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Title: Secret Service - Being the Happenings of a Night in Richmond in the Spring of 1865 Done into Book Form from the Play by WIlliam Gillette
Author: Brady, Cyrus Townsend, 1861-1920
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: “If he wanted to fight, he’d hardly be in an office”]

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

SECRET SERVICE

Being the Happenings of a Night in Richmond in the Spring of 1865
Done into Book Form from the Play by William Gillette

by

CYRUS TOWNSEND BRADY

Illustrated by the Kinneys



New York
Grosset & Dunlap
Publishers

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

Copyright, 1912, by
Dodd, Mead and Company

Published, January, 1912

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

              I DEDICATE MY SHARE OF THIS JOINT PRODUCTION
                                   TO

The many people of the stage, personally known and unknown by me, who
have so often interested, amused, instructed, and inspired me by their
presentations of life in all its infinite variety. They are a much
misunderstood people by the public generally, and I take this occasion
to testify that, in my wide acquaintance with stage people, I have found
them as gentle, as generous, as refined, and as considerate as any group
of people with whom I have associated in my long and varied career.

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

                                PREFACE

Once upon a time a novel of mine was turned into a play. The dramatist
who prepared the story for stage production sent me a copy of his
efforts toward that end. About the only point of resemblance between his
production and mine was the fact that they both bore the same title, the
hero in each had the same name, and the action in both cases took place
on this earth.

I was a young author then, and timid. I ventured humbly to enquire why
the drama differed so entirely from the novel; and this ingenious, I
might almost say ingenuous, explanation was vouchsafed me:

“Well, to tell you the truth, after I had read a chapter or two of your
book, I lost it, and I just wrote the play from my own imagination.”

I do not wish to criticise the results of his efforts, for he has since
proved himself to be a dramatist of skill and ability, but to describe
that particular effort as a dramatisation of my book was absurd.
Incidentally, it was absurd in other ways and, fortunately for the
reputation of both of us, it never saw the light.

When my dear friends, the publishers, asked me to turn this play into a
novel, I recalled my experience of by-gone days, and the idea flashed
into my mind that here was an opportunity to get even, but I am a
preacher as well as a story-writer, and in either capacity I found I
could not do it. Frankly, I did not want to do it.

My experience, however, has made me perhaps unduly sensitive, and I
determined, since I had undertaken this work, to make it represent Mr.
Gillette’s remarkable and brilliant play as faithfully as I could, and I
have done so. I have used my own words only in those slight changes
necessitated by book presentation instead of production on the stage. I
have entered into as few explanations as possible and have limited my
own discussion of the characters, their motives, and their actions, to
what was absolutely necessary to enable the reader to comprehend. On the
stage much is left to the eye which has to be conveyed by words in a
book, and this is my excuse for even those few digressions that appear.

I have endeavoured to subordinate my own imagination to that of the
accomplished playwright. I have played something of the part of the old
Greek Chorus which explained the drama, and there has been a touch of
the scene-painter’s art in my small contribution to the book.

Otherwise, I have not felt at liberty to make any departure from the
setting, properties, episodes, actions, or dialogue. Mine has been a
very small share in this joint production. The story and the glory are
Mr. Gillette’s, not mine. And I am cheerfully determined that as the
author of the first, he shall have all of the second.

                                                   Cyrus Townsend Brady.

                                                   St. George’s Rectory,
                                       Kansas City, Mo., November, 1911.

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

CONTENTS

                  BOOK I
      WHAT HAPPENED AT EIGHT O’CLOCK

    I The Battery Passes                     3
   II A Commission from the President       18
  III Orders to Captain Thorne              34
   IV Miss Mitford’s Intervention           49
    V The Unfaithful Servant                69
   VI The Confidence of Edith Varney        86

                 BOOK II
      WHAT HAPPENED AT NINE O’CLOCK

  VII Wilfred Writes a Letter              105
 VIII Edith Is Forced to Play the Game     133
   IX The Shot That Killed                 154

                BOOK III
      WHAT HAPPENED AT TEN O’CLOCK

    X Caroline Mitford Writes a Despatch   173
   XI Mr. Arrelsford Again Interposes      187
  XII Thorne Takes Charge of the Telegraph 204
 XIII The Tables Are Turned                217
  XIV The Call of the Key                  229
   XV Love and Duty at the Touch           247

                 BOOK IV
      WHAT HAPPENED AT ELEVEN O’CLOCK

  XVI The Tumult in Human Hearts           261
 XVII Wilfred Plays the Man                271
XVIII Captain Thorne Justifies Himself     292
  XIX The Drumhead Court-Martial           301
   XX The Last Reprieve                    318

      Afterword                            330

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

                                 BOOK I

                     WHAT HAPPENED AT EIGHT O’CLOCK

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

                               CHAPTER I

                           THE BATTERY PASSES


Outside, the softness of an April night; the verdure of tree and lawn,
the climbing roses, already far advanced in that southern latitude,
sweetly silvered in the moonlight. Within the great old house apparently
an equal calm.

Yet, neither within nor without was the night absolutely soundless. Far
away to the southward the cloudless horizon, easily visible from the
slight eminence on which the house stood, was marked by quivering
flashes of lurid light. From time to time, the attentive ear might catch
the roll, the roar, the reverberation of heavy sound like distant
thunder-peals intermingled with sharper detonations. The flashes came
from great guns, and the rolling peals were the sound of the cannon, the
detonations explosions of the shells. There was the peace of God in the
heaven above; there were the passions of men on the earth beneath.

Lights gleamed here and there, shining through the twining rose foliage,
from the windows of the old house, which stood far back from the street.
From a room on one side of the hall, which opened from the broad
pillared portico of Colonial fashion, a hum of voices arose.

A group of women, with nervous hands and anxious faces, working while
they talked, were picking lint, tearing linen and cotton for bandages.
Their conversation was not the idle chatter of other days. They “told
sad stories of the death of kings!” How “Tom” and “Charles” and “Allen”
and “Page” and “Burton” had gone down into the Valley of the Shadow of
Death, whence they had not come back. How this fort had been hammered
yesterday, the other, the day before. How So-and-So’s wounds had been
ministered to. How Such-a-One’s needs had been relieved. How the enemy
were drawing closer and closer and closer, and how they were being held
back with courage, which, alas! by that time was the courage of despair.
And much of their speech was of their own kind, of bereft women and
fatherless children. And ever as they talked, the busy fingers flew.

Upstairs from one of the front rooms the light shone dimly through a
window partly covered by a half-drawn Venetian blind. One standing at
the side of the house and listening would have heard out of the chamber
low moanings, muttered words from feverish lips and delirious brain. The
meaningless yet awful babble was broken now and again by words of
tenderness and anguish. Soft hands were laid on the burning brow of the
poor sufferer within, while a mother’s eyes dropped tears upon
bloodstained bandages and wasted frame.

And now the gentle wind which swept softly through the trees bore a
sudden sharper, stranger sound toward the old house in the garden. The
tramp of horse, the creak of wheels, the faint jingling of arms and
sabres drew nearer and rose louder. Sudden words of command punctured
the night. Here came a battery, without the rattle of drum or the blare
of bugles, with no sound but its own galloping it rolled down the
street. Lean, gaunt horses were ridden and driven by leaner and gaunter
men in dusty, worn, ragged, tattered uniforms. Only the highly polished
brass guns—twelve-pounder Napoleons—gleamed bright in the moonlight.

The sewing women came out on the porch and the blind of the window above
was lifted and a white-haired woman stood framed in the light.

No, those watchers did not cheer as the battery swept by on its way to
the front. For one thing, a soldier lay upstairs dying; for another,
they had passed the time when they cheered that tattered flag. Now they
wept over it as one weeps as he beholds for the last time the face of a
friend who dies. Once they had acclaimed it as the sunrise in the
morning, now they watched it silently go inevitably to the sunset of
defeat.

The men did not cheer either. They were not past cheering—oh, no! They
were made of rougher stuff than the women, and the time would come when,
in final action, they would burst forth into that strange, wild yell
that struck terror to the hearts of the hearers. They could cheer even
in the last ditch, even in the jaws of death—face the end better for
their cheering perhaps; but women are more silent in the crisis. They
bear and give no tongue.

The officer in command saw the little group of women on the porch. The
moonlight shone from the street side and high-lighted them, turning the
rusty black of most of the gowns, home-dyed mourning,—all that could be
come at in those last awful days in Richmond,—into soft shadows, above
which their faces shone angelic. He saw the woman’s head in the window,
too. He knew who lay upon the bed of death within the chamber. He had
helped to bring him back from the front several days before. He bit his
lips for a moment and then, ashamed of his emotion, his voice rang
harsh. With arm and sabre the battery saluted the women and passed on,
while from the window of the great drawing-room, opposite the room of
the lint-pickers and bandage-tearers, a slender boy stared and stared
after the disappearing guns, his eyes full of envy and vexatious tears
as he stamped his foot in futile protest and disappointment.

The noise made by the passing cannon soon died away in the distance.
Stillness supervened as before; workers whispered together, realising
that some of those passing upon whom they had looked would pass no more,
and that they would look upon them never again. Upstairs the moans of
the wounded man had died away, the only thing that persisted was the
fearful thundering of the distant guns around beleaguered Petersburg.
Within the drawing-room, the boy walked up and down restlessly,
muttering to himself, evidently nerving himself to desperate resolution.

“I won’t do it,” he said. “I won’t stay here any longer.”

He threw up his hands and turned to the portraits that adorned the room,
portraits that carried one back through centuries to the days of the
first cavalier of the family, who crossed the seas to seek his fortune
in a new land, and it was a singular thing that practically every one of
them wore a sword.

“You all fought,” said the boy passionately, “and I am going to.”

The door at the other end was softly opened. The great room was but
dimly lighted by candles in sconces on the wall; the great chandelier
was not lighted for lack of tapers, but a more brilliant radiance was
presently cast over the apartment by the advent of old Martha. She had
been the boy’s “Mammy” and the boy’s father’s “Mammy” as well, and no
one dared to speculate how much farther into the past she ran back.

“Is dat you, Mars Wilfred?” said the old woman, waddling into the room,
both hands extended, bearing two many-branched candle-sticks, which she
proceeded to deposit upon the handsome mahogany tables with which the
long drawing-room was furnished.

“Yes, it is I, Aunt Martha. Did you see Benton’s Battery go by?”

“Lawd lub you, chile, Ah done seed so many guns an’ hosses an’ soljahs
a-gwine by Ah don’t tek no notice ob ’em no mo’. ’Peahs lak dey keep on
a-passin’ by fo’ebah.”

“Well, there won’t be many more of them pass by,” said the boy in a
clear accent, but with that soft intonation which would have betrayed
his Southern ancestry anywhere, “and before they are all gone, I would
like to join one of them myself.”

“Why, my po’ li’l lamb!” exclaimed Martha, her arms akimbo, “dat Ah done
nussed in dese ahms, is you gwine to de fight!”

The boy’s demeanour was anything but lamb-like. He made a fierce step
toward her.

“Don’t you call me ‘lamb’ any more,” he said, “it’s ridiculous and——”

Mammy Martha started back in alarm.

“’Peahs mo’ lak a lion’d be better,” she admitted.

“Where’s mother?” asked the boy, dismissing the subject as unworthy of
argument.

“I reckon she’s upstaihs wid Mars Howard, suh. Yo’ bruddah——”

“I want to see her right away,” continued the boy impetuously.

“Mars Howard he’s putty bad dis ebenin’,” returned Martha. “Ah bettah go
an’ tell her dat you want her, but Ah dunno’s she’d want to leab him.”

“Well, you tell her to come as soon as she can. I’m awfully sorry for
Howard, but it’s living men that the Confederacy needs most now.”

“Yas, suh,” returned the old nurse, with a quizzical look out of her
black eyes at the slender boy before her. “Dey suah does need men,” she
continued, and as the youngster took a passionate step toward her, she
deftly passed out of the room and closed the door behind her, and he
could hear her ponderous footsteps slowly and heavily mounting the
steps.

The boy went to the window again and stared into the night. In his
preoccupation he did not catch the sound of a gentler footfall upon the
stairs, nor did he notice the opening of the door and the silent
approach of a woman, the woman with white hair who had stood at the
window. The mother of a son dead, a son dying, and a son living. No
distinctive thing that in the Confederacy. Almost any mother who had
more than one boy could have been justly so characterised. She stopped
half-way down the room and looked lovingly and longingly at the slight,
graceful figure of her youngest son. Her eyes filled with tears—for the
dying or the living or both? Who can say? She went toward him, laid her
hand on his shoulder. He turned instantly and at the sight of her tears
burst out quickly:

“Howard isn’t worse, is he?” for a moment forgetful of all else.

The woman shook her head.

“I am afraid he is. The sound of that passing battery seemed to excite
him so. He thought he was at the front again and wanted to get up.”

“Poor old Howard!”

“He’s quieter now, perhaps——”

“Mother, is there anything I can do for him?”

“No, my son,” answered the woman with a sigh, “I don’t think there is
anything that anybody can do. We can only wait—and hope. He is in God’s
hands, not ours.”

She lifted her face for a moment and saw beyond the room, through the
night, and beyond the stars a Presence Divine, to Whom thousands of
other women in that dying Confederacy made daily, hourly, and momentary
prayers. Less exalted, more human, less touched, the boy bowed his head,
not without his own prayer, too.

“But you wanted to see me, Wilfred, Martha said,” the woman presently
began.

“Yes, mother, I——”

The boy stopped and the woman was in no hurry to press him. She divined
what was coming and would fain have avoided it all.

“I am thankful there is a lull in the cannonading,” she said, listening.
“I wonder why it has stopped?”

“It has not stopped,” said Wilfred, “at least it has gone on all
evening.”

“I don’t hear it now.”

“No, but you will—there!”

“Yes, but compared to what it was yesterday—you know how it shook the
house—and Howard suffered so through it.”

“So did I,” said the boy in a low voice fraught with passion.

“You, my son?”

“Yes, mother, when I hear those guns and know that the fighting is going
on, it fairly maddens me——”

But Mrs. Varney hastily interrupted her boy. Woman-like she would thrust
from her the decision which she knew would be imposed upon her.

“Yes, yes,” she said; “I know how you suffered,—we all suffered,
we——” She turned away, sat down in a chair beside the table, leaned
her head in her hands, and gave way to her emotions. “There has been
nothing but suffering, suffering since this awful war began,” she
murmured.

“Mother,” said Wilfred abruptly, “I want to speak to you. You don’t like
it, of course, but you have just got to listen this time.”

Mrs. Varney lifted her head from her hands. Wilfred came nearer to her
and dropped on his knees by her side. One hand she laid upon his
shoulder, the other on his head. She stared down into his up-turned
face.

“I know—I know, my boy—what you want.”

“I can’t stay here any longer,” said the youth; “it is worse than being
shot to pieces. I just have to chain myself to the floor whenever I hear
a cannon-shot or see a soldier. When can I go?”

The woman stared at him. In him she saw faintly the face of the boy
dying upstairs. In him she saw the white face of the boy who lay under
the sun and dew, dead at Seven Pines. In him she saw all her kith and
kin, who, true to the traditions of that house, had given up their lives
for a cause now practically lost. She could not give up the last one.
She drew him gently to her, but, boy-like, he disengaged himself and
drew away with a shake of his head, not that he loved his mother the
less, but honour—as he saw it—the more.

“Why don’t you speak?” he whispered at last.

“I don’t know what to say to you, Wilfred,” faltered his mother,
although there was but one thing to say, and she knew that she must say
it, yet she was fighting, woman-like, for time.

“I will tell you what to say,” said the boy.

“What?”

“Say that you won’t mind if I go down to Petersburg and enlist.”

“But that would not be true, Wilfred,” said his mother, smiling faintly.

“True or not, mother, I can’t stay here.”

“Oh, Wilfred, Russell has gone, and Howard is going, and now you want to
go and get killed.”

“I don’t want to be killed at all, mother.”

“But you are so young, my boy.”

“Not younger than Tom Kittridge,” answered the boy; “not younger than
Ell Stuart or Cousin Steven or hundreds of other boys down there. See,
mother—they have called for all over eighteen, weeks ago; the seventeen
call may be out any moment; the next one after that takes me. Do you
want me to stay here until I am ordered out! I should think not. Where’s
your pride?”

“My pride? Ah, my son, it is on the battlefield, over at Seven Pines,
and upstairs with Howard.”

“Well, I don’t care, mother,” he persisted obstinately. “I love you and
all that, you know it,—but I can’t stand this. I’ve got to go. I must
go.”

Mrs. Varney recognised from the ring of determination in the boy’s voice
that his mind was made up. She could no longer hold him. With or without
her consent he would go, and why should she withhold it? Other boys as
young as hers had gone and had not come back. Aye, there was the rub:
she had given one, the other trembled on the verge, and now the last
one! Yes, he must go, too,—to live or die as God pleased. If they
wanted her to sacrifice everything on the altar of her country, she had
her own pride, she would do it, as hundreds of other women had done. She
rose from her chair and went toward her boy. He was a slender lad of
sixteen but was quite as tall as she. As he stood there he looked
strangely like his father, thought the woman.

“Well,” she said at last, “I will write to your father and——”

“But,” the boy interrupted in great disappointment, “that’ll take
forever. You never can tell where his brigade is from day to day. I
can’t wait for you to do that.”

“Wilfred,” said his mother, “I can’t let you go without his consent. You
must be patient. I will write the letter at once, and we will send it by
a special messenger. You ought to hear by to-morrow.”

The boy turned away impatiently and strode toward the door.

“Wilfred,” said his mother gently. The tender appeal in her voice
checked him. She came over to him and put her arm about his shoulders.
“Don’t feel bad, my boy, that you have to stay another day with your
mother. It may be many days, you know, before——”

“It isn’t that,” said Wilfred.

“My darling boy—I know it. You want to fight for your country—and I’m
proud of you. I want my sons to do their duty. But with your father at
the front, one boy dead, and the other wounded, dying——”

She turned away.

“You will write father to-night, won’t you?”

“Yes—yes!”

“I’ll wait, then, until we have had time to get a reply,” said the boy.

“Yes, and then you will go away. I know what your father’s answer will
be. The last of my boys—Oh, God, my boys!”



                               CHAPTER II

                    A COMMISSION FROM THE PRESIDENT


The door giving entrance to the hall was opened unceremoniously by the
rotund and privileged Martha. She came at an opportune time, relieving
the tension between the mother and son. Wilfred was not insensible to
his mother’s feelings, but he was determined to go to the front. He was
glad of the interruption and rather shamefacedly took advantage of it by
leaving the room.

“Well, Martha, what is it?” asked Mrs. Varney, striving to regain her
composure.

“Deys one ob de men fum de hossiple heah, ma’am.”

“Another one?”

“Ah ’clah to goodness, ma’am, dey jes’ keeps a-comin’ an’ a-comin’.
’Peahs like we cain’t keep no close fo’ ourse’f; de sheets an’
tablecloths an’ napkins an’ eben de young misstess’ petticoats, dey all
hab to go.”

“And we have just sent all the bandages we have,” said Mrs. Varney,
smiling.

“Den we got to git some mo’. Dey says dey’s all used up, an’ two mo’
trains jes’ come in crowded full o’ wounded sojahs—an’ mos’ all ob ’em
dreffeul bad!”

“Is Miss Kittridge here yet, Martha?”

“Yas’m, Ah jes’ seed her goin’ thu de hall into de libr’y.”

“Ask her if they have anything to send. Even if it’s only a little let
them have it. What they need most is bandages. There are some in
Howard’s room, too. Give them half of what you find there. I think what
we have left will last long enough to—to——”

“Yas’m,” said old Martha, sniffing. “Ah’m a-gwine. Does you want to see
de man?”

“Yes, send him in,” said Mrs. Varney.

There was a light tap on the door after Martha went out.

“Come in,” said the mistress of the house, and there entered to her a
battered and dilapidated specimen of young humanity, his arm in a sling.
“My poor man!” exclaimed Mrs. Varney. “Sit down.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

“Martha,” she called to the old woman, who paused at the door on her way
to the stairs, “can’t you get something to eat and drink for this
gentleman?”

“Well, the pantry ain’t obahflowin’, as you know, Mrs. Varney. But Ah
reckon Ah might fin’ a glass o’ milk ef Ah jes’ had to.”

“All our wine has gone long ago,” said Mrs. Varney to the soldier, “but
if a glass of milk——”

“I haven’t seen a glass of milk for three years, ma’am,” answered the
man, smiling; “it would taste like nectar.”

“Martha will set it for you in the dining-room while you are waiting.
What hospital did you come from, by the way?”

“The Winder, ma’am.”

“And is it full?”

“They are laying them on blankets on the floor. You can hardly step for
wounded men.”

“I suppose you need everything?”

“Everything, but especially bandages.”

“Have you been over to St. Paul’s Church? The ladies are working there
to-night.”

“Yes, ma’am, I’ve been over there, but they’re not working for the
hospital; they’re making sand-bags for fortifications.”

“And where are you from?”

“I’m a Louisiana Tiger, ma’am,” answered the man proudly.

“You don’t look much like it now,” said the woman, smiling.

“No, I guess the lamb is more like me now, but just wait until I get
well enough to go to the front again,” admitted the soldier cheerfully.

At this moment one of the ladies who had been working in the other room
came in carrying a small packet of bandages done up in a coarse brown
paper.

“Oh, Miss Kittridge,” said Mrs. Varney, “here is the gentleman who——”

Miss Kittridge was a very business-like person.

“This is every scrap we have,” she said, handing the soldier the parcel
with a little bow. “If you will come back in an hour or two, perhaps we
shall have more for you.”

“Thank you, ladies, and God bless you. I don’t know what our poor
fellows in the hospitals would do if it weren’t for you.”

“Don’t forget your milk in the dining-room,” said Mrs. Varney.

“I’m not likely to, ma’am,” returned the soldier, as, in spite of his
wounded arm, he bowed gracefully to the women.

In the hall Martha’s voice could be heard exclaiming:

“Come right dis way, you po’ chile, an’ see what Ah’s got fo’ you in de
dinin’-room.”

“You must be tired to death,” said Mrs. Varney to Miss Kittridge,
looking at the white face of the other woman. Her brother had been
killed a few days before, but the clods had scarcely rattled down upon
his coffin before she was energetically at work again—for other women’s
brothers.

“No, no,” she said bravely; “and our tiredness is nothing compared to
the weariness of our men. We are going to stay late to-night, Mrs.
Varney, if you will let us. There’s so many more wounded come in it
won’t do to stop now. We have found some old linen that will make
splendid bandages, and——”

“My dear girl,” said the matron, “stay as long as you possibly can. I
will see if Martha can’t serve you something to eat after a while. I
don’t believe there is any tea left in the house.”

“Bread and butter will be a feast,” said Miss Kittridge.

“And I don’t believe there is much butter either,” smiled the older
woman.

“Well, it doesn’t matter,” said the other. “Is—is your son—is there
any change?”

“Not for the better,” was the reply. “I am afraid his fever is
increasing.”

“And has the surgeon seen him this evening?”

“Not to-night.”

“Why not!” exclaimed Miss Kittridge in great surprise. “Surely his
condition is sufficiently critical to demand more than one brief visit
in the morning.”

“I can’t ask him to come twice with so many waiting for him,” said Mrs.
Varney.

“But they would not refuse you, Mrs. Varney,” said Miss Kittridge
quickly. “There’s that man going back to the hospital, he’s in the
dining-room yet. I’ll call him and send word that——”

She started impulsively toward the door, but Mrs. Varney caught her by
the arm.

“No,” she said firmly; “I can’t let you.”

“Not for your own son?”

“I am thinking of the sons of other mothers. The surgeon has done all
that he can for him. And think how many other sons would have to be
neglected if he visited mine twice. He will come again to-morrow.”

The second woman stood looking at her in mingled sympathy and amazement,
and there was a touch of pride in her glance, too. She was proud of her
sex, and she had a right to be there in Richmond that spring, if ever.

“I understand,” said Miss Kittridge at last. “I suppose you are right.”

They stared at each other, white-faced, a moment, when there entered to
them youth and beauty incarnate. There was enough resemblance between
the pale, white-haired mother and the girlish figure in the doorway to
proclaim their relationship. The girl’s cheek had lost some of its bloom
and some of its roundness. There was too much that was appalling and
fearful in and about Richmond then not to leave its mark even upon the
most youthful and the most buoyant, yet things did not come home to the
young as they did to those older. She was still a lovely picture,
especially in the soft radiance of the candles. She carried her hat in
her hand. The flowers upon it were assuredly those of yester-year, it
would not have passed muster as the mode anywhere except in besieged
Richmond; and her dress, although it fitted her perfectly, was worn and
faded and had been turned and patched and altered until it was quite
beyond further change, yet she wore it as airily as if it had been
tissue of silver or cloth of gold.

The mother’s face brightened.

“Edith dear,” she exclaimed, “how late you are! It is after eight
o’clock. You must be tired out.”

“I am not tired at all,” answered the girl cheerily. “I have not been at
the hospital all afternoon; this is my day off. How is Howard?”

“I wish I could say just the same, but he seems a little worse.”

The girl’s face went suddenly grave. She stepped over to her mother,
took her hand and patted it softly.

“Is there nothing you can do?”

“My dear,” said her mother, “Howard—we—are all in God’s hands.”

She drew a long breath and lifted her head bravely.

“Miss Kittridge,” said the girl, “I have something very important to
tell mother, and——”

Miss Kittridge smiled back at her.

“I am going right away, honey. There is lots of work for us to do
and——”

“You don’t mind, I hope,” said Edith Varney, calling after her as she
went into the hall.

“No, indeed,” was the reply.

Mrs. Varney sat down wearily by the table, and Edith pulled up a low
stool and sat at her feet.

“Well, my dear?”

“Mamma—what do you think? What do you think?”

“I think a great many things,” said Mrs. Varney, “but——”

“Yes, but you wouldn’t ever think of this.”

“Certainly I shall not, unless you tell me.”

“Well, I have been to see the President.”

“The President—Mr. Davis!”

“Yes.”

“And what did you go to see the President for?”

“I asked him for an appointment for Captain Thorne.”

“For Captain Thorne! My dear——”

“Yes, mother, for the War Department Telegraph Service. And he gave it
to me, a special commission. He gave it to me for father’s sake and for
Captain Thorne’s sake,—he has met him and likes him,—and for my own.”

“What sort of an appointment?”

“Appointing him to duty here in Richmond, a very important position. He
won’t be sent to the front, and he will be doing his duty just the
same.”

“But, Edith, you don’t—you can’t——”

“Yes, it will, mother. The President,—I just love him,—told me they
needed a man who understood telegraphing and who was of high enough rank
to take charge of the service. As you know, most of the telegraph
operators are privates, and Captain Thorne is an expert. Since he’s been
here in Richmond he’s helped them in the telegraph office often.
Lieutenant Foray told me so.”

Mrs. Varney rose and moved away. Edith followed her.

“Now, mamma!” she exclaimed; “I feel you are going to scold me, and you
must not, because it’s all fixed and the commission will be sent over
here in a few minutes—just as soon as it can be made out—and when it
comes I am going to give it to him myself.”

Mrs. Varney moved over toward the table and lifted a piece of paper,
evidently a note.

“He is coming this evening,” she said.

“How do you know?” asked her daughter.

“Well, for one thing,” said her mother, “I can remember very few
evenings when he hasn’t been here since he was able to walk out of the
hospital.”

“Mamma!”

“And for another thing, this note came about half an hour ago.”

“Is it for me?”

“For me, my dear, else I shouldn’t have opened it. You can read it, if
you like.”

“Has it been here all this time?” exclaimed Edith jealously.

“All this time. You will see what he says. This will be his last call;
he has his orders to leave.”

“Why, it’s too ridiculous!” said the girl; “just as if the commission
from the President wouldn’t supersede everything else. It puts him at
the head of the Telegraph Service. He will be in command of the
Department. He says it is a good-bye call, does he?” She looked at the
note again and laughed, “All the better, it will be that much more of a
surprise. Now, mamma, don’t you breathe a word about it, I want to tell
him myself.”

“But, Edith dear—I am sorry to criticise you—but I don’t at all
approve of your going to the President about this. It doesn’t seem quite
the proper thing for a young lady to interest herself so far——”

“But listen, mamma,” and as she spoke the light went out of Miss Edith’s
face at her mother’s grave and somewhat reproving aspect. “I couldn’t go
to the War Department people. Mr. Arrelsford is there in one of the
offices, and ever since I—I refused him, you know how he has treated
me! If I had applied for anything there, it would have been refused at
once, and he would have got them to order Captain Thorne away right off.
I know he would—why, that is where his orders came from!”

“But, my dear——”

“That is where they came from. Isn’t it lucky I got that commission
to-day. There’s the bell; I wonder who it can be?” She stopped and
listened while the door opened and Jonas, the butler, entered. “Is it
Captain Thorne?” asked Edith eagerly.

“No, ma’am.”

“Oh!”

“It’s another offisuh, ma’am. He says he’s fum de President an’ he’s got
to see Miss Edith pussonally.”

Jonas extended a card which, as he spoke, Edith took and glanced at
indifferently.

“Lieutenant Maxwell,” she read.

“Ask the gentleman in, Jonas,” said Mrs. Varney.

“It’s come,” whispered Edith to her mother.

“Do you know who he is?”

“No—but he’s from the President—it must be that commission.”

At this moment old Jonas ushered into the drawing-room a very dashing
young officer, handsome in face, gallant in bearing, and dressed in a
showy and perfectly fitting uniform, which was quite a contrast to the
worn habiliments of the men at the front. Mrs. Varney stepped forward a
little, and Lieutenant Maxwell bowed low before her.

“Good-evening, ma’am. Have I the honour of addressing Miss Varney?”

“I am Mrs. Varney, sir.”

“Madam,” said the Lieutenant, “I am very much afraid this looks like an
intrusion on my part, but I come from the President, and he desires me
to see Miss Varney personally.”

“Any one from the President could not be otherwise than welcome, sir.
This is my daughter. Edith, let me present Lieutenant Maxwell.”

The young Lieutenant, greatly impressed, bowed profoundly before her,
and taking a large brown envelope from his belt, handed it to her.

“Miss Varney,” he said, “the President directed me to deliver this into
your hands, with his compliments. He is glad to be able to do this, he
says, not only at your request, but because of your father and for the
merits of the gentleman in question.”

“Oh, thank you,” cried the girl, taking the envelope.

“Won’t you be seated, Lieutenant Maxwell?” said Mrs. Varney.

“Yes, do,” urged the girl, holding the envelope pressed very tightly to
her side.

“Nothing would please me so much, ladies,” answered the Lieutenant, “but
I must go back to the President’s house right away. I’m on duty this
evening. Would you mind writing me off a line or two, Miss Varney, just
to say you have received the communication?”

“Why, certainly, you want a receipt. I’ll go upstairs to my desk; it
won’t take a moment. And could I put in how much I thank him for his
kindness?”

“I am sure he would be more than, pleased,” smiled Lieutenant Maxwell,
as Edith left the room and hastened up the stairs.

“We haven’t heard so much cannonading to-day, Lieutenant,” said Mrs.
Varney. “Do you know what it means?”

“I don’t think they are quite positive, ma’am, but they can’t help
looking for a violent attack to follow.”

“I don’t see why it should quiet down before an assault.”

“Well, there is always a calm before a storm,” said the Lieutenant. “It
might be some signal, or it might be they are moving their batteries to
open on some special point of attack. They are trying every way to break
through our defences, you know.”

“It’s very discouraging. We can’t seem to drive them back this time.”

“We’re holding them where they are, though,” said Maxwell proudly.
“They’ll never get in unless they do it by some scurvy trick; that’s
where the danger lies. We are always looking out for it, and——”

At this moment Edith Varney reëntered the room. She had left her hat
upstairs with the official-looking envelope, and had taken time to
glance at a mirror and then to thrust a red rose in her dark hair. The
impressionable young Lieutenant thought she looked prettier than ever.

“Lieutenant Maxwell,” she said, extending a folded paper, “here is your
receipt——”

The butler’s words to some one in the hall interrupted her further
speech.

“Will you jes’ kin’ly step dis way, suh!” she heard Jonas say, and as
Edith turned she found herself face to face with Captain Thorne!



                              CHAPTER III

                        ORDERS TO CAPTAIN THORNE


On the sleeves of Captain Thorne’s coat the insignia of a Captain of
Confederate Artillery were displayed; his uniform was worn, soiled, and
ill-fitting, giving honourable evidence of hard service; his face was
pale and thin and showed signs of recent illness, from which he had
scarcely recovered. In every particular he was a marked contrast to
Lieutenant Maxwell.

“Miss Varney,” he said, bowing low.

“We were expecting you,” answered Edith, giving her hand to Thorne.
“Here’s Captain Thorne, mamma!”

Mrs. Varney shook hands with him graciously while her daughter turned
once more to the other man, with the acknowledgment of the order, which
she handed to him.

“I wasn’t so very long writing it, was I, Lieutenant Maxwell?” she
asked.

“I’ve never seen a quicker piece of work, Miss Varney,” returned that
young man, putting the note in his belt and smiling as he did so. “When
you want a clerkship over at the Government offices, you must surely let
me know.”

“You would better not commit yourself,” said Edith jestingly; “I might
take you at your word.”

“Nothing would please me more,” was the prompt answer. “All you have got
to do is just apply, and refer to me, of course.”

“Lots of the other girls are doing it,” continued Edith half-seriously.
“They have to live. Aren’t there a good many where you are?”

“Well, we don’t have so many as they do over at the Treasury. I believe
there are more ladies over there than men. And now I must go.”

“A moment,” said Mrs. Varney, coming forward with Thorne. “Do you
gentlemen know each other?”

Captain Thorne shook his head and stepped forward, looking intently at
the other.

“Let me have the pleasure of making you acquainted, then. Captain
Thorne—Lieutenant Maxwell.”

Thorne slowly inclined his head. Maxwell also bowed.

“I have not had the pleasure of meeting Captain Thorne before, although
I have heard of him a great many times,” he said courteously.

“Yes?” answered the other, who seemed to be a man of few words.

“In fact, Captain, there is a gentleman in one of our offices who seems
mighty anxious to pick a fight with you.”

“Really!” exclaimed Captain Thorne, smiling somewhat sarcastically;
“pick a fight with me! To what office do you refer, sir?”

“The War Office, sir,” said Lieutenant Maxwell, rather annoyed, he could
not exactly say why.

“Dear, dear!” continued Thorne urbanely; “I didn’t suppose there was
anybody in the War Office who wanted to fight!”

“And why not, sir?” asked Lieutenant Maxwell haughtily, while Edith
barely stifled a laugh, and her mother even smiled.

“Well, if he wanted to fight, he’d hardly be in an office at a time like
this, would he?”

Captain Thorne’s sarcasm seemed to perturb the youngster, but his good
breeding got the better of his annoyance.

“I’d better not tell him that, Captain,” he said with a great effort at
lightness; “he would certainly insist upon having you out.”

“That would be too bad,” said the Captain. “It might interfere with his
office hours and——”

“He doesn’t believe it, Miss Varney,” said Maxwell, turning to the
younger woman, “but it is certainly true. I dare say you know the
gentleman——”

“Please don’t, Lieutenant,” interrupted Edith quickly. “I would rather
not talk about it, if you please.”

“Of course,” said Maxwell, “I didn’t know there was anything——”

“Yes,” said Edith. “Let’s talk about something else. You know there is
always the weather to fall back on——”

“I should say so,” laughed the Lieutenant, “and mighty bad weather for
us, too.”

“Yes, isn’t it?”

They turned away, talking and laughing somewhat constrainedly, while
Mrs. Varney picked up the note that was still lying on the table.

“From your note, I suppose you are leaving us immediately, Captain
Thorne. Your orders have come?”

“Yes, Mrs. Varney,” said the Captain. “I am afraid this must be the last
of my pleasant calls.”

“Isn’t it rather sudden? Are you quite well? It seems to me they ought
to give you a little more time to recover.”

“I have no doubt that I am, or feel, much better than I look,” said the
Captain, “and we have to be ready for anything, you know. I have been
idle too long already.”

“Yes, I suppose so,” said Mrs. Varney. “Well, it has been a great
pleasure to have you call upon us. When you are away, we shall greatly
miss your visits.”

“Thank you; I shall never forget what they have been to me.”

“Lieutenant Maxwell is going, mamma,” said Edith.

“So soon! Please excuse me a moment, Captain. I am very sorry you have
to hurry away, Lieutenant; we shall hope for the pleasure of seeing you
again, if your duties permit.”

