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Ailsa Paige by Robert W. Chambers

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squadrons of the Lancers ranged always in support.

Every rod in retreat was a running combat. In the darkness the
discharge of the Zouaves' rifles ran from the guns' muzzles like
streams of molten metal spilling out on the grass. McDunn's guns
spirted great lumps of incandescence; the fuses of the shells in
the sky showered the darkness with swarming sparks.

Toward ten o'clock the harried column halted on a hill and
bivouacked without fires, food, or shelter. The Zouaves slept on
their arms in the drenched herbage; the Lancers, not daring to
unsaddle, lay down on the grass under their patient horses, bridle
tied to wrist. An awful anxiety clutched officers and men. Few
slept; the ceaseless and agonised shrieking from an emergency
hospital somewhere near them in the darkness almost unnerved them.

At dawn shells began to plunge downward among the Dragoons.
McDunn's battery roused itself to reply, but muddy staff-officers
arrived at full speed with orders for Claymore to make haste; and
the starving command staggered off stiffly through the mud, their
ears sickened by the piteous appeals of the wounded begging not to
be abandoned.

Berkley, his face a mass of bloody rags, gazed from his wet saddle
with feverish eyes at the brave contract surgeons standing silent
amid their wounded under the cedar trees.

Cripples hobbled along the lines, beseeching, imploring, catching
at stirrups, plucking feebly, blindly at the horses' manes for
support.

"Oh, my God!" sobbed a wounded artilleryman, lifting himself from
the blood-stained grass, "is this what I enlisted for? Are you
boys going to leave us behind to rot in rebel prisons?"

"Damn you!" shrieked another, "you ain't licked! What'n hell are
you runnin' away for? Gimme a gun an' a hoss an' I'll go back with
you to the river!"

And another pointed a mangled and shaking hand at the passing
horsemen.

"Oh, hell!" he sneered, "we don't expect anything of the cavalry,
but why are them Zouaves skedaddlin'? They fit like wild cats at
the river. Halt! you red-legged devils. You're goin' the wrong
way!"

A Sister of Charity, her snowy, wide-winged headdress limp in the
rain, came out of a shed and stood at the roadside, slender hands
joined imploringly.

"You mustn't leave your own wounded," she kept repeating. "You
wouldn't do that, gentlemen, would you? They've behaved so well;
they've done all that they could. Won't somebody tell General
McClellan how brave they were? If he knew, he would never leave
them here."

The Lancers looked down at her miserably as they rode; Colonel
Arran passed her, saluting, but with heavy, flushed face averted;
Berkley, burning with fever, leaned from his saddle, cap in hand.

"We can't help it, Sister. The same thing may happen to us in an
hour. But we'll surely come back; you never must doubt that!"

Farther on they came on a broken-down ambulance, the mules gone,
several dead men half buried in the wet straw, and two Sisters of
Charity standing near by in pallid despair.

Colonel Arran offered them lead-horses, but they were timid and
frightened; and Burgess gave his horse to the older one, and
Berkley took the other up behind him, where she sat sideways
clutching his belt, white coiffe aflutter, feet dangling.

At noon the regiment halted for forage and rations procured from a
waggon train which had attempted to cross their line of march. The
rain ceased: a hot sun set their drenched clothing and their
horses' flanks steaming. At two o'clock they resumed their route;
the ragged, rain-blackened pennons on the lance heads dried out
scarlet; a hot breeze set in, carrying with it the distant noise of
battle.

All that afternoon the heavy sound of the cannonade jarred their
ears. And at sunset it had not ceased.

Berkley's Sister of Charity clung to his belt in silence for a
while. After a mile or two she began to free her mind in regard to
the distressing situation of her companion and herself. She
informed Berkley that the negro drivers had become frightened and
had cut the traces and galloped off; that she and the other Sister
were on their way to the new base at Azalea Court House, where
thousands of badly wounded were being gathered from the battles of
the last week, and where conditions were said to be deplorable,
although the hospital boats had been taking the sick to Alexandria
as fast as they could be loaded.

She was a gentle little thing, with ideas of her own concerning the
disaster to the army which was abandoning thousands of its wounded
to the charity and the prisons of an enemy already too poor to feed
and clothe its own.

"Some of our Sisters stayed behind, and many of the medical staff
and even the contract surgeons remained. I hope the rebels will be
gentle with them. I expected to stay, but Sister Aurelienne and I
were ordered to Azalea last night. I almost cried my eyes out when
I left our wounded. The shells were coming into the hospital
yesterday, and one of them killed two of our wounded in the straw.
Oh, it was sad and terrible. I am sure the rebels didn't fire on
us on purpose. Do you think so?"

"No, I don't. Were you frightened, Sister."

"Oh, yes," she said naively, "and I wished I could run into the
woods and hide."

"But you didn't?"

"Why, no, I couldn't," she said, surprised.

The fever in his wound was making him light-headed. At intervals
he imagined that it was Ailsa seated behind him, her arms around
his waist, her breath cool and fragrant on his neck; and still he
knew she was a phantom born of fever, and dared not speak--became
sly, pretending he did not know her lest the spell break and she
vanish into thin air again.

What the little sister said was becoming to him only a pretty
confusion of soft sounds; at moments he was too deaf to hear her
voice at all; then he heard it and still believed it to be Ailsa
who was speaking; then, for a, few seconds, reality cleared his
clouded senses; he heard the steady thunder of the cannonade, the
steady clattering splash of his squadron; felt the hot, dry wind
scorching his stiffened cheek and scalp where the wound burned and
throbbed under a clotted bandage.

When the regiment halted to fill canteens the little sister washed
and re-bandaged his face and head.

It was a ragged slash running from the left ear across the
cheek-bone and eyebrow into the hair above the temple--a deep,
swollen, angry wound.

"What _were_ you doing when you got this?" she asked in soft
consternation, making him as comfortable as possible with the
scanty resources of her medical satchel. Later, when the bugles
sounded, she came back from somewhere down the line, suffered him
to lift her up behind him, settled herself, slipped both arms
confidently around his waist, and said:

"So you are the soldier who took the Confederate battle flag? Why
didn't you tell me? Ah--I know. The bravest never tell."

"There is nothing to tell," he replied. "They captured a guidon
from us. It evens the affair."

She said, after a moment's thought; "It speaks well for a man to
have his comrades praise him as yours praise you."

"You mean the trooper Burgess," he said wearily. "He's always
chattering."

"All who spoke to me praised you," she observed. "Your colonel
said: 'He does not understand what fear is. He is absolutely
fearless.'"

"My colonel has been misinformed, Sister. I am intelligent enough
to be afraid--philosopher enough to realise that it doesn't help
me. So nowadays I just go ahead."

"Trusting in God," she murmured.

He did not answer.

"Is it not true, soldier?"

But the fever was again transfiguring her into the shape of Ailsa
Paige, and he remained shyly silent, fearing to disturb the
vision--yet knowing vaguely that it was one.

She sighed; later, in silence, she repeated some Credos and Hail
Marys, her eyes fixed on space, the heavy cannonade dinning in her
ears. All around her rode the Lancers, tall pennoned weapons
swinging from stirrup and loop, bridles loose under their clasped
hands. The men seemed stupefied with fatigue; yet every now and
then they roused themselves to inquire after her comfort or to
offer her a place behind them. She timidly asked Berkley if she
tired him, but he begged her to stay, alarmed lest the vision of
Ailsa depart with her; and she remained, feeling contented and
secure in her drowsy fatigue. Colonel Arran dropped back from the
head of the column once to ride beside her. He questioned her
kindly; spoke to Berkley, also, asking with grave concern about his
wound. And Berkley answered in his expressionless way that he did
not suffer.

But the little Sister of Charity behind his back laid one finger
across her lips and looked significantly at Colonel Arran; and when
the colonel again rode to the head of the weary column his face
seemed even graver and more careworn.

By late afternoon they were beyond sound of the cannonade, riding
through a golden light between fields of stacked wheat. Far behind
in the valley they could see the bayonets of the Zouaves
glistening; farther still the declining sun glimmered on the guns
of the 10th battery. Along a parallel road endless lines of
waggons stretched from north to south, escorted by Egerton's
Dragoons.

To Berkley the sunset world had become only an infernal pit of
scarlet strung with raw nerves. The terrible pain in his face and
head almost made him lose consciousnesss. Later he seemed to be
drifting into a lurid sea of darkness, where he no longer felt his
saddle or the movement of his horse; he scarcely saw the lanterns
clustering, scarcely heard the increasing murmur around him, the
racket of picket firing, the noise of many bewildered men, the
cries of staff-officers directing divisions and brigades to their
camping ground, the confused tumult which grew nearer, nearer,
mounting like the ominous clamour of the sea as the regiment rode
through Azalea under the July stars.

He might have fallen from his saddle; or somebody perhaps lifted
him, for all he knew. In the glare of torches he found himself
lying on a moving stretcher. After that he felt straw under him;
and vaguely wondered why it did not catch fire from his body, which
surely now was but a mass of smouldering flame.

For days the fever wasted him--not entirely, for at intervals he
heard cannon, and always the interminable picket firing; and he
heard bugles, too, and recognised the various summons. But it was
no use trying to obey them--no use trying to find his legs. He
could not get up without his legs--he laughed weakly at the
thought; then, drowsy, indifferent, decided that they had been shot
away, but could not remember when; and it bothered him a good deal.

Other things bothered him; he was convinced that his mother was in
the room. At intervals he was aware of Hallam's handsome face, cut
out like a paper picture from _Harper's Weekly_ and pasted flat on
the tent wall. Also there were too many fire zouaves around his
bed--if it was a bed, this vague vibrating hammock he occupied. It
was much more like a hollow nook inside a gigantic pendulum which
swung eternally to and fro until it swung him into
senselessness--or aroused him with fierce struggles to escape.
But his mother's slender hand sometimes arrested the maddening
motion, or--and this was curiously restful--she cleverly
transferred him to a cradle, which she rocked, leaning close over
him. Only she kept him wrapped up too warmly.

