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Title: The Master of Warlock - A Virginia War Story
Author: Eggleston, George Cary, 1839-1911
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Master of Warlock - A Virginia War Story" ***

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                    THE MASTER OF WARLOCK

                    A VIRGINIA WAR STORY

                  BY GEORGE CARY EGGLESTON

    AUTHOR OF "DOROTHY SOUTH," "A CAROLINA CAVALIER," ETC.


    ILLUSTRATED BY
    C. D. WILLIAMS

    LOTHROP PUBLISHING
    COMPANY      BOSTON

    COPYRIGHT,
    1903,

    BY
    LOTHROP
    PUBLISHING
    COMPANY.

    ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

    ENTERED AT
    STATIONERS'
    HALL

    Published, January, 1903


     TO "DOROTHY SOUTH," THE DEAR LITTLE WOMAN WHO HAS BEEN WIFE TO ME
     FOR THIRTY-FOUR YEARS, WHO HAS UNCONSCIOUSLY INSPIRED ALL MY WORK,
     AND WHOSE PERSONALITY, IN ITS SEVERAL PHASES, IT HAS BEEN MY LOVING
     ENDEAVOUR TO PORTRAY IN ALL THE STORIES I HAVE WRITTEN, I DEDICATE
     THIS BOOK WITH REVERENCE AND SOUL-FELT THANKS.

     GEORGE CARY EGGLESTON.

     _Culross, October 18, 1902._



[Illustration: "_In the firelight_"]



Table of Contents


    CHAPTER                                    PAGE

I. A BREAK IN THE BRIDGE 11

II. THE BRINGING UP OF AGATHA 32

III. JESSAMINE AND HONEYSUCKLE 47

IV. IN REVOLT 71

V. AT THE OAKS 78

VI. NEXT MORNING 94

VII. A FAREWELL AT THE GATE 111

VIII. A RED FEATHER 118

IX. THE BIRTH OF WOMANHOOD 135

X. IN ACTION 144

XI. AT WARLOCK 163

XII. UNDER ESCORT 172

XIII. A SOUVENIR SERVICE 187

XIV. QUICK WORK 199

XV. AGATHA'S VENTURE 214

XVI. CANISTER 223

XVII. AT HEADQUARTERS 238

XVIII. A BRUSH AT THE FRONT 248

XIX. AGATHA'S RESOLUTION 256

XX. TWO HOME-COMINGS 265

XXI. AT PARTING 279

XXII. SAM AS A STRATEGIST 290

XXIII. A NEGOTIATION 301

XXIV. FLIGHT 317

XXV. A NARROW ESCAPE 327

XXVI. MADEMOISELLE ROLAND 336

XXVII. AGATHA'S WONDER-STORY 345

XXVIII. WHEN A MAN TALKS TOO MUCH 364

XXIX. A STRUGGLE OF GIANTS 374

XXX. THE LAST STRAW 380

XXXI. AT WARLOCK AND AT THE OAKS 396

XXXII. IN RIGHTEOUS WRATH 407

XXXIII. UNDER RED LEAVES 416

XXXIV. THE END AND AFTER 425



_List of Illustrations_


"_In the firelight_" Frontispiece

_Agatha Ronald_ 44

"'_If any man flunks--I'll brain him_'" 126

"'_Riding under gallant escort_'" 186

"'_I love you, Agatha Ronald_'" 235

"'_At Christ-church-in-the-woods_'" 423



The Master of Warlock



I

_A BREAK IN THE BRIDGE_


The road was a winding, twisting track as it threaded its way through a
stretch of old field pines. The land was nearly level at that point, and
quite unobstructed, so that there was not the slightest reason that
ordinary intelligence could discover for the roadway's devious
wanderings. It might just as well have run straight through the pine
lands.

But in Virginia people were never in a hurry. They had all of leisure
that well-settled and perfectly self-satisfied ways of life could bring
to a people whose chief concern it was to live uprightly and happily in
that state of existence into which it had pleased God to call them. What
difference could it make to a people so minded, whether the journey to
the Court-house--the centre and seat of county activities of all
kinds--were a mile or two longer or shorter by reason of meaningless
curves in the road, or by reason of a lack of them? Why should they
bother to straighten out road windings that had the authority of long
use for their being? And why should the well-fed negro drivers of family
carriages shake themselves out of their customary and comfortable naps
in order to drive more directly across the pine land, when the horses,
if left to themselves, would placidly follow the traditional track?

The crookedness of the road was a fact, and Virginians of that time
always accepted and respected facts to which they had been long
accustomed. For that sufficient reason Baillie Pegram, the young master
of Warlock, was not thinking of the road at all, but accepting it as he
did the greenery of the trees and the bursting of the buds, as he jogged
along at a dog-trot on that fine April morning in the year of our Lord
1861.

He was well mounted upon a mettlesome sorrel mare,--a mare with
pronounced ideas of her own. The young man had taught her to bend these
somewhat to his will, but her individuality was not yet so far subdued
or suppressed as to lose itself in that of her master. So she suddenly
halted and vigorously snorted as she came within sight of the little
bridge over Dogwood Branch, where a horse and a young gentlewoman were
obviously in trouble.

I name the horse and the girl in that ungallant reverse order, because
that was the order in which they revealed themselves to the mare and her
master. For the girl was on the farther side of the horse, and stooping,
so that she could not be seen at a first glance. As she heard
approaching hoof-beats she straightened herself into that dignity of
demeanour which every young Virginia gentlewoman felt it to be her
supreme duty in life to maintain under any and all circumstances.

She was gowned in the riding-habit of that time, with glove-fitting body
and a skirt so long that, even when its wearer sat upon a high horse, it
extended to within eighteen inches of the ground. When Baillie Pegram
reached the little bridge and hastily dismounted, she was standing as
erect as a young hickory-tree, making the most of her five feet four of
height, and holding the skirt up sufficiently to free her feet. She
wore a look half of welcome, half of defiance on her face. The defiance
was prompted by a high-bred maidenly sense of propriety and by something
else. The welcome was due to an instinctive rejoicing in the coming of
masculine help. For the girl was indeed in sore need of assistance. Her
horse had slipped his foot through a break in the bridge flooring, and
after a painful struggle, had given up the attempt to extricate it. He
was panting with pain, and his young mistress was sympathetically
sharing every pain that he suffered.

Baillie Pegram gave the girl a rather formal greeting as he dismounted.
Stooping he examined the imprisoned leg of the animal. Then seizing a
stone from the margin of the stream, he quickly beat the planking loose
from its fastenings, releasing the poor brute from its pillory. But the
freed foot did not plant itself upon the ground again. The horse held it
up, limp and dangling. Seeing what had happened, the young man promptly
ungirthed the saddles, and transferred that of the young woman to the
back of his own animal.

"You must take my mare, Miss Ronald," he said. "Your horse is in no
condition to carry you, and, poor fellow, he never will be again."

"Just what has happened, Mr. Pegram?" the girl asked, with a good deal
of hauteur in her tone.

"Your horse's leg is broken beyond all possibility of repair," he
answered. "I will take care of him for you, and you must ride my mare.
She is a trifle unruly at times, and not very bridle-wise, so that she
is scarcely fit for a lady's use. But I take it you know how to ride."

The girl did not answer at once. After a space she said:

"You forget that I am Agatha Ronald."

"No, I do not forget," he answered. "I remember that fact with regret
whenever I think of you. However, under the circumstances, you must so
far overcome your prejudice as to accept the use of my mare."

There was a mingling of hauteur and amusement in the girl's voice and
countenance as she answered:

"Permit me, Mr. Pegram, to thank you for your courteous proffer of help,
_and to decline it_."

"I need no thanks," he said, "for a trifling courtesy which is so
obviously imperative. As for declining it, why of course you cannot do
that."

"Why not?" she asked, resentfully. "Am I not my own mistress? Surely you
would not take advantage of my mishap to force unwelcome attentions upon
me?"

The utterance was an affront, and Baillie Pegram saw clearly that it was
intended to be such. He bit his lip, but controlled himself.

"I will not think," he answered, "that you quite meant to say that. You
are too just to do even me a wrong, and surely I have not deserved such
an affront at your hands. Nor can the circumstances that prompt you to
decline any unnecessary courtesy at my hands justify you in--well, in
saying what you have just said. I have not sought to force attentions
upon you, and you know it. I have only asked you to let me behave like a
gentleman under circumstances which are not of my making or my seeking.
Your horse is hopelessly lamed--so hopelessly that as soon as you are
gone, I am going to kill him by the roadside as an act of ordinary
humanity. You are fully five miles from The Oaks, where you are staying
with your aunts. Except in this bit of pine barren, the roads are
exceedingly muddy. You are habited for riding, and you could not walk
far in that costume, even upon the best of roads. You simply must make
use of my mare. I cannot permit you to refuse. If I did so, I should
incur the lasting and just disapproval of your aunts, The Oaks ladies.
You certainly do not wish me to do that. I have placed your saddle upon
my mare, and I am waiting to help you mount."

The girl hesitated, bewildered, unwilling, and distinctly in that
feminine state of mind which women call "vexed." At last she asked:

"What will you do if I refuse?"

"O, in that case I shall turn the mare loose, and walk at a respectful
distance behind you as you trudge over the miry road, until you become
hopelessly involved in the red clay at Vinegar Post. Then I shall rush
to your rescue like a gallant knight, and carry you pick-a-back all the
way to The Oaks. It will be a singularly undignified approach to a
mansion in which the proprieties of life are sternly insisted upon.
Don't you think you'd better take the mare, Miss Ronald?"

The girl stood silent for nearly a minute in a half-angry mood of
resistance, which was in battle with the laughing demon that just now
possessed her. She did not want to laugh. She was determined not to
laugh. Therefore she laughed uncontrollably, as one is apt to do when
something ludicrous occurs at a funeral. Presently she said:

"I wonder what it was all about anyhow--the quarrel, I mean, between
your grandfather and my poor father?"

There was a touch of melancholy in her tone as she spoke of her "poor
father"--for that phrase, in Virginian usage, always meant that the dear
one mentioned was dead. "I wonder what it was that makes it so
imperative for me to be formally courteous beyond the common to you, and
at the same time highly improper for me to accept such ordinary
courtesies at your hands as I freely accept from others, thinking
nothing about the matter."

"Would you really like to know?" the young man asked.

"Yes--no. I'm not quite certain. Sometimes I want to know--just now, for
example--so that I may know just what my duty is. But at other times I
think it should be enough for me, as a well-ordered young person, to
know that I must be loyal to my poor father's memory, and never forgive
a Pegram while I live. My good aunts have taught me that much, but they
have never told me anything about the origin of the feud. All I know is
that, in order to be true to the memory of my poor father, who died
before I was born, I must always remember that the Ronalds and the
Pegrams are hereditary enemies. That is why I refuse to use the mare
which you have so courteously offered me, Mr. Pegram."

"Still," answered the young man, as if arguing the matter out with
himself, "it might not compromise your dignity so much to ride a mare
that belongs to me, as to let me 'tote' you home--for that is precisely
what I must do if you persist in your refusal."

The girl again laughed, merrily this time, but still she hesitated:

"Listen!" said Baillie; "that's my boy Sam coming. It would be unseemly
for us to continue our quarrel in the presence of a servant."

As he spoke the voice of Sam rose from beyond the pines, in a ditty
which he was singing with all the power of a robust set of vocal organs:

    "My own Eliza gal--she's de colour ob de night,
      When de moon it doesn't shine a little bit;
    But her teeth shows white in de shaddah ob de night,
      And her eyes is like a lantern when it's lit.

                  "Oh, Eliza!
                  How I prize yeh!
      You'se de nicest gal dere is;
        It's fer you dat I'se a-pinin',
        For you're like a star dat's shinin'
      When de moon it's done forgitten how to riz."

With that Sam came beaming upon the scene. His round, black, shining
visage, and eyes that glittered with a humour which might have won an
anchorite to merriment, resembled nothing so much as the sun at its
rising, if one may think of the sun as black and glistening from a
diligent rubbing with a bacon rind, which was Sam's favourite cosmetic,
as it is of all the very black negroes.

Sam was sitting sidewise upon a saddleless mule, but when he saw the
situation he quickly slipped to the ground, pulled his woolly forelock
in lieu of doffing the hat which he had not, and asked:

"What's de mattah, Mas' Baillie?"

The girl saw the impropriety of continuing the discussion--it had ceased
to be a quarrel now--in Sam's presence. So she held out her hand, and
said:

"Thank you very much, Mr. Pegram. I will ride your beautiful mare, and
to-morrow, if you are so minded, you may call at The Oaks to inquire how
the animal has behaved toward me. Good morning, sir!"

She sprang into the saddle without waiting for young Pegram to assist
her, for she was even yet determined to accept no more of attention at
his hands than she must. He, in his turn, was too greatly relieved by
this ending of the embarrassing scene to care for the implied snub to
his gallantry. As soon as the girl rode away, which she did without
pausing for a moment, Baillie Pegram turned to Sam, and without
inquiring upon what errand that worthy had been going, gave the order:

"Mount your mule and ride at a respectful distance behind Miss Agatha
Ronald. She may have trouble with that half-broken mare of mine. And
mind you, boy, don't entertain the young lady with any of your songs as
you go. When you get back to Warlock, bring me a horse to the
Court-house, do you hear?"

Then leading the wounded animal upon three legs into the woods near by,
Pegram fired a charge of shot from the fowling-piece which he carried,
into its brain, killing the poor beast instantly and painlessly.

Having discharged this duty of mercy, the young man, with high boots
drawn over his trousers' legs, set out with a brisk stride for the
county-seat village, known only as "the Court-house." Entering the
clerk's office, he said to the county clerk:

"As a magistrate of this county I direct you to enter a fine of five
dollars against Baillie Pegram, Esq., supervisor of the Vinegar Post
road, for his neglect to keep the bridge over Dogwood Branch in repair.
Here's the money. Give me a receipt, please, and make the proper entries
upon the court records."

"Pardon me, Mr. Pegram," answered the clerk, "but you remember that at
the last term of the county court, with a full bench of magistrates
sitting, it was decided to adjourn the court indefinitely in view of the
disturbed condition of the time?"

"I remember that," answered the young man, "but that action was taken
only upon the ground that under present circumstances it would work
hardship to many for the courts to meet for the enforcement of debts.
This is a very different case. As road supervisor I am charged with a
public duty which I have neglected. As a magistrate it is my duty to
fine every road supervisor who is derelict. No session of the court is
necessary for that. I shall certainly not tolerate such neglect of duty
on the part of any county officer, particularly when I happen to be
myself the derelict official. So enter the fine and give me a receipt
for the money."

Does all this impress the reader as quixotic? Was it a foolish
sentimentalism that prompted these men to serve their neighbours and the
public without pay, and, upon occasion, to hold themselves rigidly
responsible to a high standard of duty? Was it quixotism which prompted
George Washington to serve his country without one dollar of pay,
through seven years of war, as the general of its armies, and through
nearly twice that time as President, first of the Constitutional
Convention, and afterwards, for eight years, as President of the nation?
Was it an absurd sentimentalism that prompted him, after he had declined
pay, to decline also the gifts voluntarily and urgently pressed upon him
by his own and other States, and by the nation? The humourists ridicule
all such sentiment. But the humourists are not a court of final appeal.
At any rate, this sentimentality had its good side.

But at this time of extreme excitement, there were, no doubt, ludicrous
exaggerations of sentiment and conduct now and then, and on this
sixteenth day of April, 1861, the master of Warlock encountered some
things that greatly amused him. Having finished his business in the
clerk's office, he found himself in the midst of excited throngs.
Startling news had come from Richmond that morning. In view of the
bombardment of Fort Sumter, President Lincoln had called for
seventy-five thousand men as an army with which to reduce the seceding
States to subjection.

Virginia was not one of the seceding States. Up to that time, she had
utterly repudiated the thought that secession was justified by Mr.
Lincoln's election, or by any threat to the South which his accession to
office implied.

The statesmen of Virginia had busied themselves for months with efforts
to find a way out of the difficulties that beset the country. They were
intent upon saving that Union which had been born of Virginia's
suggestion, if such saving could be accomplished by any means that did
not involve dishonour. The people of Virginia, when called upon to
decide the question of their own course in such a crisis by the election
of a constitutional convention, had overwhelmingly decided it against
secession, and in favour of adherence to the Union. Under Virginia's
influence, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, and
Missouri had refused to secede.

But while the Virginians were thus opposed to secession, and while they
were fully convinced that secession was neither necessary nor advisable
under the circumstances then existing, they were of one mind in
believing that the constitutional right of any State to withdraw from
the Union at will was absolute and indefeasible. So when Mr. Lincoln
called upon Virginia for her quota of troops with which to coerce back
into the Union those States which had exercised what the Virginians held
to be their rightful privilege of withdrawal, it seemed to the
Virginians that there was forced upon them a choice between secession
and unspeakable dishonour. They wanted to remain in the Union, of which
their State had been from the beginning so influential a part. They were
intensely loyal to the history and traditions of that Union over which
their Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and Tyler had presided,
and at the head of whose supreme court their John Marshall had so wisely
interpreted the constitution. But when Mr. Lincoln notified them that
they must furnish their quota of troops with which to make war upon
sister States for exercising a right which the Virginians deemed
unquestionable, they felt that they had no choice but to join the
seceding States and take the consequences.

What a pity it seems, as we look back upon that crisis of forty odd
years ago, that Mr. Lincoln could not have found some other way out of
his difficulties! What a pity that he could not have seen his way clear
to omit Virginia and the other border States from his call for troops,
with which to make war upon secession! Doubtless it was impracticable
for him to make such a distinction. But the pity of it is none the less
on that account. For if this might have been done, there would have been
no civil war worthy the attention of the historian or the novelist. In
that case the battles of Bull Run, the Seven Days, Fredericksburg,
Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spottsylvania,
Cold Harbour, and the rest of the bloody encounters would never have
been fought. In that case the country would not have exhausted itself
with four years of strenuous war, enlisting 2,700,000 men on one side,
and 600,000 on the other. In that case many thousands of brave young
lives would have been spared, and the desolation of homes by tens of
thousands would not have come upon the land.

It is idle, however, to speculate in "if's," even when their
significance is so sadly obvious as it is in this case. Facts are facts,
and the all-dominating fact on that 16th of April, 1861, was that
President Lincoln had called upon Virginia for her quota of troops with
which to make war upon the seceding States, and that Virginia had no
mind to respond to the call.

It was certain now, that Virginia--however reluctantly and however
firmly convinced she might be that secession was uncalled for on the
part of the Southern States, would adopt an ordinance of secession, and
thus make inevitable the coming of the greatest war in all history,
where otherwise no war at all, or at most an insignificant one, would
have occurred.

There was no question in the minds of any body at the Court-house on
this sixteenth day of April, 1861, that Virginia would secede as soon as
a vote could be taken in the convention.

The county was a small one, insignificant in the number of its white
inhabitants,--there being six negroes to one white in its
population,--but it was firmly convinced that upon its attitude depended
the fate of Virginia, and perhaps of the nation. This conviction was
strong, at any rate, in the minds of the three local orators who had
ordered a muster for this day in order that they might have an audience
to harangue. These were Colonel Gregor, of the militia and the bar,
Lieutenant-Colonel Simpson, also of the bar and the militia, and Captain
Sam Guthrie, who commanded a troop of uniformed horsemen, long ago
organised for purposes of periodical picnicking. This troop afterward
rendered conspicuously good service in Stuart's First Regiment of
Virginia cavalry, but not under Captain Guthrie's command. That officer,
early in the campaign, developed a severe case of nervous prostration,
and retired. The militiamen also volunteered, and rendered their full
four years of service. But Lieutenant-Colonel Simpson retired during his
first and only skirmish, while Colonel Gregor discovered in himself a
divine call to the ministry of the gospel, and stayed at home to answer
it. But all this came later. In April, 1861, these three were the eager
advocates of war, instant and terrible. Under inspiration of the news
from Richmond, they spouted like geysers throughout that day. They could
not have been more impassioned in their pleas if theirs had been a
reluctant community, in danger of disgracing itself by refusing to
furnish its fair share of volunteers for Virginia's defence, though in
fact every able-bodied man in the county had already signified his
intention of volunteering at the first opportunity.

But the orators were not minded to miss so good an opportunity to
display their eloquence, and impress themselves upon the community.
Colonel Gregor, in a fine burst of eloquence, warned his fellow
citizens, whom he always addressed as "me countrymen," to examine
themselves carefully touching their personal courage, "for," he
thundered, "where Gregor leads, brave men must follow."

Later in the day, Lieutenant-Colonel Simpson hit upon the happy idea,
which his superior officer at once adopted, of ordering the entire
militia of the county into camp at the Court-house, where the three men
eloquent might harangue them at will between drills. The two
field-officers told the men that they must now regard themselves as
minute men, and hold themselves in readiness to respond at a moment's
notice to the country's call, for the repelling of invasion, whensoever
it might come.

All this impressed Baillie Pegram as ridiculous. That young gentleman
had a saving sense of humour, but he was content to smile at a
foolishness in which he had no mind to join. The young men of the
county responded enthusiastically to the encampment call. It meant for
them some days of delightful picnicking, with dancing in the evening.

Baillie Pegram, having business to transact in Richmond, absented
himself from a frolic not to his taste, and took the noonday train for
the State capital.



II

_THE BRINGING UP OF AGATHA_


Agatha Roland was a particularly well ordered young gentlewoman, at
least during her long, half-yearly visits to her aunts at The Oaks. At
home with her maternal grandfather, Colonel Archer, she was neither well
nor ill ordered--she was not ordered at all. She gave orders instead, in
a gentle way; and her word was law, by virtue of her grandfather's
insistence that it should be so regarded, and still more by reason of
something in herself that gently gave authority to her will.

Agatha had been born at The Oaks, and that plantation was to be her
property at the death of her two elderly maiden aunts, her dead father's
sisters. But she had been taken as a little child to the distant home of
her grandfather, Colonel Archer, and after her mother's death she had
lived there alone with that sturdy old Virginia gentleman.

She was less than seven years old when he installed her behind the
tea-tray in her dead mother's stead, and made her absolute mistress of
the mansion, issuing the order that "whatever Miss Agatha wants done
must be done, or I will find out why." Her good aunts sought to
interfere at first, but they soon learned better. They wanted the girl
to come to them at The Oaks "for her bringing up," they said. Upon that
plan Colonel Archer instantly put a veto that was not the less
peremptory for the reason that he could not "put his foot down" just
then, because of an attack of the gout. Then the good ladies urged him
to take "some gentlewoman of mature years and high character" into his
house, "to look after the child's bringing up, so that her manners may
be such as befit a person of her lineage."

To this appeal the old gentleman replied:

"I'll look after all that myself. I don't want the child taught a lot of
nonsense, and I won't have her placed under anybody's authority. She
doesn't need control, any more than the birds do; she shall grow up
here at Willoughby in perfect freedom and naturalness. I'll be
responsible for the result. She shall wear bonnets whenever she wants
to, and go without them whenever that pleases her best; when she wants
to go barefoot and wade in the branches, as all healthy children like to
do, she shall not be told that her conduct is 'highly improper,' and all
that nonsense. O, I know," he said, in anticipation of a protest that he
saw coming, "I know she'll get 'dreadfully tanned,' and become a
tomboy--and all the rest of it. But I'll answer for it that when she
grows up her perfectly healthy skin will bear comparison with the
complexion of the worst house-burnt young woman in all the land, and as
for her figure, nature will take care of that under the life of liberty
that she's going to live, in the air and sunshine."

"But you'll surely send her to school?"

"Not if I retain my senses. I remember my humanities well enough to
teach her all the Latin, Greek, and mathematics she needs. We'll read
history and literature together, and as for French, I speak that
language a good deal better than most of the dapper little
dancing-masters do who keep 'young ladies' seminaries.' We'll ride
horseback together every day, and I'll teach her French while I'm
teaching her how to take an eight-rail fence at a gallop."

The remonstrances were continued for a time, until one day the old
gentleman made an end of them by saying:

"I have heard all I want to hear on that subject. It is not to be
mentioned to me again."

Everybody who knew Colonel Archer knew that when he spoke in that tone
of mingled determination and self-restraint, it was a dictate of
prudence to respect his wish. So after that Agatha and he lived alone at
Willoughby, a plantation in Northern Virginia three or four days distant
by carriage from The Oaks.

Morning, noon, and night, these two were inseparable companions.
"Chummie" was the pet name she gave him in her childish days, and he
would never permit her to address him by any other as she grew up.

Old soldier that he was,--for he had commanded a company under Jackson
at New Orleans, and had been a colonel during the war with Mexico,--it
was his habit to exact implicit obedience within his own domain. He was
the kindliest of masters, but his will was law on the plantation, and as
everybody there recognised the fact, he never had occasion to give an
order twice, or to mete out censure for disobedience. But for Agatha
there was no law. Colonel Archer would permit none, while she in her
turn made it her one study in life to be and do whatever her "Chummie"
liked best.

Colonel Archer had a couple of gardeners, of course, but their work was
mainly to do the rougher things of horticulture. He and Agatha liked to
do the rest for themselves. They prepared the garden-beds, seeded them,
and carefully nursed their growths into fruitage, he teaching her, as
they did so, that love of all growing things which is botany's best
lesson.

"And the plants love us back again, Chummie," she one day said to him,
while she was still a little child. "They smile when we go near them,
and sometimes the pansies whisper to me. I'm sure of that."

She was at that time a slender child, with big, velvety brown eyes and a
tangled mass of brown hair which her maid Martha struggled in vain to
reduce to subjection. She usually put on a sunbonnet when she went to
the garden in the early morning; but when it obstructed her vision, or
otherwise annoyed her, she would push it off, letting it fall to her
back and hang by its strings about her neck. Even then it usually became
an annoyance, particularly when she wanted to climb a fruit-tree, and
Martha would find it later, resting upon a cluster of rose-bushes, or
hung upon a fence-paling.

The pair of chums--the sturdy old gentleman and the little girl--had no
regular hours for any of their employments, but at some hour of every
day, they got out their books and read or studied together.

They were much on horseback, too, and when autumn came they would tramp
together through stubble fields and broom-straw growths, shooting quails
on the wing--partridges, they correctly called them, as it is the habit
of everybody in Virginia to do, for the reason that the bird which the
New York marketman calls "quail," is properly named "Partridge
Virginiensis," while the bird that the marketman sells as a partridge is
not a partridge at all, but a grouse. The girl became a good shot
during her first season, and a year later she challenged her grandfather
to a match, to see who could bag the greater number of birds. At the end
of the morning's sport, her bag outnumbered her companion's by two
birds; but when the count was made, she looked with solemn eyes into her
grandfather's face and, shaking her head in displeasure, said:

"Chummie, you've been cheating! I don't like to think it of you, but
it's true. You've missed several birds on purpose to let me get ahead of
you. I'll never count birds with you again."

The old gentleman tried to laugh the matter off, but the girl would not
consent to that. After awhile she said: "I'll forgive you this time,
Chummie; but I'll never count birds with you again."

"But why not, Ladybird?"

"Why, because you don't like to beat me, and I don't like to beat you.
So if we go on counting birds and each trying to lose the match, we'll
get to be very bad shots. Besides that, Chummie, cheating will impair
your character."

But the girl was not left without the companionship of girls of her own
age. Colonel Archer was too wise a student of human nature for that. So
from the beginning he planned to give her the companionship she needed.

"You are the mistress of Willoughby, you know, Agatha," he said to her
one day, "and you must keep up the reputation of the place for
hospitality. You must have your dining-days like the rest, and invite
your friends."

And she did so. She would send out her little notes, written in a hand
that closely resembled that of her grandfather, begging half a dozen
girls, daughters of the planters round about, to dine with her, and they
would come in their carriages, attended by their negro maids. It was
Colonel Archer's delight to watch Agatha on these occasions, and observe
the very serious way in which she sought to discharge her duties as a
hospitable hostess in becoming fashion.

A little later he encouraged her to invite two or three of her young
friends, now and then, to stay for a few days or a week with her, after
the Virginian custom. But not until she was twelve years old did he
consent to spare her for longer than a single night. Then he agreed with
The Oaks ladies that she should spend a few weeks in the spring and a
few in the late summer or autumn of every year with them. They welcomed
the arrangement as one which would at least give them an opportunity to
"form the girl." During her semi-annual visits to The Oaks they very
diligently set themselves to work drilling her in the matter of respect
for the formalities of life.

The process rather interested Agatha, and sometimes it even amused her.
She was solemnly enjoined not to do things that she had never thought of
doing, and as earnestly instructed to do things which she had never in
her life neglected to do.

At first she was too young to formulate the causes of her interest and
amusement in this process. But her mind matured rapidly in association
with her grandfather, and she began at last to analyse the matter.

"When I go to The Oaks," she wrote to her "Chummie" one day, "I feel
like a sinner going to do penance; but the penance is rather amusing
than annoying. I am made to feel how shockingly improper I have been at
Willoughby with you, Chummie, during the preceding six months, and how
necessary it is for me to submit myself for a season to a control that
shall undo the effects of the liberty in which I live at Willoughby. I
am made to understand that liberty is the very worst thing a girl or a
woman can indulge herself in. Am I very bad, Chummie?"

For answer the old gentleman laughed aloud. Then he wrote:

"You see how shrewdly I have managed this thing, Ladybird. I wouldn't
let you go to The Oaks till you had become too fully confirmed in your
habit of being free, ever to be reformed."

Later, and more seriously, he said to the girl:

"Every human being is the better for being free--women as well as men.
Liberty to a human being is like sunshine and fresh air. Restraint is
like medicine--excellent for those who are ill, but very bad indeed for
healthy people. Did it ever occur to you, Agatha, that you never took a
pill or a powder in your life? You haven't needed medicine because
you've had air and sunshine; no more do you need restraint, and for the
same reason. You are perfectly healthy in your mind as well as in your
body."

"But, Chummie, you don't know how very ill regulated I am. Aunt Sarah
and Aunt Jane disapprove very seriously of many things that I do."

"What things?"

"Well, they say, for example, that it is very unladylike for me to call
you 'Chummie,'--that it indicates a want of that respect for age and
superiority which every young person--you know I am only a 'young
person' to them--should scrupulously cultivate."

"Well, now, let me give you warning, Miss Agatha Ronald; if you ever
call me anything but 'Chummie,' I'll alter my will, and leave this
plantation to the Abolitionist Society as an experiment station."

Nevertheless, Agatha Ronald was, as has been said at the beginning of
this chapter, a particularly well ordered young gentlewoman so long as
she remained as a guest with her aunts at The Oaks. She loved the gentle
old ladies dearly, and strove with all her might, while with them, to
comport herself in accordance with their standards of conduct on the
part of a young gentlewoman.

Sometimes, however, her innocence misled her, as it had done on that
morning when Baillie Pegram had met her at the bridge over Dogwood
Branch. The spirit of the morning had taken possession of her on that
occasion, and she had so far reverted from her condition of
dame-nurtured grace into her habitual state of nature as to mount her
horse and ride away without the escort even of a negro groom. It was not
at all unusual at that time for young gentlewomen in Virginia to ride
thus alone, but The Oaks ladies strongly disapproved the custom, as they
disapproved all other customs that had come into being since their own
youth had passed away, especially all customs that in any way tended to
enlarge the innocent liberty of young women. On this point the good
ladies were as rigidly insistent as if they had been the ladies superior
of a convent of young nuns. They could not have held liberty for young
gentlewomen in greater dread and detestation, had they believed, as they
certainly did not, in the total depravity of womankind.

"It is not that we fear you would do anything wrong, dear," they would
gently explain. "It is only that--well, you see a young gentlewoman
cannot be too careful."

Agatha did not see, but she yielded to the prejudices of her aunts with
a loyalty all the more creditable to her for the reason that she did not
and could not share their views. On this occasion she had not thought of
offending. It had not occurred to her that there could be the slightest
impropriety in her desire to greet the morning on horseback, and
certainly it had not entered her mind that she might meet Baillie Pegram
and be compelled to accept a courtesy at his hands. She knew, as she
rode silently homeward after that meeting at the bridge, that in this
respect she had sinned beyond overlooking.

For Agatha Ronald knew that she must be on none but the most distant and
formal terms with the master of Warlock. She had learned that lesson at
Christmas-time, three months before. She had spent the Christmas season
in Richmond, with some friends. There Baillie Pegram had met her for the
first time since she had attained her womanhood--for he had been away at
college, at law school, or on his travels at the time of all her more
recent sojourns at The Oaks. He had known her very slightly as a shy and
wild little girl, but the woman Agatha was a revelation to him, and
her beauty not less than her charm of manner and her unusual
intelligence, had fascinated him. He frequented the house of her
Richmond friends, and had opportunities to learn more every day of
herself. He did not pause to analyse his feeling for her; he only knew
that it was quite different from any that he had ever experienced
before. And Agatha, in her turn and in her candor, had admitted to
herself that she "liked" young Pegram better than any other young man
she had ever met.

[Illustration: _Agatha Ronald_]

No word of love had passed between these two, and both were unconscious
of their state of mind, when their intercourse was suddenly interrupted.
A note came to Baillie one day from Agatha, in which the frank and
fearlessly honest young woman wrote:

"I am not to see you any more, Mr. Pegram. I am informed by my relatives
that there are circumstances for which neither of us is responsible,
which render it quite improper that you and I should be friends. I am
very sorry, but I think it my duty to tell you this myself. I thank you
for all your kindnesses to me before we knew about this thing."

That was absolutely all there was of the note, but it was quite enough.
It had set Baillie to inquiring concerning a feud of which he vaguely
knew the existence, but to which he had never before given the least
attention.

That is how it came about that Agatha rode sadly homeward after the
meeting at the bridge, wondering how she could have done otherwise than
accept the use of Baillie Pegram's mare, and wondering still more what
her aunts would say to her concerning the matter.

"Anyhow," she thought at last, "I've done no intentional wrong. Chummie
would not blame me if he were here, and I am not sure that I shall
accept much blame at anybody's else hands. I'll be good and submissive
if I can, but--well, I don't know. Maybe I'll hurry back home to
Chummie."



III

_JESSAMINE AND HONEYSUCKLE_


It was a peculiarity of inherited quarrels between old Virginia families
that they must never be recognised outwardly by any act of discourtesy,
and still less by any neglect of formal attention where courtesy was
called for. Such quarrels were never mentioned between the families that
were involved in them, and equally they were never forgotten. Each
member of either family owed it to himself to treat all members of the
other family with the utmost deference, while never for a moment
permitting that deference to lapse into anything that could be construed
to mean forgiveness or forgetfulness.

Agatha, as we have seen, had twice violated the code under which such
affairs were conducted; once in the note she had sent to Baillie Pegram
in Richmond, and for the second time in giving him permission to call at
The Oaks to inquire concerning her journey homeward on his mare. But on
both occasions she had been out of the presence and admonitory influence
of her aunts, and when absent from them, Agatha Ronald was not at all
well regulated, as we know. She was given to acting upon her own natural
and healthy-minded impulses, and such impulses were apt to be at war
with propriety as propriety was understood and insisted upon at The
Oaks.

But Baillie Pegram was not minded to make any mistake in a matter of so
much delicacy and importance. He had received Agatha's permission to
make that formal call of inquiry, which was customary on all such
occasions, and she in her heedlessness had probably meant what she said,
as it was her habit to do. But Baillie knew very well that her good
aunts would neither expect nor wish him to call upon their niece. At the
same time he must not leave his omission to do so unexplained. He must
send a note of apology, not to Agatha,--as he would have done to any
other young woman under like circumstances,--but to her aunts instead.
In a note to them he reported his sudden summons to Richmond, adding
that as he was uncertain as to the length of his stay there, he begged
the good ladies to accept his absence from home as his sufficient excuse
for not calling to inquire concerning the behaviour of his mare during
their niece's journey upon that rather uncertain-minded animal's back.
This note he gave to Sam for delivery, when Sam brought him the horse he
had ordered but no longer wanted.

Baillie Pegram had all the pride of his lineage and his class. He had
sought to forget all about Agatha Ronald after her astonishing little
note had come to him some months before in Richmond, and until this
morning he had believed that he had accomplished that forgetfulness. But
now the thought of her haunted him ceaselessly. All the way to Richmond
her beauty and her charm, as she had stood there by the roadside, filled
his mind with visions that tortured him. He tried with all his might to
dismiss the visions and to think of something else. He bought the daily
papers and tried to interest himself in their excited utterances, but
failed. Red-hot leaders, that were meant to stir all Virginian souls to
wrathful resolution, made no impression on his mind. He read them, and
knew not what he had read. He was thinking of the girl by the roadside,
and his soul was fascinated with the memory of her looks, her words, her
finely modulated voice, her ways, as she had tried to refuse his offer
of assistance. Had he been of vain and conceited temper, he might have
flattered himself with the thought that her very hauteur in converse
with him implied something more and better than indifference on her part
toward him. But that thought did not enter his mind. He thought instead:

"What a sublimated idiot I am! That girl is nothing to me--worse than
nothing. Circumstances place her wholly outside my acquaintance, except
in the most formal fashion. She is a young gentlewoman of my own
class--distinctly superior to all the other young gentlewomen of that
class whom I have ever met,--and ordinarily it would be the most natural
thing in the world for me to pay my addresses to her. But in this case
that is completely out of the question. To me at least she is the
unattainable. I must school myself to think of her no more, and that
ought to be easy enough, as I am not in love with her and am not
permitted even to think of being so. It's simply a craze that has taken
possession of me for a time,--the instinct of the huntsman, to whom
quarry is desirable in the precise ratio of its elusiveness. There, I've
thought the whole thing out to an end, and now I must give my mind to
something more important."

Yet even in the midst of the excitement that prevailed in Richmond that
day, Baillie Pegram did not quite succeed in driving out of his mind the
memory of the little tableau by the bridge, or forgetting how supremely
fascinating Agatha Ronald had seemed, as she had haughtily declined his
offer of service, and still more as she had reluctantly accepted it, and
ridden away after so cleverly evading his offer to help her mount.

It had been his purpose to remain in Richmond for a week or more, but on
the third morning he found himself homeward bound, and filled with vain
imaginings. Just why he had started homeward before the intended time,
it would have puzzled him to say; but several times he caught himself
wondering if there would be awaiting him at Warlock an answer to his
formal note of apology for not having made a call which nobody had
expected him to make. He perfectly knew that no such answer was to be
expected, and especially that if there should be any answer at all, it
must be one of formal and repellent courtesy, containing no message from
Agatha of the kind that his troubled imagination persisted in conceiving
in spite of the scorn with which he rejected the absurd conjecture.

Nevertheless as he neared home he found himself half-expecting to find
there an answer to his note, and he found it. It gave him no pleasure in
the reading, and in his present state of mind he could not find even a
source of amusement in the stilted formality of its rhetoric. It had
been written by one of Agatha's aunts, and signed by both of them. Thus
it ran:

     "The Misses Ronald of The Oaks feel themselves deeply indebted to
     Mr. Baillie Pegram for his courtesy to their niece and guest, Miss
     Agatha Ronald, on the occasion of her recent misadventure. They
     have also to thank Mr. Pegram most sincerely for having taken upon
     himself the disagreeable duty of giving painless death to the
     unfortunate animal that their niece was riding upon that occasion.
     They have to inform Mr. Pegram that as Miss Agatha Ronald is making
     her preparations for an almost immediate return to her maternal
     grandfather's plantation of Willoughby, in Fauquier, and as she
     will probably begin her journey before Mr. Pegram's return from
     Richmond, there will scarcely be opportunity for his intended call
     to inquire concerning her welfare after her homeward ride upon the
     mare which he so graciously placed at her disposal at a time of
     sore need. They beg to report that the beautiful animal behaved
     with the utmost gentleness during the journey.

     "The Oaks ladies beg to assure Mr. Pegram of their high esteem, and
     to express their hope that he will permit none of the events of
     this troubled time to prevent him from dining with them at The Oaks
     on the third Friday of each month, as it has been his courteous
     custom to do in the past. The Misses Ronald remain,

     "Most respectfully,

     "SARAH RONALD,

     "JANE RONALD."

This missive was more than a little bewildering. Its courtesy was
extreme. Even in practically telling Baillie Pegram not to call upon
their niece, the good ladies had adroitly managed to make their message
seem rather one of regret than of prohibition. Certainly there was not a
word in the missive at which offence could be taken, and not an
expression lacking, the lack of which could imply negligence. The young
man read it over several times before he could make out its exact
significance, and even then he was not quite sure that he fully
understood.

"It reads like a 'joint note' from the Powers to the Grand Turk," he
said to the young man--his bosom friend--whom he had found awaiting him
at Warlock on his return. This young man, Marshall Pollard, had been
Baillie Pegram's intimate at the university, and now that university
days were done, it was his habit to come and go at will at Warlock, the
plantation of which Baillie was owner and sole white occupant with the
exception of a maiden aunt who presided over his household.

The intimacy between these two young men was always a matter of wonder
to their friends. They had few tastes in common, except that both had a
passionate love for books. Baillie Pegram was fond of fishing and
shooting and riding to hounds. He loved a horse from foretop to fetlock.
His friend cared nothing for sport of any kind, and very often he walked
over long distances rather than "jolt on horseback," as he explained. He
was thoroughly manly, but of dreamy, introspective moods and quiet
tastes. But these two agreed in their love of books, and especially of
such rare old books as abounded in the Warlock library, the accumulation
of generations of cultivated and intellectual men and women. They
agreed, too, in their fondness for each other.

Marshall Pollard was never regarded as a guest at Warlock, or treated as
such. He came and went at will, giving no account of either his comings
or his goings. He did precisely as he pleased, and so did his host,
neither ever thinking it necessary to offer an apology for leaving the
other alone for a day or for a week, as the case might be. Pollard had
his own quarters in the rambling old house, with perfect liberty for
their best furnishing. Often the two friends became interested together
in a single subject of literary or historical study, and would pore over
piles of books in the great hallway if it rained, and out under the
spreading trees on the lawn if the weather were fair. Often, on the
other hand, their moods would take different courses, and for days
together they would scarcely see each other except at meal-times. Theirs
was a friendship that trusted itself implicitly.

"It's an ideal friendship, this of yours and mine," said Marshall, in
his dreamy way, one day. "It never interferes with the perfect liberty
of either. What a pity it is that it must come to an end!"

"But why should it come to an end?" asked his less introspective friend.

"O, because one or the other of us will presently take to himself a
wife," was the answer.

"But why should that make a difference? It will not if I am the one to
marry first. That will only make your life at Warlock the pleasanter for
you. It will give you two devoted friends instead of one."

"It will do nothing of the kind," answered Pollard, with that confidence
of tone which suggests that a matter has been completely thought out.
"Our friendship is based upon the fact that we both care more for each
other than for anybody else. When you get married, you'll naturally and
properly care more for your wife than for me. You'd be a brute if you
didn't, and I'd quarrel with you. After your marriage we shall continue
to be friends, of course, but not in the old way. I'll come to Warlock
whenever I please, and go away whenever it suits me to go, just as I do
now. But I shall make my bow to my lady when I come, and my adieus to
her when I take my departure. I'll enjoy doing that, because I know that
your wife will be a charming person, worthy of your devotion to her. But
it will not be the same as now. And it will be best so. 'Male and female
created he them,' and it would be an abominable shame if you were to
remain single for many years to come. It is your duty, and it will
presently be your highest pleasure to make some loving and lovable woman
as happy as God intended her to be. Better than that--the love of a good
woman will make your life richer and worthier than it is now. It will
ennoble you, and fit you for the life that your good qualities destine
you to lead. You see I've been studying your case, Baillie, and I've
made up my mind that there never was a man who needed to marry more than
you do. You're a thoroughly good fellow now--but that's about all.
You'll be something mightily better than that, when you have the
inspiration of a good woman's love to spur you out of your present
egotistic self-content, and give you higher purposes in life than those
of the well-bred, respectable citizen that you are. You pay your debts;
you take excellent care of your negroes; you serve your neighbours as an
unpaid magistrate and all that, and it is all very well. But you are
capable of much higher things, and when you get yourself a wife worthy
of you, you'll rise to a new level of character and conduct."

"And how about you?" the friend asked.

"O, as for me, I don't count. You see, I'm that anomalous thing, a
Virginian who doesn't ride horses or care for sport. I'm abnormal. Women
like me in a way, and the more elderly ones among them do me the honour
to approve me. But that is all. Young women are apt to fall in love with
robuster young fellows."

"But you are robust," quickly answered Baillie, "and altogether manly."

"No, I'm not. I'm physically strong enough, of course, but strength
isn't all of robustness. I can lift as much as you can, but I don't like
to lift, and you do. I can jump as high, but I don't like to jump, while
you do. When we were canoeing in Canada a year ago, I could shoot a
rapid as well as you, but I'd very much rather have walked down the
bank, leaving the guide to navigate the canoe, while you often sent the
guide about his business and rebuked his impertinence in offering help
where you wanted to do your own helping of yourself without any
interference on his part. I remember that just as we were starting on
the long and difficult journey to the Lake of the Woods, you dismissed
the whole crew of half-breed hangers-on, and we set out alone. I would
never have done that, greatly as I detested the unclean company. I went
with you, of course, but I went relying upon you for guidance, just as I
should have gone relying upon the half-breeds if you had not been with
me. We two are differently built, I tell you. Now, even here at Warlock,
I send for Sam when I want my studs changed from one shirt to another,
while only this morning you cleaned your own boots rather than wait for
Sam after you had whistled for him thrice. I don't think I'm lazier than
you are, and I know I'm not more afraid of anything. But you rejoice in
toilsome journeys, while I prefer to take them easily, hiring other
people to do the hard work. You relish danger just as you do red pepper,
while I prefer safety and a less pungent seasoning. Now, young women of
our kind and class prefer your kind of man to my kind, and so you are
likely to marry, while I am not. Another thing. I saw you throw aside a
copy of Shakespeare the other day without even marking your place in the
volume, because a company of gentlewomen had driven up to visit your
aunt, and you completely forgot your Shakespeare in thinking of the
gentlewomen. Now I, in a like case, should have edged a little farther
around the tree, read on to the end of the scene, marked my place, and
only then have discovered that the gentlewomen had driven up. Women like
your ways better than mine, and they are entirely right."