“I shall certainly avail myself of your invitation, if you will allow
me.” He saluted Captain Thorne. “Good-evening, sir.”

Thorne, of course, returned the courteous salute of his junior.

“Lieutenant Maxwell,” he said pleasantly, as Mrs. Varney followed
Lieutenant Maxwell into the hall.

“Now remember, you are to come some time when duty doesn’t call you away
so soon,” she said, as he bowed himself out.

“Trust me not to forget that, Mrs. Varney,” said the Lieutenant, as he
disappeared on the porch.

Captain Thorne and Edith were left alone. The girl stepped over to a
small table on which stood a vase of roses, and, with somewhat nervous
hands, she busied herself arranging them. The young officer watched her
in silence for a little while, the moments tense with emotion.

“Shall I see Mrs. Varney again?” he began at last.

“Oh, I suppose so, but not now. I heard her go upstairs to Howard.”

“How is he?”

“Desperately ill.”

“I am sorry.”

“Yes,” said the girl.

“I have a very little time to stay and——”

“Oh—not long?” asked Edith.

“No, I am sorry to say.”

“Well, do you know,” she looked at him archly, “I believe you will have
more time than you really think you have. It would be odd if it came out
that way, wouldn’t it?” she continued, as she played with the flower in
her hand.

“Yes, but it won’t come out that way,” said Thorne, as he stepped closer
to her.

“You don’t know,” she faltered, as Thorne drew the flower from her and
took her hand in his. They stood there quiet a moment, and she did not
draw her hand away. “Well, it makes no difference how soon you are going
away; you can sit down in the meantime if you want to.”

“It is hardly worth while,” he said; “my time is so short.”

“You would better,” interrupted the girl; “I have a great many things to
say to you.”

“Have you?” he asked, sitting down on the little sofa by her side in
compliance with her invitation.

“Yes.”

“But I have only one thing to say to you—Miss Varney and—that
is”—Thorne took her other hand in both of his—“good-bye.”

Very different words had trembled on his lips, as he knew and as the
girl knew.

“But I don’t really think you will have to say that, Captain Thorne,”
said Edith slowly.

“I know I will.”

“Then,” said Edith more softly, “it will be because you want to say it.”

“No,” said Thorne, resolutely and of his own motion releasing her hands,
which she had allowed him to hold without remonstrance; “it will be
because I must.”

He rose to his feet and took up his hat from the table as if, the thing
being settled, he had only to go. But the girl observed with secret joy
that he made no other effort at departure.

“Oh, you think you must, do you, Captain Thorne?” said Edith, looking up
at him mischievously. “You are a very wise person, but you don’t know
all that I know.”

“I think that is more than likely, Miss Varney, but won’t you tell me
some of the things that you know that I don’t, so that I can approach
your knowledge in that respect?”

“I wouldn’t mind telling you one thing, and that is that it is very
wrong for you to think of leaving Richmond now.”

“Oh, but you don’t know.”

“Yes, I do.”

“Well, what do you know?” asked Thorne curiously.

“Whatever you were going to say. Most likely it was that there’s
something or other I don’t know about, but I do know this. You were sent
here to recover, and you haven’t nearly had enough time for it yet.”

“I do look as if a high wind would blow me away, don’t I?” he laughed.

“No matter how you look, you ought not to go. You are just making fun of
it, as you always do of everything. No matter, you can have all the fun
you like, but the whole thing is settled; you are not going away at all,
you are going to stay here,” she concluded with most decided but winning
emphasis.

“Oh, I’m not going? Well, that is quite a change for me,” said Thorne
composedly. He laid his hat back on the table and came closer to Edith.
“Perhaps you wouldn’t mind telling me what I am going to do.”

“I don’t mind at all, and it is this. You see, I have been to see—I am
almost afraid to tell you.”

“Don’t tell me,” said the man with sudden seriousness, laying aside all
his pleasantry, “because it can’t be true. I have my orders, and I am
leaving to-night.”

“Where—to Petersburg—to the front?”

“We can’t always tell where orders will take us,” he said evasively,
again sitting down beside her on the lounge.

He could scarcely tear himself away from her, from the delicious yet
painful emotion aroused by her presence. He ought to have gone long
since, yet he was with her, as he supposed, for the last time. Surely he
might indulge himself a little. He loved her so desperately, so
hopelessly.

“But listen,” said the girl; “supposing there were other orders, orders
from a higher authority, appointing you to duty here?”

“It would not make any difference.”

“You don’t mean you would go in spite of them!” cried the girl in sudden
alarm.

Thorne looked at her gravely and nodded his head.

“But if it were proved that your first orders were a mistake——”

She stretched out her hand toward him, which Thorne clasped closely
again.

“But it wasn’t a mistake, and I must go,” he said slowly, rising to his
feet once more, but still holding her hand.

“Is it something dangerous?” asked the girl apprehensively.

“Oh, well, enough to make it interesting.”

But Edith did not respond to his well simulated humour. She drew her
hand away, and Thorne fancied with a leap of his heart that she did it
with reluctance. She began softly:

“Don’t be angry with me if I ask you again about your orders. I must
know.”

“But why?” asked Thorne curiously.

“No matter, tell me.”

“I can’t do that. I wish I could,” he answered with a slight sigh.

“You needn’t,” said the girl triumphantly; “I do know.”

The Captain started and, in spite of his control, a look of dismay and
apprehension flitted across his face as the girl went on:

“They’re sending you on some mission where death is almost certain. They
will sacrifice your life, because they know you are fearless and will do
anything. There is a chance for you to stay here, and be just as much
use, and I am going to ask you to take it. It isn’t your life
alone—there are—others to think of and—that’s why I ask you. It may
not sound well, perhaps I ought not—you won’t understand, but you——”

As she spoke she rose to her feet, confronting him, while she
impulsively thrust out her hand toward him again. Once more he took that
beloved hand in his own, holding it close against him. Burning avowals
sprang to his lips, and the colour flamed into her face as she stood
motionless and expectant, looking at him. She had gone as far as a
modest woman might. Now the initiative was his. She could only wait.

“No,” said the man at last, by the exercise of the most iron
self-control and repression, “you shall not have this against me, too.”

Edith drew closer to him, leaving her hand in his as she placed her
other on his shoulder. She thought she knew what he would have said. And
love gave her courage. The frankness of war was in the air. If this man
left her now, she might never see him again. She was a woman, but she
could not let him go without an effort.

“Against you! What against you? What do you mean?” she asked softly.

The witchery of the hour was upon him, too, and the sweetness of her
presence. He knew he had but to speak to receive his answer, to summon
the fortress and receive the surrender. Her eyes dropped before his
passionately searching look, her colour came and went, her bosom rose
and fell. She thought he must certainly hear the wild beating of her
heart. He pressed her hands closely to his breast for a moment, but
quickly pulled himself together again.

“I must go,” he said hoarsely; “my business is—elsewhere. I ought never
to have seen you or spoken to you, but I had to come to this house and
you were here, and how could I help it? Oh—I couldn’t for my
whole—it’s only you in this——” He stopped and thrust her hands away
from him blindly and turned away. As there was a God above him he would
not do it. “Your mother—I would like to say good-bye to her.”

“No, you are not going,” cried the girl desperately, playing her last
card. “Listen, they need you in Richmond: the President told me so
himself—your orders are to stay here. You are to be given a special
commission on the War Department Telegraph Service, and you——”

“No, no, I won’t take it—I can’t take it, Miss Varney.”

“Can’t you do that much for—me?” said the girl with winning sweetness,
and again she put out her hands to him.

“It is for you that I will do nothing of the kind,” he answered quickly;
“if you ever think of me again after—well, when I am gone, remember
that I refused.”

“But you can’t refuse; it is the President’s desire, it is his order,
you have got to obey. Wait a moment, I left it upstairs. I will fetch it
for you and you will see.”

She turned toward the door.

“No,” said Thorne, “don’t get it, I won’t look at it.”

“But you must see what it is. It puts you at the head of everything. You
have entire control. When you see it I know you will accept it. Please
wait.”

“No, Miss Varney, I can’t——”

“Oh, yes, you can,” cried Edith, who would hear no denial as she ran
swiftly toward the door.



                               CHAPTER IV

                      MISS MITFORD’S INTERVENTION


The Captain stared after her departing figure; he listened to her
footfalls on the stair, and then came to an instant resolution. He would
take advantage of her opportune withdrawal. He turned back to the table,
seized his hat, and started for the door, only to come face to face with
another charming young woman, who stood breathless before him to his
great and ill-concealed annoyance. Yet the newcomer was pretty enough
and young enough and sweet enough to give any man pause for the sheer
pleasure of looking at her, to say nothing of speaking to her.

The resources of an ancient wardrobe, that looked as though it had
belonged to her great-grandmother, had been called upon for a costume
which was quaint and old-fashioned and altogether lovely. She was
evidently much younger than Edith Varney, perhaps just sixteen,
Wilfred’s age. With outstretched arms she barred the door completely,
and Thorne, of course, came to an abrupt stop.

“Oh, good-evening,” she panted, as soon as she found speech; she had run
without stopping from her house across the street.

“Good-evening, Miss Mitford,” he answered, stepping to one side to let
her pass, but through calculation or chance she kept her position at the
door.

“How lucky this is!” she continued. “You are the very person I wanted to
see. Let’s sit down and then I’ll tell you all about it. Goodness me, I
am all out of breath just running over from our house.”

Thorne did not accept her invitation, but stood looking at her. An idea
came to him.

“Miss Mitford,” he said at last, stepping toward her, “will you do
something for me?”

“Of course I will.”

“Thank you very much, indeed. Just tell Miss Varney when she comes
down—just say good-night for me and tell her that I’ve gone.”

“I wouldn’t do such a thing for the wide, wide world,” returned Caroline
Mitford in pretended astonishment.

“Why not?”

“It would be a wicked, dreadful story, because you wouldn’t be gone.”

“I am sorry you look at it that way,” said Thorne, “because I am going.
Good-night, Miss Mitford.”

But before he could leave the room, the girl, who was as light on her
feet as a fairy, caught him by the arm.

“No—you don’t seem to understand. I’ve got something to say to you.”

“Yes, I know,” said Thorne; “but some other time.”

“No, now.”

Of course, he could have freed himself by the use of a little force, but
such a thing was not to be thought of. Everything conspired to keep him
when his duty called him away, he thought quickly.

“There isn’t any other time,” said Caroline, “it is to-night. We are
going to have a Starvation party.”

“Good Heavens!” exclaimed Thorne; “another!”

“Yes, we are.”

“I can’t see how it concerns me.”

“It is going to be over at our house, and we expect you in half an
hour.”

“I shouldn’t think you would want to play at this time.”

“We are not going to play. We are going to make bandages and sandbags
and——”

“You won’t need me.”

“Yes, you can tell us the best way to——”

“Thank you, Miss Mitford, I can’t come. I have my orders and I am
leaving to-night.”

“Now, that won’t do at all,” said the girl, pouting. “You went to Mamie
Jones’ party; I don’t see why you should treat me like this.”

“Mamie Jones!” said Thorne. “Why, that was last Thursday, and now I have
got orders, I tell you, and——”

But Caroline was not to be put off.

“Now, there’s no use talking about it,” she said vehemently.

“Yes, I see that.”

“Didn’t you promise to obey orders when I gave them? Well, these are
orders.”

“Another set,” laughed Thorne.

“I don’t know anything about any others. These are mine.”

“Well, but this time——”

“This time is just the same as all the other times, only worse; besides
I told her you would be there.”

“What’s that?”

“I say she expects you, that’s all.”

“Who expects me?”

“Why, Edith, of course; who do you suppose I was talking about all this
time?”

“Oh, she expects me to——”

“Why, of course, she does. You are to take her over. You needn’t stay if
you don’t want to. Now I will go and tell her you are waiting.”

“Oh, very well,” said Thorne, smiling; “if she expects me to take her
over I will do so, of course, but I can’t stay a moment.”

“Well,” said Caroline, “I thought you would come to your senses some
time or another. See here, Mr. Captain, was she ’most ready?”

“Well, how do I know.”

“What dress did she have on?”

“Dress?”

“Oh, you men! Why, she’s only got two.”

“Yes; well, very likely, this was one of them, Miss Mitford.”

“No matter, I am going upstairs to see, anyway. Captain Thorne, you can
wait out there on the veranda or, perhaps, it would be pleasanter if you
were to smoke a cigar out in the summerhouse at the side of the garden.
It is lovely there in the moonlight, and——”

“I know, but if I wait right here——”

“Those are my orders. It’s cooler outside, you know, anyway, and——”

“Pardon me, Miss Mitford, orders never have to be explained, you know,”
interrupted the Captain, smiling at the charming girl.

“That’s right; I take back the explanation,” she said, as Thorne stepped
toward the window; “and, Captain,” cried the girl.

“Yes?”

“Be sure and smoke.”

Thorne laughed, as he lighted his cigar and stepped out onto the porch,
and thence into the darkness of the garden path.

“Oh,” said Caroline to herself, “he is splendid. If Wilfred were only
like that!” she pouted. “But then—our engagement’s broken off anyway,
so what’s the difference. If he were like that—I’d—— No!—I don’t
think I’d——”

Her soliloquy was broken by the entrance of Mrs. Varney, who came slowly
down the room.

“Why, Caroline dear! What are you talking about, all to yourself?”

“Oh—just—I was just saying, you know—that—why, I don’t know what I
was—— Do you think it is going to rain?” she returned in great
confusion.

“Dear me, child; I haven’t thought about it. Why, what have you got on?
Is that a new dress, and in Richmond?”

“A new dress? Well, I should think so. These are my great-grandmother’s
mother’s wedding clothes. Aren’t they lovely? Just in the nick of time,
too. I was on my very last rags, or, rather, they were on me, and I
didn’t know what to do. Mother gave me a key and told me to open an old
horsehair trunk in the attic, and these were in it.” She seized the
corners of her dress and pirouetted a step or two forward to show it
off, and then dropped the older woman an elaborate, old-fashioned
courtesy. “I ran over to show them to Edith,” she resumed. “Where is
she? I want her to come over to my house.”

“Upstairs, I think. I am afraid she can’t come. I have just come from
her room,” Mrs. Varney continued as Caroline started to interrupt, “and
she means to stay here.”

“I will see about that,” said Caroline, running out of the room.

Mrs. Varney turned and sat down at her desk to write a letter which
evidently, from her sighs, was not an easy task. In a short time the
girl was back again. Mrs. Varney looked up from writing and smiled at
her.

“You see it was no use, Caroline,” she began.

“No use,” laughed the girl; “well, you will see. I didn’t try to
persuade her or argue with her. I just told her that Captain Thorne was
waiting for her in the summerhouse. Yes,” she continued, as Mrs. Varney
looked her astonishment; “he is still here, and he said he would take
her over. You just watch which dress she has on when she comes down. Now
I will go out there and tell him she’ll be down in a minute. I have more
trouble getting people fixed so that they can come to my party than it
would take to run a blockade into Savannah every fifteen minutes.”

Mrs. Varney looked at her departing figure pleasantly for a moment, and
then, with a deep sigh, resumed her writing, but she evidently was not
to conclude her letter without further interruption, for she had
scarcely begun again when Wilfred came into the room with a bundle very
loosely done up in heavy brown paper. As his mother glanced toward him
he made a violent effort to conceal it under his coat.

“What have you got there, Wilfred?” she asked incuriously.

“That? Oh, nothing; it is only—say, mother, have you written that
letter yet?”

“No, my dear, I have been too busy. I have been trying to write it,
though, since I came down, but I have had one interruption after
another. I think I will go into your father’s office and do it there.”
She gathered up her paper and turned to leave the room. “It is a hard
letter for me to write, you know,” she added as she went away.

Wilfred, evidently much relieved at his mother’s departure, took the
package from under his coat, put it on the table, and began to undo it.
He took from it a pair of very soiled, dilapidated, grey uniform
trousers. He had just lifted them up when he heard Caroline’s step on
the porch, and the next moment she came into the room through the long
French window. Wilfred stood petrified with astonishment at the sudden
and unexpected appearance of his young beloved, but soon recovered
himself and began rolling the package together again, hastily and
awkwardly, while Caroline watched him from the window. She coldly
scrutinised his confusion while he made his ungainly roll, and, as he
moved toward the door, she broke the silence.

“Ah, good-evening, Mr. Varney,” she said coolly.

“Good-evening,” he said, his voice as cold as her own.

They both of them had started for the hall door and in another second
they would have met.

“Excuse me,” said Caroline, “I’m in a hurry.”

“That’s plain enough. Another party, I suppose, and dancing.”

“What of it? What’s the matter with dancing, I’d like to know.”

“Nothing is the matter with dancing if you want to, but I must say that
it is a pretty way of going on, with the cannon roaring not six miles
away.”

“Well, what do you want us to do? Cry about it! I have cried my eyes out
already; that would do a heap of good now, wouldn’t it?”

“Oh, I haven’t time to talk about such petty details. I have some
important matters to attend to,” he returned loftily.

“It was you that started it,” said the girl.

Wilfred turned suddenly, his manner at once losing its badly assumed
lightness.

“Oh, you needn’t try to fool me,” he reproached her; “I know well enough
how you have been carrying on since our engagement was broken off. Half
a dozen officers proposing to you—a dozen for all I know.”

“What difference does it make?” she retorted pertly. “I haven’t got to
marry them all, have I?”

“Well, it isn’t very nice to go on like that,” said Wilfred with an air
into which he in vain sought to infuse a detached, judicial, and
indifferent appearance. “Proposals by the wholesale!”

“Goodness me!” exclaimed Caroline, “what’s the use of talking about it
to me. They’re the ones that propose, I don’t. How can I help it?”

“Oh,” said Wilfred loftily, “you can help it all right. You helped it
with me.”

“Well,” she answered, with a queer look at him, “that was different.”

“And ever since you threw me over——” he began.

“I didn’t throw you over, you just went over,” she interrupted.

“I went over because you walked off with Major Sillsby that night we
were at Drury’s Bluff,” said the boy, “and you encouraged him to
propose. You admit it,” he said, as the girl nodded her head.

“Of course I did. I didn’t want him hanging around forever, did I?
That’s the only way to finish them off. What do you want me to
do—string a placard around my neck, saying, ‘No proposals received
here. Apply at the office’? Would that make you feel any better? Well,”
she continued, as the boy shrugged his shoulders, “if it doesn’t make
any difference to you what I do, it doesn’t even make as much as that to
me.”

“Oh, it doesn’t? I think it does, though. You looked as if you enjoyed
it pretty well while the Third Virginia was in the city.”

“I should think I did,” said Caroline ecstatically. “I just love every
one of them. They are going to fight for us and die for us, and I love
them.”

“Why don’t you accept one of them before he dies, then, and have done
with it? I suppose it will be one of those smart young fellows with a
cavalry uniform.”

“It will be some kind of a uniform, I can tell you that. It won’t be any
one that stays in Richmond.”

“Now I see what it was,” said Wilfred, looking at her gloomily. “I had
to stay in Richmond, and——”

The boy choked up and would not finish.

“Well,” said Caroline, “that made a heap of difference. Why, I was the
only girl on Franklin Street that didn’t have a—some one she was
engaged to—at the front. Just think what it was to be out of it like
that! You have no idea how I suffered; besides, it is our duty to help
all we can. There aren’t many things a girl can do, but Colonel
Woolbridge—he’s one of Morgan’s new men, you know—said that the boys
fight twice as well when they have a—sweetheart at home. I couldn’t
waste an engagement on——”

“And is that why you let them all propose to you?” rejoined the youth
bitterly.

“Certainly; it didn’t hurt me, and it pleased them. Most of ’em will
never come back to try it again, and it is our duty to help all we can.”

“And you really want to help all you can, do you?” asked Wilfred
desperately. “Well, if I were to join the army would you help me—that
way?”

This was a direct question. It was the _argumentum ad feminam_ with a
vengeance. Caroline hesitated. A swift blush overspread her cheek, but
she was game to the core.

“Why, of course I would, if there was anything I—could do,” she
answered.

“Well, there is something you can do.” He unrolled his package and
seized the trousers by the waistband and dangled them before her eyes.
“Cut those off,” he said; “they are twice too long. All you have to do
is to cut them here and sew up the ends, so that they don’t ravel out.”

Caroline stared at him in great bewilderment. She had expected something
quite different.

“Why, they are uniform trousers,” she said finally. “You are going to
join the army?” She clapped her hands gleefully. “Give them to me.”

“Hush! don’t talk so loud, for Heaven’s sake,” said Wilfred. “I’ve got a
jacket here, too.” He drew out of the parcel a small army jacket, a
private soldier’s coat. “It’s nearly a fit. It came from the hospital.
Johnny Seldon wore it, but he won’t want it any more, you know, and he
was just about my size, only his legs were longer. Well,” he continued,
as the girl continued to look at him strangely, “I thought you said you
wanted to help me.”

“I certainly do.”

“What are you waiting for, then?” asked Wilfred.

The girl took the trousers and dropped on her knees before him.

“Stand still,” she said, as she measured the trousers from the waistband
to the floor.

“This is about the place, isn’t it?”

“Yes, just there.”

“Wait,” she continued, “until I mark it with a pin.”

Wilfred stood quietly until the proper length had been ascertained, and
then he assisted Caroline to her feet.

“Do you see any scissors about?” she asked in a businesslike way.

“I don’t believe there are any in the drawing-room, but I can get some
from the women sewing over there. Wait a moment.”

“No, don’t,” said the girl; “they would want to know what you wanted
with them, and then you would have to tell them.”

“Yes,” said the boy; “and I want to keep this a secret between us.”

“When are you going to wear them?”

“As soon as you get them ready.”

“But your mother——”

“She knows it. She is going to write to father to-night. She said she
would send it by a special messenger, so we ought to get an answer by
to-morrow.”

“But if he says no?”

“I am going anyway.”

“Oh, Wilfred, I am so glad. Why, it makes another thing of it,” cried
the girl. “When I said that about staying in Richmond, I didn’t know——
Oh, I do want to help all I can.”

“You do? Well, then, for Heaven’s sake, be quick about it and cut off
those trousers. So long as I get them in the morning,” said Wilfred, “I
guess it will be in plenty of time.”

“When did you say your mother was going to write?”

“To-night.”

“Of course, she doesn’t want you to go, and she’ll tell your father not
to let you. Yes,” she continued sagely, as Wilfred looked up,
horror-stricken at the idea; “that’s the way mothers always do.”

“What can I do, then?” he asked her.

“Why don’t you write to him yourself, and then you can tell him just
what you like.”

“That’s a fine idea. I’ll tell him that I can’t stay here, and that I’m
going to enlist whether he says so or not. That’ll make him say yes,
won’t it?”

“Why, of course; there’ll be nothing else for him to say.”

“Say, you are a pretty good girl,” said Wilfred, catching her hand
impulsively. “I’ll go upstairs and write it now. You finish these as
soon as you can. You can ask those women for some scissors, and when
they are ready leave them in this closet, but don’t let any one see you
doing it, whatever happens.”

“No, I won’t,” said Caroline, as Wilfred hurried off.

She went over to the room where the women were sewing, and borrowed a
pair of scissors; then she came back and started to cut off the trousers
where they were marked. The cloth was old and worn, but it was,
nevertheless, stiff and hard, and her scissors were dull. Men spent
their time in sharpening other things than women’s tools during those
days in Richmond, and her slender fingers made hard work of the
amputations. Beside, she was prone to stop and think and dream of her
soldier boy while engaged in this congenial work. She had not finished
the alteration, therefore, when she heard a step in the hall. She caught
up the trousers, striving to conceal them, entirely forgetful of the
jacket which lay on the table.

“Oh,” said Mrs. Varney, as she came into the room; “you haven’t gone
yet?”

“No,” faltered the girl; “we don’t assemble for a little while, and——”

“Don’t assemble?”

“I mean for the party. It doesn’t begin for half an hour yet, and——”

“Oh; then you have plenty of time.”

“Yes,” said Caroline. “But I will have to go now, sure enough.” She
turned away and, as she did so, her scissors fell clattering to the
floor.

“You dropped your scissors, my dear,” said Mrs. Varney.

“I thought I heard something fall,” she faltered in growing confusion.

She came back for her scissors, and, in her agitation and nervousness,
she dropped one of the pieces of trouser leg on the floor.

“What are you making, Caroline?” asked Mrs. Varney, looking curiously at
the little huddled-up soiled piece of grey on the carpet, while Caroline
made a desperate grab at it.

“Oh, just altering an old—dress, Mrs. Varney. That’s all.”

Mrs. Varney looked at her through her glasses. As she did so, Caroline’s
agitated movement caused the other trouser leg, with its half-severed
end hanging from it, to dangle over her arm.

“And what is that?” asked Mrs. Varney.

“Oh—that’s—er—one of the sleeves,” answered Caroline desperately,
hurrying out in great confusion.

Mrs. Varney laughed softly to herself. As she did so, her glance fell
upon the little heap of grey on the table. She picked it up and opened
it. It was a grey jacket, a soldier’s jacket. It looked as if it might
be about Wilfred’s size. There was a bullet hole in the breast, and
there was a dull brown stain around the opening. Mrs. Varney kissed the
worn coat. She saw it all now.

“For Wilfred,” she whispered. “He has probably got it from some dead
soldier at the hospital, and Caroline’s dress that she was altering——”

She clasped the jacket tightly to her breast, looked up, and smiled and
prayed through her tears.



                               CHAPTER V

                         THE UNFAITHFUL SERVANT


But Mrs. Varney was not allowed to indulge in either her bitter
retrospect or her dread anticipations very long. Her reverie was
interrupted by the subdued trampling of heavy feet upon the floor of the
back porch. The long drawing-room extended across the house, and had
porches at front and back, to which access was had through long French
windows. The sound was so sudden and so unexpected that she dropped the
jacket on the couch and turned to the window. The sound of low, hushed
voices came to her, and the next moment a tall, fine-looking young man
of rather distinguished appearance entered the room. He was not in
uniform, but wore the customary full-skirted frock coat of the period,
and carried his big black hat in his hand. For the rest, he was a very
keen, sharp-eyed man, whose movements were quick and stealthy, and whose
quick, comprehensive glance seemed to take in not only Mrs. Varney, but
everything in the room. Through the windows and the far door soldiers
could be seen dimly. Mrs. Varney was very indignant at the entrance of
this newcomer in this unceremonious manner.

“Mr. Arrelsford!” she exclaimed haughtily.

In two or three quick steps Mr. Benton Arrelsford of the Confederate
Secret Service was by her side. Although she was alone, through habit
and excessive caution he lowered his voice when he spoke to her.

“Your pardon, Mrs. Varney,” he said, with just a shade too much of the
peremptory for perfect breeding, “I was compelled to enter without
ceremony. You will understand when I tell you why.”

“And those men——” said Mrs. Varney, pointing to the back windows and
the far door. “What have we done that we should be——”

“They are on guard.”

“On guard!” exclaimed the woman, greatly surprised and equally
resentful.

“Yes, ma’am; and I am very much afraid we shall be compelled to put you
to a little inconvenience; temporary, I assure you, but necessary.” He
glanced about cautiously and pointed to the door across the hall. “Is
there anybody in that room, Mrs. Varney?”

“Yes, a number of ladies sewing for the hospital; they expect to stay
all night.”

“Very good,” said Arrelsford. “Will you kindly come a little farther
away? I would not have them overhear by any possibility.”

There was no possibility of any one overhearing their conversation, but
if Mr. Arrelsford ever erred it was not through lack of caution. Still
more astonished, Mrs. Varney followed him. They stopped by the
fireplace.

“One of your servants has got himself into trouble, Mrs. Varney, and
we’re compelled to have him watched,” he began.

“Watched by a squad of soldiers?”

“It is well not to neglect any precaution, ma’am.”

“And what kind of trouble, pray?” asked the woman.

“Very serious, I am sorry to say. At least that is the way it looks now.
You’ve got an old white-haired butler here——”

“You mean Jonas?”

“I believe that’s his name,” said Arrelsford.

“And you suspect him of something?”

Mr. Arrelsford lowered his voice still further and assumed an air of
great importance.

“We don’t merely suspect him; we know what he has done.”

“And what has he done, sir?”

“He has been down to Libby Prison under pretence of selling things to
the Yankees we’ve got in there, and he now has on his person a written
communication from one of them which he intends to deliver to some
Yankee spy or agent, here in Richmond.”

Mrs. Varney gasped in astonishment at this tremendous charge, which was
made in Arrelsford’s most impressive manner.

“I don’t believe it,” she said at last. “He has been in the family for
years; he wouldn’t dare.”

Arrelsford shook his head.

“I am afraid it is true,” he said.

“Very well,” said Mrs. Varney decidedly, apparently not at all
convinced. “I will send for the man. Let us see——”

She reached out her hand to the bell-rope hanging from the wall, but Mr
Arrelsford caught her arm, evidently to her great repugnance.

“No, no!” he said quickly, “not yet. We have got to get that paper, and
if he’s alarmed he will destroy it, and we must have it. It will give us
the clue to one of their cursed plots. They have been right close on
this town for months, trying to break down our defences and get in on
us. This is some rascally game they are at to weaken us from the inside.
Two weeks ago we got word from our secret agents that we keep over there
in the Yankee lines, telling us that two brothers, Lewis and Henry
Dumont——”

“The Dumonts of West Virginia?” interrupted Mrs. Varney, who was now
keenly attentive to all that was said.

“The very same.”

“Why, their father is a General in the Yankee Army.”

“Yes; and they are in the Federal Secret Service, and they are the
boldest, most desperately determined men in the whole Yankee Army.
They’ve already done us more harm than an army corps.”

“Yes?”

“They have volunteered to do some desperate piece of work here in
Richmond, we have learned. We have close descriptions of both these men,
but we have never been able to get our hands on either of them until
last night.”

“Have you captured them?”

“We’ve got one of them, and it won’t take long to get the other,” said
Arrelsford, in a fierce, truculent whisper.

“The one you caught, was he here in Richmond?” asked Mrs. Varney,
greatly affected by the other’s overwhelming emotion.

“No, he was brought in last night with a lot of men we captured in a
little sortie.”

“Taken prisoner?”

“Yes, but without resistance.”

“I don’t understand.”

“He let himself be taken. That’s one of their tricks for getting into
our lines when they want to bring a message or give some signal.”

“You mean that they deliberately allow themselves to be taken to Libby
Prison?”

“Yes, damn them!” said Arrelsford harshly. “I beg your pardon, ma’am,
but——”

Mrs. Varney waved her hand as if Mr. Arrelsford’s oaths, like his
presence, were nothing to her.

“We were on the lookout for this man, and we spotted him pretty quickly.
I gave orders not to search him, and not to have his clothes taken away
from him, but to put him in with the others and keep the closest watch
on him that was ever kept on a man. We knew from his coming in that his
brother must be here in the city, and he’d send a message to him the
first chance he got.”

“But Jonas, how could he——”

“Easily enough. He comes down to the prison to sell things to the
prisoners with other negroes. We let him pass in, watching him as we
watch them all. He fools around a while, until he gets a chance to brush
against this man Dumont. My men are keeping that fellow under close
observation, and they saw a piece of paper pass between them. By my
orders they gave no sign. We want to catch the man to whom he is to
deliver the paper. He has the paper on him now.”

“I will never believe it.”

“It is true, and that is the reason for these men on the back porch that
you see. I have put others at every window at the back of the house. He
can’t get away; he will have to give it up.”

“And the man he gives it to will be the man you want?” said Mrs. Varney.

“Yes; but I can’t wait long. If that nigger sees my men or hears a
sound, he will destroy it before we can jump in on him. I want the man,
but I want the paper, too. Excuse me.” He stepped to the back window.
“Corporal!” he said softly. The long porch window was open on account of
the balmy air of the night, and a soldier, tattered and dusty, instantly
appeared and saluted. “How are things now?” asked Arrelsford.

“All quiet now, sir.”

“Very good,” said Arrelsford. “I was afraid he would get away. We’ve got
to get the paper. If we have the paper, perhaps we can get the man. It
is the key to the game they are trying to play against us, and without
it the man is helpless.”

“No, no,” urged Mrs. Varney. “The man he is going to give it to, get
him.”

“Yes, yes, of course,” assented Arrelsford; “but that paper might give
us a clue. If not, I’ll make the nigger tell. Damn him, I’ll shoot it
out of him. How quickly can you get at him from that door, Corporal?”

“In no time at all, sir. It’s through a hallway and across the
dining-room. He is in the pantry.”

“Well,” said Arrelsford, “take two men, and——”

“Wait,” said Mrs. Varney; “I still doubt your story, but I am glad to
help. Why don’t you keep your men out of sight and let me send for him
here, and then——”

Arrelsford thought a moment.

“That may be the better plan,” he admitted. “Get him in here and, while
you are talking to him, they can seize him from behind. He won’t be able
to do a thing. Do you hear, Corporal?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Keep your men out of sight; get them back there in the hall, and while
we’re making him talk, send a man down each side and pin him. Hold him
stiff. He mustn’t destroy any paper he’s got.”

The Corporal raised his hand in salute and left the room. The men
disappeared from the windows, and the back porch looked as empty as
before. The whole discussion and the movements of the men had been
practically noiseless.

“Now, Mr. Arrelsford, are you ready?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Mrs. Varney rang the bell on the instant. The two watched each other
intently, and in a moment old Martha appeared at the door.

“Did you-all ring, ma’am?”

“Yes,” said Mrs. Varney; “I want some one to send to the hospital.”

“Luthah is out heah, ma’am.”

“Luther? He’s too small, I don’t want a boy.”

“Well, den, Jonas——”

“Yes, Jonas will do; tell him to come in here immediately.”

“Yas’m.”

“Perhaps you had better sit down, Mrs. Varney,” said Arrelsford; “and if
you will permit me, I will stand back by the front window yonder.”

“That will be just as well,” said Mrs. Varney, seating herself near the
table, while Arrelsford, making no effort at concealment, stepped over
to the window. Old Jonas entered the door just as they had placed
themselves. He bowed low before Mrs. Varney, entirely unsuspicious of
anything out of the ordinary until his eye fell on the tall form of
Arrelsford. He glanced furtively at the man for a moment, stiffened
imperceptibly, but, as there was nothing else to do, came on.

“Jonas,” said Mrs. Varney, her voice low and level in spite of her
agitation.

“Yes’m.”

“Have you any idea why I sent for you?”

“Ah heahd you was gwine send me to de hossiple, ma’am.”

“Oh, then Martha told you,” said Mrs. Varney.

While the little dialogue was taking place, Mr. Arrelsford had made a
signal, and the Corporal and two men had entered the room silently, and
now swiftly advanced to the side of the still unobserving old negro.

“She didn’t ezzactly say whut you——” he began.

The next instant the two men fell upon him. He might have made some
struggle, although it would have been useless. The windows were
instantly filled with men, and an order would have called them into the
room. He was an old man, and the two soldiers that seized him were
young. He was too surprised to fight, and stood as helpless as a lamb
about to be slaughtered, his face fairly grey with sudden terror. The
Corporal flung open the butler’s faded livery coat, and for the moment
Jonas, menaced now by a search, and knowing what the result would be,
struggled furiously, but the men soon mastered him, and the Corporal,
continuing his search, presently drew from an inside pocket a small
folded paper.

“Jonas! Jonas!” said Mrs. Varney, in bitter disappointment; “how could
you?”

“I told you so,” said Mr. Arrelsford truthfully, triumphantly, and most
aggravatingly under the circumstances, taking the folded paper.
“Corporal,” he added, “while I read this, see if he has got anything
more.”

A further search, however, revealed nothing. Arrelsford had scarcely
completed the reading of the brief note when the Corporal reported:

“That is all he has, sir.”

Arrelsford nodded. The men had released Jonas, but stood by his side,
and the Secret Service Agent now approached him.

“Who was this for?” he asked sharply and tensely.

The negro stared at him stolidly and silently, his face ashen with
fright.

“Look here,” continued the other, “if you don’t tell me it is going to
make it pretty bad for you.”

The words apparently made no further impression upon the servant.
Arrelsford tried another tack. He turned to Mrs. Varney, who was
completely dismayed at this breach of trust by one who had been attached
to the family fortunes for so many years.

“I am right sorry, ma’am,” he said very distinctly, “but it looks like
we have got to shoot him.”

“Oh!” cried Mrs. Varney at that. “Jonas, speak!”

But even to that appeal he remained silent. Arrelsford waited a moment
and then:

“Corporal,” he said; “take him outside and get it out of him. String him
up until he talks. But don’t let him yell or give any alarm; gag him
until he’s ready to tell. You understand?”

The Corporal nodded and turned toward the hall door.