And after a long while there came a day when his face became
cooler, and his skin grew wet with sweat; and on that day he partly
unclosed his eyes and saw Colonel Arran sitting beside him.

Surprised, he attempted to sit up, but not a muscle of his body
obeyed him, and he lay there stupid, inert, hollow eyes fixed
meaninglessly on his superior, who spoke cautiously.

"Berkley, do you know me?"

His lips twitched a voiceless affirmative.

Colonel Arran said: "You are going to get well, now. . . . Get
well quickly, because--the regiment misses you. . . . What is it
you desire to say? Make the effort if you wish."

Berkley's sunken eyes remained focussed on space; he was trying to
consider. Then they turned painfully toward Colonel Arran again.

"Ailsa Paige?" he whispered.

The other said quietly: "She is at the base hospital near Azalea.
I have seen her. She is well. . . . I did not tell her you were
ill. She could not have left anyway. . . . Matters are not going
well with the army, Berkley."

"Whipped?" His lips barely formed the question.

Colonel Arran's careworn features flushed.

"The army has been withdrawing from the Peninsula. It is the
commander-in-chief who has been defeated--not the Army of the
Potomac."

"Back?"

"Yes, certainly we shall go back. This rebellion seems to be
taking more time to extinguish than the people and the national
authorities supposed it would require. But no man must doubt our
ultimate success. I do not doubt it. I never shall. You must
not. It will all come right in the end."

"Regiment?" whispered Berkley.

"The regiment is in better shape, Berkley. Our remounts have
arrived; our wounded are under shelter, and comfortable. We need
rest, and we're getting it here at Azalea, although they shell us
every day. We ought to be in good trim in a couple of weeks.
You'll be in the saddle long before that. Your squadron has become
very proud of you; all the men in the regiment have inquired about
you. Private Burgess spends his time off duty under the oak trees
out yonder watching your window like a dog. . . . I--ah--may say
to you, Berkley, that you--ah--have become a credit to the
regiment. Personally--and as your commanding officer--I wish you
to understand that I am gratified by your conduct. I have said so
in my official reports."

Berkley's sunken eyes had reverted to the man beside him. After a
moment his lips moved again in soundless inquiry.

Colonel Arran replied: "The Zouaves were very badly cut up; Major
Lent was wounded by a sabre cut. He is nearly well now. Colonel
Craig and his son were not hurt. The Zouaves are in cantonment
about a mile to the rear. Both Colonel Craig and his son have been
here to see you--" he hesitated, rose, stood a moment undecided.

"Mrs. Craig--the wife of Colonel Craig--has been here. Her
plantation, Paigecourt, is in this vicinity I believe. She has
requested the medical authorities to send you to her house for your
convalescence. Do you wish to go?"

The hollow-eyed, heavily bandaged face looked up at him from the
straw; and Colonel Arran looked down at it, lips aquiver.

"Berkley--if you go there, I shall not see you again until you
return to the regiment. I--" suddenly his gray face began to
twitch again--and he set his jaw savagely to control it.

"Good-bye," he said. . . "I wish--some day--you could try to think
less harshly of me. I am a--very--lonely man."

Berkley closed his eyes, but whether from weakness or sullen
resentment the older man could not know. He stood looking down
wistfully at the boy for a moment, then turned and went heavily
away with blurred eyes that did not recognise the woman in bonnet
and light summer gown who was entering the hospital tent. As he
stood aside to let her pass he heard his name pronounced, in a
cold, decisive voice; and, passing his gloved hand across his eyes
to clear them, recognised Celia Craig.

"Colonel Arran," she said coolly, "is it necessa'y fo' me to
request yo' permission befo' I am allowed to move Philip Berkley to
my own house?"

"No, madam. The brigade surgeon is in charge. But I think I can
secure for you the necessary authority to do so if you wish."

She thanked him haughtily, and passed on; and he turned and walked
out, impassive, silent, a stoop to his massive shoulders which had
already become characteristic.

And that evening Berkley lay at Paigecourt in the chintz-hung
chamber where, as a girl, his mother had often slept, dreaming the
dreams that haunt young hearts when the jasmine fragrance grows
heavier in the stillness and the magnolia's snowy chalice is
offered to the moon, and the thrush sings in the river thickets,
and the fire-fly's lamp drifts through the fairy woods.

Celia told him this on the third day, late in the afternoon--so
late that the westering sun was already touching the crests of the
oak woods, and all the thickets had turned softly purple like the
bloom on a plum; the mounting scent of phlox from the garden was
growing sweeter, and the bats fluttered and dipped and soared in
the calm evening sky.

She had been talking of his mother when she was Constance Paige and
wore a fillet over her dark ringlets and rode to hounds at ten with
the hardest riders in all Prince Clarence County.

"And this was her own room, Phil; nothing in it has been moved,
nothing changed; this is the same bird and garland chintz, matching
the same wall-paper; this is the same old baid with its fo' ca'ved
columns and its faded canopy, the same gilt mirror where she looked
and saw reflected there the loveliest face in all the valley. . . .
A child's face, Phil--even a child's face when she drew aside her
bridal veil to look. . . . Ah--God--" She sighed, looking down at
her clasped hands, "if youth but knew--if youth but knew!"

He lay silent, the interminable rattle of picket firing in his
ears, his face turned toward the window. Through it he could see
green grass, a magnolia in bloom, and a long flawless spray of
Cherokee roses pendant from the gallery.

Celia sighed, waited for him to speak, sighed again, and picked up
the Baltimore newspaper to resume her reading if he desired.

Searching the columns listlessly, she scanned the headings, glanced
over the letter press in silence, then turned the crumpled page.
Presently she frowned.

"Listen to this, Philip; they say that there is yellow fever among
the Yankee troops in Louisiana. It would be like them to bring
that horror into the Ca'linas and Virginia----"

He turned his head suddenly, partly rose from where he lay; and she
caught her breath and bent swiftly over him, placing one hand on
his arm and gently forcing him down upon the-pillow again.

"Fo'give me, dear," she faltered. "I forgot what I was reading----"

He said, thoughtfully: "Did you ever hear exactly how my mother
died, Celia? . . . But I know you never did. . . . And I think I
had better tell you."

"She died in the fever camp at Silver Bayou, when you were a little
lad," whispered Celia.

"No."

"Philip! What are you saying?"

"You don't know how my mother died," he said quietly.

"Phil, we had the papers--and the Governor of Louisiana wrote us
himse'f----"

"I know what he wrote and what the papers published was not true.
I'll tell you how she died. When I was old enough to take care of
myself I went to Silver Bayou. . . . Many people in that town had
died; some still survived. I found the parish records. I found
one of the camp doctors who remembered that accursed year of
plague--an old man, withered, indifferent, sleeping his days away
on the rotting gallery of his tumble-down house. _He_ knew. . . .
And I found some of the militia still surviving; and one among them
retained a confused memory of my mother--among the horrors of that
poisonous year----"

He lay silent, considering; then: "I was old enough to remember,
but not old enough to understand what I understood later. . . . Do
you want to know how my mother died?"

Celia's lips moved in amazed assent.

"Then I will tell you. . . . They had guards north, east, and west
of us. They had gone mad with fright; the whole land was
quarantined against us; musket, flintlock, shotgun, faced us
through the smoke of their burning turpentine. I was only a little
lad, but the horror of it I have never forgotten, nor my mother's
terror--not for herself, for me."

He lay on his side, thin hands clasped, looking not at Celia but
beyond her at the dreadful scene his fancy was painting on the wall
of his mother's room:

"Often, at night, we heard the shots along the dead line. Once
they murdered a man behind our water garden. Our negroes moaned
and sobbed all day, all night, helpless, utterly demoralised. Two
were shot swimming; one came back dying from snake bite. I saw him
dead on the porch.

"I saw men fall down in the street with the black vomit--women,
also--and once I saw two little children lying dead against a
garden wall in St. Catharine's Alley. I was young, but I remember."

A terrible pallor came into his wan face.

"And I remember my mother," he said; "and her pleading with the men
who came to the house to let her send me across the river where
there was no fever. I remember her saying that it was murder to
imprison children there in Silver Bayou; that I was perfectly well
so far. They refused. Soldiers came and went. Their captain
died; others died, we heard. Then my mother's maid, Alice, an
octoroon, died on the East Gallery. And the quarters went insane
that day.

"When night came an old body-servant of my grandfather scratched at
mother's door. I heard him. I thought it was Death. I was half
dead with terror when mother awoke and whispered to me to dress in
the dark and to make no sound.

"I remember it perfectly--remember saying: 'I won't go if you
don't, mother. I'd rather be with you.' And I remember her
saying: 'You shall not stay here to die when you are perfectly
well. Trust mother, darling; Jerry will take you to Sainte
Jacqueline in a boat.'

"And after that it is vaguer--the garden, the trench dug under the
north wall--and how mother and I, in deadly fear of moccasins, down
on all fours, crept after Jerry along the ditch to the water's
edge----"

His face whitened again; he lay silent for a while, crushing his
wasted hands together.

"Celia, they fired on us from the levee. After that I don't know;
I never knew what happened. But that doctor at Silver Bayou said
that I was found a mile below in a boat with the first marks of the
plague yellowing my skin. Celia, they never found my mother's
body. It is not true that she died of fever at Silver Bayou. She
fell under the murderous rifles of the levee guard--gave her life
trying to save me from that pest-stricken prison. Jerry's body was
found stranded in the mud twenty miles below. He had been shot
through the body. . . . And now you know how my mother died."

He raised himself on one elbow, watching Celia's shocked white face
for a moment or two, then wearily turned toward the window and sank
back on his pillows.

In the still twilight, far away through the steady fusillade from
the outposts, he heard the dull boom-booming of cannon, and the
heavy shocks of the great guns aboard the Union gun-boats. But it
sounded very far off; a mocking-bird sang close under his window;
the last rosy bar faded from the fleecy cloud bank in the east.
Night came abruptly--the swift Southern darkness quickly emblazoned
with stars; and the whip-poor-wills began their ghostly calling;
and the spectres of the mist crept stealthily inland.

