Part 2 out of 3
harvest of the dead where the reserves had been posted. There they
lay in heaps and piles, killed by solid shot or bursting shells
that had leaped the battle line to plunge into the waiting ranks
beyond. As the sun lifted higher its beams fell within the range
of musketry fire, where the dead lay thicker,--even as they had
fallen when killed outright,--with arms extended and feet at all
angles to the field. As it touched these dead upturned faces,
strangely enough it brought out no expression of pain or anguish--
but rather as if death had arrested them only in surprise and awe.
It revealed on the lips of those who had been mortally wounded and
had turned upon their side the relief which death had brought their
suffering, sometimes shown in a faint smile. Mounting higher, it
glanced upon the actual battle line, curiously curving for the
shelter of walls, fences, and breastworks, and here the dead lay,
even as when they lay and fired, their faces prone in the grass but
their muskets still resting across the breastworks. Exposed to
grape and canister from the battery on the ridge, death had come to
them mercifully also--through the head and throat. And now the
whole field lay bare in the sunlight, broken with grotesque shadows
cast from sitting, crouching, half-recumbent but always rigid
figures, which might have been effigies on their own monuments.
One half-kneeling soldier, with head bowed between his stiffened
hands, might have stood for a carven figure of Grief at the feet of
his dead comrade. A captain, shot through the brain in the act of
mounting a wall, lay sideways half across it, his lips parted with
a word of command; his sword still pointing over the barrier the
way that they should go.
But it was not until the sun had mounted higher that it struck the
central horror of the field and seemed to linger there in dazzling
persistence, now and then returning to it in startling flashes that
it might be seen of men and those who brought succor. A tiny brook
had run obliquely near the battle line. It was here that, the
night before the battle, friend and foe had filled their canteens
side by side with soldierly recklessness--or perhaps a higher
instinct--purposely ignoring each other's presence; it was here
that the wounded had afterwards crept, crawled, and dragged
themselves, here they had pushed, wrangled, striven, and fought for
a draught of that precious fluid which assuaged the thirst of their
wounds--or happily put them out of their misery forever; here
overborne, crushed, suffocated by numbers, pouring their own blood
into the flood, and tumbling after it with their helpless bodies,
they dammed the stream, until recoiling, red and angry, it had
burst its banks and overflowed the cotton-field in a broad pool
that now sparkled in the sunlight. But below this human dam--a
mile away--where the brook still crept sluggishly, the ambulance
horses sniffed and started from it.
The detail moved on slowly, doing their work expeditiously, and
apparently callously, but really only with that mechanical movement
that saves emotion. Only once they were moved to an outbreak of
indignation,--the discovery of the body of an officer whose pockets
were turned inside out, but whose hand was still tightly grasped on
his buttoned waistcoat, as if resisting the outrage that had been
done while still in life. As the men disengaged the stiffened hand
something slipped from the waistcoat to the ground. The corporal
picked it up and handed it to his officer. It was a sealed packet.
The officer received it with the carelessness which long experience
of these pathetic missives from the dying to their living relations
had induced, and dropped it in the pocket of his tunic, with the
half-dozen others that he had picked up that morning, and moved on
with the detail. A little further on they halted, in the attitude
of attention, as a mounted officer appeared, riding slowly down the
There was something more than the habitual respect of their
superior in their faces as he came forward. For it was the general
who had commanded the brigade the day before,--the man who had
leaped with one bound into the foremost rank of military leaders.
It was his invincible spirit that had led the advance, held back
defeat against overwhelming numbers, sustained the rally, impressed
his subordinate officers with his own undeviating purpose, and even
infused them with an almost superstitious belief in his destiny of
success. It was this man who had done what it was deemed impossible
to do,--what even at the time it was thought unwise and unstrategic
to do,--who had held a weak position, of apparently no importance,
under the mandate of an incomprehensible order from his superior,
which at best asked only for a sacrifice and was rewarded with a
victory. He had decimated his brigade, but the wounded and dying
had cheered him as he passed, and the survivors had pursued the
enemy until the bugle called them back. For such a record he looked
still too young and scholarly, albeit his handsome face was dark and
energetic, and his manner taciturn.
His quick eye had already caught sight of the rifled body of the
officer, and contracted. As the captain of the detail saluted him
he said curtly,--
"I thought the orders were to fire upon any one desecrating the
"They are, General; but the hyenas don't give us a chance. That's
all yonder poor fellow saved from their claws," replied the
officer, as he held up the sealed packet. "It has no address."