“Not that way,” said Arrelsford; “take him to the back of the house and
keep him quiet, whatever you do. Nobody must know about this, not a
soul.”

“Very good, sir,” said the Corporal, saluting. He gave an order to the
men, and they marched Jonas off, swiftly and silently. Nothing that had
been said or done had disturbed the women across the hall. Mrs. Varney
glanced up at the unfolded piece of paper in Mr. Arrelsford’s hand. He
was smiling triumphantly.

“Was there anything in that?” she asked.

“Yes, there was. We know the trick they meant to play.”

“But not the man who was to play it?”

“I didn’t say that, ma’am.”

“Does it give you a clue to it?”

“It does.”

“Will it answer?”

“It will.”

“Then you know——”

“As plain as if we had his name.”

“Thank God for that,” exclaimed the woman. “May I see it?”

Arrelsford hesitated.

“I see no reason why you should not.”

He extended his hand toward her, and she glanced at the paper.

“_Attack to-night. Plan 3. Use telegraph!_” she read. She looked up.

“What does it mean?” she asked tremulously.

“They are to attack to-night, and the place where they are to strike is
indicated by Plan 3.”

“Plan 3?” questioned the woman.

“Yes; the man this is sent to will know what is meant by that. It has
been arranged beforehand, and——”

“But the last words,” said Mrs. Varney. “Use telegraph?”

“That is plain, too. He is to use our War Department Telegraph and send
some false order to weaken that position, the one they indicate by ‘Plan
3,’ so that when they assault it, they will find it feebly defended or
not at all, and break through and come down on the city and swamp us.”

“But,” exclaimed Mrs. Varney in deepest indignation and excitement, “the
man who was to do this? Who is he? There is nothing about him that I can
see.”

“But I can see something.”

“What? Where?”

“In the words, ‘Use Telegraph.’ We know every man on the telegraph
service, and every one of them is true. There is some one who will try
to get into that service if the game is carried out, and——”

“Then he will be the man,” said Mrs. Varney.

“Yes; there aren’t so many men in Richmond that can do that. It isn’t
every man that’s expert enough——Mrs. Varney, Jonas brought this paper
to your house, and——”

“To my house?” exclaimed the woman in great astonishment, and then she
stopped, appalled by a sudden thought which came to her.

“At the same time,” said Arrelsford, “your daughter has been trying to
get an appointment for some one on the telegraph service. Perhaps she
could give us some idea, and——”

Mrs. Varney rose and stood as if rooted to the spot.

“You mean——”

“Captain Thorne,” said Arrelsford impressively.



                               CHAPTER VI

                     THE CONFIDENCE OF EDITH VARNEY


Mrs. Varney had, of course, divined toward whom Arrelsford’s suspicion
pointed. She had been entirely certain before he had mentioned the name
that the alleged spy or traitor could be none other than her daughter’s
friend; indeed, it would not be stretching the truth to say that Thorne
was her friend as well as her daughter’s, and her keen mother’s wit was
not without suspicion that if he were left to himself, or if he were
permitted to follow his own inclinations, the relation between himself
and the two women might have been a nearer one still and a dearer one,
yet, nevertheless, the shocking announcement came to her with sudden,
sharp surprise.

We may be perfectly certain, absolutely sure, of a coming event, but
when it does occur its shock is felt in spite of previous assurance. We
may watch the dying and pray for death to end anguish, and know that it
is coming, but when the last low breath has gone, it is as much of a
shock to us as if it had not been expected, or even dreamed of.

The announcement of the name was shattering to her composure. She knew
very well why Arrelsford would rejoice to find Thorne guilty of
anything, and she would have discounted any ordinary accusation that he
brought against him, but the train of the circumstances was so complete
in this case and the coincidences so unexplainable upon any other
theory, the evidence so convincing, that she was forced to admit that
Arrelsford was fully justified in his suspicion, and that without regard
to the fact that he was a rejected suitor of her daughter’s.

Surprise, horror, and conviction lodged in her soul, and were mirrored
in her face. Arrelsford saw and divined what was passing in her mind,
and, eager to strike while the iron was hot, bent forward open-mouthed
to continue his line of reasoning and denunciation, but Mrs. Varney
checked him. She laid her finger upon her lips and pointed with the
other hand to the front of the house.

“What!” exclaimed the Confederate Secret Service agent; “is he there?”

Mrs. Varney nodded.

“He may be. He went out to the summerhouse some time ago to wait for
Edith; they were going over to Caroline Mitford’s later on. I saw him go
down the walk.”

“Do you suppose my men could have alarmed him?” asked Arrelsford,
greatly perturbed at this unexpected development.

“I don’t know. They were all at the back windows. They didn’t seem to
make much noise. I suppose not. You have a description of the man for
whom the letter was intended?”

“Yes, at the office; but I remember it perfectly.”

“Does it fit this—this Captain Thorne?”

“You might as well know sooner as later, Mrs. Varney, that there is no
Captain Thorne. This is an assumed name, and the man you have in your
house is Lewis Dumont.”

“Do you mean that he came here to——”

“He came to this town, to this house,” said Arrelsford vindictively, his
voice still subdued but full of fury, “knowing your position, the
influence of your name, your husband’s rank and service, for the sole
purpose of getting recognised as a reputable person, so that he would be
less likely to be suspected. He has corrupted your servants—you saw old
Jonas—and he has contrived to enlist the powerful support of your
daughter. His aim is the War Department Telegraph Office. He is friends
with the men at that office. What else he hasn’t done or what he has,
the Lord only knows. But Washington is not the only place where they
have a secret service; we have one at Richmond. Whatever game he plays,
it is one that two can play; and now it is my play.”

The patter of light footsteps was heard on the stairs, a flash of white
seen through the open door into the hall dimly lighted, and Edith Varney
came rapidly, almost breathlessly, into the room. She had changed her
dress, and if Caroline Mitford had been there, she would have known
certainly from the little air of festivity about her clean but faded and
darned, sprigged and flowered white muslin frock that she was going to
accept the invitation. In one hand she held her hat, which she swung
carelessly by its long faded ribbons, and in the other that official
envelope which had come to her from the President of the Confederacy.
She called to her mother as she ran down.

“Mamma!” Her face was white and her voice pitched high, fraught with
excited intensity. “Under my window, in the rosebushes, at the back of
the house! They’re hurting somebody frightfully, I am sure!”

She burst into the room with the last word. Mrs. Varney stared at her,
understanding fully who, in all probability, was being roughly dealt
with in the rosebushes, and realising what a terrible effect such
disclosures as she had listened to would produce upon the mind of the
girl.

“Come,” said Edith, turning rapidly toward the rear window; “we must
stop it.”

Mrs. Varney stood as if rooted to the floor.

“Well,” said the girl, in great surprise, “if you aren’t coming, I will
go myself.”

These words awakened her mother to action.

“Wait, Edith,” she said.

Now, and for the first time, Edith noticed Mr. Arrelsford, who had
stepped back and away from her mother. She replied to his salutation
with a cold and distant bow. The man’s face flushed; he turned away.

“But, mamma, the men outside,” persisted the girl.

“Wait, my dear,” said her mother, taking her gently by the arm; “I must
tell you something. It will be a great shock to you, I am afraid.”

“What is it, mamma? Has father or——”

“No, no, not that,” said Mrs. Varney. “A man we have trusted as a friend
has shown himself a conspirator, a spy, a traitor.”

“Who is it?” cried the girl, at the same time instinctively
divining—how or why she could not tell, and that thought smote her
afterward—to whom the reference was being made.

Mrs. Varney naturally hesitated to say the name. Arrelsford, carried
away by his passion for the girl and his hatred for Thorne, was not so
reticent. He stepped toward her.

“It is the gentleman, Miss Varney, whose attentions you have been
pleased to accept in the place of mine,” he burst out bitterly.

His manner and his meaning were unmistakable. The girl stared at him
with a white, haughty face, in spite of her trembling lips. Mechanically
she thrust the envelope with the commission into her belt, and
confronted the man who loved her and whom she did not love, who accused
of this hateful thing the man whom, in the twinkling of an eye, she
realised she did love. Then the daughter turned to her mother.

“Is it Mr Arrelsford who makes this accusation?” she asked.

“Yes,” said Arrelsford, again answering for Mrs. Varney, “since you wish
to know. From the first I have had my suspicions about this——”

But Edith did not wait for him to finish his sentence. She turned away
from him with loathing, and moved rapidly toward the front window.

“Where are you going!” asked Arrelsford.

“For Captain Thorne.”

“Not now,” he said peremptorily.

The colour flamed in the girl’s cheek again.

“Mr. Arrelsford, you have said something to me about Captain Thorne. Are
you afraid to say it to him?”

“Miss Varney,” answered Arrelsford hotly, “if you—if you——”

“Edith,” said Mrs. Varney, “Mr. Arrelsford has good reasons for not
meeting Captain Thorne now.”

“I should think he had,” returned the girl swiftly; “for a man who made
such a charge to his face would not live to make it again.”

“My dear, my dear,” said her mother, gently but firmly, “you don’t
understand, you don’t——”

“Mamma,” said the girl, “this man has left his desk in the War
Department so that he can have the pleasure of persecuting me.”

Both the mother and the rejected suitor noticed her identification of
herself with Captain Thorne in the pronoun “me,” one with sinking heart
and the other with suppressed fury.

“He has never attempted anything active in the service before,”
continued Edith, “and when I ask him to face the man he accuses, he
turns like a coward!”

“Mrs. Varney, if she thinks——”

“I think nothing,” said the girl furiously; “I know that Captain
Thorne’s character is above suspicion.”

Arrelsford sneered.

“His character! Where did he come from—what is he?”

“For that matter,” said Edith intensely, “where did you come from, and
what are you?”

“That is not the question,” was the abrupt reply.

“Neither,” said the girl, “is it the question who he is. If it were, I’d
answer it—I’d tell you that he is a soldier who has fought and been
wounded in service, while you——”

Arrelsford made a violent effort to control himself under this bitter
jibing and goading, and to his credit, succeeded in part.

“We are not so sure of that, Miss Varney,” he said more coolly.

“But I am sure,” answered the girl. “Why, he brought us letters from
Stonewall Jackson himself.”

“Has it occurred to you that General Jackson was dead before his letters
were presented?” asked Arrelsford quickly.

“What does that signify if he wrote them before he was killed?”

“Nothing certainly,” assented the other, “if he wrote them.”

“The signatures and the letters were verified.”

“They may have been written for some one else and this Thorne may have
possessed himself of them by fraud, or——”

“Mr. Arrelsford,” cried the girl, more and more angry, “if you mean——”

“My dear child,” said Mrs Varney, “you don’t understand. They have
proofs of a conspiracy. The Yankees are going to try to break through
our lines to-night, some one is going to use the telegraph, and two men
in the Northern Secret Service have been sent here to do this work. One
is in Libby Prison. Our faithful Jonas has been corrupted. He went there
to-day and took a message from one and brought it here to deliver it to
the other. They are trying to make him speak out there to tell
who——Our country, our cause, is at stake.”

“Is this Mr. Arrelsford’s story?” asked the daughter stubbornly,
apparently entirely unconvinced.

“No; these are facts. We had Jonas in here,” answered her mother;
“caught him off his guard, and found the incriminating paper on him.”

“But he has not said it was for——” persisted Edith desperately.

“Not yet,” whispered Mr. Arrelsford, “but he will. You may be sure of
that; we have means to—Oh, Corporal,” he broke off eagerly, looking
toward the door where the Corporal stood, his hand at salute. “Well,
speak out, what does he say?”

“Nothing, sir.”

“What have you done with him?”

“Strung him up three times, and——”

“Well, string him up again,” snarled Arrelsford. “If he won’t speak,
shoot it out of him, kill the dog. We don’t need his evidence any way,
there’s enough without it.”

“There is nothing,” said Edith tersely.

“By midnight,” answered Arrelsford, “you shall have all the proof——”

“There is no proof to have,” persisted the girl.

“I will show it to you at the telegraph office, if you dare to go with
me.”

“Dare! I will go anywhere, even with you, for that——”

“I will call for you in half an hour then,” said Arrelsford, going
toward the door.

“Wait,” interrupted Edith; “what are you going to do?”

“I am going to let him get this paper,” said Arrelsford, coming back to
the table. “He will know what they want him to do, and then we’ll see
him try to do it.”

“You are going to spy on him, are you?”

“I am going to prove what he is.”

“Then prove it openly at once. It is shameful to let such a suspicion
rest upon an honourable man. Let him come in here, and——”

“It is impossible.”

“Then do something, something, but do it now!” cried the girl. “You will
soon know that he is innocent, you must know it. Wait! You say the
prisoner in Libby is his brother—that’s what you said—his brother.
Bring him here. Go to the prison and bring that man here.”

“What?”

“Let them meet. Bring them face to face, then you can see whether——”

“You mean bring them together here?”

“Yes.”

“As if the prisoner were trying to escape?”

“Exactly.”

“There is something in that,” said Arrelsford; “when do you suggest——”

“Now.”

“I am willing to try it, but it depends upon you. Can you keep Thorne
here?”

“I can.”

“It won’t take more than half an hour. Be out there on the veranda. When
I tap on the glass bring him into this room and leave him alone. And I
can rely upon you to give him no hint or sign that we suspect——”

“Mr. Arrelsford!” said the girl, indignant and haughty, and her mother
stepped swiftly toward her, looking at him contemptuously, as if he
should have known that such an action would be impossible for either of
them.

Arrelsford gazed at them a minute or two, smiled triumphantly, and
passed out of the room.

“Mamma, mamma!” moaned the girl, her eyes shut, her hand extended.
“Mamma,” she repeated in anguish.

“I am here, Edith dear; I am here,” said Mrs. Varney, coming toward her
and taking her tenderly in her arms.

“Do you think—do you think—that he—he could be what they say?” Her
hand fell upon the commission in her belt “This commission I got for him
this afternoon——”

“Yes?”

“The commission, you know, from the President, for the Telegraph
Service—why, he refused to take it,” her voice rose and rang
triumphantly through the room; “he refused to take it! That doesn’t look
as if he wanted to use the telegraph to betray us.”

“Refused! That’s impossible!” said her mother.

“He said that it was for me that he couldn’t take it.”

“For you! Then it is true,” answered Mrs. Varney.

“No, no,” said the girl; “don’t say it.”

“Yes,” said her mother; “the infamous——” The girl tried to stifle with
her hand upon her mother’s lips the words, but Mrs. Varney shook off her
hand. “The spy, the traitor,” she added witheringly.

“No, no!” cried the girl, but as she spoke, conviction seemed to come to
her. Why was it that her faith was not more substantially based and
enduring? she asked herself. “Mamma,” she wailed, “it can’t be.” She
buried her face in her hands for a moment and then tore them away and
confronted her mother boldly. “Won’t you leave me alone for a little
while, mamma?” she asked plaintively. “I must get——”

“I will go to Howard; I will be back in a short time, my dear,” said her
mother, gently laying her hand on her daughter’s bent head.

Left alone, the girl took the commission from her belt, opened it,
smoothed it out, and read it through, as if bewildered and
uncomprehending. She folded it up again, and walked slowly over to one
of the front windows, drew aside the curtains, and pushed it open. All
was still. She listened for she knew not what. There was a footstep from
the far end of the walk leading from the summerhouse, a footstep she
knew. Edith moved rapidly away from the window to the table and stood by
it, her hand resting upon it, her knees fairly trembling in her emotion,
as she waited. The next moment the open space framed the figure of
Captain Thorne. He entered fearlessly, but when his eye fell upon her
there was something so strained about her attitude that a spark of
suspicion was kindled in his soul. Yet his action was prompt enough. He
came instantly toward her and took her hand.

“Miss Varney,” he said.

Edith watched his approach fascinated, as a bird by a serpent. His touch
awakened her to action. She snatched her hand away and shrank back.

“No; don’t touch me!” she cried.

He looked at her in amazement. The spark of suspicion burst into flame,
but she recovered herself instantly.

“Oh, it was you,” she faltered. She forced a smile to her lips. “How
perfectly absurd I am. I am sure I ought to be ashamed of myself. Come,
let’s go out on the veranda. I want to talk to you about so many things.
There’s—there’s half an hour—yet before we must go to Caroline’s.”

She had possessed herself of his hand again as she spoke. She now
stepped swiftly toward the window. He followed her reluctantly until
they reached the opening. She stepped through it and archly looked back
at him, still in the room.

“How lovely is the night,” she said with tender persuasiveness. “Come
with me.”

The man looked around him hastily. Every moment was precious to him. Did
Miss Varney know. If so, what did she know? What was to be gained or
lost by half an hour’s delay on his part? He drew out his watch and
glanced at it swiftly. There was time. He would never see her again. He
might say he would possibly never see any one again after the hazards of
this night. He was entitled to one brief moment of happiness. How long
had she said? Half an hour. He would take it.

“Aren’t you coming, Captain Thorne?” cried the girl from the porch, all
the coquettish witchery of youth and the South in her voice.

“I am coming,” answered the officer, deliberately stepping through the
window, “for just half an hour,” he added.

“That will be time enough,” replied the girl, laughing.

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

                                BOOK II

                     WHAT HAPPENED AT NINE O’CLOCK



                              CHAPTER VII

                        WILFRED WRITES A LETTER


Half an hour is a short or a long time, depending upon the individual
mood or the exigencies of the moment. It was a short half hour to
Captain Thorne—to continue to give him the name by which he was
commonly known—out in the moonlight and the rose garden with Edith
Varney. It was short to him because he loved her and because he realised
that in that brief space must be packed experience enough to last him
into the long future, it might be into the eternal future!

It was short to Edith Varney, in part at least for the same reason, but
it was shorter to him than to her, for at the end of that period the
guilt or innocence of the man she loved and who loved her would be
established beyond peradventure; either he was the brave, devoted,
self-sacrificing Confederate soldier she thought him, or he was a spy;
and since he came of a Virginia family, although West Virginia had
separated from the Old Dominion, she coupled the word spy with that of
traitor. Either or both would be enough to condemn him. Fighting against
suspicion, she would fain have postponed the moment of revelation, of
decision, therefore too quickly passed the flying moments.

It was a short half hour to Thorne, because he might see her no more. It
was a short half hour again to Edith because she might see him no more,
and it might be possible that she could not even allow herself to dream
upon him in his absence in the future. The recollection of the woman
would ever be sweet and sacred to the man, but it might be necessary for
the woman to blot out utterly the remembrance of the man.

It was a short half hour to young Wilfred in his own room, waiting
impatiently for old Martha to bring him the altered uniform, over which
Caroline was busily working in the large old-fashioned kitchen. She had
chosen that odd haven of refuge because there she was the least likely
to be interrupted and could pursue her task without fear of observation
by any other eyes than those of old Martha. The household had been
reduced to its smallest limit and the younger maids who were still
retained in the establishment had been summarily dismissed to their
quarters for the night by the old mammy.

Now that Wilfred had taken the plunge, his impatience to go was at fever
heat. He could not wait, he felt, for another moment. He had spent some
of his half hour in composing a letter with great care. It was a short
letter and therefore was soon finished, and he was now pacing up and
down his room with uneasy steps waiting for old Martha’s welcome voice.

It was a long half hour for little Caroline Mitford, busily sewing away
in the kitchen. It seemed to her that she was taking forever to turn up
the bottoms of the trouser legs and make a “hem” on each, as she
expressed it. She was not very skilful at such rough needlework and her
eyes were not so very clear as she played at tailoring. This is no
reflection upon their natural clarity and brightness, but they were
quite often dimmed with tears, which once or twice brimmed over and
dropped upon the coarse fabric of the garment upon which she worked. She
had known the man who had worn them last, he had been a friend of hers,
and she knew the boy who was going to wear them next.

If she could translate the emotions of her girlish heart, the new wearer
was more than a friend. Was the same fate awaiting the latter that the
former had met?

The half hour was very long to Jonas, the old butler, trembling with
fright, suffering from his rough usage and terror-stricken with
anticipation of the further punishment that awaited him.

The half hour was longest of all to Mrs. Varney. After her visit to
Howard, who had enjoyed one of his lucid moments and who seemed to be a
little better, she had come down to the drawing-room, at Mr.
Arrelsford’s suggestion, to see that no one from the house who might
have observed, or divined, or learned, in any way what was going on
within should go out into the garden and disturb the young couple, or
give an alarm to the man who was the object of so much interest and
suspicion, so much love and hatred.

About the only people who took no note of the time were the busy
sempstresses in the room across the hall, and the first sign of life
came from that room. Miss Kittridge, who appeared to have been
constituted the messenger of the workers, came out of the room, went
down the hall to the back of the house, and presently entered the
drawing-room, by the far door.

“Well,” she began, seeing Mrs. Varney, “we have just sent off another
batch of bandages.”

“Did the same man come for them?” asked the mistress of the house.

“No, they sent another one.”

“Did you have much?”

“Yes, quite a lot. We have all been at the bandages, they say that that
is what they need most. So long as we have any linen left we will work
at it.” She turned to go away, but something in the elder woman’s face
and manner awakened a slight suspicion in her mind. She stopped, turned,
and came back. “You look troubled, Mrs. Varney,” she began. “Do you want
anything?”

“No, nothing, thank you.”

“Is there anything I can do or anything any of us can do?”

“Not a thing, my dear,” answered Mrs. Varney, trying to smile and
failing dismally.

“Is it Howard?” persisted the other, anxious to be of service.

“He seems to be a little better,” returned the woman.

“I am glad to hear it, and if there is anything any of us could do for
you, you would certainly tell me.”

The elder woman nodded and Miss Kittridge turned decisively away and
stepped briskly toward the door. On second thought, there was something
she could do, reflected Mrs. Varney, and so she rose, stepped to the
door in turn, and called her back.

“Perhaps it would be just as well,” she said, “if any of the ladies want
to go to let them out the other way. You can open the door into the back
hall. We’re expecting some one here on important business, you know, and
we——”

“I understand,” said Miss Kittridge.

“And you will see to this?”

“Certainly; trust me.”

“Thank you.”

Mrs. Varney turned with a little sigh of relief and went back to her
place by the table, where her work basket sat near to hand. No woman in
Richmond was without a work basket with work in it for any length of
time during those days. The needle was second only to the bayonet in the
support of the dying Confederacy! She glanced at it, but, sure evidence
of the tremendous strain under which she laboured, she made no motion to
take it up. Instead, after a moment of reflection, she crossed to the
wall and pulled the bell rope. In a short time, considering her bulk and
unwieldiness, old Martha appeared at the far door.

“Did you ring, ma’am?” she asked.

“Yes,” was the answer. “Has Miss Caroline gone yet?”

“No, ma’am,” answered Martha, smilingly displaying a glorious set of
white teeth. “She’s been out in de kitchen fo’ a w’ile.”

“In the kitchen?”

“Yas’m. Ah took her out dere. She didn’t want to be seed by no one.”

“And what is she doing there?”

“She’s been mostly sewin’ an’ behabin’ mighty strange about sumfin a
gret deal ob de time. She’s a-snifflin’ an’ a-weepin’, but Ah belieb
she’s gittin’ ready to gwine home now.”

“Very well,” said Mrs. Varney, “will you please ask her to come in here
a moment before she goes.”

“Yas’m, ’deed Ah will,” said old Martha, turning and going out of the
door through which, presently, Caroline herself appeared.

She looked very demure and the air of innocence, partly natural but
largely assumed, well became her although it did not deceive Mrs. Varney
for a moment, or would not have deceived her if she had had any special
interest in Caroline’s actions or emotions. The greater strain under
which she laboured made the girl of small moment; she would simply use
her, that was all.

“Caroline, dear,” she began immediately, “are you in a great hurry to go
home?”

“No, ma’am, not particularly, especially if I can do anything for you
here,” answered the girl readily, somewhat surprised.

“It happens that you can,” said Mrs. Varney; “if you can stay here a few
minutes while I go upstairs to Howard it will be a great help to me.”

“You want me just to wait here, is that it?” asked the girl, somewhat
mystified.

Why on earth anybody should be required to wait in a vacant room was
something which Caroline could not understand, but Mrs. Varney’s next
words sought to explain it.

“I don’t want you merely to wait here but—well, in fact, I don’t want
anybody to go out on the veranda, or into the garden, from the front of
the house, under any circumstances.”

Caroline’s eyes opened in great amazement. She did not in the least
understand what it was all about until Mrs. Varney explained further.

“You see Edith’s there with——”

“Oh, yes,” laughed the girl, at last, as she thought, comprehending,
“you want them to be left alone. I know how that is, whenever I am—when
some—that is of course I will see to it,” she ended rather lamely and
in great confusion.

“Just a few minutes, dear,” said Mrs. Varney, smiling faintly at the
girl’s blushing cheeks and not thinking it worth while to correct the
misapprehension, “I won’t be long.” She stepped across the room, but
turned in the doorway for her final injunction, “Do be careful, won’t
you?”

“Careful!” said Caroline to herself, “I should think I would be careful.
As if I didn’t know enough for that. I can guess what is going on out
there in the moonlight. I wouldn’t have them disturbed for the world.
Why, if I were out there with—with—Wil—with anybody, I wouldn’t——”

She stopped in great dismay at her own admissions and stood staring
toward the front windows, over which Mrs. Varney had most carefully
drawn the heavy hangings.

Presently her curiosity got the better of her sense of propriety. She
went to the nearest window, pulled the curtains apart a little, and
peered eagerly out. She saw nothing, nothing but the trees in the
moonlight, that is; Edith and Captain Thorne were not within view nor
were they within earshot. She turned to the other window. Now that she
had made the plunge, she determined to see what was going on if she
could. She drew the couch up before the window and knelt down upon it,
and parting the curtains, looked out, but with the same results as
before. In this questionable position she was unfortunately caught by
Wilfred Varney.

He was dressed in the grey jacket and the trousers which she had
repaired. She had not made a skilful job of her tailoring but it would
serve. The whole suit was worn, ill-fitting, and soiled; but it was
whole. That was more than could be said of ninety-nine per cent. of the
uniforms commonly seen round about Richmond. Measured by these, Wilfred
was sumptuously, even luxuriously, dressed, and the pride expressed in
his port and bearing was as complete as it was naïve. He walked softly
up the long room, intending to surprise the girl, but boy-like, he
stumbled over a stool on his way forward, and the young lady turned
about quickly and confronted him with an exclamation. Wilfred came close
to her and spoke in a low, fierce whisper.

“Mother isn’t anywhere about, is she?”

“No,” said Caroline in the same tone, “she’s just gone upstairs to see
Howard, but she is coming back in a few minutes, she said.”

“Well,” returned Wilfred, throwing his chest out impressively, “I am not
running away from her, but if she saw me with these on she might feel
funny.”

“I don’t think,” returned Caroline quickly, “that she would feel very
funny.”

“Well, you know what I mean,” said Wilfred, flushing a little. “You know
how it is with a fellow’s mother.”

Caroline nodded gravely.

“Yes, I have learned how it is with mothers,” she said, thinking of the
mothers she had known since the war began, young though she was.

“Other people don’t care,” said Wilfred, “but mothers are different.”

“Some other people don’t care,” answered Caroline softly, fighting hard
to keep back a rush of tears.

In spite of herself her eyes would focus themselves upon that little
round blood-stained hole in the left breast of the jacket. She had not
realised before how straight that bullet had gone to the heart of the
other wearer. There was something terribly ominous about it. But Wilfred
blundered blindly on, unconscious of this emotion or of its cause. He
drew from the pocket in his blouse a paper. He sat down at the table,
beckoning Caroline as he did so. The girl came closer and looked over
his shoulder as he unfolded the paper.

“I have written that letter,” he said, “to the General, my father, that
is. Here it is. I have got to send it to him in some way. It is all
written but the last words and I am not sure about them. I’m not going
to say ‘your loving son’ or anything of that kind. This is a man’s
letter, a soldier’s letter. I love him, of course, but this is not the
time or the place to put that sort of a thing in. I have been telling
him——” He happened to glance up as he spoke and discovered to his
great surprise that Caroline had turned away from him and was no longer
looking at him. “Why, what’s the matter?” he exclaimed.

“Nothing, nothing,” answered the girl, forcing herself to face him once
more.

“I thought you wanted to help me,” he continued.

“Oh, yes! I do, I do.”

“Well, you can’t help me way off there,” said Wilfred. “Come closer.”

He spoke like a soldier already, thought the girl, but she meekly, for
her, obeyed the imperious command. He stared at her, as yet unconscious
but strangely agitated nevertheless. The silence was soon insupportable,
and Caroline herself broke it.

“The—the——” she pointed at the trousers, “are they how you wanted
them?”

“Fine,” replied Wilfred; “they are just perfect. There isn’t a girl in
Richmond who could have done them better. Now about the letter. I want
your advice on it; what do you think?”

“Tell me what you said.”

“You want to hear it?” asked Wilfred.

“I’ve got to, haven’t I? How could I help you if I didn’t know what it
was all about?”

“You’re a pretty good girl, Caroline. You will help me, won’t you?”

Her hand rested on the table as she bent over him, and he laid his own
hand upon it and squeezed it warmly, too warmly thought Caroline, as she
slowly drew it away and was sorry she did it the moment she had done so.

“Yes, I will help you,” she said. “But about the letter? You will have
to hurry. I am sure your mother will be here in a short time.”

“Well, that letter is mighty important, you know. Everything depends
upon it, much more than on mother’s letter, I am sure.”

“I should think so,” said the girl.

She drew a chair up to the table and sat down by the side of the boy.

“I am just going to give it to him strong,” said Wilfred.

“That’s the way to give it to him,” said Caroline. “He’s a soldier and
he’s accustomed to such things.”

“You can’t fool much with father. He means business,” said Wilfred; “but
he will find that I mean business, too.”

“That’s right,” assented Caroline sapiently, “everybody has got to mean
business now. What did you say to him?”

“I said this,” answered the youngster, reading slowly and with great
pride, “‘General Ransom Varney, Commanding Division, Army of Northern
Virginia, Dear Papa’——”

“I wouldn’t say ‘dear papa’ to a General,” interrupted Caroline
decisively.

“No? What would you say?”

“I would say ‘Sir,’ of course; that is much more businesslike and
soldiers are always so awfully abrupt.”

“You are right,” said the boy, beginning again, “‘General Ransom Varney,
Commanding Division, Army of Northern Virginia, Sir’—that sounds fine,
doesn’t it?”

“Splendid,” said the girl, “go on.”

“‘This is to notify you that I want you to let me join the Army right
now. If you don’t, I will enlist anyway, that’s all. The seventeen call
is out and I am not going to wait for the sixteen. Do you think I am a
damned coward’——”

Wilfred paused and looked apprehensively at Caroline, who nodded with
eyes sparkling brightly.

“That’s fine,” she said.

“I thought it sounded like a soldier.”

“It does; you ought to have heard the Third Virginia swear——”

“Oh,” said Wilfred, who did not quite relish that experience; but he
went on after a little pause. “‘Tom Kittridge has gone; he was killed
yesterday at Cold Harbor. Billie Fisher has gone and so has Cousin
Stephen. He is not sixteen, he lied about his age, but I don’t want to
do that unless you make me. I will, though, if you do. Answer this right
now or not at all.’”

“I think that is the finest letter I have ever heard,” said Caroline
proudly, as Wilfred stopped, laid the paper down, and stared at her.

“Do you really think so?”

“It is the best letter I——”

“I am glad you are pleased with it. Now the next thing is how to end
it.”

“Why, just end it.”

“But how?”

“Sign your name, of course.”

“Nothing else?”

“What else is there?”

“Just Wilfred?”

“No, Wilfred Varney.”

“That’s the thing.” He took up a pen from the table and scrawled his
name at the bottom of this interesting and historical document. “And you
think the rest of it will do?”

“I should think it would,” she assented heartily. “I wish your father
had it now.”

“So do I,” said Wilfred. “Maybe it will take two or three days to get it
to him and I just can’t wait that long.”

Caroline rose to her feet suddenly under the stimulus of a bright idea
that came into her mind.

“I tell you what we can do.”

“What?”

“We can telegraph him,” she exclaimed.

“Good idea,” cried Wilfred, more and more impressed with Caroline’s
wonderful resourcefulness, but a disquieting thought immediately struck
him. “Where am I going to get the money?” he asked dubiously.

“It won’t take very much.”

“It won’t? Do you know what they are charging now? Over seven dollars a
word only to Petersburg.”

“Well, let them charge it,” said Caroline calmly, “we can cut it down to
only a few words and the address won’t cost anything.”

“Won’t it?”

“No, they never charge for that,” continued the girl. “That’s a heap of
money saved, and then we can use what we save on the address for the
rest.”

Wilfred stared at her as if this problem in economics was not quite
clear to his youthful brain, but she gave him no time to question her
ingenious calculations.

“What comes after the address?” she asked in her most businesslike
manner.

“‘Sir.’”

“Leave that out.”

Wilfred swept his pen through it.

“He knows it already,” said Caroline. “What’s next?”

“‘This is to notify you that I want you to let me come right now.’”

“We could leave out that last ‘to,’” said Caroline.

Wilfred checked it off, and then read, “‘I want you—let me come right
now.’ That doesn’t sound right, and anyway it is such a little word.”

“Yes, but it costs seven dollars just the same as a big word,” observed
Caroline.

“But it doesn’t sound right without it,” argued the boy; “we have got to
leave it in. What comes after that?”

Caroline in turn took up the note and read,

“‘If you don’t, I’ll come anyhow, that’s all.’”

“You might leave out ‘that’s all,’” said Wilfred.

“No, don’t leave that out. It’s very important. It doesn’t seem to be so
important, but it is. It shows—well—it shows that that’s all there is
about it. That one thing might convince him.”

“Yes, but we’ve got to leave out something.”

“Not that, though. Perhaps there is something else. ‘The seventeen call
is out’—that’s got to stay.”

“Yes,” said Wilfred.

“‘The sixteen comes next.’ That’s just got to stay.”

“Of course. Now, what follows?”

“‘I’m not going to wait for it,’” read Caroline.

“We can’t cut that out,” said Wilfred; “we don’t seem to be making much
progress, do we?”

“Well, we will find something in a moment. ‘Do you think I am’——” she
hesitated a moment, “‘a damned coward,’” she read with a delicious
thrill at her rash, vicarious wickedness.

Wilfred regarded her dubiously. He felt as an author does when he sees
his pet periods marked out by the blue pencil of the ruthless editor.

“You might leave that out,” he began, cutting valiantly at his most
cherished and admired phrase.

“No,” protested Caroline vehemently, “certainly not! That is the best
thing in the whole letter.”

“That ‘damn’ is going to cost us seven dollars, you know.”

“It is worth it,” said Caroline, “it is the best thing you have written.
Your father is a General in the army, he’ll understand that kind of
language. What’s next? I know there’s something now.”

“‘Tom Kittridge has gone. He was killed yesterday at Cold Harbor.’”

“Leave out that about”—she caught her breath, and her eyes fixed
themselves once more on that little round hole in the breast of his
jacket—“about his being killed.”

“But he was killed and so was Johnny Sheldon—I have his uniform, you
know.”

“I know he was, but you don’t have to tell your father,” said Caroline,
choking up, “you don’t have to telegraph him the news, do you?”

“No, of course not, but——”

“That’s all there is to the letter except the end.”

“Why, that leaves it just the same except the part about——”

“Yes,” said Caroline in despair, “and after all the work we have done.”

“Let’s try it again,” said Wilfred.

“No,” said Caroline, “there is no use. Everything else has got to stay.”

“Well, then we can’t telegraph it. It would cost hundreds of dollars.”

“Yes, we can telegraph it,” said Caroline determinedly, “you give it to
me. I’ll get it sent.”

“But how are you going to send it?” asked Wilfred, extending the letter.

“Never you mind,” answered the girl.

“See here!” the boy cried. “I am not going to have you spend your money,
and——”

“There’s no danger of that, I haven’t any to spend.” She took the letter
from his hand. “I reckon Douglass Foray’ll send it for me. He’s in the
telegraph office and he’ll do most anything for me.”

“No,” said Wilfred sternly.

“What’s the reason he won’t?” asked the girl.

“Because he won’t.”

“What do you care so long as he sends it?”

“Well, I do care and that’s enough. I’m not going to have you making
eyes at Dug Foray on my account.”

“Oh, well,” said the girl, blushing. “Of course if you feel that way
about it, I——”

“That’s the way I feel all right. But you won’t give up the idea of
helping me, will you, because I—feel like that?”

“No,” answered Caroline softly, “I’ll help you all I can—about that
letter, do you mean?”

“Yes, about that letter and about other things, too.”

“Give it to me,” said the girl, “I will go over it again.”