"Celia?"

Her soft voice answered from the darkness near him.

He said: "I knew this was her room before you told me. I have seen
her several times."

"Good God, Phil!" she faltered, "what are you saying?"

"I don't know. . . . I saw her the night I came here."

After a long silence Celia rose and lighted a candle. Holding it a
little above her pallid face she glided to his bedside and looked
down at him. After a moment, bending, she touched his face with
her palm; then her cool finger-tips brushed the quiet pulse at his
wrist.

"Have I any fever?"

"No, Phil."

"I thought not. . . . I saw mother's face a few moments ago in
that mirror behind you."

Celia sank down on the bed's edge, the candle trembling in her
hand. Then, slowly, she turned her head and looked over her
shoulder, moving cautiously, until her fascinated eyes found the
glass behind her. The mirror hung there reflecting the flowered
wall opposite; a corner of the bed; nothing else.

He said in an even voice;

"From the first hour that you brought me into this room, she has
been here. I knew it instantly. . . . The first day she was
behind those curtains--was there a long while. I knew she was
there; I watched the curtains, expecting her to step out. I waited
all day, not understanding that I--that it was better that I should
speak. I fell asleep about dusk. She came out then and sat where
you are sitting."

"It was a dream, Phil. It was fever. Try to realise what you are
saying!"

"I do. The next evening I lay watching; and I saw a figure
reflected in the mirror. It was not yet dusk. Celia, in the
sunset light I saw her standing by the curtains. But it was
star-light before she came to the bed and looked down at me.

"I said very quietly: 'Mother dear!' _Then_ she spoke to me; and I
knew she was speaking, but I could not hear her voice. . . . It
was that way while she stood beside me--I could not hear her,
Celia. I could not hear what she was saying. It was no spirit I
saw--no phantom from the dead there by my bed, no ghost--no
restless wraith, grave-driven through the night. I believe she is
living. She knows I believe it. . . . As you sat here, a moment
ago, reading to me, I saw her reflected for a moment in the mirror
behind you, passing into the room beyond. Her hair is perfectly
white, Celia--or," he said vaguely to himself, "was it something
she wore?--like the bandeaux of the Sisters of Charity----"

The lighted candle fell from Celia's nerveless fingers and rolled
over and over across the floor, trailing a smoking wick. Berkley's
hand steadied her trembling arm.

"Why are you frightened?" he asked calmly.

"There is nothing dead about what I saw."

"I c-can't he'p myse'f," stammered Celia; "you say such frightful
things to me--you tell me that they happen in my own house--in
_her_ own room--How can I be calm? How can I believe such things
of--of Constance Berkley--of yo' daid mother----"

"I don't know," he said dully.

The star-light sparkled on the silver candle-stick where it lay on
the floor in a little pool of wax. Quivering all over, Celia
stooped to lift, relight it, and set it on the table. And, over
her shoulder, he saw a slim shape enter the doorway.

"Mother dear?" he whispered.

And Celia turned with a cry and stood swaying there in the rays of
the candle.

But it was only a Sister of Charity--a slim, childish figure under
the wide white head-dress--who had halted, startled at Celia's cry.
She was looking for the Division Medical Director, and the sentries
had misinformed her--and she was very sorry, very deeply distressed
to have frightened anybody--but the case was urgent--a Sister shot
near the picket line on Monday; and authority to send her North
was, what she had come to seek. Because the Sister had lost her
mind completely, had gone insane, and no longer knew them, knew
nobody, not even herself, nor the hospital, nor the doctors, nor
even that she lay on a battle-field. And she was saying strange
and dreadful things about herself and about people nobody had ever
heard of. . . . Could anybody tell her where the Division Medical
Director could be found?

It was not yet daybreak when Berkley awoke in his bed to find
lights in the room and medical officers passing swiftly hither and
thither, the red flames from their candles blowing smokily in the
breezy doorways.

The picket firing along the river had not ceased. At the same
instant he felt the concussion of heavy guns shaking his bed. The
lawn outside the drawn curtains resounded with the hurrying clatter
of waggons, the noise of pick and spade and crack of hammer and
mallet.

He drew himself to a sitting posture. A regimental surgeon passing
through the room glanced at him humorously, saying: "You've got a
pretty snug berth here, son. How does it feel to sleep in a real
bed?" And, extinguishing his candle, he went away through the door
without waiting for any answer.

Berkley turned toward the window, striving to reach the drawn
curtains. And at length he managed to part them, but it was all
dark outside. Yet the grounds were evidently crowded with waggons
and men; he recognised sounds which indicated that tents were being
erected, drains and sinks dug; the rattle of planks and boards were
significant of preparation for the construction of "shebangs."

Farther away on the dark highway he could hear the swift gallop of
cavalry and the thudding clank of light batteries, all passing in
perfect darkness. Then, leaning closer to the sill, he gazed
between the curtains far into the southwest; and saw the tall curve
of Confederate shells traced in whirling fire far down the river,
the awful glare of light as the enormous guns on the Union warships
replied.

Celia, her lovely hair over her shoulders, a scarf covering her
night-dress, came in carrying a lighted candle; and instantly a
voice from outside the window bade her extinguish the light or draw
the curtain.

She looked at Berkley in a startled manner, blew out the flame, and
came around between his bed and the window, drawing the curtains
entirely aside.

"General Claymore's staff has filled eve'y room in the house except
yours and mine," she said in her gentle, bewildered way. "There's
a regiment--Curt's Zouaves--encamped befo' the west quarters, and a
battery across the drive, and all the garden is full of their
horses and caissons."

"Poor little Celia," he said, reaching out to touch her hand, and
drawing her to the bed's edge, where she sat down helplessly.

"The Yankee officers are all over the house," she repeated.
"They're up in the cupola with night-glasses now. They are ve'y
polite. Curt took off his riding boots and went to sleep on my
bed--and oh he is so dirty!--my darling Curt' my own husband!--too
dirty to touch! I could cry just to look at his uniform, all black
and stained and the gold entirely gone from one sleeve! And
Stephen!--oh, Phil, some mise'ble barber has shaved the heads of
all the Zouaves, and Steve is perfectly disfigured!--the poor, dear
boy"--she laughed hysterically--"he had a hot bath and I've been
mending the rags that he and Curt call unifo'ms--and I found clean
flannels fo' them both in the attic----"

"_What_ does all this mean--all this camping outside?" he
interrupted gently.

"Curt doesn't know. The camps and hospitals west of us have been
shelled, and all the river roads are packed full of ambulances and
stretchers going east."

"Where is my regiment?"

"The Lancers rode away yesterday with General Stoneman--all except
haidqua'ters and one squadron--yours, I think--and they are acting
escort to General Sykes at the overseers house beyond the oak
grove. Your colonel is on his staff, I believe."

He lay silent, watching the burning fuses of the shells as they
soared up into the night, whirling like fiery planets on their
axes, higher, higher, mounting through majestic altitudes to the
pallid stars, then, curving, falling faster, faster, till their
swift downward glare split the darkness into broad sheets of light.

"Phil," she whispered, "I think there is a house on fire across the
river!"

Far away in the darkness rows of tiny windows in an unseen mansion
had suddenly become brilliantly visible.

"It--it must be Mr. Ruffin's house," she said in an awed voice.
"Oh, Phil! It _is_! Look! It's all on fire--it's--oh, see the
flames on the roof! This is terrible--terrible--" She caught her
breath.

"Phil! There's another house on fire! Do you see--do you _see_!
It's Ailsa's house--Marye-mead! Oh, how could they set it on
fire--how could they have the heart to burn that sweet old place!"

"Is that Marye-mead?" he asked.

"It _must_ be. That's where it ought to stand--and--oh! oh! it's
all on fire, Phil, all on fire!"

"Shells from the gun-boats," he muttered, watching the entire sky
turn crimson as the flames burst into fury, lighting up clumps of
trees and outhouses. And, as they looked, the windows of another
house began to kindle ominously; little tongues of fire fluttered
over a distant cupola, leaped across to a gallery, ran up in
vinelike tendrils which flowered into flame, veining everything in
a riotous tangle of brilliancy. And through the kindling darkness
the sinister boom--boom! of the guns never ceased, and the shells
continued to mount, curve, and fall, streaking the night with
golden incandescence.

Outside the gates, at the end of the cedar-lined avenue, where the
highway passes, the tumult was increasing every moment amid shouts,
cracking of whips, the jingle and clash of traces and metallic
racket of wheels. The house, too, resounded with the heavy hurried
tread of army boots trampling up and down stairs and crossing the
floors above in every direction.

In the summer kitchen loud-voiced soldiers were cooking; there came
the clatter of plates from the dining-room, the odour of hot bread
and frying pork.

"All my negroes except old Peter and a quadroon maid have gone
crazy," said Celia hopelessly. "I had them so comfo'tably
qua'tered and provided foh!--Cary, the ove'seer, would have looked
after them while the war lasts--but the sight of the blue uniforms
unbalanced them, and they swa'med to the river, where the
contraband boats were taking runaways. . . . Such foolish
creatures! They were ve'y happy here and quite safe and well
treated. . . . And everyone has deserted, old and young!--toting
their bundles and baskets on their silly haids--every negro on
Paigecourt plantation, every servant in this house except Peter and
Sadie has gone with the contrabands . . . I'm sure I don't know
what these soldiers are cooking in the kitchen. I expect they'll
end by setting the place afire, and I told Curt so, but he can't
he'p it, and I can't. It's ve'y hard to see the house turned out
of the windows, and the lawns and gardens cut to pieces by hoofs
and wheels, but I'm only too thankful that Curt can find shelter
under this roof, and nothing matters any mo' as long as he and
Stephen are alive and well."

"Haven't you heard from Ailsa yet?" asked Berkley in a low voice.