In all this, Marshall Pollard exaggerated somewhat, in playful fashion,
and to his own discrediting. But in the main his analysis of the
difference between himself and his friend was quite correct.

It was to this friend that Baillie Pegram spoke of the note he had
received from The Oaks ladies, saying that it read "like a joint note
from the Powers to the Grand Turk."

"Tell me about it," answered Marshall.

"O, read it for yourself," Baillie replied, handing him the sheet. "The
stilted ceremoniousness of it," he presently added, "is easy enough to
understand, but I can't, for the life of me, see why the good ladies of
The Oaks felt it incumbent upon themselves to write to me at all. They
are always scrupulously attentive to forms and conventionalities when
discharging any obligation of courtesy, and in this case they have had
the rather embarrassing duty imposed upon them of telling me not to call
upon their niece, who is also their guest. That sufficiently accounts
for the stiff formality of their rhetoric, and their scrupulous
attention to the niceties of courtesy in the embarrassing case, but--"

"Remember, also," broke in Marshall Pollard, "that they are 'maiden
ladies,' while you, my dear, unsuspicious boy, are a particularly
marriageable young man."

"Don't talk nonsense, Marshall; this is a serious matter," answered
Baillie.

"It isn't nonsense at all that I'm talking," said his friend. "I'm
speaking only words of 'truth and soberness.' The Misses Sarah and Jane
Ronald, as I understand the matter, are highly bred and blue-bloodedly
descended Virginia gentlewomen, who happen to be as yet unmarried. Very
naturally and properly they adopt a guarded manner in addressing a
missive to a peculiarly marriageable young gentleman like you, lest
their intentions be misinterpreted."

"Why, they are old enough," Baillie replied, "to be my grandmothers!"

"True," answered the other, "but you wouldn't venture to suggest that
fact to the mind of either of them, would you, Baillie?"

"Certainly not, but--"

"Certainly not. And certainly they in their turn do not give special
weight to that fact. When will you learn to understand women a little
bit, Baillie? Don't you know that no woman ever thinks of herself as
too old or too ugly or too unattractive to fascinate a young man?
Especially no well-bred spinster, accustomed to be courted in her youth,
and treated with deference in her middle age, ever realises that she is
so old as to be privileged to lay aside those reserves with which she
was trained in youth to guard her maidenly modesty against the ugly
imputation of a desire to 'throw herself at the head' of a young
gentleman possessed of good manners, good looks, an old family name, and
a plantation of five or six thousand acres? Now, don't let your vanity
run away with you, my boy. I do not mean for one moment to suggest that
either of The Oaks ladies would think of accepting an offer of marriage
from you or anybody else. I am too gallant to imagine that they have not
had abundant opportunities of marriage in their day. At the same time,
propriety is propriety, you know, and the conduct of an 'unattached
female' cannot be too carefully guarded against the possibility of
misinterpretation."

Baillie laughed, and presently fell into silence for a space. Finally
his companion lazily said:

"It is time for you to be off, if you are going."

"Going where?"

"Why, to dine at The Oaks, of course. You are invited for the third
Friday of each month, if I understand the matter correctly, and this is
the third Friday of April, I believe."

"Why, so it is. I hadn't thought of the date. By Jove, I'll go! There's
just a chance that she hasn't started yet."

"It's awkward, of course," said Pollard, in his meditative,
philosophical way, "especially with this war coming on. But these things
never will adjust themselves to circumstances in a spirit of rationality
and accommodation."

"What on earth do you mean, Marshall? I don't understand."

"Of course not. The bird caught in the net of the fowler does not
usually see just what is the matter with him."

"But Marshall--"

"O, I'll explain as well as I can. I mean only that you are in love with
Agatha Ronald. Of course you're totally unconscious of your state of
mind, but you'll find it out after awhile. It is an utterly irrational
state of mind for you to be in, but the malady often takes that form, I
believe, and I've done you a service in telling you about it, for as a
rule a man never finds out what's the matter with him in such a case
until some friend tells him. He just goes on making a fool of himself
until somebody else jogs his elbow with information which he alone has
need of. Now suppose you tell me all about this case. What is it that
stands between you and the young lady?"

Again Baillie laughed. But this time the laugh was accompanied by a
tell-tale flushing of the face.

"The whole thing is ridiculous," he presently said. "It couldn't have
happened anywhere but in this dear old Virginia of ours. I'll tell you
all I know about it. My grandfather whom I never saw in my life, and
Miss Agatha Ronald's father, who died before she was born, were friends,
like you and me. They owned adjoining plantations,--Warlock and The
Oaks, both held by original grants to their great-grandfathers, made in
the early colonial times. But the county clerk's office burned up, a
generation or two ago, and with it all the records that could show where
the boundaries between these two plantations lay. In trying to
determine those boundaries one unlucky day, when both had probably taken
too much or too little Madeira for dinner, the two irascible old
gentlemen fell into a dispute as to where the boundary line should run
through a wretched little scrap of ground down there on Nib's Creek,
which never had been cultivated, never has been, and never will be. The
thing was not worth a moment's thought in itself, but the gout got into
it, or in some other way the two absurd old gentlemen's dignity got
itself involved, and so they quarrelled. If there had been time, they
would have laughed the thing off presently over a mint-julep. But
unhappily one of them died, and that made a permanent family quarrel of
the dispute. All the women-kind took it up as an inherited feud, which
made it impossible that any Pegram should have aught to do with any
Ronald, or any Ronald with any Pegram. So much, it was held, was due to
the tender memory of the dead. But, after our Virginian tradition, the
individual members of both families have been held bound to treat each
other with the extreme of formal but quite unfriendly courtesy. That is
why I have been required, from my fifteenth birthday onward, to dine at
The Oaks on the third Friday of every month when I happened to be in the
county on that day. I had only the vaguest notion of the situation until
last Christmas, when circumstances brought it to my attention. Then I
made my good Aunt Catherine tell me all about it. When I learned what
the matter in dispute was, I sent for the family lawyer, and ordered him
to make out a deed to The Oaks ladies, conveying all my right, title,
and interest in the disputed piece of land to them 'for and in
consideration of the sum of one dollar in hand paid, receipt whereof is
hereby acknowledged.' I sent the deed to The Oaks ladies, with a perhaps
too effusive note, asking them to accept it as an evidence of my desire
to make an end of a quarrel which had long alienated those who should
have remained friends."

"What an idiot you made of yourself by doing that!" broke in young
Pollard.

"Of course, and I soon found it out. The Oaks ladies wrote that they had
never, by any act or word, recognised the existence of a quarrel; that
if such quarrel existed, it lay between the dead, who had not
authorised them or me to adjust it; and that they, holding only a life
interest in The Oaks, by virtue of their 'poor brother's' kindly will,
were not authorised either to alienate any part of the fee, or to add to
it, by deed of gift or otherwise; that their 'poor brother' had never
been accustomed to accept gifts of land or of anything else from others,
and finally that they were sure his spirit would not sanction the
purchase, for the miserable consideration of one dollar, of a piece of
land which, till the time of his death, he had believed to be absolutely
his own. There was no use arguing such a case or explaining it. So I
have let it rest, and have gone once a month to dine with The Oaks
ladies, as a matter of duty. It's all absurd, but--"

"But it interferes with your interest in Miss Agatha," broke in the
friend. "Take my advice, and don't let it. Off with you to The Oaks, and
ten to one you'll find the young lady still there. The date of her
departure was not fixed when this diplomatic note was despatched, and as
you were not expected to receive the communication for a week to come,
she is probably still there. If so, by the way, please don't mention my
presence at Warlock. You see--well, I have met the young lady at her
grandfather's, and properly I ought to pay my respects to her, now that
she's a guest on a plantation adjoining that on which I am staying. But
I don't want to. Your saddle-horses jolt so confoundedly, and besides,
I've discovered up-stairs a copy of old T. Gordon's seventeenth century
translation of Tacitus, with his essays on that author, and his
bitter-tongued comments on all preceding translations of his favourite
classic. I want an afternoon with the old boy."

"You certainly are a queer fellow, Marshall," said Baillie.

"How so? Because I like old books? Or is it because I don't like the
jolting of your horses?"

"Why haven't you told me that you knew Miss Agatha Ronald?"

"I have told you--within the last minute."

"But why didn't you tell me before?"

"O, well,--perhaps I didn't think of it. Never mind that. It is time for
you to be off, unless you want the soup and your welcome to grow cold
while waiting for you."

When Baillie had ridden away, Marshall Pollard sat idly for a time in
the porch. Then tossing aside the book he had been holding in his hand
but not reading, he rose and went to his room. There he searched among
his belongings for a little Elzevir volume, and took from between its
leaves a sprig of dried yellow jessamine.

"It is a poisonous flower," he said, as he tossed it out of the window.
"She warned me of that when I took it from her hand. She was altogether
right."

Apparently pursuing a new-born purpose, the young man returned to the
porch, broke off a sprig of honeysuckle leaves--for the vine was not yet
in flower--and carefully placed it between the pages of the Elzevir.

"The honeysuckle," he said to himself, "is unlike the yellow jessamine.
It is sweet and wholesome. So is the friendship of the man from whose
vine I have plucked it."



IV

_IN REVOLT_


When Agatha reached The Oaks, mounted upon Baillie Pegram's mare, her
reception at the hands of her aunts was one of almost stunned
astonishment. The two good ladies had learned an hour before her coming
that she had ridden away alone that morning while yet they had slept,
and they had carefully prepared a lecture upon that exceeding
impropriety, for delivery on the young woman's return.

But when they saw her dismount from Baillie Pegram's mare, they were
well-nigh speechless with horror at her depravity. The deliverance that
had been so carefully prepared for her chastening no longer met the
requirements of the case. A new and far severer rebuke must be
extemporised, and the necessity of that was an additional offence on the
part of the young woman who had forced it upon them. They were not
accustomed to speak extemporaneously on any subject of importance. To do
so involved the danger of saying too much, or saying it less effectively
than they wished, or--worse still--leaving unsaid things that they very
much wished to say. In response to their horrified questionings, Agatha
made the simplest and most direct statement possible.

"The morning was fine, and I wanted to ride. I rode as far as Dogwood
Branch. There my poor horse--the one that my grandfather sent down for
me to ride while here--met with a mishap. His foot went through a hole
in the bridge, and in his struggle to extricate it, he broke his leg.
Mr. Pegram came along and released the poor beastie's foot, but it was
too late. So he insisted upon my taking his mare, and showed me that I
couldn't refuse. He sent his servant to ride on a mule behind me in case
I should have trouble with his only partially broken mare. He promised
to put my poor horse out of his misery. There. That's all there is to
tell."

The little speech was made in a tone and with a manner that suggested
difficult self-restraint. When it was ended the two good aunts sat for
a full minute looking at the girl with eyes that were eloquent of
reproach--a reproach that for the moment could find no fit words for its
expression. At last the torrent came--not with a rushing violence of
speech, but with a steady, overwhelming flow. The girl stood still,
seemingly impassive.

"Will you not be seated?" presently asked Aunt Sarah.

"If you don't mind, I prefer to stand," she answered, in the gentlest,
most submissive tone imaginable, for Agatha--angry and outraged--was
determined to maintain her self-control to the end. Her gentle
submissiveness of seeming deceived her censors to their undoing.
Satisfied that they might rebuke her to their hearts' content, they
proceeded, adding one word of bitter reproach and condemnation to
another, and waxing steadily stronger in their righteous wrath. Still
the girl stood like a soldier under a fire which he is forbidden to
return. Still she controlled her countenance and restrained herself from
speech. Only a slight flushing of the face, and now and then a tremor
of the lip, gave indication of emotion of any kind.

Not until the storm had completely expended its wrath upon her head did
Agatha Ronald open her lips. Then she spoke as Agatha Ronald:

"Will you please order my carriage to be ready for me on Saturday
morning, Aunt Sarah? My maid is too ill to travel to-morrow or the next
day. But by Saturday morning she will be well enough, and I shall begin
my journey to Willoughby at nine o'clock, if you will kindly order a cup
of coffee served half an hour before the usual breakfast-time on
Saturday."

She departed instantly from the room, giving no time or opportunity for
reply or remonstrance.

"Perhaps we have spoken too severely, Jane," said Aunt Sarah.

Perhaps they had. At any rate, it had been Agatha's purpose to remain a
full month longer at The Oaks before beginning the long homeward
carriage journey which alone Colonel Archer permitted to his grandchild.
Railroads were new in those days, and Colonel Archer had not reconciled
himself to them.

"They are convenient for carrying freight," he said, "but a young lady
isn't freight. She should travel in her own carriage."

Later in the day Agatha reappeared, as gentle and smiling as usual, and
as attentive as ever to the comfort of her aunts. Her manner was perfect
in its docility, for she had decided that so long as she should remain
under their roof, it was her duty to herself, and incidentally to her
aunts, to minister in every way she could to their pleasure, and to obey
their slightest indicated wishes implicitly. They were misled somewhat
by her manner, which they construed to be an indication of submission.

"You will surely not think of leaving us on Saturday, dear, now that you
have thought the matter over calmly," said Aunt Sarah; "and perhaps we
spoke too severely this morning. But you will overlook that, I am sure,
in view of the concern we naturally feel for your bringing up."

A bitter and convincing speech was on the girl's lips ready for
delivery,--a speech in which she should declare her independence, and
assert her right as a woman fully grown to determine her conduct for
herself within the limits of perfect innocence,--but she drove it back
into her heart, and restrained her utterance to the single sentence:

"I shall begin my journey on Saturday morning."

Agatha Ronald was in revolt against an authority which she deemed
oppressive, and such revolt was natural enough on the part of a daughter
of Virginia whose ancestry included three signers of the Declaration of
Independence, and at least half a dozen fighting soldiers of the
Revolution. It was in her blood to resent and resist injustice and to
defy the authority that decreed injustice. But after the fashion of
those revolutionary ancestors of hers, she would do everything with due
attention to "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind." She had
decided to quit The Oaks because she could not and would not longer
submit to a discipline which she felt to be arbitrary, unreasonable, and
unjust. But she was determined to be as gentle and as gentlewomanly as
possible in the manner of her leaving. It was her fixed purpose never
again to visit that plantation--her birthplace--until she should be
summoned thither to take possession as its sole inheritor, but she let
slip no hint of this determination to distress her aunts, who, after
all, meant only kindness to her by their severity.

"I'll say nothing about it," she resolved. "I'll just go back to
Chummie. He understands me, and I'll never leave him again."



V

_AT THE OAKS_


When Baillie Pegram rode into The Oaks grounds on that third Friday of
April, 1861, the first person he encountered was none other than Agatha.
She was gowned all in white, except that she had tied a cherry-coloured
ribbon about her neck. She was wholly unbonneted, and was armed with a
little gardening implement--hoe on one side and miniature rake on the
other. She was busy over a flower-bed, and the young man, rounding a
curve in the shrubbery, came upon her, to the complete surprise of both.

The situation might have been embarrassing but for the ease and perfect
self-possession with which the girl accepted it. She greeted her
visitor, to his astonishment, without any of the hauteur that had marked
her demeanour on the occasion of their last previous meeting. Here at
The Oaks she felt herself under the entirely adequate protection of her
aunts. She had therefore no occasion to stand upon the defensive. Out
there at the bridge she had been herself solely responsible for her
conduct, and dependent upon herself for the maintenance of her dignity.
Here Mr. Baillie Pegram was the guest of her people, while out there he
had been a person casually and unwillingly encountered, and not on any
account to be permitted any liberty of intercourse. Besides all these
conclusive differences of circumstance, there was the additional fact
that Agatha was in revolt against authority, and very strongly disposed
to maintain her perfect freedom of innocent action. So she gave her
visitor a garden-gloved hand as he dismounted, and slowly walked with
him toward the house.

"I attended an opera once," she chattered, "when I was a very little
girl. I remember that I thought the basso a porpoise, and the tenor a
conceited popinjay, and the prima donna a fat woman, but I fell
completely in love with the haymakers in the chorus. So whenever I go
gardening I find myself instinctively trying to make myself look as like
them as I can. That, I suppose, is why I tied a red ribbon about my
neck this morning."

Here Baillie Pegram missed an opportunity to make a particularly gallant
and flattering speech. To any other woman, under like circumstances, he
would have said something of her success in making a charmingly
attractive picture of herself. But there was much of reverence in his
admiration for Agatha, and he felt that a merely complimentary speech
addressed to her would be a frivolous impertinence. So instead he asked:

"Do you often go out gardening?"

"O, yes, always when the weather permits, and sometimes when it forbids.
At Willoughby I've often gone out in a waterproof to train my flowers
and vines. I'm just going away from The Oaks, and I've been digging up a
hideously formal bed which the gardener's soul delights in, and sowing
mixed portulaca instead of the priggish plants. Portulaca smiles at you,
you know, when you get up soon enough in the morning to see it in its
glory. But I'll never see the smiles in this case."

"But why not?"

"Why, I'm leaving The Oaks on Saturday, you know,--or rather you do not
know,--and I'm not coming back for a long, long time."

"May I again presume to ask why not?"

"O, well, I must go to my grandfather. If I don't he'll enlist or join a
company, or get a commission, or whatever else it is that a man does
when he makes a soldier out of himself. You see I'm the only person who
can manage my grandfather."

"But surely, at his age--"

"O, yes, I know. He's over eighty now, but you don't know him very well,
or you'd understand. He was a soldier under Jackson at New Orleans, and
a colonel in the Mexican War, and he'll go into this war, too, if I
don't go home and tell him he mustn't. I'm going to-morrow morning."

Manifestly the girl wanted to chatter. Women often do that when they are
anxious to avoid serious conversation. If men never do it, it is only
because they lack the intellectual alertness necessary. They hem and
haw, and make stupid remarks about the weather instead, and succeed only
in emphasising the embarrassment which a woman would completely bury
under charming chatter.

"You haven't seen my aunts yet, I suppose?" Miss Agatha presently asked.

"No. I'm just arriving at The Oaks. I dine here, you know, on the third
Friday of every month."

"Yes--so I've heard. I don't think the aunties expected you to-day.
They'll be glad to see you, of course, but I think they thought you were
still in Richmond."

Baillie wondered if this was a covert rebuke to him for having ventured
upon the premises while Agatha was still there. The girl was not
altogether an easy person to understand. In any case her remark revealed
the fact that the question of his coming had been discussed in the house
and decided in the negative. It was with some embarrassment, therefore,
that he presented himself to those formidable personages, The Oaks
ladies, and tried to treat his own coming quite as a matter of course.
But if his presence was in any wise unwelcome to them, there was nothing
in their demeanour to suggest the fact. They expressed no surprise
whatever, and only a placid, well-bred self-congratulation that absence
had not deprived them of the pleasure of his company at dinner, as they
had feared that it might. Then one of them added:

"It is unfortunate that Agatha is to dine at The Forest to-day, with our
cousins, the Misses Blair. By the way," tinkling a bell, "it is time to
order the carriage, and for you to change your gown, Agatha, dear."

Baillie Pegram happened to catch sight of the young girl's face as these
words were spoken, and he read there enough of surprise to convince him
that if it had been previously arranged for her to drive to The Forest
for dinner, she at least had heard nothing of the matter until now. But
whether the surprise reflected in her face was one of pleasure or the
reverse, she gave him no chance to guess. She merely glanced at the tall
and slowly ticking clock, and said:

"I'll go at once, auntie. I did not know it was so late. Excuse the
abruptness of my leave-taking, Mr. Pegram, and let me say good-bye, for
I leave for Willoughby to-morrow morning."

It was all an admirable bit of acting--the more admirable, Baillie
thought, for the reason that the scene had been suddenly extemporised
and not rehearsed--for he was satisfied that Agatha at least had been
completely surprised by the announcement that she was to dine at The
Forest that day.

Unfortunately the acting was destined to be wasted, for almost
immediately after Agatha's departure for her chamber, a carriage drove
up, and Baillie gallantly assisted Miss Blair herself to alight from it.
She greeted her cousins of The Oaks effusively in the ceaseless speech
with which it was her practice to meet and greet her friends.

"Isn't it good of me, Cousin Sarah and Cousin Jane? I had a positive
headache to-day, but I was determined to drive over and dine with you,
so as to bid Agatha good-bye. Where is the dear child? You see we heard
only this morning that she had changed her plans and was going to leave
us to-morrow. So I just had to come and dine"--and so forth, through a
speech that fortunately gave The Oaks ladies time a-plenty in which to
collect their wits and avoid all appearance of discomfiture.

"You are always so good and thoughtful," said Miss Sarah, as soon as
Miss Blair left a little hole in her conversation. "We knew you'd want
to see Agatha before she left, and we were just planning to send her to
you for dinner. In fact she's gone up to dress. But this is so much
better, particularly as we have Mr. Baillie Pegram with us, too. This is
his regular day, you know, and he is always so mindful of his
engagements. We had feared we should miss seeing him to-day, as he was
away in Richmond; but he got home in time, and he never fails us when
within reach. He has an admirable habit of punctuality which the other
young men of our rather lax time might emulate with advantage."

Here was Baillie Pegram's opportunity, but he missed it. If he had
possessed one-half or one-tenth the tact that Agatha had shown fifteen
minutes before, he would have protested that, much to his regret, he
could not remain to dinner that day, as he had a guest of his own at
Warlock, and had ridden over only to make his apologies and express his
regret. But Baillie Pegram, not being a woman, did not think of the
right thing to say until it was one full minute too late, wherefore, of
course, it would not do for him to say it at all.

What a pity it is that men can't be women--sometimes! Just for lack of
that tact which is instinctive in a woman, the master of Warlock was
doomed to dine that day under a sense of intrusion on his part, which
certainly did not contribute to his enjoyment of the dinner or the
company. But he had only himself to blame, and, like the resolute fellow
that he was, he determined to bear the consequences of his blundering
stupidity with the best grace he could. He professed the keenest delight
in the unexpected pleasure of having Miss Blair for his fellow guest,
adding, with an obeisance to The Oaks ladies, "Though of course one
needs no other company than that of our hostesses themselves, to make
the day of a dinner at The Oaks altogether delightful."

Obviously the young man was improving in tactfulness under the stimulus
of circumstances.

When dinner was served half an hour later, he gave his arm to Miss
Sarah, and entered the stately but gloomy old dining-room, with its
high-backed, carved mahogany chairs, its stained-glass cathedral
windows, and its general atmosphere of solemnity and depression, with
such grace as a resolute spirit could command. He managed to taste the
dishes as they were served, and to carve without a mishap of any kind,
but in the matter of conversation he was certainly not brilliant, though
he had the approaching war for his theme.

After the old English custom which survived in Virginia, the wine--a
rich old Madeira--was not served until the dessert was removed. Then it
came on with the cigars. The ladies sipped a single glass each, and
rose, whereupon the young man gallantly held open the great door, bowing
as the womankind took their departure.

When they had gone, there being no gentleman present except himself,
young Pegram was left alone with the wine, the cigars, a single wax
candle for cigar-lighting purposes,--and Henry. Henry was the perfectly
trained butler of the establishment, a butler taught from childhood, by
his late master, to comport himself always with the dignity of a
diplomat who has dined. He stood bolt upright behind the young man's
chair, eager to anticipate every want, and anticipating them all without
a false movement or any suggestion of hurry. Henry had presided as
butler in his late master's establishment when that master kept "open
house" as a distinguished senator in Washington, and it was the
serving-man's boast that he "knew what a gentleman wants and when he
wants it."

But Henry's very propriety became irksome to Baillie Pegram presently.
It reminded him of his own lack of any ease except a forcibly assumed
one. "Henry feels himself in his proper place," the young man reflected.
"I do not."

It was not the young man's habit to take more than a glass or two of
wine after dinner, and on this occasion he had no relish even for that
small allowance. Yet he sat with it for a sufficient time to show proper
respect for the hospitality of the house. He held his glass up between
him and the stained-glass windows, and went through all the motions of
watching the play of colours through the amber liquid, quite as if his
relish for it had been that of a confirmed _bon vivant_. Finally he
lighted a fresh cigar, and said to Henry: "It is quite warm. I think
I'll finish my cigar out among the shrubbery. Please say to the ladies
that I'll join them within half an hour."

He was not destined, however, to fulfil this promise. For, as he passed
out into the shrubbery, he encountered Miss Agatha by an accident which
that young lady had in all probability arranged with the utmost care, as
women do sometimes. She very much wanted speech with Baillie.

"I want to thank you, Mr. Pegram," she said, eagerly, "for not making a
scene. It was very hard on you--the situation, I mean--and you have
spared me at every point. Perhaps you had better take your leave now as
quickly as you can."

But the young man's courage had completely come back to him, with
something of the dare-devil spirit added to it: as the soldier beset,
sometimes comes to relish danger for its own sake, and deliberately
invites more of it, so Baillie Pegram, knowing perfectly that he had
completely outraged the proprieties, as The Oaks ladies interpreted
them, was minded to outrage them still further. Having braved the
situation to this point, he was determined to brave it out to the
end--whatever the end might be. So to the girl's suggestion, he
answered:

"But the day is not over yet, and the piazzas of The Oaks fortunately
include one with a western aspect. Let us sit there and enjoy the
sunset. We'll join the ladies later."

The girl consented, willingly enough. She was already in revolt, for one
thing, and she knew that her aunts would not venture again to censure
her severely, after what had happened.

"But you must not misunderstand me, Mr. Pegram," she said, as the two
seated themselves in the great oaken chairs fabricated on the plantation
during colonial times. "I have declared my independence so far as to
insist upon my right to treat you with courtesy upon occasion. But you
must not suppose that I have forgotten the gulf that lies between us,
and especially you must not interpret my attitude to mean that I am
disloyal to the memory of my poor father."

"I quite understand," he answered, meditatively and sadly. "You and I
are privileged, by your good pleasure, to treat each other with formal
courtesy, but I must not in any way presume upon that privilege beyond
its intention."

The girl sat silent, looking wistfully out into the glow that had
followed the sunset. Finally she said:

"I suppose that is it. It is a hard situation to deal with--for me."

"And for me," the youth replied.

"Yes, for you, too, I suppose. But neither of us is responsible. We must
recognise conditions and do the best we can."

"I quite understand. You give me leave hereafter to behave like a
gentleman toward you, whenever circumstances shall happen to force any
sort of intercourse upon us; but beyond that you remind me that there is
war between your house and mine, and between me and thee. It is not a
treaty of peace that you offer, or even a protocol looking to peace; it
is only an amenity of war, like a cartel for the exchange of prisoners,
or a temporary truce, for the burial of the dead who have fallen between
the lines."

This statement of the case did not at all satisfy the bewildered girl's
mind, but there was no opportunity to correct it, for at that moment a
maid came with a formally polite message to the effect that if Mr.
Pegram and Miss Ronald had _quite_ finished their conversation in the
porch, the Misses Ronald and Miss Blair were waiting to receive them in
the library.

"After all," Agatha thought, afterward, "I do not know that I could have
bettered his definition of the situation. But it isn't one that I like."

All skies seemed serene as the two miscreants entered the library,
Baillie making all that was necessary of apology by saying:

"Pardon us, good ladies, I pray you. We have lingered too long in the
porch, but you will graciously attribute our fault to the unusual beauty
of the sunset. Sunsets mean so much, you know. They suggest the end of
pleasant things and the coming of a darkness to which we do not know the
dawn. I cannot help thinking that the sunset that Miss Ronald and I have
been witnessing is typical. Our beautiful Virginia life is at its
sunset. A night-time of war and suffering is approaching, and we cannot
know of the day that must follow."

At this point Miss Blair relieved the situation by giving the
conversation a thoroughly practical and commonplace turn.

"Why, Mr. Pegram," she exclaimed, "you surely do not doubt the outcome
of the war? You confidently expect the triumph of our righteous cause?"

"Well, I hope for it. But the size and the number of the guns will have
something to do with the result, and our enemies can put four or five
men and four or five guns to our one in the field. It is a dark night
that must follow our sunset. We can only do our best, and leave the
result to God. Ladies, I bid you good night, and good-bye; for I fear I
shall see none of you again soon. I shall be off soldiering almost at
once."



VI

_NEXT MORNING_


If Baillie Pegram imagined that by his parting words he had silenced the
batteries of The Oaks ladies, he totally misjudged his enemy. For in
spite of his intimation of intent not to dine at The Oaks again, there
came to him at breakfast the next morning a little note in which the
good ladies calmly reasserted their privilege of deciding such matters
for themselves quite irrespective of the wishes or purposes of young
persons of whatever sex or degree.

     "The Misses Ronald present their respectful compliments to Mr.
     Baillie Pegram," the note ran, "and beg to say that in view of the
     terribly disturbed condition of the times, it is their purpose
     presently to close The Oaks for a season, so far at least as the
     entertainment of guests is concerned. They may perhaps go upon a
     journey. As to that, their plans are as yet unformed, but at any
     rate it is their purpose not to entertain again for the present,
     except by special invitation to their nearest intimates. They feel
     it incumbent upon them to give timely notice of this alteration in
     the customs of their house to those valued friends who, like Mr.
     Pegram, have been accustomed to dine at The Oaks at stated
     intervals.

     "With sincere good wishes for Mr. Pegram's safety and good fortune
     in that soldierly career to which he feels himself summoned by the
     circumstances of the time, and in full confidence that he is
     destined to win for himself the laurels that befit one of his
     distinguished ancestry, The Oaks ladies remain,

     "Most respectfully,

     "SARAH RONALD,
     "JANE RONALD."

Having read the joint note, Baillie passed it to his friend at the other
end of the breakfast-table, saying: "Read that, old fellow, and see what
has come of following your madcap advice."

Pollard carefully read the letter through, and then asked:

"Well, what of it?"

"Why, don't you see, by going to The Oaks yesterday as you advised, I've
managed to get myself forbidden the house."

"Well, what of that? I don't understand that you have any passionate
desire to dine with the estimable old ladies every month, and I think
you told me last night, when I was trying to get a nap, that Miss Agatha
is leaving this morning."

"Yes, of course. But can't you understand that it's a disagreeable and
humiliating thing thus to be forbidden the house, just as if I were
guilty of some misconduct--"

"O, yes, I understand perfectly. It is exceedingly inconvenient to find
yourself at odds with the elderly female relatives of a young
gentlewoman to whom you would very much like to pay your addresses. But
in this case, I do not see that it complicates matters very much, as you
told me yourself yesterday that the case is hopeless--that there is
already an impassable barrier between yourself and Miss Agatha Ronald,
so what difference does it make? When you've a ten-rail staked and
ridered fence in front of you, a rail more or less doesn't signify much.
I'll tell you, Baillie, you must do as I've done. In view of the
chances of war, which are apt to worry one who thinks much about them, I
have decided to accept and believe the fatalistic philosophy, which
teaches that what is to be will be, even if it never happens."

Pegram sat silent for a while before answering. Then he said:

"Be serious for a little if you can, Pollard, I want to talk with you.
You were right after all in what you said to me yesterday, though at the
time I regarded it as unutterable nonsense. It seems absurd, under the
circumstances, but the fact is that--well, that Agatha Ronald has
somehow come to mean more to me than any other woman ever did or ever
will. Perhaps I shouldn't have found out the fact for a long time to
come, if it hadn't been for what you said to me yesterday. But I've
found it out now, and I know all that it means to me. It means that I've
made a fool of myself, and I must set to work to repair the mistake.
Fortunately, the way is open, and that is what I want to say to you. I'm
going to leave you to-day. I'm going to Richmond to volunteer in one of
the batteries there that are already organised, armed, and equipped,
and nearly ready for the field. They'll be the first sent to the front,
and I intend to put myself at the front just as speedily as I can."

"But why not do better than that for yourself?" asked Pollard.

"What better is there that I can do?"

"Why not raise a battery of your own, and command it? You know Governor
Letcher, and you have influence in plenty. You can have a captain's
commission for the asking."

"I suppose I might. But I am strongly impressed with the fact that there
are altogether too many men in like predicament--too many men whose
position and influence entitle them to expect commissions while, like
me, they know nothing whatever of the military art. We need some
privates in this war, and fortunately a good many of us are willing to
serve as such. I am, for one. The number of gentlemen in Virginia whose
position is as good as my own is quite great enough to officer any army
in Europe, and our ignorance of military affairs is great enough to
wreck the best army that was ever organised. I'll not add mine to the
list. I'll go in as a private soldier. If I am ever fit to command, it
will be time enough then for me to ask for a commission. I'm going to
volunteer in the ranks."

"So am I," answered Pollard.

"What? You? When?"

"Yes. Me. Yesterday."

"Well, go on. Don't be provoking. Tell me all about it. When did you do
it, and how, and why? For a generally agreeable young man, I must say,
Marshall, you can make of yourself about as disagreeable a person as I
ever encountered. Come! Tell me!"

Pollard smiled and meditated, as if planning the order of his utterance.
At last he said:

"There isn't much to tell, and I don't know just where to begin. But
after--well, after you rode away to The Oaks yesterday, I got to
thinking and wondering what I should do with myself now that your
companionship was lost to me. There is nobody about for me to fall in
love with, and after all, there is a limit to the entertainment to be
got out of old T. Gordon and his Tacitus. You see, girls never behave
properly toward me. There isn't one of them in ten counties who would
ever think of breaking her horse's leg in a bridge just in time to let
me come to her rescue. Besides, I should probably be on foot, with no
mare to lend the distressed damsel, and, altogether, you see--"

"Will you stop your nonsense, or will you not?" asked Baillie, with
impatience. "Tell me what you did."

"Well, I got Sam to bring me the least objectionable of your abominably
jolting saddle-horses--the bay with three white feet and a blaze on the
face--and I managed to keep a little breath in my body while riding over
to the Court-house. It was my purpose to go to Richmond, and I asked the
old ticket agent to send me, but he obstinately refused. He said there
were only two trains a day, one at noon and one at midnight. I
remonstrated with him, but it was of no use. I explained to him that the
_raison d'être_ of a railroad--I translated the French to him--was to
carry people to whatever place they wished to go to, and at such hours
as might suit their convenience. I told him it was an abominable outrage
that with a railroad lying there unused, he would not send a gentleman
to Richmond without making him wait for eight or ten hours for the
convenience of people whom he knew nothing about. He looked at me rather
curiously when I urged that consideration upon him. I think it rather
staggered him, but he persisted in his obstinate refusal to send me to
Richmond without further delay. He even suggested that I might go
somewhere else, but I interpreted that as meaningless profanity, and
gently explained to him that I did not wish to go to the place he had
mentioned. Then he told me he had no train, and I asked him why he
suffered himself to have no train, when a gentleman wanted one and was
willing to pay for it."

"_Will_ you stop your nonsense, and tell me what happened?" interrupted
Baillie.

Pollard smiled, and continued:

"Now, that question of yours reassures me as to the sanity of the
station agent. It is closely similar to the question he asked, only, by
reason of his lack of cultivation, he interrupted the even and orderly
flow of his English with many objurgative and even violent terms, such
as we do not employ in ordinary converse, but such as stablemen and
innkeepers seem to like to use.

"Despairing of my efforts to secure reasonable public service at the
hands of the railroad, I looked about me, and presently encountered
Captain Skinner. You know him, of course--lives at the Kennels, or some
such place--keeps a lot of dogs, and drinks a good deal more whiskey
than would be good for most men. But he is a West Pointer, you know, and
served for a considerable time in the Indian wars. He was at
Chapultepec, too, I think. At any rate, he mentioned the fact in
connection with his missing arm. He told me he was going to raise a
battery in the purlieus of Richmond. He said he didn't want a company of
young bloods, but one of soldiers. He proposes to enlist wharf-rats down
at Rockett's, and ruffians, and especially jailbirds. 'There are more
than a hundred as good men as ever smelt gunpowder or stopped a bullet
in its career,' he said, 'now languishing in the Richmond jails and the
Virginia State Penitentiary. Governor Letcher promises me that he will
pardon all of them who choose to enlist with me, and I'm going to look
them over. Those that are fit to make soldiers of, I'll enlist, and
after a week or two of drilling I'll have a battery ready for the
field.'

"His idea pleased me, so I told him to put me down as the first man on
his list. He objected at first. You see, I've had no experience as a
ruffian, and I never served a term in jail in my life, but I convinced
him that I would make a good cannonier, and he enrolled me. I am to
report to him at Rockett's by the day after to-morrow."

To Baillie's remonstrances and pleadings that his friend should choose a
company of gentlemen in which to serve, Marshall turned a deaf ear.

"When I become a soldier," he said, "and put myself under another man's
command, I want that other man to be one who knows something about the
business. Captain Skinner knows what to do with a gun and a gunner, and
I've a pretty well-defined notion that most of our coming captains have
all that yet to learn, and besides--well, I've given you reasons
enough."

"Besides what, Marshall? What were you going to say?"

"O, nothing that you would understand or sympathise with. It's only that
somehow I don't want to be in a company of gentlemen turned soldiers,
where I should be sure to meet our kind of people on terms of social
equality now and then. As a common soldier, I should find it rather
embarrassing at a military ball to have a lady put me on her
dancing-list while scornfully refusing a like favour perhaps to the
officer who must assign me to guard-duty next morning."

In thus answering, Marshall Pollard equivocated somewhat. He made no
mention of the little jessamine and honeysuckle incident, but perhaps
there was something behind that which helped to determine his course in
choosing Captain Skinner's company for his own, thus placing himself
among men wholly without the pale of that society in which sprigs of
jessamine are given and cherished, and now and then thrown out of the
window. At any rate, the young man seemed disposed to change the course
of the conversation.

"Now, Baillie," he said, "you've catechised me quite enough for one
morning. Tell me about yourself. Why are you going off to Richmond to
enlist in one of the batteries there, instead of joining your neighbours
and friends here in organising one or other of the companies they are
forming?"

"For the simple reason that I want to be in the middle of this mix as
soon as possible. Those Richmond batteries are already fit to take the
field, and they'll be hurling shells at the enemy and dodging shells on
their own account before these companies here learn which way a
sergeant's chevrons should point. I want to get to the front among the
first, that's all."

Sending for Sam, he bade that worthy pack a small saddle valise for him
with a few belongings, and when, an hour later, the two friends were
ready for their departure, Sam presented himself, clad in his best, and
carrying a multitudinous collection of skillets, kettles, and
frying-pans, with other and less soldierly belongings. When asked by his
master, "What does this mean?" Sam answered, in seeming astonishment at
the question:

"Why, Mas' Baillie, you'se a-gwine to de wah, an' of co'se Sam's a-gwine
along to take k'yar o' you."

"Of course Sam is going to do no such thing," answered the young man.
"Go and put away your pots and pans."

"But, Mas' Baillie," remonstrated the negro boy, in a nearly tearful
voice, "who's a-gwine to take k'yar o' you ef Sam ain't thar? Whose
a-gwine to clean yer boots, an' bresh yer clo'se, an' cook yer victuals,
an' all that?"

The master was touched by the boy's devotion, though he justly suspected
that a yearning for adventure had quite as much to do with Sam's wish to
"go to de wah," as his desire to be of service to a kindly master.

"But, Sam," he said, "a common soldier doesn't carry his personal
servant with him. If we did that, there wouldn't be enough--"

"A common soldier!" Sam broke in, exercising that privilege of
interrupting his master's speech which the personal servants of
Virginians always claimed for their own. "A common soldier! Who says
Mas' Baillie'll be a common soldier? De mastah of Warlock ain't a common
nuffin'. He's a Pegram, he is, an' de Pegrams ain't never been common
yit, an' dey ain't a-gwine to be."

"But, Sam," argued his master, "you see we're all going to war. We can't
carry our servants with us any more than we can carry our feather beds
or our foot-tubs. We must do things for ourselves, now."

"But who's a-gwine to cook your victuals, Mas' Baillie?"

"I reckon I'll have to do that for myself," answered the master.

"What? You? Mas' Baillie Pegram a-gittin' down on his knees in de mud
an' a-smuttin' up of his han's an' his face, an' a-wrastlin' with pots
an' kittles? Well, I'd jes' like to see you a-doin' of that!"

Baillie was disposed to amuse himself with the boy; so he said:

"But your mammy says you don't know how to cook, Sam, and that you don't
seem to know how to learn."

This staggered Sam for an instant, but he promptly rose to the
emergency.

"I kin 'splain all dat, Mas' Baillie. You see, I'se done been a-foolin'
o' mammy. Mammy, she's de head cook at Warlock; she's a-gittin' old, an'
de rheumatiz an' de laziness is a-gittin' into her bones. So she's done
tried to make Sam take things offen her shoulders. But I'se done see de
situation. I'se watched mammy so long dat I kin cook anything from a
Brunswick stew to an omelette sufferin', jes' as good as mammy kin. But
it 'ud never 'a' done to let her know that, else she'd 'a' shouldered
the whole thing onter Sam. So when she done set me to watch somethin'
she's a-cookin' while she's busy with somethin' else, I jes' had to let
it spile some way, in self-defence. Of co'se, I had to run out'n de
kitchen after that, a-dodgin' o' de pots an' kittles mammy throwed at my
head--an' sometimes I didn't dodge quick enough, either--but de result
was de same. Mammy was sure I couldn't cook, an' dat's what she done
tole you, Mas' Baillie. But I kin cook, sho'. An' please, Mas' Baillie,
you'll let me go 'long wid you?"

The time was growing short now, and Baillie sent the boy away, saying:

"If I ever get to be an officer, Sam, and am allowed a servant, I'll
send for you. But you'd better learn all you can about cooking while
we're waiting for that."

Sam was disconsolate. He went to the detached kitchen building--for no
Virginian ever suffered cooking to be carried on within fifty feet of
his dwelling--and sat down and buried his face in his hands and rocked
himself backward and forward, moaning dismally.

"I'd jes' like to know," he muttered to the pickaninnies, standing by in
their simple costume of long shirts and nothing else, "I'd jes' like to
know what's a-gwine to become o' dis here Warlock plantation an' dese
here niggas, now dat Mas' Baillie's done gone off to git hisself killed
in de wah. De chinch-bug is a-gwine to eat de wheat dis summer sho'. De
watermillions is a-gwine to run all to vines. De 'bacca worms an' de
grasshoppas is a-gwine to chew up all de terbacca befo' men gits a
chawnce at it. De crows is a-gwine to pull up all de cawn--an' dey might
as well, too, fer ef dey didn't, it 'ud wither in de rows. Don't yer
understan', you stupid little niggas, you'se a-gwine to stawve to death,
you is, an' you better believe it. Mas' Baillie's done gone to git
hisself killed, I tells you, an' you'se got a mighty short time till yer
stomicks gits empty an' shet up an' crampy like. You'se a-gwine to
stawve to death, sho', an' it'll hurt wus'n as ef you'd a-swallered a
quart o' black cherries 'thout swallerin' none o' de seeds fer safety."

By this time all the young negroes were wailing bitterly, and they would
not be comforted until Sam's mammy set out a kettle of pot-liquor, and
gave them pones of ash-cake to crumble into it. After that, Sam's
prophecies of evil departed from their inconstant minds. But Sam did not
recover so quickly. For days afterward he moped in melancholy,
occasionally stretching his big eyes to their utmost while he solemnly
delivered some dismal prophecy of evil to come.



VII

_A FAREWELL AT THE GATE_


When the two friends reached the outer gates of Warlock plantation on
their way to the Court-house, Marshall, to whose queer ways his friend
was thoroughly well used, called a halt.

"Let us dismount," he said, "and consider what we are doing."

When they had seated themselves upon the carpet of pine-needles, the
meditative youth resumed:

"Does it occur to you, Baillie," he asked, "that when you and I pass
through yonder gate, we shall leave behind us for ever the most
enjoyable life that it ever fell to the lot of human beings to lead? Do
you realise that we may never either of us come back through that gate
again, and that if we do, it will only be to find all things changed? We
are at the end of a chapter. The next chapter will be by no means like
unto it."

"I confess I don't quite understand," answered the less meditative one.

"Well, this easy-going, delightful Virginian life of ours has no
counterpart anywhere on this continent or elsewhere in the world, and we
have decided to put an end to it. For this war is going to be a very
serious thing to us Virginians. Virginia is destined to be the
battle-field. Greater armies than have ever before been dreamed of on
this continent are going to trample over her fields, and meet in
dreadful conflict on the margins of her watercourses. Her homes are
going to be desolated, her fields laid waste, her substance utterly
exhausted, and her people reduced to poverty in a cause that is not her
own, and in behalf of which she unselfishly risks all for the sake of an
abstraction, and in defence of a right on the part of other States which
Virginia herself had seen no occasion to assert in her own defence.
Whatever else happens in this war, all that is characteristic in
Virginian life, all that is peculiar to it, all that lends loveliness to
it, must be sacrificed on the altar of duty.