She sat down at the desk, and as she scanned it, Wilfred watched her
anxiously. To them Mrs. Varney entered. She had an open letter in one
hand and a cap and belt in the other. She stopped in the doorway and
motioned for some one in the hall to follow her, and an orderly entered
the room. His uniform was covered with dust, his sunburned, grim face
was covered with sweat and dust also. He stood in the doorway with the
ease of a veteran soldier, that is without the painful effort to be
precise or formal which marks the young aspirant for military honours.

“Wilfred,” said Mrs. Varney, quickly approaching him, “here is a letter
from your father.” She extended the paper. “He sent it by his orderly.”

Wilfred stepped closer to the elder woman while Caroline slowly rose
from her chair, her eyes fixed on Mrs. Varney.

“What does he say, mother?” asked Wilfred.

“He says——” answered his mother with measured quietness, and
controlling herself with the greatest difficulty, “he tells me
that—that you—are——” in spite of her tremendous effort, her voice
failed her. “Read it yourself, my boy,” she whispered pitifully.

The letter was evidently exceedingly brief. A moment put Wilfred in
possession of its contents. His mother stood with head averted. Caroline
stared with trembling lips, a pale face, and a heaving bosom. It was to
the orderly that Wilfred addressed himself.

“I am to go back with you?”

“General’s orders, sir,” answered the soldier, saluting, “to enter the
service. God knows we need everybody now.”

“When do we start?” asked Wilfred eagerly, his face flushing as he
realised that his fondest desire was now to be gratified.

“As soon as you are ready, sir. I am waiting.”

“I am ready now,” said Wilfred. He turned to his mother. “You won’t
mind, mother,” he said, his own lips trembling a little for the first
time at the sight of her grief.

Mrs. Varney shook her head. She stepped nearer to him, smoothed the hair
back from his forehead, and stretched out her arms to him as if she fain
would embrace him, but she controlled herself and handed him the cap and
belt.

“Your brother,” she said slowly, “seems to be a little better. He wants
you to take his cap and belt. I told him your father had sent for you,
and I knew you would wish to go to the front at once.”

Wilfred took the belt from her trembling hands, and buckled it about
him. His mother handed him the cap.

“Howard says he can get another belt when he wants it, and you are to
have his blankets, too. I will go and get them.”

She turned and left the room. She was nearly at the end of her resisting
power, and but for the welcome diversion incident to her departure, she
could not have controlled herself longer. The last one! One taken, one
trembling, and now Wilfred!

The boy entered into none of the emotions of his mother. He clapped the
cap on his head and threw it back.

“Fits me just as if it were made for me,” he said, settling the cap
firmly in place. “Orderly, I will be with you in a jiffy.”

Caroline stood still near the table, her eyes on the floor.

“We won’t have to send it now, will we?” he pointed to the letter.

Caroline, with a long, deep sigh, shook her head, and slowly handed the
letter to him. Wilfred took it mechanically, his eyes fixed on the girl,
who had suddenly grown very white of face, trembly of lip, and teary of
eye-lashes.

“You are very good,” he said, tearing the letter into pieces, “to help
me like you did.”

“It was nothing,” whispered the girl.

“You can help me again, if you want to.”

Caroline lifted her eyes to his face, and he saw within their depths
that which encouraged him.

“I can fight twice as well, if——”

Poor little Caroline couldn’t trust herself to speak. She nodded through
her tears.

“Good-bye,” said Wilfred, “you will write to me about helping me to
fight twice as well, won’t you. You know what I mean?”

Caroline nodded again.

“I wouldn’t mind if you telegraphed me that you would.”

What might have happened further will never be determined, for at this
juncture Mrs. Varney came back with an old faded blanket tied in a roll.
She handed it to the boy without speaking. Wilfred threw it over his
shoulder, and kissed his mother hurriedly.

“You won’t mind much, will you, mother. I will soon be back. Orderly!”
he cried.

“Sir.”

“I am ready,” said Wilfred.

He threw one long, meaning look at Caroline, and followed the soldier
out of the door and across the hall. The opening and closing of an
outside door was heard, and then all was still. Mrs. Varney held her
hand to her heart, and long, shuddering breaths came from her. He might
soon be back, but how. She knew all about the famous injunction of the
Spartan woman, “With your shield or on it,” but somehow she had had no
idea of the full significance until it came to her last boy, and for a
moment she was forgetful of poor, little Caroline until she saw the girl
wavering toward the door, and there was no disguise about the real tears
in her eyes now.

“Are you going, dear?” asked Mrs. Varney, forcing herself to speak.

Caroline nodded her head as before.

“Oh, yes,” continued the older woman, “your party, you have to be
there.”

At that the girl found voice, and without looking back she murmured,
“There won’t be any party to-night.”



                              CHAPTER VIII

                    EDITH IS FORCED TO PLAY THE GAME


Caroline’s departure was again interrupted by the inopportune reëntrance
from the back hall of Mr. Arrelsford, who was accompanied by two
soldiers, whom he directed to remain by the door. As he advanced rapidly
toward Mrs. Varney, Caroline stepped aside toward the rear window.

“Is he——” began Arrelsford, turning toward the window, and starting
back in surprise as he observed Caroline for the first time.

“Yes, he is there,” answered the woman.

“Oh, Mrs. Varney,” cried Caroline, “there’s a heap of soldiers out in
your backyard here. You don’t reckon anything’s the matter, do you?”

The girl did not lower her voice, and was greatly surprised at the
immediate order for silence which proceeded from Mr. Arrelsford, whose
presence she acknowledged with a very cool, indifferent bow.

“No, there is nothing the matter, dear,” said Mrs. Varney. “Martha,” she
said to the old servant who had come in response to her ring, “I want
you to go home with Miss Mitford. You must not go alone, dear.
Good-night.”

“Thank you very much, Mrs. Varney,” answered Caroline. “Come, Martha.”
As she turned, she hesitated. “You don’t reckon she could go with me
somewhere else, do you?”

“Why, where else do you want to go at this hour, my dear girl?” asked
Mrs. Varney.

“Just to—to the telegraph office,” answered Caroline.

Mr. Arrelsford, who had been waiting with ill-concealed impatience
during this dialogue, started violently.

“Now!” exclaimed Mrs. Varney in great surprise, not noticing the actions
of her latest guest. “At this time of night?”

“Yes,” answered Caroline, “it is on very important business, and—I——”

“Oh,” returned Mrs. Varney, “if that is the case, Martha must go with
you.”

“You know we haven’t a single servant left at our house,” Caroline said
in explanation of her request.

“I know,” said Mrs. Varney, “and, Martha, don’t leave her for an
instant.”

“No’m,” answered Martha, “Ah’ll take ca’ ob huh.”

As soon as she had left the room, passing between the two soldiers,
Arrelsford took up the conversation. He spoke quickly and in a sharp
voice. He was evidently greatly excited.

“What is she going to do at the telegraph office?” he asked.

“I have no idea,” answered the woman.

“Has she had any conversation with him?” said Arrelsford, pointing to
the front of the house.

“They were talking together in this room early this evening before you
came the first time, but it isn’t possible she could——”

“Anything is possible,” snapped Arrelsford impatiently. He was evidently
determined to suspect everybody, and leave no stone unturned to prevent
the failure of his plans. “Corporal,” he cried, “have Eddinger follow
that girl. He must get to the telegraph office as soon as she does, and
don’t let any despatch she tries to send get out before I see it. Let
her give it in, but hold it. Make no mistake about that. Get an order
from the department for you to bring it to me.” As the Corporal saluted
and turned away to give the order, Arrelsford faced Mrs. Varney again.
“Are they both out there?”

“Yes,” answered the woman. “Did you bring the man from Libby Prison?”

“I did, the guards have him out in the street on the other side of the
house. When we get Thorne in here alone I’ll have him brought over to
that back window and shoved into the room.”

“And where shall I stay?”

“Out there,” said Arrelsford, “by the lower door, opening upon the back
hall. You can get a good view of everything from there.”

“But if he sees me?”

“He won’t see you if it is dark in the hall.” He turned to the Corporal
who had reëntered and resumed his station. “Turn out those lights out
there,” he said. “We can close these curtains, can’t we?”

“Certainly,” said Mrs. Varney, opening the rear door and drawing the
heavy portières, but leaving space between them so that any one in the
dark hall could see through them but not be seen from the room.

“I don’t want too much light in here, either,” said Arrelsford. As he
spoke he blew out the candles in the two candelabra which had been
placed on the different tables, and left the large, long room but dimly
illuminated by the candles in the sconces on the walls.

Mrs. Varney watched him with fascinated awe. In spite of herself there
still lingered a hope that Arrelsford might be mistaken. Thorne had
enlisted her interest, and he might under other conditions have aroused
her matronly affections, and she was hoping against hope that he might
yet prove himself innocent, not only because of his personality but as
well because the thought that she might have entertained a spy was
repugnant to her, and because of the honour of the Dumont family, which
was one of the oldest and most important ones in the western hills of
the Old Dominion.

Arrelsford meantime completed his preparations by moving the couch which
Caroline Mitford had placed before the window back to the wall.

“Now, Mrs. Varney,” he said, stepping far back out of sight of the
window, “will you open the curtains? Do it casually, carelessly, please,
so as not to awaken any suspicion if you are seen.”

“But your soldiers, won’t they——”

“They are all at the back of the house. They came in the back way, and
the field in front is absolutely clear, although I have men concealed in
the street to stop any one who may attempt to escape that way.”

Mrs. Varney walked over to the window and drew back the curtains. She
stood for a moment looking out into the clear, peaceful quietness of a
soft spring night. The moon was full, and being somewhat low shone
through the long windows and into the room, the candle light not being
bright enough to dim its radiance. Her task being completed, she turned,
and once more the man who was in command pointed across the hall toward
the room on the other side.

“Are those women in there yet?” he asked peremptorily.

“Yes.”

“Where is the key?”

Mrs. Varney left the room and went to the door.

“It is on this side,” she said.

“Will you lock it, please?”

The woman softly turned the key in the lock, and returned to the
drawing-room without a sound. As she did so the noise of the opening of
one of the long French windows in the front of the room attracted the
attention of both of them. Edith Varney entered the room nervously and
stepped forward. She began breathlessly, in a low, feverishly excited
voice.

“Mamma!”

Mrs. Varney hurried toward her and caught her outstretched hand.

“I want to speak to you,” whispered the girl.

“We can’t wait,” said Arrelsford, stepping forward.

“You must,” persisted the girl. She turned to her mother again, “I can’t
do it, I can’t! Oh, let me go!”

“But, my dear,” said her mother, “you were the one who suggested
that——”

“But I was sure then, and now——”

“Has he confessed?” asked Mrs. Varney.

“No, no,” answered the girl with a glance of fear and apprehension
toward Arrelsford, who stood staring menacingly at her elbow.

“Don’t speak so loud,” whispered the Secret Service Agent.

“Edith,” said her mother soothingly, “what is it that has changed you?”

She waited for an answer, but none came. The girl’s face had been very
pale but it now flushed suddenly with colour.

“Dear,” said her mother, “you must tell me.”

Edith motioned Mr. Arrelsford away. He went with ill-concealed
impatience to the far side of the room and waited nervously to give the
signal, anxious lest something should miscarry because of this
unfortunate unwillingness of the girl to play her part.

“What is it, dear?” whispered her mother.

“Mamma,” said Edith, she forced the words out, “he—he—loves me.”

“Impossible!” returned Mrs. Varney, controlling her voice so that the
other occupant of the room could not hear.

“Yes,” faltered the girl, “and I—some one else must do it.”

“You don’t mean,” said Mrs. Varney, “that you return——”

But Mr. Arrelsford’s patience had been strained to the breaking point.
He did not know what interchange was going on between the two women, but
it must be stopped. He came forward resolutely. The girl saw his
determination in his face.

“No, no,” she whispered, “not that, not now!”

She shrank away from him as she spoke.

“But, Edith,” said Mrs. Varney, “more reason now than ever.”

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” said Mr. Arrelsford, “but we
must go on.”

“But why—why are you doing this?” asked Edith, pleading desperately.

“Because I please,” snapped out the Secret Service Agent, and it was
quite evident that he was pleased. Some of his satisfaction was due to
the fact that he had by his own efforts at last succeeded in unearthing
a desperate plot, and had his hands on the plotters. That he was thereby
serving his country and demonstrating his fitness for his position of
responsibility and trust also added to his satisfaction, but this was
greatly enhanced by the fact that Thorne was his rival, and he could
make a guess that he was a successful rival in love as well as in war.

“You have never pleased before,” persisted Edith. “Hundreds of
suspicious cases have come up—hundreds of men have been run down—but
you preferred to sit at your desk in the War Department, until——”

“Edith! Edith!” interposed her mother.

“I can’t discuss that now,” said Arrelsford.

“No, we will not discuss it. I will have nothing more to do with the
affair.”

“You won’t,” whispered Arrelsford threateningly.

“Don’t say that,” urged Mrs. Varney.

“Nothing, nothing at all,” said Edith.

“At your own suggestion, Miss Varney,” persisted the Secret Service
Agent vehemently, “I agreed to accept a plan by which we could criminate
this friend of yours or establish his innocence. When everything is
ready you propose to withdraw and make the experiment a failure, perhaps
allowing him to escape altogether and being a party to treason against
your own country.”

Edith looked from Arrelsford’s set face, with his bitter words, the
truth of which she was too just not to acknowledge, ringing in her ears,
to the face of her mother. It was a sweet face, full of sympathy and
love, but it was set in the same way as the man’s. The patriotism of the
woman was aroused. The kind of help that Edith wanted in her mother’s
look she did not find there.

“You mustn’t do this, Edith; you must do your part,” said Mrs. Varney.

The resolution of the girl gave way.

“He is there,” she faltered piteously, “he is there at the further end
of the veranda. What more do you want of me?” Her voice rose in spite of
her efforts to control herself.

“Call him to the room, and do it naturally. If any one else should do it
he would suspect something immediately and be on his guard.”

“Very well,” said the girl helplessly. “I will call him.”

She turned toward the window.

“Wait,” said Arrelsford, “one thing more. I want him to have this
paper.” He handed Edith the communication which had been taken from
Jonas earlier in the evening.

“What am I to do with this?” asked the girl, taking it.

“Give it to him, and tell him where it came from. Tell him old Jonas got
it from a prisoner at Libby Prison and brought it to you.”

“But why am I to do this?” asked the girl.

“Why not? If he is innocent, what’s the harm? If not, if he is in the
plot and we can’t catch him otherwise, the message on the paper will
send him to the telegraph office to-night, and that’s where we want
him.”

“But I never promised that,” said the girl with obvious reluctance to do
anything not only that might tend to harm the suspected, but that might
work to the furtherance of Arrelsford’s designs.

“Do you still believe him innocent?” sneered the man.

Edith lifted her head and for the first time she looked Arrelsford full
in the face.

“I still believe him innocent,” answered the girl, slowly and with
deliberate emphasis.

“Then why are you afraid to give him the paper?” asked Arrelsford,
directly with cunning adroitness.

The girl, thus entrapped, clasped the paper to her breast, and turned
toward the window. Her mind was made up, but it was not necessary for
her to call. Her ear, tuned to every sound he made, caught the noise of
his footfall on the porch. She turned her head and spoke to the other
two.

“Captain Thorne is coming,” she whispered expressionlessly, “unless you
want to be seen, you had better go.”

“Here, this way, Mrs. Varney,” said Arrelsford, taking that lady by the
arm and going down to the far end to the door covered by the portières.

The two disappeared, and it was impossible for a soul to see them in the
darkness of the hall, although they could see clearly enough, even in
the dimly lighted drawing-room, everything that would happen. Edith
stood as if rooted to the floor, the paper still in her hand, when
Thorne opened the sash which she had closed behind her and entered in
his turn the window through which she had come a short time before. He
stepped eagerly toward her.

“You were so long,” he whispered, “coming for me, that——” He stopped
abruptly, and looked at her face, “is anything the matter?”

“No.”

“You had been away such a long time that I thought——”

“Only a few minutes.”

“Only a few years,” said the man passionately. His voice was low and
gently modulated, not because he had anything to conceal but because of
the softness of the moonlight and the few candles dimly flickering upon
the walls of the great room, the look in the girl’s eyes, and the
feeling in his heart. A few minutes, the girl had said!—Ah, it was
indeed a few years to him.

“If it was a few years to you,” returned the girl with a violent effort
at lightness, although her heart was torn to pieces with the emotions of
the moment, “what a lot of time there is.”

“No,” said Thorne, “there is only to-night.”

Edith threw out her hand to check what she would fain have heard, but
Thorne caught it. He came closer to her.

“There’s only to-night, and you in the world,” he said.

“You overwhelm me.”

“I can’t help myself. I came here determined not to tell you how I loved
you, and for the last half hour I have been telling you nothing else. I
could tell you all my life and never finish. Ah, my darling, my
darling,—there’s only to-night and you.”

Edith swayed toward him for a moment, completely influenced by his
ardour, but then drew back.

“No, no,” she faltered. “You mustn’t.” She glanced around the room
apprehensively. “No, no, not now!”

“You are right,” said the man. She dragged herself away from him. He
would not retain her against her will, and without a struggle he
released her hand. “You are right. Don’t mind what I said, Miss Varney.
I have forgotten myself, believe me.” He drew further away from her. “I
came to make a brief call, to say good-bye, and——”

He turned and walked toward the hall door, after making her a low bow,
and it was not without a feeling of joy that she noticed that he walked
unsteadily, blindly.

“Oh, Captain Thorne,” she said, just as he had reached the door, “I——”

He stopped and looked back.

“Before you go I want to ask your advice about something.”

“My advice!”

“Yes, it seems to be a military matter, and——”

“What is it?” asked Thorne, turning back.

“What do you think this means?” said the girl, handing him the folded
despatch.

She had intended to look him full in the face as he took it, but at the
last moment her courage failed her. She looked away and did not see the
instant but quickly mastered start of surprise. She was only conscious
that Thorne had possessed himself of the document.

“What is it?” asked Thorne, holding it in his hand.

“That is what I want you to tell me,” said the girl.

“Oh, don’t you know?” said Thorne, now entirely master of himself.

“No,” answered the girl, but there was something in her voice which now
fully aroused the suspicions of the man.

“It appears to be a note from some one,” he said casually, “but it is so
dark in here. With your permission, I will light some of the candles on
the table, and then we can see what it is.”

He took one of the candles from the sconces on the wall and lighted the
candelabra that stood on the nearest table. Holding the paper near the
light, he glanced around rapidly, and then read it, giving no outward
evidence of his surprise and alarm, although the girl was now watching
him narrowly. He glanced at her and then looked at the paper again, and
slowly read aloud its message.

“‘_Attack to-night?_’” he said very deliberately. “Umph, ‘_Plan 3?
Attack to-night, plan 3!_’ This seems to be in some code, Miss Varney,
or a puzzle.”

“It was taken from a Yankee prisoner.”

“From a Yankee prisoner!” he exclaimed in brilliantly assumed surprise.

“Yes, one captured to-day. He is down at Libby now. He gave it to one of
our servants, old Jonas, and——”

“That’s a little different,” said Thorne, examining the paper again. “It
puts another face on the matter. This may be something important.
‘_Attack to-night_,’” he read again, “_‘Plan 3, use telegraph’!_ This
sounds important to me, Miss Varney. It looks to me like a plot to use
the Department Telegraph lines. To whom did Jonas give it?”

“To no one.”

“Well, how did you——”

“We took it away from him,” answered Edith.

This was a very different statement from her original intention, but for
the moment the girl forgot her part.

“Oh,” said Thorne, “I think that was a mistake.”

“A mistake?”

“Yes.”

“But why?”

“You should have let him deliver it, but it is too late now. Never
mind.” He turned toward the door.

Edith caught him by the arm. Was he going out to certain death or what?

“What are you going to do?” she asked breathlessly.

“Find Jonas, and make him tell for whom this paper was intended. He is
the man we want.”

The girl released him, and caught her throat with her hand.

“Captain Thorne,” she choked out, and there was joy and triumph in her
face, “they have lied about you.”

Thorne turned to her quickly.

“Lied about me!” he exclaimed. “What do you mean?”

He caught the girl’s hands in his and bent over her.

“Don’t be angry,” pleaded Edith, “I didn’t think it would be like this.”

“Yes, yes, but what do you mean?”

Edith sought to draw her hands away from him, but Thorne would not be
denied.

“I must know,” he said.

“Let me go,” pleaded the girl, “don’t you understand——”

But what she might have said further was interrupted by the sharp, stern
voice of the Corporal outside. He spoke loud and clearly, there was no
necessity for precaution now.

“This way! Look out for that side, will you?”

Thorne released the hands of the woman he loved and stood listening.
Edith Varney took advantage of such a diversion to dart through the
upper door, the nearer one, into the hall.

“I don’t want to be here now,” she said, as she flew away.

Thorne’s hand went to his revolver which hung at his belt. He had not
time to draw it before the Corporal and the two men burst through the
door. There were evidently others outside. Thorne’s hand fell away from
his revolver, and his position was one of charming nonchalance.

“Out here!” cried the Corporal to one of the soldiers. “Look out there!”
pointing to the doorway through which the two men instantly disappeared.

“What is it, Corporal?” asked Thorne composedly.

The Corporal turned and saluted.

“Prisoner, sir, broke out of Libby! We’ve run him down the street, and
he turned in here somewhere. If he comes in that way, would you be good
enough to let us know?”

“Go on, Corporal,” said Thorne coolly. “I’ll look out for this window.”

He stepped down the long room toward the far window, drew the curtains,
and with his hand on his revolver, peered out into the trees beyond the
front of the house.



                               CHAPTER IX

                          THE SHOT THAT KILLED


A glance through the window showed Captain Thorne that the yard beyond,
which had been empty all evening, was now full of armed men. The
Corporal had gone out through the hall door back of the house whence he
had entered. There was no doubt but that the back windows would be
equally well guarded. The house was surrounded, no escape was possible.
He was trapped, virtually a prisoner, although for the time being, they
had left him a certain liberty—the liberty of that one large room! It
was quite evident to him that he was the object of their suspicions, and
he more than feared that his real affiliations had been at last
discovered.

Apparently, there would be no opportunity now in which he could carry
out his part in the cunningly devised scheme of attack. “_Plan 3_” would
inevitably result in failure, as so many previous plans had resulted,
because he would not be able to send the orders that would weaken the
position. The best he could hope for, in all probability, was the short
shrift of a spy. He had staked his life on the game and it appeared that
he had lost.

Nay, more than life had been wagered, honour. He knew the contempt in
which the spy was held; he knew that even the gallantry and intrepidity
of André and Hale had not saved them from opprobrium and disgrace.

And there was even more than honour upon the board. His love! Not the
remotest idea of succumbing to the attractions of Edith Varney ever
entered his head when he attempted the desperate, the fatal rôle. At
first he had regarded the Varney house and herself as a chessboard and a
pawn in the game. The strength of character which had enabled him to
assume the unenviable part he played, because of his country’s need, for
his country’s good, and which would have carried him through the obloquy
and scorn that were sure to be visited upon him—with death at the
end!—did not stand him in good stead when it came to thoughts of her.
Until he yielded to his passion, and broke his self-imposed vow of
silence, he had fought a good fight. Now he realised that the woman who
should accept his affections would compromise herself forever in the
eyes of everything she held dear, even if he succeeded and lived, which
was unlikely.

He had never, so he fancied, in the least and remotest way given her any
evidence that he loved her. In reality, she had read him like an open
book, as women always do. He had come there that night to get the
message from Jonas, and then to bid her good-bye forever, without
disclosing the state of his affections. If he succeeded in manipulating
the telegraph and carrying out his end of the project, he could see no
chance of escape. Ultimate detection and execution appeared certain, and
any avowal would therefore be useless. But he had counted without her.
She had shown her feelings, and he had fallen. To the temptation of her
presence and her artless disclosure, he had not been able to make
adequate resistance.

He was the last man on earth to blame her or to reproach her for that;
but the fierce, impetuous temperament of the man was overwhelming when
it once broke loose, and he felt that he must tell her or die.

Because of his iron self-repression for so long he was the less able to
stand the pressure in the end. He had thrown everything to the winds,
and had told her how he loved her.

Out there in the moonlight in the rose arbour, the scent of the flowers,
the southern night wind, the proximity of the girl, her eyes shining
like stars out of the shadows in which they stood, the pallor of her
face, the rise and fall of her bosom, the fluttering of her hand as
unwittingly or wittingly, who knows, she touched him, had intoxicated
him, and his love and passion had broken all bounds, and he had spoken
to her and she had answered. She loved him. What did that mean to him
now?

Sometimes woman’s love makes duty easy, sometimes it makes it hard.
Sometimes it is the crown which victors wear, and sometimes it is the
pall that overshadows defeat.

What Edith Varney knew or suspected concerning him, he could not tell.
That she knew something, that she suspected something, had been evident,
but whatever her knowledge and suspicion, they were not sufficiently
powerful or telling to prevent her from returning love for love, kiss
for kiss. But did she love him in spite of her knowledge and suspicion?
The problem was too great for his solution then.

These things passed through his mind as he stood there by the window,
with his hand on his revolver, waiting. It was all he could do.
Sometimes even to the most fiery and the most alert of soldiers comes
the conviction that there is nothing to do but wait. And if he thinks of
it, he will sympathise with the women who are left behind in times of
war, who have little to do but wait.

The room had suddenly become his world, the walls his horizon, the
ceiling his sky. At any exit he would find the way barred. Why had they
left him in the room, free, armed, his revolver in his hand?

None but the bravest would have entered upon such a career as he had
chosen. His nerves were like steel in the presence of danger. He had
trembled before the woman in the garden a moment since; the stone walls
of the house were no more rigidly composed than he in the drawing-room
now. It came to him that there was nothing left but one great battle in
that room unless they shot him from behind door or window or portière,
giving him no chance. If they did confront him openly he would show them
that if he had chosen the Secret Service and the life of a spy he could
fight and die like a man and a soldier. He held some lives within the
chamber of his revolver, and they should pay did they give him but a
chance.

Indeed, they were already giving him a chance, he thought to himself as
he waited and listened. He was utterly unable to divine why he was at
liberty in the room, and why he was left alone, or what was toward.

In the very midst of these crowding and tumultuous thoughts which ran
through his mind in far, far less time than it has taken to record them,
he heard a noise at the window at the farther side of the room, as if
some one fumbled at the catch. Instantly Thorne shrank back behind the
portières of the window he was guarding, not completely concealing
himself but sufficiently hid as to be unobserved except by careful
scrutiny in the dim light. Once more he clutched the butt of his
revolver swinging at his waist. He bent his body slightly, and even the
thought of Edith Varney passed from his mind. He stood ready, powerful,
concentrated, determined, confronting an almost certain enemy with the
fierce heart and envenomed glance of the fighter at bay.

He had scarcely assumed this position when the window was opened, and a
man was thrust violently through into the room. At the first glance,
Thorne as yet unseen, recognised the newcomer as his elder brother,
Henry Dumont. Unlike the two famous brothers of the parable, these two
loved each other.

Thorne’s muscles relaxed, his hand still clutched the butt of his
revolver, he was still alert, but here was not an enemy. He began at
once to fathom something at least of the plan and the purpose of the
people who had trapped him. In a flash he perceived that his enemies
were not yet in possession of all the facts which would warrant them in
laying hands upon him. He was suspected, but the final evidence upon
which to turn suspicion into certainty was evidently lacking. He could
feel, although he could not see them, that every door and window had
eyes, solely for him, and that he was closely watched for some false
move which would betray him. The plan for which he had ventured so much
was still possible; he had not yet failed. His heart leaped in his
breast. The clouds around his horizon lifted a little. There was yet a
possibility that he could succeed, that he could carry out his part of
the cunningly devised and desperate undertaking, the series of events of
which this night and the telegraph office were to be the culmination.

A less cautious and a less resourceful man might have evinced some
emotion, might have gone forward or spoken to the newcomer, would have
at least done something to have attracted his attention, but save for
that relaxation of the tension, which no one could by any possibility
observe, Thorne stood motionless, silent, waiting; just as he might have
stood and waited had he been what he seemed and had the newcomer been
utterly unknown and indifferent to him.

His brother was dressed in the blue uniform of the United States; like
the others it had seen good service, but as Thorne glanced from his own
clothes to those of his brother, the blood came to his face, it was like
seeing his own flag again. For a fleeting moment he wished that he had
on his own rightful uniform himself and that he had never put it off for
anything; but duty is not made up of wishes, gratified or ungratified,
and the thought passed as he watched the other man.

Henry Dumont had been thrust violently into the room by the soldiers
outside. He had been captured, as Arrelsford had said, earlier in the
day; he had allowed himself to be taken. He had been thrust into Libby
Prison with dozens of prisoners taken in the same sortie. He had not
been searched, but then none of the others had been; had he been
selected for that unwonted immunity alone it would have awakened his
suspicions, but the Confederates had made a show of great haste in
disposing of their prisoners, and had promised to search them in the
morning. Therefore, Henry Dumont had retained the paper which later he
had given Jonas, when by previous arrangement he made his daily visit to
the prison.

He had been greatly surprised, when about a quarter to nine o’clock, a
squad of soldiers had taken him from the prison, had marched him
hurriedly through the streets with which he was entirely unfamiliar, and
had taken him to the residence section of the city, and had halted at
the back of a big house. He had asked no questions, and no explanations
had been vouchsafed to him. He was more surprised than ever when he was
taken up to the porch, the window was opened, and he was thrust
violently into a room, so violently that he staggered and had some
difficulty in recovering his balance.

He made a quick inspection of the room. Thorne, in the deeper shadows at
the farther end of the room was invisible to him. He stood motionless
save for the turning of his head as he looked around him. He moved a few
steps toward the end of the room, opposite his entrance, passed by the
far door opening into the back hall which was covered with portières,
and went swiftly toward the near door into the front hall. The door was
slightly ajar, and as he came within range of the opening he saw in the
shadows of the hall, crossed bayonets and men. No escape that way!

He went on past the door toward the large windows at the front of the
house and in another moment would have been at the front window where
Thorne stood. The latter dropped the curtain and stepped out into the
room.

For the thousandth part of a second the two brothers stared at each
other, and then in a fiercely intense voice, Thorne, playing his part,
desperately called out:

“Halt! You are a prisoner!”

Both brothers were quick witted, both knew that they were under the
closest observation, both realised that they were expected to betray
relationship, which would incriminate both, and probably result fatally
for one and certainly ruin the plan. Thorne’s cue was to regard his
brother as the prisoner whom it was important to arrest, and Dumont’s
cue was to regard his brother as an enemy with whom it was his duty to
struggle. The minds of the two were made up instantly. With a quick
movement Dumont sought to pass his brother, but with a movement equally
as rapid, Thorne leaped upon him, shouting again:

“Halt, I say!”

The two men instantly grappled. It was no mimic struggle that they
engaged in, either. They were of about equal height and weight, if
anything Thorne was the stronger, but this advantage was offset by the
fact that he had been recently ill, and the two fought therefore on
equal terms at first. It was a fierce, desperate grapple in which they
met. As they struggled violently, both by a common impulse, reeled
toward that part of the room near the mantel which was farthest away
from doors or windows, and where they would be the least likely to be
overheard or to be more closely observed. As they fought together,
Thorne called out again:

“Corporal of the Guard, here is your man! Corporal of the Guard, what
are you doing?”

At that instant the two reeling bodies struck the wall next to the
mantel with a fearful smash, and a chair that stood by was overturned by
a quick movement on the part of Henry Dumont, who did not know his
brother had already received the important message. In the confusion of
the moment, he hissed in Thorne’s ear:

“_Attack to-night, plan 3, use telegraph!_ Did you get that?”

“Yes,” returned Thorne, still keeping up the struggle.

“Good,” said Dumont. “They are watching us. Shoot me in the leg.”

“No, I can’t do it,” whispered Thorne.

All the while the two men were reeling and staggering and struggling
against the wall and furniture. The encounter would have deceived the
most suspicious.

“Shoot, shoot,” said the elder.

“I can’t shoot my own brother,” the younger panted out.

“It is the only way to throw them off the scent,” persisted Dumont.

“I won’t do it,” answered Thorne, and then he shouted again:

“Corporal of the Guard, I have your prisoner!”

“Let me go, damn you!” roared Dumont furiously, making another desperate
effort,—“if you don’t do it, I will,” he added under his breath. “Give
me the revolver!”

“No, no, Harry,” was the whispered reply, and “Surrender, curse you!”
the shouted answer. “You’ll hurt yourself,” he pleaded.

“I don’t care,” muttered Dumont. “Let me have it.”

His hands slipped down from Thorne’s shoulders and grasped the butt of
the revolver. The two grappled for it fiercely, but the struggle was
beginning to tell on Thorne, who was not yet in full possession of his
physical vitality. His long illness had sapped his strength.

“Don’t, don’t, for God’s sake!” he whispered, and then shouted
desperately, “Here’s your man, Corporal, what’s the matter with you?”

“Give me that gun,” said Dumont, and in spite of himself his voice rose
again. There was nothing suspicious in the words, it was what he might
have said had the battle been a real one; as he spoke by a more violent
effort he wrenched the weapon from the holster and away from Thorne’s
detaining hand. The latter sought desperately to repossess himself of
it.

[Illustration: “Look out, Harry!” he implored]

“Look out, Harry! You’ll hurt yourself,” he implored, but the next
moment by a superhuman effort Dumont threw him back. As Thorne
staggered, Dumont turned the pistol on himself. Recovering himself with
incredible swiftness, Thorne leaped at his brother, and the two figures
went down together with a crash in the midst of which rang out the sharp
report of the heavy service weapon. Instead of shooting himself
harmlessly in the side, in the struggle Dumont had unfortunately shot
himself through the lung.

Not at first comprehending exactly what had happened, Thorne rose to his
feet, took the revolver from the other’s hand, and stood over the body
of his mortally wounded brother, the awful anguish of his heart in his
face. Fortunately, they were near the far end of the room, next the
wall, and no one could see the look in Thorne’s eyes or the distortion
of his features in his horror.

“Harry!” he whispered. “My God, you have shot yourself!”

But Henry Dumont was past speaking. He simply smiled at his brother, and
closed his eyes. The next instant the room was filled with light and
sound. From every window and door people poured in; the soldiers from
the porches, from the hall, Mrs. Varney, Arrelsford and Edith; from the
other side of the hall a hubbub of screams and cries rose from behind
the locked door where the sewing women sat. Martha brought up the rear
with lights, which Arrelsford took from her and set on the table. The
room was again brightly illuminated.

As they crowded through the various entrances, their eyes fell upon
Thorne. He was leaning nonchalantly against the table, his revolver in
his hand, a look of absolute indifference upon his face. His acting was
superb had they but known it. He could not betray himself now and make
vain his brother’s sublime act of self-sacrifice for the cause. There
was a tumult of shouts and sudden cries:

“Where is he? What has he done? This way now!”

Most of those who entered had eyes only for the man lying upon the
floor, blood welling darkly through his grey shirt exposed by the
opening of his coat which had been torn apart in the struggle. Three
people had eyes only for Thorne, the man who hated him, the girl who
loved him, and the woman who suspected him. Between the soldiers and
these three stood the Corporal of the Guard, representing as it were,
the impartial law.

Thorne did not glance once at the girl who loved him, or at the man who
hated him, or at the woman who suspected him. He fixed his eyes upon the
Corporal of the Guard.

“There’s your prisoner, Corporal,” he said calmly, without a break in
his voice, although such anguish possessed him as he had never before
experienced and lived through, but his control was absolutely perfect.

And his quiet words and quiet demeanour increased the hate of one man,
and the suspicions of one woman, and the love and admiration of the
other.

“There’s your prisoner,” he said, slipping his revolver slowly back into
its holster. “We had a bit of a struggle and I had to shoot him. Look
out for him.”

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

                                BOOK III

                      WHAT HAPPENED AT TEN O’CLOCK



                               CHAPTER X

                   CAROLINE MITFORD WRITES A DESPATCH


The War Department Telegraph Office had once been a handsome apartment,
one of those old-fashioned, heavily corniced, marble-manteled,
low-windowed, double-doored rooms in a public building. It was now in a
state of extreme dilapidation, the neglected and forlorn condition
somehow being significant of the moribund Confederacy in which
practically everything was either dead or dying but the men and women.

A large double door in one corner gave entrance to a corridor. The doors
were of handsome mahogany, but they had been kicked and battered until
varnish and polish had both disappeared and they looked as dilapidated
as the cob-webbed corners and the broken mouldings. On the other side of
the room, three long French windows gave entrance to a shallow balcony
of cast iron fantastically moulded, which hung against the outer wall.
Beyond this the observer peering through the dusty panes could discern
the large white pillars of the huge porch which overhung the front of
the building. Further away beyond the shadow of the porch were visible
the lights of the sleeping town, seen dimly in the bright moonlight.