"Oh, Phil! I'm certainly worried. She was expecting to go on
board some hospital boat at the landing the day befo' your regiment
arrived. I haven't set eyes on her since. A gun-boat was to take
one of the Commission's steamers to Fortress Monroe, and all that
day the fleet kept on firing at our--at the Confederate batteries
over the river"--she corrected herself wearily--"and I was so
afraid, that Ailsa's steamer would try to get out----"

"Did it?"

"I don't know. There are so many, many boats at the landing, and
there's been so much firing, and nobody seems to know what is
happening or where anybody is. . . . And I don't know where Ailsa
is, and I've been ve'y mise'ble because they say some volunteer
nurses have been killed----"

"What!"

"I didn't want to tell you, Phil--until you were better----"

"Tell me what?" he managed to say, though a terrible fear was
stiffening his lips and throat.

She said dully: "They get shot sometimes. You remember yo'se'f
what that Sister of Charity said last night. I heard Ailsa
cautioning Letty--the little nurse, Miss Lynden----"

"Yes, I know. What else?"

Celia's underlip quivered: "Nothing, only Ailsa told me that she
was ordered to the field hospital fo' duty befo' she went aboard
the commission boat--and she never came back--and there was a
battle all that day----"

"Is that all?" he demanded, rising on one elbow. "Is there
anything else you are concealing?"

"No, Phil. I'd tell you if there was. Perhaps I'm foolish to be
so nervous--but I don't know--that Sister of Charity struck by a
bullet--and to think of Ailsa out there under fire--" She closed
her eyes and sat shivering in the gray chill of the dawn, the tears
silently stealing over her pale cheeks. Berkley stared out of the
window at a confused and indistinct mass of waggons and tents and
moving men, but the light was still too dim to distinguish
uniforms; and presently Celia leaned forward and drew the curtains.

Then she turned and took Berkley's hands in hers.

"Phil, dear," she said softly, "I suspect how it is with you and
Ailsa. Am I indiscreet to speak befo' you give me any warrant?"

He said nothing.

"The child certainly is in love with you. A blind woman could
divine that," continued Celia wistfully. "I am glad, Phil, because
I believe you are as truly devoted to her as she is to you. And
when the time comes--if God spares you both----"

"You are mistaken," he said quietly, "there is no future before us."

She coloured in consternation. "Wh--why I certainly
supposed--believed----"

"Celia!"

"W-what, dear?"

"Don't you _know_ I cannot marry?"

"Why not, Philip?"

"Could I marry Ailsa Craig unless I first told her that my father
and my mother were never married?" he said steadily.

"Oh, Philip!" she cried, tears starting to her eyes again, "do you
think that would weigh with a girl who is so truly and unselfishly
in love with you?"

"You don't understand," he said wearily. "I'd take _that_ chance
now. But do you think me disloyal enough to confess to any woman
on earth what my mother, if she were living, would sacrifice her
very life to conceal?"

He bent his head, supporting it in his hands, speaking as though to
himself:

"I believe that the brain is the vehicle, not the origin of
thought. I believe a brain becomes a mind only when an immortality
exterior to ourselves animates it. And this is what is called the
soul. . . . Whatever it is, it is what I saw--or what that
_something_, exterior to my body, recognised.

"Perhaps these human eyes of mine did not see her. Something that
belongs to me saw the immortal visitor; something, that is the
vital part of me, saw, recognised, and was recognised."

For a long while they sat there, silent; the booming guns shook the
window; the clatter and uproar of the passing waggon train filled
their ears.

Suddenly the house rocked under the stunning crash of a huge gun.
Celia sprang to her feet, caught at the curtain as another terrific
blast shivered the window-panes and filled the room with acrid dust.

Through the stinging clouds of powdered plaster Colonel Craig
entered the room, hastily pulling on his slashed coat as he came.

"There's a fort in the rear of us--don't be frightened, Celia. I
think they must be firing at----"

His voice was drowned in the thunder of another gun; Celia made her
way to him, hid her face on his breast as the room shook again and
the plaster fell from the ceiling, filling the room with blinding
dust.

"Oh, Curt," she gasped, "this is dreadful. Philip cannot stay
here----"

"Better pull the sheets over his head," said her husband, meeting
Berkley's eyes with a ghost of a smile. "It won't last long; and
there are no rebel batteries that can reach Paigecourt." He kissed
her. "How are you feeling, dear? I'm trying to arrange for you to
go North on the first decent transport----"

"I want to stay with you, Curt," she pleaded, tightening her arms
around his neck. "Can't I stay as long as my husband and son are
here? I don't wish to go----"

"You can't stay," he said gently. "There is no immediate danger
here at Paigecourt, but the army is turning this landing into a
vast pest hole. It's deadly unhealthy. I wish you to go home just
as soon as I can secure transportation----"

"And let them burn Paigecourt? Who is there to look after----"

"We'll have to take such chances, Celia. The main thing is for you
to pack up and go home as soon as you possibly can. . . . I've got
to go out now. I'll try to come back to-night. The General
understands that it's your house, and that you are my wife; and
there's a guard placed and a Union flag hung out from the
gallery----"

She looked up quickly; a pink flush stained her neck and forehead.

"I would not use that wicked flag to protect myse'f," she said
quietly--"nor to save this house, either, Curt. It's only fo' you
and Phil that I care what happens to anything now----"

"Then go North, you bad little rebel!" whispered her husband,
drawing her into his arms. "Paige and Marye have been deserted
long enough; and you've seen sufficient of this war--plenty to last
your lifetime----"

"I saw Ailsa's house burn," she said slowly.

"Marye-mead. When?"

"This mo'ning, Curt. Phil thinks it was the shells from the
gun-boats. It can't be he'ped now; it's gone. So is Edmund
Ruffin's. And I wish I knew where that child, Ailsa, is. I'm that
frightened and mise'ble, Curt----"

An orderly suddenly appeared at the door; her husband kissed her
and hurried away. The outer door swung wide, letting in a brassy
clangour of bugles and a roll of drums, which softened when the
door closed with a snap.

It opened again abruptly, and a thin, gray-garbed figure came in,
hesitated, and Celia turned, staring through her tears:

"Miss Lynden!" she exclaimed. "Is Ailsa here?"

Berkley sat up and leaned forward, looking at her intently from the
mass of bandages.

"Letty!" he said, "where is Mrs. Paige?"

Celia had caught the girl's hands in hers, and was searching her
thin white face with anxious eyes; and Letty shook her head and
looked wonderingly at Berkley.

"Nothing has happened to her," she said. "A Sister of Mercy was
wounded in the field hospital near Azalea, and they sent for Mrs.
Paige to fill her place temporarily. And," looking from Celia to
Berkley, "she is well and unhurt. The fighting is farther west
now. Mrs. Paige heard yesterday that the 8th Lancers were encamped
near Paigecourt and asked me to find Mr. Berkley--and deliver a
letter----"

She smiled, drew from her satchel a letter, and, disengaging her
other hand from Celia's, went over to the bed and placed it in
Berkley's hands.

"She is quite well," repeated Letty reassuringly; and, to Celia:
"She sends her love to you and to your husband and son, and wishes
to know how they are and where their regiment is stationed."

"You sweet little thing!" said Celia, impulsively taking her into
her arms and kissing her pale face. "My husband and my son are
safe and well, thank God, and my cousin, Phil Berkley, is
convalescent, and you may tell my sister-in-law that we all were
worried most to death at not hearing from her. And now I'm going
to get you a cup of broth--you poor little white-faced child! How
did you ever get here?"

"Our ambulance brought me. We had sick men to send North. Ailsa
couldn't leave, so she asked me to come."

She accepted a chair near the bed. Celia went away to prepare some
breakfast with the aid of old Peter and Sadie, her maid. And as
soon as she left the room Letty sprang to her feet and went
straight to Berkley.

"I did not tell the entire truth," she said in a low, excited
voice. "I heard your regiment was here; Ailsa learned it from me.
I was coming anyway to see you."

"To see me, Letty?" he repeated, surprised and smiling.

"Yes," she said, losing what little colour remained in her cheeks.
"I am in--in much--anxiety--to know--what to do."

"Can _I_ help you?"

She looked wistfully at him; the tears rushed into her eyes; she
dropped on her knees at his bedside and hid her face on his hands.

[Illustration: "She dropped on her knees at his bedside and hid her
face on his hands."]

"Letty--Letty!" he said in astonishment, "what on earth has
happened?"

She looked up, lips quivering, striving to meet his gaze through
her tears.

"Dr. Benton is here. . . . He--he has asked me to--marry him."

Berkley lay silent, watching her intently.

"Oh, I know--I know," she sobbed. "I can't, can I? I should have
to tell him--and he would never speak to me again--never write to
me--never be what he has been all these months!--I know I cannot
marry him. I came to tell you--to ask--but it's no use--no use. I
knew what you would say----"

"Letty! Wait a moment----"

She rose, controlling herself with a desperate effort.

"Forgive me, Mr. Berkley; I didn't mean to break down; but I'm so
tired--and--I wanted you--I needed to hear you tell me what was
right. . . . But I knew already. Even if I were--were treacherous
enough to marry him--I know he would find me out. . . . I can't
get away from it--I can't seem to get away. Yesterday, in camp,
the 20th Cavalry halted--and there was John Casson!--And I nearly
dropped dead beside Dr. Benton--oh the punishment for what I
did!--the awful punishment!--and Casson stared at me and said: 'My
Lord, Letty! is that you?'"

She buried her burning cheeks in her hands.

"I did not lie to him. I offered him my hand; and perhaps he saw
the agony in my face, for he didn't say anything about the
Canterbury, but he took off his forage cap and was pleasant and
kind. And he and Dr. Benton spoke to each other until the bugles
sounded for the regiment to mount."

She flung her slender arm out in a tragic gesture toward the
horizon. "The world is not wide enough to hide in," she said in a
heart-breaking voice. "I thought it was--but there is no
shelter--no place--no place in all the earth!"