"I don't at all know how the change is to come about, or what new things
are destined to replace the old; but I see clearly that the old must
give way to something new. Perhaps, after all, that is best. Ours has
been a beautiful life, and a peculiarly picturesque one, but it is not
in tune with this modern industrial world. It has its roots in the past,
and the past cannot endure. We have thus far been able to go on living
in an ideal world, but the real world has been more and more asserting
itself, and even if no war were coming on to upset things, things must
be upset. Railroads and telegraphs have come to us rather in spite of
our will than by reason of it. We have realised their convenience in a
fashion, but they are still foreign and antagonistic to our ideas. The
older gentlemen among us still prefer to make long journeys on horseback
rather than go by rail, while very many of them insist resolutely upon
sending their womankind always in private carriages, even when they go
long distances to the mountains for the summer.

"We are living in the past and fighting off the present, but the present
will successfully assert itself in the end. You have yourself rejected
all the overtures of the speculators who have wanted to open coal mines
on Warlock plantation, but the time will come when you'll be glad to be
made richer than any Pegram ever dreamed of being by the sinking of mine
shafts among your lawn trees.

"If you are lucky enough to survive this war, you'll see a new labour
system established, and learn to regard the men who work for you, not as
your dependents, for whom you are responsible, and for whose welfare you
feel a sympathetic concern, but as so many 'employees,' to be dealt with
through a trades union, and kept down to the lowest scale of wages
consistent with their living and working.

"I am not advocating the new, or condemning the old. I am only pointing
out the fact that the new is surely destined to triumph over the old,
and replace it.

"The negroes in Virginia are beyond question the best paid, the best
fed, the best housed, and altogether the best cared for labouring
population on earth. They are secure in childhood and in old age and in
illness, as no other labouring people on earth are. They are happy, and
in important ways they are even freer than any other labouring class
ever was. But they are slaves, and modern thought insists that they
would be better off as free men, even though freedom should bring to
them a loss of happiness and a loss of that well-nigh limitless liberty
which they enjoy as bondsmen, under care of kindly masters.

"Mind you, Baillie, I am not arguing for or against the claims of modern
thought. I am only pointing out the fact that it is resistless, and will
have its way. All history teaches that. Even chivalry, armed as it was
from head to heel, and limitlessly courageous as it was, could not hold
its own against commercialism, when commercialism became dominant as the
thought that represented the aspirations of men. Not even prejudice or
sentiment can prevail against progress.

"John Ruskin is even now protesting in the name of æsthetics against the
scarring of England with railroad embankments, and the pollution of
England's air with the vomitings of unsightly factory chimneys; but
neither the extension of the British railway system nor the
multiplication of British factories halts because of his protests.

"Henry Clay was never so eloquent as when pleading against protective
tariffs as something that threatened this country with a system like
that of Manchester, in which men were divided into mill owners and mill
operatives, with antagonistic interests; yet Henry Clay was forced by
the conditions of his time to become the apostle of industrial
protection by tariff legislation.

"My thesis is that no man and no people can for long stand in the way of
what the Germans call the _zeitgeist_--the spirit of the age. Neither, I
think, can any people stand apart from that spirit and let it pass them
by. That is what we Virginians have been trying to do. The time has come
when we are going out to fight the _zeitgeist_, and the _zeitgeist_ is
going to conquer us."

"You expect the South to fail in the war, then?" asked Baillie.

"I don't know. We may fail or we may win. But in either case the old
régime in the Old Dominion will be at an end when the war is over.
Virginia will become a modern State, whatever else happens, and the old
life in which you and I were brought up will become a thing of the past,
a matter of history, the memory of which the novelists may love to
recall, but the conditions of which can never again be established.

"Fortunately, none of these things needs trouble us. They make no
difference whatever in our personal duty. Virginia has proclaimed her
withdrawal from the Union, under the declared purpose of the Union to
make war upon her for doing so. It is for us to fight in Virginia's
cause as manfully as we can, leaving God, or the Fates, or whatever else
it is that presides over human affairs, to take care of the result.

"Come! The time is passing; we must hurry in order to catch that train
which represents the modern progress that is destined to ride over us
and crush us. Good-bye, old Virginia life! God bless you for a good old
life! May we live as worthily in the new, if we survive to see the
new!"



VIII

_A RED FEATHER_


The sun shone with the fervent heat of noonday in mid-July, as the long
line of cannon and caissons came lumbering down the incline of the
roadway that leads from the mountainside into the little railway
village. The breath of the guns was still offensively sulphurous, for
there had been no time in which to cleanse them since their work of
yesterday. The officers and non-commissioned officers on their horses,
and the cannoniers who rode upon the ammunition-chests, were
powder-grimed and dusty--for there had been no opportunity on this
hurried march for those ablutions that all soldiers so eagerly delight
in.

There were no shouted commands given, for this battery had been three
times under fire, and one of the first things an officer learns in real
war is not to shout his orders except when the din of battle renders
shouting necessary. Three months ago on parade the captain of this
battery would have bellowed, "Forward into battery!" by way of
impressing his importance upon the lookers-on. Now that he had learned
to be in earnest, he merely turned to his bugler, and said, as if in a
parlour, "Forward into battery, then halt."

A little musical snatch on the bugle did the rest, and with the
precision of a piece of mechanism, the guns were moved into place, each
with its caissons at a fixed distance in the rear, and the command, "At
ease," was followed by a stable-call, in obedience to which the drivers
set to work to feed and groom their horses. For while men may be allowed
to go grimed and dirty on campaign, the horses at least must be curried
and rubbed and sponged into perfect health and comfort whenever there is
opportunity.

Here at the little railway station were assembled all the womankind from
a dozen miles round about. These had come to look upon the Army of the
Shenandoah, with which Johnston, after several days of skirmishing in
the valley with the Federals under Patterson, was hurrying onward to
Manassas to join Beauregard there, in the battle which was so obviously
at hand.

The women of every degree had come, not merely to see the spectacle of
war, but to cheer the soldiers with smiles and words of encouragement,
and still more to minister in what ways they could to their needs. The
maids and matrons thus assembled were gaily clad, for war had not yet
robbed them of the wherewithal to deck themselves as gaily as the lilies
do. They were full of high confidence and ardent hope, for war had not
yet brought to them, and for many moons to come was not destined to
bring to them, the realisation that defeat and disaster are sometimes a
part of the bravest soldiers' fortune. These women believed absolutely
and unquestioningly in the righteousness of the Southern cause, and they
had not yet read the history of Poland, and La Vendée, and the Huguenots
with discretion enough to doubt that victory always in the end crowns
the struggles of those who stand for the right.

How much of disappointment and suffering this curiously perverse reading
of history has wrought, to be sure! And how confidently, in every case,
the men and women on either side of a war commend their cause to Heaven,
in full confidence that God, in his justice, cannot fail to give victory
to the right, and cannot fail to understand that they are right and
their enemies hopelessly wrong. Probably every educated woman among
those who were assembled at the little village on that twentieth day of
July, 1861, had read Motley's histories; every one of them knew the
story of Poland and of Ireland and of La Vendée and the Camisards; but
they still believed that God and not the guns decides the outcome of
battles.

In one article of their faith at least they were absolutely right. They
believed in the courage, the devotion, the unflinching prowess of the
men who had enlisted to fight for their cause. They had come now, at the
approach of a first great battle, to bid these men Godspeed. Four years
later, when war had well-nigh worn out the gallant Army of Northern
Virginia, and when the very hope of ultimate victory, over enormously
superior numbers and against incalculably superior resources, was
scarcely more than an impulse of faith-inspired insanity, these women of
the South were still present and helpful wherever their presence could
cheer, and wherever their help was needed.

To-day, they looked to the morrow for a victory that should make an end
of the war. The victory came with a startling completeness wholly
unmatched in all the history of battles. But the end did not come, and
the war wore itself out, through four long years of brilliant
achievement, alternated with terrible disaster. At Petersburg these
women did not look to the morrow at all, but their courage was the same,
their cheer the same, their devotion the same. It was still their chosen
task to encourage the little remnant of an army which still held the
defensive works with a line stretched out to attenuation. To the very
end--and even after the end--these brave women faltered not nor failed.

When the war began, the women of the South made a gala-day of every day
when soldiers were in sight. As the war neared its calamitous end, all
days were to them days of mourning and of always willing self-sacrifice.

On that twentieth day of July, 1861, the women gathered together were
full of high hope and confidence. Some were perched upon goods boxes,
arranged to serve as seats. Some were tripping about on foot, gliding
hither and thither in gladness, as girls do in a dance, simply because
their nerves were tuned to a high pitch, and their sympathetic feet
refused to be still. But for the most part they sat in their carriages,
with the tops thrown back in defiance of the fervour of the sun.
Defiance was in the air, indeed, and the troops on their way to the
battle-field were not more resolute in their determination to do and to
dare, than were the dames and damsels there gathered together in their
purpose to disregard sunshine and circumstance, while bestowing their
smiles upon these men, their heroes.

After the fashion of the time among volunteers who were presently to
become war-worn into veterans, but who were never to be reduced to the
condition of hireling regulars, the men were free, as soon as a halt was
called, to move about among the feminine throng, greeting their
acquaintances when they had any, and being cheerily greeted by
strangers, in utter disregard of those conventions with which womanhood
elsewhere than in Virginia surrounds itself. There womanhood had always
felt itself free, because it had always felt itself under the protection
of all there was of manhood in the land. No woman in that time and
country was ever in danger of affront, for the reason that no man dared
affront her, lest he encounter vengeance, swift, sure, and relentless,
at the hands of the first other man who might hear of the circumstance.
No Virginian girl of that time had her mind directed to evil things by
the suggestion of chaperonage; and no Virginia gentleman was subjected
to insulting imputation by the refusal of a woman's guardians to entrust
her protection against himself, as against all others, to his chivalry.
So far was the point of honour pressed in such matters, that no man was
free even to make the most deferential proposal of marriage to any woman
while she was actually or technically under his charge and protection.
To do that, it was held, was to place the woman in an embarrassing
position, to subject her to the necessity of accepting the offer on the
one hand, or of declining it while yet under obligation to accept escort
and protection at the hands of the man making it.

Under this rigid code of social intercourse, which granted perfect
freedom to all women, and exacted scrupulous respect for such freedom at
the hands of all men, the intercourse between gentlemen volunteers and
the young women who had come to visit them in camp was even less
restrained than that of a drawing-room, in which all are guests of a
common host, and all are guaranteed, as it were, by that host's
sponsorship of invitation.

In all their dealings with the volunteers, the women of Virginia brought
common sense to bear in a positively astonishing degree, reinforcing it
with abounding good-will and perfect confidence in the manhood of men as
their sufficient shield against misinterpretation. And they were
entirely right in this. For "battle, murder, and sudden death," would
very certainly have been the part of any man in those ranks who should
have failed in due respect to this generosity of mind on the part of
womanhood. The dignity of womanhood was never so safe as when women thus
confidently left its guardianship to the instinctive chivalry of men.

For a time after the halt, Baillie Pegram was too busy to inquire
whether or not any friends of his own were among the throng. For
something had happened to Baillie Pegram over there in the Valley of the
Shenandoah two or three days before. The gun to whose detachment he
belonged as a cannonier had been detached and sent to an exposed
position on the Martinsburg road. The sergeant in command of it had been
killed by a bullet, and the two corporals--the gunner and the chief of
caisson--had been carried to the rear on litters, with bullets in their
bodies. There was absolutely nobody in command of the gun, but Baillie
Pegram was serving as number one at the piece--that is to say, as the
cannonier handling the sponge and rammer. Seeing the badly weakened
gun-crew disposed to falter for lack of anybody to command them, and
seeing, too, the necessity of continuing the fire, Baillie assumed an
authority which did not belong to him in any way.

"Stand to the gun, men!" he cried. "If any man flunks till this job is
done, I'll brain him with my rammer-head, orders or no orders."

A moment later the faltering of number three called upon him for the
execution of his threat, and he instantly did what he had said he
would do, felling the man to the grass, stunned for the time by a quick
blow with the iron-bound rammer-head. Then he called upon number five to
take the recreant's place, and that gun continued its work until the hot
little action was over.

[Illustration: "'_If any man flunks--I'll brain him_'"]

A slouchy-looking personage had been standing by all the while. At the
end of it all he demanded Baillie Pegram's name and rank, and the name
of his battery. That evening Baillie Pegram's captain sent for him, and
said:

"I am going to make you my sergeant-major. I have General Jackson's
request to recognise your good conduct under his eye to-day. Even
without his suggestion I should wish to have you with me as my staff
sergeant. I have kept that post open until now, in order that I might
choose the best man for it."

It should be explained that the rank of sergeant-major is the very
highest non-commissioned rank known to military life. Ordinarily, the
sergeant-major is a regimental non-commissioned officer. But following
the French system, the Confederate regulations allowed every battery of
field-artillery a sergeant-major, if its captain so desired. He
outranked all other non-commissioned officers, and usually exercised a
lieutenant's command in battle--always if any commissioned officer were
absent or disabled.

Thus it came about that Sergeant-Major Baillie Pegram was too busy on
that morning to look up acquaintances among the spectators gathered
there. He had orders to execute, and details of many kinds to look
after, including the making out of that morning report which every
company in the service must daily render, and upon which the commanding
general must rely for information as to the exact number of fighting men
he has available for duty.

Baillie had just completed this task, when some one brought him news
that a lady in a carriage near by wished to speak with him. Having
nothing now to do, he responded to the call, and found Agatha Ronald
awaiting him. She sat in her carriage alone. In her lap was a
work-basket, fully equipped for that mending which these women always
came prepared to do when soldiers were passing by. Baillie had no
mending to be done, but Agatha bade him remove his jacket and deliver it
into her charge.

"We've heard what happened in the Valley the other day," she said, "and
it is not seemly for a sergeant-major to be on duty without the insignia
of his rank. Red is the artillery colour, I believe, and your marks are
three chevrons, with three arches connecting them, are they not?
Fortunately, I brought a roll of red braid. So let me have your coat,
please, and I'll readjust your costume to your rank."

Agatha spoke glibly, but it was under manifest constraint. She forced
and feigned a lightness of mood which she did not feel, and her manner
deceived Baillie Pegram completely, as it was meant to do.

"What a fool I am," he thought, "to expect anything else. She was
embarrassed when I last saw her, and worried, but that was all on
account of her aunts. She is her own mistress to-day, and--well, it is
better so. There'll be a fight to-morrow, and that's fortunate."

At that point the girl interrupted his meditations by saying, in her
assumed tone of lightness, which he so greatly misinterpreted:

"I know there is war between your house and mine, but I'm going to give
aid and comfort to the enemy, if it comforts you to have your chevrons
properly sewed on."

"There can surely be no war between me and thee," he answered, with
earnestness in his tone. "At any rate, I do not make war upon a woman,
and least of all--"

"You must not misunderstand, Mr. Pegram," the girl broke in, looking at
him earnestly out of her great brown eyes. "I esteem you highly, and I
am sorry there is trouble between your house and mine. But I am not
disloyal to the memory of my father. You must never think that. It is
only that you are a gentleman who has been kind to me, and a soldier
whom I honour. But the war endures between your house and mine."

Had she slapped him in the face with her open palm, she could not have
hurt his pride more deeply. He snatched his jacket from her hand. Only
one sleeve was finished, and the needle still hung from it by a thread.

"I'll wear it so," he said. "I, at any rate, have no house. I am the
last of my race, and let me say to you now--for I shall never see you
again of my own free will--that the war between our houses will
completely end when I receive my discharge from life."

Then a new thought struck him.

"It is not for Baillie Pegram, the master of Warlock, that you have done
this," touching the braided sleeve, "but for Baillie Pegram, the soldier
on his way to battle. Let it be so."

Stung by his own words, and controlled by an impulse akin to that which
had seized him at the gun two days before, he reached out and plucked
from her headgear the red feather that she wore there, saying:

"Here! fasten that in my hat. I've a mind to wear it in battle
to-morrow. Then I'll send it back to you."

What demon of the perverse had prompted him to this action, he did not
know, but the girl in her turn seemed subject to its will. Instead of
resenting what he had done, she took the feather and with some quickly
plied stitches fastened it securely to his already soiled and worn
slouch hat. Then handing it back to him, she said:

"Good-bye. God grant that when the feather comes back to me, it be not
stained to a deeper red than now."

At that moment the bugle blew. Baillie touched his hat, bowed low, and
said:

"At least you are a courteous enemy."

"And a generous one?" she asked.

But he did not answer the implied question.

       *       *       *       *       *

When he had gone, Agatha bent low over her work-basket, as if in search
of something that she could not find. If two little tear-drops slipped
from between her eyelids, nobody caught sight of them.

Presently another bugle blew, and as Baillie Pegram's battery took up
the march, the guns and men of Captain Skinner took its place. But this
time there was no mingling of the men with the spectators. Captain
Skinner was too rigid a disciplinarian to permit that, and he knew his
ruffians too well. The moment the battery halted, the sergeant of the
guard posted his sentries, and the men remained within the battery
lines.

Seeing this, Agatha tripped from her carriage, and, work-basket in hand,
started to enter the battery. She was instantly halted by a sentry,
whose appearance did not tempt her to dispute his authority. She
therefore simply said to him, "Call your sergeant of the guard, please."
To the sergeant, when he came, she said, "Will you please report to
Captain Skinner that Miss Agatha Ronald, of Willoughby, asks leave to
enter the battery lines, in order to do such mending for the men as may
be needed?"

But it was not necessary for the sergeant to deliver his message, for
Captain Skinner, way-worn and dusty, at that moment presented himself,
and greeted the visitor.

"It is very gracious of you," he said, "but, my dear young lady, my men
do not belong to that class with which alone you are acquainted. You had
better not visit my camp."

"Your men are soldiers, sir," she said, "and their needs may be quite as
great as those of any others. We are not living in drawing-rooms just
now. I crave your permission to enter the battery."

The captain touched his hat again, signed to the sentry to let the young
woman pass, and then, turning to the sergeant of the guard, said:

"Post ten extra sentinels among the guns, with orders to arrest
instantly any man who utters an oath or in any other way offends this
young lady's ears. See to it yourself that this order is obeyed to the
letter."



IX

_THE BIRTH OF WOMANHOOD_


The captain's stern commands were not needed, and the extra sentinels
had no work to do in restraining the men from offensive speech and
conduct. They courteously saluted as Agatha passed them by, and when
they learned what her kindly mission was, they hurriedly brought armfuls
of saddle-blankets and arranged them as a cushion for her on the top of
a limber-chest. Perched up there, she called for their torn garments,
and nimbly plied her needle and her scissors for the space of half an
hour before observing the sentry who had been posted nearest to her. His
slouch hat, indeed, was drawn down over his eyes in such fashion that
but little of his face could be seen. But looking up at last in search
of further work to do, she recognised the form of Marshall Pollard.
Instantly a deep flush overspread her face, and, dismounting from the
limber-chest, she approached and addressed him. He presented arms and
said to her in French, so that those about them might not understand:

"Pardon me, mademoiselle, but it is forbidden to speak to a sentinel on
duty." With that he recovered arms and resumed the monotonous pacing of
his beat.

As the girl hurried out of the battery, flushed and agitated, she again
encountered Captain Skinner.

"Has anybody been rude to you, Miss Ronald?" he asked, quickly.

"No, Captain Skinner, I have only praise for your men. They have been
courteous in the extreme. I predict that they will acquit themselves
right gallantly in to-morrow's battle."

"O, they're fighters, and will give a good account of themselves if this
muddled railroad management lets us get to Manassas before the fighting
is over."

With thanks to Agatha for her kindness, Captain Skinner bowed low in
farewell.

Springing into her carriage she gave the command, "Home," and drove away
without waiting to see the remainder of the Army of the Shenandoah as
it moved, partly by train, and partly on march, toward the scene of the
coming battle.

During the homeward ride the girl laughed and chatted with her
companions with more than her usual vivacity, quite as if this had been
the gladdest of all her gala-days. But the gaiety was forced, and the
laughter had a nervous note in it which would have betrayed its impulse
to her companions had they been of closely observant habit of mind.

But when she reached home Agatha excused herself to her friends, and
shut herself in her room. Throwing off her hat, but making no other
change in her costume, she stretched herself upon the polished floor,
after a habit she had indulged since childhood whenever her spirit was
perturbed. For an hour she lay there upon the hard ash boards, with her
hands clasped under her head, thinking, thinking, thinking.

"God knows," she thought, "I have tried to do my duty, and it is
bitterly hard for a woman. In loyalty to my dead father's memory, I have
insulted and wounded the only man I could ever have loved, and sent him
away from me in anger and wretchedness. And even in doing that--even in
being cruel to him and to myself, I have fallen short of my duty as
Agatha Ronald. I have weakly yielded something at least of that proud
attitude which it is my duty to my family traditions to maintain. I have
recognised the state of war, but I have parleyed with the enemy. And
Baillie Pegram is at this hour wearing a plume plucked from my hat and
fastened into his by my own hands. God forgive me if I have been
disloyal! But is it disloyalty?"

With that question echoing in her mind she sat up, staring at the wall,
as if trying there to read her answer.

"Is it my duty to cherish a feud that is meaningless to me--to hate a
man who has done no wrong to me or mine, simply because there was a
quarrel between our ancestors before either of us was born? I do not
know! I do not know! But I must be true to my family, true to my race,
true to the traditions in which I have been bred. I have fallen short of
that in this case. I must not err again. I must never again forget, even
for a moment, that Baillie Pegram is my hereditary enemy."

Then she caught herself thinking and almost wishing that a Federal
bullet might end her perplexity--that Baillie Pegram might never live to
see her again. "I wonder," she thought, "if that is what Christ meant
when he said that one who hates his neighbour is a murderer in his
heart. It is all a blind riddle to me. Here have I been brought up a
Christian, taught from my infancy that hatred is murder, and taught at
the same time that it is my highest duty, as a Ronald, to go on hating
all the Pegrams on earth because my father and Baillie Pegram's
grandfather quarrelled over something that I know absolutely nothing
about!"

Presently the girl's mind reverted to the second meeting of that
eventful day,--her encounter with Marshall Pollard. She wondered why he
had enlisted in company with such men as those who constituted Captain
Skinner's battery, for even thus early those men had become known as the
worst gang of desperadoes imaginable,--a band that must be kept day and
night under a discipline as rigid and as watchful as that of any State
prison, lest they lapse into crimes of violence. She wondered if this
meant that the peculiarly gentle-souled Marshall Pollard was trying to
"throw himself away," as she had heard that men disappointed in love
sometimes do,--that he wished to degrade himself by low associations.

"And I am the cause of it all," she mourned. For she knew that Marshall
Pollard had loved her with the love of an honest man, and that his life
had been darkened, to say the least, by her inability to respond to his
devotion. In this case she should have had the consolation of knowing
that she had been guilty of no wilful, no conscious wrong, but, in her
present mood, she was disposed to flagellate her soul for an imagined
offence.

"He came to me," she reflected, "loving me from the first. Little idiot
that I was, I did not understand. I liked him as a girl may like a
boy,--for I was only a girl then,--and I did not dream that the
affection he manifested toward me meant more than that sort of thing on
his part. Those things which ought to have revealed to me his state of
mind meant nothing more to me then than do the little gallantries and
deferences which all men pay to all women. How bitterly he reproached me
at the last for having deceived him and led him on with encouragements
which I at least had not intended as such. Are all women born
coquettes? Is it our cruel instinct to trifle with the souls of men, as
little children love to torture their pets? Have we women no principles,
no earnestness, no consciences--except afterward, when remorse awakens
us? Are we blind, that we do not see, and deaf that we do not hear? Or
is it our nature to be cruel, especially to those who love us and offer
us the best that there is in their strong natures?

"I remember how we stood out there in the grounds, under the jessamine
arbour, as the sun went down; and how at last, when I had made him
understand, he plucked a sprig of the beautiful, golden flowers from the
bunch that I held in my hand, and how I bade him beware, for that the
jessamine is poisonous, and how he replied, 'Not more poisonous than it
is to love a coquette.'

"I remember that he gave me no chance to answer, no opportunity to
protest again my innocence of such intent as he had imputed to me in his
passionate speech, but turned his back and stalked away, with that
stride which I saw again to-day, as he paced his beat. That was two
years ago--and to-day I have seen him again in such company as he would
never have sought but for me,--the willing companion of ruffians, the
associate of desperadoes, the messmate of thieves!"

Agatha was on her feet now, and nervously laying aside one after another
of the little fripperies with which she had decorated her person that
day. She found herself presently half-unconsciously searching for the
gown that she must wear at dinner, though her never-failing maid had
laid it out long before her home-coming, that it might be in readiness
for her need.

A sudden thought came into the suffering girl's mind.

"These two men, whose lives are hurt by their love for me, will suffer
far less than I shall. They are soldiers as strong to endure as they are
strong to dare. They have occupation for all their waking hours. They
will be upon the march, in battle, or otherwise actively employed all
the time. In remembering more strenuous things they will forget their
sorrows and throw aside their griefs as they cast away everything when
they go into battle that may in any wise hinder their activity or
embarrass their freedom. I must sit still here at Willoughby, and think,
and think, and think."

Then like a lightning flash another thought came into her mind, and she
spoke it aloud:

"Why should I be idler than they are? Why should I sit here brooding
while they are toiling and fighting for Virginia? I am no more afraid of
death or of danger than they are, and while women may not fight, there
are other ways in which a woman of courage may render quite as good a
service. I'll do it. I'll take the risks. I'll endure the hardships.
I'll render my country a _service that shall count_."

With that she rang for her maid and bade her prepare a cold plunge bath.
When she descended to dinner, an hour later, Agatha no longer chattered
frivolously, as she had done in the carriage, by way of concealing her
emotions, but bore herself seriously, as became her in view of the
prospect of battle on the morrow.

In that hour of agonising thought, Agatha Ronald had ceased to be a
girl, and had become an earnest, resolute woman, strong to do, strong to
endure, and, if need be, strong to dare. Life had taken on a new meaning
in her eyes.



X

_IN ACTION_


It was midnight when the battery to which Baillie was attached reached
Manassas Junction. The men were weary and half-starved after three days
of fighting and marching, and the horses, worn out with dragging the
guns and caissons over well-nigh impassable roads, were famishing for
water. But an effort to secure water and forage for them failed, and so
did an effort to secure water and rations for the men.

For on the eve of the first great battle of the war the Southern army
was in a state of semi-starvation which grew worse with every hour that
brought fresh relays of troops but no new supplies of food. Already had
begun that course of extraordinary mismanagement in the supply
departments at Richmond which throughout the war kept the Army of
Northern Virginia constantly half-starving or wholly starving, even
when, as at Manassas, it lay in the midst of a land of abounding plenty.

All the efforts of the generals commanding in the field to remedy this
state of things by drawing upon the granaries and smoke-houses round
about them for supplies that were in danger of presently falling into
the enemy's hands, were thwarted by the stupid obstinacy of a
crack-brained commissary-general. It was his inexplicable policy, while
the army lay at Manassas with an unused railroad reaching into the rich
fields to the west, to forbid the purchase of food and forage there
except by his own direct agents, who were required to send it all to
Richmond, whence it was transported back again, in such meagre
quantities as an already overtaxed single track railroad could manage to
carry.

Red-tape was choking the army to death from the very beginning, and it
continued to do so to the end, in spite of all remonstrances.

Even in the matter of water the men at Manassas were restricted to a few
pints a day to each man for all uses, simply because the commanding
general was not allowed the simple means of procuring a more adequate
supply.

This, however, is not the place in which to set forth in detail those
facts of perverse stupidity which have been fully stated in official
reports, in General Beauregard's memoirs, and in other authoritative
works. Such matters are mentioned herein only so far as they affected
the events that go to make up the present story.

When the Army of the Shenandoah began to add its numbers to that already
gathered at Manassas, a way out was found, so far at least as water was
concerned, by sending the regiments and batteries, as fast as they came,
to positions near Bull Run, some miles in front, where water at least
was to be had. Baillie's command, worn out as it was, and suffering from
hunger, was hurried through the camp and forced to march some weary
miles farther before taking even that small measure of rest and sleep
that the rapidly waning night allowed. It was nearly morning when the
men and horses were permitted to drink together out of the muddy stream
which was presently to mark the fighting-line between two armies in
fierce battle for the mastery.

It was nearly sunrise when a cannon-shot broke the stillness of a
peculiarly brilliant Sunday morning and summoned all the weary men to
their posts. A little later the battery with which we are concerned
received its orders and was moved into position on the line. Its
complement of commissioned officers being short, Sergeant-Major Baillie
Pegram had command of the two guns which constituted the left section,
and had a lieutenant's work to do.

Troops were being hurried hither and thither in what seemed to Baillie's
inexperienced eyes a hopeless confusion. But as he watched, he saw order
grow out of the chaos,--a manifestation of the fact that there was one
mind in control, and that every movement, however meaningless it might
seem, was part and parcel of a concerted plan, and was intended to have
its bearing upon the result.

In the meanwhile the occasional report of a rifle had grown into a
continuous rattle of musketry on the farther side of the stream, where
the skirmishers were hotly at work, their firing being punctuated now
and then by the deeper exclamation of a cannon. But the work of the day
had not yet begun in earnest. The main line was not yet engaged, and
would not be until the skirmishers should slowly fall back upon it from
their position beyond the stream.

To men in line of battle this is the most trying of all war's
experiences. Then it is that every man questions himself closely as to
his ability to endure the strain. Nerves are stretched to a tension that
threatens collapse. Speech is difficult even to the bravest men, and the
longing to plunge into the fray and be actively engaged is well-nigh
irresistible.

All this and worse is the experience even of war-seasoned veterans when
they must stand or lie still during these endless minutes of waiting,
while the skirmishers are engaged in front. What must have been the
strain upon the nerves and brains of men, not one of whom had as yet
seen a battle, and not one in ten of whom had even received his "baptism
of fire" in a skirmish, as the men in Baillie's battery had done during
the week before! It is at such a time, and not in the heat of battle,
that men's courage is apt to falter, and that discipline alone holds
them to their duty.

The strain was rather relieved of its intensity by the shrieking of a
Hotchkiss shell, which presently burst in the midst of Baillie Pegram's
section and not far from his person. Then came the less noisy but more
nerve-racking patter of musket-balls,--few and scattering still, as the
skirmish-lines were still well in front,--but deadly in their force, as
was seen when two or three of the men suddenly sank to the ground in the
midst of a stillness which was broken only by the whiz of the occasional
bullets.

One man cried out with pain. The rest of those struck were still. The
one who cried out was slightly wounded. The others were dead. And the
battle was not yet begun.

At this moment came a courier with orders. Upon receiving them the
captain hurriedly turned to Baillie, and said:

"Take your section across the Run, at the ford there just to the left.
Take position with the skirmish-line and get your orders from its
commander. Leave your caissons behind, and move at a gallop."

Baillie Pegram was too new to the business of war to understand
precisely what all this meant. Had he seen a little more of war he
would have guessed at once that the enemy was moving upon the
Confederate left along the road that lay beyond the stream, and that his
guns were needed to aid the skirmishers in the work to be done in front
in preparation for the battle that had not yet burst in all its fury. He
would have understood, too, from the order to leave his caissons behind,
that the stand beyond the stream was not meant to be of long duration.
The fifty shots he carried in each of his limber-chests would be quite
enough to last him till orders should come to fall back across the
stream again.

But he did not understand all this clearly. What he did understand was
that he was under orders to take his guns across the stream and use them
there as vigorously as he could till further orders should come.

As he emerged from the woods a few hundred yards beyond Bull Run, he
found a skirmish-line of men lying down and contesting the ground inch
by inch with another line like their own, beyond which he could see the
heavy columns of the enemy marching steadily to turn the Confederate
left flank and force it from its position. Notwithstanding his lack of
experience in such matters, he saw instantly what was happening, and
realised that this left wing of Beauregard's army was destined to
receive the brunt of the enemy's attack. He wondered, in his ignorance,
if Beauregard knew all this, and if somebody ought not to go and tell
him of it.

He had no time to think beyond this, for at that moment the
skirmish-line, under some order which he had not heard, gave way to the
right and left, leaving a little space open for his guns. Planting them
there he opened fire with shrapnel, which he now and then changed to
canister when the enemy, in his eagerness, pressed forward to within
scant distance of the slowly retiring skirmish-line of the Confederates.

Under orders Baillie fell back with the skirmishers, moving the guns by
hand, and continuing to fire as he went.

As the Confederate skirmishers drew near the stream which they were to
cross, the officer in command of them said to Pegram:

"Advance your guns a trifle, Sergeant-Major, and give them your heaviest
fire for twenty-five seconds or so. When they recoil, limber up and
take your guns across the creek as quickly as possible. I'll cover your
movement."

Baillie did not perfectly understand the purpose of this, but he
understood his orders, and very promptly obeyed them. Advancing his guns
quickly to a little knoll thirty or forty yards in front, he opened fire
with double charges of canister, each gun firing at the rate of three or
four times a minute, and each vomiting a gallon of iron balls at each
discharge into the faces of a line of men not a hundred yards away. At
the same moment the riflemen of the skirmish-line rose to their feet,
rushed forward with a yell that impressed Baillie as truly demoniacal,
and delivered a murderous volley of Minie balls in aid of his canister.
The combined fire was irresistible, as it was meant to be, and the
Federal skirmishers fell back in some confusion in face of it.

Then the cool-headed leader of the skirmishers turned to Baillie and
commanded:

"Now be quick. Take your guns across the creek at once. They'll be on us
again in a minute with reinforcements, but I'll hold them back till you
get the guns across--"

He had not finished his order when he fell, with a bullet in his brain,
and his men, picking him up, laid him limply across his horse, which two
of them hurried to the rear, passing within ten feet of Baillie Pegram
as he struggled to get his guns across the run without wetting his
ammunition.

"Poor, gallant fellow!" thought Baillie, as the corpse was borne past
him. "He was only a captain, but he would have made himself a
major-general presently, with his coolness and his determination. He
died too soon!"

Meanwhile Baillie was busy executing the order that the dead man had
given with his last breath, while some other was in command out there in
front and struggling to protect the guns till they could pass the
stream.

It is always so in life. No man is indispensable. When one man falls at
the post of duty, there is always some other to take his place. "Men may
come and men may go," but the work that men were born to do "goes on for
ever."

As Baillie was directing the struggles of his drivers in the difficult
task of recrossing the stream, three shells burst over him in so quick
a succession that he did not know from which of them came the fragment
that cut a great gash in his head and rendered him for the moment
senseless. He recovered himself quickly, and this was fortunate, for his
untrained and inexperienced men were far less steady in retreat under
fire than they had been out there in front, and Baillie's direction was
needed now to prevent them from abandoning in panic the guns with which
they had fought so gallantly a few minutes before.

Under his sharply given commands they recovered their morale, and a few
minutes later Baillie brought his powder-grimed guns again into position
on the left of the battery. Then, half-blinded by the blood that was
flowing freely over his face and clothing, he sought his captain, raised
his hand in salute, and said, feebly:

"Captain, I beg to report that I have executed my orders. My men have
behaved well, every--"

A heavy musketry fire from the enemy at that moment began, and Baillie
Pegram's horse--the beautiful sorrel mare on which Agatha had once
ridden--sank under him, in that strange, limp way in which a horse
falls when killed instantly by a bullet received in any vital part.

By good fortune the sergeant-major was not caught under the animal, but
as he tried to walk toward the new mount which he had asked for, he
staggered and fell, much as the mare had done, but from a different
cause. Complete unconsciousness had overtaken him, as a consequence of
the shock of his wound and the resultant loss of blood.

When he came to consciousness again, he was lying on the grass under a
tree, with a young surgeon kneeling beside him, busy with bandages. For
a time his consciousness did not extend beyond his immediate
surroundings and the terrific aching of his head. Presently the heavy
firing which seemed to be all about him, and the zip, zip, zip of
bullets as they struck the earth under the hospital tree brought him to
a realisation of the fact that battle was raging there, and that he,
somehow,--he could not make out how,--was absent from his post with the
guns. He made a sudden effort to rise, but instantly fell back again,
unconscious.

When he next came to himself there was a sound as of thousands of
yelling demons in his ears, which he presently made out to be the "rebel
yell" issuing from multitudinous throats. There were hoof-beats all
about him, too, the hoof-beats of a thousand horses moving at full
speed. Excited by these sounds, wondering and anxiously apprehensive, he
made another effort to rise, but was promptly restrained by the strong
but gentle hands of an attendant, who said to him, with more of good
sense than grammar:

"Lay still. It's all right, and it's all over. We've licked 'em, and
they's a-runnin' like mad. The horsemen what passed us was Stuart's
cavalry, a-goin' after 'em to see that they don't stop too soon."

Stuart was drunk with delight. He shouted to his men, as he rode across
Stone Bridge: "Come on, boys! We'll gallop over the long bridge into
Washington to-night if some blockhead doesn't stop us with orders, and I
reckon we can gallop away from orders!"

Baillie lay still only because the attendant kept a hand upon his chest
and so restrained him. As he listened, the firing receded and grew less
in volume, except that now and then it burst out in a volley. That was
when one of Stuart's squadrons came suddenly upon a mass of their
confused and fleeing foes and poured a hailstorm of leaden cones in
among them as a suggestion that it was time for them to scatter and
resume their run for Washington.

As the turmoil grew less and faded into the distance, Baillie's wits
slowly came back to him, and thoughts of himself returned.

"Where am I?" was his first question.

"Under a hospital tree on the battle-field of Manassas," answered the
nurse. "You're about two hundred yards in the rear of the position where
your battery has been covering itself with glory all day. It's gone now
to help in the pursuit. But it's had it hot and heavy all day, judging
from the sloppings over."

"The 'sloppings over?' What do you mean?"

"Why, the bullets and shells and things that didn't get theirselves
stopped, like, on the lines, but come botherin' over here by this
hospital tree. Two of 'em hit wounded men, an' finally, just at the
last, you know, the doctor got his comeuppance."

"Was he wounded?"

"Wuss 'n that. He war killed, jes' like a ordinary soldier. That's why
you're still a-layin' here, an' here you'll lay, I reckon, all night,
for they ain't nobody left to give no orders, 'ceptin' me, an' I ain't
nothin' but a detail. But I'm a-goin' to git you somethin' to eat ef I
kin. They's another hospital jest over the hill, an' mebbe they've got
somethin' to eat, an' mebbe they's a spare surgeon there, too. Anyhow
I'm a-goin' to do the best I kin fer you an' the rest."

"How many of us are there?" asked Baillie.

"Only four now--not enough for them to bother about, I s'pose they'll
say, specially sence two on 'em is clean bound to die, anyhow. All the
slightly wounded has been carried away to a reg'lar hospital. That's
their game, I reckon--to take good keer o' the fellers that's a-goin' to
git well, so as to make complaints ef they don't, an' leave the rest
what can't live to make no complaints to die where they is."

Baillie was too weak, and still too muddled in his intelligence, to
disabuse the mountaineer's mind of this misconception. It is only
ordinary justice to say that his interpretation was utterly wrong. There
was never a more heroic set of men than the surgeons who ministered on
the battle-fields of the Civil War to the wounded on one side or on the
other. At the beginning, their department was utterly unorganised, and
scarcely at all equipped, either with material appliances or with
capable human help in the way of nurses, litter-bearers, or
ambulance-men. They did the best they could. When battle was on, they
hung yellow flags from trees as near the firing-line as possible, and
these flags were respected by both sides, so far as intentional firing
upon them was concerned. But located as they were, just in the rear of
the fighters, these field-hospitals were constantly under a heavy fire,
aimed not at them, but at the fighting-line in front, and it was under
such a fire that the young surgeons did their difficult and very
delicate work. The tying of an artery was often interfered with by the
bursting of a shell which half-buried both patient and surgeon in loose
earth. It was the duty of these field-surgeons to do only so much as
might be immediately necessary--to put their patients as quickly as
possible into a condition in which it was reasonably safe to send them,
in ambulances or upon litters, to some better-equipped hospital in the
rear. Very naturally and very properly, the surgeons discriminated, in
selecting wounded men to send to the hospitals, between those who were
in condition to be removed, and those to whom removal would mean death,
certainly or probably. The mountaineer, who had been detailed as a
hospital attendant that day, did not understand, and so he
misinterpreted.

"Where is my hat?" Baillie Pegram asked, after a period of silence.

"Is it the one with a red feather in it?" responded the attendant.

"Yes."

"Well, it's a good deal the wuss for wear," answered the man, producing
the blood-soaked and soil-stained headgear. "I don't think you'll want
to wear it again."

But when the headpiece was brought, the young man, with feeble and
uncertain fingers, detached the feather and thrust it inside his flannel
shirt, leaving the lacerated hat where it had fallen upon the ground.

"Am I badly wounded?" Pegram asked, after a little.

"Well," answered the man, "you've got a good deal more'n I should like
to be a-carryin' around with me. But I reckon you'll pull through,
perticular ef you kin git to a hospital after a bit."

Just then, as night was falling, a pitiless rain began, and all night
long Baillie Pegram lay in a furrow of the field, soaked and suffering.
But he removed the feather from its hiding-place, and held it upon his
chest, in order that the rain might wash away the blood-stains with
which it had been saturated.

When the morning came, and the ambulance with it, the blood-stains were
gone and the feather was clean, though its texture was limp, its
appearance bedraggled, and much of its original colour had been washed
out.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two or three days later, Agatha Ronald at her home received by mail a
package containing a feather, once red but now badly faded. No note or
message of any kind accompanied it, but Agatha understood. She had
already learned through the newspapers that "Sergeant-Major Baillie
Pegram, after a desperate encounter with the enemy on the outer lines,
had been severely--perhaps mortally--wounded in the head;" and that
"Sergeant-Major Baillie Pegram has been mentioned in General Orders for
his gallant conduct on the field, with a recommendation for promotion,
if he recovers from his wounds, as the surgeons give little hope that he
will."

She wrapped the faded feather in tissue-paper, deposited it in a
jewelled glove-box which had come to her as an heirloom from her mother,
and put it away in one of her most sacred depositories.

A week or two later, she learned that Sergeant-Major Baillie Pegram had
been removed from the general hospital at Richmond to his home at
Warlock, and that he was now expected to recover from his wounds.



XI

_AT WARLOCK_


"It's jes' what I done tole you niggas fust off."

That was Sam's comment upon the situation when his master was brought
home to Warlock, stretched upon a litter.

"I done tole yer what'd happen when Mas' Baillie go off to de wah in dat
way, 'thout Sam to take k'yar of him. An' bar in min' what else I done
tole yer, too. Ain't de chinch-bug done et up de wheat, jes' as I tole
yer? Now, Mas' Baillie, he's a-gwine to die wid that hole in he haid.
Den what's a-gwine to become o' you niggas?"

Sam promptly installed himself as his master's nurse, sitting by him
during the day, and sleeping on the floor by his bedside every night.
For a time it seemed likely that the negro's dismal prophecy of
Baillie's death would be fulfilled, but with rest and the bracing air
of his own home, he slowly grew better, until he was able at last to sun
himself in the porch or under the trees of the lawn.

He chafed a good deal at first over the fact that he had not seen the
major part of the fighting along Bull Run, and it annoyed him still more
that he was likely to lose his share in a campaign which was expected to
bring the war to a speedy and glorious end. It was Marshall Pollard who
laughed him out of this latter regret. During the long waiting-time that
followed the battle of Manassas, Marshall, who had gained a lieutenancy
in his battery, secured several brief leaves of absence in order to
visit the convalescent man at Warlock.

"You're missing nothing whatever, Baillie," he said to him one day, in
answer to his querulous complainings. "We're doing nothing out there in
front of Washington, and, so far as I can see, we're not likely to do
anything for many months to come. When the battle of Manassas ended in
such a rout of the enemy as never will happen again, we all expected to
push on into Washington, where only a very feeble, resistance or none
at all would have been met. When that didn't happen, we confidently
expected that the army at Centreville would be reinforced at once with
every man who could be hurried to the front, and that General Johnston
would push across the Potomac and take Washington in the rear, or
capture Baltimore and Philadelphia, and cut Washington off.

"I don't pretend to understand grand strategy, but this was plain common
sense, and I suppose that common sense has its part to play in grand
strategy, as in everything else. Anyhow, it is certain that that was the
time to strike, and if the army at Manassas had been reinforced and
pushed across the Potomac while the enemy was so hopelessly demoralised
and disintegrated, there is not the smallest doubt in my mind that the
war would have come to an end within a month or two. Instead of that, we
have done nothing, while the enemy has been straining every nerve to
bring new troops into the field by scores of thousands, and to drill and
discipline them for the serious work of war. They have done all this so
effectually that they now have two or three men to our one, half a dozen
guns to our one, and supply departments so perfectly organised that no
man in all that host need go without his three good meals a day, while
we are kept very nearly in a state of starvation, and are now fortifying
at Centreville, like a beaten army, whose chief concern is to defend
itself against the danger of capture."

"Have you ever heard an explanation of this strange state of things?"
asked Baillie. "You see, I've been out of the way of hearing anything
ever since the battle."

"O, yes, I've heard all sorts of explanations. But the real explanation,
I think, is the lack of an experienced general, capable of grasping the
situation and turning it to account. Neither in the field nor in
authority at Richmond, have we a man who ever commanded an army, or even
looked on while a great campaign was in progress. General Johnston and
General Beauregard are doubtless very capable officers in their way. But
until this war came, they were mere captains in the engineer corps,
engaged in constructing Mississippi levees, and that sort of thing.
Neither of them ever in his life commanded a brigade. Neither ever saw a
great battle, or had anything to do with an army composed of men by
scores of thousands.