The handsome furniture which the room had probably once contained, had
been long since displaced by the rude telegraph equipment and the heavy
plaster cornices and mouldings were sadly marred by telegraph wires
which ran down the walls to the tables, rough pine affairs, which
carried the instruments. There were two of these tables, each with a
telegraph key at either end. One of them stood near the centre of the
room, and the other some distance away was backed up against the fine
old marble mantel, chipped, battered, ruined like the rest of the room.
For the rest, the apartment contained a desk, shelves with the batteries
on them, and half a dozen chairs of the commonest and cheapest variety.
The floor was bare, dusty, and tobacco stained. The sole remnant of the
ancient glory of the room was a large handsome old clock on the wall
above the mantel, the hands of which pointed to the hour of ten.

But if the room itself was in a dingy and even dirty condition, the
occupants were very much alive. One young man, Lieutenant Allison, sat
at the table under the clock, and another, Lieutenant Foray, at the
table in the centre of the room. Both were busy sending or receiving
messages. The instruments kept up a continuous clicking, heard
distinctly above the buzz of conversation which came from half a dozen
youngsters, scarcely more than boys, grouped together at the opposite
side of the room, waiting to take to the various offices of the
Department, or to the several officials of the government, the messages
which were constantly being handed out to them by the two military
operators.

In the midst of this busy activity there came the noise of drums,
faintly at first, but presently growing clearer and louder, while the
tramp of many feet sounded in the street below.

“What’s that?” asked one messenger of the other.

“I don’t know,” was the answer, “troops of some kind. I’ll look out and
see.”

He stepped to one of the long windows, opened it, and went out on the
balcony. The other young fellows clustered at his back or peered through
the other windows.

“It’s the Richmond Greys,” said the observer outside.

There was an outburst of exclamations from the room, except from the
operators, who had no time to spare from their work.

“Yes, that’s what they are. You can see their uniforms. They must be
sending them down to the lines at Petersburg,” said another.

“Well, I don’t believe they would send the Greys out unless there was
something going on to-night,” observed a third.

“To-night, why, good heavens, it’s as quiet as a tomb,” broke in a
fourth. “I don’t hear a sound from the front.”

“That’s probably what’s worrying them. It is so damn unusual,” returned
the first messenger.

“Things have come to a pretty pass if the Grandfathers of the Home Guard
have got to go to the front,” remarked another.

“Following in the footsteps of their grandsons,” said the first. “I wish
I could go. I hate this business of carrying telegrams and——”

“Messenger here!” cried Lieutenant Foray, folding up a message and
inserting it in its envelope.

The nearest youngster detached himself from the group while all of them
turned away from the windows, stepped to the side of the officer, and
saluted.

“War Department,” said Foray tersely. “Tell the Secretary it’s from
General Lee, and here’s a duplicate which you are to give to the
President.”

“Very good, sir,” said the messenger, taking the message and turning
away.

As he passed out of the door, an orderly entered the room, stepped to
the side of Lieutenant Foray, the senior of the two officers on duty,
clicked his heels together, and saluted.

“Secretary’s compliments, sir, and he wants to know if there is anything
from General Lee,” he said.

“My compliments to the Secretary,” returned the Lieutenant. “I have just
sent a message to his office with a duplicate for the President.”

“The President’s with the Cabinet yet, sir,” returned the orderly. “He
didn’t go home. The Secretary’s there, too. They want an operator right
quick to take down some cipher telegrams.”

Lieutenant Foray looked over to his subordinate.

“Got anything on, Charlie?” he called out.

“Not right now,” answered Lieutenant Allison.

“Well, go over with the orderly to the Cabinet room and take down their
ciphers. Hurry back though,” said Foray as Allison slipped on his
coat—both officers had been working in their shirt sleeves—“we need
you here. We are so short-handed in the office now that I don’t know how
we are going to get through to-night. I can’t handle four instruments,
and——”

“I will do my best,” said Allison, turning away rapidly.

He bowed as he did so to a little party which at that moment entered the
room through the door, obstructing his passage. There were two very
spick and span young officers with Miss Caroline Mitford between them,
while just behind loomed the ponderous figure of old Martha.

“You wait in the hall right here, Martha; I won’t be long,” said
Caroline, pausing a moment to let the others precede her.

The two young men stopped on either side of the door and waited for her.

“Miss Mitford,” said the elder, “this is the Department Telegraph
Office.”

“Thank you,” said Caroline, entering the room with only the briefest of
acknowledgments of the profound bows of her escorts.

She was evidently very much agitated and troubled over what she was
about to attempt. The two young men followed her as she stepped down the
long room.

“I am afraid you have gone back on the Army, Miss Mitford,” said one of
them pleasantly.

“Gone back on the Army, why?” asked Caroline mystified.

“Seems like we should have a salute as you went by.”

“Oh, yes,” said the girl.

She raised her hand and saluted in a perfunctory and absent-minded
manner, then turned away from them. She nodded to the messengers, some
of whom she knew. One of them, who knew her best, stepped forward.

“Good-evening, Miss Mitford, could we do anything in the office for you
to-night?” he asked.

“Oh, yes,—you can. I want to send a—a telegram.”

The other of the young officers who had escorted her, who had remained
silent, now entered the conversation.

“Have you been receiving some bad news, Miss Mitford?” he asked
sympathetically.

“Oh, no.”

“Maybe some friend of yours has gone to the front, and——” interposed
the first officer.

“Well, supposing he had,” said Caroline, “would you call that bad news?”

“I don’t know as you would exactly like to——”

“Let me tell you,” said Caroline, “as you don’t seem to know, that all
my friends have gone to the front.”

There was an emphasis on the pronoun which should have warned the young
soldier what was about to occur, but he rushed blindly to his doom.

“I hope not all, Miss Mitford,” he replied.

“Yes, all,” rejoined Caroline, making the “all” very emphatic, “for if
they did not they wouldn’t be my friends.”

“But some of us are obliged to stay here to take care of you, you know,”
contributed the other young man.

“Well, there are altogether too many of you trying to take care of me,”
said Caroline saucily, with some return of her usual lightness, “and you
are all discharged.”

“Do you mean that, Miss Mitford?”

“I certainly do.”

“Well, I suppose if we are really discharged, we will have to go,”
returned the other.

“Yes,” said his companion regretfully, “but we are mighty sorry to see
you in such low spirits.”

“Would you like to put me in real good spirits, you two?” asked
Caroline, resolved to read these young dandies who were staying at home
a lesson.

“Wouldn’t we!” they both cried together. “There’s nothing we would like
better.”

“Well, I will tell you just what to do then,” returned the girl gravely
and with deep meaning.

Everybody in the room, with the exception of Lieutenant Foray, was now
listening intently.

“Start right out this very night,” said the girl, “and don’t stop till
you get to where my real friends are, lying in trenches and ditches and
earth-works between us and the Yankee guns.”

“But really, Miss Mitford,” began one, his face flushing at her severe
rebuke, “you don’t absolutely mean that.”

“So far as we are concerned,” said one of the messengers, including his
companions with a sweep of his hand, “we’d like nothing better, but they
won’t let us go, and——”

“I know they won’t,” said Caroline, “but so far as you two gentlemen are
concerned, I really mean it. Go and fight the Yankees a few days and lie
in ditches a few nights until those uniforms you’ve got on look as if
they might have been of some use to somebody. If you are so mighty
anxious to do something for me, that is what you can do. It is the only
thing I want, it is the only thing anybody wants.”

“Messenger here!” cried Lieutenant Foray as the two young officers,
humiliated beyond expression by the taunts of the impudent young maiden,
backed away and finally managed to make an ungraceful exit through the
open door, followed by the titters of the messengers, who took advantage
of the presence of the young girl to indulge in this grave breach of
discipline.

“Messenger!” cried Foray impatiently.

“Here, sir,” came the answer.

“Commissary General’s office!” was the injunction with which Foray
handed the man the telegram.

He looked up at the same time, and with a great start of surprise caught
sight of Caroline at the far end of the long room.

“Lieutenant Foray,” began the girl.

“I beg your pardon, Miss Mitford,” said the operator, scrambling to his
feet and making a frantic effort to get into his coat. “I heard some one
come in, but I was busy with an important message and didn’t appreciate
that——”

“No, never mind, don’t put on your coat,” said Caroline. “I came on
business, and——”

“You want to send a telegram?” asked the Lieutenant.

“Yes.”

“I am afraid we can’t do anything for you here, Miss Mitford, this is
the War Department Official Telegraph Office, you know.”

“Yes, I know,” said Caroline, “but it is the only way to send it where I
want it to go, and I——”

At that moment the clicking of a key called Lieutenant Foray away.

“Excuse me,” he said, stepping quickly to his table.

Miss Mitford, who had never before been in a telegraph office, was very
much mystified by the peremptory manner in which the officer had cut her
short, but she had nothing to do but wait. Presently the message was
transcribed, another messenger was called.

“Over to the Department, quick as you can go. They are waiting for it,”
said Foray. “Now, what was it you wanted me to do, Miss Mitford?”

“Just to—to send a telegram,” faltered Caroline.

“It’s private business, is it not?” said Foray.

“Yes, it is strictly private.”

“Then you will have to get an order from——”

“That is what I thought,” said Caroline, “so here it is.”

“Why didn’t you tell me before,” returned Foray, taking the paper.
“Oh,—Major Selwin——”

“Yes, he—he’s one of my friends.”

“It’s all right then,” interposed the Lieutenant, who was naturally very
businesslike and peremptory.

He pushed a chair to the other side of the table, placed a small sheet
of paper on the table in front of her, and shoved the pen and ink
conveniently to hand.

“You can write there, Miss Mitford,” he said.

“Thank you,” said Caroline, looking rather ruefully at the tiny piece of
paper which had been provided for her.

Paper was a scarce article then, and every scrap was precious. She
decided that such a piece was not sufficient for her purposes, and when
Lieutenant Foray’s back was turned she took a larger piece of paper of
sufficient capacity to contain her important message, to the composition
of which she proceeded with much difficulty and many pauses and sighs.



                               CHAPTER XI

                    MR. ARRELSFORD AGAIN INTERPOSES


Nobody had any time to devote to Miss Mitford just then, for a perfect
rain of messages came and went as she slowly composed her own despatch.
Messengers constantly came in while others went out. The lines were
evidently busy that night. Finally there came a pause in the despatches
coming and going, and Foray remembering her, looked over toward the
other end of the table where she sat.

“Is that message of yours ready yet, Miss Mitford?” he asked.

“Yes,” said Caroline, rising and folding it. “Of course you have got to
take it.”

“Certainly,” returned the operator smiling. “If it’s to be sent, I have
to send it.”

“Well, here it is then,” said the girl, extending the folded paper which
Lieutenant Foray took and unceremoniously opened.

“Oh!” exclaimed Caroline, quickly snatching the paper from his hand, “I
didn’t tell you you could read it.”

Foray stared at her in amazement.

“What do you want me to do with it?”

“I want you to send it.”

“Well, how am I going to send it if I don’t read it?”

“Do you mean to say that——” began the girl, who had evidently
forgotten—if she had ever known—how telegrams were sent.

“I mean to say that I have got to spell out every word on the key.
Didn’t you know that?”

“Oh, I did, of course—I—but I had forgotten,” said Caroline, dismayed
by this unexpected development.

“Is there any harm in my reading the message that I have to send?”

“Why I wouldn’t have you see it for the world! My gracious!”

“Is it as bad as that, Miss Mitford?” he said laughing.

“Bad! It isn’t bad at all, but I wouldn’t have it get all over town for
anything.”

“It will never get out of this office, Miss Mitford,” returned Foray
composedly. “We are not allowed to mention anything that goes on in
here.”

“You wouldn’t mention it?”

“Certainly not. All sorts of private messages go through here, and——?”

“Do they?”

“Every day. Now if that telegram is important——?”

“Important, well I should think it was. It is the most important——”

“Then I reckon you had better trust it to me,” said Lieutenant Foray.

“Yes,” said Caroline, blushing a vivid crimson, “I reckon I had.”

She handed him the telegram. He opened it, glanced at it, bit his lips
to control his emotion, and then his hands reached for the key.

“Oh, stop!” cried Caroline.

Foray looked at her, his eyes full of amusement, his whole body shaking
with suppressed laughter, which she was too wrought up to perceive.

“Wait till—I—I don’t want to be here while you spell out every word—I
couldn’t stand that.”

Caroline had evidently forgotten that the spelling would be in the Morse
Code, and that it would be about as intelligible to her as Sanskrit. The
Lieutenant humoured her, and waited while Caroline turned toward the
door and summoned Martha to her. She did not leave the room, however,
for her way was barred by a young private in a grey uniform. The
newcomer looked hastily at her and the old negress, stopped by them, and
asked them very respectfully to wait a moment. He then approached Foray,
who was impatiently waiting until he could send the message. He saluted
him and handed him a written order, and then crossed to the other side
of the room. A glance put Foray in possession of the contents of this
order. He rose to his feet and approached Caroline still standing by the
door.

“Miss Mitford,” he said.

“Yes.”

“I don’t understand this, but here is an order that has just come from
the Secret Service Department directing me to hold up any despatch you
may try to send.”

“Hold back my telegram?”

“Yes, Miss Mitford,” and Foray looked very embarrassed as he stared
again at the order and then from the young girl to the orderly, “and
that isn’t the worst of it.”

“What else is there!” asked the girl, her eyes big with apprehension.

“Why, this man has orders to take back your message with him to the
Secret Service Office.”

“Take back my message!” cried Caroline.

“There must be some mistake,” answered Foray, “but that’s what the order
says.”

“To whom does it say to take it back?” asked the girl, growing more and
more indignant.

“To a Mr. Arrelsford.”

“Do you mean to tell me that that order is for that man to take my
despatch back to Mr. Arrelsford?”

“Yes, Miss Mitford,” returned Lieutenant Foray.

“And does it say anything in there about what I am going to do in the
meantime?” asked the girl indignantly.

“Nothing.”

“Well, that is too bad,” returned Caroline ominously.

“I am sorry this has occurred, Miss Mitford,” said the Lieutenant
earnestly, “but the orders are signed by the head of the Secret Service
Department, and you will see that I have no choice——”

“Don’t worry about it, Lieutenant Foray,” said Caroline calmly, “there
is no need of your feeling sorry, because it hasn’t occurred, beside
that, it is not going to occur. When it does, you can go around being
sorry all you like. Have you the faintest idea that I am going to let
him take my telegram away with him and show it to the man? Do you
suppose——”

She was too indignant to finish her sentence and old Martha valiantly
entered the fray.

“No, suh,” she cried, in her deepest and most indignant voice. “You all
ain’t gwine to do it, you kin be right suah you ain’t.”

“But what can I do?” persisted Foray, greatly distressed.

“You can hand it back to me, that’s what you can do.”

“Yes, suh, dat’s de vehy best thing you kin do,” said old Martha
stoutly, “an’ de soonah you do it de quickah it’ll be done—Ah kin tel
you dat right now, suh.”

“But this man has come here with orders for me to——” began Foray,
endeavouring to explain.

He realised that there was some mistake somewhere. The girl’s message
had nothing whatever to do with military matters, and he quite
understood that she would not want this communication read by every Tom,
Dick, or Harry in the Secret Service Department. Beside all this, as she
stood before him, her face flushed with emotion, she was a sufficiently
pretty, a sufficiently pleading figure to make him most anxious and most
willing to help her. In addition, the portly figure of old Martha, whose
cheeks doubtless would have been flushed with the same feeling had they
not been so black, were more than disconcerting.

“This man,” said Caroline, shaking her finger at helpless Private
Eddinger, who also found his position most unpleasant, “can go straight
back where he came from and report to Mr. Arrelsford that he could not
carry out his orders. That’s what he can do.”

Martha, now thoroughly aroused to a sense of the role she was to play,
turned and confronted the abashed private.

“Jes’ let him try to tek it. Let him tek it if he wants it so pow’ful
bad! Jes let de othah one dere gib it to him—an’ den see him try an’
git out thu dis yeah do’ wid it! Ah wants to see him go by,” she said.
“Ah’m jes waitin’ fur de sight ob him gittin’ pas’ dis do’. Dat’s what
Ah’s waitin’ fo’. Ah’d lak to know what dey s’pose it was Ah comed
around yeah fo’ anyway—dese men wid dese ordahs afussin’ an’——”

“Miss Mitford,” said Foray earnestly, “if I were to give this despatch
back to you it would get me in a heap of trouble.”

“What kind of trouble?” asked Caroline dubiously.

“I might be put in prison, I might be shot.”

“Do you mean that they would——”

“Sure to do one thing or another.”

“Just for giving it back to me when it is my message?”

“Just for that.”

“Then you will have to keep it, I suppose,” said Caroline faltering.

“Thank you, Miss Mitford.”

“Very well,” said Caroline, “it is understood. You don’t give it back to
me, and you can’t give it back to him, so nobody’s disobeying any orders
at all. And that’s the way it stands. I reckon I can stay as long as he
can.” She stepped to a nearby chair and sat down. “I haven’t very much
to do and probably he has.”

“But, Miss Mitford——” began Foray.

“There isn’t any good talking any longer. If you have got any
telegraphing to do, you had better do it. I won’t disturb you. But don’t
you give it to him.”

Foray stared at her helplessly. What might have resulted, it is
impossible to say, for there entered at that opportune moment, Mr.
Arrelsford himself, relieving Mr. Foray of the further conduct of the
intricate case. His glance took in all the occupants of the room. It was
to his own messenger that he first addressed himself.

“Eddinger!”

“Yes, Mr. Arrelsford.”

“Didn’t you get here in time!”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then why——”

“I beg your pardon,” said Foray, “are you Mr. Arrelsford of the Secret
Service Department?”

“Yes. Are you holding back a despatch?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Why didn’t Eddinger bring it to me?”

“Well, you see——” began Foray, hesitating, “Miss Mitford——”

Arrelsford instantly comprehended.

“Eddinger,” he said.

“Yes, sir.”

“Report back to Corporal Matson and tell him to send a surgeon to the
prisoner who was wounded at General Varney’s house, if he isn’t dead by
this time. Now let me see that despatch,” he continued, as the orderly
saluted and ran rapidly from the room.

But again Miss Mitford interposed. She stepped quickly between
Arrelsford and Foray, both of whom fell back from her.

“I expect,” she said impudently, “that you think you are going to get my
telegram and read it?”

“I certainly intend to do so,” was the curt answer.

“Well, there’s a great disappointment looming up in front of you,”
returned Caroline defiantly.

“So!” said Arrelsford, with growing suspicion. “You have been trying to
send out something that you don’t want us to see.”

“What if I have, sir.”

“Just this,” said Arrelsford determinedly. “You won’t send it out and I
will see it. This is a case——”

“This is a case where nobody is going to read my private writing,”
persisted Caroline.

The young girl confronted him with blazing eyes and a mien like a small
fury. Arrelsford looked at her with ill-concealed yet somewhat vexatious
amusement.

“Lieutenant Foray, you have an order to give me that despatch. Bring it
to me at once,” he said.

Although it was quite evident that Foray greatly disliked the rôle he
was compelled to play, his orders were plain, he had no option. He
stepped slowly toward the Secret Service-Agent, only to be confronted by
old Martha, who again interrupted.

“Dat Leftenant kin stay jes whah he is,” said the old negress defiantly.

A struggle with her would have been an unseemly spectacle indeed,
thought both men.

“Is that Miss Mitford’s despatch you have in your hand?” asked
Arrelsford.

“Yes, sir.”

“Since you can’t hand it to me, read it.”

Caroline turned to him with a gasp of horror. Martha gave way, and Foray
stood surprised.

“Read it out! Don’t you hear me?” repeated Arrelsford peremptorily.

“Don’t dare to do such a thing,” cried Caroline, “you have no right to
read a private telegram.”

“No, suh! He ain’t got no business to read her lettahs, none
whatsomebah!” urged Martha.

“Silence!” roared Arrelsford, his patience at an end. “If either of you
interfere any further with the business of this office, I will have you
both put under arrest. Read that despatch instantly, Lieutenant Foray.”

The game was up so far as the women were concerned. Caroline’s head sank
on Martha’s shoulder and she sobbed passionately, while Lieutenant Foray
read the following astonishing and incriminating message.

“‘_Forgive me, Wilfred darling, please forgive me and I will help you
all I can._’”

It was harmless, as harmless as it was foolish, that message, but it
evidently impressed Mr. Arrelsford as containing some deep, some hidden,
some sinister meaning.

“That despatch can’t go,” he said shortly.

“That despatch can go,” said Caroline, stopping her sobbing as suddenly
as she had begun. “And that despatch will go. I know some one whose
orders even you are bound to respect, and some one who will come here
with me and see that you do it.”

“It may be,” answered Arrelsford composedly. “I have a good and
sufficient reason——”

“Then you will have to show him, I can tell you that, Mr. Arrelsford.”

“I shall be glad to give my reason to my superiors, Miss Mitford, not to
you.”

“Then you will have to go around giving them to everybody in Richmond,
Mr. Arrelsford,” said the girl, as she swept petulantly through the
door, followed by old Martha, both of whom were very much disturbed by
what had occurred.



                              CHAPTER XII

              THORNE TAKES CHARGE OF THE TELEGRAPH OFFICE


Arrelsford stared after the departing figures with a mixture of
amusement, contempt, and annoyance in his glance. So soon as the door
had closed behind them he turned to Lieutenant Foray, who was regarding
him with ill-concealed aversion.

“Let me have that despatch,” he began in his usual peremptory manner.

“You said you had an order, sir,” returned Foray stubbornly.

“Yes, yes,” replied the Secret Service Agent impatiently, throwing an
order on the table, “there it is, don’t waste time.”

But Lieutenant Foray was not satisfied, principally because he did not
wish to be. He scrutinised the order carefully, and with great distaste
at its contents. It was quite evident that if he could have found a
possible pretext for refusing obedience, he would gladly have done so.
His sympathies were entirely with Miss Mitford.

“I suppose you are Mr. Benton Arrelsford, all right?” he began
deliberately, fingering the paper.

“Certainly I am,” returned Arrelsford haughtily.

“We have to be very careful nowadays,” continued Foray shortly. “But I
reckon it’s all right. Here’s the telegram.”

“Did the girl seem nervous or excited when she handed this in?” asked
the other, taking the message.

“Do you mean Miss Mitford?” asked Foray reprovingly.

“Certainly, who else?”

“Yes, she did.”

“She was anxious not to have it seen by anybody?”

“Anxious, I should say so. She didn’t even want me to see it.”

“Umph!” said Arrelsford. “I don’t mind telling you, Mr. Foray, that we
are on the track of a serious affair and I believe she’s mixed up in
it.”

“But that despatch is to young Varney, a mere boy, the General’s son,”
urged the Lieutenant.

“I didn’t know he had gone to the front. So much the worse. It’s one of
the ugliest affairs we have ever had. I had them put me on it, and I
have got it pretty close. We have had some checks but we will end it
right here in this office inside of thirty minutes.”

There was a slight tap on the door at this juncture. Arrelsford turned
to the door, opened it, and found himself face to face with a soldier,
who saluted and stood at attention.

“Well, what is it?”

“The lady’s here, sir,” said the soldier.

“Where is she?” asked Arrelsford.

“Waiting down below at the front entrance.”

“Did she come alone?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Show her up here at once. I suppose you have a revolver here,”
continued the Secret Service Man, turning to Lieutenant Foray, who had
listened with much interest.

“Certainly,” answered Foray, “we are always armed in the telegraph
office.”

From a drawer in the table he drew forth a revolver which he laid on the
top of the table.

“Good,” said Arrelsford, “while I want to handle this thing myself, I
may call you. Be ready, that’s all.”

“Very well.”

“Obey any orders you may get, and send out all despatches unless I stop
you.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And if you don’t mind, I don’t care to have all these messenger boys
coming back here. I will order them to stop in the hall. If you have any
messages for them, you can take them out there. I don’t want to have too
many people in the room.”

“Very good, sir. Will you give the order to your orderly when he brings
up the young lady?”

“Yes.”

Arrelsford stepped to the door, and Foray busied himself with the
clicking instruments. After a few minutes’ conversation with the
orderly, who had just returned, Arrelsford ushered Edith Varney into the
room. With not even a glance at the operator in her intense
preoccupation, the girl spoke directly to Arrelsford.

“I—I’ve accepted your invitation, you see.”

“I am greatly obliged to you, Miss Varney,” returned Arrelsford with
deferential courtesy. “As a matter of justice to me, it was——”

“I didn’t come to oblige you,” answered Edith, haughtily.

She had never liked Mr. Arrelsford. His addresses had been most
unpleasant and unwelcome to her, and now she not only hated him but she
loathed him.

“I came here,” she continued, as Arrelsford attempted to speak, “to see
that no more——” her voice broke for a moment, “murders are committed
here—to satisfy your singular curiosity.”

“Murders!” exclaimed Arrelsford, flushing deeply.

The girl nodded.

“The Union soldier who escaped from prison——” she began.

“Is the man dead?” interrupted Arrelsford.

“The man is dead.”

“It is a curious thing, Miss Varney,” continued the other with cutting
emphasis, “that one Yankee prisoner more or less should make so much
difference to you, isn’t it? They are dying down in Libby by the
hundreds.”

“At least they are not being killed in our houses, in our drawing-rooms,
before our very eyes!”

She confronted Arrelsford with a bitterly reproachful glance, before
which his eyes for a moment fell, and he was glad indeed to turn to
another orderly who had just entered the room.

“Have you kept track of him!” he asked in a low voice.

“He’s coming down the street to the Department now, sir.”

“Where has he been since he left Mrs. Varney’s house?”

“He went to his quarters on Gary Street. We got in the next room and
watched him through a transom.”

“What was he doing?”

“Working on some papers or documents.”

“Could you see them? Did you see what they were?”

“They looked like orders from the War Department, sir.”

“He is coming here with forged orders, I suppose.”

“I don’t doubt it, sir.”

“I surmise that his game is to get control of these wires and then send
out despatches to the front that will take away a battery or a brigade
from some vital point, the vital point indicated by ‘Plan 3.’ That’s
where they mean to attack to-night.”

“Looks like it, sir,” agreed the orderly respectfully.

“‘Plan 3,’ that’s where they will hit us,” mused the Secret Service
Agent. “Is there a guard in the building?”

“Not inside, sir,” answered the orderly, “there’s a guard in front and
sentries around the barracks over in the square.”

“If I shouted, they could hear from this window, couldn’t they?” asked
Arrelsford.

“The guard in front could hear you, sir. But the time is getting short.
He must be nearly here, you’d better look out, sir.”

Edith Varney had heard enough of the conversation to understand that
Thorne was coming. Of course it would never do for him to see her there.

“Where am I to go?” she asked.

“Outside here on the balcony,” said Arrelsford. “There is no closet in
the room and it is the only place. I will be with you in a moment.”

“But if he should come to the window?”

“We will step in at the other window. Stay, orderly, see if the window
of the Commissary General’s Office, the next room to the left, is open.”

They waited while the orderly went out on the balcony and made his
inspection.

“The window of the next room is open, sir,” he reported.

“That’s all I want of you. Report back to Corporal Matson. Tell him to
get the body of the prisoner out of the Varney house. He knows where
it’s to go.”

“Very well, sir.”

“Mr. Foray,” continued Arrelsford, “whoever comes here you are to keep
on with your work and don’t give the slightest sign of my presence to
any one on any account. You understand?”

“Yes, sir,” said Foray from the telegraph table in the centre of the
room.

He had caught something of the conversation, but he was too good a
soldier to ask any questions, beside his business was with the
telegraph, not with Mr. Arrelsford.

“Now, Miss Varney,” said the Secret Service Agent, “this way, please.”

He opened the middle window. The girl stepped through, and he was about
to follow when he caught sight of a messenger entering the room. Leaving
the window, he retraced his steps.

“Where did you come from?” he said abruptly to the young man.

“War Department, sir.”

“Carrying despatches’?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You know me, don’t you?”

“I’ve seen you at the office, sir, and——”

“I’m here on Department business,” said Arrelsford. “All you have to do
is to keep quiet about it. Weren’t you stopped in the hall?”

“Yes, sir, but I had a despatch from the President that had to be
delivered to Lieutenant Foray.”

“Well, it is just as well,” said Arrelsford. “Don’t mention having seen
me to anybody under any pretext and stay here. You might be needed. On
second thoughts, Foray, let any messenger come in.”

With that Mr. Arrelsford stepped out onto the balcony through the window
which he closed after him, and he and Edith disappeared from view.

“Messenger,” said Foray, “step down the hall and tell the private there
that by Mr. Arrelsford’s orders, messengers are allowed to come up as
they report.”

The room which had been the scene of these various colloquies became
silent save for the continuous clicking of the telegraph keys. Presently
two messengers came back and took their positions as before.

Hard on their heels entered Captain Thorne. He was in uniform, of
course, and a paper was tucked in his belt. He walked rapidly down the
room, acknowledged the salutes of the messengers, and stopped before the
table. His quick scrutiny of the room as he advanced had shown him that
there was no one present except the messengers and Lieutenant Foray.
Foray glanced up, nodded, finished taking the despatch which was on the
wires at the time, wrote it out, put it in its envelope, and then rose
to his feet and saluted.

“Captain Thorne,” he said.

“Lieutenant Foray,” replied Thorne, taking the order from his belt and
handing it to the operator.

“Order from the Department?” asked Foray.

“I believe so,” answered Thorne briefly.

Lieutenant Foray opened it and read it.

“They want me to take a cipher despatch over to the President’s house,”
he said as he finished.

“Yes,” said Thorne, moving to the vacant place at the table. He pulled
the chair back a little, tossed his hat on the other table, and
otherwise made himself at home.

“I am ordered to stay here until you get back,” he began casually,
shoving the paper aside and stretching his hand toward the key.

“That’s an odd thing, Captain,” began Lieutenant Foray dubiously. “I
understood that the President was meeting with the Cabinet. In fact,
Lieutenant Allison went over there to take some code work a moment ago.
He must have gone home, I reckon.”

“Looks like it,” said Thorne quietly. “If he is not at home you had
better wait.”

“Yes,” said Foray, moving away, “I suppose I had better wait for him.
You will have to look out for Allison’s wire though on the other table.
He was called over to the Department.”

“Oh, Allison!” said Thorne carelessly. “Be gone long, do you think?” he
continued as he seated himself at the table and began to arrange the
papers.

“Well, you know how it is. They generally whip around quite a while
before they make up their minds what they want to do. I don’t suppose
they will trouble you much. It’s as quiet as a church down the river.
Good-night.”

“See here, Mr. Foray, wait a moment. You had better not walk out and
leave—no matter,” continued Thorne, as the operator stopped and turned
back. “It’s none of my business, still if you want some good advice,
that is a dangerous thing to do.”

“What is it, Captain?” asked Foray, somewhat surprised.

“Leave a cigar lying around an office like that. Somebody might walk in
any minute and take it away. I can’t watch your cigars all day.”

He picked up the cigar, and before Foray could prevent it, lighted it
and began to smoke. Foray laughed.

“Help yourself, Captain, and if there is any trouble you will find a
revolver on the table.”

“I see,” said Thorne, “but what makes you think there is going to be
trouble?”

“Oh, well there might be.”

“Been having a bad dream?” asked the Captain nonchalantly.

“No, but you never can tell. All sorts of things are liable to happen in
an office like this, and——.”

“That’s right,” said Thorne, puffing away at his cigar, “you never can
tell. But see here. If you never can tell when you are going to have
trouble you had better take that gun along with you. I have one of my
own.”

“Well,” said the operator, “if you have one of your own, I might as
well.”

He took the revolver up and tucked it in his belt. “Look out for
yourself, Captain. Good-bye. I will be back as soon as the President
gives me that despatch. That despatch I have just finished is for the
Commissary General’s Office, but it can wait until the morning.”

“All right,” said Thorne, and the next moment the operator turned away
while the clicking of the key called Thorne to the table. It took him
but a few minutes to write the brief message which he addressed and
turned to the first messenger, “Quartermaster General.”

“He wasn’t in his office a short time ago, sir,” said the messenger.

“Very well, find him. He has probably gone home and he has to have this
message.”

“Very good, sir.”

The key kept up its clicking. In a short time another message was
written off.

“Ready here,” cried Thorne, looking at the other messenger. “This is for
the Secretary of the Treasury, marked private. Take it to his home.”

“He was down at the Cabinet meeting a little while ago, sir,” said the
second messenger.

“No difference, take it to his house and wait until he comes.”

The instant the departing messenger left him alone in the room, Thorne
leaped to his feet and ran with cat-like swiftness to the door, opened
it, and quickly but carefully examined the corridor to make sure that no
one was there on duty. Then he closed the door and turned to the nearest
window, which he opened also, and looked out on the balcony, which he
saw was empty. He closed the window and came back to the table,
unbuckling his belt and coat as he came. These he threw on the table.
The coat fell back, and he glanced in the breast pocket to see that a
certain document was in sight and at hand, where he could get it
quickly. Then he took his revolver, which he had previously slipped from
his belt to his hip pocket, and laid it down beside the instrument.

After a final glance around him to see that he was still alone and
unobserved, he seized the key on which he sounded a certain call. An
expert telegrapher would have recognised it, a dash, four dots in rapid
succession, then two dots together, and then two more (—.... .. ..). He
waited a few moments, and when no answer came he signalled the call a
second time, and after another longer wait he sent it a third time.

After this effort he made a longer pause, and just as he had about
reached the end of his patience—he was in a fever of anxiety, for upon
what happened in the next moment the failure or the success of the whole
plan absolutely turned—the silent key clicked out an answer, repeating
the same signal which he himself had made. The next moment he made a
leap upon the key, but before he could send a single letter steps were
heard outside in the corridor.

Thorne released the key, leaned back in his chair, seized a match from
the little holder on the table and struck it, and when another messenger
entered he seemed to be lazily lighting his cigar. He cursed in his
heart at the inopportune arrival. Another uninterrupted moment and he
would have sent the order, but as usual he gave no outward evidence of
his extreme annoyance. The messenger came rapidly down toward the table
and handed Captain Thorne a message.

“From the Secretary of War, Captain Thorne,” he said saluting, “and he
wants it to go out right away.”

“Here, here,” said Thorne, as the messenger turned away, “what’s all
this?” He ran his fingers through the envelope, tore it open, and spread
out the despatch. “Is that the Secretary’s signature?” he asked.

The messenger came back.

“Yes, sir; I saw him sign it myself. I’m his personal messenger.”

“Oh!” said Thorne, spreading the despatch out on the table and O.K.’ing
it, “you saw him sign it yourself, did you?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Very well. We have to be pretty careful to-night,” he explained, “there
is something on. You are sure of this, are you?”

“I could swear to that signature anywhere, sir,” said the messenger.

“Very well,” said Thorne, “you may go.”



                              CHAPTER XIII

                         THE TABLES ARE TURNED


As soon as the door was closed behind the messenger Thorne laid his
cigar down on the table. Then he picked up the despatch from the
Secretary of War which the messenger had just brought in, and folded it
very dexterously. Then with a pair of scissors which he found in a
drawer he cut off the lower part of the Secretary’s despatch containing
his signature. He put this between his teeth and tore the rest into
pieces. He started to throw the pieces into the waste basket but after a
moment’s reflection he stuffed them into his trouser pocket. Then he
picked up his coat from the back of the chair and took from the inside
breast pocket another document written on the same paper as that which
had just come from the Secretary of War. Spreading this out on the table
he cut off the signature and quickly pasted to it the piece of the real
order bearing the real signature. He carefully wiped this pasted
despatch with his handkerchief, making an exceedingly neat job of it.

As he did so, he smiled slightly. Fortune, which had dealt him so many
rebuffs had evened up matters a little by giving him this opportunity.
He had now in his possession a despatch bearing the genuine signature of
the Secretary of War. Even if he were interrupted the chances were he
would still be able to send it. So soon as he had doctored the despatch,
he sat down at the instrument and once more essayed to send the message.

Now during all this rapid bit of manipulation Thorne had been under
close observation, for Arrelsford and Edith Varney had come from the
Commissary General’s Office, where they had concealed themselves while
Thorne examined the porch, and had stepped back to the nearest window
and were intently watching. Fortunately, his back partially concealed
his actions and the watchers could not tell exactly what he had done,
although it was quite evident that he was in some way altering some kind
of a despatch.