"Letty," he said slowly, "if your Dr. Benton is the man I think he
is--and I once knew him well enough to judge--he is the only man on
earth fit to hear the confession you have made this day to me."

She looked at him, bewildered.

"I advise you to love him and marry him. Tell him about yourself
if you choose; or don't tell him. There is a vast amount of
nonsense talked about the moral necessity of turning one's self
inside out the moment one comes to marry. Let me tell you, few men
can do it; and their fiancees survive the shock. So, few men are
asses enough to try it. As for women, few have any confessions to
make. A few have. You are one."

"Yes," she whispered.

"But I wouldn't if I were you. If ever any man or woman took the
chance of salvation and made the most of it, that person is you!
And I'm going to tell you that I wouldn't hesitate to marry you if
I loved you."

"W-what!"

He laughed. "Not one second! It's a good partnership for any
plan. Don't be afraid that you can't meet men on their own level.
You're above most of us now; and you're mounting steadily. There,
that's my opinion of you--that you're a good woman, and a charming
one; and Benton is devilish lucky to get you. . . . Come here,
Letty."

She went to him as though dazed; and he took both her hands in his.

"Don't you know," he said, "that I have seen you, day after day,
intimately associated with the woman I love? Can you understand
now that I am telling the truth when I say, let the past bury its
ghosts; and go on living as you have lived from the moment that
your chance came to live nobly. I know what you have made of
yourself. I know what the chances were against you. You are a
better woman to-day than many who will die untempted. And you
shall not doubt it, Letty. What a soul is born into is often fine
and noble; what a soul makes of itself is beyond all praise.

"Choose your own way; tell him or not; but if you love him, give
yourself to him. Whether or not you tell him, he will want you--as
I would--as any man would. . . . Now you must smile at me, Letty."

She turned toward him a face, pallid, enraptured, transfigured with
an inward radiance that left him silent--graver after that swift
glimpse of a soul exalted.

She said slowly: "You and Ailsa have been God's own messengers to
me. . . . I shall tell Dr. Benton. . . . If he still wishes it, I
will marry him. It will be for him to ask--after he knows all."

Celia entered, carrying the breakfast on a tray.

"Curt's Zouaves have stolen ev'y pig, but I found bacon and po'k in
the cellar," she said, smilingly. "Oh, dear! the flo' is in such a
mess of plaster! Will you sit on the aidge of the bed, Miss
Lynden, and he'p my cousin eat this hot co'n pone?"

So the napkin was spread over the sheets, and pillows tucked behind
Berkley; and Celia and Letty fed him, and Letty drank her coffee
and thankfully ate her bacon and corn pone, telling them both,
between bites, how it had been with her and with Ailsa since the
great retreat set in, swamping all hospitals with the sick and
wounded of an unbeaten but disheartened army, now doomed to
decimation by disease.

"It was dreadful," she said. "We could hear the firing for miles
and miles, and nobody knew what was happening. But all the
northern papers said it was one great victory after another, and we
believed them. All the regimental bands at the Landing played; and
everybody was so excited. We all expected to hear that our army
was in Richmond."

Celia reddened to the ears, and her lips tightened, but she said
nothing; and Letty went on, unconscious of the fiery emotions
awaking in Celia's breast:

"Everybody was so cheerful and happy in the hospital--all those
poor sick soldiers," she said, "and everybody was beginning to plan
to go home, thinking the war had nearly ended. I thought so, too,
and I was so glad. And then, somehow, people began to get uneasy;
and the first stragglers appeared. . . . Oh, it did seem
incredible at first; we wouldn't believe that the siege of Richmond
had been abandoned."

She smiled drearily. "I've found out that it is very easy to
believe what you want to believe in this world. . . . Will you
have some more broth, Mr. Berkley?"

Before he could answer the door opened and a red zouave came in,
carrying his rifle and knapsack.

"Mother," he said in an awed voice, "Jimmy Lent is dead!"

"What!"

He looked stupidly around the room, resting his eyes on Letty and
Berkley, then dropped heavily onto a chair.

"Jim's dead," he repeated vacantly. "He only arrived here
yesterday--transferred from his militia to McDunn's battery. And
now he's dead. Some one had better write to Camilla. I'm afraid
to. . . . A shell hit him last night--oh--he's all torn to
pieces--and Major Lent doesn't know it, either. . . . Father let
me come; we're ordered across the river; good-bye, mother--" He
rose and put his arms around her.

"You'll write to Camilla, won't you?" he said. "Tell her I love
her. I didn't know it until just a few minutes ago. But I do,
mother. I'd like to marry her. Tell her not to cry too much.
Jimmy was playing cards, they say, and a big shell fell inside the
redoubt. Philip--I think you knew Harry Sayre? Transferred from
the 7th to the Zouaves as lieutenant in the 5th company?"

"Yes. Was he killed?"

"Oh, Lord, yes; everybody in the shebang except Arthur Wye was all
torn to pieces. Tommy Atherton, too; you knew him, of course--5th
Zouaves. He happened in--just visiting Arthur Wye. They were all
playing cards in a half finished bomb-proof. . . . Mother, you
_will_ write to Camilla, won't you, dear? Good-bye--good-bye,
Phil--and Miss Lynden!" He caught his mother in his arms for a
last hug, wrenched himself free, and ran back across the hall,
bayonet and canteen clanking.

"Oh, why are they sending Curt's regiment across the river?" wailed
Celia, following to the window. "Look at them, Phil! Can you see?
The road is full of Zouaves--there's a whole regiment of them in
blue, too. The batteries are all harnessed up; do you think
there's going to be another battle? I don't know why they want to
fight any mo'!" she exclaimed in sudden wrath and anguish. "I
don't understand why they are not willing to leave the South alone.
My husband will be killed, and my only son--like Jimmy Lent--if
they don't ever stop this wicked fighting----"

The roar of a heavy gun buried the room in plaster dust. Letty
calmly lifted the tray from the bed and set it on a table. Then
very sweetly and with absolute composure she took leave of Celia
and of Berkley. They saw her climb into an ambulance which was
drawn up on the grass.

Then Berkley opened the letter that Letty had brought him:

"This is just a hurried line to ask you a few questions. Do you
know a soldier named Arthur Wye? He is serving now as artilleryman
in the 10th N. Y. Flying Battery, Captain McDunn. Are you
acquainted with a lieutenant in the 5th Zouaves, named Cortlandt?
I believe he is known to his intimates as Billy or 'Pop' Cortlandt.
Are they trustworthy and reliable men? Where did you meet Miss
Lynden and how long have you known her? Please answer immediately.

"AILSA PAIGE."

Wondering, vaguely uneasy, he read and re-read this note, so unlike
Ailsa, so brief, so disturbing in its direct coupling of the people
in whose company he had first met Letty Lynden. . . . Yet, on
reflection, he dismissed apprehension, Ailsa was too fine a
character to permit any change in her manner to humiliate Letty
even if, by hazard, knowledge of the unhappy past had come to her
concerning the pretty, pallid nurse of Sainte Ursula.

As for Arthur Wye and Billy Cortlandt, they were incapable of
anything contemptible or malicious.

He asked Celia for a pencil and paper, and, propped on his pillows,
he wrote:

"My darling, I don't exactly understand your message, but I guess
it's all right. To answer it:

"Billy Cortlandt and Arthur Wye are old New York friends of mine.
Their words are better than other people's bonds. Letty Lynden is
a sweet, charming girl. I regret that I have not known her years
longer than I have. I am sending this in haste to catch Letty's
ambulance just departing, though still blocked by artillery passing
the main road. Can you come? I love you.

"PHILIP BERKLEY."

Celia sent her coloured man running after the ambulance. He caught
it just as it started on. Berkley, from his window, saw the
servant deliver his note to Letty.

He had not answered the two questions concerning Letty. He could
not. So he had evaded them.

Preoccupied, still conscious of the lingering sense of uneasiness,
he turned on his pillows and looked out of the window.

An enormous cloud of white smoke rose curling from the river,
another, another; and boom! boom! boom! came the solid thunder of
cannon. The gunboats at the Landing were opening fire; cavalry
were leading their horses aboard transports; and far down the road
the sun glistened on a long column of scarlet, where the 3rd
Zouaves were marching to their boats.

The sharpshooters had already begun to trouble them. Their
officers ordered them to lie down while awaiting their turn to
embark. After a while many of the men sat up on the ground to
stretch and look about them, Stephen among the others. And a
moment later a conoidal bullet struck him square in the chest and
knocked him flat in the dirt among his comrades.

CHAPTER XVII

The smoke and spiteful crackle of the pickets' fusilade had risen
to one unbroken crash, solidly accented by the report of field guns.

Ambulances were everywhere driving to the rear at a gallop past the
centre and left sections of McDunn's Battery, which, unlimbered,
was standing in a cotton field, the guns pointed southward across
the smoke rising below.

Claymore's staff, dismounted, stood near. The young general
himself, jacket over one arm, was seated astride the trail of the
sixth gun talking eagerly to McDunn, when across the rolling ground
came a lancer at full speed, plunging and bucketing in his saddle,
the scarlet rags of the lance pennon whipping the wind. The
trooper reined in his excited horse beside Claymore, saluted, and
handed him a message; and the youthful general, glancing at it, got
onto his feet in a hurry, and tossed his yellow-edged jacket of a
private to an orderly. Then he faced the lancer:

"Tell Colonel Craig to hold his position no matter what it costs!"
he exclaimed sharply. "Tell Colonel Arran that I expect him to
stand by the right section of the 10th battery until it is safely
and properly brought off!" He swung around on Captain McDunn.

"Limber your battery to the rear, sir! Follow headquarters!" he
snapped, and threw himself into his saddle, giving his mount rein
and heel with a reckless nod to his staff.

McDunn, superbly mounted, scarcely raised his clear, penetrating
voice: "Cannoneers mount gun-carriages; caissons follow; drivers,
put spur and whip to horses--forward--march!" he said.