"Their victory at Manassas simply appalled them. They didn't know at all
what to do next. They will probably become good and capable commanders
of armies before the war is over, but at present they are only
ex-captains of engineers, suddenly thrust into positions for which they
have absolutely none of that fitness which comes of experience."

"But have they not learned enough yet? Will they not now see their
opportunity, and undertake a fall campaign?"

"No. The opportunity is entirely gone. The Federal army is to-day much
stronger in every way than our own. We have pottered away the months
that should have been spent in vigorous and decisive action. The only
man in our army capable of seeing and seizing such an opportunity and
turning it to account--I mean Robert E. Lee--has been kept in the
mountains of Western Virginia, engaged in settling wretched little
disputes among a lot of incapable, cantankerous political brigadiers. It
means a long war and a terrible one, Baillie, and you'll have
opportunity to do all the fighting you want before it is over. But
nothing of any consequence will be done this fall."

The young lieutenant was quite right in his prophecy. Except for a
little contest at Drainesville--amounting to scarcely more than a
skirmish--there was absolutely nothing done until the 21st of October.
Then occurred the small, badly ordered and strategically meaningless
battle of Leesburg, or Ball's Bluff, when the Federals were again
completely defeated. After that came a long autumn of superb campaigning
weather, and a tedious winter of complete inaction. Federal expeditions
besieged some of the forts and islands along the Carolina coasts, thus
preparing the way for a coast campaign which was never made in earnest.

There was fighting of some consequence in Kentucky and Missouri, and as
the winter waned, General Grant made his important campaign against the
forts on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, breaking the Confederate
line of defence in that quarter, and pushing it southward. But in
Virginia, the natural battle-field, absolutely nothing was done during
all those months of weary waiting.

For this strange and strangely prolonged pause in a war which had begun
with a rush and a hurrah, history has been puzzled to find an
explanation. It is true that the Confederate forces were untrained
volunteers, whose endurance and discipline could not have been relied
upon in an aggressive campaign to anything like the extent to which Lee
afterward depended upon the unflinching endurance and unfaltering
courage of these same men. But the Federal army was at that time in much
worse condition. To unfamiliarity with war and to complete lack of
discipline in that army, there was added the demoralisation of
disastrous defeat and panic. General McClellan said in his official
capacity, and with carefully chosen words, that when he was placed in
control in August, he found "no army to command,--a mere collection of
regiments cowering on the banks of the Potomac, some perfectly raw,
others dispirited by recent defeat, some going home." He completed his
description of the situation by saying: "There were no defensive works
on the southern approaches to the capital. Washington was crowded with
straggling officers and men absent from their stations without
authority."

Why the Confederates, with their great victory to urge them on, made no
effort to take advantage of such conditions, but lay still instead,
giving McClellan many months in which to recruit and organise and drill
his forces into one of the most formidable armies of modern times, is
one of the puzzles of history. Perhaps Marshall Pollard's suggestion was
the correct explanation,--namely, that there was no general at Manassas
who knew what to do with a great opportunity, or how to do it.

Seeing that Baillie was becoming excited by this serious talk, his
friend adroitly turned the conversation to less strenuous matters. Half
an hour later The Oaks ladies drove up in their antique, high-hung
carriage, to make that formal inquiry concerning Mr. Baillie Pegram's
convalescence which from the first they had made with great
scrupulousness three times every week.

When they had gone, Pollard asked:

"Have you seen Miss Agatha since that day last spring, when you were
requested not to visit The Oaks?"

For a moment Baillie remained silent. Then he said: "If you don't mind,
I'd rather not talk of that, Marshall."

That was all that passed between these two on that subject during the
week of Marshall's stay at Warlock. How unlike men are to women in these
things! Had these two young men been two young women instead, how
minutely each would have confided to the other the last detail of
experience and thought and feeling! And this not because women are more
emotional than men--for they are not--but because they are not ashamed,
as men are, of the tenderer side of their natures.



XII

_UNDER ESCORT_


No sooner had Agatha Ronald determined to enter upon a career of very
dangerous service to her cause and country, than she set herself
diligently to the work of perfecting plans which were at first vague and
undefined. It was no part of her purpose to fail if by any forethought
and thoroughness of preparation she might avert the danger of failure.
She determined to do nothing until every point and possibility, so far
as conditions could be foreseen, should be considered and provided for.

First of all, she entered into perfect confidence with her maid, Martha,
telling the trusty negro woman as she meant to tell no other person near
her, except her grandfather, precisely what she intended to do, and how.
Martha had a shrewd intelligence likely to be useful in emergencies, and
her devotion to her mistress was as absolute as that of any devotee to
an object of worship. This mistress had been hers to care for by night
and by day ever since Agatha had been four years of age. All of loyalty,
all of affection, all of self-sacrificing devotion of which the negro
character in its best estate is capable, she gave to Agatha, never
doubting her due or questioning her right to such service of the heart
and soul. She knew no other love than this, no other life than that of
unceasing, all-embracing care for her mistress.

It was with no shadow of doubt or hesitation, therefore, that Agatha
revealed her purposes to Martha, and asked for her aid in carrying them
out. And Martha received the somewhat startling confidence as calmly as
if her mistress had been telling her of an intended afternoon drive.

When matters had settled down into apathetic idleness after the battle
of Manassas, Agatha made occasion to visit the army. Officers at Fairfax
Court-house had their wives and daughters with them at their
headquarters then, and many of these were Agatha's intimates, whom she
might visit without formal invitation.

At their quarters, she received visits from such of her friends as
belonged to the cavalry forces stationed thereabouts. In her intercourse
with these, she steadily maintained the innocent little fiction that she
was there solely for social purposes, and to see the splendid army that
had so recently won an astonishing victory.

One day, she learned that the picturesque cavalier, General J. E. B.
Stuart, had boldly pushed his outposts to Mason's and Munson's Hills,
and established his headquarters under a tree, within easy sight of
Washington. She instantly developed an intense desire to visit him
there. It happened that she knew Stuart and his family personally, and
had often dined in the great cavalry leader's company at her own and
other homes. So she said one day, to a young cavalry officer, who was
calling upon her:

"I want you to do me a very great service. I want you to ask General
Stuart to let me visit him at the outposts. He'll offer to come here to
call upon me instead, for he is always gallant, but you are to tell him
I will not permit that. The service needs him at the front, and I want
to visit him there. Besides, I particularly want to take a peep at
Washington City in its new guise as a foreign capital which we are
besieging."

The young man remonstrated. He protested that there was very great
danger in the attempt--that raids from the picket-lines were of daily
occurrence, that the firing was often severe--and all the rest of it,
wherefore General Stuart would almost certainly forbid the young lady's
proposed enterprise.

The girl calmly looked the young man in the eyes--he was an old friend
whom she had known from her childhood--and said, very solemnly:

"Charlie, I am no more afraid of bullets than you are. My heart is set
upon this visit, and you _must_ arrange it for me. As for General
Stuart, I'll manage him, if you'll carry a note to him for me."

That young man had once begun to make love to Agatha, and she had
checked him gently and affectionately in time to spare his pride, and to
make of him her willing knight for all time to come. So he answered
promptly:

"I'll carry your note, of course, and if Stuart gives permission, I'll
beg to be myself your escort. Then, if anybody bothers you with bullets
or anything else, it'll be a good deal the worse for him."

The girl thanked him in a way that would have made a hero of him in her
defence had occasion served, and presently she scribbled a little note
and placed it in the young cavalryman's hands for delivery. It was
simple enough, but it was so worded as to make sure that Stuart would
promptly grant its request. It ran as follows:

     "MY DEAR GENERAL STUART:--I very much want to see you for half an
     hour out where you are, at Mason's or Munson's Hill, and not here
     at Fairfax Court-house. My visit will be absolutely and entirely in
     the public interest, though to all others than yourself I am
     pretending that it is prompted solely by the whim of a romantic
     young girl. Please send a permit at once, and please permit
     Lieutenant Fauntleroy, who bears this, to be my escort."

The note was unsealed, of course, except by the honour of the gentleman
who bore it. Stuart's response was prompt, as every act of his
enthusiastic life was sure to be. He read the note, held a corner of
the sheet in the blaze of his camp-fire, and retained his hold upon the
farther corner of it until it was quite consumed. Then he dropped the
charred sheets into the coals, and turning to Lieutenant Fauntleroy,
commanded:

"Return at once to Fairfax Court-house, detail an escort of half a dozen
good men under your own personal command, and escort Miss Ronald to my
headquarters. Be very careful not to place the young lady under fire if
you can avoid it. Ride in the woods, or under other cover, wherever you
can. Remember, you will have a lady in charge, and must take no risks."

"At what time shall I report with Miss Ronald?"

"At her time--at whatever time she shall fix upon as most pleasing to
her."

Thus it came about that before noon of the next day, in the midst of a
pouring rain-storm, General Stuart lifted Agatha Ronald from her saddle,
taking her by the waist for that purpose. He welcomed her with a kiss
upon her brow, as the daughter of a house whose hospitality he had often
enjoyed. He quickly escorted her to a little brush shelter which he had
made his men hastily construct as a defence for her against the rain,
and ordered the sentries posted full fifty yards away, in order that the
conversation might by no chance be overheard.

"It is a splendid service," he said, when the girl had finished telling
him of her plans. "But it will be attended by extraordinary danger to a
young woman like you."

"I have considered all that, General," she replied, very seriously. "I
do not shrink from the danger."

"Of course not. You are a woman, a Virginian, and a Ronald,--three
sufficient guarantees of courage. But I'm afraid for you. It is a
terrible risk you are going to take--immeasurably greater in the case of
a woman than in that of a man."

"I have my wits, General,--and this," showing him a tiny revolver. "With
that a woman can always defend her honour."

"You mean by suicide?"

"Yes--if necessity compels." Stuart looked at the gentle girl, gazing
into her fawn-like brown eyes as if trying to read her soul in their
depths. Presently he said:

"God bless you and keep you, dear! I'm going to ride back to Fairfax
Court-house with you. Make yourself as comfortable as you can here for
half an hour, while I ride out to the pickets. I'll be with you soon,
and then we'll have dinner, for you are my guest to-day."

When the dinner was served, it consisted of some ears of corn, plucked
from a neighbouring field, and roasted with husks unremoved, among the
live coals of the cavalier's camp-fire. Stuart made no apology for the
lack of variety in the meal, for he sincerely accepted the doctrine
which he often preached to his men, that "anything edible makes a good
enough dinner if you are hungry, and the simpler it is, the better.
There's nothing more troublesome in a campaign than cooking utensils and
unnecessary things generally. If armies would move without them, there'd
be more and better fighting done. The chief thing in war is to start at
once and get there without delay."

The meal over, Stuart held out his hand as a step, from which Agatha
lightly sprang into her saddle. Then he mounted the superb gray, which
he always rode when battle was on, or when he had a gentlewoman under
his charge. For there was a touch of the boyish dandy in Stuart, and a
good deal more than a touch of that gallantry which prompts every true
man of warm blood to honour womanhood with every possible attention.

The horse was fit for his rider, and that is saying quite all that can
be said in praise of a horse. Mounted upon him, Stuart was the bodily
presentment of all that painters and sculptors have imagined the typical
cavalier to be or to seem. Stalwart of figure, erect in carriage, his
muscles showing themselves in graceful strength with every movement of
his body, his head carried like that of a boy or a young bull, his beard
closely clipped, his moustache standing out straight at the ends, and
resembling that of Virginia's earliest knight errant, Captain John
Smith, of Jamestown, Stuart was a picture to look upon, which the
onlooker did not soon forget. His many-gabled slouch hat was decorated
with streaming plumes, that helped to make of him a target for the
enemy's sharpest sharpshooters whenever battle was on. Full of vigour,
full of health, and full to the very lips of a boyish enthusiasm of
life, he seemed never to know what weariness might signify, and never
for one moment to abate the intensity of his purpose. He did all things
as if all had been part of a great game in which he was playing for a
championship.

On this occasion, however, his manner was subdued, and his conversation
serious in a degree unusual to one of his effervescent spirits. He was
riding with Agatha Ronald for the very serious purpose of talking with
her about details that must be carefully arranged with a view to her
safety in the dangerous undertaking upon which she was about to enter. A
word or two to Lieutenant Fauntleroy sent that officer with his escort
squad to the front, while Stuart and his charge rode in rear.

"Now, one thing more is necessary, Miss Agatha," he said. "You ought to
reënter our country far to the west, if you can, where there are no
armies, and only small detachments. Still, I don't know so well about
that. Here we keep the Yankees too busy at the front to attend to
matters in the rear, while over in the valley they'll have nothing
better to do than look out for wandering women like you. Anyhow, you may
find it necessary or advisable to enter my lines. In that case, you must
be arrested immediately and brought to my headquarters. That is
necessary on all accounts--to prevent the nature of your mission from
being discovered, and--well, to prevent you from having to report to
anybody but me. I shall want to see you, and hear all about your
results. So I'm going to give orders every day that will put every
picket-officer on watch for you, and impress every one of them with the
idea that you are a peculiarly dangerous person, in league with traitors
on our side, and trying to put yourself into communication with such. I
cannot give you any sort of paper, you see, for papers are always
dangerous. But I'll give you six words that will answer the purpose.
Whenever you speak the right one of these words with emphasis, the
picket-officer will understand that you are the very dangerous spy whose
entrance into our lines I anticipate, and whose arrest I particularly
desire to secure. I'll give out one of the six words each day,
particularly charging officers of the pickets that any woman entering
our lines by any means, and using that word with emphasis, is the spy I
want,--that her use of it will be intended for the purpose of finding
traitorous friends, and that any such woman, no matter upon what pretext
she enters the lines, is to be arrested as soon as she uses the word.
Only one of these words will be given out each day, but you will know
them all, and use them in succession until you use the right one and are
arrested. The words will be such as you can embody in an ordinary
sentence without exciting the suspicion of any of the men who may be
standing by,--for, of course, only officers will be commissioned to
arrest you. You can use the words in different sentences, until you use
the right one. Then you will be arrested and brought to my headquarters,
where I hope to have a better dinner than that of to-day to offer you."

Just at that moment, the road along which they were riding passed
between two abandoned fields, each of which was skirted by woodlands on
its farther side. Stuart raised his head like a startled deer, and said:

"We must quit the road here, and put ourselves behind that skirt of
timber over on the left. Your horse will take the fence easily."

With that the pair pushed their animals over the rail fence on the left,
and at a gallop rode across the field toward a little strip of young
chestnut woodland that lay beyond. But just as they reached the centre
of the field there came the zip, zip, zip of bullets striking the earth,
the whiz of bullets passing their ears, and the weird whistle of bullets
passing over them, one of which, now and then, turned somersaults in its
course, and produced the peculiar sound that only bullets so misbehaving
are capable of producing. At the same moment, the escort under
Lieutenant Fauntleroy, who had been in front, fell back to protect its
charge, as it was its duty to do. Stuart hurriedly said to the girl:

"Ride for your life to the chestnut-trees, and hide yourself there,
while I take care of those fellows. I'll come to you when it's over."

With that he turned about, placed himself at the head of the little
escort squad, and, swinging his sabre, as he always did in action, led
them at a furious pace, over a fence and into the thicket from which the
fire was coming. The few men who were lurking there were quickly
scattered, and abandoning their arms, they ran with all their might to
the strong picket-post from which they had been thrown out to intercept
him.

This done, all danger of further trouble was at an end, or would have
been, had Stuart willed it so. But the scent of battle was always in his
nostrils. His men were accustomed to say that he was always "looking for
trouble," whenever there was the smallest chance of finding it. So
instead of contenting himself with having dispersed the assailing party,
he wheeled about to the right, and led his squad with the fury of
Mameluke against the strong picket-post itself. Amid a hailstorm of
bullets he charged through the half-company there posted, and then,
turning about, charged back again, completing the work of destruction
and dispersal.

It was not until this was over, and he had given the command, "Trot,"
that he saw Agatha by his side, her pistol in hand and empty of its
charges, her hair loosened and falling in tangled masses over her
shoulders, her face aglow, and her lithe form as erect as that of any
trooper among them all.

"But my dear Miss Ronald," Stuart ejaculated, "what are you doing here?"

"Riding under gallant escort, General, that is all."

[Illustration: "'_Riding under gallant escort_'"]

"But I ordered you to take refuge in the timber."

"Yes, I know," she answered, with a laughing challenge in her eyes, "but
as I have never been mustered in, I'm not subject to your orders. You
can't court-martial me, can you, General?"

Stuart looked at her before answering--his eyes full of an admiration
that was dimmed by glad tears. At last he leaned over, kissed her again
upon the forehead, and said, impressively:

"What a wife you'll make for a soldier some day!"



XIII

_A SOUVENIR SERVICE_


During the rest of the journey Agatha was excited and full of
enthusiasm. She had participated in a fight under the lead of the
gallantest of cavaliers, and she had borne herself under fire in a way
that had won his admiration. That admiration found expression in a
hundred ways, and chiefly in pressing offers of service. Before their
parting he said to her:

"Now, my dear Miss Agatha, you really must let me do you some favour. I
want to cherish the memory of this day's glorious ride, and I want to
render you some service, the memory of which may serve as a souvenir.
What shall it be?"

At that moment there came to Agatha's mind one of those inspirations
that come to all of us at times, quite without consciousness of whence
they come or why. She answered:

"You are already doing everything for me, General. You have sanctioned
an enterprise on which I have set my heart, and you have done all you
could to make it successful. You gave me for dinner to-day the very best
ear of green corn that I ever tasted. You have personally and very
gallantly escorted me back here to Fairfax Court-house, and on the way
you have got up for me the most dramatic bit of action that I ever saw.
I am convinced that you did it only for my entertainment, and I am truly
grateful." Then with a sudden access of intense seriousness, she added,
"And you have opened a way to me to render that service to my country
which I had planned. Never, so long as you live,--and I hope that may be
long for Virginia's sake,--will you know or imagine how great a service
you have rendered me in this. But you insist upon doing more. You insist
that I shall crave a boon at your hands. Very well; I will do so."

With that readiness of response which characterised everything that
Stuart did, he seized the opportunity offered, and broke into Agatha's
sentence with the answer:

"Of course I insist. What is it that I may do?"

"I want you to secure a captain's commission, then, for Sergeant-Major
Baillie Pegram. You know all about his family. He volunteered as a
private. He was promoted to be sergeant-major by Stonewall Jackson's own
request, in recognition of his good conduct. He was terribly wounded at
Manassas, mentioned in general orders, and strongly recommended for
promotion for gallantry on the field. My aunts write to me--" here
Agatha fibbed a little, as a woman is permitted to do under
circumstances that might otherwise compromise her dignity, for it was
not her aunts, but a highly intelligent negro maid in their service who
kept the young lady informed as to Baillie Pegram's condition--"my aunts
tell me he is getting well again, and will soon be ready for duty."

"What is his arm?" asked Stuart, eagerly.

"Light artillery," Agatha answered.

"Has he influence?"

"How do you mean?"

"Could he get men to enlist?"

"Why, of course. He's the master of Warlock, you know."

Then with a little touch of embarrassment, she added, "I mean he is the
head of one of the great families, and they always have influence."

"O, yes, of course," Stuart answered. "I see the situation clearly. Will
you say to Mr. Pegram--Sergeant-Major Pegram, I mean--that I have
authority from the War Department to raise three companies of flying
artillery, with the men all mounted, to serve with the cavalry, and that
if he can form such a company,--of fifty or seventy-five men, or better
still a hundred men--I will secure him a captain's commission with
authority to do so?"

"But, General," said the girl, quickly, and in manifest fright, "I do
not correspond with Mr. Pegram. In fact we are _very nearly strangers_."

"O, I see," answered the cavalier, with a twinkle in his eyes. "How long
has it been since you and this gallant young gentleman arranged to be
'very nearly strangers?'"

"O, you entirely mistake, General," the girl quickly answered. "Really
and truly I never knew Mr. Pegram very well; but he wore a red feather
of mine at the battle of Manassas, and afterward he sent it back to me
and--well, anyhow he proved his gallantry and he really ought to be
something more than a sergeant-major, don't you think?"

For answer Stuart made a sweeping bow, removing his hat and saying:
"Concerning Sergeant-Major Baillie Pegram, I think whatever you think.
Anyhow, as he had the good taste to wear your red feather, and as he has
fought well enough to secure a wound and a mention in general orders and
your personal approval, he shall be a captain if he wants to be. Give me
his address, and you need not have any correspondence with him."

"I'll write it," she answered, "if you'll excuse me for a moment," and
with that she retired within doors--for they had been standing in the
porch--in a rage of vexation with herself. She hastily sponged off her
inflamed face with cold water, dried it, and loosely twisted up her
errant hair, which had run riot over her neck and shoulders ever since
the little encounter with the enemy. Then she scribbled Baillie Pegram's
Warlock address on a scrap of paper and returned to Stuart's presence,
with the mien and bearing of a queen.

The cavalier's face was rippling all over with smiles as he bade her
adieu, wished her Godspeed in her enterprise, and turned away. At the
steps he faced about, and advancing said to her:

"When do you wish to return to Fauquier?"

"I shall go home to-morrow morning," she answered.

"You travel in your own carriage, of course?"

"Yes, and my maid is with me."

"Very well," he answered. "At sunrise a platoon under command of a
trusty officer will report here and serve as your escort."

"But, General, surely that is not necessary."

"Not necessary, perhaps," was the answer, "but it pleases me to have it
so, and you'll indulge my fancy, I am sure. I hope to have you as my
prisoner before many moons have passed."

She understood, and with a rippling smile she replied:

"Thank you, and good-bye. I shall certainly enjoy my next ear of green
corn if I am permitted to take it in your company, under some tree that
you have honoured by making it your headquarters."

"O, my ravenous cavalrymen will have eaten up all the green corn long
before that time; but I'll give you a dinner if I have to raid a
Federal picket-post to get it."

With that he sprang into his saddle, waved a farewell, and rode away
singing:

    "If you want to have a good time,
            Jine the cavalry,
            Jine the cavalry,
            Jine the cavalry,
    If you want to have a good time,
            Jine the cavalry,
            Jine the cav-al-ry."

It was Stuart's boast at that time that he knew the face and name of
every man in his old first regiment, and he afterward extended this
boast to include all the men in the first brigade of Virginia Cavalry.
He used to say: "I ought to remember those fellows; they made me a
major-general."

But however well Stuart knew his men, with whom he fraternised in a way
very unusual to most officers bred in the regular army, as he had been,
nobody ever pretended to know him well enough to guess with any accuracy
what he would do next under any given circumstances. On this occasion he
had not brought his staff with him, but that made small difference with
an officer of his temper, whose habit of mind it was to disregard forms
and ceremonies, and to go straight to his purpose, whatever it might
happen to be. When he left Agatha, he rode at once to the camp of a
detached company and asked for its captain. To him he said:

"Send couriers to all the cavalry camps, and say that General Stuart
orders the entire force to report in front at once."

He designated three roads and four bridle-paths by which the commands
were to move; and three or four points of rendezvous. Then he added:

"Let the men move light--no baggage or blankets or anything else but
arms and ammunition."

A moment later he met Colonel Fitzhugh Lee, who had succeeded him in
command of the old first regiment,--"my Mamelukes," as Stuart loved to
call them. The two grasped hands, and Stuart said: "I've ordered
everybody to the front. You are to take command on the left. We must
drive the Federal pickets back from all their advanced posts. They are
growing impudent. They fired at a lady under my personal escort to-day.
We must teach them not to repeat that."

Of course the men who had done the firing in question had no means of
knowing that there was a woman among the assailed, and Stuart knew the
fact very well. But he chose to regard whatever happened as something
intended.

Turning from Lee, he galloped to the camp of some batteries, and said to
the officer in command:

"I wish you'd lend me a couple of guns or so for the afternoon. I've
some work to do. Send them out along the Falls Church road. I'll not
have to go borrowing guns after a little while. I'll have some mounted
batteries of my own."

The officer addressed issued the necessary orders as quietly as a
gentleman in his own house might bid a servant bring a glass of water
for a thirsty guest. No questions were asked on either side, and no
explanations offered. It is not the military fashion to ask unnecessary
questions or to give needless explanations.

By this time the cavalry regiments were streaming by on their hurried
way to the front, saluting Stuart as they passed, and now and then
cheering, as they were apt to do when they saw their gallant leader. He
in his turn nodded and bowed in acknowledgment, and now and then called
out a cheery word of greeting. He would be at the head of all these
fellows presently, and they knew that "the performance would not begin,"
as they were in the habit of saying, till he should be there to lead.
But meanwhile he had something else to attend to, for Stuart never
forgot anything that he wanted to remember, however engrossingly he
might be engaged with other affairs. Riding up to a tent before which
Colonel Field was standing awaiting his horse, he asked:

"Is your adjutant with you, Field?"

"No--he has gone on with orders, but his orderly is here, General."

"That will do as well." Then turning to the orderly, who had appeared,
he said:

"Take down a paper from dictation, please. When it is written out, bring
it to me at the front for signature."

The dictation was as follows:

"General J. E. B. Stuart, commanding the cavalry, respectfully reports
that in pursuance of the authorisation of the War Department, he has
selected Sergeant-Major Baillie Pegram, of ----'s battery, as one of the
persons to be commissioned captain of artillery and authorised to raise
a mounted battery to serve with the cavalry. General Stuart begs to
report that Sergeant-Major Pegram's character and qualifications are
abundantly certified, and that he has already been mentioned in general
orders and recommended for promotion for conspicuous gallantry in the
battle of Manassas. He is at present at his home, recovering from a
severe wound received in that action. All of which is respectfully
submitted."

"There!" said Stuart, when the dictation was done. "Write that out, fold
and indorse it properly, and bring it to me at the front for signature.
Then forward it through the regular channels."

Then Stuart put spurs to his horse, and galloped to the front. There he
made hurried disposition of the various commands, and half an hour later
hurled his whole force precipitately upon all the Federal outposts on
the ten-mile line. The onset was sudden and resistless, and within a
brief while every picket-post of the enemy was abandoned, and a new
line of observation established many miles nearer to Washington City.

With that tireless energy and that sleepless vigilance in attention to
details which always characterised the conduct of this typical
chevalier, Stuart spent the entire night following this day's work in
visiting his new outposts, from one end of the line to the other. Yet
when morning came he breakfasted upon an ear of raw corn and a laugh,
and rode on to Munson's Hill to learn what signals had been received
from his agents in Washington during the night.



XIV

_QUICK WORK_


It was a warm, soft day in autumn, joyous in its sunshine, sad in its
suggestions of the year's decay. Baillie Pegram, now nearly well again,
but still lacking strength, was lolling on the closely clipped sward
under one of the great trees at Warlock, chatting disjointedly with
Marshall Pollard, who had got away again on a few days' leave of
absence, for the purpose of visiting his friend. Baillie had already
written to his captain, reporting himself as nearly well again,
expressing regret at his long absence from duty, and announcing his
purpose of rejoining the battery within a week or ten days at
furthest--"at the earliest time," he said, "when I can persuade the
surgeons to release me from their clutches." This was likely, therefore,
to be the last meeting between the two friends for many moons to come.

"Tell me about yourself, old fellow," said Baillie, after a pause in
the conversation. "How do you like your service in that battery of
ruffians?"

"Thoroughly well. They're not half-bad fellows when kept under military
discipline, and I've enjoyed studying them psychologically. I'm
convinced that the only reason society has failed so consummately in its
attempts to deal with the criminal class is that it hasn't taken pains
to understand them or find out their point of view. We really haven't
taken pains enough even to classify them, or to find out the differences
there are among them. We class them all together--all who violate the
law--and call them criminals, and proceed to deal with them as if they
were a totally different species from ourselves, whereas, in point of
fact, they are 'men like unto ourselves,' with like passions and desires
and impulses. The only real difference is that circumstances and
education and association have taught us to curb our passions and hold
our impulses in check, while they have run wild, obeying those instincts
which are born in all of us.

"They are usually very generous fellows--impulsive, affectionate, and
loyal to such friendships as they know. If you discovered any wrong
being done to me, or heard any unjust accusation made against me, you'd
resist and resent instantly. But you'd know precisely how far and in
what direction to carry your resentment, while these fellows do not know
anything except the instincts of a righteous wrath. There isn't a man in
Skinner's Battery who wouldn't be quick to stand for me and by me. But
in doing so he would calmly kill the man who injured me, and never be
able to understand why he must be hanged for doing so.

"Most of them have been made hardened criminals solely by society's
blundering way of dealing with them. It has sent them to jail, for small
first offences, committed in ignorance perhaps. It has thus declared war
upon them, and with the instincts of manhood they have taken up the gage
of battle. In other words, it is my sincere belief that quite nine in
ten of the criminal class are criminal only because of society's neglect
at first and blundering afterward. They need education and discipline;
we give them resentful punishment instead, and there is a world of
difference between the two things.

"However, I did not mean to deliver a lecture on penology. And after all
I am no longer one of the ruffians, you know. All the officers of the
battery are gentlemen, while none of the men happens to be anything of
the kind. There is, therefore, as sharp a line of demarcation drawn in
our battery, between officers and enlisted men, as there is in any
regular army. This makes things pleasant for the officers, and I fancy
they are not unpleasant for the men. It is a case of aristocracy where
the upper class enjoys itself and the lower class is content. It is
quite different from service in an ordinary Confederate company of
volunteers. There the enlisted men are socially quite as good as their
officers and sometimes distinctly better. Under such circumstances it is
difficult to maintain more of distinction and discipline than the
enlisted men may voluntarily consent to. Socially, with us Southern
people, it is quite as honourable to be an enlisted man in such a
battery as yours as to be a commissioned officer. That's a good enough
thing in its way, but it isn't military, and it is distinctly bad for
the service."

"I don't know so well about that," said Baillie. "We have at least the
advantage of knowing that, discipline or no discipline, every man in the
ranks, equally with every officer, has a personal reputation at home to
sustain by good conduct. Even your desperadoes couldn't fight better
than the young fellows I had with me on the skirmish-line at Manassas,
though they had never had anything resembling discipline to sustain
them. Every man of them knew that if he 'flunked' he could never go home
again--unless all flunked at once and so kept each other company. That
very nearly happened while we were falling back across Bull Run."

"Precisely. And it happened to the whole Federal army a few hours later.
Discipline, with a ready pistol-shot behind it, would have prevented
that in both cases. 'Man's a queer animal,' you know, if you remember
your reading, and one of the queerest things about him is that when he
has once accustomed himself to accept orders unquestioningly, and to
obey them blindly, as every soldier does in drilling, he becomes far
more afraid of mere orders than he is of the heaviest fire. Personal
courage and high spirit among the men are admirable in their way, but
for the purposes of battle, discipline and the habit of blind obedience
are very much more trustworthy. If you want to make soldiers of men, you
must teach them, morning, noon, and night, that blind, unquestioning
obedience is the only virtue they can cultivate. That isn't good for the
personal characters of the men, of course, but it is necessary in the
case of soldiers, and our volunteers will all of them have to learn the
lesson before this war is over. More's the pity, for I can't imagine how
a whole nation of men so trained to submission can ever again become a
nation of--oh, confound it! I'm running off again into a psychological
speculation. Fortunately, here comes a letter for you."

A servant approached, bearing upon a tray a missive from The Oaks
ladies, which had been delivered at the house a few minutes earlier. The
grand dames assured Mr. Baillie Pegram of their highest respect and
esteem, but suggested that, to the very great satisfaction of the
anxiety they had so long felt on his account, they were convinced by his
assurances to that effect, that he was now so far advanced on the road
to complete recovery as perhaps to excuse them from the necessity of
making their thrice a week journey to Warlock to inquire concerning his
welfare. If they were mistaken in this assumption, would not Mr. Baillie
Pegram kindly notify them? And if the daily inquiries which they
intended to make hereafter through a trusty servant, should at any
moment bring to them news of a relapse, they would instantly resume
their personal and most solicitous inquiries.

To this Baillie laughingly wrote a reply equally formal, in which he
assured the good ladies that their tender concern for him during his
illness had been a chief factor in a recovery which was now practically
complete.

Meantime Sam had come with the mail-pouch from the post-office, and it
held two letters for Baillie.

One of these was a formal and official communication from the War
Department, informing him that upon General J. E. B. Stuart's
recommendation, he had been appointed captain of artillery with
authority to raise a mounted battery of from fifty to one hundred men,
for service with the cavalry. His commission, dating from the day of his
wound at Manassas, accompanied the document, and with it an order for
him to proceed, as soon as he should be fit for service, to enlist and
organise the company thus authorised, and to make the proper
requisitions for arms and equipments.

Baillie's second letter was a personal one from Stuart. It was scribbled
in pencil on the envelopes of some old letters and such other fragments
of paper as the cavalier could command at some picket-post. It read:

"I have asked the War Department to commission you as a captain, to
raise a company of mounted artillery to serve with me in front. I
understand that you have a healthy liking for the front. The War
Department lets me choose my own men for this service, and I have chosen
you first, for several reasons. One is that you know what to do with a
gun. Another is that you fought so well at Manassas. Another is that you
are very strongly recommended to me by a person whose judgment is
absolutely conclusive to my mind.

"Now get to work as quickly as you can. Enrol fifty or seventy-five, or
better still a hundred men if you can find them. Put them in camp and
instruct them, and report to me the moment you are ready. Make
requisition for guns--six of them if you can secure a hundred men--and
drill your men at the piece. For a hundred men in _mounted_ artillery
you will need about 170 horses--100 for the cannoniers to ride and 70
for the guns, etc. There is likely to be your difficulty. Can't you help
yourself out a bit? I am told that you have influence. Can't you
persuade your neighbours to contribute some at least of the horses you
need? The quicker your battery is horsed the quicker you'll get a chance
to practise your men in gunnery with the enemy for a target. Please send
me a personal line, telling me how soon you will be ready to join me. It
will take a month or two, of course, but I hope it won't take more."

Twelve hours later Baillie Pegram sent an answer to General Stuart's
letter. In it he said:

"Thank you. I'll have the men and the horses within twenty-four hours.
If the guns are promptly forthcoming on my requisition, I'll be ready
within two days to receive orders to join you. As for drill, I can
attend to that in front of Washington as well as in camp of instruction
at Richmond."

But before sending that note, which delighted Stuart's soul when it
came, Baillie Pegram had done a world of earnest work.

First of all there was the problem of getting the men. The able-bodied
citizens of the county had already volunteered for the most part, but
some were still waiting for one reason or another, and Baillie, who knew
everybody, sent hurried notes to all of these, by special negro
messengers, asking each to send an immediate reply to him at the
Court-house. On this service he employed all his young negroes, mounting
them on all his mules. The men appealed to responded almost to a man,
for the master of Warlock was a man under whose command his neighbours
eagerly wanted to serve, and Baillie found more than half of them
awaiting him at the county seat, when he got there in mid-afternoon.

Still better, he found a messenger there from one of the men whom he had
summoned. This messenger came from a camp at a little distance, where
were assembled about sixty or seventy men and boys peculiarly situated.
These men and boys had belonged to a company composed mainly of college
students, which had gone out with the earliest volunteers. The company
had been captured at Rich Mountain, and the men composing it had been
sent home on parole. Within the two days preceding Baillie Pegram's call
for volunteers, official notification had come of the discharge of all
these men from parole by virtue of an exchange of prisoners. Thereupon
the men, thus left free to volunteer again, had met in camp to consider
what should be done. Their company had been officially disbanded, and
there were now not enough of them left to secure its reorganisation.
When Baillie Pegram's call for volunteers came, therefore, the men were
called together, and in pursuance of a resolution, unanimously adopted,
a messenger was sent to the Court-house to say that sixty-two men of the
disbanded company offered themselves for enrolment under Captain Pegram,
and that they would report for duty on the following morning at the
Court-house.

Thus before four o'clock Baillie was assured of his hundred men or more.
The next problem was to secure horses. He called together such of his
men as were present, and said:

"Each of you is mounted. We shall need your horses. The government will
have them valued, and will pay the assessed price for any that may die
in the service. It will pay monthly for their services. How many of you
will enlist your horses as well as yourselves, as all our cavalrymen
have done?"

The response was general, and many of the planters offered additional
horses on the same terms, so that, before night fell Baillie Pegram had
more than a hundred men and about a hundred and thirty horses secured.
Forty or fifty more horses must be had, but Baillie knew how to secure
them, and so he sent off his note to Stuart. Then he turned to Marshall
Pollard, and said:

"I want you to go to Richmond by the midnight train, old fellow, and
return by the noonday train to-morrow. I've a mind to complete this
business at a stroke. I've a few thousand dollars in bank and a few
thousand more in the hands of my commission merchant. The money is worth
its face now. Heaven only knows what it will be worth a year hence. I'm
going to spend it now for the rest of the horses I need, and I want you
to go to Richmond and bring it to me. In the meanwhile I'll bargain with
a drover who is not very far away, for the horses."

Then, weak as he was, Baillie planned to ride the dozen miles that lay
between the Court-house and the point where the drover was camping with
his horses, but one of his friends, who had just enlisted with him, bade
him to go to the tavern and to bed, saying:

"I'll have the drover and his horses here before noon to-morrow, and I
shall know something about the horses by that time, too, for I'll come
back in company with them, and I'll keep my eyes open."

No sooner was Baillie comfortably stretched upon a lounge in his hotel
room, than Sam presented himself.

"Mas' Baillie," the negro boy broke in, without waiting for his master
to ask how he came to be there, "Mas' Baillie, you's a-gwine to be one
o' de officers now, jes' as you ought to ha' been fust off. Now you'll
need Sam wid you, won't you?"

"I'll need somebody, I suppose," the young man answered, with a laugh at
Sam's enthusiasm, "but if I take you along where I am going, you'll
stand a mighty good chance of getting a bullet-hole through you, or
having your black head knocked off your shoulders by a shell. Have you
thought of that?"

"Co'se I'se thought o' dat, an' I ain't de leas' bit afeard nuther. I'se
a Pegram nigga from Warlock, I is, an' a Pegram nigga from Warlock ain't
got no more business to be afeared o' bullets when his duty brings 'em
in his way, dan a white folks Pegram hisself is. Ef ye'll jes' take Sam
along of you, you sha'n't never have no 'casion to be shamed o' yer
servant."

"Very well, Sam," answered the master; "now go back to Warlock, and tell
your mammy you're going to the war. By the way, you may have that old
velveteen and corduroy hunting suit of mine to wear. Get it from the
closet in the chamber, and tell your mammy to shorten the trousers legs
by seven or eight inches."

Sam was fairly dancing for joy, and as he mounted his mule for the
homeward journey, he began to sing a dismal ditty which he had composed
as an expression of his feelings at the time of his master's first
departure from Warlock to serve as a soldier. Unhappily only a fragment
of the song remains to us. It began:

    "Dey ain't no sun in de mawning,
      Dey ain't no moon shine in de night,
    'Case the war's done come an' de mahstah's done gone,
      Fer to git hisse'f killed in de fight.

                      "Oh, Moses!
                      Holy Moses!
          Can't you come back 'cross de ribber?
          Can't you let Gabrel blow his horn?"

What lines were to follow, and what words rhymed with "ribber" and
"horn," we are not permitted to know. For at this point, Sam, whose
self-education included a considerable proficiency in profanity, broke
off his singing, reined in his mule, and said:

"Dat's too _dam_ dismal fer de 'casion!" Then addressing the mule, he
reproachfully asked:

"What for you done let me sing dat? Don' you know Sam's a-gwine to de
wah wid Mas' Baillie?"

As the mule made no reply, the conversation ceased at this point, and
the remainder of the homeward journey was made in complete silence.



XV

_AGATHA'S VENTURE_


After a month or two of cautious correspondence with friends and others
who were to aid her in carrying out her purpose, Agatha Ronald set out
one day, and drove with Martha, her maid, to Winchester, where she had
friends. After a week's stay there, she made her way to a little town on
the Potomac, again taking up quarters with friends.

From this point, she communicated through her friends with intimates of
theirs who lived in Maryland. Finally she had arrangements made by which
a succession of houses was open to her, all of them the homes of people
strongly in sympathy with the South. But she must first manage to get
through the Federal lines unobserved, and in this a Federal commander
unwittingly aided her. He threw a small force one day into the little
town in which she was staying, meaning to hold possession of it as a
part of the loosely drawn lines on the upper river. This left Agatha
within Federal domain--a young gentlewoman visiting friends, and in no
way attracting attention to herself. Presently she moved on into
Maryland, and by short stages made her way to the house of a very ardent
Southern family, near the Pennsylvania border. From there it was easy
for her to go to Harrisburg, and thence by rail to Baltimore.

The chief purpose of her journey was now practically accomplished. She
had established what she called her "underground railroad," with a
multitude of stations, and a very roundabout route. But it would serve
its purpose all the better for that, she thought, as the chief condition
of its successful operation was that its existence should at no time be
suspected.

In Baltimore, proceeding with the utmost caution, she put herself into
indirect communication with a large number of "Dixie girls"--as young
women in that city whose hearts were with the South were called. It
would not do for her to meet these young women personally. That might
excite suspicion, especially as most of them had brothers in the
Southern army. But through others she succeeded in organising them
secretly into a band prepared to do her work.

That work was the purchase of medicines--chiefly morphine and
quinine--and the smuggling of them through the lines into the
Confederacy for the use of the armies there. For it is one of the
barbarisms of war which civilisation has not yet outgrown, that
medicines, even those which are imperatively necessary for the saving of
life and the prevention of suffering, are held to be as strictly
contraband as gunpowder itself is.

Agatha's plan was to have her associates in Baltimore purchase medicines
and surgical appliances in that city and elsewhere--buying only in small
quantities in each case, in order to avoid suspicion, but buying large
quantities in the aggregate--and forward them to her in Virginia by way
of her underground railroad; that is to say, passing them from hand to
hand over the route by which she had herself reached Baltimore.

Having perfected these arrangements, her next task was herself to get
back to her home, whither she did not mean to go empty-handed. She had
gowns made for herself and Martha, using two thicknesses of oiled silk
as interlining. Between these she bestowed as much morphia as could be
placed there without attracting attention.

This done, she was ready for her return journey, which presented
extraordinary difficulty. She could not return by the way she had come,
lest the purpose of her journey should be discovered, and her plans for
the future be thwarted. She must find some other way.

At first she thought of making her way southward to the lower reaches of
the Potomac, and depending upon chance for means of getting across the
river there, but this was rendered impracticable by the news that the
Confederates had retired from their advanced outposts to Manassas and
Centreville, with the Fairfax Court-house line as their extreme advance
position. This meant, of course, that they no longer held in any
considerable force the posts along the lower river. Moreover, Agatha
learned that both the Potomac below Washington, and the navigable part
of the Rappahannock were closely patrolled now, by night and by day, by
a numerous fleet of big and little Federal war-ships. There seemed no
course open to her but to try in some way to get through to Stuart's
pickets, if in any way or at any risk she could manage that. That she
determined to attempt.

Her first step was to visit friends on the Potomac above Washington.
There she learned minutely what the situation was. With some difficulty
she secured permission to go as a guest to a house near Falls Church, in
Virginia. She had hoped there to find Confederate picket-posts, and to
work her way to some one of them by stealth or strategy, or by boldly
taking risks. She found instead that the nearest Confederate outpost was
at Fairfax Court-house, nine miles away, while the inner Federal lines
lay on the route from Falls Church to Vienna, and stretched both ways
from those points. Stuart was no longer at Mason's and Munson's Hills.
With the approach of winter the Confederates had retired to their
fortified line, and Stuart, with the cavalry, had established himself at
Camp Cooper and other camps, three or four miles in rear of the Fairfax
Court-house line, which now constituted his extreme advance.

Moreover, the Federal army, under McClellan's skilled and vigilant
command, had been completely reorganised, drilled, disciplined, and
converted from the chaotic mass described in his report--quoted in a
former chapter--into an alert and trustworthy army, destined, during
later campaigns, to cover itself with glory. At present, McClellan, who
had no thought of advancing upon Centreville and Manassas, where the
Confederates were strongly fortified, was at any rate manifesting spirit
by continually pressing the Confederate outposts, and now and then
making considerable demonstrations against them.

His inner picket-lines, as already explained, were drawn very near the
house in which Agatha was sojourning. His advanced posts--where the
skirmishing was frequent--were along the Fairfax Court-house line.
Between these two lines lay eight or ten miles of thick and difficult
country, held by the Federals, and scouted over every day, but not
regularly picketed.

Thus, instead of a mile or two of difficulty, Agatha had before her ten
miles of trouble, with a prospect of worse at the end of it.

Time and extraordinary care were necessary to meet these new
difficulties. Agatha's first problem was to find out all she could of
facts, to gather exact and trustworthy information. In this endeavour
she had a shrewdly intelligent co-adjutor in Martha.

By way of avoiding suspicion--for the family with whom she was staying
were known to be strongly Southern in their sympathies, and the Federal
officers had begun to understand the devoted loyalty of the negroes to
the families that owned them--Agatha established Martha in a cabin of
her own a mile or more from the house. There Martha posed as a free
negro woman, who was disposed to make a living for herself by selling
fried chickens, biscuits, and pies to the Federal soldiers on the
interior picket-lines, and a little later to those posted farther in
advance.