Just as Thorne began to send the message, Arrelsford accidentally struck
the window with his elbow, making a slight sound. The instant he did so,
he and the girl vanished from sight. Once again Thorne released the key,
and his hand moved quietly but rapidly from the instrument to the
revolver. The instant it was in his hand he sprang to his feet, whirled
about, leaped to the gas bracket and turned off the light. The room was
left in darkness, save for the faint illumination of the moonlight
through the windows.

Immediately he turned off the light he ran to the doors leading into the
hall. They were provided with heavy old-fashioned bolts which he shot
swiftly, locking them on the inside. Then with the utmost caution he
edged around the wall until he came to the first window. He waited with
his left hand on the catch of the window, and with his right advanced
his revolver. After a moment’s pause he threw it open quickly and
stepped out on the balcony. It was empty as before.

He must have made a mistake, he thought, since no one was there, and he
blamed the whole incident to his over-agitated nerves. Indeed what he
had gone through in the preceding two hours would have shaken any man’s
nerves, might have broken most men’s. He was annoyed at having wasted
precious time, and turned to the table again, stopping on his way to
relight the light.

Once more he seized the key. He could telegraph equally well with either
hand. He did not lay down his revolver on the table this time, but kept
it in his right hand while the fingers of his left hand touched the
button. He had scarcely made a dot or a dash when there was a sudden
flash of light and the sound of an explosion, that of a heavy revolver,
mingled with the crash of shattered glass. Captain Thorne’s fingers fell
from the key and a jet of blood spurted out upon the table and the
papers.

He rose to his feet with incredible swiftness, his revolver in his right
hand, only to be confronted by Arrelsford at the front window. The
latter held in his hand, pointed fairly and squarely at Thorne, the
heavy service revolver with which he had just shot him in the left
wrist. Thorne made a swift motion with his right hand but Arrelsford was
too quick for him.

“Drop that gun!” he shouted. “Drop it quick, or you are a dead man!”

There was no possibility of disobedience. Thorne straightened up and
laid his revolver on the table. The two confronted each other, and if
looks could have killed they had both been dead men. The soldier
shrugged his shoulders at last, took his handkerchief out of his pocket,
put one end of it between his teeth, and with the other hand wrapped it
tightly around his wounded wrist.

The civilian meantime advanced toward him, keeping him covered all the
time with his revolver.

“Do you know why I didn’t kill you like the dog you are, just now?” he
asked truculently, as he drew nearer.

“Because you are such a damned bad shot, I suppose,” coolly answered
Thorne between his teeth, still tying the bandage, after which he calmly
picked up his cigar and began smoking again with the utmost
indifference.

Whatever fate had in store for him could better be met, he thought
swiftly at this juncture, provided he kept his temper, and so he spoke
as nonchalantly as before. Indeed his manner had always been most
irritating and exacerbating to Arrelsford.

“Maybe you will change your mind about that later on,” the latter
rejoined.

“Well, I hope so,” said Thorne, completing his bandage and tying the
knot so as to leave the fingers of his left hand free. “You see, it
isn’t pleasant to be riddled up this way.”

“Next time you’ll be riddled somewhere else beside the wrist. There’s
only one reason why you are not lying there now with a bullet through
your head.”

“Only one?” queried Thorne.

“Only one.”

“Do I hear it?”

“You do. I gave my word of honour to some one outside that I wouldn’t
kill you, and——”

“Oh, then this isn’t a little tête-à-tête just between ourselves. You
have some one with you?” asked Thorne, interested greatly in this new
development, wondering who the some one was who had interfered in his
behalf. Perhaps that evident friendship might be turned to account later
on. For a moment not an idea of who was there entered Thorne’s mind.

“Yes, I have some one with me, Captain Thorne, who takes quite an
interest in what you are doing to-night,” returned Arrelsford
sneeringly.

“That is very kind, I am sure. Is the—er—gentleman going to stay out
there all alone on the balcony or shall I have the pleasure of inviting
him in here and having a charming little three-handed——”

The third party answered the question, for Edith Varney came through the
window with the shattered pane through which Arrelsford had fired and
entered. Thorne was shocked beyond measure by her arrival, not the
slightest suspicion that she could have been there had crossed his mind.
So she had been an eye witness to his treachery. He had faced
Arrelsford’s pistol with the utmost composure, there was something in
Edith Varney’s look that cut him to the heart, yet she did not look at
him either. On the contrary, she carefully avoided his glance. Instead
she turned to Arrelsford.

“I think I will go, Mr. Arrelsford,” she said in a low, choked voice.

“Not yet, Miss Varney,” he said peremptorily.

The girl gave him no heed. She turned and walked blindly toward the
door.

“I don’t wish, to stay here any longer,” she faltered.

“One moment, please,” said Arrelsford, as she stopped, “we need you.”

“For what?”

“As a witness.”

“You can send for me if you need me, I will be at home.”

“I am sorry,” said Arrelsford, again interposing, “I will have to detain
you until I turn him over to the guard. It won’t take long.”

The middle window was open and he stepped to it, still keeping an eye on
Thorne, and shouted at the top of his voice:

“Call the guard! Corporal of the Guard! Send up the guard to the
telegraph office!”

The note of triumph in his voice was unmistakable. From the street the
three inside heard a faint cry:

“What’s the matter? Who calls the guard?”

“Up here in the telegraph office,” said Arrelsford, “send them up
quick.”

The answer was evident sufficient, for they could hear the orders and
the tumult in the square below.

“Corporal of the Guard, Post Four! Fall in the guard! Fall in! Lively,
men!” and so on.

The game appeared to be up this time. Mr. Arrelsford held all the
winning cards, thought Thorne, and he was playing them skilfully. He
ground his teeth at the thought that another moment and the order would
have been sent probably beyond recall. Fate had played him a scurvy
trick, it had thwarted him at the last move, and Arrelsford had so
contrived that his treachery had been before the woman he loved. Under
other circumstances the wound in his wrist would have given him
exquisite pain, as it was he scarcely realised at the time that he had
been hurt.

Arrelsford still stood by the window, glancing out on the square but
keeping Thorne under close observation. The evil look in his eyes and
the malicious sneer on his lips well seconded the expression of triumph
in his face. He had the man he hated where he wanted him. It was a
splendid piece of work that he had performed, and in the performance he
sated his private vengeance and carried out his public duty.

On his part, Thorne was absolutely helpless. There was that in the
bearing of the woman he loved that prevented him from approaching her.
He shot a mute look of appeal to her which she received with marble
face, apparently absolutely indifferent to his presence, yet she was
suffering scarcely less than he. In her anguish she turned desperately
to Arrelsford.

“I am not going to stay,” she said decisively, “I don’t wish to be a
witness.”

“Whatever your feelings may be, Miss Varney,” persisted Arrelsford, “I
can’t permit you to refuse.”

“If you won’t take me downstairs, I will find the way myself,” returned
the girl as if she had not heard.

She turned resolutely toward the door. Before she reached it the heavy
tramping of the guard was heard.

“Too late,” said Arrelsford triumphantly, “you can’t go now, the guard
is here.”

Edith could hear the approaching soldiers as well as anybody. The way
was barred, she realised instantly. Well, if she could not escape, at
least she could get out of sight. She turned and opened the nearest
window and stepped out. Arrelsford knew that she could not go far, and
that he could produce her whenever he wanted her. He made no objection
to her departure that way, therefore. Instead he looked at Thorne.

“I have you just where I want you at last,” he said mockingly, as the
trampling feet came nearer. “You thought you were mighty smart, but you
will find that I can match your trick every time.”

Outside in the hall the men came to a sudden halt before the door. One
of them knocked loudly upon it.

“What’s the matter here?” cried the Sergeant of the Guard without.

The handle was tried and the door was shoved violently, but the brass
bolt held.

“Let us in!” he cried angrily.

Quick as a flash of lightning an idea came to Thorne.

“Sergeant!” he shouted in a powerful voice. “Sergeant of the Guard!”

“Sir!”

“Break down the door! Break it down with your musket butts!”

As the butts of the muskets pounded against the heavy mahogany panels,
Arrelsford cried out in great surprise:

“What did you say?”

In his astonishment, he did not notice a swift movement Thorne made
toward the door.

“You want them in, don’t you?” the soldier said, as he approached the
door. “It is locked and——”

But Arrelsford recovered himself a little and again presented his
revolver.

“Stand where you are,” he cried, but Thorne by this time had reached the
door.

“Smash it down, Sergeant!” he cried. “What are you waiting for! Batter
it down!”

The next moment the door gave way with a crash, and into the room poured
the guard. The grizzled old Sergeant had scarcely stepped inside the
room when Thorne shouted in tones of the fiercest authority, pointing at
Arrelsford:

“Arrest that man!”

Before the dazed Secret Service Agent could say a word or press the
trigger the soldiers were upon him.

“He got in here with a revolver,” continued Thorne more quietly, “and is
playing hell with it. Hold him fast!”



                              CHAPTER XIV

                          THE CALL OF THE KEY


This astonishing dénouement fairly paralysed Arrelsford. With a daring
and ability for which he had not given Thorne credit, and which was
totally unexpected, although what he had learned of his previous career
might have given him some warning, the tables had been turned upon him
by a man whom he confidently fancied he had entrapped beyond possibility
of escape!

His amazement held him speechless for a moment, but his natural
resourcefulness came back to him with his returning presence of mind. He
knew the futility of an attempt to struggle with his captors, he
therefore decided to try to reason with them.

“Sergeant,” he began, quietly enough, “my orders are——”

But Thorne would not let him continue. Having gained the advantage he
was determined to keep it to the end and for that purpose he followed up
his first blow, ruthlessly pressing his charge hard.

“Damn your orders!” he interrupted furiously. “You haven’t got orders to
shoot up everybody you see in this office, have you?”

This was too much for Arrelsford, and he made a desperate plunge forward
to get at Thorne, who shook his wounded wrist in the Secret Service
Agent’s face. The soldiers held him tightly, however, and Thorne
continued hotly:

“Get his gun away, Sergeant; he’ll hurt somebody.”

While the soldiers—who appeared to entertain no doubt and to have no
hesitancy whatever about obeying Thorne’s orders, the latter evidently
the military man of the two and his voice and bearing, to say nothing of
his uniform, telling heavily against a civilian like Arrelsford—were
taking the revolver out of his hands, Thorne once more turned to the
telegraph table. His blood was up and he would send the despatch now
before the whole assemblage, before the Confederate Government or its
Army, if necessary.

Arrelsford burst out in a last vain attempt to stop him:

“Listen to me, Sergeant,” he pleaded desperately, “he is going to send
out a false telegram and——”

“That’ll do,” gruffly said the Sergeant of the Guard, shaking his fist
in Arrelsford’s face, “what is it all about, Captain!”

“All about? I haven’t the slightest idea. He says he comes from some
office or other. I was sending off some important official despatches
here and he began by letting off his gun at me. Crazy lunatic, I think.”

“It’s a lie!” said Arrelsford furiously. “Let me speak—I
will—prove——”

“Here!” said the Sergeant of the Guard, “that’ll do now. What shall I do
with him, Captain?”

“I don’t care a damn what you do with him. Get him out of here, that’s
all I want.”

“Very well, sir. Are you much hurt?”

“Oh, no. He did up one hand, but I can get along with the other all
right,” said Thorne, sitting down at the table and seizing the key.

“Stop him!” cried Arrelsford, fully divining that Thorne intended to
send the message. “He’s sending a—wait!” A thought came to him. “Ask
Miss Varney, she saw him,—ask Miss Varney.”

But the old Sergeant of the Guard paid no attention whatever to his
frantic appeals.

“Here, fall in there!” he said. “We’ll get him out, Captain. Have you
got him, men? Forward then!”

Struggling furiously the squad of soldiers forced Arrelsford to the
door. Thorne paid absolutely no attention to them; he had forgotten
their presence. Like his attention, his mind and heart were on the key
again. But he was fated to meet with still another interruption.

“Halt there!” cried a sharp voice from the hall, just as the group
reached the door.

“Halt! Left Face!” cried the Sergeant in turn, recognising that here was
a superior whom it were well to obey without question or hesitation.

“Here is General Randolph,” said the voice outside, giving the name of
one of the high officers of the Richmond Garrison.

“Present arms!” cried the Sergeant of the Guard as General Randolph
appeared in the doorway.

Following him were some officers of his staff and by his side was the
imposing figure of Miss Caroline Mitford. The humiliation and
indignation had vanished from her bearing which was one of unmitigated
triumph. She threw a glance at Arrelsford which bode ill for that young
man. The General entered the room and stopped before the Secret Service
Agent, who stood in front of the guard, although he had been released by
the men.

“What’s all this about?” he asked peremptorily.

Although he knew that something important was transpiring, and that the
newcomer was a man of rank, Thorne never turned his head. At whatever
cost, he realised he must get the telegram off, and from the look of
things it appeared that his only chance was then and there. He did not
care if the President of the Confederate States of America were there in
person, his mind and soul were on the order. He was frantically calling
the station he wanted, the one indicated by “Plan 3,” and he had the
doctored despatch, to which he had pasted the Secretary’s signature
spread out on the table before him.

“What’s all this about refusing to send out Miss Mitford’s telegram!”
began General Randolph peremptorily. “Some of your work, I understand,
Mr. Arrelsford.”

“General!” cried Arrelsford breathlessly. “They have arrested me. It is
a conspiracy——” He turned toward Thorne. “Stop that man, for God’s
sake stop him before it’s too late!”

At this juncture, Caroline Mitford turned from the room and joined old
Martha in the hall, and disappeared. She had only come back with the
General to punish Arrelsford, but she did not care to have her precious
despatch made the subject of discussion before so many people.

“Stop him!” exclaimed the General. “What do you mean?”

It was evident that the despatch was not to go out then. Thorne had not
succeeded in getting an answer to his signal. He left the key, rose, and
saluted.

“He means me, sir,” he said. “He’s got an idea some despatch I’m sending
out is a trick of the Yankees.”

“It is a conspiracy!” cried Arrelsford. “He is an impostor——”

“Why, the man must have gone crazy, General,” said Thorne coolly,
holding his position by the table and listening with all his ears for
the return signal.

“I came here on a case for——” expostulated Arrelsford.

“Wait!” said General Randolph. “I will soon get at the bottom of this.
What was he doing when you came in, Sergeant?” he asked of the
non-commissioned officer in charge of the guard.

“He was firing on the Captain, sir,” answered the Sergeant saluting.

“He was sending out a false order to weaken our lines at Cemetery Hill,
and I—ah—Miss Varney, she was here. She saw it all,” explained
Arrelsford.

“Miss Varney!” exclaimed the General.

“Yes, sir.”

“The General’s daughter?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And what was she doing here?”

“She came to see for herself whether this man was guilty or not; whether
he was a spy or a traitor.”

“Is this some personal matter of yours, Mr. Arrelsford?” asked the
General suspiciously.

“He was a visitor at her house and I wanted her to know.”

“Where is she now? Where is Miss Varney?” asked Randolph impatiently.

“She must be out there on the balcony,” answered Arrelsford. “I beg you
to send for her, sir.”

“Sergeant,” said General Randolph, “step out on the balcony. Present my
compliments to Miss Varney, and ask her to come in at once.”

In a moment the Sergeant returned.

“There is no one there, sir,” he replied saluting.

At that instant Thorne got the long desired signal. Without a moment’s
hesitation, he turned to the key. He picked up the despatch with his
wounded left hand and with the other began to manipulate the sounder.

“She must be there,” said Arrelsford, “or else she’s stepped into the
next room, the Commissary General’s Office, the window was open, tell
him to—ah!” as the sound of the clicking caught his ear, “Stop him! He
is sending it now!”

Mr. Arrelsford’s distress was so overwhelming and so genuine that
something of the man’s suspicion was communicated to the General.

“One moment, Captain,” he said.

Captain Thorne, of course, had no option but to release the key. He
stopped sending and dropped the despatch, saluting.

“Now, Mr. Arrelsford,” said the General, “what have you to do with the
Military Telegraph Department?”

“This is a Secret Service case; they assigned it to me, sir.”

“What is a Secret Service case?”

“The whole plot to send the order. It’s the Yankee Secret Service. He is
a member of it and his brother brought in the signal to-night.”

“I beg your pardon, sir,” said Thorne, “this despatch ought to go out at
once, sir. It came from the Secretary of War and it is very urgent.”

“Go ahead with it,” said General Randolph.

Thorne needed no further permission than that, dropped to his seat, and
once more seized the fatal key.

“No, no!” cried Arrelsford. “Don’t let him—I tell you it’s a——”

“Silence, sir,” thundered Randolph.

“Do you know what he is telling them?” persisted Arrelsford.

“No, do you?”

“Yes,” returned the Secret Service Agent.

“Wait a moment, Captain Thorne,” said the General, impressed in spite of
himself by this man’s earnestness, which made him disregard all orders,
commands, and everything else. “Where is the despatch?”

Captain Thorne picked up the paper and handed it to the General, and
then stepped back. He had played his last card. He played it
desperately, boldly, and well.

“Well?” asked the General, looking from the despatch to the accuser,
“what has he been telling them?”

“He began to give an order to withdraw Marston’s Division from its
present position,” said Arrelsford, making a brilliant and successful
guess at the probable point of attack in “Plan 3.”

“That is perfectly correct,” said General Randolph, looking at the
paper.

“Yes, by that despatch, but that despatch is a forgery. It is an order
to withdraw a whole division from a vital point. A false order, he wrote
it himself. This is the turning point of the whole plot.”

“But why should he write it himself? If he wanted to send a false order,
he could send it without putting it down on paper, couldn’t he?”

“Yes,” admitted Arrelsford, but he went on with great acuteness, “if any
of the operators came back they would catch him doing it. With that
order and the Secretary’s signature he could go right on. He could even
order one of them to send it.”

“And pray how did he get the Secretary’s signature to a forged
telegram?” asked General Randolph.

“He tore it off a genuine despatch. Why, General, look at that despatch
in your hand yourself. The Secretary’s signature is pasted on, I saw him
do it.”

“They often come that way, sir,” said Thorne nonchalantly.

“He is a liar!” cried Arrelsford. “They never do!”

Thorne stepped forward impulsively, his face flushed at the word “liar,”
but he controlled himself.

“General,” he said, “if you have any doubt about that despatch, send it
back to the War Office and have it verified.”

It was a splendid, magnificent bluff. So overwhelming in its assurance
that even Arrelsford himself was petrified with astonishment. He was
morally certain that Thorne was a Federal Secret Service Agent and that
the despatch was a forgery, yet it would take but a few minutes to send
it over to the Secretary’s office and convict him out of his own mouth.
What could the man mean!

“That’s a good idea,” said General Randolph. He hesitated a moment and
then turned to the guard. “Sergeant,” he said, “take this despatch over
to the Secretary’s office and——”

At that moment, the key which had been silent began a lively clicking.
General Randolph turned toward it, and Thorne made a quick step in the
same direction.

“What’s that?” asked the General.

Thorne stood by the desk listening while the key clicked out the
message.

“Adjutant General Chesney,” he spelt out slowly.

“Oh, from the front, then?” said Randolph.

“Yes, sir,” answered Thorne.

“What is he saying!”

Thorne stepped to the table and bent over the clicking key. “His
compliments, sir,” he read off slowly. “He asks”—waiting for a few
minutes—“for the rest,”—still another pause—“of that despatch—he
says it’s of vital importance, sir, and——”

The communication which Thorne had made to General Randolph was in
itself of vital importance. The General was too good a soldier not to
know the danger of delay in the carrying out of a military manœuvre
which was probably part of some general plan of attack or defence to
which he was not privy. He made up his mind instantly. He took the
despatch from the hand of the Sergeant and turned it over to Thorne
again.

“Let him have it,” he said decisively.

The Captain with his heart pounding like mad sat down at the table and
seized the key. Was he going to complete the despatch? Was the plan to
be carried out? Had he triumphed in the bold and desperately played game
by his splendid courage, resourcefulness, and assurance? His eyes shone,
the colour came back into his pale cheeks as his hands trembled on the
key.

“General!” cried Arrelsford, “if you——”

“That’s enough, sir. We will have you examined at headquarters.”

At that instant Lieutenant Foray came rapidly into the room.

“Thank God!” cried Arrelsford, as he caught sight of him. “There’s a
witness, he was sent away on a forged order, ask him?”

Another interruption, thought Thorne, desperately fingering the keys. If
they would only give him a minute more he could complete the order, but
he was not to have that minute apparently.

“Wait, Captain,” said General Randolph quickly, and again the key was
silent. “Now, sir,” he said to Lieutenant Foray, “where did you come
from!”

The Lieutenant did not all comprehend what was toward, but his answer to
that question was plain.

“There was some mistake, sir,” he answered, saluting.

“Ah!” cried Arrelsford, a note of triumph in his voice.

“Who made it?” asked the General.

“I got an order to go to the President’s house,” returned Foray, “and
when I got there the President——”

Thorne made one last attempt to complete his message.

“Beg pardon, General, this delay will be most disastrous. Permit me to
go on with this message. If there’s any mistake, we can rectify it
afterward.”

He seized the key and continued sending the message as he spoke.

“No!” cried Arrelsford.

General Randolph either did not hear Thorne’s speech or heed it, or else
he did not care to prevent him, and he continued his questioning.

“Where did you get this mistaken order?” he asked.

But Arrelsford, intensely alive to what was going on, interposed.

“He’s at it again, sir!”

“Halt, there!” said General Randolph. “I ordered you to wait.”

The despatch was almost completed. Thorne ground his teeth with rage in
his impatience. He had tried audacity before, he would try it again.

“I was sent here to attend to the business of this office and that
business is going out,” he said resolutely.

“No,” said General Randolph with equal firmness, “it is not going out
until I am ready for it.”

“My orders come from the War Department, not from you, sir. This
despatch came in half an hour ago,” answered Thorne angrily, his voice
rising, “they are calling for it at the other end of the line. It’s my
business to send it out and I am going to do it.”

“Stop!” said General Randolph, as Thorne began to send the message
again. “Sergeant, seize that man and keep him from that machine.”

Well, the last hope was gone. As the Sergeant stepped forward to execute
his orders, Thorne, desperately determined to the last, clicked out a
letter, but he was cut short in the middle of a word. The Sergeant and
two men dragged him away, chair and all, from the table, and two others
posted themselves in front of the key.

“I will have you court-martialled for this, sir,” said General Randolph
angrily.

“You will have to answer yourself,” cried Thorne, playing the game to
the last, “for the delay of a despatch of vital importance, sent by the
Secretary of War.”

“Do you mean that?” cried Randolph.

“I mean just that,” answered Thorne, “and I demand that you let me
proceed with the business of this office. Before these officers and men
I repeat that demand.”

“By what authority do you send that despatch?”

“I refer you to the Department, sir.”

“Show me your orders for taking charge of this office.”

“I refer you to the Department, sir,” answered Thorne stubbornly.

“By God, sir!” continued General Randolph hotly. “I will refer to the
Department. Leave your men on guard there, Sergeant. Go over to the War
Office. My compliments to the Secretary of War, and ask him if he will
be so good as to——”

But Arrelsford’s evil genius prompted him to interpose again. When
affairs were going to his liking he should have let them alone, but fate
seemed to be playing into his hand, and he determined to make the most
of it and the chance.

“Another witness! Miss Varney,” he cried triumphantly, as he bowed
toward the window in which Edith had at that moment appeared. “She was
here with me, she saw it all. Ask her.”

General Randolph turned toward the window and in his turn bowed to the
girl.

“Miss Varney,” he asked courteously, “do you know anything about this?”

“About what, sir?” answered Edith in a low voice.

“Mr. Arrelsford claims that Captain Thorne is acting without authority
in this office and that you can testify to that effect,” was the
General’s answer.



                               CHAPTER XV

                       LOVE AND DUTY AT THE TOUCH


Thorne’s case was now absolutely hopeless. By the testimony of two
witnesses a thing is established. All that Arrelsford had seen Edith had
seen. All that he knew, she knew. She had only to speak and the plan had
failed; the cleverly constructed scheme would fall to pieces. His
brother’s life would have been wasted, nay more, his own life also; for
well did he realise that the bold way he had played the game would the
more certainly hasten his immediate execution. A spy in the Confederate
capital!

He could reproach himself with nothing. He had done his very best. An
ordinary man would have failed a dozen times in the struggle. Courage,
adroitness, resourcefulness, and good fortune had carried him so far,
but the odds were now heavily against him and nothing that he could do
would avail him anything. The game was played and he had lost;
Arrelsford had triumphed.

Thorne, in the one word that Edith Varney was to speak, would lose life,
honour, and that for which he had risked both. And he would lose more
than that. He would lose the love of the woman who had never seemed so
beautiful to him as she stood there, pale-faced, erect, the very
incarnation of self-sacrifice, as were all the women of the Confederacy.
And he would lose more than her love. He would lose her respect. His
humiliation would be her humiliation. Never so long as she lived could
her mind dwell on him with tenderness. The sound of his name would be a
hissing and a reproach in her ear, his reputation a by-word and a shame.
Her connection with him and that he had loved her would humiliate her
only less than the fact that she had loved him.

His condition was indeed pitiable; yet, to do him justice, his thoughts
were not so much for himself as they were for two other things. First
and foremost bulked largest before him the plan for which he had made
all this sacrifice, which had promised to end the weary months of siege
which Richmond and Petersburg had sustained. His brother had lost his
life, he more than suspected, in the endeavour to carry it out, and now
he had failed. That was a natural humiliation and reproach to his pride,
although as his mind went back over the scene he could detect no false
move on his part. Of course his allowing his love for Edith Varney to
get the mastery of him had been wrong under the circumstances, but that
had not affected the failure or success of his endeavours.

And his thoughts also were for the woman. He knew that she loved him,
she had admitted it, but once his eyes had been opened, he could have
told it without any admission at all. All that he had suffered, she had
suffered, and more. If she would be compelled to apologise for him, she
would also be compelled to assume the defensive for him. She loved him
and she was placed in the fearful position of having to deal the blow.
The words which would presently fall from her lips would complete his
undoing. They would blast his reputation forever and send him to his
death. He knew they would not be easy words for her to speak. He knew
that whatever his merit or demerit, she would never forget that it was
she who had completed his ruin; the fact that she would also ruin the
plan against her country would not weigh very heavily in her breaking
heart against that present personal consideration—after a while maybe
but not at first. And therefore he pitied her.

He drew himself erect to meet his fate like a man, and waited. The wait
was a long one. Edith Varney was having her own troubles. She knew as
well as any one the importance of her testimony. She had come from the
Commissary General’s vacant office and had been back at the window long
enough to have heard the conversation between General Randolph and the
two men. She was an unusually keen-witted girl and she realised the
situation to the full.

Her confidence in her lover had been shaken, undermined, restored, and
shaken again, until her mind was in a perfect whirl. She did not know,
she could not tell whether he was what he seemed to be or not. It seemed
like treachery to him, this uncertainty. It would be a simple matter to
corroborate Mr. Arrelsford at once, and it occurred to her that she had
no option. But coincident with the question flashed into her mind
something she had forgotten which made it possible for her to answer in
another way. Thus, she understood that the life of her lover hung upon
her decision.

What answer should she make? What course should she take? She realised,
too, that it was quite possible if she saved his life, it might result
in the carrying out of the plan about which there had been so much
discussion and which threatened so much against her country. If he were
false and she saved him he would certainly take advantage of the
respite. If he were true and she saved him no harm could come to her
country. She was intensely patriotic. And that phase of the problem
worried her greatly.

Her eyes flashed quickly from the vindictive yet triumphant fact of
Arrelsford, whom she loathed, to the pale, composed, set face of Thorne,
whom she loved, and her glance fell upon his wounded left wrist, tied
up, the blood oozing through the handkerchief. A wave of sympathy and
tenderness filled her breast. He was hurt, suffering—that decided her.

With one brief, voiceless prayer to God for guidance, she turned to
General Randolph, and it was well that she spoke when she did, for the
pause had become insupportable to Thorne at least. He had made up his
mind to relieve the dilemma and confess his guilt so that the girl would
not have to reproach herself with a betrayal of her lover or her cause,
that she might not feel that she had been found wanting at the crucial
moment. Indeed, Thorne would have done this before but his duty as a
soldier enjoined upon him the propriety, the imperative necessity, of
playing the game to the very end. The battle was not yet over. It would
never be over until he faced the firing party.

And then Edith’s voice broke the silence that had become so tense with
emotion.

“Mr. Arrelsford is mistaken, General Randolph,” she said quietly,
“Captain Thorne has the highest authority in this office.”

Arrelsford started violently and opened his mouth to speak, but General
Randolph silenced him with a look. The blood of the old general was up,
and it had become impossible for any one to presume in the least degree.
Thorne started, too. The blood rushed to his heart. He thought he would
choke to death. What did the girl mean?

“The highest authority, sir,” continued Edith Varney, slowly drawing out
the commission, which every one but she had forgotten in the excitement,
“the authority of the President of the Confederate States of America.”

Well, she had done it for weal or for woe. She had made her decision.
Had it been a wise decision? Had she acted for the best? What interest
had governed her, love for Thorne, love for her country, or love for her
own peace of mind? It was in the hands of General Randolph now. The girl
turned slowly away, unable to sustain the burning glances of her lover
and the vindictive stare of Arrelsford.

“What’s this?” said General Randolph. “Umph! A Major’s Commission. In
command of the Telegraph Department. Major Thorne, I congratulate you.”

“That commission, General Randolph!” exclaimed Arrelsford, his voice
rising, “let me explain how she——”

“That will do from you, sir,” said the General, “you have made enough
trouble as it is. I suppose you claim that this is a forgery, too——”

“Let me tell you, sir,” persisted the Secret Service Agent.

“You have told me enough as it is. Sergeant, take him over to
headquarters.”

“Fall in there!” cried the Sergeant of the Guard. “Two of you take the
prisoner. Forward, march!”

Two men seized Arrelsford, and the rest of them closed about him. To do
the man justice, he made a violent struggle and was only marched out at
the point of the bayonet, protesting and crying:

“For God’s sake, he’s in the Yankee Secret Service! He’ll send that
despatch out. His brother brought in the signal to-night!”

All the way down the corridor he could be heard yelling and struggling.
General Randolph paid not the slightest attention to him. He stepped
over to the telegraph table beside which Thorne stood—and with all the
force of which he was capable the young man could hardly control the
trembling of his knees.

“Major Thorne,” he said reprovingly as Thorne saluted him, “all this
delay has been your own fault. If you had only had sense enough to
mention this before we would have been saved a damned lot of trouble.
There’s your commission, sir.” He handed it to Thorne, who saluted him
again as one in a dream. “Come, gentlemen,” he said to his officers, “I
can’t understand why they have to be so cursed shy about their Secret
Service orders! Lieutenant Foray?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Take your orders from Major Thorne.”

“Yes, sir,” returned Foray.

“Good-night,” said the General, forgetful of the fact apparently that
Edith Varney was still standing by the window.

“Good-night, sir,” answered Thorne.

Foray moved over to the table at the right, while Thorne leaped to his
former position, and his hand sought the key. At last he could send his
message, there was nothing to prevent him or interrupt him now, he was
in command. Could he get it through? For a moment he forgot everything
but that, as he clicked out the call again, but he had scarcely pressed
the button when Edith Varney stepped to his side.

“Captain Thorne,” she said in a low voice, giving him the old title.

He looked up at her, stopping a moment.

“What I have done gives you time to escape from Richmond,” she
continued.

“Escape!” whispered Thorne, clicking the key again. “Impossible!”

“Oh,” said the girl, laying her hand on his arm, “you wouldn’t do
it—now!”

And again the man’s fingers remained poised over the key as he stared at
her.

“I gave it to you to—to save your life. I didn’t think you’d use it for
anything else. Oh! You wouldn’t!”

Her voice in its low whisper was agonising. If her face had been white
before, what could be said of it now? In a flash Thorne saw all. She had
been confident of his guilt, and she had sought to save his life because
she loved him, and now because she loved her country she sought to save
that too.

The call sounded from the table. Thorne turned to it, bent over it, and
listened. It was the call for the message. Then he turned to the woman.
She looked at him; just one look. The kind of a look that Christ might
have turned upon Peter after those denials when He saw him in the
courtyard early on that bitter morning of betrayal. “I saved you,” the
girl’s look seemed to say, “I redeemed you and now you betray me!” She
spoke no words, words were useless between them. Everything had been
said, everything had been done. She could only go. Never woman looked at
man nor man looked at woman as these two at each other.

The woman turned, she could trust herself no further. She went blindly
toward the door. The man followed her slowly, crushing the commission in
his hand, and ever as he went he heard the sound of the call behind him.
He stopped halfway between the door and the table and watched her go,
and then he turned.

Lieutenant Foray understanding nothing of what had transpired, but
hearing the call, had taken Thorne’s place before the table. He had the
despatch about which there had been so much trouble, and upon which the
whole plan turned, in his hand before him.

“They are calling for that despatch, sir,” he said as Thorne stared at
him in agony. “What shall I do with it?”

“Send it,” said the other hoarsely.

“Very good, sir,” answered Foray, seating himself and taking hold of the
key, but the first click of the sounder awakened Thorne to action.

“No, no!” he cried. “Stop!” He rushed forward and seized the despatch.
“I won’t do it!” he thundered. With his wounded hand and his well one he
tore the despatch into fragments. “Revoke the order. Tell them it was a
mistake instantly. I refuse to act under this commission!”

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

                                BOOK IV

                    WHAT HAPPENED AT ELEVEN O’CLOCK



                              CHAPTER XVI

                       THE TUMULT IN HUMAN HEARTS


Of the many frightful nights in Richmond during the siege, that night
was one of the worst. The comparative calmness of the earlier hours of
repose of the quiet April evening gave way to pandemonium. The works at
Petersburg, desperately held by the Confederates, were miles away from
the city to the southward, but such was the tremendous nature of the
cannonading that the shocking sounds seemed to be close at hand.
Children cowered, women shuddered, and old men prayed as they thought of
the furious onslaughts in the battle raging.

The Richmond streets were filled with people, mostly invalids,
non-combatants, women, and children. A tremendous attack was being
launched by the besiegers somewhere, it was evident. Urgent messengers
from General Lee called every reserve out of the garrison at Richmond,
and the quiet streets and country highways awoke instantly to life. Such
troops as could be spared moved to the front at the double-quick. Every
car of the dilapidated railroad was pressed into service. Those who
could not be transported by train went on horseback or afoot. The
youngest boy and the oldest man alike shouldered their muskets, and with
motley clothes, but with hearts aflame, marched to the sound of the
cannon. The women, the sick, the wounded and invalid men and the
children waited.

Morning would tell the tale. Into the city from which they marched, men
and boys would come back; an army nearly as great as had gone forth, but
an army halting, maimed, helpless, wounded, suffering, shot to pieces.
They had seen it too often not to be able to forecast the scene
absolutely. They knew with what heroic determination their veterans,
under the great Lee, were fighting back the terrific attacks of their
brothers in blue, under the grimly determined Grant. They could hear his
great war-hammer ringing on their anvil; a hammer of men, an anvil of
men. Plan or no plan, success or no success of some Secret Service
operations, some vital point was being wrestled for in a death-grapple
between two armies; and all the offensive capacities of the one and all
the defensive resources of the other were meeting, as they had been
meeting during the long years.

In a time like that, of public peril and public need, private and
personal affairs ought to be forgotten, but it was not so. Love and
hate, confidence and jealousy, faithfulness and disloyalty,
self-sacrifice and revenge, were still in human hearts. And these
feelings would put to shame even the passions engendered in the bloody
battles of the fearful warfare.

Edith Varney, for instance, had gone out of the telegraph office assured
that the sacrifice she had made for her lover had resulted in the
betrayal of her country; that Thorne had had not even the common
gratitude to accede to her request, although she had saved his life,
and, for the time being, his honour. Every cannon-shot, every crashing
volley of musketry that came faintly or loudly across the hills seemed
pointed straight at her heart. For all she knew, the despatch had been
sent, the cunningly devised scheme had been carried out, and into some
undefended gap in the lines the Federal troops were pouring. The defence
would crumble and the Army would be cut in two; the city of Richmond
would be taken, and the Confederacy would be lost.

And she had done it! Would she have done it if she had known? She had
certainly expected to establish such a claim upon Thorne by her
interposition that he could not disregard it. But if she had known
positively that he would have done what she thought he did, would she
have sent him to his death? She put the question to herself in agony.
And she realised with flushes of shame and waves of contrition that she
would not, could not have done this thing. She must have acted as she
had, whatever was to come of it. Whatever he was, whatever he did, she
loved that man. She need not tell him, she need tell no one, there could
be no fruition to that love. She must hide it, bury it in her bosom if
she could, but for weal or woe she loved him above everything else, and
for all eternity.