"Trot out!" rang the bugles; the horses broke into a swinging lope
across the dry ridges of the cotton field, whips whistled, the
cannoneers bounced about on the chests, guns, limbers and caissons
thumped, leaped, jolted, rose up, all wheels in the air at once,
swayed almost to overturning, and thundered on in a tornado of
dust, leaders, swing team, wheel team straining into a frantic
gallop.

The powerful horses bounded forward into a magnificent stride;
general and staff tore on ahead toward the turnpike. Suddenly,
right past them came a driving storm of stampeding cavalry,
panic-stricken, riding like damned men, tearing off and hurling
from them carbines, canteens, belts; and McDunn, white with rage,
whipped out his revolver and fired into them as they rushed by in a
torrent of red dust. From his distorted mouth vile epithets
poured; he cursed and damned their cowardice, and, standing up in
his stirrups, riding like a cossack at full speed, attempted to use
his sabre on the fugitives from the front. But there was no
stopping them, for the poor fellows had been sent into fire
ignorant how to use the carbines issued the day before.

Into a sandy field all spouting with exploding shells and bullets
the drivers galloped and steered the plunging guns. The driver of
the lead team, fifth caisson, was shot clear out of his saddle, all
the wheels going over him and grinding him to pulp; piece and
limber whirled into a lane on a dead run, and Arthur Wye, driving
the swing team, clinging to the harness and crawling out along the
traces, gained the saddle of the lead-horse.

"Bully for you!" shouted McDunn. "I hope to God that cowardly
monkey cavalry saw you!"

The left section swung on the centre to get its position; limber
after limber dashed up, clashing and clanking, to drop its gun;
caisson after caisson rounded to under partial cover in the farm
lane to the right.

The roar of the conflict along the river had become terrific; to
the east a New Jersey battery, obscured in flame-shot clouds, was
retiring by its twenty-eight-foot prolonges, using cannister; the
remains of a New Hampshire infantry regiment supported the retreat;
between the two batteries Claymore in his shirt, sleeves rolled to
his elbows, heavy revolver swinging in his blackened fist, was
giving a tongue lashing to the stream of fugitives from the river
woods.

"Where are you going! Hey! Scouting? Well scout to the front,
damn you! . . . Where are _you_ going, young man? For ammunition?
Go back to the front or I'll shoot you! Get along there you
malingerers! or, by God, I'll have a squadron of Arran's
pig-stickers ride you down and punch your skins full of holes!
Orderly! Ask Colonel Arran if he can spare me a squad of his
lancers for a few minutes----"

The orderly saluted, coughed up a stream of blood, fell backward
off his horse, scrambled to his feet, terror-stricken, both hands
pressed convulsively over his stomach!

"Damn them! They've got me. General!" he gasped--"they've g-got
me this time! There's a piece of shell inside me as big----"

He leaned weakly against his mild-eyed horse, nauseated; but it was
only a spent ball on his belt plate after all, and a few moments
later, swaying and sickly, he forced his horse into a trot across
the hill.

A major of Claymore's staff galloped with orders to the Zouaves;
but, as he opened his mouth to speak a shell burst behind him, and
he pitched forward on his face, his shattered arm doubling under
him.

"Drag me behind that tree. Colonel Craig!" he said coolly. "I'll
finish my orders in a moment." Major Lent and Colonel Craig got
him behind the tree; and the officer's superb will never faltered.

"Your new position must cover that bridge," he whispered faintly.
"The left section of McDunn's battery is already ordered to your
support. . . . How is it with you, Colonel? Speak louder----"

Colonel Craig, pallid and worn under the powder smears and sweat,
wiped the glistening grime from his eye-glasses.

"We are holding on," he said. "It's all right, Major. I'll get
word through to the General," and he signalled to some drummer boys
lying quietly in the bushes to bring up a stretcher, just as the
left section of McDunn's battery burst into view on a dead run,
swung into action, and began to pour level sheets of flame into the
woods, where, already, the high-pitched rebel yell was beginning
again.

A solid shot struck No. 5 gun on the hub, killing Cannoneer No. 2,
who was thumbing the vent, and filling No. 1 gunner with splinters
of iron, whirling him into eternity amid a fountain of dirt and
flying hub-tires. Then a shell blew a gun-team into fragments,
plastering the men's faces with bloody shreds of flesh; and the
boyish lieutenant, spitting out filth, coolly ordered up the
limbers, and brought his section around into the road with a
beautiful display of driving and horsemanship that drew raucous
cheers from the Zouaves, where they lay, half stifled, firing at
the gray line of battle gathering along the edges of the woods.

And now the shrill, startling battle cry swelled to the hysterical
pack yell, and, gathering depth and volume, burst out into a
frantic treble roar. A long gray line detached itself from the
woods; mounted officers, sashed and debonaire, trotted jauntily out
in front of it; the beautiful battle flags slanted forward; there
came a superb, long, low-swinging gleam of steel; and the Southland
was afoot once more, gallant, magnificent, sweeping recklessly on
into the red gloom of the Northern guns.

Berkley, his face bandaged, covered with sweat and dust, sat his
worn, cowhide saddle in the ranks, long lance couched, watching,
expectant. Every trooper who could ride a horse was needed now;
hospitals had given up their invalids; convalescents and sick men
gathered bridle with shaking fingers; hollow-eyed youngsters
tightened the cheek-straps of their forage caps and waited, lance
in rest.

In the furious smoke below them they could see the Zouaves running
about like red devils in the pit; McDunn's guns continued to pour
solid columns of flame across the creek; far away to the west the
unseen Union line of battle had buried itself in smoke. Through it
the Southern battle flags still advanced, halted, tossed wildly,
moved forward in jerks, swung to the fierce cheering, moved on
haltingly, went down, up again, wavered, disappeared in the cannon
fog.

Colonel Arran, his naked sabre point lowered, sat his saddle, gray
and erect. The Major never stirred in his saddle; only the troop
captains from time to time turned their heads as some stricken
horse lashed out, or the unmistakable sound of a bullet hitting
living flesh broke the intense silence of the ranks.

Hallam, at the head of his troop, stroked his handsome moustache
continually, and at moments spoke angrily to his restive horse. He
was beginning to have a good deal of trouble with his horse, which
apparently wished to bolt, and he had just managed to drag the
fretting animal back into position, when, without warning, the
volunteer infantry posted on the right delivered a ragged volley,
sagged back, broke, and began running. Almost on their very heels
a dust-covered Confederate flying battery dropped its blackened
guns and sent charge after charge ripping through them, while out
of the fringing woods trotted the gray infantry, driving in
skirmishers, leaping fences, brush piles, and ditches, like lean
hounds on the trail.

Instantly a squadron of the Lancers trampled forward, facing to the
west; but down on their unprotected flank thundered the Confederate
cavalry, and from the beginning it had been too late for a
counter-charge.

A whirlwind of lancers and gray riders drove madly down the slope,
inextricably mixed, shooting, sabering, stabbing with tip and
ferrule.

A sabre stroke severed Berkley's cheek-strap, sheering through
visor and button; and he swung his lance and drove it backward into
a man's face.

In the terrible confusion and tangle of men and horses he could
scarcely use his lance at all, or avoid the twirling lances of his
comrades, or understand what his officers were shouting. It was
all a nightmare--a horror of snorting horses, panting, sweating
riders, the swift downward glitter of sabre strokes, thickening
like sheeted rain.

His horse's feet were now entangled in brush heaps; a crowding,
cursing mass of cavalrymen floundered into a half demolished snake
fence, which fell outward, rolling mounts and riders into a wet
gully, where they continued fighting like wild cats in a pit.

Yelling exultantly, the bulk of Confederate riders passed through
the Lancers, leaving them to the infantry to finish, and rode at
the flying Federal infantry. Everywhere bayonets began to glimmer
through the smoke and dust, as the disorganised squadrons rallied
and galloped eastward, seeking vainly for shelter to reform.

Down in the hollow an entire troop of Lancers, fairly intact, had
become entangled among the brush and young saplings, and the
Confederate infantry, springing over the fence, began to bayonet
them and pull them from their horses, while the half-stunned
cavalrymen scattered through the bushes, riding hither and thither
looking vainly for some road to lead them out of the bushy trap.
They could not go back; the fence was too solid to ride down, too
high to leap; the carbineers faced about, trying to make a stand,
firing from their saddles; Colonel Arran, confused but cool, turned
his brier-torn horse and rode forward, swinging his heavy sabre,
just as Hallam and Berkley galloped up through the bushes, followed
by forty or more bewildered troopers, and halted fo'r orders. But
there was no way out.

Then Berkley leaned from his saddle, touched the visor of his cap,
and, looking Arran straight in the eyes, said quietly:

"With your permission, sir, I think I can tear down enough of that
fence to let you and the others through! May I try?"

Colonel Arran said, quietly: "No man can ride to that fence and
live. Their infantry hold it."

"Two men may get there." He turned and looked at Hallam. "We're
not going to surrender; we'll all die here anyway. Shall we try
the fence together?"

For a second the silence resounded with the racket of the
Confederate rifles; three men dropped from their saddles; then
Hallam turned ghastly white, opened his jaws to speak; but no sound
came. Suddenly he swung his horse, and spurred straight toward the
open brush in the rear, whipping out his handkerchief and holding
it fluttering above his head.

Colonel Arran shouted at him, jerked his revolver free, and fired
at him. A carbineer also fired after him from the saddle, but
Hallam rode on unscathed in his half-crazed night, leaving his
deserted men gazing after him, astounded. In the smoke of another
volley, two more cavalrymen pitched out of their saddles.

Then Berkley drove his horse blindly into the powder fog ahead; a
dozen brilliant little jets of flame pricked the gloom; his horse
reared, and went down in a piteous heap, but Berkley landed on all
fours, crawled hurriedly up under the smoke, jerked a board loose,
tore another free, rose to his knees and ripped away board after
board, shouting to his comrades to come on and cut their way out.