Martha was a sagacious as well as a discreet person. At first she showed
a timid reluctance to go farther toward the front than the inner lines
from Falls Church to Vienna. While peddling her wares there, she took
pains to learn all the foot-paths, and the location of all the
picket-posts in that region. Then little by little she allowed herself
to be persuaded to go farther toward the outer lines, for the soldiers
found her fried chicken and her biscuits and her pies particularly
alluring.

It was only after she had mastered both the topography of the country
between, and the exact methods of its military occupation, that she so
far overcame her assumed timidity as to push on with her basket to the
picket-posts immediately in front of Fairfax Court-house itself. She
raised her prices as she went, lest by selling out her stock in trade
she should leave herself no excuse for going to the extreme front at
all. For the same reason she came at last to pass by many posts where
she had formerly had good customers, retaining her wares professedly for
the sake of the higher prices that the men at the front gladly paid for
something better to eat than the contents of their haversacks.

Within a week or two Martha had learned and reported to her mistress
quite all that any officer on either side knew of the country, its
roads, its foot-paths, its difficulties, and the opportunities it
afforded. In the middle of every night, Martha made her way to her
mistress, or her mistress made her way to Martha, until at last, Agatha,
who had directed her inquiries, was equipped with all necessary
information, and ready for her supreme endeavour. It involved much of
danger and incredible difficulty. But the courageous young woman was
prepared to meet both danger and difficulty with an equable mind. She
knew now whither she was going and how, but the journey through a
difficult country must be made wholly on foot and wholly by night.

Agatha was ready for the ordeal. As for Martha, the earth to the very
ends of it held no terrors that could cause even hesitation on her part
in the service of her mistress.



XVI

_CANISTER_


It was a little after midnight when Agatha and her maid, stripped of all
belongings that could impede them on their way, set out on foot upon
their perilous journey. Agatha was deliberately exposing herself to far
worse dangers than any that the soldier is called upon to brave in the
work of war. She could carry little in the way of food, and of course
could not replenish her supplies until she should succeed in entering
the Confederate lines, if indeed that purpose were not hopeless of
accomplishment at all. But the danger of starvation which these
conditions involved, was the very least of the perils she must
encounter. At any moment of her stealthy progress she might be shot by a
sentinel. Far worse than that, she might be seized with her tell-tale
medicines upon her person, while hiding within the forbidden lines of
the enemy. In that case, there would be no question whatever as to her
status in military law, or as to her fate. If she should fall into the
enemy's hands under such circumstances, by forcible capture or even by
voluntary surrender, she must certainly be hanged as a spy. She was
armed against that danger only by the possession of the means of instant
self-destruction,--her little six-shooter.

It was comparatively easy for her to find her way during the first
night, through the slender interior picket-line, and into the forbidden
region that lay between that and the outposts in front. Every roadway
leading toward the Confederate positions was, of course, securely
guarded, and all of them were thus completely closed to Agatha's use.
She must steal through the thickets of underbrush that lay between the
roads, making such progress as she could without at any time placing
herself within sight or hearing of a sentinel. Sometimes this involved
prolonged waiting in constrained positions, and several times she
narrowly missed discovery.

When morning came, the pair of women hid themselves between two logs
that lay in a dense thicket, and there they remained throughout the
daylight hours. There, too, before noon, they consumed the last
fragments of their food.

During the next night they made small progress. They succeeded, indeed,
in crossing a deep and muddy creek that lay in front of them, but it was
only to find themselves confronted by a roadway, which ran athwart their
line of march, and which, on this night, at least, was heavily picketed
and constantly patrolled by scouting squads of cavalry.

Agatha crept on her hands and knees, and quite noiselessly, to a point
from which she could make out the situation, and there the pair remained
in hiding among the weeds and bushes that skirted an old and partially
destroyed fence, until daylight came again.

With the daylight came a considerable thinning of the line of videttes
in front, and toward nightfall, after a day of toilsome crawling back
and forth in search of a way of escape, the two women succeeded in
crossing the road unobserved. After crawling for a hundred yards or so
beyond the road, they hid themselves as securely as they could, and
waited for night to come again.

They were suffering the pangs of excessive hunger and thirst now, and
gnawing roots and twigs by way of appeasing the terrible craving. It was
obvious to Agatha that this night must make an end of her attempt in one
way or another. She must reach the Confederate lines before the coming
of another day, or both she and her companion must perish of hunger, or
surrender themselves and be hanged. She suggested this thought to
Martha, whose only answer was:

"Anyhow, you'se got your pistol, Miss Agatha."

There were still two miles or more to go before reaching the little
patch of briars and young chestnut-trees just in front of the Fairfax
Court-house village, which was Agatha's objective. During her peddling
trips, Martha had learned that Federal sharpshooters were thrown into
this thicket every night, usually between midnight and morning, for the
purpose of annoying the Confederate pickets, stationed not fifty yards
away. She had learned, too, that nearly every morning, about daylight,
the Confederates were accustomed to rid themselves of the annoyance by
sending out a cavalry force to charge the thicket and clear it of its
occupants. It was Agatha's plan to hide herself and her maid there, and
be captured by Stuart's men when they should come.

But she could not enter the bushes until the sharpshooters should be in
position. Otherwise they would be sure to discover her while placing
themselves. As soon as the riflemen had crept to their posts, Agatha,
favoured by the unusual darkness of a thickly clouded night, crept to a
hiding-place just in rear of the men. There she and Martha lay upon the
ground during long hours, well-nigh famished, and suffering severely
from cold, for the autumn was now well advanced.

Unfortunately for Agatha's plan, the Confederates had adopted new
methods for this night. Instead of ordering cavalry to clear the
thicket, they had decided to clear it with canister. Accordingly, a
battery of artillery had been ordered to the front, and bivouacked half
a mile in rear of Fairfax Court-house. Thence just before daylight two
guns had been dragged forward by prolonge ropes, and stationed under the
trees of a little grove about fifty yards in front of the cover from
which the Federal sharpshooters were occasionally firing.

Just at dawn, these two guns suddenly and furiously opened upon the
bushes with canister in double charges.

The effect was terrific. The bushes were mown down as with a scythe, and
it seemed impossible to the two women that any human being should
survive the iron hailstorm for a single minute. The sharpshooters
scurried away precipitately, one of them actually stumbling over
Agatha's prostrate form, which he probably took to be that of some
comrade slain. But Agatha and her maid remained, and the fearful fire
continued. They remained because there was nothing else for them to do.
They could not retreat. They could not surrender. They were starving.
They must go forward or die.

Then the courage and daring of her race came to Agatha's soul, and she
resolved to make a last desperate attempt to save herself, not by
running away from the fire,--which would be worse than useless,--but by
running into it. The danger in doing this was scarcely greater, in fact,
though it seemed so, than that involved in lying still, but it requires
an extraordinary courage for one unarmed and not inspired by the
desperate all-daring spirit of battle, to rush upon guns that are
belching canister in half-gallon charges, at the rate of three or four
times a minute.

The sharpshooters were completely gone now, and nothing lay between the
young woman and her friends except a canister-swept open space fifty
yards in width. This the heroic girl--baffled of all other
resource--determined to dare. Directing Martha to follow her closely,
she rose and in the gray of the dawn ran like a deer toward the
bellowing guns. Fortunately, some one at the guns caught sight of the
fleet-footed pair when they had covered about half the distance, and, in
the increasing light, saw them to be women. Instantly the order, "Cease
firing!" was given, and the clamorous cannon were hushed, but a heavy
musketry fire from the enemy broke forth just as Agatha and her maid
fell exhausted between the guns. A voice of command rang out:

"Pick up those women, quick, and carry them out of the fire!" Half a
dozen of the men responded, and strong arms carried the nearly lifeless
women to a small depression just in rear, where they were screened from
the now slowly slackening shower of bullets.

When the fire had completely ceased, Captain Baillie Pegram ordered his
guns, "By hand to the rear," and rode back to inquire concerning his
captives. It was then that he discovered for the first time who the
fugitives were, and the horror with which he realised what he supposed
to be the situation, set him reeling in his saddle.

He had heard nothing of Agatha's mission to the north, of course. He now
knew only that she had been hiding within the enemy's lines, and only
one interpretation of that fact seemed possible. Agatha Ronald--the
woman he loved, the woman upon whose integrity and Virginianism he would
have staked his life without a second thought--had turned traitor! He
did not pause to ask himself how, in such a case, she had come to be in
the thicket among the sharpshooters. He was too greatly stunned to think
of that, or otherwise to reason clearly.

Nor did he question her, except to ask if she or her maid had been
wounded, and when she assured him of their safety, he said:

"I don't know whether to thank God for that or not. It might have been
better, perhaps, if both had fallen."

Agatha heard the remark, and understood in part at least the thought
that lay behind it. But she did not reply. She only said, feebly:

"We are starving."

"Bring two horses, quickly," Baillie commanded. "Lieutenant Mills, take
the guns back to the bivouac. Our work here is done."

Then turning to Agatha, he explained:

"We have no rations here; can you manage to ride as far as our bivouac?
It is only half a mile away, and we'll find something to eat there."

Agatha's exhaustion was so great that she could scarcely sit up, but she
summoned all her resolution and managed to hold herself in place on the
McClellan saddle which alone was available for her use. Martha was
carried by the men on an improvised litter.

At the bivouac, no food was found except a pone or two of coarse corn
bread and a few slices of uncooked bacon. But the delicate girl and her
maid devoured these almost greedily, eating the bacon raw in soldier
fashion, for, of course, no fires were allowed upon the picket-line.

Food and rest quickly revived Agatha, and Baillie remembered certain
very peremptory orders he had received as to his course of procedure
should "any woman whatever" come into his lines.

"I must escort you presently to a safer place than this," he said.

"Am I to go under _compulsion_, Captain Pegram," the girl asked, "or of
my own _accord_?"

"With that," he answered, "I am afraid I have nothing to do. My sole
concern is to take you out of danger. It is not my business to ask you
questions as to how you have come into danger in a way so peculiar."

"And yet," she replied, "that is a matter that I suppose requires
_inquiry_, and I am ready for the _ordeal_."

The moment she spoke that word, which was the fourth in the series that
Stuart had given her, and the one he had selected as a test for this
day, Baillie Pegram flinched as if he had been struck, while his face
turned white. Hoping that her use of the word had been accidental, or
that the emphasis she had placed upon it had been unintended, he asked:

"What did you say?"

"I said," she responded, very deliberately, "that I am ready for the
_ordeal_."

The look of consternation on Baillie's face deepened. Without replying,
he walked away in an agitation of mind which he felt must be hidden from
others at all costs. Pacing back and forth under screen of some bushes,
he tried to think the matter out. Under his orders, he must arrest
Agatha and take her to Stuart, who had been more than usually anxious,
as Baillie knew, to capture this particular prisoner. But to do that, he
felt, must mean Agatha's disgrace and shameful death, and the staining
of an ancient and honoured name. Yet what else could he do?

"Would to God!" he exclaimed, under his breath, "that my canister had
done its work better!"

Then he fell into silence again, questioning himself in the vain hope of
finding a way through the blind wall of circumstances.

"Agatha," he thought, "has been with the enemy, and has been trying to
get back again in order to render them some further traitorous service.
Stuart has obviously learned all about the conspiracy in which she had
been engaged. That is why he has been so eager for her arrest. That is
how he knew what signal-words she would use in her endeavour to find
some fellow conspirator among us. But why did she use the word to me.
Surely the conspiracy cannot have become so wide-spread among us that
she deemed _me_ a person likely to be engaged in it. Perhaps she spoke
for other ears than mine, hoping to find a traitor among those who stood
by.

"And the worst of it is that I still love her. Knowing her treachery and
her shame, I still cannot change my attitude of mind. What shall I do? I
could turn traitor for her sake. I could manage to secure her escape,
and then give myself up, confess my crime, and accept the shameful death
that it would merit."

For the space of a minute he lingered over this idea of supreme
self-sacrifice with which the devil seemed to be luring him to
destruction. Then he cast it aside, and reproached himself for having
let it enter his mind.

"No love is worth a man's honour," he thought. "A better way would be to
kill her myself, and then commit suicide. No, not that. Suicide is
the coward's way out; and killing her would only reveal and emphasise
her crime."

Just then one of his men approached him, and announced that orders had
come for the battery's return to its camp. Baillie walked back to the
bivouac, and said to his lieutenant:

"Take command and march to the camp at once. I have some personal orders
to execute."

With that promptitude which all men serving under Stuart learned to
regard as one of the cardinal virtues, the lieutenant had the battery
mounted and in motion within a few minutes. Not until it had made the
turn in the road did Baillie approach Agatha. Then he faced her, and
staring with strained and bloodshot eyes into her face, he abruptly
said:

"I love you, Agatha Ronald. In spite of what you have done, that fact
remains. I love you!"

[Illustration: "'_I love you, Agatha Ronald_'"]

"This is neither the time nor place in which to tell me so," she
interrupted. Then, after a brief moment of hesitation, she broke down
and burst into tears. It was only a very few moments before she
controlled herself, and forced herself to speak clearly, though she did
so with manifest difficulty.

"Please forget what you have just said," she began. "I realise your
position. I understand. I think I know what you have been thinking. You
have contemplated a crime for my sake,--the highest crime of all. For my
sake you have been tempted to sacrifice not only your life--which to a
brave man means little--but your honour, which is more precious to a
brave man than all else in the world. Tell me, please, and tell me
quickly, that you have put that temptation aside--that you have utterly
repudiated the horrible thought."

"I have done so certainly," he replied, in a hard voice. "But why do you
care so much for that?"

"Why? Because your honour--all honour--is precious to me, and I could
not respect you if you had consented to the thought of dishonour even in
your mind. I should loathe and detest your soul if for my sake or any
sake you could have done that. No, don't interrupt me, please," seeing
that he was trying to speak, "let me finish. I, too, am under orders,
one of which is to keep my lips sealed. But under such circumstances as
these I may disobey my orders without dishonour. I am not a soldier.
Let me tell you a little, then, so that you may not suffer on my
account. No harm will come to me when you take me, as you must, to
General Stuart. I am here by his own orders, and I was over there,"
motioning toward the enemy's lines, "with his full knowledge and
consent. There. That is all I may tell you."

The strong man turned deathly pale under the shock of the relief that
the young woman's words brought to his mind. For a moment Agatha thought
that he would fall, but recovering himself, he ejaculated, "Thank God!"
and those were the only words he spoke for a space.

He presently ordered the horses brought, and helped Agatha to mount.

"Can you manage to ride a McClellan saddle?" he asked. "There is no
other to be had."

"I suppose not," Agatha answered, with returning spirits. "I suppose the
quartermaster's department does not issue side-saddles to the mounted
artillery for the use of errant damsels whom they capture. But I can do
very well on a cavalry saddle."



XVII

_AT HEADQUARTERS_


Agatha was well-nigh exhausted by the terrible strain she had endured.
She could scarcely sustain herself in the saddle, as she and Baillie set
out, her maid riding a-pillion behind her. She would have liked--if she
had dared risk it--to keep the silence of extreme weariness during the
journey to Stuart's headquarters, two or three miles away, but in fact
she talked incessantly, in a hard, constrained voice, limiting the
conversation strictly to external matters. She asked her companion about
his battery, the number and character of his guns, how many men he might
have under his command, the nature of his duties, and many other things,
chatter about which served as a substitute for the more personal
conversation that she was determined to avoid. She was fencing for
position, and her purpose was plain enough to Baillie Pegram, but at
the end of the ride the girl herself was more inscrutably a riddle to
him than she had been before. For just as they arrived, and when it was
too late for him to say any word in reply, she suddenly turned to him,
and said:

"Before we part, Captain Pegram, I want to thank you for all you have
done for me, and still more for what you have felt--I mean your wish to
save me. I am very grateful, but--"

There she broke off, leaving him to torture himself with almost
maddening conjectures as to what should have followed that bewildering
"but."

At that moment Stuart, who had heard of the capture and was waiting,
came hurriedly from the piazza of his headquarters to greet and welcome
the arriving pair. With strong arms he lifted the girl from her saddle
and placed her on her feet, as he might have done with an infant child.
For he was a giant in strength, and his muscles were as obedient to his
will as were the troopers who so eagerly followed him in every fray.

Seeing the girl's bedraggled condition, and understanding how sorely
shaken her nerves must be, he made no reference to the circumstances of
her coming, but cheerily said:

"I am doubly fortunate, Miss Agatha, in having you again for a visitor,
and in having the ladies of my household with me just now; for God bless
these Virginia women," addressing this part of his remark to Captain
Pegram, "they are always with us when we need them."

With that he hurried Agatha into the house, and placed her in feminine
charge, with orders that she should have food and rest and sleep, and
especially that she should not be annoyed by any questionings until such
time as she should herself desire to speak with him.

"You will remain with us to dinner, Captain Pegram, if you please. There
are matters about which I wish to talk with you."

When the two were left alone, he said:

"Tell me, now, all you know about how Miss Agatha became your
prisoner--the details, I mean."

When Baillie had finished the narrative, expressing wonder that the girl
had passed unharmed through that hailstorm of canister, Stuart said,
simply:

"I'm glad your gun practice was no better."

"So am I," the young man answered.

It was not until late in the afternoon that Stuart was summoned to meet
his guest, who was also his prisoner. She had in the meantime divested
herself and her maid of their burden, and the precious drug had been
carefully packed for shipment under guard to Richmond. She had also
slept long and well after her breakfast, and was now as fresh and as
full of spirit as if she had known no hardship, and passed through no
danger.

Before the dinner hour, Stuart had taken pains to send away all the
members of his staff, each upon some errand manufactured for the
occasion. At dinner there was no one present but his own family, Agatha,
and Captain Baillie Pegram.

Stuart was all eagerness to learn not only the results, but the details
of the perilous journey, and to that end he required Agatha to begin at
the beginning and relate each day's experience. She did so, explaining
the arrangements she had made for her underground railway, and telling
him of a plan she had formed to give to that line a number of termini at
various points in Virginia, each under charge of some trusty "Dixie
girl," in order that there might be no interruption of the traffic,
whatever the future movements of the two armies might be.

"It's the very crookedest railroad you ever heard of, General," she
added, when her account of it was finished, "but I expect it to do a
considerable traffic. I am to be its general freight agent, and I have
impressed all my agents with the fact that the preservation of our
secret is of far greater importance than the safe delivery of any one
consignment of goods. They will take plenty of time at every step, and
not risk discovery for the sake of speed."

"That is excellent. But I wish I had suggested to you to make some
arrangement by which you might--"

"O, I did that," she interrupted. "I took a leaf out of your book. Of
course, it will often be possible to get little letters through, but
letters are very dangerous--at least, when they say anything. So I have
taken your signal-words as my model, and laboriously constructed a
system by which I can say the most dangerous things in a letter without
seeming to say anything at all."

"By signal-words?"

"Yes, partly, but more in other ways."

"For example?"

"Well, if I send a foolish, chattering girl's note about nothing, and I
happen to write it in a 'back hand,' that fact will tell my
correspondent what I want to tell her. So if I write in an ordinary
hand, that will mean something quite different. In the same way, if I
write, 'My dear Mary,' it will signify one thing, while 'Dear Mary' will
mean another; I've arranged fourteen different forms of address, each
having its own particular meaning. The punctuation will mean something,
too, and the way I sign myself, and the colour of my ink, and the
occasional slight misspelling of a word--all these and a dozen other
things are carefully arranged for, so that I can tell a friend pretty
nearly anything I please, while seeming only to tell her the colour of
my new gown--if I ever have a new gown again--or anything else of the
kind that girls are fond of writing letters about."

"But you and all your correspondents must have copies of your code for
all this. Isn't there great danger that one or another of them may be
discovered?"

The girl laughed before answering.

"Even you, General Stuart, must have found out that it is difficult to
discover what is in a young woman's mind. This code exists nowhere else
in the world. We've all learned it by heart, and can recite it backward
or forward or even sideways. No word of it has ever been written down on
paper, or ever will be. You gentlemen are fond of saying that we women
cannot keep a secret. You shall see how well we keep this."

"O, as to that," answered Stuart, "I never shared any such belief. Why,
women keep secrets so well that we never know even what they think of
us. Is not that so, Captain Pegram?"

"Yes, and perhaps it is fortunate for us, too, sometimes."

"But I did betray a secret to Captain Pegram this morning," Agatha
continued, speaking gravely now. "He seemed so troubled at having to
arrest me under the circumstances in which I seemed to have placed
myself, that I relieved his mind by telling him I was acting under your
orders, or, at least, with your consent."

"Perhaps you'd like to prefer charges against the captain? I dare say he
was very stern and inconsiderate."

Instantly the girl flushed, and speaking with unusual seriousness, she
answered:

"I beg to assure you, General Stuart, that Captain Pegram was altogether
generous and kind to me--far more so than I had a right to expect. I can
never sufficiently thank him."

To Baillie, this speech was inscrutable and bewildering. It might mean
one thing, or another--much or little--according to the interpretation
put upon the words. It might refer only to Baillie's care for her
physical comfort and safety, or, as Baillie scarcely dared believe, it
might obliquely include in its intent, an acknowledgment of the
passionate declaration of love that he had been betrayed into making. It
might be interpreted to mean that the words surprised from his lips were
not unwelcome to her who had heard them. She had bidden him forget what
he had said, but might it not be that she herself remembered and was
not displeased with the recollection?

He resolved to ask her for the answer to that riddle at the earliest
possible moment, but for the present he flushed crimson and kept silent.

Stuart, however, had accomplished his purpose. He had found out, or
believed that he had found out, what he wished to know concerning the
attitude of these two toward each other, and he was mightily pleased
with the discovery. He abruptly changed the course of the conversation.

"When would you like to go to your home, Miss Agatha?"

"I should like to set out early to-morrow, General, if I may--if I am
released from arrest."

"O, I shall not release you yet. You are much too dangerous a
conspirator for that. I shall send you home under guard, and I have
selected Captain Pegram to be your safe-keeper. I shall send him with
you, under orders to remain at Willoughby for a week, keeping you under
close surveillance. If at the end of that time he finds you sufficiently
subdued, he will have orders to put you on parole, and return to his
command. As he and you are 'almost strangers,' he will be a safer judge
of the propriety of releasing you than any other officer I could send
for that purpose."

The two were sorely embarrassed by this announcement, coming as it did
without warning to either. Neither knew what to say, or whether the
arrangement was welcome or unwelcome to the other. The sudden
announcement of it, at any rate, was very embarrassing to both, and
Pegram received it with a feeling of consternation for the moment. In
the next instant, he realised the opportunity it would give him to renew
the morning's conversation, and to learn definitely what Agatha's
attitude toward him was to be after such a declaration as he had made.
For whatever else happens, an avowal of that kind, made with such
earnestness, never fails to work some change in a true woman's mind and
soul. Baillie managed, with some difficulty, to say:

"I will be glad to carry out your orders, General."

Agatha said nothing. What she thought and felt, it would be idle to
inquire.



XVIII

_A BRUSH AT THE FRONT_


A situation which might have become embarrassing, had it been prolonged,
was relieved at that moment by the arrival of a courier who had come in
hot haste with messages from the front.

The enemy was moving upon Fairfax Court-house in three columns and in
strong force. The light of battle came into Stuart's eyes as he received
the news, and he issued hurried orders to his staff-officers as one
after another they came up at a gallop. To Agatha he said:

"Remain here, you and the other ladies, unless orders come for you to
leave. I must borrow Captain Pegram from your service for a time, if I
may."

"Gladly!" answered the girl, and her tone sorely puzzled Baillie Pegram.
But there was no time for speculation upon its meaning, for Stuart
turned to him and ordered:

"Take your battery down the Vienna road, and act with Fitz Lee or
whomever else you find there. Move rapidly, but spare your horses all
you can."

Then hurriedly turning to the couriers and staff-officers who stood by
their horses, he issued orders with the rapidity of one who recites the
alphabet or the multiplication table. Within the space of two minutes he
had assigned every brigade and regiment under his command to its post
and duty, and had sent to General Johnston at Centreville a request that
infantry supports might be moved forward and held within call in case of
need. A minute later he was a-gallop for the front.

Baillie had preceded him, and even before the general had reached
Fairfax Court-house, Pegram's battery was hurrying down the Vienna road,
with the First and Fourth Regiments of Virginia cavalry just in front.
It was the work of a very few moments to form these forces and others
that were coming up, into a line of battle, facing the enemy, but by the
time they were in position, Stuart himself came up and took command.

"Tell Captain Pegram," he said to a staff-officer, "to advance his
battery to the brow of the hill yonder, and open a vigorous fire upon
whatever he finds in front. Order Colonel Jones of the First Regiment to
take position immediately in rear of the battery, and support it at all
hazards."

Within less time than it takes to write the words, Baillie Pegram's guns
were hurling shrapnel into the face of the enemy, whose response was
menacingly slow and deliberate.

"That looks," said Stuart, presently, to one who rode by his side, "as
if they meant business this time. Send orders to the infantry in rear to
form a second line, and be ready in case we are beaten back."

It should be explained that during the autumn of 1861 McClellan sent out
many expeditions, each wearing the aspect of an advance in force against
the Confederate position at Centreville. These movements were in reality
intended as threats, and nothing more. The chief purpose of them was to
keep the Confederates uneasy, and at the same time to accustom the
Federal volunteers to stand fire and to contemplate battle in earnest as
the serious business of the soldier.

These advances were made always with a brave show of infantry, cavalry,
and artillery, and with all the seeming of the vanguard of an army
intending battle. But after a heavy skirmish the columns were always
withdrawn, leaving only picket-lines at the front. McClellan was not yet
ready to offer battle. It was during that period that President Lincoln,
weary of McClellan's delay and inactivity, sarcastically said that if
the general had no use for the army, he (Lincoln) would like to borrow
it for awhile.

But this day's movement differed in some respects from those that had
gone before. It involved a much heavier force, for one thing, and the
proportion of artillery to the other arms was greater. Still more
significant was the fact that the commander of the expedition, instead
of making the customary dash, threw forward a heavy skirmish-line,
holding his main body in reserve, and otherwise conducting himself after
the fashion of a general sent to hold the front with as little fighting
as might be, until a much heavier force could be brought up.

It was Stuart's duty, as the commander of the cavalry, to find out as
quickly as possible what lay behind the lines that confronted him, in
order that he might know and report precisely what and how much the
movement meant. To that end he sent for Colonel Jones, of the First
Regiment, and when that most unmilitary-looking of hard fighters
presented himself in his faded yellow coat, the pot hat which he always
wore at that time, and with his peculiar nasal drawl, Stuart gave the
order:

"Take your right company and ride to the right around the flank of the
enemy's line. Find out what it amounts to. See if there are baggage and
ammunition trains in rear, and if they mean business. The whole thing is
probably as hollow as a gourd, but it may be otherwise. Go and find
out."

In the meantime, Stuart had dismounted a part of his forces, and ordered
them with their carbines to form a skirmish-line on foot in front. The
rest of his men--three thousand stalwart young cavaliers, mounted upon
horses that had pedigrees behind them--were drawn up in double ranks
wherever there was space for a regiment, a company, or a squad of them
to stand.

Then came half an hour of waiting. The enemy had thrown additional
infantry forward, and the skirmishing grew steadily heavier, as if the
Federal skirmish-line were being reinforced from moment to moment.

In fact, that heavy advance-line embraced all there was of the Federal
movement, as Colonel Jones discovered, when with a single company of
horsemen he gained the enemy's rear. There were no baggage or provision
or ammunition trains to indicate a serious purpose of giving battle.

The captain of the company which Colonel Jones had taken with him on
this mission of discovery, was a reticent person, but a man of quick
wits, ready resource, and a daring that always had a relish of humour in
it. When Colonel Jones suggested a return march around the enemy's left
flank, the captain asked:

"Why not take a short cut?" and when asked for his meaning, answered:

"It's an egg-shell, that line. The quickest way of letting Stuart know
the fact, it seems to me, would be to break through right here. He won't
be long in getting to windward of the situation when he sees us coming."

The suggestion was instantly acted upon, with a startling dramatic
result. With a yell that made them seem a regiment of howling demons,
the fifty or sixty men charged upon the rear of the line and broke
through it. Even before the head of their little column showed itself on
the farther side, their yells had made sufficient report of the facts to
the alert mind of Jeb Stuart. He instantly led his entire force forward
to the charge.

There was a clatter of hoofs, a clangour of sabres, a rattle of small
arms, and a roar from Baillie Pegram's guns. Everything was shrouded in
an impenetrable cloud of dust and powder-smoke.

The enemy stood fast for a time, resisting obstinately and fairly
checking the tremendous onset. It was not until a brigade of infantry
and three full batteries had been brought into action that the Federals
gave way. Even then, they retreated in orderly fashion, with no
suggestion of panic or loss of cohesion.

"George B. McClellan has at last got his army into fighting shape,"
commented Stuart, when all was over. "He's going to give us trouble from
this time forth."

The Federals were in full retreat, but their steadiness did not
encourage Stuart to send small forces in pursuit. He contented himself
with advancing his line half a mile for purposes of observation, after
which, as the night was falling, he ordered a general return of his
regiments to their encampments.

When all was over, there were found to be many empty saddles in Stuart's
command. Among them was that which Baillie Pegram had ridden during the
morning's journey with Agatha Ronald.



XIX

_AGATHA'S RESOLUTION_


The reports which came to Stuart from the several commands that evening
included one from the senior lieutenant of Baillie Pegram's battery.
After reading it, Stuart took Agatha aside, and said:

"I have news which it will not be pleasant for you to hear. Captain
Pegram is badly wounded, and in the hands of the enemy."

The girl paled to the lips, but controlled herself, and replied in a
voice constrained but steady:

"Tell me about it, General--all of it, please."

"I'll tell you all that is known. Captain Pegram is an unusually
energetic officer, with a bad habit of getting himself wounded. His
battery to-day was in the extreme advance, but it seems that a little
hill just in front of him interfered with the fire of one of his guns,
and so he advanced with that piece to the crest of the mound. At that
moment the enemy made a dash at that point, and it became necessary to
retire the gun to prevent its capture. Pegram gave orders to that
effect, and they were executed. But almost as the orders left his lips,
he fell from his horse with a bullet-hole through his body. His men
tried to bring him off, but that involved the risk of losing the gun, so
he peremptorily ordered them to save the gun and leave him where he lay.
The enemy's line swarmed over the little hill, and when our men
recovered it, Pegram was nowhere to be found. The enemy had evidently
carried him to the rear to care for him as a wounded prisoner."

"Can anything be done?" the girl asked, still with an apparent calm that
would have deceived a less sagacious observer than Stuart.

"I could send a flag of truce to-morrow to ask concerning him, but it
would be of no use. You see the enemy refuses as yet to recognise our
rights as belligerents, and will not communicate with us in proper form.
Their answer would come back addressed to me, but carefully lacking all
indication of my character as an officer in the Confederate army. Under
my orders I could not receive a communication so addressed. It would be
of no use, therefore, to inquire, and in any case we could not secure
his exchange, as we have now no exchange cartel in force. I do not see
that we can do anything."

The young woman stood silent for a full minute, while Stuart looked at
her, full of an admiration for the courage she was manifesting. At last
she asked:

"General, will you send to the camp of Captain Pegram's battery, and bid
his servant report here to me at once?"

For reply Stuart called Corporal Hagan--the swarthy giant who had charge
of his couriers--and ordered him to send a courier on Agatha's mission
without delay.

Half an hour later Sam presented himself with eyes red from weeping, and
Agatha proceeded at once to business.

"You care a great deal for your master, don't you, Sam?"

"Kyar for Mas' Baillie? Ain't I his nigga? An' ain't he de mastah of
Warlock? Kyar for him? Why, Mis' Agatha, I'se ready to lay down an' die
dis heah very minute 'case he's done got hisse'f shot an' captured."

"Then you are willing to take some risks for his sake?"

"Sho' as shootin' I is. Yes, sho'er'n shootin', 'case shootin' ain't
always sho'. Jes' you tell me how to do anything for Mas' Baillie, an'
then bet all the money you done got, an' put your mortal soul into de
bet, dat Sam'll face de very debil hisse'f to carry out yer
'structions."

"I believe you, Sam, and I'm going to trust you. You will go with me to
Willoughby to-morrow. We'll start soon in the morning and get there
before night. From there I'm going to send you north to find your
master. I'll tell you how to do it. When you find him, you are to stay
with him and nurse him, no matter where he is. And when he gets well
enough, you must find some way of setting him free from the hospital so
that he can make his way back to Virginia again."

"But, Mis' Agatha, how's I to--"

"Never mind the details now. I'll tell you about all that when I get my
plans ready. I'll tell you everything you must do and how to do it, so
far as I can, and you must depend on your wits for the rest. You're
pretty quick, I think."

"Yes'm; anyhow I kin see through a millstone ef there's a hole through
it. But, Mis' Agatha, is you sho' 'nuff gwine to tell me how to fin'
Mas' Baillie an' take kyar o' him?"

Agatha reassured him, and sent him off to sleep in order to be ready for
their early start in the morning. Then she joined Stuart and asked him:

"Did you pick up any prisoners near the point where Captain Pegram
fell?"

"I really don't know. Why?"

"Why, if you did you'd know to what command they belonged, and that
would help me."

"Help you? Why, what are you planning?"

"To find Captain Pegram."

"But how?"

"Through my agents,--and Sam, his body-servant."

"O, I see. Your underground railroad is to have a passenger traffic.
I'll find out what you wish to know. And if you'd like I'll have Sam
passed through our lines, after which he can pretend to be a runaway."

"I thought of that," Agatha answered, "but it will not do. I must send
him through my friends. You see in Maryland he'll require a slave's pass
from a master, and my friends will be his masters, one after another.
Besides, they will help me find out in what hospital Captain Pegram is.
I've thought it all out. I must first prepare my friends for Sam's
coming. With your permission I'll take him with me to Willoughby
to-morrow."

"You are a wonderful woman!"

That is all that Stuart said, but it sufficiently suggested the
admiration he felt for her courage, her resourcefulness, and her womanly
devotion. Bidding her call upon him for any assistance she might need in
carrying out her plans, he dismissed her for the night, ordering her to
go to sleep precisely as he might have ordered a soldier to go to his
tent. But Agatha did not obey as the soldier would have done. She went
to bed, indeed, but she could not sleep. Her nerves were all a-quiver as
the result of the trying experiences to which she had been subjected,
until now her excited brain simply would not sink into quietude. She lay
hour after hour staring into the darkness, thinking, thinking,
thinking. She remembered the words that suffering on her account had
wrung from Baillie Pegram that morning at the bivouac, and she bitterly
reproached herself for having given him no worthier answer than a
command to forget what he had said. She knew now with what measure of
devotion this man loved her, and she knew something else, too, as she
lay there in the darkness face to face with her own soul. She knew now
that she loved Baillie Pegram with all that was best in her proud and
passionate nature. That truth confronted her. It was "naked and not
ashamed." Her conscience scourged her for what she regarded as her
heartlessness and frivolity in putting aside his declaration of love
with the false pretence that it found no response in her own soul.

"I might at least have thanked him," she thought. "I might at least have
said to him 'there is no longer war between me and thee.' And now he
lies dead perhaps, or on a bed of suffering,--a wounded prisoner in the
hands of the enemy. All that I can now do is to search him out and send
Sam to nurse and comfort him." Then a new thought came to her. "That is
_not_ all that I can do. Shame upon me for thinking so, even for a
moment. I can go to him myself, and I will, if God lets him live long
enough. I'll take Sam with me. He can be very helpful in the search,
with his sharp wits and the freedom from suspicion which his black face
will secure him."

The dawn was breaking now, and a score of bugles were musically sounding
the reveille in the camps round about. Agatha rose quickly, and without
summoning her weary maid, plunged her face into a basin of cold water
half a dozen times. Then seeing in her little mirror how hollow-eyed and
haggard she was, she wetted a towel and flagellated herself with it till
the colour came back and her nerves lost their tremulousness.

So great a transformation did this treatment work, that Stuart
complimented her upon her freshness of face when she appeared at the
breakfast-table. He had meanwhile secured for her definite information
as to the Federal command that had made Pegram prisoner. He had also
managed in some way to secure a side-saddle for her to ride upon, and a
squad of cavalrymen, under command of a sergeant, was waiting outside
to be her escort on her journey.

"Thank you, General, for giving me so good a mount," she said, glancing
with a practised eye at the lean but powerful animal provided for her
use.

"You should have a better one, if a better were to be had. You deserve
it. By the way, you need not send the horse back by the escort. He will
not be needed here, for a time at least."

Agatha looked at him, and then at the animal again, this time
recognising it as the one that Baillie Pegram had ridden by her side
twenty-four hours before.

"He belongs to Captain Pegram, I believe," she answered.

"Yes, his second horse, and he is specially careful of him."

"I'll see that the animal is well cared for," answered the girl,
"until--"

She did not finish the sentence, and Stuart turned away, pretending not
to see the tears that stood beneath her eyelids.



XX

_TWO HOME-COMINGS_


News of Agatha's safe return to Virginia had been sent to Colonel Archer
by a courier, on the morning of her arrival at Stuart's headquarters,
and the octogenarian promenaded up and down the porch all the next day,
during her homeward journey.

He had greatly grieved to have his "ladybird" undertake her late
perilous enterprise at all. But with him at least Agatha was accustomed
to have her way, and moreover the spirit of the old soldier was strong
within him still, so that he was intensely in sympathy with Agatha's
courageous purpose to render such service as a woman might to the cause
that both had at heart.

But Agatha had a harder task before her now. Remembering the
heart-broken tone in which he had bidden her good-bye on the former
occasion, and easily imagining the suffering he must have endured
during her absence, both from loneliness and from apprehension for her
safety, she thought with something like terror of her new necessity of
leaving him again, almost in the very hour of his joy at her return. For
it was her resolute purpose to set out again within a very few days,--as
soon, indeed, as she could feel confidence that her preliminary letters
would reach their destination before her own arrival there.

There were other matters that troubled her, too. She must tell her
Chummie the reason for her second journey, and that would be a
distressing thing for her to do. She must tell him frankly--for she
would never in the least trifle with truth, especially in dealing with
him--that she had learned to love Baillie Pegram, and that she had in
effect put it out of possibility that Baillie Pegram should ever ask for
knowledge of that fact.

To a woman of her sensitively proud nature, such a confession, even to
her grandfather, seemed almost shameful. She shrank from the very
thought of it, and flushed crimson every time it came to her mind during
that long day's ride. Yet not for one moment did she falter in her
determination to undergo the ordeal. Not for one moment did she
entertain a thought of evading the painful confession, or in any way
disguising the truth. So much was due to her grandfather, and never in
her life had she cheated him of his dues as Chummie. It was due to
herself also. To shrink from a duty because of its painfulness would be
cowardice, and there was no touch or trace of that most detestable
weakness in her soul.

"Anyhow," she resolved, "I'll let him have one whole day of joy before I
grieve him with the news that I must go away again. And in telling him
of my first journey I'll say as little as I can about the dangers
encountered and the hardships endured; I'll make as much of a frolic of
it as I can in the telling. Surely there will be no untruthfulness in
that."

That day's journey was a long one, but the start was early, and Baillie
Pegram's horse was a willing one, as that energetic young man's horses
were apt to be, while as for the troopers of the escort, they and their
horses were accustomed to follow at any pace their leader might set. It
was barely three o'clock in the afternoon, therefore, when the cavalcade
arrived at Willoughby, and Agatha threw herself into the old gentleman's
arms.

"Oh, Agatha!"

"Oh, Chummie!"

That at first was all that the two could say. When Colonel Archer found
voice he greeted the troopers and bade them leave their horses to the
care of his servants. For the men were of that class, socially, to which
Colonel Archer belonged, and there was no thought at that time in
Virginia of treating a gentleman otherwise than as a gentleman, merely
because he happened to be a private soldier.

"You will be my guests for the night," the host said, quite as if that
settled the matter. But the sergeant had orders which he must
obey,--orders which Stuart, with his unfailing foresight, had probably
given, to make sure that the presence of his men at Willoughby overnight
might not spoil an occasion of tender affection.

"Thank you very cordially, Colonel Archer," answered the sergeant; "but
we are under orders to move on toward Loudoun County to-night. We are
permitted to rest the horses for three hours only. After that we must
march about a dozen miles before sleeping, so that we may complete a
little scouting expedition into Loudoun to-morrow. Our orders on that
point are peremptory."

"Well, Ladybird, we'll have the gentlemen to dinner at any rate. As soon
as I heard of your coming I went out with my gun, and brought back two
big wild turkeys, as fat as butter. I thought you might come under
escort, so I've had them put both the birds on the spit. I'll wager you
gentlemen haven't seen a wild turkey this fall."

So he ran on with his hospitable greetings, managing in his joyous
nervousness to upset two of the glasses which he had ordered a servant
to bring with the decanters, for the troopers' refreshment. Agatha
managed presently to get a word with him aside.

"It is three o'clock, Chummie--an hour before dinner. I'll have time
enough to boil myself a little. Think of it, Chummie, I haven't had a
hot bath for a whole week!" Then turning to her escort she excused
herself until the dinner-hour.

This was an unhappy circumstance, as Agatha learned when she came down,
fresh-faced, to the dinner. For, left alone with the troopers, the old
gentleman naturally asked them concerning the details of her coming into
Stuart's lines, and as the story of her dash through the canister fire
was echoing throughout the army, the young fellows grew enthusiastic in
their minute descriptions of her peril and her heroism. When Agatha
reappeared, therefore, the old gentleman was all a-tremble. He met her
at the foot of the stairway, and a little scene followed, which told the
girl not only that he knew all that had been most harrowing in her
experiences, but that the knowledge of it would make her coming absence
cruelly hard for him to bear.

At dinner he found himself too tremulous to carve, and, for the first
time in his life, he relinquished that most hospitable of all a host's
offices to the younger men.

"Never mind, Ladybird," he said, cheerily, as he saw how greatly
troubled she was, "it will pass presently, and you shall find me quite
myself again in the morning. We're going after the birds, you know, you
and I. I haven't allowed a partridge to be killed on the plantation this
fall, so that you might be sure of a good day's sport with Chummie."

Thus it came about that as the old man and the young woman sat in the
firelight that evening, after the troopers were gone, Agatha changed her
purpose and told him of Baillie Pegram. Delicately, but with perfect
candour, she told the whole of the truth.

"I learned to like him very much while I was in Richmond last Christmas,
and I was not to blame for that, was I, Chummie? He was so kind to me,
so good in a thousand little ways, so gentle in all his strength that he
reminded me of you, more than anybody else ever did. I used often to
think that he was very much the sort of man you must have been when you
were in your twenties. There was no reason, that I knew of, why I should
not like him. He was a gentleman, the representative of one of the best
families in the State, a man of the highest character, well-educated,
travelled, intellectual, and of charming manners. He did more than
anybody else--or everybody else for that matter--to make the time pass
pleasantly for me. You see how it was, don't you, Chummie?"

The old gentleman nodded his head with a smile, and answered:

"I see how it was, Ladybird. Go on. Tell me all about it."

"Then one day there came a letter from The Oaks. It wasn't just a
scolding letter. It was something much worse than that. For if my aunts
had scolded me, I shouldn't have stood it."

"What would you have done, Ladybird?" asked the grandfather, with a look
of pleased and loving pride upon his countenance.

"I should have come back to Willoughby and you."

"And right welcome you would have been. But go on. What did the old
cats--psha! I didn't mean that; I thought I heard a cat yowling as I
spoke--what did the good ladies of The Oaks say to you?"

"O, they wrote very kindly and sorrowfully. They were shocked to know
that I had permitted something like intimacy to grow up between myself
and a young man without consulting them as to the proprieties of the
situation. But how could I have done that, Chummie? You see I didn't sit
down and say, 'I'm going to be intimate with this young man if my aunts
approve.' The friendship just grew, quite naturally, like the grass on a
lawn. I didn't think about it at all, and I don't see why I should. I
met Mr. Pegram in all the best houses; everybody was fond of him, and
everybody spoke of him in the highest terms. Why should I think--"

"You shouldn't, Ladybird. I should have been ashamed of you if you had.
Only a vain or morbidly self-conscious girl would have thought in such a
case. And only--there goes that confounded cat again--only elderly
gentlewomen of secluded lives and a badly perverted sense of propriety
would ever have thought of such a thing. But continue, my child. I
suppose they told you about that idiotic old quarrel--"

"Yes, Chummie--they told me and they didn't tell me. They never would
say what it was all about, or how much there was in it. Indeed, they
told me I was guilty of a great irreverence in even asking concerning
it. They said it should be quite enough for a well-ordered young woman
to know that these people were my father's enemies. As Mr. Baillie
Pegram never knew my father, I couldn't understand why he and I should
be enemies, but when I said something like that, I saw that the aunties
were terribly shocked. I suppose I'm not a 'well-ordered' young lady,
Chummie."

"No! Thank God you're not. You are just a sweet, wholesome, lovable
girl--and that is very different from what those old--ladies call a
'well-ordered' young woman."

"Well, anyhow," the girl resumed, "I obeyed my instructions. I wrote to
Mr. Pegram, telling him there could be no friendship between him and me,
and do you know, Chummie, they blamed me more for that than for all the
rest. They said it was 'unladylike' and a lot more things, for me to
write to him at all. But I never could find out what they thought I
ought to have done. I couldn't break off the acquaintance without
telling him I must do so, could I?"

