeners, and "other engagements," it was casually mentioned, would
account for the non-appearance of Briggs. At the usual hour of recess
the whole school, Classical and English departments both, had clustered
about two young fellows in martial uniform, Snipe Lawton, brown-eyed,
blushing and shy, towering over most of them in stature, arrayed in the
trim-fitting frock-coat and complete uniform of a first lieutenant of
infantry, and Shorty, full to the brim of mingled pride and delight,
wearing the garb of the famous Zouave regiment to which he had been
attached, even while being, by order, as he not infrequently remarked,
on detached duty at brigade head-quarters. This was emphatically Snipe's
benefit, however, and no one begrudged it to him less than did his old
chum. A little after noon a burst of martial music was heard far up the
avenue, and the majestic Doctor waved his thronging boys to their posts,
and down the stairs they tumbled, tumultuous, and "lined up," six deep,
on the opposite curb. And then, led by a capital band, a great regiment
in full marching order, with knapsacks packed and overcoats rolled, came
striding down the west side of the broad thoroughfare in column of
fours, and a soldierly-looking colonel reined out as they reached the
school, and let the right wing, five strong companies, go swinging by
until the beautiful silken colors, national and State, were directly
opposite the window, where in immaculate broadcloth and immense dignity
stood the Doctor, a brand-new bunting flag on his arm, Snipe, with the
"down haul" halliard on his right, Shorty, with the slack, on his left.
Then the colonel's powerful voice rang out along the thronging street,
"Battalio-o-n-n-n halt! Front!" and the whole regiment, at least a
thousand strong, stood motionless facing the east. Then the band was
drawn up in front of the right centre company, and at a signal, struck
up the grand strains of the "Star-Spangled Banner." "Present arms!"
shouted Colonel Stark, then reined his horse about and lowered his
glistening sword in salute. The school and the great crowd set up a
stupendous cheer. The Doctor beamed and waved his white cambric
handkerchief. Halsey and Meeker and other masters smiled from the
windows. Snipe hauled away with might and main, Shorty paid out, and the
beautiful folds of blue and scarlet and dazzling white went sailing
slowly aloft until they touched the peak of the tall white staff at the
top of the building. Then the Doctor shook hands with Snipe again and
again and put his hand on his shoulder and waved to the crowd as though
he would say "Cheer for Lawton," and cheer they did, and presently that
cheer swelled into a lusty-lunged roar, for the colonel gave the command
shoulder and order arms, magnificently executed, followed by "Rest!"
which gave the regiment leave to make itself heard, and never before had
Fourth Avenue rung to such acclaim.

Then Snipe shook hands with his old teachers again, poor, pallid
Meeker's eyes filling with tears, and with John, the janitor, who
grinned and writhed in ecstasy. Then he and Shorty came bounding down
the stairs, and another shout went up from the school, and something
like a sob rose in Shorty's throat as Lawton drew for the first time his
beautiful sword, the gift of all the classes, and, throwing his left
arm about the "little 'un's" neck, held him in close hug one second,
then bounded away to the post of the adjutant, his eyes too full to look
back, his heart too full to speak. Once more the great regiment sprang
into column of fours, the arms snapped up to the right shoulder, the
band broke into a magnificent swinging quickstep, and the Fourth New
England strode sturdily away to make its mark on many a field, its boy
adjutant marching at the head of column. Many a long block it went
before the last of Pop's boys dropped off and turned back, only to find
that half-holiday had been declared in honor of the event of the day.
Snipe and Shorty, big Damon and little Pythias, Mr. Lincoln's "long and
short of it," had seen the last of the old school and school-days, with
all their fun and frolic and their sad and solemn memories. The old
First Latin went on to collegiate days minus its soldier boys and the
little lamented Briggs. After all, there was aroused a bit of sympathy
for him when the Hulkers were bought off in some mysterious way and
never appeared for trial, when Brodrick was heard of as "living high" in
Canada, and only the detestable butler was left to share the punishment
with the rapscallion of the class. Some boys thought Hoover was so low
that "even if he didn't steal he put Briggs up to it," and the school
was furious at the thought of his being an officer in the regular army.

It did poor Hoover little good, however. His regiment was soon taken
from the comforts of Washington and sent campaigning, and three days'
marching through Virginia dust proved more than the poor fellow could
stand. He broke down on the eve of battle, had to be sent to the rear in
an ambulance, and the regiment said he would be wise to resign: so for
once wisdom and Hoover worked together. John, the janitor, lived to tell
many a wonderful tale of the times they had when the First Latin had
such "fellers" in it as Lawton and Joy, Bertram and Beekman, Julian and
Prime. Meeker got a new lease of life with the going out of the old
class and the coming in of the new, for the Doctor did not spoil these
latter as he had their predecessors, and the Doctor treated him with a
consideration that had been lacking a long time, for there were days in
the past when Meeker's poverty and troubles, coupled with other
circumstantial evidence, had made him the object of the Doctor's
suspicions, and Meeker knew it, and thanked heaven for the load that was
lifted when Briggs broke down and bore it all with him. As for the
Doctor himself, he came at the same hour every day, poked his cane and
the old jokes at the occupants on the mourners' bench, and never seemed
more tickled in his life than when, from the distant front, there came a
joint letter from Damon and Pythias, who happened to meet for one
blissful evening. The watch episode was a thing he would never speak of,
but shrewd school-boy observers found a topic that would sometimes start
him even to the extent of proclaiming subsequent half-holiday, and that
was "our polemical young friends" who had abandoned the classic shades
of Columbia for the sword.

"'_Et tunc pugnabant pugnis_,'" he began one day----

"Ha, young gentlemen of the First Latin, behold the line immortalized by
your predecessors of the year agone. Half-holiday to him who completes
it with a new reading.

"'_Et tunc--pugna--bant pug--nis_'----

"Who supplies the ellipsis? What! a volunteer already? Let us see: '_Et
nunc gladiis pugnan_.' Neither brilliant nor metrical, but pregnant with
patriotic truth. Half-holiday to Douglas, and---- How have the rest
done, Mr. Halsey?"

"H'm," says Halsey, "rather worse if anything."

"Ha! Ominous report. Take your seats, young gentlemen, and we resume the
consideration of Xenophon. What's that suggestion? 'Fresh air to clear
your brains?' Loquax redivivus! However, Mr. Halsey,--there may be
something in it. We'll try it."

                                    THE END.





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