They came, cheering, spurring their jaded horses through the gap,
crowding out across the road, striking wildly with their sabres,
forcing their way up the bank, into a stubble field, and forward at
a stiff trot toward the swirling smoke of a Union battery behind
which they could see shattered squadrons reforming.

Berkley ran with them on foot, one hand grasping a friendly
stirrup, until the horse he clung to halted abruptly, quivering all
over; then sank down by the buttocks with a shuddering scream. And
Berkley saw Colonel Arran rising from the ground, saw him glance at
his horse, turn and look behind him where the Confederate
skirmishers were following on a run, kneeling to fire occasionally,
then springing to their feet and trotting forward, rifles
glittering in the sun.

A horse with an empty saddle, its off foreleg entangled in its
bridle, was hobbling around in circles, stumbling, neighing,
tripping, scrambling to its feet again, and trying frantically to
go on. Berkley caught the bridle, freed it, and hanging to the
terrified animal's head, shouted to Colonel Arran:

"You had better hurry, sir. Their skirmishers are coming up fast!"

Colonel Arran stood quietly gazing at him. Suddenly he reeled and
stumbled forward against the horse's flank, catching at the mane.

"Are you badly hurt, sir?"

The Colonel turned his dazed eyes on him, then slid forward along
the horse's flank. His hands relaxed their hold on the mane, and
he fell flat on his face; and, Berkley, still hanging to the bit,
dragged the prostrate man over on his back and stared into his
deathly features.

"Where did they hit you, sir?"

"Through the liver," he gasped. "It's all right, Berkley. . . .
Don't wait any longer-----"

"I'm not going to leave you."

"You must . . . I'm ended. . . . You haven't a--moment--to
lose----"

"Can you put your arms around my neck?"

"There's no time to waste! I tell you to mount and run for
it! . . . And--thank you----"

"Put both arms around my neck. . . . Quick! . . . Can you lock
your fingers? . . . This damned horse won't stand! Hold fast to
me. I'll raise you easily. . . . Get the other leg over the
saddle. Lean forward. Now I'll walk him at first--hold
tight! . . . Can you hang on, Colonel?"

"Yes--_my son_"

A wild thrill ran through the boy's veins, stopping breath and
pulse for a second. Then the hot blood rushed stinging into his
face; he threw one arm around the drooping figure in the saddle,
and, controlling the bridle with a grip of steel, started the horse
off across the field.

All around them the dry soil was bursting into little dusty
fountains where the bullets were striking; ahead, dark smoke hung
heavily. Farther on some blue-capped soldiers shouted to them from
their shallow rifle pits.

Farther on still they passed an entire battalion of regular
infantry, calmly seated on the grass in line of battle; and behind
these troops Berkley saw a stretcher on the grass and two men of
the hospital corps squatted beside it, chewing grass stems.

They came readily enough when they learned the name and rank of the
wounded officer. Berkley, almost exhausted, walked beside the
stretcher, leading the horse and looking down at the stricken man
who lay with eyes closed and clothing disordered where a hasty
search for the wound had disclosed the small round blue hole just
over the seat of the liver.

They turned into a road which had been terribly cut up by the
wheels of artillery. It was already thronged with the debris of
the battle, skulkers, wounded men hobbling, pallid malingerers
edging their furtive way out of fire. Then ahead arose a terrible
clamour, the wailing of wounded, frightened cries, the angry shouts
of cavalrymen, where a Provost Guard of the 20th Dragoons was
riding, recklessly into the fugitives, roughly sorting the goats
from the sheep, and keeping the way clear for the ambulances now
arriving along a cross-road at a gallop.

Berkley heard his name called out, and, looking up, saw Casson,
astride a huge horse, signalling him eagerly from his saddle.

"Who in hell have you got there?" he asked, pushing his horse up to
the litter. "By God, it's Colonel Arran," he added in a modified
voice. "Is he very bad, Berkley?"

"I don't know. Can't you stop one of those ambulances, Jack? I
want to get him to the surgeons as soon as possible----"

"You bet!" said Casson, wheeling his horse and displaying the new
chevrons of a sergeant. "Hey, you black offspring of a yellow
whippet!" he bellowed to a driver, "back out there and be damn
quick about it!" And he leaned from his saddle, and seizing the
leaders by the head, swung them around with a volley of profanity.
Then, grinning amiably at Berkley, he motioned the stretcher
bearers forward and sat on his horse, garrulously superintending
the transfer of the injured man.

"There's an emergency hospital just beyond that clump of trees," he
said. "You'd better take him there. Golly! but he's hard hit. I
guess that bullet found its billet. There's not much hope when
it's a belly-whopper. Too bad, ain't it? He was a bully old boy
of a colonel; we all said so in the dragoons. Only--to hell with
those lances of yours, Berkley! What cursed good are they
alongside a gun? And I notice your regiment has its carbineers,
too--which proves that your lances are no good or you wouldn't have
twelve carbines to the troop. Eh? Oh, you bet your boots, sonny.
Don't talk lance to me! It's all on account of those Frenchmen on
Little Mac's staff----"

"For God's sake shut up!" said Berkley nervously. "I can't stand
any more just now."

"Oh!" said Casson, taken aback, "I didn't know you were such
cronies with your Colonel. Sorry, my dear fellow; didn't mean to
seem indifferent. Poor old gentleman. I guess he will pull
through. There are nurses at the front--nice little things. God
bless 'em! Say, don't you want to climb up with the driver?"

Berkley hesitated. "Do you know where my regiment is? I ought to
go back--if there's anybody to look after Colonel Arran----"

"Is that your horse?"

"No--some staff officer's, I guess."

"Where's yours?"

"Dead," said Berkley briefly. He thought a moment, then tied his
horse to the tail-board and climbed up beside the driver.

"Go on," he said; "drive carefully", and he nodded his thanks to
Casson as the team swung north.

The Provost Guard, filing along, carbines on thigh, opened to let
him through; and he saw them turning in their saddles to peer
curiously into the straw as the ambulance passed.

It was slow going, for the road was blocked with artillery and
infantry and other ambulances, but the driver found a lane between
guns and caissons and through the dusty blue columns plodding
forward toward the firing line; and at last a white hospital tent
glimmered under the trees, and the slow mule team turned into a
leafy lane and halted in the rear of a line of ambulances which
were all busily discharging their mangled burdens. The cries of
the wounded were terrible.

Operating tables stood under the trees in the open air; assistants
sponged the blood from them continually; the overworked surgeons,
stripped to their undershirts, smeared with blood, worked coolly
and rapidly in the shade of the oak-trees, seldom raising their
voices, never impatient. Orderlies brought water in artillery
buckets; ward-masters passed swiftly to and fro; a soldier stood by
a pile of severed limbs passing out bandages to assistants who
swarmed around, scurrying hither and thither under the quiet orders
of the medical directors.

A stretcher was brought; Colonel Arran opened his heavy lids as
they placed him in it. His eyes summoned Berkley.

"It's all right," he said in the ghost of a voice. "Whichever way
it turns put, it's all right. . . I've tried to live
lawfully. . . . It is better to live mercifully. I think--she--would
forgive. . . . Will you?"

"Yes."

He bent and took the wounded man's hand, in his.

"If I knew--if I _knew_--" he said, and his burning eyes searched
the bloodless face beneath him.

"God?" he whispered--"if it were true----"

A surgeon shouldered him aside, glanced sharply at the patient,
motioned the bearers forward.

Berkley sat down by the roadside, bridle in hand, head bowed in his
arms. Beside him his horse fed quietly on the weeds. In his ears
rang the cries of the wounded; all around him he was conscious of
people passing to and fro; and he sat there, face covered, deadly
tired, already exhausted to a stolidity that verged on stupor.

He must have slept, too, because when he sat up and opened his eyes
again it was nearly sundown, and somebody had stolen his horse.

A zouave with a badly sprained ankle, lying on a blanket near him,
offered him bread and meat that stank; and Berkley ate it, striving
to collect his deadened thoughts. After he had eaten he filled the
zouave's canteen at a little rivulet where hundreds of soldiers
were kneeling to drink or dip up the cool, clear water.

"What's your reg'ment, friend?" asked the man.

"Eighth New York Lancers."

"Lord A'mighty! You boys did get cut up some, didn't you?"

"I guess so. Are you Colonel Craig's regiment?"

"Yes. We got it, too. Holy Mother--we got it f'r fair!"

"Is your Colonel all right?"

"Yes. Steve--his son--corporal, 10th Company--was hit."

"What!"

"Yes, sir. Plumb through the collar-bone. He was one of the first
to get it. I was turrible sorry for his father--fine old boy!--and
he looked like he'd drop dead hisself--but, by gosh, friend, when
the stretcher took Steve to the rear the old man jest sot them
clean-cut jaws o' his'n, an' kep' his gold-wired gig-lamps to the
front. An' when the time come, he sez in his ca'm, pleasant way:
'Boys,' sez he, 'we're agoin' in. It's a part of the job,' sez he,
'that has got to be done thorough. So,' sez he, 'we'll jest mosey
along kind o' quick steppin' now, and we'll do our part like we
al'us does do it. For'rd--mar-r-rch!'"

Berkley sat still, hands clasped over his knees, thinking of
Stephen, and of Celia, and of the father out yonder somewhere amid
the smoke.

"Gawd," said the zouave, "you got a dirty jab on your cocanut,
didn't you?"

The bandage had slipped, displaying the black scab of the scarcely
healed wound; and Berkley absently replaced it.

"That'll ketch the girls," observed the zouave with conviction.
"Damn it, I've only got a sprained ankle to show my girl."

"The war's not over," said Berkley indifferently. Then he got up,
painfully, from the grass, exchanged adieux with the zouave, and
wandered off toward the hospital to seek for news of Colonel Arran.

It appeared that the surgeons had operated, and had sent the
Colonel a mile farther to the rear, where a temporary hospital had
been established in a young ladies' seminary. And toward this
Berkley set out across the fields, the sound of the battle dinning
heavily in his aching cars.