"_You_ couldn't, and I'm glad you couldn't. A 'well-ordered' young lady
would have done it easily. She would have told a lot of lies about not
being at home when he called, or having a headache when he wanted to
see her. You couldn't do that because you are honest and truthful, and
that's the best thing about you, except your love for your old Chummie,
and even that wouldn't be of much account if I couldn't trust its truth
and sincerity. Go on, child. I didn't mean to interrupt."

"O, but you must interrupt. That's the only way I know what you're
thinking. Well, I went to The Oaks sometime later, and while there I
went out one morning for a ride by myself. My poor horse broke his leg,
as I told you in a letter, and Mr. Baillie Pegram happened along, and
was very kind in helping me out of my trouble. He insisted that I should
ride his mare home. I tried all I could to refuse, but he showed me that
I simply could not help myself, and so I took the mare,--the same one
that was killed under him at Manassas. That time the aunties did
actually scold me, or pretty nearly that. So I rebelled, and made up my
mind to come back to you at once. Mr. Pegram dined at The Oaks on the
day before I started, and he and I had a long talk, but of course it
could not change the situation. That was the last I saw of him until
the day before the battle of Manassas, when he took a red feather out of
my hat and wore it in the battle. He was terribly wounded in the fight,
but he sent the feather back to me as he had promised to do. I had
quoted to him or let him quote to me the Indian's defiance, 'There is
war between me and thee.' It was after that that he insisted upon taking
the feather and wearing it through the battle."

The girl paused, but her grandfather said nothing for a whole minute.
Perhaps he felt that she needed the pause before speaking further. At
last he said, very low and gently:

"Tell me about yesterday morning."

She did so, sparing herself at no point. She told of Baillie's outburst,
and of the declaration of his love. She told, too, of her chilling
answer, and her perversity in so managing the conversation as to prevent
a recurrence to the subject. Finally she broke down, saying with
streaming eyes:

"Oh, Chummie! I have ruined his life--and my own!"

"I don't know so well about that. He may recover, you know."

"Yes, I know. But what then?" At that she laid her head upon the old
man's breast and let herself become a little child again, in an
abandonment of grief. And with a childlike confidence and candour she
said at last:

"Oh, Chummie! Don't you understand? He can never know. He will always
think of me as hard and cold and unresponsive. After what I said to him
yesterday morning, he cannot again tell me--why, Chummie, it was as bad
as if I had slapped him in the face!"

The old man caressed her till her agitation subsided. Then, speaking in
a tone of wisdom which irresistibly carried conviction with it, he said:

"You are wholly wrong, Agatha. Baillie Pegram is much too brave and
true, and much too generous a man to let this matter rest where it is.
If he recovers, as I pray God he may, be very sure he will come to you
again and tell you calmly what he blurted out without meaning to do so,
under stress of a trying situation. You must go to sleep now, little
girl. You are very weary and greatly overwrought. And we must be up with
the sun to-morrow on account of the birds. Good night, dear. You must
never leave me again while I live."

There was unsteadiness in his step, as he gallantly ushered her through
the doorway, and as he returned to the room to extinguish the solitary
lamp. Then a heaviness came over him, and he sat down again in his easy
chair before the fire. The logs had ceased to blaze and crackle now, but
the old man sat still. The logs fell into a mass of glowing coals after
a time, and slowly the coals ceased to glow. One by one they went out.
Still he did not move.

There were only ashes in the great fireplace when the morning came and
Agatha found her Chummie still sitting there where the fire of his life
had so gently gone out.



XXI

_AT PARTING_


News of Colonel Archer's death ran rapidly through a State of which he
had been one of the foremost citizens, by reason alike of his public
services and his private virtues. It quickly reached Stuart's ears, and
he promptly sent a courier with a letter of sympathy and friendship, at
the end of which he wrote:

"Now, my dear Miss Agatha, I crave a favour at your hands. Your
grandfather was a soldier greatly distinguished in two wars. He should
have a soldier's burial, and with your permission, which I take for
granted, I am ordering a company of dragoons and a battery now stationed
at Warrenton and under my command, to move at once to Willoughby, and
there pay the last honours to the veteran."

Heart-broken as she was, Agatha met calamity with a fortitude which
astonished even herself. She was still scarcely more than a girl, but
the blood of a soldier filled her veins,--a soldier who had never
flinched from danger or murmured under suffering. "I too will neither
flinch nor murmur," she said to herself. "Chummie would like it best to
see me brave and resolute, if he could know--and perhaps he does know. I
will bear myself as he would like me to."

And she kept that vow to the letter. The tears would mount to her
eyelids now and then in spite of her and trickle down her cheeks; but
they were silent tears, accompanied by no moanings that were audible;
they were the tears of heart-break, not the tears of weakness and
self-pity. They were hidden for the most part from human view, and
resolutely restrained in the presence of others. And when any of those
who thronged about her for her consolation caught momentary sight of
them, the effect was like that produced when a strong man weeps.

When the soldiers came she directed an attentive ministry to their
comfort, and after the last salutes to the dead had been fired over the
grave, she turned to Captain Marshall Pollard, whose battery it was
that had paid that tribute of honour, and asked in a steady voice:

"Can you arrange to stay at Willoughby overnight? I have need to talk
with you of matters of some importance. It will be very kind and good of
you, if you can manage it."

After a moment's reflection, Marshall answered:

"I can stay till midnight, and that will give us time for our talk. I
must be at Warrenton at reveille in the morning, but my horse will
easily make the distance if I start by one o'clock."

Then he spoke a few words in a low tone to his lieutenant, who took
command and marched the battery away, with all heads bared till they had
passed out of the grounds.

"Let us not talk of my grandfather, please," said the girl, as the two
entered the drawing-room. "Not that I shrink from that," she quickly
added. "It can never be painful to me to speak of him. But it might
distress you. You knew him and loved him long ago, before--before you
and I quarrelled."

She did not shrink from this reference to the past, or try in any way to
disguise the truth of it. Her mind was full of the dear dead man's last
words spoken in praise of her courage and truthfulness, and she was more
resolute than ever to live up to the character he had approved so
earnestly and with so much of loving admiration.

"I think we did not quarrel," the young captain responded; "you did not,
at any rate. I misjudged you cruelly, and in my anger I falsely accused
you in my heart. Believe me, Agatha,"--he had called her so in the old
days, and the name came easily to his lips now,--"believe me when I say
that I have outlived all that bitterness. Let us be true, loyal friends
hereafter, friends who know and trust each other, friends who do not
misunderstand."

The girl held out her hand, in response, and made no effort to hide the
tears with which she welcomed this healing of the old wounds.

The young man, too, rejoiced in a reconciliation which laid his old love
for this woman for ever to rest and planted flowers of friendship upon
its grave. He was astonished at his own condition of mind and heart. He
learned now the truth that his mad love for Agatha had become completely
a thing of the past, and that the bitterness which had at first
succeeded it was utterly gone. He could think of her henceforth with a
tender affection that had no trace of passion in it. The dead past had
buried its dead, and the grass grew green above it.

At that moment dinner was announced, for Agatha had decreed that life at
Willoughby should at once resume its accustomed order. "Chummie would
like it so," she thought. So the two friends passed through the hall to
the dining-room hand in hand, just as they had so often done in the old
days before passion had come to disturb their lives.

Marshall had now one supreme desire with respect to Agatha,--a great
yearning to comfort her and help her as a brother might. He told her so,
when they returned to the drawing-room after dinner, to sit before the
great fire of hickory logs during all the remaining hours of Marshall's
stay.

"Tell me now," he said, "of your plans, that I may share in them and
help you carry them out perhaps. What are you going to do?"

"I'm going to find Baillie if I can, and nurse him back to health--if it
is not too late."

"But he is in the hands of the enemy, you know."

"Yes, I know. That makes it more difficult, but we must not shrink from
difficulties. I shall start north to-morrow."

"But how?--Tell me about it, please."

She explained her plans, telling him of the arrangements she had made
for bringing medicines through the blockade, transmitting letters, and
finding friends at every step in case of need. Then she added:

"I'm going to take Sam with me this time. He is devoted to his master,
and his sagacity is extraordinary. I shall depend upon him to help me
find where Baillie is, and to do whatever there is to do for him."

"Will you let me have writing materials?" the young man abruptly asked.

Without asking for an explanation, she brought her lap desk, and with
the awkwardness which a man always manifests in attempting to use that
peculiarly feminine device, he managed to fill two or three sheets. When
he had done, he handed the papers to her, saying:

"I can really help, I think. You will need money for your expenses. You
must have it in sufficient supply to meet all emergencies, so that you
may never be delayed or baffled in any purpose for want of it. And it
may easily happen that you shall need a considerable sum at once. Money
is the pass-key to many difficult doors. It so happens that I have a
very considerable sum invested in railroad and other securities, in the
hands of a very close friend of mine in New York. I have written to him
to sell out the whole of them and place the proceeds at your disposal in
any banks that may be most convenient to you."

"But, Marshall, you are impoverishing yourself--"

"In the which case," he responded, with his gentle, half-mocking smile,
"I should be doing no more than all the rest of us Virginians are doing
in this struggle. But I am doing nothing of the kind. I have a
plantation, you know, and absolutely nobody dependent upon me. If I
survive the war I shall have some land, at any rate, out of which to dig
a living. These investments of mine at the North were made long before
the war, and I should have sold them out at the beginning of the
trouble if I hadn't been too lazy to attend to my affairs. I'm glad now
that I was lazy. It enables me to help the two best friends I ever had
in this rather lonely world,--Baillie Pegram and you. A man may do as he
likes with his own, you know, and this is precisely what I like to do
with my securities. Fortunately my friend who has them in charge is a
blue-blooded Virginian, who would be fighting with us out there on the
lines, if he were not a helpless cripple, fit for nothing, as he wrote
to me when the trouble came, but to manage his banking-house. But how
are you to get these papers through with you, without risk of
discovery?"

"I'll make Sam carry them," she responded. "Nobody will ever think of
searching him, particularly as his connection with my affairs will be
known to nobody except my friends and co-conspirators."

"What a strategist you are, Agatha! What a general you would have made
if you'd happened to be a man!" exclaimed the young man in admiration.

"No," she answered, hesitating for a moment, and then resolutely going
on to speak truthfully the thought that was in her. "No, Marshall, for
then I should not have had the impulse that teaches me now what to do.
Tell me now, about the war. Shall I find Willoughby occupied as a
Federal general's headquarters when I get back to Virginia?"

"I don't know. I cannot even guess what the officials at Richmond mean.
I only know we have thrown away an opportunity that will never come back
to us. The army was full of enthusiasm after Manassas--it is discouraged
and depressed now. Then it was strong with the hope and confidence that
are born of victory; now it sits there wondering when the enemy will be
ready for it to fight again. It was fit for any enterprise then, and the
enemy was utterly unfit to resist anything it might have undertaken. But
it was not permitted to undertake anything. It was made to lie still,
like a pointer in a turkey blind, quivering with eagerness to be up and
doing, but restrained by the paralysis of misdirected authority. While
we have been doing nothing, the Federal enemy has been swollen to more
than twice our numbers. More important still, it has been fashioned by
McClellan's skilled hand into as fine a fighting-machine as any general
need wish for his tool. The officers have been instructed in their
profession, and the men have been taught their trade. Their organisation
is perfect, their discipline is almost as good as that of regulars, and
their confidence in themselves and their commanders is daily and hourly
increasing. Our men have abundant confidence in themselves, but none at
all in generals who throw away their opportunities or in a government
that touches nothing without paralysing it. Moreover, the Federal army
has supply departments behind it that could not be bettered, while ours
seem wholly imbecile and incapable. It should have been obvious to every
intelligent man at the outset, that with our vastly inferior material
resources, our best chance of winning in this war was by bringing to
bear from the first all we could of dash and ceaseless activity. We
should have taken the aggressive at once and all the time, knowing that
every day of delay must strengthen the enemy and weaken us. Instead of
that, after winning a great battle in such fashion as well-nigh to
destroy for a time the enemy's capacity of resistance, we have taken up
a defensive attitude and let the precious opportunity slip from our
grasp. It will never return. I do not say that we shall be beaten in the
end; I say only that our task is immeasurably more difficult now than it
was three months ago, and it is growing more and more difficult every
day."

"You are discouraged then?"

"No. I am only depressed. As for courage, we must all of us keep that up
to the end. We must be brave to endure as well as to fight,--if we are
ever graciously permitted to fight again. But I did not mean to talk of
these things. I am only a battery captain. I have no business to think.
But unfortunately our army is largely composed of men who can't help
thinking. Tell me now, for I must ride presently, is there anything that
I can do for you--any way in which I can help you?"

"You will be helping me all the time, just by letting me feel that the
old boy and girl friendship is mine again. That is more precious to me
than you can imagine. Good-bye, now. Your horse is at the door. Thank
you for all, and God bless you."



XXII

_SAM AS A STRATEGIST_


Agatha's second progress northward was far more difficult of
accomplishment than the first had been. Under McClellan's skilled
vigilance the armed mob which he found "cowering on the Potomac" in
August, had been converted into an army, drilled, disciplined, and
familiar with every detail of that military art which it was called upon
to practise. The lines west of Washington were far more rigidly drawn
and more fully manned than before, and the officers and men who held
them exercised a vigilance that had not been thought of a few months
earlier.

And this was not the only difficulty that Agatha encountered in her
effort to reach Baltimore. A passport system had been inaugurated at the
North, under operation of which those who would travel, and especially
those who travelled toward Baltimore,--a city whose loyalty to the
Union lay under grave suspicion,--must give a satisfactory account of
themselves in order to secure the necessary papers. War had begun to
bring the country under that despotism which military force always and
everywhere regards as the necessary condition of its effectiveness.

It was a strange spectacle that the country presented during that four
years of fratricidal strife. A great, free people, the freest on earth,
fell to fighting, one part with another part. Each side was battling, as
each side sincerely believed, for the cause of liberty; each was
unsparingly spending its blood and treasure in order, in Mr. Lincoln's
phrase, that "government of the people, by the people, and for the
people might not perish from the earth." Yet on both sides a military
rule as rigorous as that of Russia laid its iron hand upon the people,
and the people submitted themselves to its exactions almost without a
murmur. Arbitrary, inquisitorial, intolerant, this military despotism
wrought its will both at the North and at the South, overriding laws and
disregarding constitutions, making a mockery of chartered rights, and
restraining personal liberty in ways that would have caused instant and
universal revolt, had such things been attempted by civil authority.

The military arm is a servant which is apt to make itself the
unrelenting master of those who invoke its assistance.

Agatha encountered this difficulty while yet inside the Confederate
lines. She was not permitted to pass in any northward direction upon any
pretence. The authorities at one place under Confederate control forbade
her to go to another place under like control. She appealed to Stuart in
this emergency, and although his authority did not extend into the
Shenandoah Valley, he made such representations to the commandants in
that quarter as were sufficient for her purposes.

To get within the Federal lines was a still more perplexing problem. One
device after another proved ineffectual, and the girl was almost in
despair. She appealed at last to the general in command of the cavalry
in that region,--one of those to whom Stuart had written in her
behalf,--and he promptly responded:

"At precisely what point have you friends in coöperation with you?"

She named a little town within the Federal line where lived some of her
nearest friends.

"I can manage that," he said. "The point is an insignificant one ten
miles within their lines. There are pretty certainly no troops there,
and the picket-lines in front are not very strong, as nothing could be
more improbable than the raid I shall make in that direction. You can
ride, of course."

"Of course."

"Very well. I'll take a strong force, make a dash through the
picket-lines, gallop into the town, and make a foray through the region
round about. You will follow my column as closely as you can without
placing yourself under fire, and when we reach the town, settle yourself
with your friends there, turning your horse loose lest he attract
attention. You'd better do that just before we reach the town, and walk
the rest of the way. Can you wear a walking-skirt under your
riding-habit, and slip off the outer--you see I'm a bachelor, Miss
Ronald, and don't understand such things."

"You may safely leave all that to my superior feminine sagacity. When
shall we start?"

"Whenever you wish. Only we'd better march in the afternoon and reach
the town after nightfall. The nights are very dark now, and you will
perhaps be able to escape observation in the town. Let me see," looking
at his watch, "it's now half past one. We could do the thing this
afternoon, if you were ready."

"I can be ready in fifteen minutes," she replied.

"You're very prompt," the officer said, with a suggestion of admiration
in his voice.

"O, I'm half-soldier, you know. General Stuart approves me."

"Very well, then. We'll march in half an hour."

The operation was a very simple one, in its military part, at least. The
expedition was composed of a force much too strong for resistance by the
handful of men available for immediate use on the enemy's part. In the
guise of a foraging party it easily dispersed the picket-lines and
pushed forward rapidly, taking the little town in its course, but making
no halt there. It scoured the country round about, and as soon as
Federal forces began to gather for its destruction, it retreated by
quite a different route from that by which it had advanced.

It was nine o'clock in the evening when Agatha slipped off her horse in
the little Maryland town and left it in charge of a trooper. A
five-minutes' walk brought her to the house of her friends, where she
was safe.

With her walked her negro maid, who had ridden behind her. That maid's
name was Sam, and he quickly divested himself of the feminine outer
garments which he had worn over his own clothes. This device had been of
Sam's own invention, for that worthy, under stress of circumstances, was
rapidly developing into something like genius that gift of diplomacy
which he had before employed in discouraging his mammy's efforts to make
him her assistant in the kitchen. Sam was a consummate liar whenever
lying seemed to him to be necessary or even useful. In the service of
his master he had no hesitation in saying, or indeed in doing, anything
that might be convenient, and during her long stay north of the Potomac
Agatha was far more deeply indebted to Sam's unscrupulousness than she
knew. For when he found that his mistress had conscientious objections
to his methods, he simply forbore to mention them to her, and carried
out his plans on his own responsibility. Long afterward, in relating the
experiences of this time to his black companions at Warlock, he made it
an interesting feature of his discourse to keep reminding his hearers
that, "Mis' Agatha's so dam' hones' dat she wouldn't tell a lie _even to
a Yankee_."

This declaration never failed to open the eyes of the auditors in
wonder, and to bring from their lips the half-incredulous response:

"Well, I 'clar to gracious!"

It was Sam who devised and suggested the next step in the present
journey. Agatha's arrival at the house, under cover of a very dark
night, had been unobserved by any one outside the household, but it was
obvious that her remaining there would involve grave danger of
discovery. Her presence could not be concealed from the servants of the
household, and however loyal these might be to their mistress and her
three daughters, who constituted the family, they would very certainly
talk, the more especially, if any efforts were made to keep the visitor
in hiding in the house. In a town so small--it was only a village, in
fact--gossip has quick wings, and there were sure to be some persons
there who would promptly report to the military that a young woman from
beyond the lines was in hiding in the town.

The whole matter was discussed in family conclave during the night of
Agatha's coming, and fortunately Sam was present, for the reason that it
was specially necessary to conceal from the household servants the
interesting fact that the "maid" who had accompanied a young lady to the
place was in truth a stalwart negro boy. He remained in the room,
therefore, from which all the servants were rigidly excluded, and thus
became familiar with every detail of the puzzling situation. After
ingenuity had been fairly exhausted in devising plans only to reject
them one after another as impracticable, Sam, whose modesty had never
amounted to shyness, boldly broke into the conversation.

"As I figgers it out, Mis' Agatha," he said, "de case is puffec'ly clar.
We cawn't stay heah, 'thout a-gittin' tuk up. We cawn't go back South
'thout a-gittin' tuk up an' maybe gittin' hung in de bargain. So we mus'
jes' go on Norf, now, immediately, at once."

"But we can't, Sam. You don't understand. We can't travel without
passports."

"Couldn't de ladies git a skyar into 'em, an' tell de Yankees dey jes'
cawn't an' won't stay any longer in a town whar de rebels is a-comin'
gallopin' through de streets, a-yellin' an' a-shootin' an' a-kickin' up
de ole Harry? Wouldn't de Yankees give 'em passpo'ts to de Norf den?
Wouldn't dey think it natch'rel dat a houseful o' jes' ladies what's got
no men-folks to pertect 'em, would be skyar'd out o' der seven senses
after sich a performance as dis heah?"

"But, Sam," interposed his mistress, "that wouldn't do me any good or
you either. If anybody asked for passports for you and me, the officers
would ask who we are and where we came from, and all about it."

"Don't ax 'em fer no passpo't fer you. Jes' let de other ladies ax fer
passpo'ts fer demselves, an' a nigga boy to drive de carriage. I'll be
de nigga boy. Den one o' de young ladies mout git over her skyar an'
jes' stay at home, quiet like, an' let you take her place in de
carriage. De young lady wouldn't have to go roun' tellin' folks she's
done git over her skyar an' stayed at home. Nobody'd know nuffin' about
her bein' heah fer a week, an' by dat time de Yankees would 'a' done
fergitten how many folks went away in de carriage."

After some discussion it was agreed that Sam's plan, in its general
outline at least, was feasible, and as there was no alternative way out,
it was finally decided to adopt the scheme.

"You mus' do it right away den," suggested Sam, "while de skyar is on to
folks. Ef you wait, de Yankees'll fin' out de trigger o' de trap, sho'.
An' after awhile, all de ladies 'ceptin' you, Mis' Agatha, can git over
de skyar an' come home agin."

Sam's plan was aided in its execution by the fact that several other
families in the town were genuinely scared by the Confederate raid, and,
as soon as the Federal posts were reëstablished, asked for passports
under which they might send their women and children to less exposed
points. When Agatha's hostess made a like application for herself and
daughters, with their negro, "Sam, aged eighteen, five feet seven
inches high," and all the rest of the description, no difficulty was
encountered in securing the desired papers.

In order that Agatha might go as far northward as possible without
having to renew her passport, it was decided that their destination
should be at a point well beyond the Pennsylvania border. Agatha had no
friends there, and she knew no one of Southern sympathies in the town
selected. But thanks to Marshall Pollard, she had command of money in
plenty, or would have, as soon as she could send the papers he had given
her to New York. It was arranged, therefore, that the little party, in
the character of refugees, should take quarters at a hotel until such
time as Agatha could renew her journey without her companions. In the
meantime, Agatha, by means of correspondence with her friends in
Baltimore and Washington, could prosecute her inquiries as to Baillie
Pegram's condition and whereabouts.



XXIII

_A NEGOTIATION_


Agatha did not remain long in the little Pennsylvania town. She found
its people to be positively peppery in their Union sentiments, and she
soon realised that she could make no inquiries from that point without
attracting dangerous attention to herself. She saw, too, that the little
city was not large enough for easy concealment. She could not there lose
herself in the crowd and pass unobserved whithersoever she pleased. She
promptly decided that her best course would be to go on to New York, but
even that could not be undertaken with safety for a time. She must
remain where she was for two or three weeks--long enough for her
presence there to lose its character as a novelty.

Sam, who enjoyed her confidence to the full, suggested that she should
feign ill-health, and leave the place under pretence of seeking a
residence better suited to her constitution. That was not the way in
which Sam expressed his thought, of course, but he made himself clearly
understood by saying:

"Tell you what 'tis, Mis' Agatha, you'se jes' got to git powerful sick
an' say you cawn't live in no sich a pesky town as dis here one. Den you
kin pack up yer things, ef you've got any, an' move on."

Agatha laughed, and answered:

"Why, Sam, I don't know how to be ill. I never had a headache in my
life, and I couldn't look like an invalid if I tried. No, Sam, we must
just wait here for a time."

"Why, Mis' Agatha, it's de easiest thing in de world to make out as how
you'se sick when you ain't. I'se done it hundreds of times, when mammy
wanted me to wuk in de kitchen an' I wanted to go a-fishin'. All you got
to do is to look solemncholy-like, an' say you'se got a pain in yo' haid
an' a powerful misery in yo' back, an' cole chills a-creepin' all over
you. Tell you what, it's as easy as nuffin' at all."

Agatha laughed again, but put Sam's plan aside without further
discussion, whereat that budding strategist went away sorrowful,
muttering to himself:

"I done heah folks say as how 'white man's mighty onsartain,' but Mis'
Agatha's a heap wuss'n even a white man, leastwise 'bout some things."

A week later, Sam presented another plan, which he had wrought out in
his mind at cost of not a little gray brain matter.

"Mis' Agatha," he asked, "is you got any frien's in New York what you
kin trus' to do what you axes 'em to do?"

"Yes, Sam. There's one gentleman there who will do anything I ask him to
do. He's the one to whom I sent the papers that I made you carry till we
got here."

"Den you kin write to him?"

"Yes, certainly."

"Well, now, I'se got a plan dat'll wuk as easy--as easy as playin' of de
banjo. You jes' write to dat gentleman, an' git him to sen' you a
telemagraph, sayin' as how somebody's a-dyin' over there, somebody yo'se
powerful fond of, an' so you mus' come quick."

This time Sam's suggestion commended itself to his mistress's mind, and
soon afterward there came a telegram to her, saying:

"Come quick if you want to see Eliza alive."

She hurriedly packed the few belongings which she had purchased in the
Pennsylvania town, bade her friends good-bye, and before noon of the
next day, was safely hidden in the little lodging which Marshall
Pollard's friend had secured for her in New York. In the great city she
might go and come and do as she pleased without fear of observation, and
without the least danger of attracting attention to herself. There is no
solitude so secure as that of a thronged city, where men are too
completely self-centred to concern themselves with the affairs of their
neighbours.

Agatha's first inquiries concerning Baillie's whereabouts were directed
toward the military prisons and prison-camps, but in none of them could
she find a trace of the master of Warlock. When she had completely
exhausted this field of inquiry, a great fear came upon her, that the
man she sought was dead. The presumption was strong that he had died of
his wound before he could be sent to any of the prisons provided for
captured Confederates. A less resolute person would have accepted that
conclusion, but Agatha persisted in her search, extending her inquiries
to all the hospitals of the Federal army, and within a month her
persistence was rewarded.

What she learned was that Baillie Pegram's wound had been too severe to
admit of his transportation far beyond Washington, and that he, in
company with a few other prisoners in like condition, had been placed in
an improvised hospital a few miles north of the capital city, where he
still lay under treatment, with only a slender chance of recovery. Her
first impulse was to go to Washington at once, and endeavour in some way
to secure permission to enter the hospital as a nurse. Her friends in
Washington and in Maryland discouraged this attempt, assuring her not
only of its futility, but of its danger. They were convinced, indeed,
that she could not even enter Washington, which was then a vast
fortified camp, without the discovery of her identity by the agents of a
secret service which had become well-nigh omniscient, so far as personal
identities, personal histories, and personal intentions were concerned.

"Stay where you are," one of them urgently wrote her, "and keep yourself
free to act if at any time a chance shall come to accomplish any good.
It would spoil all and destroy the last vestige of hope, for you to
attempt what you suggest. You can do no good here. You may do
inestimable good if you remain where you are."

When this decision was communicated to Sam, his round black face became
long, and the look of laughter completely went out of his countenance.
But Sam was not an easily discouraged person, and he had come to believe
in his own sagacity. So after a day or two of disconsolate moping, he
set his wits at work upon this new problem. Presently an idea was born
to him, and he went at once to lay it before Agatha for consideration.

"Mis' Agatha," he said, "even ef you cawn't git to Mas' Baillie, Sam
kin, an' that'll be better'n nothin', won't it?"

"Yes, Sam," answered the sad-eyed young woman, "very much better than
nothing. You could take care of your master, and be a comfort to him,
and if the time ever should come when anything could be done for him,
you'd be on the ground to help. But how can you get to him?"

"I could manage dat, ef I was a free nigga," answered the boy,
meditatively.

"But you are free, I suppose," said Agatha. "You've been brought to a
free State, practically with your master's consent, and that makes you
free, I believe. But--"

"O, I don't want to be a sho' 'nuff free nigga," interrupted Sam. "I
ain't never a-gwine to be dat. I'se a-gwine to 'long to Mas' Baillie
cl'ar to de end o' de cawn rows. But I done heah folks up heah say dat
de Yankees is a-sendin' back all de niggas what runs away from der
mahstahs, an' ef I ain't got nuffin' to say I'se free, dey'd sen' me
back to Ferginny ef I went down dat way whar Mas' Baillie is."

Sam's information on this point was in a measure correct. For in the
singleness of his purpose to save the Union at all costs, and in his
anxiety not to alienate the border slave States by interfering with
slavery where it legally existed, Mr. Lincoln steadfastly insisted,
during the first year of the war, that military commanders should
restore all fugitive slaves who should come to them for protection, or
where that could not be done, should list them and employ them in work
upon fortifications and the like.

Agatha thought for a time, and then said:

"I think I can manage that, Sam. I'll try, at any rate. But I must wait
till to-morrow. Tell me how you expect to get to your master."

"I don't rightly know yit, Mis' Agatha. But I'll git dar. Maybe you'll
send a letter to yo' frien's down dat way, tellin' 'em Sam's all right,
so's dey'll trus' me. Ef you do dat, Mis' Agatha, I'll do de res'."

It was impossible, of course, to execute legal papers setting Sam free,
nor were any papers at all necessary for his use, so long as he remained
in New York. But in Washington he might have to give an account of
himself, and by way of making sure that he should not be seized as a
runaway slave, and set to work upon the fortifications, Agatha's friend,
the banker, gave him a document in which he certified that the negro boy
was not a runaway slave, but was known to him as a legally free negro,
who had been living in New York, but wished to go to Washington and
elsewhere in search of employment.

Armed with this paper, and with full instructions from Agatha as to how
to find certain of her friends, Sam set out on his journey full of
determination to succeed in his affectionate purpose.

In Washington, he engaged in various small employments that yielded a
revenue in the form of tips. He purchased a banjo, and ingratiated
himself everywhere by singing his plantation songs, including both those
that he had learned from others, and a few, such as "Oh, Eliza," which
he had fabricated for himself. In the course of a week or two he learned
all he needed to know about roads, military lines, and the like, and was
prepared to make his way to the hospital where his master lay.

There he besought employment of menial kinds, at the hands of the
surgeons and other officers, of whom there were only a very few at the
post. Again he strummed his banjo and sang his songs to good purpose,
impressing everybody with the conviction that he was a jolly,
thoughtless, happy-go-lucky negro, and very amusing withal. The hospital
was a very small one in a very lonely part of the country, and service
there was extremely tedious to those who were condemned to it. Sam's
minstrelsy, therefore, was more than welcome as something that
pleasantly broke the monotony, and the officers concerned were anxious
to keep the amusing fellow employed at the post, lest he go elsewhere.
They gave him all sorts of odd jobs to do, from blacking boots and
polishing spurs and buckles, to grooming a horse when privileged in that
way, to show his skill in "puttin' of a satin dress onto a good animal,"
as he called the process.

Agatha had provided the boy with a small sum of money for use in
emergencies, and, as his living had cost him nothing, he had
considerably added to its amount. He cherished it jealously, feeling
that it might prove to be his readiest tool in accomplishing his
purposes.

For a time he was not permitted to enter the hospital, which was nothing
more than an old barn in which a floor had been laid and windows cut.
Four sentries guarded it, one on each of its sides. The patients within
numbered about fifteen, all of them wounded Confederate officers, for
whom this provision had been made until such time as they should be
sufficiently recovered to be taken North to a military prison.

Being in no regular way employed at the post, Sam was free to go and
come as he pleased, and he did a good deal of night-prowling at this
time. He managed in that way to establish relations with certain of
Agatha's friends, whose residence was ten or a dozen miles away. He
visited them at intervals in order to hear from Agatha, and report to
her through them. He had not dared inquire concerning his master in any
direct way, or to reveal his interest in any of the hospital patients.
But when two of them had died, he had asked one of the servitors about
the place what their names were, and had thus satisfied himself that
neither of them was Captain Pegram. By keeping his ears on the alert, he
had learned also that there were not likely to be any further deaths,
and that the remaining wounded men were slowly, but quite surely,
recovering. Still further, he had heard one of the doctors, in
conversation with the other, comment upon the remarkable vitality of
Captain Pegram.

"That wound would have killed almost any other man I ever saw, but upon
my word the man is getting well. Barring accidents, I regard him now as
pretty nearly out of danger."

All this Sam duly reported to Agatha through her friends. It greatly
comforted her, but it seriously alarmed Sam. For Sam had learned the
ways of the place, and he knew that there was haste made to send every
patient North, as soon as he was in condition to be removed without
serious danger to his life; and Sam had begun to cherish hopes and lay
plans which would certainly come to nothing if his master should be
removed from the hospital to a military prison.

He determined, therefore, to find some way of getting into the hospital,
communicating with his master, and finding out for himself precisely
what the prospects were.

It was winter now, and besides the snow there was much mud around the
hospital, which was freely tracked into it by all who entered. Peter,
the rheumatic old negro man who was employed to scrub the place,
complained bitterly of this. He said to Sam one day:

"Dese heah doctahs an' dese heah 'tendants is mighty pahticklah to have
de place keeped scrumptiously clean, but dey's mighty onpahticklah to
wipe dar boots 'fo' enterin' de hospital. Ole Pete's done got mos'
enough o' dis heah job."

"Why don't yo' quit it, den?" asked Sam, with seeming indifference.

"'Case I can't 'ford to. I ain't got no udder 'ployment fer de rest o'
de wintah, an' it's a long ways to blackberry time."

"How much does dey gib yo' fer a-doin' of it?"

"'Mos' nothin' 'tall--a dollah an' a half a month an' my bo'd."

"Yes, an' de job won't las' long, nuther," said Sam, sympathetically,
"'cordin' to what I heah. De rebel officers is all a-gwine to git well,
I done heah de doctahs say, an' when dey does dat, dey'll be shipped off
Norf, an' dis heah 'stablishment'll be broke up. You'se too ole fer sich
wuk, anyways, Uncle Pete. Yo' oughter be a-nussin' o' yer knees by a
fire somewhars, 'stead o' warin' of 'em out a-scrubbin' flo's. You'se
got a lot o' prayin' to do yit, 'fo' yo' dies,--'nuff to use up what
knees you'se got left. Give up de job. Uncle Pete, and go off wha' you
kin make yer peace wid de Lawd, as de preachahs says you must."

"But I cawn't, I tell you! I ain't got no money, an' I ain't got no
'ployment, 'ceptin' dis heah scrubbin'. Ef I had five dollahs, Ole Pete
wouldn't be heah fer a day later'n day afteh to-morrow--dat's pay-day."

Sam sat silent for a time as if meditating on what he had it in mind to
say, before committing himself to the rash proposal. Finally, he turned
to the old man, and said:

"Look heah, Uncle Pete, I'se sorry fer you, sho' 'nuff I is. I'se done
'cumulated a little money, by close scrimpin', an' I'm half a mind to
help yo' out. Lemme see. You'se a-gwine to git a dollah an' a half day
after to-morrow. I kin spar yo' six dollahs mo'. Dat'll make seben
dollahs an' a half. I'll do it ef you'll take pity on yerse'f an' go to
town an' git yerse'f a easier sort o' wuk. Yo' kin owe me de six dollahs
tell you git rich enough to pay it back."

The old man was inclined to be suspicious of a generosity of which he
had never known the equal.

"Who'se a-gwine to take de job ef I gibs it up?" he asked.

"What de debbil do you k'yar 'bout dat?" asked Sam. "Anyhow, dey ain't
a-gwine to raise de wages. Yo' kin jes' bet yo' life on dat. Yo' kin do
jes' as yo' please 'bout 'ceptin' de offer I done made you. I oughtn't
to 'a' made it, but I'se always a-makin' of a fool o' myse'f, when my
feelin's is touched. Six dollahs is a lot o' money, _hit_ is. Maybe yo'
think I'm Mr. Astor, to go a-throwin' of money away like dat, or, maybe
yo'se Mr. Astor yerse'f, to be hesitatin' 'bout a-'ceptin' of it. Reckon
I bettah withdraw de offah--"

"Who'se a-hesitatin'?" broke in old Peter, hurriedly. "I ain't never
thought o' hesitatin', Sam. I'll take de money sho', an' I thank you
kindly for yer generosity, Sam. You'se a mighty fine boy, Sam, an' I'se
always liked you ever since I fust knowed you. Now dat you'se a-behavin'
jes' like as if yo' was my own chile, I reck'lec' dat I always had a
fatherly feelin' foh you, Sam. Lemme have de money now, Sam, so's I kin
go to sleep to-night a-feelin' I ain't got but one mo' day to do dis
heah sort o' wuk."

"Yo' won't change yo' mind?" asked Sam.

"Sartain sho'! Wish I may die ef I do."

Sam regarded that oath as one likely to be binding upon any negro
conscience, but he wished to take no risks; so putting on an air of
great solemnity, and pushing his face to within four inches of the old
man's, he said:

"Now you'se done swore it by de 'wish I may die,' an' you mus' keep dat
sw'ar. Ef yo' don't, it'll be my solemn duty to carry out yo' wish by
killin' you myse'f, an', 'fore de Lawd, I'll do it. Heah's de money."



XXIV

_FLIGHT_


Sam had so far commended himself by alertness and thoroughness in
whatever he did, that he had no difficulty in securing what he called
"de scrubbin' contract." He now had perfect freedom of hospital ingress
and egress, but he felt that he must be cautious, especially in his
first revelation of his presence to his master, who, he was confident,
knew nothing of his being there. He feared to surprise some exclamation
from Pegram, which would, as he phrased it, "give de whole snap away."

So on the first morning he began his scrubbing at the outer door, and
moved slowly on his hands and knees along the line of cots, taking sly
glimpses of their occupants as he went. It was not till he reached the
farther corner of the large room that he found the cot of his master.
Then with his face near the floor and scrubbing violently with his
brush, he began intoning in a low voice:

"Don't say nothin', don't say nothin', don't say nothin' when yo' sees
me. It's Sam sho' 'nuff, an' Sam's done come, an' don't you give it
away."

To any one ten feet away, all this sounded like the humming of a chant
by one who unconsciously sang below the breath as he worked. But to
Baillie, who lay within a foot or two of the boy's head, the words were
perfectly audible, and presently, without moving, and in a low murmuring
voice, he said:

"I understand, Sam. I knew you were here. I heard you singing outside,
many days ago."

Then the wounded man pretended to have difficulty in adjusting his
blankets, and Sam rose and bent over the cot to help him. While doing
so, he said:

"Mis' Agatha, she done brung me to New York, an' sent me heah to fin'
yo'. How's you a-gittin'? Tell me, so's I kin report, an' tell me every
day."

Baillie replied briefly that his wound was healing and his strength
coming back, to which Sam answered:

"Don't you go fer to tell de doctah too much 'bout dat. Jes' keep as
sick as you kin, while you'se a-gittin' well. I'll tell you why another
time. Git 'quainted wid Sam more an' more ebery day, Mas' Baillie, so's
we kin talk 'thout 'rousin' 'spicion."

In aid of this, Sam took pains, as the days went on, to establish
relations with all the other patients who were well enough to talk, and
as his inconsequent humour seemed to amuse them, the doctors made no
objection to his loquaciousness.

It was one of the articles in Sam's philosophical creed that "yo' cawn't
have too many frien's, 'case yo' cawn't never know when you may need
'em." Accordingly, he cultivated acquaintance with everybody, high and
low, about the place, including the peculiarly surly man who brought the
coal and the kindling-wood for the establishment. That personage was a
white man of melancholy temper and extraordinary taciturnity. He went in
and out of the place, wearing a long overcoat that had probably seen
better days, but so long ago as to have forgotten all about them. The
only other article of his clothing that was visible was a slouch hat,
the brim of which had completely lost courage and could no longer
pretend to stand out from the head that wore it, but hung down like a
limp lambrequin over the man's eyes. The man himself seemed in an
equally discouraged condition. He shambled rather than walked, and never
answered a question or responded to a salutation, except in Sam's case.
To him, when the two were alone, the man would sometimes speak a few
words.

Sam was daily and hourly studying everybody and everything about him,
with a view to possibilities. Nobody was too insignificant and nothing
too trivial for him to note and consider and remember. "Yo' cawn't never
know," he philosophised, "what rock will come handiest when yo' wants to
frow it at a squirrel."

As the weeks passed, Baillie Pegram so improved that he sat up, and even
walked about the place a little. One day, Sam learned that Baillie and
three others were deemed well enough to be removed from hospital to
prison, and that the transfer was to be made two days later. During the
night after this discovery was made, Sam trudged through a blinding
snow-storm--the last, probably, of the waning winter--to the house of
Agatha's friends, ten or a dozen miles away, and back again through the
snow-drifts, arriving at the hospital about daylight, as he had often
done before, after a prowling by night.

He had made all his arrangements but one, and he had armed himself for
that, by drawing upon Agatha's friends for ten dollars in small bills.

During the day, he managed to tell his master all that was necessary
concerning the emergency, and his plans for meeting it.

"To-morrow 'bout sundown, Mas' Baillie," he said, at the last. "'Member
de hour. When Sam speaks to yo' at de front do', yo' is to go ter yo'
cot. Yo'll fin' de coat an' de hat a-waitin' fo' yo'. Put 'em on quick,
an' pull de hat down clos't, an' turn de collah up high. Den walk out'n
de back do' fru de wood-shed, an' pass out de gate, jes' as ef yo' was
de ole man, sayin' nuffin' to nobody. Yo' mustn't walk straight like yo'
always does, but shufflin'-like, jes' as de ole man does. Den mount de
coal kyart an' drive up to de forks o' de road. Den shuffle out'n de
coat an' hat, an' git inter de sleigh. Yo' frien's 'ull take kyar o' de
res'."

Having thus instructed his master, Sam postponed further proceedings
until the morrow. He had not yet opened negotiations with the old
coal-man,--negotiations upon which the success of his plans
depended,--but he trusted his wits and his determination to accomplish
what he desired, and he had no notion of risking all by unnecessary
haste.

Even when the coal-man came during the next morning, Sam contented
himself with asking if he would certainly come again with his cart about
sunset of that day, as he usually did. Having reassured himself on that
point, Sam said nothing more, except that he would himself be at leisure
at that time and would help bring in the load of wood.

Then Sam finished his scrubbing, and spent the afternoon in repairing
the apparatus of his handicraft. He readjusted the hoops on his
scrubbing-bucket, scoured his brushes, and ground the knife that he was
accustomed to use in scraping the floor wherever medicines had been
spilled or other stains had been made, for Sam had a well earned
reputation for thoroughness in his work. Curiously enough, he this time
ground the knife-blade to a slender point, "handy," he said, "fer
gittin' into cracks wid."

When the coal-man came with a load of wood, a little before sunset,
dumping it outside the gate, Sam was ready to help him carry it in and
split it into kindlings within the shed. For this work, when the wood
had all been brought in, the old man laid off his overcoat and hat.
Thereupon Sam opened negotiations.

"I'se a-gwine to a frolic to-night," he said, "an' I'se a-gwine to have
a mighty good time a-playin' o' de banjo an' a-dancin', but hit's
powerful cold, an' de walk's a mighty long one."

Then, as if a sudden thought had come to him, he said:

"Tell yo' what! 'Spose yo' lemme wahr yo' overcoat. Yo' ain't got far to
go, an' I'll give yo' a dollah fer de use of it."

The old man hesitated, and Sam was in a hurry.

"I'll make it two dollahs, an' heah's de money clean an' new," pulling
out the bills. "Say de word an' it's your'n."

The offer was too tempting to be resisted, and the bargain was quickly
made.

"Reckon I better go brush it up," said Sam, taking the garment and
managing to fold the soft hat into it. He passed through the door into
the hospital, cast his bundle upon Baillie Pegram's bed, and walked
quickly to the front door, where his master was standing looking out
upon the snow, now darkening in the falling dusk.

"All ready," the negro said, in an undertone, as he passed, and Captain
Pegram wearily turned and walked toward his cot. Half a minute later,
what looked like the old coal-man passed into the wood-shed, and out of
it at the rear, whence, with shuffling steps he walked to and through
the gate, mounted the coal-cart, and slowly drove away.

Sam, hurrying around the building, entered the wood-shed just as his
master was leaving it, and confronted the owner of the coat and hat that
Pegram wore. He was none too soon, for the old man, seeing Pegram pass,
clad in his garments, thought he was being robbed, and was about to
raise a hue and cry. Sam interposed with an assumption of authority:

"Stay right whah yo' is," he commanded, "an' don't make no noise, do yo'
heah? Ef you keeps quiet-like, an' stays heah at wuk fer ha'f a hour,
an' den goes away 'bout yo' business a-sayin' nothin' to nobody, you'll
git another dollah, an' I'll tell yo' whah to fin' yo' clo'se. Ef yo'
don't do jes' as I tells yo', yo'll git dis, an' yo' won't never have no
'casion fer no clo'se no more. Do yo' heah?"

Sam held the keenly pointed knife in his hand, while the old man worked
for the appointed space of half an hour. At the end of that time, Sam
said:

"Now yo' may go, an' heah's yo' dollah. Yo'll fin' yer kyart at de forks
o' de road, an' yer coat an' hat'll be in de kyart. But min' you don't
never know nothin' 'bout dis heah transaction, fer ef yo' ever peeps,
dey'll hang yo' fer helpin' a pris'ner to escape, an' I'll kill yo'
besides. Go, now. Do yo' heah?"

Sam watched him pass out through the gate and turn up the road. When he
had disappeared, the black strategist muttered:

"Reckon dat suggestion 'bout gittin' hisse'f 'rested fer helpin' a
pris'ner 'scape, will sort o' bar itse'f in on de ole man's min'. He
won't never let hisse'f 'member nuffin' 'bout dis heah. Anyhow, Mas'
Baillie's gone, an' it's time Sam was a-gittin' out o' this, too."