Where was he now? Her interposition had been but for a few moments. The
truth was certain to be discovered. There would be no ultimate escape
possible for him. She heard shots on occasion nearer than Petersburg, in
the city streets. What could they mean? Short, short would be his shrift
if they caught him. Had they caught him? Certainly they must, if they
had not. She realised with a thrill that she had given him an
opportunity to escape and that he had refused it. The sending of that
despatch had been more to him than life. Traitor, spy, Secret Service
Agent—was there anything that could be said for him? At least he was
faithful to his own idea of duty.

She had met Caroline Mitford waiting in the lower hall of the telegraph
office, and the two, convoyed by old Martha, had come home together.
Many curious glances had been thrown at them, but in these great
movements that were toward, no one molested them. The younger girl had
seen the agony in her friend’s face. She had timidly sought to question
her, but she had received no answer or no satisfaction to her queries.
Refusing Caroline’s proffered services when she reached home, Edith had
gone straight to her own room and locked the door.

The affair had been irritating beyond expression to Mr. Arrelsford. It
had taken him some time to establish his innocence and to get his
release from General Randolph’s custody. Meanwhile, everything that he
had hoped to prevent had happened. To do him justice, he really loved
Edith Varney, and the thought that her actions and her words had caused
his own undoing and the failure of his carefully laid plans, filled him
with bitterness, which he vented in increased animosity toward Thorne.

These were bitter moments to Mrs. Varney. She had become somewhat used
to her husband being in the thick of things, but it was her boy now that
was in the ranks. The noise of the cannon and the passing troops threw
Howard into a fever of anxiety which was very bad for him.

And those were dreadful moments to Thorne. What had he done? He had
risked everything, was ready to pay everything, would, indeed, be forced
to do so in the end, and yet he had not done that which he had intended.
Had he been false to his duty and to his country when he refused to send
that telegram, being given the opportunity? He could not tell. The
ethics of the question were beyond his present solution. The opportunity
had come to him through a piece of sublime self-sacrifice on the part of
the woman, who, knowing him thoroughly and understanding his plan and
purpose, had yet perjured herself to save his life.

That life was hers, was it not? He had become her prisoner as much as if
she had placed him under lock and key and held him without the
possibility of communication with any one. Her honour was involved. No,
under the circumstances, he could not send the despatch. The
Confederates would certainly kill him if they caught him, and if they
did not, and by any providential chance he escaped, his honour would
compel him to report the circumstances, the cause of his failure, to his
own superiors. Would they court-martial him for not sending the
despatch? Would they enter into his feelings, would they understand?
Would the woman and her actions be considered by them as determining
factors? Would his course be looked upon as justifiable? He could not
flatter himself that any one of these things would be so considered by
any military court. There would be only two things which would influence
his superiors in their judgment of him. Did he get a chance, and having
it, did he use it?

The popular idea of a Secret Service Agent, a spy, was that he would
stick at nothing. As such men were outside the pale of military
brotherhood, so were they supposed to have a code of their own. Well,
his code did not permit him to send the despatch when his power to send
it had been procured in such a way. It was not so much love for the
woman as it was honour—her honour, suddenly put into his keeping—that
turned him from the key. When both honour and love were thrown into the
scale, there was no possibility of any other action. He could not see
any call of duty paramount to them.

He stood looking at Foray for a while, and then, without a further
command to that intensely surprised young man, or even a word of
explanation, he seized his hat and coat and left the room. Foray was a
keen-witted officer, he reviewed the situation briefly, and presently a
great light dawned upon him. A certain admiration for Thorne developed
in his breast, and as Allison opportunely came back at this juncture, he
turned over the telegraph office to his subordinate, and in his turn
went out on what he believed to be an exceedingly important errand.

Thorne found the streets full of people. He had not marked the beginning
of the cannonading in the tumult of the office, but the lights, the
bells pealing alarms from every church-steeple, the trampling of horses
and men, and the roll of the gun-carriages apprised him of what was
toward. Trusting that Thorne had been able to carry out his part, Grant
was attacking the place indicated by “Plan 3” in heavy force.

What was Thorne to do? Obviously attempt to escape from Richmond,
although it would be a matter of extreme difficulty on account of the
alarm which now aroused every section. He could not go, either, until he
had seen his brother. He surmised that he was dead, but he could not
know that; and he determined not to attempt to leave without making
assurance double sure. It was a duty he owed to his brother, to his
father in the Union Army, and to his superiors in the Federal Secret
Service. If that brother were alive, he must be at the Varney house. He
fancied that he would run as little chance of being observed in the
excitement going in that direction as in any other, and he started to
make his way there.

The fact that Edith was there influenced him also. Was the call of love
and the living as great, or greater than the call of duty and the dying
or the dead? Who shall say?

And the remote chance that he might be observed on the way was taken by
his ever-vigilant enemy; for Arrelsford, upon obtaining his freedom, had
sent the troops at the disposal of the Secret Service to hunt him down,
and one of them caught sight of him. The shout of the observer apprised
him of his discovery. He threw one glance behind him and then ran for
his life. He had no especial hope of escaping, but he might get to the
Varney house ahead of the soldiers, and he might see his brother, and he
might see the woman he loved for a moment before he was taken and
killed.

If it had not been for the two he would have stopped and given himself
up. Somehow he did not care for life. His life was forfeit to the
Federals and the Confederates alike. When she thought to save it, Edith
Varney had doomed him. Also he felt that she had damned him. But he ran
on and on, doubling and turning on his tracks; white-faced, desperate,
his breath coming fainter, his heart beating faster, as he ran.



                              CHAPTER XVII

                         WILFRED PLAYS THE MAN


A sharp contrast to the noise outside was presented by the quiet of the
Varney house inside. The sewing women, in view of the attack and the
movements of the boys and the old men, had separated sooner than they
had intended and had gone their several ways. Old Jonas, frightened to
death, remained locked up in the closet where he had been left by
Arrelsford’s men. Martha was upstairs in Howard’s room, making ready to
watch over him during the night.

Caroline Mitford had not gone home. She had sent word that she intended
to pass the night at the Varney house. Somehow she thought they seemed
to need her. She was standing by one of the long front windows in the
drawing-room, now a scene of much disorder because of the recent
struggle. Tables were thrust aside out of their places, chairs were
turned over, and there was a big dark spot on the carpet where Henry
Dumont had poured out his life-blood unavailingly.

Caroline stared out of the window at the flashes of light. She listened,
with heaving breast and throbbing heart, to the roar of the cannon and
the rattle of musketry. She had heard both many times lately, but now it
was different, for Wilfred was there. Mrs. Varney came upon her with her
hand pressed against her breast, her face white and staring, tears
brimming her eyes, but, as usual, Mrs. Varney was so engrossed with her
own tremendous troubles that she had little thought for the girl.

“Caroline,” she began anxiously, “tell me what happened. Edith won’t
speak to me. She has locked herself up in her room. What was it? Where
has she been? What——”

“She was at the telegraph office,” answered Caroline in a low voice.

“What did she do there? What happened there?”

“I am not sure.”

“But try to tell me, dear.”

“I would if I could, Mrs. Varney, but I was afraid and ran out and
waited for her in the hall. The rest of them——” The girl broke off as
the deep tones of the city bells clanged sharply above the diapason of
artillery.

“It’s the alarm bell,” said Mrs. Varney.

“Yes,” said Caroline, “they are calling out the last reserves.”

“Yes; hark to the cannonading. Isn’t it awful?” returned Mrs. Varney.
“They must be making a terrible attack to-night. Lieutenant Maxwell was
right; that quiet spell was a signal.”

“There goes another battery of artillery,” said Caroline, staring
through the window. “A man told us that they were sending them all over
to Cemetery Hill. That’s where the fighting is, Cemetery Hill.”

“General Varney’s Division is to the right of that position, or was the
last time I heard from him,” said Mrs. Varney anxiously.

The two women looked at each other for a moment, both of them thinking
the same thought, to which neither dared give utterance. The object of
their thought was the boy, and the continuous flashes of light on the
horizon seemed to make the situation more horrible.

“I am afraid they are going to have a bad time of it to-night,” said
Caroline, drawing the curtains and turning away from the window.

“I’m afraid so,” was the rejoinder. “Now, try to think, dear, who was at
the telegraph office? Can’t you tell me something that occurred that
will explain Edith’s silence? She looks like death, and——”

“I can’t tell you anything except that they arrested Mr. Arrelsford.”

“Mr. Arrelsford! You don’t mean that?”

“Yes, I do,” answered Caroline. “General Randolph,—I went and brought
him there, because they wouldn’t send my telegram,—he was in a fearful
temper——”

“But Edith? Can’t you tell me what she did?”

“I can’t, Mrs. Varney, for I don’t know. I waited for her in the hall,
and when she came out she couldn’t speak. Then we hurried home. I tried
to get her to tell me, but she wouldn’t say a word except that her heart
was broken, and that’s all I know, Mrs. Varney, truly, truly.”

“I believe you, my dear. I know you would tell me if you could.”

“I certainly would, for I love——”

There was a loud ring at the front door. It was evidently unlocked, for,
without waiting for an answer, it was thrown open, roughly, and through
the hall and into the drawing-room stalked Mr. Arrelsford. He was wildly
excited, evidently in a tremendous hurry, and utterly oblivious to
manners or anything else. He had been checked and thwarted so many times
that he was in a bad temper for anything.

“Is your daughter in the house?” he began roughly, without any further
preliminaries or salutation, without even removing his hat.

Mrs. Varney drew herself up and looked at him. But he paid no attention
to her at all.

“Answer,” he said harshly.

She bowed her head in the affirmative, scarcely able to speak in her
indignation at his manner and bearing.

“I wish to see her.”

“I don’t believe she will care to receive you at present,” returned her
mother quietly.

“What she cares to do at present is of small consequence. I must see her
at once. Shall I go up to her room with these men, or will you have her
down here?”

The room had filled with soldiers as the two spoke together.

“Neither the one nor the other, sir,” said Mrs. Varney, who was not in
the least afraid of Mr. Arrelsford or his soldiers, “until I know your
business with her.”

“My business,—a few questions,—I’ve got a few questions to ask her.
Listen to that noise out yonder? Do you hear those guns and the troops
passing by? Now, you know what ‘Attack to-night, Plan 3,’ means.”

“Is that the attack!” asked Mrs. Varney.

“That’s the attack. They are breaking through our lines at Cemetery
Hill. That was the place indicated by ‘Plan 3.’ We are rushing to the
front all the reserves we have, to the last man and boy, but they may
not get there in time.”

“What, may I ask, has my daughter to do with it?”

“Do with it? She did it!” asserted Arrelsford bitterly.

“What!” exclaimed Mrs. Varney, in a great outburst of indignation. “How
dare you!”

“We had him in a trap, under arrest, the telegraph under guard, when she
brought in that commission. We would have shot him in a moment, but they
took me prisoner and let him go.”

“Impossible!” whispered Mrs. Varney. “You don’t mean——”

“Yes, she did. She put the game in his hands. He got control of the
wires and the despatch went through. As soon as I could get to
headquarters I explained, and they saw the trick. They rushed the guard
back, but the scoundrel had got away. Foray was gone, too, and Allison
knew nothing about it, but we’re after him, and if she knows where he
is,” he turned as if to leave the room and ascend the stairs, “I will
get it out of her.”

“You don’t suppose that my daughter would——” began Mrs. Varney.

“I suppose everything.”

“I will not believe it,” persisted the mother.

“We can’t wait for what you believe,” said Arrelsford roughly, this time
taking a step toward the door.

Mrs. Varney caught him by the arm.

“Let me speak to her,” she pleaded.

“No, I will see her myself.”

But Miss Mitford, who had been the indirect cause of so much trouble,
once more interposed. She had listened to him with scarcely less
surprise than that developing in Mrs. Varney’s breast. She took a
malicious joy in thwarting the Secret Service Agent. She barred the way,
her slight figure in the door, with arms extended.

“Where is your order for this?” she asked.

Arrelsford stared at her in surprise.

“Get out of my way,” he said curtly; “I have a word or two to say to you
after I have been upstairs.”

“Show me your order,” persisted the girl, who made not the slightest
attempt to give way.

“It’s Department business and I don’t require an order.”

“You are mistaken about that,” said Caroline with astonishing
resourcefulness. “This is a private house, it isn’t the telegraph office
or the Secret Service Department. If you want to go upstairs or see
anybody against their will, you will have to bring an order. I don’t
know much, but I know enough for that.”

Arrelsford turned to Mrs. Varney.

“Am I to understand, madam,” he began, “that you refuse——”

But before Mrs. Varney could answer, the soldiers Arrelsford had brought
with him gave way before the advent of a sergeant and another party of
men. The Sergeant advanced directly to Mrs. Varney, touched his cap to
her, and began:

“Are you the lady that lives here, ma’am?”

“Yes, I am Mrs. Varney.”

“I have an order from General Randolph’s office to search this house
for——”

“Just in time,” said Arrelsford, stepping toward the Sergeant; “I will
go through the house with you.”

“Can’t go through on this order,” said the Sergeant shortly.

“You were sent here to——” began Mrs. Varney.

“Yes; sorry to trouble you, ma’am, but we’ll have to be quick about it.
If we don’t find him here we’ve got to follow him down Franklin Street;
he’s over this way somewhere.”

“Who are you? What do you want?”

“Man named Thorne, Captain of Artillery,” answered the Sergeant; “that’s
what he went by, at least. Here, two of you this way! That room in there
and the back of the house. Two of you outside,” pointing to the windows.
“Cut off those windows. The rest upstairs.”

The men rapidly dispersed, obeying the commands of the Sergeant, and
began a thorough search of the house. Caroline Mitford preceded them up
the stairs to Edith’s room. Arrelsford, after a moment’s hesitation,
stepped toward the door and went out, followed by his men. Without a
word of acknowledgment or even a bow to Mrs. Varney, he and his men
presently left the house. As he did so, two of the Sergeant’s men
reëntered the room, shoving old Jonas roughly before them. The man’s
livery was torn and dirty, his head was bound up, and he showed signs of
the rough handling he had undergone.

“Where did you get that?” asked the Sergeant contemptuously.

“He was locked in a closet, sir.”

“What were you doing in there?” He turned to the old negro. “If you
don’t answer me, we will shoot the life out of you.” He raised his
revolver threateningly. “Belongs to you, I reckon,” he said to Mrs.
Varney.

“Yes, my butler; they locked him up. Mr. Arrelsford wants him for
carrying a message.”

“That’s all right,” said the Sergeant. “If he wants him, he can have
him. We’re looking for some one else. Put him back in his closet. Here,
this room! Be quick now! Cover that door. Sorry to disturb you, ma’am.”

“Do what you please,” said Mrs. Varney; “I have nothing on earth to
conceal.”

As the men hurriedly withdrew to continue their search, the voice of a
newcomer was heard on the porch. The words came to them clearly:

“Here, lend a hand, somebody, will you?”

The next moment General Varney’s orderly entered the room, caught sight
of the Sergeant, saluted, and then turned to Mrs. Varney.

“I’ve brought back your boy, ma’am,” he said.

“Oh!” exclaimed Mrs. Varney faintly; “what do you mean——?”

“We never got out to General Varney’s. We ran into a Yankee raiding
party, cavalry, down here about three miles. Our home-guard was
galloping by on the run to head them off, and before I knew what he was
about, the boy was in with ’em, riding like mad. There was a bit of a
skirmish, and he got a clip across the neck. Nothing at all, ma’am. He
rode back all the way, and——”

“Oh, my boy! He’s hurt—he’s hurt——”

“Nothing serious, ma’am; don’t upset yourself,” returned the orderly
reassuringly.

“Where did you——”

But that moment the object of their solicitude himself appeared on the
scene. The boy was very pale, and his neck was bandaged. Two of the
Sergeant’s men supported him.

“Oh, Wilfred!” cried his mother; “my boy!”

“It’s nothing, mother,” said Wilfred, motioning her away. “You don’t
understand.” The boy tried to free himself from the men who still held
him by the arm. “What do you want to hold me like that for?” he
expostulated, as he drew himself away and took a few steps. “You see I
can walk,” he protested.

His words were brave, but his performance was weak. His mother came
close to him and extended her arms toward him. But Wilfred was a soldier
now, and he did not want any scenes. Therefore, with a great effort, he
took her hand in as casual a manner as possible, quite like a stranger
paying an afternoon call.

“How do you do, mother?” he said. “You didn’t expect me back so soon,
did you? I will tell you how it was. Don’t you go away, orderly. I will
just rest a minute, and then I will go back with you.” Another outburst
of the cannon and the frantic pealing of the alarm bells caught his
attention. “See, they are ringing the bells calling out the reserves.”
He started toward the door. “I will go right now.”

“No, no, Wilfred,” said his mother, taking his arm; “not now, my son.”

“Not now?” said Wilfred, whose weakness was growing apparent. “Do you
hear those—those—those bells and—then tell me not—to go—why——”

He swayed and tottered.

“Stand by there!” cried the Sergeant.

The two men immediately caught hold of him as he fainted. They carried
him to the lounge.

“Find some water, will you?” continued the Sergeant. “Put his head down,
ma’am, and he’ll be all right in a minute. He’s only fainted.”

One of the privates who had hurried off in search of water soon came
back with a basin full, with which Mrs. Varney laved the boy’s head.

“He’ll be all right in a minute,” said the Sergeant. “Come, men.”

He turned as he spoke, and, followed by the men, left the room, leaving
Mrs. Varney with Wilfred and the orderly. It was the latter who broke
the silence.

“If there isn’t anything else, ma’am, I believe I’d better report back
to the General.”

“Yes,” said Mrs. Varney, “don’t wait. The wound is dressed, isn’t it?”

“Yes; I took him to the Winder Hospital. They said he would be on his
feet in a day or two, but he wants to be kept pretty quiet.”

“Tell the General how it happened.”

“Very well, ma’am,” said the orderly, touching his cap and going out.

The next person to enter the room was Caroline Mitford. The noise of the
men searching the house was very plain. Having informed Edith of the
meaning of the tumult, she had come downstairs to enquire if they had
found Thorne. She came slowly within the door—rather listlessly, in
fact. The exciting events of the night in which she had taken part had
somewhat sapped her natural vivacity, but she was shocked into instant
action when she saw Wilfred stretched upon the sofa.

“Oh!” she breathed in a low, tense whisper; “what is it? Is he——”

“Caroline dear,” said Mrs. Varney, “it is nothing serious. He isn’t
badly hurt. He was cut in the neck and fainted. There, there,”—the
woman rose from Wilfred’s side and caught the girl,—“don’t you faint,
too, dear.”

“I am not going to faint,” said Caroline desperately. She took Mrs.
Varney’s handkerchief from the latter’s hand, and dipped it in the
water. “I can take care of him,” she continued, kneeling down by her
boyish lover. “I don’t need anybody down here at all. The men are going
all over the house and——”

“But, Caroline——” began Mrs. Varney.

“Mrs. Varney,” returned the girl, strangely quiet, “there’s a heap of
soldiers upstairs, looking in all the rooms. I reckon you’d better go
and attend to them. They will be in Edith’s room, or Howard’s, in a
minute.”

“Yes, yes,” said Mrs. Varney, “and Howard so ill. I must go for a few
minutes, anyway. You know what to do?”

“Oh, yes,” answered the girl confidently.

“Bathe his forehead. He isn’t badly hurt, dear. I won’t be long, and he
will soon come to, I am sure,” said Mrs. Varney, hastening away.

Presently Wilfred opened his eyes. He stared about him unmeaningly and
uncomprehendingly for the moment.

“Wilfred, dear Wilfred,” began the girl in soft, low, caressing tones,
“you are not hurt much, are you? Oh, not much! There, you will feel
better in just a moment, dear Wilfred.”

[Illustration: “You are not hurt much, are you?”]

“Is there—are you——?” questioned Wilfred, striving to concentrate his
mind on the problem of his whereabouts and her presence.

“Oh, Wilfred, don’t you know me?”

“What are you talking about?” said Wilfred more strongly. “Of course I
know you. Where am I?” And as full consciousness came back to him, “What
am I doing, anyway? Taking a bath?”

“No, no, Wilfred; you see I am bathing your head. You fainted a little,
and——”

“Fainted!” exclaimed Wilfred in deep disgust. “I fainted!” He made a
feeble attempt to rise, but sank back weakly. “Yes, of course, I was in
a fight with the Yankees and got wounded somewhere.”

He stopped, puzzled, staring strangely, almost afraid, at Caroline.

“What is it?” asked the girl.

“See here,” he began seriously; “I will tell you one thing right now. I
am not going to load you up with a cripple, not much.”

His resignation was wonderful.

“Cripple!” exclaimed Caroline, bewildered.

“I reckon I’ve got an arm knocked off, haven’t I?”

“No, you haven’t, Wilfred; they are both on all right.”

“Perhaps it was a hand that they shot away?”

“Not a single one,” said Caroline.

“Are my—my ears on all right?”

“Yes,” answered the girl. “You needn’t bother about them for a moment.”

Wilfred staked all on the last question.

“How many legs have I got left?”

“All of them,” answered Caroline; “every one.”

“Then, if there’s enough of me left to—to amount to anything—you’ll
take charge of it, just the same? How about that?”

“That’s all right,” said the girl, burying her face on his shoulder.

Wilfred got hold of her hand and kissed it passionately. He seemed quite
strong enough for that.

“I tried to send you a telegram but they wouldn’t let me,” whispered
Caroline suddenly, raising her head and looking at him.

“You did?”

“Yes.”

“What did you say in it?”

But here the girl’s courage failed her.

“Tell me what you said,” persisted Wilfred.

“It was something very nice,” faltered poor Caroline.

“It was, eh?”

“Yes.”

“Was it as nice as this?” asked Wilfred, suddenly lifting his head and
kissing her.

“I don’t know about that,” stammered Caroline, blushing a beautiful
crimson, “but it was very nice. I wouldn’t have tried to telegraph it if
it was something bad, would I?”

“Well, if it was so good,” said Wilfred, “why on earth didn’t you send
it?”

“Goodness gracious!” exclaimed Caroline; “how could I when they wouldn’t
let me?”

“Wouldn’t let you?”

“I should think not. They had a dreadful time at the telegraph office.”

“At the telegraph office; were you there?” Wilfred made a violent effort
to recollect. “I have it,” he said in stronger tones; “they told me at
the hospital. I must get up.”

“No, no; you mustn’t,” said Caroline, interposing.

“Don’t,” said Wilfred; “I have to attend to it.” He spoke with a stern,
strange decision, entirely foreign to his previous idle love-making. “I
know all about Thorne. He gets hold of our Department Telegraph and
sends out a false order, weakens our defences at Cemetery Hill.” The boy
got to his feet by this time, steadying himself by Caroline’s shoulder.
“They are down on us in a moment.” A look of pain, not physical, shot
across his face, but he mastered it. “And she gave it to him, the
commission; my sister Edith!” he continued bitterly.

“Oh!” said Caroline; “you know——”

“I know this. If my father were here, he’d see her. As he isn’t here, I
will attend to it. Send her to me.”

He spoke weakly, but in a clear voice and a most imperative manner. He
took his hand off Caroline’s shoulder. If he were to deal with this, so
grave and critical a situation, he must do it without feminine support.
By a great effort he held himself resolutely erect, repeating his
command.

“Send her to me.”

“No,” said Caroline faintly, just as Mrs. Varney reëntered the room.

“What is it?” asked the mother.

“He wants to see Edith,” returned the girl.

“Not now, Wilfred,” persisted Mrs. Varney; “you are weak and ill, and
Edith——”

“Tell her to come here, I must see her at once,” repeated Wilfred.

Mrs. Varney instantly divined the reason. Caroline had told him about
the telegraph office, but she could see no advantage to be gained by the
interview he sought.

“It won’t do you any good, Wilfred,” she said. “She won’t speak a word
to anybody about it.”

“I don’t want her to speak to me,” returned the boy grimly; “I am going
to speak to her.”

“But some other time, Wilfred,” urged his mother.

“No, no; immediately,” but as no one made the slightest effort toward
complying with his demand, “Very well,” he continued, moving slowly
toward the door, and by a determined effort keeping his feet. “If you
won’t send her to me, I will——”

“There, there,” said Mrs. Varney, interposing swiftly; “if you must, you
must. Since you insist, I will call her.”

“I do insist.”

“Stay with him, dear,” said Mrs. Varney to Caroline, “and I will go and
call her.”

“No,” said Wilfred, “I want to see her alone.”

Wondering much at this move of her boy-lover, but somehow feeling that
Wilfred represented his father and the law, Caroline, after one long
look at his pale but composed face, turned and followed Mrs. Varney out
of the room.



                             CHAPTER XVIII

                    CAPTAIN THORNE JUSTIFIES HIMSELF


After the two women had left him, Wilfred stood motionless for a moment,
and then sat wearily down to rest. Scarcely had he done so when he heard
shouts far outside in the street, the heavy trampling of feet, cries,
directions, orders. He rose and walked over to the window. The cries
were growing louder and the footsteps more distinct. Men were
approaching the house rapidly, he could tell that they were running.
What could they be? What was toward? A suspicion flashed into his mind.
It had hardly found lodgment there when Thorne sprang upon the porch,
leaped across it, and burst through the other front window into the long
room. A pedestal with a bust of Washington on it was standing between
the windows. As Thorne sprang back from the window, he knocked against
it. It fell to the floor with a tremendous crash.

He stood staring a moment toward the window, listening while the noise
of the running feet died away in the distance. It seemed that he had
distanced his pursuers or eluded them for the time being. It could only
be for a moment, however; he had other things to think of. Well, that
moment would be enough; it was all he required. He turned to go down the
room, only to find himself confronted by the boy.

It is hard to say which was the more surprised of the two—Thorne at
seeing Wilfred, or Wilfred at Thorne’s appearance. The latter’s face was
pale, his breath was coming rapidly, he was bareheaded. His brow was
covered with sweat, and he had the hunted, desperate look of a man at
the very end of his resources. Neither at first said anything to the
other. It was Thorne who first recovered himself. He sought to pass by
the boy, but Wilfred seized him.

“Halt!” he cried; “you are under arrest.”

“Wait a moment!” gasped out Thorne; “and I will go with you.”

As he spoke he shook himself loose from the weak grasp of the wounded
young man, and started down the room.

“Halt, I say!” cried Wilfred. “You are my prisoner.”

“All right, all right,” said Thorne quietly; “your prisoner, anything
you like. Here,”—he drew his revolver from his pocket and pushed it
into the boy’s hand; “take this, shoot the life out of me, if you wish;
but give me a chance to see my brother first.”

“Your brother?”

“Yes. He was shot here to-night. I want one look at his face; that’s
all.”

“Where is he?”

“Maybe they put him in the room across the hall yonder.”

“What would he be doing there?” asked Wilfred, not yet apprehending the
situation from Thorne’s remarks.

“Nothing,” said the other bitterly; “I guess he is dead.”

“Wait,” said Wilfred. He stepped across the hall, keeping Thorne covered
with his revolver. “Don’t move; I will see.” He threw open the door,
glanced in, and then came back. “It’s a lie!” he said.

“What!” exclaimed Thorne.

“There is no one in there. It is just one of your tricks. Call the
guard!” He shouted toward the hall, and then toward the window.
“Sergeant of the Guard! Captain Thorne is here, in this house.”

He stepped out on the porch and shouted again with astonishing power for
one so painfully wounded as he. Then the boy felt a faintness come over
him. He sank down on a seat on the porch and leaned his head against the
house, and sought to recover his strength, fighting a desperate battle;
fearful lest Thorne should escape while he was thus helpless.

It was Edith Varney who first replied to his frantic summons by hurrying
into the room. She was as much surprised to see Thorne as he was to see
her. Her heart leaped in her bosom at the sight of him, and she stared
at him as at a wraith or a vision.

“You wouldn’t tell me an untruth, would you?” said Thorne, coming closer
to her. “He was shot in this room an hour ago, my brother Henry. I’d
like to take one look at his dead face before they send me the same way.
Where is he? Can’t you tell me that much, Miss Varney? Is he in the
house?”

Edith looked at his face, shook her head a little, and moved away from
him toward the table. Thorne threw up his hands in a gesture of despair,
and turned toward the window. As he did so, Wilfred, having recovered
from his faintness a little, called out again:

“The guard! The escaped prisoner, Captain Thorne!”

This time his frantic outcry was answered. At last they were closing in
upon the wretched man. He turned from the window and faced the girl,
scarcely less wretched than he, and laughed shortly.

“They are on the scent, you see,” he said; “they’ll get me in a minute;
and when they do, it won’t take them long to finish me off. And as
that’ll be the last of me, Miss Varney, maybe you’ll listen to one
thing. We can’t all die a soldier’s death, in the roar and glory of
battle, our friends about us, under the flag we love. No, not all! Some
of us have orders for another kind of work, dare-devil, desperate work,
the hazardous schemes of the Secret Service. We fight our battles alone,
no comrades to cheer us on, ten thousand to one against us, death at
every turn. If we win, we escape with our lives; if we lose, we are
dragged out and butchered like dogs. No soldier’s grave, not even a
trench with the rest of the boys—alone, despised, forgotten! These were
my orders, Miss Varney; this is the death I die to-night, and I don’t
want you to think for one moment that I am ashamed of it; no, not for
one moment.”

The sound of heavy feet drew nearer. Wilfred called again, while the two
in the room confronted each other, the man erect, and the woman, too. A
strange pain was in her heart. At least here was a man, but before she
could say a word in answer to his impassioned defence, the room filled
with soldiers.

“There’s your man, Sergeant,” said Wilfred; “I hand him over to you.”

“You are my prisoner,” said the Sergeant.

His command was reinforced by a number of others, including Corporal
Matson and his squad, and some of the men of the Provost Guard, who had
been chasing Thorne through the streets. At this juncture, Arrelsford,
panting and breathless, also joined the company in the drawing-room. He
came in rapidly, thrusting aside those in his way.

“Where is he?” he cried. “Ah!” he exclaimed triumphantly, as his eye
fell upon Thorne, standing quietly, surrounded by the soldiers. “We’ve
got him, have we?”

“Young Mr. Varney, here, took him, sir,” said the Sergeant.

“So,” returned Arrelsford to his prisoner, “run down at last. Now, you
will find out what it costs to play your little game with our Government
Telegraph lines.”

But Thorne did not turn his head, although Arrelsford spoke almost in
his ear. He looked straight at Edith Varney, and she returned his
glance.

“Don’t waste any time, Sergeant,” said Arrelsford furiously. “Take him
down the street and shoot him full of lead. Out with him.”

“Very well, sir,” said the Sergeant.

But Wilfred interposed. He came forward, Thorne’s revolver still in his
hand.

“No,” he said decisively; “whatever he is, whatever he has done, he has
the right to a trial.”

“The head of the Secret Service Department said to me if I found him, to
shoot him at sight,” snarled Arrelsford.

“I don’t care what General Tarleton said. I captured this man; he’s in
this house, and he is not going out unless he is treated fairly.”

The Sergeant looked uncertainly from Wilfred to Arrelsford. Mrs. Varney,
who had entered with the rest of them, and who now stood by her
daughter’s side, looked her approval at her son. The mettle of his
distinguished father was surely in his veins.

“Well done,” said the woman softly, but not so softly that those about
her did not hear; “your father would have spoken so.”

Arrelsford came to a sudden decision.

“Well, let him have a trial. We’ll give him a drumhead court-martial,
but it will be the quickest ever held on earth. Stack your muskets here,
and organise a court,” he said.

“Fall in here,” cried the Sergeant, at which the men quickly took their
places. “Attention! Stack arms! Two of you take the prisoner. Where
shall we find a vacant room, ma’am?”

“Across the hall,” said Mrs. Varney; “where the ladies were sewing this
evening.”

“Very good,” said the Sergeant. “Left face! Forward, march!”

Arrelsford and Wilfred followed the soldiers.

“I am the chief witness,” said the former.

“I will see that he gets fair play,” remarked the latter, as they
marched out.

“I must go to Howard,” said Mrs. Varney; “this excitement is killing
him; I am afraid he will hardly survive the night. Caroline is with him
now.”

“Very well, mother,” said Edith, going slowly up the now deserted room
and standing in the window, looking out into the night, thinking her
strange, appalling thoughts. They would convict him, shoot him, there
was no hope. What had he said? He was not ashamed of his work. It was
the highest duty and involved the highest and noblest sacrifice, because
it made the greatest demand; and they would shoot him like a mad dog.

“Oh, God!” she whispered; “if some bullet would only find my heart as
well.”



                              CHAPTER XIX

                       THE DRUMHEAD COURT-MARTIAL


It so happened that the soldiers who had thrust old Jonas back in his
closet, whence they had taken him a short time before, in their haste,
had failed to lock the door upon him. The negro, who had listened for
the click of the key in the lock, had at once known of their
carelessness. So soon as they had withdrawn from the room, and their
search took them to other parts of the house, he had opened the door
cautiously and had made his way toward the hall by the drawing-room,
which he felt instinctively was the place where the exciting events of
the night would soon culminate.

Thorne’s entry and the circumstances of his apprehension had been so
engrossing that no one had given a thought to Jonas, or to any other
part of the house, for that matter, and he had been able to see
everything through the hangings. He was a quick-witted old negro, and he
knew, of course, that there would be but one verdict given by such a
court-martial as had assembled. Now, the men who composed the court
would of necessity be detailed to carry out their own sentence. The long
room was filled with stacks of guns. Every soldier, even those under the
command of Corporal Matson in Arrelsford’s Department, had gone to the
court-martial. There was nothing else of interest to attract them in the
house. Every gun was there in that room, unguarded.

A recent capture of a battalion of Federal riflemen had put the
Confederates into possession of a few hundred breech-loading weapons,
not of the latest and most approved pattern, for the cartridges in these
guns were in cardboard shells, but still better than any the South
possessed. These rifles had been distributed to some of the companies in
garrison at Richmond, and it so happened that the men of the Secret
Service squad and the Provost Guard had received most of them. Every gun
in the stacks was of this pattern.

In his earlier days, Jonas had been his young master’s personal
attendant, his body-servant, and as such he had often gone hunting with
him. During the war he had frequently visited him in camp, charged with
messages of one sort or another, and he knew all about weapons.

As he stared into the long room after the departing soldiers, he did not
know Edith Varney was still there, nor could he see her at all, for she
was on the other side of the curtain, looking out of the window, and it
seemed to him that the room was empty.

Jonas was a very intelligent negro, and while under any ordinary
circumstances his devotion to his master and mistress would have been
absolutely sure, yet he had become tinged with the ideas of freedom and
liberty in the air. He had assisted many and many a Union prisoner.
Captain Thorne, by his pleasant ways and nice address, had won his
heart. And he himself was deeply concerned personally that the young man
should not be punished for his attempt to bring about the success of the
Union cause, which Jonas felt to be his own cause. Therefore he had a
double motive to secure the freedom of his principal if it were in any
way possible. Of course, any direct interposition was out of the
question. He was still only a slave. His open interference would have
been fruitless of any consequences except bad ones for himself, and he
was already more than compromised by the events of the night. What he
was to do he must do by stealth.

As he stared at the pyramids of guns, listening to the hum of
conversation from the room across the hall—the door had been
fortunately closed—a thought came to him. He pushed aside the portières
with which he had concealed himself, and entered the room by the back
door. He glanced about apprehensively. He was not burdened with any
overplus of physical courage, and what he did was the more remarkable,
especially in view of the fact that the soldiers might return at any
moment and catch him at what they could very easily construe as an act
of high treason, which would result in his blood being mingled with that
of Captain Thorne, in the same gutter, probably.

He moved with cat-like swiftness in the direction of the first stack of
rules. He knelt down by it, seized the nearest gun, which lay across the
other three, swiftly opened the breech-plug, drew out the cartridge,
looked at it a moment, put the end of it in his mouth, and crunched his
strong white teeth down upon it. When he finished, he had the leaden
bullet in his mouth, and the cardboard shell in his hand. He replaced
this latter in the chamber and closed the breech-plug. A smile of
triumph irradiated his sable features. The gun could be fired, but
whatever or whoever stood in front of it would be unharmed.

He had not been quite sure that he could do this, but the result of his
experiment convinced him. All the other guns were of the same character,
and, given the time, he could render them all harmless. He did not waste
time in reflection, but started in with the same process on the others.
He worked with furious haste until every bullet had been bitten off
every cartridge. It would have been impossible to have drawn the bullets
of the ordinary muzzle-loading rifle, or army musket, in twenty times
the period.