As he walked he kept a sullen eye out for his stolen horse, never
expecting to see him, and it was with a savage mixture of surprise
and satisfaction that he beheld him, bestridden by two dirty
malingerers from a New York infantry regiment who rode on the
snaffle with difficulty and objurgations and reproached each other
for their mutual discomfort.

How they had escaped the Provost he did not know; how they escaped
absolute annihilation they did not comprehend; for Berkley seized
the bridle, swung the horse sharply, turning them both out of the
saddle; then, delivering a swift kick apiece, as they lay cursing,
he mounted and rode forward amid enthusiastic approval from the
drivers of passing army waggons.

Long since the towering smoke in the west had veiled the sun; and
now the sky had become gray and thick, and already a fine drizzling
rain was falling, turning the red dust to grease.

Slipping, floundering, his horse bore him on under darkening skies;
rain fell heavily now; he bared his hot head to it; raised his
face, masked with grime, and let the drops fall on the dark scar
that burned under the shifting bandage.

In the gathering gloom eastward he saw the horizon redden and
darken and redden with the cannon flashes; the immense battle
rumour filled his ears and brain, throbbing, throbbing.

"Which way, friend?" demanded a patrol, carelessly throwing his
horse across Berkley's path.

"Orderly to Colonel Arran, 8th New York Lancers, wounded. Is that
the hospital, yonder?"

"Them school buildin's," nodded the patrol. "Say, is your colonel
very bad? I'm 20th New York, doin' provost. We seen you fellers
at White Oak. Jesus! what a wallop they did give us----"

He broke off grimly, turned his horse, and rode out into a soggy
field where some men were dodging behind a row of shaggy hedge
bushes. And far behind Berkley heard his loud, bullying voice:

"Git! you duck-legged, egg-suckin', skunk-backed loafers! Go on,
there! Aw, don't yer talk back to me 'r I'll let m' horse bite yer
pants off! Back yer go! Forrard! Hump! Hump! Scoot!"

Through the heavily falling rain he saw the lighted school
buildings looming among the trees; turned into the drive, accounted
for himself, gave his horse to a negro with orders to care for it,
and followed a ward-master into an open-faced shed where a kettle
was boiling over a sheet-iron stove.

The ward-master returned presently, threading his way through a
mass of parked ambulances to the shed where Berkley sat on a broken
cracker box.

"Colonel Arran is very low. I guess you'd better not bother him
to-night."

"Is he--mortally hurt?"

"I've seen worse."

"He may get well?"

"I've seen 'em get well," said the non-committal ward-master.
Then, looking Berkley over: "You're pretty dirty, ain't you? Are
you--" he raised his eyebrows significantly.

"I'm clean," said Berkley with the indifference habituated to filth.

"All right. They'll fix you up a cot somewhere. If Colonel Arran
comes out all right I'll call you. He's full of opium now."

"Did they get the bullet?"

"Oh, yes. I ain't a surgeon, my friend, but I hear a lot of
surgeon talk. It's the shock--in a man of his age. The wound's
clean, so far--not a thread in it, I hear. Shock--and
gangrene--that's what we look out for. . . . What's the news down
by the river?"

"I don't know," said Berkley.

"Don't you know if you got licked?"

"I don't think we did. You'd hear the firing out here much
plainer."

"You're the 8th Cavalry, ain't you?"

"Yes."

"They say you got cut up."

"Some."

"And how about the Zouaves?"

"Oh, they're there yet," said Berkley listlessly. Fatigue was
overpowering him; he was aware, presently, that a negro, carrying a
lantern, was guiding his stumbling steps into a small building
where, amid piles of boxes, an army cot stood covered by a blanket.
Berkley gave him a crumpled mess of paper money, and he almost
expired.

Later the same negro rolled a wooden tub into the room, half filled
it with steaming water, and stood in profound admiration of his
work, grinning at Berkley.

"Is you-all gwine bresh up, suh?" he inquired.

Berkley straightened his shoulders with an effort, unbuckled his
belt, and slowly began to take off his wet uniform.

The negro aided him respectfully; that wet wad of dollars had done
its work profoundly.

"Yo' is de adjetant ob dis here Gin'ral ob de Lancers, suh? De po'
ole Gin'ral! He done git shot dreffle bad, suh. . . . Jess you
lay on de flo', suh, t'will I gits yo' boots off'n yo' laigs! Dar!
Now jess set down in de tub, suh. I gwine scrub you wif de
saddle-soap--Lor', Gord-a-mighty! Who done bang you on de haid
dat-a-way?"--scrubbing vigorously with the saddle-soap all the
while. "Spec' you is lame an' so' all over, is you? Now I'se
gwine rub you haid, suh; an' now I'se gwine dry you haid." He
chuckled and rubbed and manipulated, yet became tender as a woman
in drying the clipped hair and the scarred temple. And, before
Berkley was aware of what he was about, the negro lifted him and
laid him on the cot.

"Now," he chuckled, "I'se gwine shave you." And he fished out a
razor from the rear pocket of his striped drill overalls, rubbed
the weapon of his race with a proud thumb, spread more soap over
Berkley's upturned face, and fell deftly to work, wiping off the
accumulated lather on the seat of his own trousers.

Berkley remembered seeing him do it twice; then remembered no more.
A blessed sense of rest soothed every bone; in the heavenly
stillness and surcease from noise he drifted gently into slumber,
into a deep dreamless sleep.

The old negro looked at him, aged face wrinkled in compassion.

"Po' li'l sodger boy," he muttered. "Done gib me fo' dollahs.
Lor' Gor' a'mighty! Spec' Mars Linkum's men is all richer'n ole
Miss."

He cast another glance at the sleeping man, then picked up the
worn, muddy boots, threw the soiled jacket and breeches over his
arm, and shuffled off, shaking his grizzled head.

CHAPTER XVIII

It was still dark when he awoke with a violent start, dreaming of
loud trumpets, and found himself sitting upright on his cot,
staring into obscurity.

Outside on the veranda a multitude of heavy steps echoed and
re-echoed over the creaking boards; spurs clinked, sabres dragged
and clanked; a man's harsh, nasal voice sounded irritably at
intervals:

"We're not an army--we're not yet an army; that's what's the
matter. You can't erect an army by uniforming and drilling a few
hundred thousand clerks and farmers. You can't manufacture an army
by brigading regiments--by creating divisions and forming army
corps. There is only one thing on God's long-enduring earth that
can transform this mob of State troops into a National
army--discipline!--and that takes time; and we've got to take it
and let experience kick us out of one battle into another. And
some day we'll wake up to find ourselves a real army, with real
departments, really controlled and in actual and practical working
order. Now it's every department for itself and God help General
McClellan! He has my sympathy! He has a dirty job on his hands
half done, and they won't let him finish it!"

And again the same impatient voice broke out contemptuously:

"War? These two years haven't been two years of war! They've been
two years of a noisy, gaudy, rough and tumble! Bull Run was _opera
bouffe_! The rest of it has been one fantastic and bloody
carnival! Did anybody ever before see such a grandmother's rag bag
of uniforms in an American army! What in hell do we want of
zouaves in French uniforms, cavalry, armed with Austrian lances,
ridiculous rocket-batteries, Polish riders, Hungarian hussars,
grenadiers, mounted rifles, militia and volunteers in every garb,
carrying every arm ever created by foreign armourers and military
tailors! . . . But I rather guess that the fancy-dress-ball era is
just about over. I've a notion that we're coming down to the
old-fashioned army blue again. And the sooner the better. I want
no more red fezzes and breeches in my commands for the enemy to
blaze at a mile away! I want no more picturesque lances. I want
plain blue pants and Springfield rifles, by God! And I guess I'll
get them, if I make noise enough in North America!"

Who this impassioned military critic was, shouting opinions to the
sky, Berkley never learned; for presently there was a great
jingling and clatter and trample of horses brought around, and the
officers, whoever they were, mounted and departed as they had
arrived, in darkness, leaving Berkley on his cot in the storehouse
to stretch his limbs, and yawn and stretch again, and draw the warm
folds of the blanket closer, and lie blinking at the dark, through
which, now, a bird had begun to twitter a sweet, fitful salute to
the coming dawn.

Across the foot of his couch lay folded an invalid's red hospital
wrapper; beside his bed stood the slippers. After a few moments he
rose, stepped into the slippers, and, drawing on the woolen robe,
belted it in about his thin waist. Then he limped out to the
veranda.

In the dusk the bird sang timidly. Berkley could just make out the
outlines of the nearer buildings, and of tall trees around. Here
and there lights burned behind closed windows; but, except for
these, the world was black and still; stiller for the deadened
stamping of horses in distant unseen stalls.

An unmistakable taint of the hospital hung in the fresh morning
air--a vague hint of anaesthetics, of cooking--the flat odour of
sickness and open wounds.

Lanterns passed in the darkness toward the stables; unseen shapes
moved hither and thither, their footsteps sharply audible. He
listened and peered about him for a while, then went back to the
store-room, picked his way among the medical supplies, and sat down
on the edge of his bed.

A few moments later he became aware of somebody moving on the
veranda, and of a light outside; heard his door open, lifted his
dazzled eyes in the candle rays.

"Are you here, Philip?" came a quiet, tired voice. "You must wake,
now, and dress. Colonel Arran is conscious and wishes to see you."

"Ailsa! Good God!"

She stood looking at him placidly, the burning candle steady in her
hand, her; face very white and thin.

He had risen, standing there motionless in his belted invalid's
robe with the stencilled S. C. on the shoulder. And now he would
have gone to her, hands outstretched, haggard face joyously
illumined; but she stepped back with a swift gesture that halted
him; and in her calm, unfriendly gaze he hesitated, bewildered,
doubting his senses.

"Ailsa, dear, is anything wrong?"

"I think," she said quietly, "that we had better not let Colonel
Arran see how wrong matters have gone between us. He is very badly
hurt. I have talked a little with him. I came here because he
asked for you and for no other reason."

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