With that the boy secured his banjo and bade good night to the surgeon
whom he met outside, saying that he was going to have a "powerful good
time at de frolic."



XXV

_A NARROW ESCAPE_


Baillie Pegram found little difficulty in imitating the shambling gait
of the old coal man as he walked to the hospital exit. In his weakness
he could hardly have walked in any other fashion. He managed with
difficulty to climb upon the cart, and to endure the painful drive to
the forks of the road, somewhat more than half a mile away.

There he found a sleigh awaiting him, with four women in it, all muffled
to the eyes in buffalo-robes, and a gentleman wrapped in a fur overcoat,
on the box. The gentleman gave the reins to one of the ladies, and
proceeded to help Pegram from the coal-cart, while the others stepped
out upon the hard frozen snow.

The body of the sleigh was deep, and it had been filled with fresh rye
straw. One of the gentlewomen parted this to either side, and spread a
fur robe upon the floor beneath, into which the gentleman hurriedly
helped Baillie, drawing the robe closely together over him, and
replacing the straw so that no part of the fur wrapping beneath could be
seen.

All this was done quickly, and without a word, the women resumed their
seats, the man cracked his whip, and the spirited horses set off at a
merry pace.

By way of precaution, a roundabout road was followed, and it was late
when the sleighing-party reached its destination. There the women
alighted and passed into the house. The gentleman drove the sleigh into
the barn, with Baillie Pegram still lying under the straw. When the
horses were unhitched, their owner directed the negro, who took charge
of them, to walk them back and forth down by the stables to cool them
off, before putting them into their stalls. It was not until the hostler
was well away from the barn that his master removed the seats and lifted
Baillie from his hiding-place under the straw. By that time, a young
man, perhaps thirty years old, and strong of frame, had appeared, and
the two hurriedly carried the now nearly helpless man into the house,
where a bed awaited him. Stripping him, the younger man proceeded to
examine the wound with the skilful eye of a surgeon.

"The wound has suffered no injury," he presently said to his host, "but
the man is greatly exhausted. Will you heat some flat-irons, and place
them at his feet? He must have nourishment, too, but of course it won't
do to bring any of the servants in here--"

"I'll manage that," said the host. "We are all supposed to have been out
on a lark, and I always have a late supper after that sort of thing.
I'll have it served in the room that opens out of this. As soon as it
comes, I'll send the servants away, and we can feed your patient from
our table."

In the meanwhile, the ever faithful Sam, half frozen but full of courage
and determination, was toiling over the flint-like snow, trying to reach
the house before the morning. In order that he might the better keep his
hands from freezing, he cast his banjo into a snow-filled ravine,
saying:

"Reckon I sha'n't need you any more, an' ef I does, I kin git another."
With that, he thrust his hands into his pockets, where his accumulated
earnings reassured him as to his ability to buy banjos at will.

It had been a part of the plan of rescue that Baillie should remain but
a brief while at his present stopping-place. It was deemed certain that
a search for him would be made as soon as his escape should be
discovered, and the house in which he had been put to bed that night was
likely to be one of the first to be examined, wherefore Sam was anxious
to reach that destination as soon as possible, lest he miss his master.

But when the morning came, Baillie was in a high fever, and the doctor
forbade all attempts to remove him, for a time at least. As the day
advanced, the fever subsided somewhat, and Baillie grew anxious to
continue his journey. Finally, the doctor hit upon a plan of procedure.

"You simply must not now undertake the long journey we had intended you
to make to-day, Captain," he said, "but the distance to my house in the
town is comparatively small. I might manage to take you there this
afternoon, if you think you can sit up in my sleigh for a five-mile
ride, and then get out at my door and walk into the house without
tottering on your legs."

Baillie eagerly protested his ability to endure the ride, and the doctor
proceeded to arrange for it. Some clothing had already been provided in
the house for Baillie to don in place of his uniform, and the doctor now
said:

"I'm going to drive home at once. I'll be back before three o'clock. Get
the captain into his citizen's clothes and have him ready by that time,
but let him lie down till I come, to spare his strength. I've a patient
in town, a consumptive, and I've been taking him out with me every fine
day, for the sake of the air. He is not very ill at present, but he is
one of us, and will be just as sick as I tell him to be when I get him
here. I'm afraid I shall find it necessary to ask you to keep him for a
day or two."

The hint was understood, and the doctor drove away behind a pair of good
trotters. Before the appointed time he returned, bringing his patient
with him, and at his request the sick man was put to bed in the room
where Baillie had passed the night.

A few minutes later a party of soldiers rode up and reported that they
were under orders to search the house for an escaped Confederate
officer. The doctor, with a well assumed look of professional concern on
his face, said to the officer in command of the squad:

"That is a trifle unfortunate just now. I have a patient in the
adjoining room--a young man in pulmonary consumption. Of course you'll
have to search the house, but I beg you, Lieutenant, to spare my
patient. His condition is such that--"

"I'll be very careful, I assure you. I'll go alone to search that room,
and make as little disturbance as possible."

Still wearing a look of anxiety, the doctor said:

"Couldn't you leave that room unexamined, Lieutenant? I assure you on my
honour that there is nobody there except my patient."

The physician's anxiety suggested a new thought to the officer's mind.

"I take your word for that, Doctor. I believe you when you tell me
there's nobody but your patient in that room. But your patient may
happen to be the very man we want, even without your knowing the fact.
Our man is very ill, recovering from a severe wound,--and he'd be sure
to need a doctor after walking, as he must have done, a dozen miles in
this snow. Pardon me, Doctor; I do not mean to accuse you of any
complicity; but you are a physician, bound to do your best for any
patient who sends for you, and to keep his confidence--professional
ethics requires that. I shall not blame you if I find your patient to be
my man. You are doing only your professional duty. But I must see the
man. I can tell whether he's the one we want. Our man has been shot
through the body, and the wound is not yet completely healed. My orders
are to look for that wound on every man I have reason to suspect, and I
must do my duty."

"O, certainly," replied the physician. "You'll find no wounds on my
patient, and I earnestly beg you to avoid exciting him more than is
absolutely necessary. You see, in his condition, any undue excitement--"

"O, I'll be very careful, Doctor, very careful, indeed."

"Thank you. It is very good of you. You see, as I was saying, in his
condition, any undue excitement--"

"O, yes, I know all about that. You may trust me to be careful."

"Again thank you. Come, Bob," looking at his watch, and addressing
Baillie, who was sitting by, "we must be going. I've half a dozen
patients waiting for me."

Baillie rose, nerving himself for the effort, bowed to the lieutenant,
and walked out of the house. A minute later, muffled to the ears in
furs, the two men were speeding over the snow, with Sam clinging on
behind, and playing the part of "doctah's man."

"Here," said the physician, handing Baillie a flask, "take a stiff swig
of that. You must keep up your strength." Then after he had replaced the
flask in his overcoat pocket, he chuckled:

"That was very neatly done--to have you walk away in that fashion from
under the very nose of the man who was looking for you."

Sam echoed the chuckle, and Baillie said:

"I hope your patient will suffer no harm from all this!"

"O, not a bit. He's in the game, and he'll enjoy it, especially after
they are gone, and he suddenly recovers from his extreme illness."

"But why was it necessary to take him there at all?"

"Why, under the circumstances, it would never have done for me to be
seen driving away from there with a companion when I had been seen
driving out there alone. As it is, your presence in the sleigh is
satisfactorily accounted for to everybody who sees us. But how about
your discarded uniform? Won't they find that?"

"No. Sam reduced it to ashes early this morning, and then aired the room
to get rid of the smell of burning wool."

"That was excellent. Who thought of doing it?"

"Sam."



XXVI

_MADEMOISELLE ROLAND_


During all those months of waiting, Agatha Ronald had remained in New
York, under the advice of Marshall Pollard's friend, who was accustomed
to put his counsel into the form of something like a command whenever
that seemed to him necessary. She was urged to remain in the city, too,
by all her friends who were near Baillie Pegram's prison hospital. "Stay
where you are," was the burden of all their letters. "You can do no good
here, and you may do much harm if you attempt to come, while you will
very surely be needed where you are, if we succeed, as we hope, in
effecting Captain Pegram's escape. We shall do all that is possible to
accomplish that, but when we do he will still be a very ill man,--for if
he is to escape at all, it must be before he sufficiently recovers to
be sent to a prison. You will be needed then to care for him somewhere,
for, of course, he must not remain in this quarter of the country. Be
patient and trust us--and Sam. For that boy is a wonder of devotion and
ingenuity. He has just left us to return to the hospital before morning.
He makes the journey on foot by night, three times a week, walking
twenty odd miles each trip, in all sorts of weather. When we
remonstrated with him to-night--for a fearful storm is raging--and told
him he should have waited for better weather, he indignantly replied:
'Den Mis' Agatha would have had to wait a whole day beyond her time fer
news. No sirree. Sam's a-gwine to come on de 'pinted nights, ef it rains
pitchforks an' de win' blows de ha'r offen he haid.'"

So Agatha busied herself with such concerns as were hers. She laboured
hard to improve the service of her "underground railroad," and sent
medicines and surgical appliances through the lines with a frequency
that surprised the authorities at Richmond. She corresponded in a
disguised way with her friends in and near Washington, offering all she
could of helpful suggestion to them and through them to Sam. It was by
her command that Sam told his master, while in the hospital, just where
and how she was to be found if he should escape, and how perfectly
equipped she was to come to his assistance in such a case.

For the rest, she battled bravely with her sorrow and her anxieties,
lest they unfit her for prompt and judicious action when the time for
action should come. In brief, she behaved like the devoted and heroic
woman she was.

After long months of weary waiting, her pulse was one day set bounding
by the tidings that the master of Warlock had escaped from the hospital,
and was in safe hands. This news was communicated by means of a
telegram, which said only, "Dress goods satisfactory. Trimmings
excellent."

Fuller news came by letter a day later, and it was far less joyous. It
told her that the exposure, exertion, and excitement of the escape had
brought Baillie into a condition of dangerous illness; that he lay
helpless in the physician's house; that no one was permitted to see him
for fear of discovery, except Sam, who had been installed as nurse.

Other letters followed this daily for a week, each more discouraging
than the last. Finally came one from the doctor himself, in answer to
Agatha's demand, in which he wrote:

"I labour under many difficulties. Captain Pegram's presence in my house
must be concealed as long as that can be accomplished. I am a bachelor,
and I often receive patients for treatment here, but in this case the
man's illness is the consequence of a bullet wound, and should that fact
become known, it would pretty certainly cause an inquiry; for my
Southern sentiments are well known, and in the eyes of the governmental
secret service, I am very distinctly a 'suspect.' The consequence of all
this is that I dare not introduce a competent nurse into the house.

"Sam is willing and absolutely devoted, but of course he knows nothing
of nursing. Yet nursing, and especially the tender nursing of a woman,
is this patient's chief need. If he were in New York now, where
political rancour is held in check by the fact that sentiment there is
divided, and where people are too busy to meddle with other people's
affairs, we could manage the matter easily. You can scarcely imagine how
different the conditions here are. I might easily command the services
of any one of half a dozen or a dozen gentlewomen of Maryland whom I
could trust absolutely. But the very fact of my bringing one of them
here to nurse a stranger, would set a pack of clever detectives on the
scent, and within twenty-four hours they would know the exact truth.

"You will see, my dear young lady, how perplexing a situation it is. I
hoped at first that Capt. P. might presently rally sufficiently to stand
the trip to New York. I could have managed that. But he simply cannot be
moved now, or for many weeks to come. It would be murder to make the
attempt."

When Agatha had read this latter, her mind was instantly made up.

"I must go to him at all hazards and all costs, and nurse him myself.
But first I must think out a way, so that there may be no failure."

She sat for an hour thinking and planning. Then she got up and hurriedly
scribbled two letters. It was after nightfall, and Agatha had never yet
gone into the streets by night. Her terror of that particular form of
danger was great. But these letters must be posted at once, and by her
own hand. There were no lamp-post mailing-boxes in those half-civilised
days, and she must travel many blocks to reach the nearest post-office
station. She took up the little pistol which she had so long carried for
the purpose of defending her honour by self-destruction, if need should
arise, examined its chambers, placed it beneath her cloak, and hurried
into the street.

Then, as now, to the shame of what we call our civilisation, no woman
could traverse the thoroughfares of a great city after dark and
unattended without risk of insult or worse. Then, as now, a costly
police force utterly ignored its duty of so vigilantly protecting the
helpless that the streets should be as safe to women as to men, by night
as well as by day.

During that little walk of a dozen city blocks through streets that the
public adequately paid to have securely guarded, Agatha felt far more of
fear than she had experienced while facing the canister fire of Baillie
Pegram's guns.

She escaped molestation more by good fortune than by any security that
police protection afforded or now affords to the wives and daughters of
a community that calls itself civilised, and pays princely sums every
year for a police protection that it does not get.

One of her letters was addressed to a friend in Baltimore. It gave her
the address of Marshall Pollard's friend, the banker, and added:

"On receipt of this you are to telegraph, asking him to find and send
you a nurse who speaks French--a Frenchwoman preferred. He will send me,
in response to the demand, as Mlle. Roland,--an anagram of my own name.
I shall speak nothing but French in your house, and afterward."

To Baillie's doctor she wrote:

"I think I see a way out of your difficulties. Can you not make a new
diagnosis of Captain Pegram's case--finding him ill of tuberculosis, or
typhoid, or some other wasting malady corresponding with his external
appearance, thus concealing the fact that he suffers in consequence of a
wound? He speaks French like a Parisian--I suppose he can even dream in
that language, as I always do--so for safety and by way of forwarding
my plan, you may regard him as a French gentleman who has fallen ill
during his travels in America, and come to you for treatment. You are to
be very anxious to secure a French nurse for him, and to that end you
may write as soon as you receive this, to the gentlewoman whose address
in Baltimore is enclosed, asking her to procure such a nurse if she can.
I will be that nurse, and will know no English during my stay. This plan
will enable me to go to Captain Pegram's bedside without exciting the
least suspicion, and, when he is sufficiently recovered to travel, there
will be little if any trouble in arranging for his nurse to take the
convalescent to New York, and thence to Europe. Once out of the country
and well again, he can go to Nassau, and thence to a Southern port on
one of the English blockade-running ships. To secure all this we must
scrupulously maintain the fiction that he is a Frenchman, and I a French
nurse."

Agatha's first care on the next morning was to visit the banker and
instruct him as to the part he was to play in the conspiracy, when the
telegram should come from Baltimore. That done, she plied her needle
nimbly, fashioning caps, aprons and the like, such as French nurses only
wore at that time, before there were any trained nurses other than
Frenchwomen among us. She was already wearing black gowns, of course,
and when she added a jet rosary and a stiffly starched broad white
collar to her costume, she had no need to inform anybody that she was a
hospital-bred nurse from Paris.

In the little Maryland town where Baillie Pegram lay in a stupor, her
advent attracted much curious attention, especially because of the
jaunty little nurse's cap she wore, and of her inability to speak
English. But this curiosity averted, rather than invited suspicion, as
Agatha had intended and planned that it should do.

The physician's knowledge of the French language was scant, and his
pronunciation was execrably bad, but he managed to greet the nurse in
that tongue on her arrival, and to say, very gallantly:

"Now my patient should surely get well. Under care of such a nurse even
a dead man might be persuaded back to life."



XXVII

_AGATHA'S WONDER-STORY_


Agatha had been for more than a week at Baillie Pegram's bedside before
he manifested any consciousness of her presence. But from the very first
her ministrations had seemed to soothe him.

Even when his fever brought active delirium with it, a word from his
soft-voiced French nurse quieted him, and each day showed less of fever
and more of strength.

At last one day he lay quiet, and Agatha sat stitching at something near
the foot of the bed. Her face was bent over her work, so that she did
not see when he opened his eyes and gazed steadily at her for a time.
Not until she looked up, as she was accustomed watchfully to do every
little while, did he fully recognise her. Then, in a feeble voice, he
spoke her name--nothing more.

She gently readjusted his pillows, and he fell into a more natural
sleep than he had known since his relapse had befallen him.

When he waked again, Sam was sitting by, Agatha having left the room for
a brief while.

"Who has been here, Sam?" the sick man asked.

"Nobody, Mas' Baillie, on'y de French lady what's a-nussin' of yo',"
replied Sam, lying with the utmost equanimity, in accordance with what
he believed to be the spirit of his instructions.

"I dreamed it, then. Tell me where I am, Sam."

"I ain't Sam an' yo' ain't Mas' Baillie; I'se jes' _garshong_, an' yo'se
a French gentleman, an' yo' cawn't talk nuffin' but French, an' so
'tain't no use fer yo' to try to talk to me. Yo' mus' jes' go to sleep,
now, an' when de French nuss comes back, yo' kin ax her in French like
whatsomever yo' wants to know."

Baillie's bewildered wits struggled for a moment with the problem of his
own identity, but before the French nurse returned he had fallen asleep
again. It was not until the next day, therefore, that he had opportunity
to ask Agatha anything, but his fever had abated by that time, and his
mind was rapidly clearing.

"Tell me about it all, please," he said to her.

"Sh--speak only in French," she replied, herself speaking in that
tongue. "It is very necessary, and address me as Mademoiselle Roland."

Then she told him so much as was necessary to prevent him from
exercising his imagination in an exciting way. When she had explained
that he was still in the house of the doctor who had aided him in his
escape, and that the pretence of his being a French gentleman and she a
French nurse was necessary for safety, she added:

"I came to you when you were very ill and needed me, and I shall stay
with you so long as you need me. You mustn't talk now. Wait a few days,
and you will be strong enough."

The prediction was fulfilled, and a few days later Agatha told him the
whole story of her own and Sam's search for him, dwelling particularly
upon Sam's devotion and the ingenuity he had brought to bear upon the
problem of rescue. For at times when there was no possibility that
anybody should overhear, Agatha had made Sam tell her all the details
of that affair, until she knew as well as he did every word he had
spoken and every step he had taken in the execution of his purpose.

Baillie's progress toward recovery was necessarily slow, but it was
steady and continuous, and after many weeks, when he was permitted to
sit up for awhile each day, he begged to hear about the progress of the
war.

It was now September, 1862, and what she had to tell him was one of the
most dramatic stories that the history of our American war has to
relate.

McClellan had proved himself to be a great organiser and a masterful
engineer, and he had at last tried to prove himself to be also a great
general.

He had so perfectly fortified the city of Washington that a brigade or a
division or two might easily hold it against the most determined hosts.
He had organised the "regiments cowering upon the Potomac," and the
scores of other regiments that had come pouring into the capital, into
one of the finest armies that had ever taken the field in any
country in the world. He had multiplied his artillery, and
swelled his cavalry force to proportions that rendered it numerically
superior to Stuart's "Mamelukes." He had so perfected his supply
departments--quartermaster's, commissary's, medical, and ordnance--that
their work was accomplished with the precision, the certainty, and the
smoothness of well-ordered machinery.

He had brought under his immediate command a perfectly organised army,
numbering nearly or quite two hundred thousand men.[1] The Confederates
had in Virginia about one-fourth that number available for the defence
of Richmond. Nor could this army of defence be reinforced from other
parts of the South, for during the long waiting-time in Virginia, events
of the most vital importance had been occurring at the West. Chief of
these in importance, though the government at Washington was slow to
recognise the fact, was the discovery there of a really capable
commander--General Grant. He had captured Forts Henry and Donelson, thus
gaining control of the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, breaking the
Confederate line of defence, and pushing the Southern armies completely
out of Kentucky, and almost out of Tennessee. He was preparing, when
McClellan moved, to complete that part of his work by fighting the
tremendous battle of Shiloh.

[Footnote 1: Rossiter Johnson, in his "History of the War of Secession,"
says that 121,000 were sent to Fortress Monroe and seventy thousand left
at Washington, besides McDowell's corps and Bleuker's division.]

Thus the Confederates could not afford to draw so much as a single
regiment or battery from that field for the strengthening of Johnston's
force in Virginia. Finally, early in March, Johnston had withdrawn from
Centreville and Manassas to the immediate neighbourhood of Richmond.

It was in such circumstances that McClellan at last undertook to use the
great army he had created, for the purpose it was meant to accomplish.
Early in the spring, he transferred 120,000 men by water to Fortress
Monroe, leaving seventy thousand at and near Washington, to hold that
capital secure. Somewhat more than half of this force at Washington was
to advance upon Richmond by way of Fredericksburg, and add forty
thousand men to McClellan's great army when he should sit down before
the Confederate capital. He, meanwhile, was to march up the peninsula
formed by the York and James Rivers, supported by the navy on either
side.

Richmond was seemingly doomed, and everywhere at the North the
expectation was that McClellan, with his overwhelming forces and his
well-nigh perfect organisation, would make an end of the war before the
first anniversary of the battle of Manassas.

If McClellan had been half as capable in the field as he had proved
himself to be in the work of organisation, this might easily have
happened. But he was cautious to a positively paralysing degree. It was
his habit of mind to overestimate his enemy's strength to his own
undoing. Thus when he began his advance up the peninsula, with nearly
sixty thousand men, to be almost immediately reinforced to one hundred
thousand and more, he found a Confederate line stretched across the
peninsula at Yorktown. It consisted of thirteen thousand men under
Magruder, and with his enormous superiority of numbers, McClellan might
have run over it in a day, while with his transports, protected by
gunboats, he might easily have carried his army by it on either side,
compelling its retreat or surrender. But in his excessive caution he
assumed that the entire Confederate force was concentrated there, and
his imagination doubled the strength of that force. He confidently
believed that the Yorktown lines were defended by an army of eighty
thousand or more, and instead of finding out the facts by an assault, he
wasted nearly a month in scientifically besieging the little force of
thirteen thousand men, with an army six or eight times as great, and a
siege train of enormous strength.

When at last he had pushed his siege parallels near enough for an
assault, he found his enemy gone, and discovered that the great frowning
cannon in their works were nothing more than wooden logs, painted black,
and mounted like heavy guns.

The North had not yet found a general capable of commanding the superb
army it had created, or of making effective use of those enormously
superior resources which from the beginning had been at its disposal.
Grant had splendidly demonstrated his capacity at Shiloh, but Halleck
had immediately superseded him, and completely thrown away the
opportunity there presented. Grant was still denied any but volunteer
rank, and for many weeks after Shiloh he was left, as he has himself
recorded, with none but nominal command, and was not even consulted by
his immeasurably inferior superior.

McClellan at last reached the neighbourhood of Richmond, and placed his
great army on the eastern and northern fronts of the Confederate
capital. But still permitting his imagination to mislead him, he
confidently believed the Confederate forces to be quite twice as
numerous as they were in fact. So instead of pressing them vigorously,
as a more enterprising and less excessively cautious commander would
have done, he proceeded to fortify and for weeks kept his splendid army
idle in a pestilential swamp, whose miasms were far deadlier than
bullets and shells could have been.

At the end of May the Confederates assailed his left wing, believing
that a flood in the river had isolated it from the rest of the army, and
a bloody five days' battle ensued, with no decisive results, except to
demonstrate the fighting quality of the troops under McClellan's
command.

Still he hesitated and fortified, and urgently called for
reinforcements. These to the number of forty thousand were on their way
to join him, marching directly southward from Washington.

But the Confederates had been more fortunate than their foes. They had
found their great commander, a piece of good fortune which did not
happen to the Federal armies until nearly two years later. After the
battle of Seven Pines at the end of May and the beginning of June,
Robert E. Lee assumed personal command of the forces defending Richmond,
and from that hour the great game of war was played by him with a
sagacity and a boldness that had not been seen before.

Lee's problem was to drive McClellan's army away from Richmond, and
transfer the scene of active hostilities to some more distant point. To
that end he must prevent the coming of McDowell with his army to
McClellan's assistance. Accordingly he ordered Jackson to sweep down the
Shenandoah valley, threatening an advance upon Washington in its rear,
thus putting the Federals there upon their defence. He rightly believed
that the excessive concern felt at the North for the safety of the
capital would make Jackson's operations an occasion of great alarm.

The result was precisely what Lee had intended. Jackson swept like a
hurricane through the valley, moving so rapidly and appearing so
suddenly at unexpected and widely separated points as to seem both
ubiquitous and irresistible. The Federal army which was marching to
reinforce McClellan was promptly turned aside and sent over the
mountains to meet and check Jackson. While it was hurrying westward,
Jackson suddenly slipped out of the valley and carried his "foot
cavalry"--as his rapidly marching corps had come to be called--to the
neighbourhood of Richmond, where Lee was ready to fall upon his
adversary in full force, striking his right flank like a thunderbolt,
pushing into his rear, pressing him back in successive encounters,
threatening his base of supplies on the York River, and finally
compelling him to retreat to the cover of his gunboats at Harrison's
Landing on the James.

All this constituted what is known as the "Seven Days' Battles." It was
a brilliant operation, attended at every step by heroic fighting on both
sides, and by consummate skill on both--for if Lee's successful
operation for his enemy's dislodgment was good strategy, McClellan's
successful withdrawal of his army from its imperilled position to one
in which it could not be assailed, was scarcely less so.

But still more dramatic events were to follow. McClellan had been driven
away from the immediate neighbourhood of the Confederate capital, but
his new position at Harrison's Landing was one from which he might at
any moment advance again either upon Richmond or upon Petersburg, which
was afterward proved to be the military key to the capital. His army was
still numerically stronger than Lee's, and it might be reinforced at any
time, and to any desired extent, while Lee had already under his command
every man that could be spared from other points. More important still,
the fighting strength of McClellan's forces had been bettered by the
battling they had done. The men were inured to war work now, and had
improved in steadiness and discipline under the tutelage of experience.

Except that its confidence in its general was somewhat impaired, the
Army of the Potomac was a stronger and more trustworthy war implement
than it had been at the beginning. So long as it should remain where it
was, Lee must keep the greater part of his own force in the
intrenchments in front of Richmond, and the seat of war must remain
discouragingly near the Confederate capital. In the meanwhile a new
Federal force, called the Army of Virginia, had been sent out from
Washington under General John Pope, to assail Richmond from the north
and west, while securely covering Washington. Pope's base was at
Manassas, and his army had been pushed forward to the line of the
Rappahannock, where there was no army to meet it and check its advance
upon Richmond.

Lee must act quickly. For should Pope come within striking-distance of
Richmond on the northwest, McClellan's army would very certainly advance
from the east, and Richmond would be threatened by a stronger force than
ever before.

But Lee could not move in adequate force to meet and check Pope's
advance, without leaving Richmond undefended against any advance that
McClellan might see fit to make. His perplexing problem was to compel
the withdrawal of McClellan, and the transfer of his army to Washington.

To effect this, Lee again played upon the nervous apprehension felt in
Washington for the safety of that city. He detached Jackson, and sent
him to the Rappahannock to threaten Pope, while remaining within reach
of Richmond in case of need. This movement increased the apprehension in
Washington, and a considerable part of McClellan's force was withdrawn
by water. Thereupon Lee sent another corps to the Rappahannock, a
proceeding which led to the withdrawal of pretty nearly all that
remained of McClellan's army, to reinforce Pope, and the abandonment of
the campaign by way of the peninsula. Lee instantly transferred the
remainder of his army to the Rappahannock, leaving only a small garrison
in the works at Richmond.

Pope was alert to meet Lee at every point, and he was being strengthened
by daily reinforcements from what had been McClellan's army. But in
Pope, with all his energy and dash and extraordinary self-confidence,
the Federal government had not found a leader capable of playing the
great war game on equal terms with Robert E. Lee. Grant and Sherman were
still in subordinate commands at the West, while Halleck, who believed
in neither of them, had been brought to Washington and placed in
supreme control of all the Union armies.

Lee quickly proved himself greatly more than a match for Pope in the art
of war. Making a brave show of intending to force his way across the
river at a point where Pope could easily hold his own, Lee detached
Jackson and sent him around Bull Run Mountains and through Thoroughfare
Gap to fall upon his adversary's base at Manassas. As soon as Jackson
was well on his way, Lee sent other forces to join him, while still
keeping up his pretence of a purpose to force a crossing.

It was not until the head of Jackson's column appeared near Manassas
that Pope suspected his adversary's purpose. He then hastily fell back
from the river, and concentrated all his forces at Manassas, while Lee,
with equal haste, moved, with the rest of his army, to join Jackson.

His strategy had completely succeeded, and he promptly assailed Pope,
with his entire force, on the very field where the first great battle of
the war had been fought, a little more than a year before.

Pope struggled desperately, but after two days of battle, he was
completely beaten and forced to take refuge behind the defences of
Washington.

This was at the beginning of September, just three months after Lee had
taken personal command of the Army of Northern Virginia. Within that
brief time he had done things, the simplest statement of which reads
like a wonder-story. At the beginning of June a Federal army of 120,000
men lay almost within cannon-shot of the Confederate capital, while
another Federal force about one-third as large was marching unopposed to
form a junction with it, and still other Federal armies occupied the
valley and sent raiders at will throughout Northern Virginia. At the
beginning of September there remained no Federal army at all in Virginia
to oppose Lee's will, whatever it might chance to be. McClellan with his
grand army had been beaten in battle, and driven into a retreat which
ended in his complete withdrawal, after a disastrous campaign, which at
its beginning had seemed certain of success. Jackson had cleared the
valley of armies superior to his own in numbers. Pope had been outwitted
in strategy, beaten in battle, and driven to cover at Washington.

That was the story that Agatha related to Baillie early in September,
when he was fit to hear it. It stirred his blood with enthusiasm, and
bred in him an eagerness almost dangerous, to be at the head of his
battery again, and a sharer in this splendid work of war.

"Your story is not ended yet," he said, when Agatha had finished. "It is
'to be continued,'--be very sure of that. Lee will not rest content with
what he has done, marvellous as it is. He took the offensive as soon as
he had disposed of McClellan. He will surely not now assume the
defensive again, as our army did a year ago after the battle of
Manassas. He is obviously made of quite other stuff than that of his
predecessors in command. And here am I losing my share in it all,--a
convalescent in charge of a nurse, and in hiding in the enemy's country.
I tell you, Agatha, I must break out of this. As soon as I have strength
enough to ride a horse, I must find a way of getting back to Virginia.
And with the stimulus of strong desire, I shall not be long now in
regaining that much of strength. In the meanwhile, I must think out a
plan by which I can pass the Potomac without falling into the enemy's
hands."

"I have already thought of all that," returned his companion, "and I
have had others thinking of it, too,--all the friends in Maryland with
whom I am in correspondence. After studying the conditions minutely we
are agreed in the positive conviction that it will be impossible for you
to get through the Federal lines, which are more rigidly drawn and more
vigilantly guarded now than ever before. You cannot even start on such a
journey without being arrested and imprisoned, and that would completely
defeat your purpose."

"I must take the chances, then. For I simply will not sit idly here
after I get well enough to sit in a saddle."

"Listen," commanded Agatha. "You are exciting yourself, and that is very
bad for you. Besides, it is wholly unnecessary, for I have thought
myself not into despair, but into hopefulness, rather. I have devised a
plan, the success of which is practically assured in advance, by which
you and I are going back into the Confederacy. No, I will not tell you
what it is just now. You have excited and wearied yourself too much
already. You must go back to your bed now, and sleep for several hours.
When you wake, you shall have something to eat, and after that, if I
find you sufficiently calm, I will tell you all about it. In the
meantime, you may rest easy in your mind, for my plan is sure to
succeed, and it will not be difficult of execution."



XXVIII

_WHEN A MAN TALKS TOO MUCH_


When Baillie had had his rest, he asked Agatha again to tell him of her
plans. She explained that it was understood in the little town that he
was a French gentleman who had suffered a severe hemorrhage; that as
soon as he should be sufficiently recovered, it was his purpose to
return to his own country in charge of his French nurse; that she
planned in that way to sail with him from New York for Liverpool, where
he would be free, as soon as his health should return, to go to the
Bahamas and sail thence for Charleston, Wilmington, or some other
Southern port, in one of the English blockade-runners that were now
making trips almost with the regularity of packets.

Baillie approved the plan, though he lamented the length of time its
execution must consume.

"Agatha," he said,--for since that morning at Fairfax Court-house he
had addressed her only by her first name,--"I owe you my life, and I
shall owe you my liberty, too, as soon as this admirable plan of yours
can be carried out. I owe you, even now, such liberty as I have, for but
for you--"

"You mustn't forget Sam," she interrupted; "it was he and not I who
rescued you from the prison hospital."

"O, my appreciation of Sam's devotion is limitless, and my gratitude to
him will last so long as I live. But it was you who brought him North;
it was you who planned my rescue at terrible risk to yourself, and put
Sam in the way of accomplishing it. And the doctor tells me without any
sort of qualification that but for your coming to me as a nurse when you
did, I should have died certainly and quickly. Don't interrupt me,
please, I'm not going to embarrass you with an effort to thank you for
what you have done. There is a generosity so great that expressions of
thanks in return for it are a mockery--almost an insult, just as an
offer to pay for it would be. I shall not speak of these things
again--not now at least, not until time and place and circumstance
shall be fit. I only want you to know that silence on my part does not
signify indifference."

Baillie made no reference to that occasion when an untimely declaration
of his love had been wrung from him only to be met by a passionless
reminder that the time and place were inappropriate. He felt
instinctively that any reference to that utterance of his would be in
effect a new declaration of his love. In this spirit of chivalry,
Baillie scrupulously guarded both his manner and his words at this time,
lest his feelings should betray him into some expression that might
embarrass the woman whose care of him must continue for some time to
come. Feeling, on this occasion, that he had approached dangerously near
to some utterance which might subject his companion to embarrassment, he
resolutely turned the conversation into less hazardous channels.

"Your plan is undoubtedly the best that could be made under the
circumstances," he said, "and as for the waste of time, we must simply
reconcile ourselves to that. After all, I cannot hope to be strong
enough for several months to come, to resume command of my battery in
such campaigns as this great leader of ours will surely give us. For he
is really and truly a great leader, Agatha. Only a great general could
have wrought the marvels he has achieved. He would have proved himself
great if he had done nothing more than prevent McClellan's reinforcement
by sending Jackson to the valley. That was a great thought. And the next
was greater. Having compelled the Federals to divert their reinforcing
army from its purpose, he brought Jackson to Richmond, and fell upon
McClellan with a fury that compelled his vastly superior army to abandon
its campaign and retreat to the cover of its gunboats. There was a
second achievement of the kind that only great generals accomplish. And
even that did not fulfil the measure of his greatness. With a truly
Napoleonic impulse, and by truly Napoleonic methods, he instantly
converted his successful defence of Richmond into an offence which has
been equally successful, so far. By his prompt movement against Pope he
has compelled the complete abandonment of McClellan's campaign and the
withdrawal of his army from Virginia. By his crushing defeat of Pope, he
has cleared Virginia of its enemies, and changed the aspect of the war,
from one of timorous defence on the part of the Confederates to one of
confident aggression."

"What a pity it is," answered Agatha, "that some such man was not in
command when the first battle of Manassas was won!"

"Yes. Such a man, with such an opportunity, would have made a speedy end
of the trouble. He would never have given McClellan a chance to organise
such an army as that which has been besieging Richmond. However, that is
not what I was thinking of. I was going to say that a man capable of
doing what Lee has done, will not rest content with that. He will
continue in the aggressive way in which he has begun, and we shall hear
presently of other battles and other campaigns. Agatha, I simply _must_
bear a part in all this. I am getting stronger every day now, and can
sit up two hours at a time. Why can we not now carry out your plan? Why
can we not go at once to New York in our assumed personalities, and sail
immediately, so as to save all the time we can?"

"I have thought of that," the young woman answered, "but the doctor
peremptorily forbids it for the present. He hopes you will be well
enough two or three weeks hence to make the effort, but to make it short
of that time, he says, would be almost certainly to spoil all by
bringing on a relapse. You must be patient; we shall in that way make
our success a certainty, and the war will last long enough for you to
have your part in it, surely."

"Yes, unhappily for our country, it will last long enough."

The next morning brought news of a startling character. Lee was already
beginning to fulfil Baillie's prediction by an aggressive campaign.
Having driven the enemy out of Virginia, he now undertook to transfer
the scene of the fighting to the region north of the Potomac. He had
sent Jackson again to clear the valley, and was marching another corps
northward upon a parallel line east of the mountains, while holding the
remainder of his small but potent army in readiness to form a junction
with either of the detached corps when necessary. The movement clearly
foreshadowed a campaign in Maryland which, if it should prove
successful, would place the Confederates in rear of Washington, and
render that capital untenable, if Lee should win a single decisive
battle north of the Potomac.

The alarm in Washington was such as almost to precipitate a panic. For
had not Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia proved themselves far more
than a match for every general and every army that had tried conclusions
with them? Moreover, as they were advancing, full of the enthusiasm of
recent victory, and free to pursue whatever routes they pleased, there
was nobody to meet them except one or the other of two generals already
discredited by defeat at Lee's hands, and an army drawn from those that
the Army of Northern Virginia had so recently overthrown in the field.

Pope was no longer thought of as a leader fit for the task of meeting
Lee. His campaign in Virginia had ended so disastrously, that men forgot
all his former achievements, at Island Number Ten in the Mississippi,
and elsewhere. He had already been removed from command and sent to
fight Indians in the Northwest. There remained only McClellan, whom Lee
had already outmanoeuvred and outfought, and both the government and
the army had lost confidence in him. But the emergency was great, and
McClellan, who had been removed, was again ordered to take command.

From the two armies that had been driven out of Virginia, a new one was
quickly organised, which greatly outnumbered Lee's force. But instead of
moving quickly to the assault, as Grant, or Sherman, or Thomas would
have done under like circumstances, McClellan moved at a tortoise-like
pace, giving his adversary ample time in which to unite his three
columns, pass the Potomac unmolested, and push forward into Maryland.

All this was to come a little later, however. On the morning when Agatha
read the newspapers to Baillie, all that was known was that Lee was
rapidly moving northward, with evident intent to invade Maryland and
push his columns into the rear of Washington.

"This is good news for us, Agatha," Baillie said, when the despatches
had been read. "Unless Lee receives a check, the Army of Northern
Virginia will be swarming all about us here within three or four days.
If that occurs, you and I and Sam will have no difficulty in going to
Virginia by a much more direct route than the one we have been planning
to follow. An ambulance ride with liberty for its objective will do me
no harm, while you and Sam shall be provided with good horses. Stuart
will take care of that, even if he has to capture the horses from the
enemy."

"We may safely trust him for so much of accommodation," answered the
girl. "But if you excite yourself as you are doing now, you'll be ill
again, and spoil all. You must go back to bed at once and go to sleep.
That is your shortest road to rescue, now, whether Lee comes this way or
is beaten back. In either case you will need all of strength that you
can manage to accumulate."

The sick man obeyed, so far at least as going to bed was concerned. But
he found it impossible to comply with his nurse's further injunction by
going to sleep. His pulses were throbbing violently with the excitement
of hope, and his nerves were tense almost to the verge of collapse. When
the doctor returned from his round of visits he found his patient in a
fever that, in one so weak, was dangerous. During the following night
Baillie grew worse, and by the next morning the physician was convinced
that he had lost most if not all of the ground that he had gained during
three weeks of convalescence.

"Mademoiselle Roland," he said, "I must command you to forbid him to
talk hereafter, even in French."

Baillie heard the remark, and came instantly to Agatha's defence.

"It was not her fault, Doctor," he said. "It was all my own."

"O, I know that," answered the physician. "She's the discreetest nurse I
ever knew, while you are without question the most obstinate,
cantankerous, and unruly patient a nurse was ever called upon to keep in
subjection."

"Am I all that?" Baillie asked Agatha, when the doctor had left the
room; "all that he said?"

"No, certainly not. But you mustn't talk. Go to sleep."

"Thank you!" was all that he could say in the stupor which the physician
had induced with a sleeping potion.



XXIX

_A STRUGGLE OF GIANTS_


When Baillie woke from his drug-compelled sleep, his condition was far
better than the doctor had anticipated. Lee was coming now, and the sick
man was buoyed and strengthened by a confident hope of speedy rescue.
The Army of Northern Virginia was in Maryland, and Baillie was sure that
it would push rapidly eastward to and beyond the town where he had so
long lain ill.

So it would have done if all had gone well. But there was a Federal
force of eleven thousand men at Harper's Ferry. By all the principles of
strategy it ought to have retired as soon as Lee crossed the Potomac
above or below that point. To remain was to be cut off and to invite
capture. McClellan, as a trained and scientific soldier, understood this
perfectly, and he wished the force at Harper's Ferry to be withdrawn and
added to his army. He was overruled by the civilian authorities at
Washington, and the detached force remained in its entrenchments,
completely isolated and helpless.

But in the meanwhile its presence at Harper's Ferry completely blocked
Lee's only secure route of retreat in case of disaster. It was
absolutely necessary for him to reduce it before continuing his progress
northward or eastward. To that end he was obliged to send Jackson back
across the Potomac, with orders to assail Harper's Ferry from the south,
while other forces, detached for that purpose, should hold positions
north and east of the town, thus preventing the garrison's escape.

Jackson did his part promptly and perfectly, as it was his custom to do.
He carried the place, capturing the entire garrison of eleven thousand
men, and all the guns, ammunition, and military stores, which had been
accumulated there in vast quantities.

This was a very important capture, but in order to accomplish it, Lee
had been compelled to scatter his forces in a dangerous fashion, besides
losing the advantage that would have attended a rapid advance against
an enemy who could not know whither he purposed to go, but must guard
all roads at once. For from Lee's position after he had crossed the
river it was open to him to advance upon Washington or Baltimore or
Philadelphia as he might elect, keeping his adversary in the meanwhile
in a state of embarrassing uncertainty as to his purposes.

But when he sent Jackson back and detached other strong forces to hold
the avenues of escape from Harper's Ferry, his army was badly scattered,
its several parts lying at too great a distance from each other for
ready coöperation.

During the consequent days of waiting, McClellan was advancing in
leisurely fashion to meet the Confederate movement, and his army was
every day adding to its strength by the hurrying forward of fresh
regiments and brigades to its reinforcement.

Finally Lee issued an order setting forth in detail his plan for
concentrating his scattered forces. Copies of this order, showing the
exact location of each part of the army and the movements to be made by
each, were sent to all of the corps commanders. One of those copies was
lost, and fell into McClellan's hands.

For once that most leisurely of generals was in a hurry. His opportunity
had come to destroy the Army of Northern Virginia by beating it in
detail. He threw a strong force forward to assail certain of its
positions. The assault proved successful, but the success did not come
so quickly as it should have done. By determined fighting Lee gained
time in which to bring his scattered forces together again at Sharpsburg
before his adversary could fall upon him in force. There, on Antietam
Creek, on the 17th of September, 1862, was fought a battle which is
reckoned the bloodiest of all the war, in proportion to the numbers
engaged.

McClellan had seventy thousand men in line, Lee forty thousand. The
struggle began early in the morning and continued until after nightfall.
The fighting on both sides was as heroic and as determined as any that
was ever done in the world. At the end of it all both sides claimed the
victory, and neither had in fact won it. Neither had been able to drive
the other from his position. Neither had broken the other's lines or
gained any decisive advantage. And when morning came again neither side
was willing to renew the contest, and neither would retire from the
field.

For a whole day the two armies lay facing each other in grim defiance,
each ready to receive the other should it attack, but neither venturing
to make the assault.

After twenty-four hours of defiant waiting, Lee slowly retired to the
Potomac, while McClellan lay still, not venturing to follow his
adversary. Lee crossed unmolested into Virginia and took up a position
within easy striking distance, but his adversary made no attempt to
strike. McClellan presently advanced and stretched his great army along
the Potomac. But he assumed an attitude of defence, calling insistently
for reinforcements, though his army outnumbered Lee's about two to one.

He had succeeded in checking Lee's invasion of the North and turning it
back. He was content with that, and in spite of President Lincoln's
urgency he refused to do more, till at last General Burnside was ordered
to assume command in his stead.

It was confidently expected both at the North and at the South, after
Lee's withdrawal to Virginia, that as soon as his army should be rested,
he would again take the offensive, assail McClellan at some point, and
attempt a new march northward. This expectation was strengthened when
Stuart, early in October, plunged across the river with his cavalry,
galloped over the country, penetrated into Pennsylvania, and saucily
rode entirely round McClellan's army, just as he had done a few months
before at Richmond, in preparation for Lee's seven days' battle.



XXX

_THE LAST STRAW_


When the news came to Baillie and Agatha that Lee and McClellan had met
in a great battle, and that the Army of Northern Virginia had retraced
its steps across the Potomac, both lost heart a little.

But Baillie was now regaining strength at a surprising rate, and his
eagerness to carry out Agatha's plan of escape, by way of England,
Nassau, and a blockaded Southern port, became importunate.

Yielding to it, early in October, Agatha hurriedly made her final
preparations. Through her friend in New York she engaged passage for
herself, Baillie, and Sam, on a Cunard steamer appointed to sail on the
15th of the month. She made all necessary arrangements for the sick
French gentleman, his French nurse, and his negro valet to make the
journey to New York on the 14th, in order that they might sail the next
morning.

But a few days before the time set for their departure a great
excitement arose in the town where Baillie had so long lain ill. The
Confederates were coming again; they had destroyed McClellan in a great
battle, current rumour reported, and were now marching upon Washington
unopposed. So the rumours ran.

Later tidings corrected all this to some extent. It was learned that
there had been no battle as yet, and that the invading force was only
the vanguard of Lee's advance.