The noise of Jonas’ first entrance had attracted the attention of Edith
Varney. She had turned with the intention of going into the room, but,
on second thought, she had concealed herself further behind the
curtains. Between the wall and the edge of the portières was a little
space, through which she peered. She saw the whole performance, and
divined instantly what was in Jonas’ mind, and what the result of his
actions would be.

In an incredibly short time, considering what he had to do, the old
negro finished his task. He rose to his feet and stood staring
triumphantly at the long stacks of guns. He even permitted himself a low
chuckle, with a glance across the hall to the court. Well, he had at
least done something worthy of a man’s approbation in this dramatic game
in which he was so humble a player.

Now Edith Varney, who had observed him with mingled admiration and
resentment—resentment that he had proven false to her people, her
family; and admiration at his cleverness—stepped further into the room
as he finished the last musket, and, as he started toward the lower end
of the room to make good his escape, she coughed slightly.

Jonas stopped and wheeled about instantly, frightened to death, of
course, but somewhat relieved when he saw who it was who had had him
under observation, and who had interrupted him. He realised at once that
it was no use to attempt to conceal anything, and he threw himself upon
the mercy of his young mistress, and, with great adroitness, sought to
enlist her support for what he had done.

“Dey’s gwine to shoot him, shoot him down lak a dog, missy,” he said in
a low, pleading whisper, “an’ Ah couldn’t b’ah to see ’em do dat. Ah
wouldn’t lak to see him killed, Ah wouldn’t lak it noways. You won’t say
nuffin’ about dis fo’ de sake ob old Jonas, what always was so fond ob
you ebah sense you was a little chile. You see, Ah jes’ tek dese
yeah”—he extended his hand, full of leaden bullets—“an’ den dey won’t
be no ha’m cum to him whatsomebah, les’n dey loads ’em up agin. When dey
shoots, an’ he jes’ draps down, dey’ll roll him obah into de guttah, an’
be off lak mad. Den Ah kin be neah by an’”—he stopped, and, if his face
had been full of apprehension before, it now became transformed with
anxiety. “How’s he gwine to know?” he asked. “If he don’t drap down,
dey’ll shoot him agin, an’ dey’ll hab bullets in dem next time. What Ah
gwine to do, how Ah gwine to tell him?”

Edith had listened to him as one in a dream. Her face had softened a
little. After all, this negro had done this thing for the man she—God
forgive her—still loved.

“You tell him,” whispered Jonas; “you tell him, it’s de on’y way. Tell
him to drap down. Do dis fo’ ole Jonas, honey; do it fo’ me, an’ Ah’ll
be a slabe to you as long as Ah lib, no mattah what Mars Linkum does.
Listen,” said the old man, as a sudden commotion was heard in the room
across the hall. “Dey gwine to kill him. You do it.”

Nothing could be gained by remaining. He had said all he could, used
every argument possible to him, and, realising his danger, he turned and
disappeared through the back door into the dark rear hall. There was a
scraping of chairs and a trampling of feet, a few words heard
indistinctly, and then the voice of the old Sergeant:

“Fall in! Right Face! Forward—March!”

Before they came into the hall, Jonas made one last appeal. He thrust
his old black face through the portieres, his eyes rolling, his jaws
working.

“Fo’ Gawd’s sek, missy, tell him to drap down,” he whispered as he
disappeared.

Wilfred, not waiting for the soldiers, came into the room, and Caroline
followed him.

“Where’s mother?” asked Wilfred.

“She’s gone up to Howard; I think he is dying,” said Caroline. “She
can’t leave him for anybody or anything.”

If Edith heard, she gave no sign. She stood motionless on the other side
of the room, and stared toward the door; they would bring him back that
way, and she could see him again.

“Wilfred dear,” asked Caroline, “what are they going to do?”

“Shoot him.”

“When?”

“Now.”

“Where?”

“Out in the street.”

Caroline’s low exclamation of pity struck a responsive chord in
Wilfred’s heart. He nodded gravely, and bit his lips. He did not feel
particularly happy over the situation, evidently, but the conversation
was interrupted by the entrance of the men. They came into the room in a
double line, Thorne walking easily between them. They entered the room
by the door, marched down it, came back, and ranged themselves opposite
the stacks of arms.

“Halt!” cried the Sergeant. “Right Face! Take arms! Carry arms! Left
face! Forward—March!”

Edith had not taken her eyes off Thorne since he had reëntered the room.
She had watched him as if fascinated. He had shot at her one quick,
searching glance, and then had kept his eyes averted, not because he
would not like to look at her, but because he could not bear himself
like a man in these last swift terrible seconds, if he did.

As the men moved to carry out their last order, the girl awoke to her
surroundings.

“Wait,” she said. “Who is in command!”

“I am, miss,” answered the Sergeant.

Arrelsford, who had entered with the soldiers, started at this, but he
said nothing.

“I’d like to speak to the—the prisoner,” continued Edith.

“I’m sorry, miss,” answered the Sergeant respectfully, but abruptly;
“but we haven’t the time.”

“Only a word, Sergeant,” pleaded the girl, stepping close to him, and
laying her hand on his arm.

The Sergeant looked at her a moment. What he saw in her eyes touched his
very soul.

“Very well,” he said. “Right face! Fall out the prisoner!”

Thorne stepped out in front of the ranks.

“Now, Miss,” said the Sergeant; “be quick about it.”

“No!” said Wilfred sternly.

“Oh, Wilfred!” cried Caroline, laying her hand on his arm. “Let her
speak to him, let her say good-bye.”

There was an instant’s pause. Wilfred looked from Caroline’s flushed,
eager face, to Edith’s pale one. After all, what was the harm? He nodded
his head, but no one moved. It was the Sergeant who broke the silence.

“The lady,” he said, looking at Thorne, and pointing at Edith. As he
spoke, he added another order. “Matson, take your squad and guard the
windows. Prisoner, you can go over to the side of the room.”

The Sergeant’s purpose was plain. It would give Edith Varney an
opportunity to say what she had to say to Thorne in a low voice if she
chose, without the possibility of being overheard. The initiative must
come from the woman, the man realised. It was Edith who turned and
walked slowly across the room, Thorne followed her more rapidly, and the
two stood side by side. They were thus so placed by the kindness of the
veteran that she could speak her words, and no one could hear what they
were.

“One of the servants,” began the girl in a low, utterly passionless and
expressionless voice, “Jonas, has taken the bullets from the guns. If
you will drop when they fire, you can escape with your life.”

In exactly the same level, almost monotonous, voice, Thorne whispered a
pertinent question:

“Shall I do this for you?”

“It is nothing to me,” said the woman quietly, and might God forgive
her, she prayed, for that falsehood.

Thorne looked at her, his soul in his eyes. If her face had been carved
from marble, it could not have been more expressionless and indifferent.
He could not know how wildly her heart was beating underneath that stony
exterior. Well, she had turned against him. He was nothing to her. There
was no use living any longer. She did not care.

“Were you responsible in any way for it?” he asked.

The girl shook her head and turned away without looking at him. She had
not the least idea of what he was about to do. Not one man in a thousand
would have done it. Perhaps if he went to his death in some quixotic
way, he might redeem himself in her eyes, had flashed into Thorne’s
mind, as he turned to the guard.

“Sergeant,” he said, saluting. He spoke in a clear, cool, most
indifferent way. “You had better take a look at the rifles of your
command. I understand they have been tampered with.”

“What the hell!” cried the Sergeant, seizing a piece from the nearest
man. He snapped open the breech-plug and drew out the cartridge and
examined it. Some one had bitten off the bullet! He saw everything
clearly. “Squad ready!” he cried. “Draw cartridges!”

There was a rattling of breech-plugs and a low murmur of astonishment,
as every man found that his cartridge was without a bullet.

“With ball cartridges, load!” cried the Sergeant. “Carry arms!”

When this little manœuvre, which was completed with swiftness and
precision because the men were all veterans, was finished, the Sergeant
turned to the prisoner, who had stood composedly watching the
performance which took away his last opportunity for escape, and saluted
him with distinct admiration.

“I am much obliged to you, sir,” he said.

How Edith Varney kept her feet, why she did not scream or faint away,
she could not tell. Thorne’s words had petrified her. Her pride kept her
from acknowledging what she felt. She had never dreamed of any such
action on his part, and it seemed to her that she had sent him to his
death again. How could she retrace her steps, repair her blunder? There
was nothing to do. But her countenance changed. A look of such desperate
entreaty came into her face as fully betrayed her feelings. Of the
people in the room, only Arrelsford observed her, and even his jealousy
and resentment were slightly softened by her visible anguish. Everybody
was staring at Thorne, for they all knew the result of his remarkable
action, although no one could in the least degree fathom the reason.

It was Wilfred who broke the silence. He walked slowly up to Thorne and
thrust out his hand.

“I would like to shake hands with you,” he said admiringly, and for the
first time in the long hours a slight smile quivered about the man’s
lips. It was the generous, spontaneous tribute of youth that gave him
that moment of melancholy satisfaction.

“Oh,” thought Edith, watching her brother; “if only I dared to do the
like.”

“Is this for yourself?” asked Thorne, “or your father?”

“For both of us, sir,” answered Wilfred.

Thorne shook him by the hand. The two looked into each other’s faces,
and everybody saw the satisfaction and gratification of the older man.

“That’s all, Sergeant,” said Thorne, turning away.

“Fall in the prisoner! Escort left face! Forward—March!” cried the
Sergeant.

At that moment a man, breathless from having run rapidly, entered the
room by the window. His uniform was that of an officer, and he wore a
Lieutenant’s shoulder-straps.

“Halt!” he cried, as he burst into the room. “Are you in command,
Sergeant?”

“Yes, sir.”

“General Randolph’s on the way here with orders. You will please wait
until——”

But Arrelsford now interposed.

“What orders, Lieutenant? Anything to do with this case?”

The officer looked greatly surprised at this intervention by a civilian,
but he answered civilly enough:

“I don’t know what his orders are. He has been with the President.”

“But I sent word to the Department,” said Arrelsford, “that we had got
the man, and were going to drumhead him on the spot.”

“Then this must be the case, sir. The General wishes to be present.”

“It is impossible,” returned Arrelsford. “We have already held the
court, and I have sent the findings to the Secretary. The messenger is
to get his approval and meet us at the corner of the street yonder. I
have no doubt he is waiting there now. It is a mere formality.”

“I have no further orders to give, sir,” said the Lieutenant. “General
Randolph will be here in a minute, but you can wait for him or not, as
you see fit.”

The Sergeant stood uncertain. For one thing, he was not anxious to carry
out the orders he had been given now. That one little action of Thorne’s
had changed the whole situation. For another thing, Arrelsford was only
a civilian, and General Randolph was one of the ranking officers in
Richmond.

“Move on, Sergeant,” said Arrelsford peremptorily. “You have all the
authority you want, and——”

The Sergeant held back, uncertainly, but the day was saved by the advent
of the General himself.



                               CHAPTER XX

                           THE LAST REPRIEVE


General Randolph was evidently in a great hurry. Public affairs of great
moment pressed upon him, and it was an evidence of the interest he took
in the case of Captain Thorne that he gave him even a minute of his
valuable time. He had come on horseback, and everybody could see that he
was anxious to get through with his appointed task and get away.

“Ah, Sergeant,” he said, answering the latter’s salute as he brought the
guard to attention, and then his eye fell upon Captain Thorne. “You have
the prisoner, have you?”

“Just taking him out, sir,” answered the Sergeant, saluting again.

“To prison?”

“No, sir.”

“Where, then?”

“To execute the sentence of the court, sir.”

“Oh!” exclaimed the General, looking hard at the Sergeant. “He has had
his trial, has he?”

But Arrelsford, who chafed at thus being left out of the game, now
stepped over and took up the burden of the conversation before the
Sergeant could reply.

“We have done everything according to regulation, sir,” he said,
saluting in a rather cavalier manner. He did not like General Randolph.
If it had not been for his interference, the affair would have been
settled long ago, and he still cherished a grudge against the latter for
having arrested a man so important as the trusted agent of the Secret
Service. “The findings have gone to the Secretary.”

“Ah!” said General Randolph blandly. He did not like Mr. Arrelsford any
better than Mr. Arrelsford liked him.

“Yes, sir.”

“And he was found guilty, I presume?”

“Certainly, sir.”

“And what are you going to do with him?”

“There is no time for a hanging now, and the court has ordered him
shot.”

“Oh, indeed. And what were the charges?”

“Conspiracy against our government and the success of our arms, by
sending a false and misleading despatch containing forged orders, was
the particular specification.”

“Well,” said General Randolph, “I regret to say that the court has been
misinformed.”

“What!” cried Arrelsford, in great surprise. “The testimony was very
plain.”

“Yes, indeed, sir,” interposed the Sergeant.

“Nevertheless,” returned the General, “the man is not guilty of that
charge. The despatch was not sent.”

Now Edith Varney had scarcely moved. She had expected nothing, she had
hoped for nothing, from the advent of the General. At best it would mean
only a little delay. The verdict was just, the sentence was adequate,
and the punishment must and would be carried out. She had listened,
scarcely apprehending, busy with her own thoughts, her eyes fastened on
Thorne, who stood there so pale and composed. But at this remarkable
statement by General Randolph she was suddenly quickened into life. A
low exclamation broke from her lips. A hope, not that his life might be
saved, but that it might be less shameful to love him, came into her
heart. Wilfred stepped forward also.

The terse statement of the General had caused a great deal of excitement
and commotion in the room. Only Thorne preserved his calmness. He was
glad that Edith Varney had learned this, and he was more glad that she
had learned it from the lips of the enemy, but it would make no
difference in his fate. He was not guilty of that particular charge, but
there were dozens of other charges for which they could try him, the
punishment of any one of which was death. Besides, he was a spy caught
in the Confederate lines, wearing a uniform not his own. It was enough
that the woman should learn that he had not taken advantage of her
action; at least she could not reproach herself with that.

“Why, General,” began Arrelsford, greatly dismayed, “I hardly understand
what you mean. That despatch—I saw him myself——”

General Randolph turned on him quickly.

“I say that that despatch was not sent,” he roared, striking the table
with his hand. “I expected to arrive in time for the trial. There is one
here who can testify. Lieutenant Foray?”

From among the group of staff officers who had followed General
Randolph, Lieutenant Foray stepped forward before the General and
saluted.

“Did Captain Thorne send out that despatch after we left you with him in
the office an hour ago?” asked the older officer.

“No, sir,” answered Foray promptly, glancing from Arrelsford’s thwarted
and flushed and indignant countenance to Edith Varney’s face, in which
he saw the light of a great illumination was shining. “No, sir,” he
repeated; “I was just about to send it by his orders, when he
countermanded it and tore up the despatch.”

“And what despatch was it?”

“It was one signed by the Secretary of War, sir, removing Marston’s
Division from Cemetery Hill.”

“You hear, gentlemen,” said the General, and, not giving them time to
answer, he turned again to Foray. “What were Captain Thorne’s words at
the time?”

“He said he refused to act under that commission, and crumpled it up and
threw it away.”

“That will do, Lieutenant,” said General Randolph triumphantly. He
turned to Arrelsford again. “If you are not satisfied, Mr. Arrelsford, I
beg to inform you that we have a despatch, from General Chesney at the
front, in which he says that no orders were received from here. He got
an uncompleted despatch, but could not make anything out of it.
Marston’s Division was not withdrawn from Cemetery Hill, and our
position was not weakened in any way. The attack there has failed.”
There was a low murmur of astonishment from the group of men in the
room. Edith Varney did one significant thing. She made two steps in
Thorne’s direction. That young man did not dare to trust himself to look
at her. “It is quite plain,” continued the General, “that the court has
been acting under an error. The President of the Confederacy is,
therefore, compelled to disapprove the finding, and it is set aside. He
happened to be with the Secretary when the finding came in.”

Arrelsford made one last desperate effort.

“General Randolph,” he said, and, to do him justice, he did not lack
courage, “this was put in my hands, and——”

General Randolph laughed.

“I take it out of your hands,” he said curtly. “Report back to the War
Office, or the Secret Service Office, with my compliments, and——”

“But there are other charges upon which he could be tried,” persisted
Arrelsford. “He is a spy anyway, and——”

“I believe I gave you your orders, Mr. Arrelsford,” interrupted the
General, with suspicious politeness.

“But hadn’t I better wait and see——”

“By God, sir,” thundered Randolph, “do I have to explain my orders to
the whole Secret Service of the Confederacy? Don’t wait to see anything.
Go at once, or I will have you escorted by a file of soldiers.”

Arrelsford would have defied the General if there had been the least use
in the world in doing it, but the game was clearly up for the present.
He would try to arrange to have Thorne rearrested and tried as a spy
later. Now he could do nothing. He walked out of the room, pride
enabling him to keep up a brave front, but with disappointment and
resentment raging in his heart. He did not realise that his power over
Thorne had been withdrawn. In the great game that they had played, he
had lost at all points. They all watched him go, not a single one in the
room with sympathy, or even pity.

“Now, Sergeant,” said the General, as they heard the heavy hall door
close; “I want to speak to the prisoner.”

“Order arms!” cried the Sergeant. “Parade rest!” As the squad assumed
these positions in obedience to his commands, the Sergeant continued,
“Fall out the prisoner.”

Thorne stepped forward one pace from the ranks, and saluted the General.
He kept his eyes fixed upon that gentleman, and it was only the
throbbing of his heart that made him aware that Edith Varney was by his
side. She bent her head toward him; he felt her warm breath against his
cheek as she whispered:

“Oh! Why didn’t you tell me? I thought you sent it, I thought you——”

“Miss Varney!” exclaimed the General in surprise.

But Edith threw maidenly reserve to the winds. The suddenness of the
revelation overwhelmed her.

“There is nothing against him, General Randolph, now; is there? He
didn’t send it. There’s nothing to try him for!” she said.

General Randolph smiled grimly at her.

“You are very much mistaken, Miss Varney,” he answered. “The fact of his
being caught in our lines without his proper uniform is enough to hang
him in ten minutes.”

Edith caught her heart with her hand with a sharp exclamation, but
General Randolph had turned to speak to the prisoner.

“Captain Thorne,” he said, “or Lewis Dumont, if that is your name; the
President is fully informed regarding the circumstances of your case,
and I needn’t say that we look upon you as a cursed dangerous character.
There isn’t any doubt whatever that you ought to be shot right now, but,
considering the damned peculiarity of your behaviour, and that you
refused to send out that despatch when you might have done so, we’ve
decided to keep you out of mischief some other way. You will be held a
prisoner of war.”

Captain Thorne was almost too dazed to realise the purport of the
decree. He mechanically saluted, and from his lips broke a murmured,

“Thank you, sir.”

The General looked at him severely, and then, seeing Edith Varney,
turned away and engaged in conversation with his staff. His intention
was obvious, and Edith immediately embraced the opportunity.

“Oh!” she said; “that isn’t nearly so bad as death,” and before them all
she stretched out her hand to him.

“No?” queried Thorne in a low voice.

“No,” she said, forcing herself to look at him. “After a while
perhaps—some time——”

“Oh!” said Thorne. “Some time? If it’s some time, that’s enough.”

Mrs. Varney, having succeeded in getting Howard quiet and composed, had
been in the room since the advent of General Randolph.

“Mamma,” said Edith, “won’t you speak to him, too?”

Mrs. Varney approached him, but Wilfred was quicker.

“I would like to shake hands with you,” he said, with boyish enthusiasm.

“What, again?” said Thorne, smiling. “All right.” He stretched out his
hand. “Go ahead.”

“And so would I,” said Caroline, following the lead of her boy lover.

“Don’t be afraid now,” said Wilfred. “Everything will be all right. They
will give you a parole, and——”

“A parole!” said Caroline. “Goodness gracious, they will give you
hundreds of them, I am sure.”

But General Randolph turned once more.

“One moment, please,” said the officer. As he came forward, the others
fell back. Only Edith Varney kept her place close by Thorne’s side.
“There is only one reason on earth why the President has set aside a
certain verdict of death. You held up that false order and made a turn
in our favor. You are not to be tried as a spy, but held as a prisoner
of war. We expect you to make that turn complete and enter our service.”

“Never,” replied Thorne instantly. “That’s impossible, sir.”

“You can give us your answer later,” said the General.

“You have it now.”

“You will be kept in close confinement until you come to our terms,”
continued the older officer.

“You make me a prisoner for life, then.”

“You will see it in another light before many days, and it wouldn’t
surprise me if Miss Varney had something to do with a change in your
views.”

“You are mistaken, General Randolph,” quickly interposed Edith. “I think
he is perfectly right.”

“Oh, very well,” said the General, smiling a little. “We will see what a
little prison life will do. Sergeant?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I have turned the prisoner over to Major Whitfield. He requests you to
take the prisoner to his office, where he’ll take charge of him.”

“Very good, sir,” answered the Sergeant.

“What is it?” whispered Thorne to Edith. “Love and good-bye?”

“No,” answered the girl; “only the first.” She stopped and looked up at
him, her face flushed, her heart throbbing, her eyes shining gloriously.
“And that every day, every hour, every minute, until we meet again.”

“Thank God,” whispered Thorne. “Until we meet again.”

“Attention!” cried the Sergeant. “Carry arms! Left face! Fall in the
prisoner! Forward—March!”



                               AFTERWORD


And so the great adventure is over, the story is told, and the play is
played. It is hard to tell who lost and who won. It made little
difference in the end that Marston’s Division had not been withdrawn,
and that the attack on Cemetery Hill had failed. It made little
difference in the end that Arrelsford had been thwarted in his attempts
to wreak his vengeance upon Thorne. It made little difference in the end
that Thorne refused to enter the service of the Confederacy, preferring
imprisonment for life. For the days of that Confederacy were numbered.
It was even then tottering on the verge of its grave, in spite of the
brave front it kept up.

Three days after the events of that night, and Richmond had fallen, and
presently the last of the Confederate defenders halted at Appomattox.
The Stars and Bars were hauled down for the last time. The Army was
disbanded. The prisoners were released. There was a quiet wedding in the
old house. Howard, happily recovering from his wounds, was present.
General Varney himself gave away the bride—reluctantly, to be sure, yet
he did it. Wilfred took the place of the brother of Captain Thorne—to
continue to call him by the name he had assumed—and acted as the best
man. To whom should be given the coveted privilege of attending the
bride but to Miss Caroline Mitford! And Miss Kittridge and the few other
guests, including General Randolph, saw in the younger couple
indications that when a few more years had made it suitable, the two who
played the second part on this interesting occasion would be principals
themselves.

There was much opposition, of course, to the wedding of Captain Thorne
and Edith Varney, and many bitter things were said, but there was no
restraining the young people. They had lived and suffered, they had
almost died together. The years of peace and harmony and friendship that
came to the sections at last, and the present happiness that was theirs
immediately, convinced even the most obdurate that what they had done
was exactly right.

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

                          TITLES SELECTED FROM
                        GROSSET & DUNLAP’S LIST

  May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap’s list.

THE SIEGE OF THE SEVEN SUITORS. By Meredith Nicholson. Illustrated by C.
Coles Phillips and Reginald Birch.

Seven suitors vie with each other for the love of a beautiful girl, and
she subjects them to a test that is full of mystery, magic and sheer
amusement.

THE MAGNET. By Henry C. Rowland. Illustrated by Clarence F. Underwood.

The story of a remarkable courtship involving three pretty girls on a
yacht, a poet-lover in pursuit, and a mix-up in the names of the girls.

THE TURN OF THE ROAD. By Eugenia Brooks Frothingham.

A beautiful young opera singer chooses professional success instead of
love, but comes to a place in life where the call of the heart is
stronger than worldly success.

SCOTTIE AND HIS LADY. By Margaret Morse. Illustrated by Harold M. Brett.

A young girl whose affections have been blighted is presented with a
Scotch Collie to divert her mind, and the roving adventures of her pet
lead the young mistress into another romance.

SHEILA VEDDER. By Amelia E. Barr. Frontispiece by Harrison Fisher.

A very beautiful romance of the Shetland Islands, with a handsome,
strong willed hero and a lovely girl of Gaelic blood as heroine. A
sequel to “Jan Vedder’s Wife.”

JOHN WARD, PREACHER. By Margaret Deland.

The first big success of this much loved American novelist. It is a
powerful portrayal of a young clergyman’s attempt to win his beautiful
wife to his own narrow creed.

THE TRAIL OF NINETY-EIGHT. By Robert W. Service. Illustrated by Maynard
Dixon.

One of the best stories of “Vagabondia” ever written, and one of the
most accurate and picturesque of the stampede of gold seekers to the
Yukon. The love story embedded in the narrative is strikingly original.

   Ask for complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction
             Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St., New York

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

                          TITLES SELECTED FROM
                        GROSSET & DUNLAP’S LIST

  May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap’s list.

A CERTAIN RICH MAN. By William Allen White.

A vivid, startling portrayal of one man’s financial greed, its wide
spreading power, its action in Wall Street, and its effect on the three
women most intimately in his life. A splendid, entertaining American
novel.

IN OUR TOWN. By William Allen White. Illustrated by F. R. Gruger and W.
Glackens.

Made up of the observations of a keen newspaper editor, involving the
town millionaire, the smart set, the literary set, the bohemian set, and
many others. All humorously related and sure to hold the attention.

NATHAN BURKE. By Mary S. Watts.

The story of an ambitious, backwoods Ohio boy who rose to prominence.
Everyday humor of American rustic life permeates the book.

THE HIGH HAND. By Jacques Futrelle. Illustrated by Will Grefe.

A splendid story of the political game, with a son of the soil on the
one side, and a “kid glove” politician on the other. A pretty girl,
interested in both men, is the chief figure.

THE BACKWOODSMEN. By Charles G. D. Roberts. Illustrated.

Realistic stories of men and women living midst the savage beauty of the
wilderness. Human nature at its best and worst is well portrayed.

YELLOWSTONE NIGHTS. By Herbert Quick.

A jolly company of six artists, writers and other clever folks take a
trip through the National Park, and tell stories around camp fire at
night. Brilliantly clever and original.

THE PROFESSOR’S MYSTERY. By Wells Hastings and Brian Hooker. Illustrated
by Hanson Booth.

A young college professor, missing his steamer for Europe, has a
romantic meeting with a pretty girl, escorts her home, and is enveloped
in a big mystery.

   Ask for complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction
             Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St., New York

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

                          TITLES SELECTED FROM
                        GROSSET & DUNLAP’S LIST

  May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap’s list.

THE SECOND WIFE. By Thompson Buchanan. Illustrated by W. W. Fawcett.
Harrison Fisher wrapper printed in four colors and gold.

An intensely interesting story of a marital complication in a wealthy
New York family involving the happiness of a beautiful young girl.

TESS OF THE STORM COUNTRY. By Grace Miller White. Illustrated by Howard
Chandler Christy.

An amazingly vivid picture of low class life in a New York college town,
with a heroine beautiful and noble, who makes a great sacrifice for
love.

FROM THE VALLEY OF THE MISSING. By Grace Miller White. Frontispiece and
wrapper in colors by Penrhyn Stanlaws.

Another story of “the storm country.” Two beautiful children are
kidnapped from a wealthy home and appear many years after showing the
effects of a deep, malicious scheme behind their disappearance.

THE LIGHTED MATCH. By Charles Neville Buck. Illustrated by R. F.
Schabelitz.

A lovely princess travels incognito through the States and falls in love
with an American man. There are ties that bind her to someone in her own
home, and the great plot revolves round her efforts to work her way out.

MAUD BAXTER. By C. C. Hotchkiss. Illustrated by Will Grefe.

A romance both daring and delightful, involving an American girl and a
young man who had been impressed into English service during the
Revolution.

THE HIGHWAYMAN. By Guy Rawlence. Illustrated by Will Grefe.

A French beauty of mysterious antecedents wins the love of an Englishman
of title. Developments of a startling character and a clever untangling
of affairs hold the reader’s interest.

THE PURPLE STOCKINGS. By Edward Salisbury Field. Illustrated in colors;
marginal illustrations.

A young New York business man, his pretty sweetheart, his sentimental
stenographer, and his fashionable sister are all mixed up in a
misunderstanding that surpasses anything in the way of comedy in years.
A story with a laugh on every page.

   Ask for complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction
             Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St., New York

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

                          The Master’s Violin
                             By MYRTLE REED

[Illustration: small image of book cover]

A Love Story with a musical atmosphere. A picturesque, old German
virtuoso is the reverent possessor of a genuine Cremona. He consents to
take as his pupil a handsome youth who proves to have an aptitude for
technique, but not the soul of the artist. The youth has led the happy,
careless life of a modern, well-to-do young American, and he cannot,
with his meagre past, express the love, the longing, the passion and the
tragedies of life and its happy phases as can the master who has lived
life in all its fulness. But a girl comes into his existence, a
beautiful bit of human driftwood that his aunt had taken into her heart
and home; and through his passionate love for her, he learns the lessons
that life has to give—and his soul awakens.

Founded on a fact well known among artists, but not often recognized or
discussed.

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

If you have not read “Lavender and Old Lace” by the same author, you
have a double pleasure in store—for these two books show Myrtle Reed in
her most delightful, fascinating vein—indeed they may be considered as
masterpieces of compelling interest.

   Ask for complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction
                 Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers, New York

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

                           The Prodigal Judge
                           By VAUGHAN KESTER

This great novel—probably the most popular book in this country
to-day—is as human as a story from the pen of that great master of
“immortal laughter and immortal tears,” Charles Dickens.

The Prodigal Judge is a shabby outcast, a tavern hanger-on, a genial
wayfarer who tarries longest where the inn is most hospitable, yet with
that suavity, that distinctive politeness and that saving grace of humor
peculiar to the American man. He has his own code of morals—very
exalted ones—but honors them in the breach rather than in the
observance.

Clinging to the Judge closer than a brother, is Solomon
Mahaffy—fallible and failing like the rest of us, but with a sublime
capacity for friendship; and closer still, perhaps, clings little
Hannibal, a boy about whose parentage nothing is known until the end of
the story. Hannibal is charmed into tolerance of the Judge’s picturesque
vices, while Miss Betty, lovely and capricious, is charmed into placing
all her affairs, both material and sentimental, in the hands of this
delightful old vagabond.

The Judge will be a fixed star in the firmament of fictional characters
as surely as David Harum or Col. Sellers. He is a source of infinite
delight, while this story of Mr. Kester’s is one of the finest examples
of American literary craftmanship.

   Ask for complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction
             Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St., New York

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

                                A FEW OF
                           GROSSET & DUNLAP’S
                      Great Books at Little Prices

WHEN A MAN MARRIES. By Mary Roberts Rinehart. Illustrated by Harrison
Fisher and Mayo Bunker.

A young artist, whose wife had recently divorced him, finds that a visit
is due from his Aunt Selina, an elderly lady having ideas about things
quite apart from the Bohemian set in which her nephew is a shining
light. The way in which matters are temporarily adjusted forms the motif
of the story.

A farcical extravaganza, dramatized under the title of “Seven Days.”

THE FASHIONABLE ADVENTURES OF JOSHUA CRAIG. By David Graham Phillips.
Illustrated.

A young westerner, uncouth and unconventional, appears in political and
social life in Washington. He attains power in politics, and a young
woman of the exclusive set becomes his wife, undertaking his education
in social amenities.

“DOC.” GORDON. By Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman. Illustrated by Frank T.
Merrill.

Against the familiar background of American town life, the author
portrays a group of people strangely involved in a mystery. “Doc.”
Gordon, the one physician of the place, Dr. Elliot, his assistant, a
beautiful woman and her altogether charming daughter are all involved in
the plot. A novel of great interest.

HOLY ORDERS. By Marie Corelli.

A dramatic story, in which is pictured a clergyman in touch with society
people, stage favorites, simple village folk, powerful financiers and
others, each presenting vital problems to this man “in holy
orders”—problems that we are now struggling with in America.

KATRINE. By Elinor Macartney Lane. With frontispiece.

Katrine, the heroine of this story, is a lovely Irish girl, of lowly
birth, but gifted with a beautiful voice.

The narrative is based on the facts of an actual singer’s career, and
the viewpoint throughout is a most exalted one.

THE FORTUNES OF FIFI. By Molly Elliot Seawell. Illustrated by T. de
Thulstrup.

A story of life in France at the time of the first Napoleon. Fifi, a
glad, mad little actress of eighteen, is the star performer in a third
rate Parisian theatre. A story as dainty as a Watteau painting.

SHE THAT HESITATES. By Harris Dickson. Illustrated by C. W. Relyea.

The scene of this dashing romance shifts from Dresden to St. Petersburg
in the reign of Peter the Great, and then to New Orleans.

The hero is a French Soldier of Fortune, and the princess, who
hesitates—but you must read the story to know how she that hesitates
may be lost and yet saved.

             Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St., New York

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

                                A FEW OF
                           GROSSET & DUNLAP’S
                      Great Books at Little Prices

CY WHITTAKER’S PLACE. By Joseph C. Lincoln. Illustrated by Wallace
Morgan.

A Cape Cod story describing the amusing efforts of an elderly bachelor
and his two cronies to rear and educate a little girl. Full of honest
fun—a rural drama.

THE FORGE IN THE FOREST. By Charles G. D. Roberts. Illustrated by H.
Sandham.

A story of the conflict in Acadia after its conquest by the British. A
dramatic picture that lives and shines with the indefinable charm of
poetic romance.

A SISTER TO EVANGELINE. By Charles G. D. Roberts. Illustrated by E.
McConnell.

Being the story of Yvonne de Lamourie, and how she went into exile with
the villagers of Grand Pré. Swift action, fresh atmosphere, wholesome
purity, deep passion and searching analysis characterize this strong
novel.

THE OPENED SHUTTERS. By Clara Louise Burnham. Frontispiece by Harrison
Fisher.

A summer haunt on an island in Casco Bay is the background for this
romance. A beautiful woman, at discord with life, is brought to realize,
by her new friends, that she may open the shutters of her soul to the
blessed sunlight of joy by casting aside vanity and self love. A
delicately humorous work with a lofty motive underlying it all.

THE RIGHT PRINCESS. By Clara Louise Burnham.

An amusing story, opening at a fashionable Long Island resort, where a
stately Englishwoman employs a forcible New England housekeeper to serve
in her interesting home. How types so widely apart react on each others’
lives, all to ultimate good, makes a story both humorous and rich in
sentiment.

THE LEAVEN OF LOVE. By Clara Louise Burnham. Frontispiece by Harrison
Fisher.

At a Southern California resort a world-weary woman, young and beautiful
but disillusioned, meets a girl who has learned the art of living—of
tasting life in all its richness, opulence and joy. The story hinges
upon the change wrought in the soul of the blasè woman by this glimpse
into a cheery life.

             Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St., New York

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

                          B. M. Bower’s Novels
                       Thrilling Western Romances

          Large 12 mos. Handsomely bound in cloth. Illustrated

CHIP, OF THE FLYING U

A breezy wholesome tale, wherein the love affairs of Chip and Delia
Whitman are charmingly and humorously told. Chip’s jealousy of Dr. Cecil
Grantham, who turns out to be a big, blue eyed young woman is very
amusing. A clever, realistic story of the American Cow-puncher.

THE HAPPY FAMILY

A lively and amusing story, dealing with the adventures of eighteen
jovial, big hearted Montana cowboys. Foremost amongst them, we find
Ananias Green, known as Andy, whose imaginative powers cause many lively
and exciting adventures.

HER PRAIRIE KNIGHT

A realistic story of the plains, describing a gay party of Easterners
who exchange a cottage at Newport for the rough homeliness of a Montana
ranch-house. The merry-hearted cowboys, the fascinating Beatrice, and
the effusive Sir Redmond, become living, breathing personalities.

THE RANGE DWELLERS

Here are everyday, genuine cowboys, just as they really exist. Spirited
action, a range feud between two families, and a Romeo and Juliet
courtship make this a bright, jolly, entertaining story, without a dull
page.

THE LURE OF DIM TRAILS

A vivid portrayal of the experience of an Eastern author, among the
cowboys of the West, in search of “local color” for a new novel. “Bud”
Thurston learns many a lesson while following “the lure of the dim
trails” but the hardest, and probably the most welcome, is that of love.

THE LONESOME TRAIL

“Weary” Davidson leaves the ranch for Portland, where conventional city
life palls on him. A little branch of sage brush, pungent with the
atmosphere of the prairie, and the recollection of a pair of large brown
eyes soon compel his return. A wholesome love story.

THE LONG SHADOW

A vigorous Western story, sparkling with the free, outdoor, life of a
mountain ranch. Its scenes shift rapidly and its actors play the game of
life fearlessly and like men. It is a fine love story from start to
finish.

  Ask for a complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction.
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