"I think I understand what it means," said Agatha, who had followed
Stuart's operations in the past with close attention, learning to
appreciate his methods. "This is simply one of General Stuart's
splendidly audacious raids. He rode around McClellan at Richmond, you
remember; he rode around Pope, and captured his baggage, and his
uniform, and all his mules at Manassas two months ago. I suspect that he
is simply riding around McClellan again in search of forage and stores
and glory."

"That is probably what the movement means," answered Baillie, "though
it may be made in preparation for another advance of the whole army,
just as each of his former exploits was. In either case, if he comes
this way it will answer our purpose. I shall escape with him. If it is
only a cavalry raid, of course Stuart will have to force his way back
through or over whatever obstacles McClellan may throw in his path, and
in that case there will be a continual running fight with no secure rear
for you to take shelter with. Of course, if the whole army advances, a
secure way will be open, but if only the cavalry come, there will be no
line of communication. In that case it will be necessary for you to
remain here, or rather go on to New York and sail for Liverpool as we
have both intended."

"You are forgetful, Captain Pegram. I have ridden with General Stuart
before, and as to placing myself under fire, I think you know I am not
without experience. No. If General Stuart comes this way, I shall ask
him for a horse and play outrider to the ambulance in which you are to
travel."

"But, Agatha!" he pleaded, "I am unwilling to have you expose yourself
thus needlessly. Think of the danger and the hardship, and think too of
the discomfort you must suffer as a solitary woman in company with a
horde of rough-riding cavalrymen!"

"Hush! I will not hear one word even in suspicion of our Virginia
cavaliers. I know those superb fellows, and I trust them. They may be
rough as riders, and they are certainly rough fellows for the enemy to
encounter, but they are gallant gentlemen; they are as gentle as only
giants of courage can be, in their attitude toward a defenceless woman.
If the opportunity comes, I shall certainly ride with them."

At that moment there was a scurrying in the streets, a hurried closing
of the little shops, and a scampering of juvenile chronic offenders to
points of secure observation.

A minute or two later some gray-clad regiments of cavalry trotted into
the town, taking temporary possession of it. They created no more of
disorder, and made far less noise than a Sunday-school picnic might have
done. Not a man of them was permitted to quit his place in the ranks
even for a single moment, for Stuart had given strict orders, and his
lieutenants enforced them relentlessly.

There were very valuable commissary and ordnance stores belonging to the
United States government in the town, and the advance squadron of the
cavalry quietly took possession of these military supplies, quickly
loading them into wagons, but touching no single cent's worth of private
property of any kind, and molesting no citizen. So the orders ran.

Half an hour sufficed for this work, and at the end of that time the
column moved out of the town in silence and good order.

Captain Baillie Pegram accompanied it in an ambulance, with Sam riding
at its tail, and Agatha, mounted upon a stout and war-seasoned cavalry
horse, preceding the vehicle.

At nightfall the detachment joined the main column, and there was a
brief pause for supper. Agatha, in her capacity of nurse, questioned
Baillie closely as to his condition, and found that he had seemingly
taken no harm from excitement or weariness. When she had satisfied
herself on that point, she ventured to tell him that his own battery lay
around the ambulance. He promptly sat up and asked to see his
subalterns and certain of his men.

"You may see a few of them," answered his nurse, "if you will receive
them lying down. If you insist upon sitting up, I'll not permit a single
one of them even to grasp your hand."

He yielded to her authority, and during the remainder of the brief
halting time, there was a cheering reunion of comrades and a hasty
interchange of personal news between men who loved each other as only
those men do who have stood together under an enemy's fire and together
endured the hardships of campaigning.

The enemy's cavalry was by this time approaching in considerable force,
and Stuart, whose plan did not include any purpose of unnecessary
fighting, set his column in motion again. But he did not take the line
of march which he had been following all day. That had been intended as
a blind. By threatening several points in directions quite other than
the one he meant to take, he had accomplished two important purposes. He
had gained time for all his scattered detachments to rejoin the column,
and he had compelled the enemy to scatter his forces in many directions
for the defence of the threatened points.

Having thus shaken off the greater part of the force pursuing him, he
began his march that night in such a direction as to suggest that he
meant to return if possible by the route by which he had come. For this
his enemy was of course prepared. As soon as the cavalry forces that
were observing his movement discovered what they took to be his purpose,
they withdrew for a space and planted themselves across his pathway.
Infantry and artillery forces were hurried forward in support, and the
enemy confidently believed that at last the wily cavalier was securely
entrapped.

To encourage this mistaken belief, Stuart threw forward a small force of
men armed with carbines, and instructed them to maintain a scattering
fire upon the enemy's pickets during the night as if feeling of the
position in preparation for an attempt to break through it on the
morrow.

No sooner was this disposition made than the main body of the
Confederates was turned into the by-roads that led toward the Potomac at
a point far east of McClellan's position and farther down the river.

By a rapid march it reached the river at daylight and crossed it by
sunrise. In the meanwhile, just before the dawn, the detachment which
had been left behind to maintain a show of intended battle during the
night, quietly withdrew, and rode at a gallop to rejoin the escaping
column. The enemy did not discover their withdrawal until sunrise, by
which time they were many miles away, galloping toward the river, which
they crossed without molestation.

It was not until the column halted in Virginia for a breakfast that
might be taken in security, that Stuart met Baillie and Agatha in
person. He insisted upon hearing the whole story, even making Sam take
part in its telling. At parting he sought a word apart with Agatha, and
said to her:

"I suppose you and Captain Pegram have quite ceased to be 'almost
strangers' by this time."

The girl flushed crimson, but managed to answer:

"No, General. I have simply been his nurse, you know, and--and--well,
he has been very ill."

"Nevertheless," answered the cavalier, "I'll court-martial him when he
returns to duty, if I hear no better report than that of his conduct."

This bit of playfulness on Stuart's part had the effect of making Agatha
exceedingly uncomfortable in her mind. She had so long been caring for
Baillie as a man ill nigh unto death, that she had ceased to think of
conventionalities in connection with her relations to him. But Stuart's
jest reminded her that others might not be equally forgetful, especially
now that her patient was rapidly regaining his strength.

"My work is done," she said to herself, "and I must no longer intrude
myself upon Captain Pegram or his affairs. As soon as he can be sent off
to Warlock in Sam's care, I must bid him a final adieu and go back to my
loneliness at Willoughby. After all, I shall have enough to do there,
caring for the poor negroes and managing the plantation so that it shall
yield enough for them to live upon. I wonder if everything has fallen
into complete neglect there during my absence? Now that Chummie has gone
to the angels, I am needed there. And besides I must look after my
underground railroad affairs. I wonder if the line is in good working
order, and if it is carrying as much freight as it ought."

She realised, too, now that the parting was drawing near, how much
Baillie Pegram's presence had come to mean to her, how necessary a part
of her life he had become, and how barren and desolate that life must be
when they two should have spoken a final good-bye. For during her period
of nursing, he and she had come to be the best of comrades, and at such
times as his condition had permitted, they had fallen into habits of
intimate converse. Their talks, it is true, had never been personal in
character. They had talked of books and travel and life; now and then
they had discussed philosophy, ethics, æsthetics, and a hundred other
subjects external to themselves. But although their converse had not
been personal in character, it had taught each to know the impulses, the
sentiments, and the convictions of the other in a degree that purely
personal intercourse never could have done.

Agatha understood all this now, as she had not understood it before,
and the understanding saddened her. For she was resolutely determined
now to take herself as completely out of this man's life as if she had
never known him at all. She proudly realised her duty, and she would not
flinch from its doing.

"Did I not break off the acquaintance at that Christmas-time nearly two
years ago?" she argued with herself. "Was I not strong and resolute, the
moment I learned what my duty was? Why then should I not do the same
again?"

She let her thoughts wander at will. "It is true there was war between
us then, and there is none now. There never has been since Chummie
talked with me that last night of his life. And it seems harder now in
other ways. Since I have come to know Captain Pegram so well, and
especially since I have taken care of him in a time of helplessness, it
seems harder to send him away and tell him that we are mere
acquaintances, not likely to see much of each other hereafter."

Then she generalised in this fashion:

"Life is very hard on women in any case--much harder than it is on men,
in every way. And the worst of it is that men do not want it to be so,
and nothing they can do can prevent. Even in that restriction of our
lives which petty conventionality forces upon us, men cannot come to our
relief. It is women who hold women to such restrictions. Men would laugh
them away, if we would let them, but we never will. We hold each other
to the rigidest standards of propriety, even when propriety makes
needless and foolish exactions of us. Men never do that. They want us to
be innocently as free as they are, but we are afraid to be so. We are
afraid of other women. Even Chummie could not succeed in setting me
free. I was too much afraid of other women's opinions, too much a slave
to other women's standards to accept the freedom he tried so hard to
force upon me.

"No, that isn't just it. I am not really afraid of other women's
opinions; I am afraid of my own. I have laughed at and defied other
women's standards, many a time, and I shall go on doing so to the end,
whenever I am convinced that their opinions are unsound and their
standards wrong. I did that when I went North to find and rescue Captain
Pegram. I knew perfectly that my good aunts would look upon my conduct
with positive horror, and that the least any other woman of my
acquaintance would say about my conduct would be 'How could she?' in
tones that meant all that is possible of condemnation. But I did not
care for all that, and I do not care for it now, because I know that
what I did was right, and that Chummie would have said so if he had
lived till now. The trouble is that in the main I share those opinions
of other women which so restrict the liberty of all women. I am afraid
of those opinions because they are my own as well as others'; I submit
myself to those standards of feminine conduct because I share the
opinion that sets them up and enforces obedience to them."

At this point Agatha "shied" away from the thought that had in fact
suggested all this introspective meditation. She would not admit, even
to herself, that she was strongly moved by a perfectly natural impulse,
to bridge the chasm that lay between her and Baillie Pegram, to remind
him of what he had said to her that far-away morning on the picket-line
at Fairfax Court-house, and so give him opportunity to say it again.
When that thought intruded itself upon her, she was shocked and
startled by it. It seemed to her immodest in an extreme degree,
unwomanly, almost atrocious. She would not harbour it for a moment. She
cast it out of her mind, and was bitterly resentful against herself for
having permitted it even to suggest itself.

"I must act at once," she resolved, when the day's march was resumed. "I
must flee from the devil of this temptation. If Captain Pegram suffers
no relapse to-day, I will bid him good-bye in the morning. No, I will
not bid him good-bye. That would be too--well, it would be almost like
acting upon that hideous thought. I shall simply go without saying a
word to him. Perhaps I shall leave a little note for him, simply telling
him that I am going to look after affairs at Willoughby, as he no longer
needs his French nurse. I'll be very careful, in writing it, not to--not
to make it more than coldly courteous and friendly."

It was nearly nightfall when the cavalcade rejoined the main body of
Lee's army. Agatha made haste to secure a careful examination of Baillie
by a staff surgeon. He reported that the convalescent man had taken no
harm from the journey, but was so far recovered that a month's rest
would render him fit for duty again. Assured of this, Agatha sent for
Sam and minutely instructed him as to the care of his master on the
homeward journey which, she had arranged, was to begin immediately, with
the assistance of an ambulance for a part of the way.

Then, early the next morning, she went to Stuart, and preferred a
request. In the present disturbed state of things she hesitated to make
the journey to Willoughby alone, and she asked for an escort for a day.

Stuart looked at her with a face far sadder than his was accustomed to
be, and said:

"I have very bad news for you, Miss Agatha. You cannot go to
Willoughby--for there is no Willoughby. That was one of the many
plantations ravaged by Pope while he held Northern Virginia. The house
and all the barns were burned, and every living animal for a score of
miles around was killed. Even if Willoughby had been spared, it would
not do for you to live there now. The armies will move to new positions
presently,--nobody knows where,--and this northern part of Virginia will
be no fit place for women and children to live in till the war is
over."

The girl sat pale and speechless, as she listened. It was as if she had
received a blow in the face. She had bravely met danger and sorrow and
hardship, and had endured them all with heroic resolution. She seemed
now quite unable to endure this new trial of her courage. She made no
outcry and shed no tears. She simply sat there before the headquarters
camp-fire, statue-like in her pallor and her immobility. Stuart gently
laid his hand upon her head, and sought to soothe her with a voice that
was always gentle when he spoke to a woman.

Agatha seemed not to know what he was doing. She made no response to his
words, and as he looked into her face the light went out of her great
brown eyes.

A moment later she reeled, and Stuart caught her in his brawny arms.

"Bring a surgeon quick," he commanded.

Then he gently laid the seemingly lifeless form upon a blanket which the
sentinel spread upon the ground.



XXXI

_AT WARLOCK AND AT THE OAKS_


For the first time in her life Agatha Ronald was ill. For the first time
her strength had given way under prolonged strain. The surgeon who had
been summoned to attend her ordered that she should be sent immediately
to some place in rear of the army's exposed position, where she could
have complete rest.

Unfortunately there was no such place within a day's journey--no place
which might not at any hour become the scene of battle or at the least
of massive manoeuvring. Nowhere short of Charlottesville was there a
secure resting-place for the overwrought nerves that had so stoutly held
their own as long as their ministering strength was needed in the
service of others.

While this matter was still under perplexed discussion, Marshall Pollard
made his timely appearance. Hearing of the arrival of Baillie and
Agatha with Stuart's returning column, he had ridden forward from his
camp to meet and greet his friends. He had passed a quarter of an hour
with the master of Warlock, who was now permitted to sit up most of the
time, and who was to start almost immediately on his homeward journey.
While they two were talking together, word reached Sam's ears that his
"Mis' Agatha" had fallen ill at General Stuart's camp-fire. Marshall
went with him immediately to her, under an injunction from Baillie to
"get her out of this, Marshall, if you can. Tell her not to mind me, but
to take care of herself. Tell her I shall be ready for duty almost
immediately--tell her I'm on duty--tell her anything and everything that
will persuade her to let you take her to a place of safety."

Marshall was quick to see the necessity of prompt action, and Agatha was
far too ill to oppose his plans in any way. Stuart had ordered a little
tent stretched for her, and here it was decided she should remain until
Captain Pollard could arrange for her removal.

He first secured a week's leave of absence for himself. While arranging
that, he had half a dozen of his men scouring the country round about
in search of a carriage. One was found which had escaped destruction
during the days of Pope's unsparing ravaging. It was an old-fashioned
vehicle of family state, swung high upon C springs and stoutly built for
service.

In this conveyance, Agatha, still dazed and unresisting, was started on
her homeward journey early the next morning. One of Pollard's battery
men acted as driver, while Pollard himself rode by the side of the
carriage.

About midnight the party reached Charlottesville, where tender, loving
hands took charge of Agatha for the night.

The journey had rather rested than wearied her, and the physician who
had been summoned to attend her found her free from all positive
illness.

"She has need of nothing now but rest and quiet," he said.

When Marshall called upon her in the morning, he found the young woman's
mind clear again, and her nerves under control.

"Tell me of Captain Pegram," she eagerly demanded, as soon as she had
briefly expressed her gratitude to Pollard for the care he was taking
for her comfort.

With that gentle smile which always so invited affection, Marshall
reassured her concerning her late patient.

"He is in Sam's excellent hands, and on his way to the rear by this
time. He will be on duty again pretty soon. Indeed, if the army were
stationed anywhere in particular just now he wouldn't go away from it at
all. He would take command of his battery at once, merely reporting
himself on the sick-list for a week or two. As it is he must go away for
a little while. Now let us talk about yourself. I have a week's leave,
granted for the express purpose of letting me do what is best for you.
Tell me what is best--or rather--it's the same thing--what is most to
your liking? Will you stay here, or--"

"If I may," she answered, quickly, "I want to go home--to The Oaks, I
mean, for that is the only home I have in all the world now. Please take
me there."

"It would be a very long journey by carriage," he said, as if talking to
himself, "but we can make the trip by rail if you are strong enough to
stand it."

It was necessary in those days to think of a railway journey as a
formidable undertaking for any but the strongest persons. There were no
such things known then as sleeping-cars, or drawing-room cars. The
railroads were badly built, with the rails spiked down to loose ties,
and in no way joined together at their ends. The cars were coupled
together by chain links, and operated with hand-brakes, so that when a
train was stopping, there was a jolting which in our day would be deemed
intolerable. In Virginia at that time there was the additional
discomfort of laminated iron rails, and cars badly out of repair.

But Agatha's courage had come back to her now, and she was eager to
complete her journey as speedily as possible. So Marshall sent the
carriage back to its owner, and with Agatha, took the first train for
Lynchburg, whence another railroad would convey them to their
destination.

There was very little of conversation between the two as they travelled,
for the jarring and the rattle of the disjointed train, as it jolted
over its intolerably ill-kept road-bed, made talking difficult and
hearing well-nigh impossible. But during the long pauses at the stations
Agatha related the story of her adventures, with something of that
relish which one always feels in telling of experiences past, which were
anything but relishful at the time of their occurrence.

Better still, the two friends talked much of Baillie Pegram, a subject
that enlisted the sympathetic interest of both, and drew them closer
than ever together as friends.

The good ladies of The Oaks welcomed Agatha with all of tenderness that
their dignity would permit. They deeply disapproved of all that she had
done, of course, but they reflected that she had suffered much, and as
she was not now strong they forebore to emphasise by words of censure
the condemnation which they could not avoid manifesting in their manner.
Agatha did not much mind their disapproval. This was one of the cases in
which, feeling that her conduct had been altogether right, she was not
troubled by the contrary opinions of others. Moreover she had other
subjects to think about.

Captain Pollard went at once to Warlock, after delivering his charge
into her aunts' hands, and on the next day, when he visited The Oaks to
ask concerning her, he reported that the master of Warlock had reached
home and was still rapidly gaining strength.

This news gave Agatha a little shock. She had intended, as we know, to
take herself out of Captain Pegram's life as quickly and as completely
as possible, and now circumstances had forced her to place herself near
to him again. She knew that as soon as he should be able to ride,
ordinary courtesy would compel him to visit her, and--well, she did not
want him to do that. She felt herself in the position of a woman who has
purposely placed herself in the way of inviting attentions, or at least
has suffered herself to be so placed.

She had done nothing of the kind, of course. Indeed, she had had no
choice in the matter, but the very thought that Baillie Pegram might so
interpret her course, distressed her greatly, in her still
nerve-tortured condition. She cared nothing whatever for what others,
including her aunts, might think of the matter, but the thought that
Baillie Pegram might misunderstand was intolerable.

Her aunts added to her embarrassment by adopting a course which plainly
showed that they entertained a fear identical with her own. They sent a
note to Warlock every day, inquiring concerning the health of that
plantation's master. They made these notes as coldly formal as stilted
rhetoric could contrive, and they were at pains to read the missives to
Agatha before sending them.

"Why do you do that?" she asked, when the second day's note was read.
There was almost a querulous tone in her protest.

"Why, it seems to us proper, dear; we want you to be assured that we
make no mention of your presence here, but take the utmost possible
pains to show Captain Pegram how entirely you are--"

At that point Agatha rose to her feet and looked indignantly at her
relatives. For a moment there was danger of an outbreak of offended
pride, but by an effort the girl controlled herself and said, simply:

"Please don't do it any more. I shall feel hurt if you offer again to
read to me anything you may have written. If you will excuse me I think
I will go to my room now. I am not strong to-day."

It was the custom of the good ladies to protest that they "never could
understand Agatha;" but on this occasion they understood her
sufficiently to know that they had trodden very near a danger-line which
they were more than unwilling to cross.

Baillie Pegram in his turn was by no means minded to submit to the
manifest purpose of The Oaks ladies that he should hear nothing about
Agatha, beyond what Marshall Pollard had reported to him during the two
days of his stay at Warlock. Marshall had gone now, and Baillie wrote in
response to the second of the notes:

"I am getting well quite as rapidly as my best friends could wish. There
is not the slightest occasion for uneasiness about me. I am even
permitted to ride horseback a little. But I am exceedingly anxious for
tidings of Miss Agatha, whom you have not mentioned in either of your
notes. Will you not send me word concerning her, or better still, if she
is well enough to write, will you not ask her to send me a few lines? My
gratitude to her for all that she has done for me is very great, and so
is my anxiety to know that she is recovering from the painful illness
which was caused by her generous self-sacrifice in my behalf."

As Agatha had asked her aunts not to read to her their letters to the
master of Warlock, those ladies chose to interpret her request as
including his letter to them. They made no mention of the fact that he
had written to make inquiries concerning her. She wondered a little that
he had not done so, but on the whole, she argued, it was better so.

Baillie was not so easily pleased. He chafed when the next note came
from The Oaks, bringing no tidings from Agatha, and when still another
of like character followed it, he grew uneasy, lest the silence might
mean that Agatha had herself forbidden all mention of her in letters
from The Oaks.

"She is taking that method, probably," he argued, "of dismissing me
again, and letting me know that I must not presume upon the service she
has done me. What a fool I am, to be sure! I have been reckoning upon
her devotion to me in my illness and captivity as proof that what I
brutally blurted out at Fairfax Court-house was not unwelcome to her
after all. With her quick feminine perceptions, she has discovered how I
have been misinterpreting her duty doing, and she wants now to show me
my error in the simplest way possible."

As he meditated, the soldier impulse in him asserted itself,--the
impulse to dare the worst in the hope of achieving the best.

Acting upon that impulse he immediately wrote a note to Agatha, and sent
it by Sam, with orders to deliver it to her in person, if possible, and
at all events to ask for an answer and fetch it.

In his note he told Agatha of his unanswered inquiries, and of the great
uneasiness he felt concerning her health. Finally he begged her to
relieve his anxiety by sending a line in reply.



XXXII

_IN RIGHTEOUS WRATH_


The grounds about The Oaks mansion were much more extensive than was
customary on Virginia plantations. The late owner, Agatha's father, had
cherished the forest growths jealously, permitting no tree to be cut
that could in any wise be preserved, and forbidding the encroachment of
the lawns immediately about the house upon the wild woodland growths
that bordered and surrounded them. It was Agatha's delight on windy
autumn days to wander in these woodlands, and on this morning Sam
encountered her quite half a mile from the house. She was hatless, and
the wind was taking what liberties it pleased with her thick-growing
hair, while she, having turned child again in her enjoyment of the
brilliant, gusty morning, was wading about in the depths of the fallen
leaves, delighting her soul with their rustling.

Sam delivered his note and she read it. Instantly the child spirit in
her took flight and she became the strong, resolute, self-contained
young woman that she had learned to be during the storm and stress
period of her recent life. Her sudden access of dignity did not spare
even Sam. Like an officer in battle issuing his orders, she turned to
the negro boy and said:

"Return to your master at once. Tell him you met me far from the house.
Say to him that I am almost as well as ever, and that I will answer his
note during the day. There. Go now, and deliver the message as I have
given it to you. Do you hear?"

Sam's face grew long, as he turned about, and Agatha caught sight of it.
She was in a mighty rage, but not with Sam. She bethought her that the
boy had misunderstood, to the injury of his feelings, so she called to
him, and added:

"I did not mean to speak sharply to you, Sam. You don't deserve any but
kindly words. I was thinking of something else. How are you since you
got back to Warlock, and tell me truly how your master is."

"Thank you, Mis' Agatha," answered the boy, his face all smiles again,
"Mas' Baillie he's a-gittin' as lively as a spring chicken what don't
mean to be ketched. He rides every day now, an' don't he jes' eat! He'll
be all right in a week or two, yo' may be sure. As fer Sam, he ain't
never nothin' else but well, specially now dat we done git away from dem
Yankees an' back to Warlock ag'in!"

Nevertheless Sam grew distinctly melancholy as he rode homeward,
repeating his message time and again in order that he might deliver it
correctly. The message seemed to him unduly curt, and certainly the note
he had delivered seemed somehow to have angered Agatha. Sam wondered how
and why, and he grieved over the circumstance, too, for Sam had taken
the liberty of making up his mind that Agatha would make an ideal
mistress at Warlock, and that the master of Warlock was planning some
such destiny for her. Her message and her manner suggested that she
resented all this, and that his master's hopes, which he took for
granted, were likely to be disappointed.

Baillie Pegram's interpretation of the message when it was delivered to
him did not materially differ from that which Sam had put upon it.

"She resents the liberty I have taken," he thought, "in writing to her
directly. She has forbidden her aunts to reply to my inquiries made
through them. She has sought in that way to tell me, by indirection,
that the old family war between herself and me still endures; that all
her suffering and sacrifice in ministering to me was inspired solely by
a sense of duty; that she wishes now to end our intimacy as she did two
years ago. Clearly that is the state of the case, and she is naturally
angry now that I have forced an attention upon her which compels her to
tell me directly what she had meant me to infer. What an idiot I was to
do that!"

In the meanwhile Agatha had walked rapidly to the house. At the
beginning of her journey she indulged her indignation freely. She
rehearsed all the bitingly sarcastic things she meant to say to her
aunts, all the defiance she intended to hurl at their helpless heads.
But as she spent her superfluous vitality in brisk walking, she
recovered her self-control.

"I will not scold," she resolved. "That would be undignified. I will be
calm and courteous, saying as little as may be necessary to let them see
my displeasure. They have grievously compromised my dignity by what they
have done. I must not sacrifice what remains of it by a petulant
outbreak. They have treated me like a child in pinafores, who must be
restrained lest she misbehave. I must show them that I have outgrown
pinafores. I must prove myself incapable of childish misbehaviour."

Firm in this determination, she entered the house with Baillie Pegram's
note in her hand, and upon joining her aunts before the library fire,
she said quite calmly:

"I have a note from Captain Pegram, who has got a notion into his head
that I am seriously ill, and that you are concealing the fact from his
friendly knowledge. He tells me he has twice asked you for news of me,
and you have made no response. Of course you forgot to mention in your
notes that I am quite well again."

The ladies looked at each other with troubled eyes. Presently one of
them spoke:

"No, dear, we did not forget. We have only been mindful of proprieties
which Mr. Pegram seems strangely to forget or ignore. Under the
circumstances, and in view of the relations between the Ronalds and the
Pegrams, it seemed to us rather impertinent in him to send messages to
you, even through us. We intended to rebuke his presumption by ignoring
the messages. Why, he even went so far as to ask us to let you write to
him yourself."

Agatha received all this in silence, controlling herself with
difficulty. It was not until a full minute after her aunt had ceased to
speak that she said:

"Go on, please."

"There would seem to be no more to say; for surely it is needless to
comment upon Mr. Pegram's crowning impertinence in writing directly to
you."

"Go on, please. Tell me all about it. You see I don't at all
understand."

By this time the good dames began to realise that Agatha was either very
angry or very deeply hurt, so they decided to soothe and placate her.
This is how they did it.

"No, dear, I suppose you do not understand. How should you, with such
bringing up as your grandfather gave you? Of all the strange
perversities--"

"Stop!" cried Agatha, rising from her chair with a look upon her face
which her aunts did not understand but gravely feared. Their last spoken
words had set her free to speak. She had not dared resent their
criticism of Baillie Pegram's conduct. That might have been
misinterpreted. But the reflection upon her grandfather was a different
matter. She stood there livid to the lips and shaking with the
indignation which she was struggling to suppress. After that one word,
"Stop!" she remained silent for a space, struggling to restrain the
angry utterance that was surging to her lips. At last, speaking in a
constrained voice, she said:

"I will not hear another word. Neither you nor any other human being is
worthy to speak my grandfather's name except with reverence. He was
great, and wise, and unspeakably good. He hated lies and shams and false
conventionalities."

Here the roused tigress in Agatha was sharply restrained. She found
herself about to indulge in a tirade, and that she was resolved not on
any account to do. Still speaking in a voice of enforced calm, she
added:

"I must go now and write to Captain Pegram. I shall dine with the Misses
Blair at The Forest to-day."

To Baillie she wrote:

"It is very kind of you to feel so much solicitude on my account. But it
is needless, as I am quite well again and growing stronger every day. I
go in half an hour to dine at The Forest, where I shall remain till
to-morrow. After that I shall go to Richmond in search of some way in
which I may be of service. I am pleased to hear through Sam that you are
so greatly better. Thank you again for all your kindness to me, and
good-bye."

Having despatched this note, Agatha donned her hat and cloak and walked
out of the house. Without a pause she passed on through the grounds and
along the road to the plantation known as The Forest.

She had made no adieus to her aunts. "To do that," she reflected, "I
should have to tell lies, or act them. I should have to say I am sorry
to leave them, and I am not sorry. Oh, Chummie! the world is very lonely
now that you are not in it! But you mustn't grieve in heaven, Chummie.
It will not be for long, you know, and while I stay here I'm going to
try harder than ever to be true and good and altogether truthful, as you
want me to be, and when I go to join you I'll be happy enough to make up
for all these little troubles here."

At that moment a merry gust of wind blew off her headgear. She picked it
up, but did not replace it on her head. She liked to feel the crisp
breezes in her face. She even indulged the fancy that they bore caresses
to her from Chummie.



XXXIII

_UNDER RED LEAVES_


Agatha's note, coming after her curt message, was a sore puzzle to its
recipient. One might interpret it to mean anything or nothing. It was
courteous enough, but its courtesy was colourless and cold. It was such
a note as might have been addressed to the veriest stranger. There was
nothing in it to reassure the master of Warlock as to Agatha's view of
his conduct, nothing to allay his fear that she had resented his
inquiries as an impertinence. On the contrary, if that were the meaning
of the former silence and of the morning's message, this note was
precisely such as a sensitively self-respecting young woman might have
written when compelled by his persistence to write to him at all.

It was a very bad quarter of an hour with him, during which he read the
missive a dozen times, unable to make out what it meant.

But Baillie Pegram was not a man to despair until he must, or to rest
under a painful uncertainty. It was his habit of mind to meet dangers
and difficulties half-way, and question them insistently concerning
their extent. He called Sam, therefore, and bade him bring the
easy-going pacer which he had begun to ride for exercise, and mounting
the animal he set off at a gentle gait toward The Forest.

He appeared there half an hour before the four o'clock dinner was
announced, and his welcome by his hostesses, Miss Blair and her sister,
was all the warmer for the reason that his arrival indicated, more
surely than any message from Warlock could have done, the extent of his
convalescence.

Perhaps he was welcome also on another account. For the Misses Blair
were deeply concerned about Agatha, and they hoped that he might
persuade her, as they had failed to do, to give up her plan of going to
Richmond and seeking service as a hospital nurse or in some other
capacity in which a woman might employ herself. They were deeply
concerned as to the matter of nursing for the reason that it was deemed
highly improper in Virginia for any but married women to nurse in the
military hospitals, where the patients, of course, were men.

Agatha had told them as little as possible of her affairs. She had said
nothing whatever of her quarrel with her aunts, only telling them that
she had left The Oaks finally, and asking them to send thither for such
personal belongings as she had there, so that she might remain overnight
at The Forest, and go to Richmond on the morrow. The younger Miss Blair
had volunteered to go in person on this errand, and from her the ladies
at The Oaks had first learned that Agatha had finally quitted the place
in her resentment. They were greatly distressed, and immediately ordered
their carriage and drove to The Forest, where Baillie Pegram found them
on his arrival.

Their pleadings with Agatha had been earnest, insistent, and wholly
fruitless. She had manifested no anger, and they had discovered no
resentment in her voice as she replied to them. She had made no
complaints and uttered no reproaches. To all their pleadings she had
answered, simply:

"I have quite decided upon my course. I shall not change my plans."

The good dames were in such despair that they even welcomed Baillie's
coming.

"We have done everything, said everything," they hastily explained to
him; "why, we have almost _apologised_ to the child, and all to no
purpose. Perhaps you can have some influence, Captain Pegram. Will you
not speak to her?"

"I shall speak to her, of course," was his reply. "I am here indeed for
that express purpose. But I shall certainly not try to dissuade her from
any course that she may desire to pursue. That would be an impertinence
of which I am incapable."

The Oaks ladies flushed as he spoke the word "impertinence," remembering
their own recent use of the term in connection with his conduct. Perhaps
Agatha had told him of that in her letter, they thought. If so it would
be most embarrassing for them to dine in his company and hers. So,
pleading their great agitation of mind as their excuse, they returned at
once to The Oaks, leaving Baillie and Agatha as the only guests of the
Misses Blair at dinner.

When left alone with the young woman after dinner, the master of Warlock
opened the conversation as promptly as it was his custom to open fire
when the proper moment had come.

"Agatha," he began, as the two stood in the piazza in the glow of the
early setting sun and in the midst of the blood-red Virginia creepers
that embowered the place, "Agatha, do you remember the words I spoke to
you on the picket-line at Fairfax Court-house?" Then without waiting for
her reply, he continued: "I have come to you now to say those words over
again, at a more fitting time and in a more appropriate place. I love
you. I have loved you ever since those days in Richmond, those precious
days when I first began to know you for what you are. I loved you all
through that cruel time when, in obedience to what you believed was your
duty, you decreed that there should be 'war between me and thee.' And
now after all that you have done and dared for me, my love for a nature
so pure, so noble, so heroic, passes understanding. I have a right to
tell you this now. Tell me in return, if it displeases you?"

With that absolute truthfulness which was the basis of her nature,
Agatha replied as frankly as he had spoken.

"It pleases me," she said. "I had not expected this. I thought I had
repulsed you so rudely that--oh! Baillie, you will never know."

In a torrent of tears that were a more welcome answer than any words
could have been, she buried her face in her hands.

Half an hour later these two sat by a crackling fire, arranging
practical affairs.

"You do not wish to go back to The Oaks, then, even for a few weeks, and
to save appearances?"

"No, Baillie, I cannot. I should have to act a lie every hour of my stay
there. I should be obliged to pretend friendship for my aunts when I
feel nothing of the kind. They have insulted the memory of my
grandfather, and they have spoken of you in a way that never so long as
I live will I let any human being speak of you without resenting it. I
do not care to 'save appearances,' as you put it. Appearances may look
out for themselves. 'Saving appearances' is only a sneaking way of
lying. No. I will go to some friends in Richmond, if they will let me--"

"Why not go to Warlock?" he asked.

"Why, that would outrage the proprieties beyond forgiveness now that
we--well, under the circumstances."

So Mistress Agatha did "care for appearances" and conventions after all.
But Baillie did not think of that.

"Why not go there as the mistress of Warlock--as my wife?" he asked.
"Why should we not be married to-morrow at Christ-Church-in-the-Woods? I
am a soldier. I shall be strong enough to return to duty presently. When
I do so I shall want to feel that you are safe at Warlock, that you are
mine, my wife to cherish while I live. Say that it shall be so, Agatha!
Let me send word to Mr. Berkeley, the rector, to-night, that we shall be
at the church at noon to-morrow!"

[Illustration: "'_'At Christ-church-in-the-wood_'"]

The girl thought for a moment, and then said:

"Yes, that will be best. For then, if you fall ill or are wounded again,
I shall have a right to go to you and care for you. Let it be so. Now
you must not ride to Warlock on horseback to-night. It is very cool, and
you have already overtaxed your strength. I shall ask Miss Blair to send
you over in her carriage."

When he had gone Agatha announced the news to her hostesses and
straightway set about writing a score of little notes to be despatched
by negro messengers early in the morning, to her friends in the
neighbourhood. To her aunts she wrote simply, and without formal address
of any kind, the bare statement:

"Captain Baillie Pegram and I are to be married to-morrow, Thursday, at
noon, at Christ-Church-in-the-Woods."

This note she sent before going to bed. When it was received at The
Oaks, a conversation ensued which was largely ejaculatory:

"How shocking!"

"Yes, and how scandalous!"

"What will people say!"

"The girl must be bewitched!"

"And yet it is better than nursing soldiers, and she an unmarried
woman!"

"Perhaps. At any rate it is clear that we can exercise no restraint
over the poor, headstrong child."

"No, Captain Pegram has completely undermined our influence. Of course
we cannot lend our countenance to the affair by attending!"

"I think we must. Otherwise people will talk. They might even call it a
runaway match."

"That would be too dreadful!"

"Yes. I think we must put the best face we can on the affair by
attending. In these war-times everything is topsyturvy. Ah, me! What a
pity we couldn't have had the child's bringing-up to ourselves!"

"Yes, we should have made a very different woman of her. Anyhow, with
this marriage all our responsibility for her will be at an end. And
after all, perhaps it is as well to have it so, for if she had remained
single there is no knowing at what moment she would have done something
else as scandalous as her going North to nurse Mr. Pegram was."

And so they cackled for half the night.



XXXIV

_THE END AND AFTER_


A few weeks later came the news that a campaign was on and battle
impending. Burnside had replaced McClellan in command of the Federal
armies in Virginia. He had at once begun a campaign against Richmond,
moving by way of Fredericksburg. There Lee met him, posting the Southern
veterans on the circling hills behind the town and awaiting his
adversary's assault.

Baillie Pegram had resumed command of his battery now, but no longer
with the light guns that he had used while galloping with Stuart. A
captured Federal battery of six twelve-pounder Napoleons had been
assigned to him, and with these he took position on the crest of Marye's
Heights, where there was presently to occur one of the most heroic
battles of all the war.

It was nearly mid-December when Burnside crossed the river and moved to
assault Lee. His army, though greater than Lee's, was not quite so great
in numbers as it had been when McClellan had commanded it near
Richmond's gates; but it was greatly more formidable in all other
respects. The men who composed it were war-seasoned veterans now, and
its officers had fully learned their trade of command. Moreover the army
had successfully held its own against Lee at Sharpsburg, and the
confidence inspired by that event was an important element of strength.
But in Burnside the Federal administration had again failed to find a
leader capable of so employing the North's stupendous resources of men,
money, and material as to crush the splendid resistance of the Army of
Northern Virginia.

So Burnside failed, as McDowell, and McClellan, and Pope had failed
before, and as Hooker, who succeeded him in command, failed even more
conspicuously, when, in the following spring, he made the campaign of
Chancellorsville.

After Chancellorsville Lee crossed the Potomac again. Then came
Gettysburg, which proved to be the turning-point in the war, so far as
the armies of Virginia were concerned.

For before the next campaign opened--the campaign of the Wilderness,
Spottsylvania, and Cold Harbour--the North had recognised in Grant a
leader who knew what use to make of the means at his command, and, more
important still, a leader who clearly saw that the strength of the
Confederacy lay, not in the possession of cities or the holding of
strategic positions, but in the superb fighting force of Lee's army.
Grant, in supreme command of all the armies of the Union, directed the
work of all of them to the one task of crushing Lee, and in the end he
accomplished it. When that was done, this most stupendous war in modern
history was over.

In all these epoch-making events the master of Warlock did his part,
with a devotion that wrought a colonel's stars upon his collar and added
honour to the name he bore. During the long winter of 1863-64, while the
mud-bound armies lay helplessly idle in winter quarters, Baillie had
Agatha with him in his log hut near Orange Court-house, and before the
campaign opened at the Wilderness in the spring, an heir to Warlock was
born in camp,--a child veritably "cradled in a revolution."

Agatha was near her husband, too, during the long siege of Petersburg,
though she could not be actually with him; for his place was on the
lines, where the "scream of shot, and burst of shell, and bellowing of
the mortars" were ceaseless by night and by day, for the space of eight
months, before the end came. But she was always near at hand, as one of
that heroic band of women who stayed and starved in the beleaguered
city, heedless of the storm of huge shells that daily wrecked buildings
there and tore cavernous trenches in the streets. She remained there to
the end as the others did, in order that they might minister in loving,
life-saving ways to the wounded, who were daily brought in from the
lines on ever-busy litters.

When at last the attenuated lines that had so long and so heroically
held their ground against an ever-increasing disparity of numbers, were
broken, and Lee ordered the instant evacuation of the city, Agatha made
her way on foot to Warlock, and there, with her babe, awaited the return
of the man she loved, and whose voice she fancied she could hear in the
receding echoes of the cannon.

He came at last,--ten days later,--and Agatha greeted him with loving
looks and words that cheered him in that despondency that at first made
every returning Confederate lament that he had not been permitted to
share the fate of those who had fallen facing the foe.

Over the mantel in that family room which in Virginia was always called
"the chamber," Agatha hung up the artillery sword, the pistols, the
colonel's sash, and the Mexican spurs that the master of Warlock had
worn in his campaigning.

"Those are for the little boy to see daily as he grows up, so that he
may know what manner of man his mother wishes him to become--what manner
of man his mother loves and reveres."

Then she brought two other mementos and hung them also on the wall. One
was the sergeant-major's jacket on which she had stitched the chevrons
on the day before Manassas.

"So you found the old jacket, did you?" asked Baillie. "I kept it as a
reminder of you."

"Yes--I know. I found it in the little closet where you had hung it. I
should have left it there always, just as your hands had placed it,
if--if you had not come back to Warlock again."

She was weeping now, but her face was joyous in spite of the tears. For
had he not come back to her, strong and well and still young? And should
not they two find ways in which to meet their present poverty with stout
hearts and heads erect?

"We must 'look up,' Baillie, 'and not down--forward and not backward.'
We have each other left--"

"And the boy--_our_ boy!" he interrupted. "Yes, we have enough to live
for--enough to enrich our lives to the end. And thanks to you I have
courage left both to do and to endure."

"Courage? Of course. You could never lose that and still live. It is as
vital a part of you as your head itself is."

Then she brought the other memento and fastened it into its place. It
was a faded red feather.

"I have carried that on my person," she said, "ever since that day at
Fairfax Court-house when you first told me that you loved me."

       *       *       *       *       *

A few months later Marshall Pollard came. He hobbled upon a cork leg
which he had not yet learned to use with ease, but the old smile was on
his face, the old cheer in his voice.

"Agatha," he said, "I should like to occupy my old quarters here during
my stay, if I may. You see, Baillie, it is as I told you long years
ago--I must ask leave of my lady now. But I don't mind, as my lady
happens to be Agatha instead of some other."

"And your other prediction is fulfilled, too," answered the master of
Warlock, "the prediction that you made out there by the plantation gate.
The old life of Virginia is completely gone, the old conditions have
been utterly swept away. We can never re-create them. We can never bring
the old life back, and perhaps it is better so. We Virginians had for
generations lived in the past. Our manner of life and all our
conceptions of living were those of a century ago. We had not kept step
with progress. We have been rudely shaken out of the lethargic ease that
was so delightful and perhaps so bad for us. We are free now to create a
new life in tune with that of the modern world.

"And we shall do that right manfully. We shall develop the resources of
our region, and the South will grow more prosperous than it ever was
before. Better still, our children will be educated in the gospel of
work, and learn the lesson that was never taught to you and me till war
came to teach us, that it is in strenuous endeavour, and not in
paralysing ease, that a man finds the greatest happiness in life."

"Tell me of your plans, Baillie."

"They are not mine. They are Agatha's. We have arranged to convert this
plantation, and The Oaks, and all the land round about--for the company
we have formed has bought every acre that could be had--into a nest of
coal mines. The deposit is a rich one, you know, and I have had no
difficulty in getting practical men with abundant capital to join me in
the enterprise. We are already building a branch railroad to carry our
product. But there is to be no shaft sunk within half a mile of Warlock
House, so that I shall be 'master of Warlock' still. Tell us now of your
own affairs, Marshall."

"There is not much to tell. Thanks to Agatha's wonderful economy in
spending, I still have investments at the North which yield me a
sufficient income for my small needs. I have divided my plantation into
little farms, and have let them to the best of the negroes and to some
white farmers. I am to get my rentals in the shape of a share of the
crops. This sets me free to do the work that best pleases me. You know I
have been writing in a small way with some success ever since I grew up.
I shall write some books now. I think I have some messages to deliver
that some at least of my fellow men may be the better or the happier for
hearing."

"But you will want to marry some day."

"No. My 'some day' died years ago."


THE END.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Master of Warlock

By GEORGE CARY EGGLESTON, Author of "Dorothy South," "A Carolina
Cavalier." Six Illustrations by C. D. Williams.

"THE MASTER OF WARLOCK" has an interesting plot, and is full of purity
of sentiment, charm of atmosphere, and stirring doings. One of the
typical family feuds of Virginia separates the lovers at first; but,
when the hero goes to the war, the heroine undergoes many hardships and
adventures to serve him, and they are happily united in the end.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dorothy South

A STORY OF VIRGINIA JUST BEFORE THE WAR

Baltimore Sun says:

     "No writer in the score and more of novelists now exploiting the
     Southern field can, for a moment, compare in truth and interest to
     Mr. Eggleston. In the novel before us we have a peculiarly
     interesting picture of the Virginian in the late fifties. We are
     taken into the life of the people. We are shown the hearts of men
     and women. Characters are clearly drawn, and incidents are
     skilfully presented."

       *       *       *       *       *

A Carolina Cavalier

A STIRRING TALE OF WAR AND ADVENTURE

Philadelphia Home Advocate says:

     "As a love story, 'A Carolina Cavalier' is sweet and true; but as a
     patriotic novel, it is grand and inspiring. We have seldom found a
     stronger and simpler appeal to our manhood and love of country."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Captain

By CHURCHILL WILLIAMS, author of "J. Devlin--Boss." Illustrated by A. I.
Keller.

Who is the Captain? thousands of readers of this fine book will be
asking. It is a story of love and war, of scenes and characters before
and during the great civil conflict. It has lots of color and movement,
and the splendid figure naming the book dominates the whole.

       *       *       *       *       *

J. Devlin--Boss

A ROMANCE OF AMERICAN POLITICS.

Mary E. Wilkins says:

     "I am delighted with your book. Of all the first novels, I believe
     yours is the very best. The novel is American to the core. The
     spirit of the times is in it. It is inimitably clever. It is an
     amazing first novel, and no one except a real novelist could have
     written it."





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