The general took it, examined the envelope, thrust it into his
belt, and said,--
"I will take charge of it."
The sound of horses' hoofs came from the rocky roadside beyond
the brook. Both men turned. A number of field officers were
"The division staff," said the captain, in a lower voice, falling
They came slowly forward, a central figure on a gray horse leading
here--as in history. A short, thick-set man with a grizzled beard
closely cropped around an inscrutable mouth, and the serious
formality of a respectable country deacon in his aspect, which even
the major-generals blazon on the shoulder-strap of his loose tunic
on his soldierly seat in the saddle could not entirely obliterate.
He had evidently perceived the general of brigade, and quickened
his horse as the latter drew up. The staff followed more leisurely,
but still with some curiosity, to witness the meeting of the first
general of the army with the youngest. The division general
saluted, but almost instantly withdrew his leathern gauntlet, and
offered his bared hand to the brigadier. The words of heroes are
scant. The drawn-up detail, the waiting staff listened. This was
all they heard:--
"Halleck tells me you're from California?"
"Ah! I lived there, too, in the early days."
"Wonderful country. Developed greatly since my time, I suppose?"
"Great resources; finest wheat-growing country in the world, sir.
You don't happen to know what the actual crop was this year?"
"Hardly, General! but something enormous."
"Yes, I have always said it would be. Have a cigar?"
He handed his cigar-case to the brigadier. Then he took one
himself, lighted it at the smouldering end of the one he had taken
from his mouth, was about to throw the stump carelessly down, but,
suddenly recollecting himself, leaned over his horse, and dropped
it carefully a few inches away from the face of a dead soldier.
Then, straightening himself in the saddle, he shoved his horse
against the brigadier, moving him a little further on, while a
slight movement of his hand kept the staff from following.
"A heavy loss here!"
"I'm afraid so, General."
"It couldn't be helped. We had to rush in your brigade to gain
time, and occupy the enemy, until we could change front."
The young general looked at the shrewd, cold eyes of his chief.
"Change front?" he echoed.
"Yes. Before a gun was fired, we discovered that the enemy was in
complete possession of all our plans, and knew every detail of our
forward movement. All had to be changed."
The younger man now instantly understood the incomprehensible order
of the day before.
The general of division continued, with his first touch of official
"You understand, therefore, General Brant, that in the face of this
extraordinary treachery, the utmost vigilance is required, and a
complete surveillance of your camp followers and civilians, to
detect the actual spy within our lines, or the traitor we are
harboring, who has become possessed of this information. You will
overhaul your brigade, and weed out all suspects, and in the
position which you are to take to-morrow, and the plantation you
will occupy, you will see that your private quarters, as well as
your lines, are cleared of all but those you can vouch for."
He reined in his horse, again extended his hand, saluted, and
rejoined his staff.
Brigadier-General Clarence Brant remained for a moment with his
head bent in thoughtful contemplation of the coolness of his
veteran chief under this exciting disclosure, and the strategy with
which he had frustrated the traitor's success. Then his eye caught
the sealed packet in his belt. He mechanically drew it out, and
broke the seal. The envelope was filled with papers and memorandums.
But as he looked at them his face darkened and his brow knit. He
glanced quickly around him. The staff had trotted away; the captain
and his detail were continuing their work at a little distance. He
took a long breath, for he was holding in his hand a tracing of
their camp, even of the position he was to occupy tomorrow, and a
detailed account of the movements, plans, and force of the whole
division as had been arranged in council of war the day before the
battle! But there was no indication of the writer or his intentions.
He thrust the papers hurriedly back into the envelope, but placed
it, this time, in his breast. He galloped towards the captain.
"Let me see again the officer from whom you took that packet!"
The captain led him to where the body lay, with others, extended
more decently on the grass awaiting removal. General Brant with
difficulty repressed an ejaculation.
"Why, it's one of our own men," he said quickly.
"Yes, General. They say it's Lieutenant Wainwright, a regular, of
the paymaster general's department."
"Then what was he doing here?" asked General Brant sternly.
"I can't make out, sir, unless he went into the last advance as a
volunteer. Wanted to see the fight, I suppose. He was a dashing
fellow, a West Pointer,--and a Southerner, too,--a Virginian."
"A Southerner!" echoed Brant quickly.
"Search him again," said Brant quietly. He had recovered his usual
coolness, and as the captain again examined the body, he took out
his tablets and wrote a few lines. It was an order to search the
quarters of Lieutenant Wainwright and bring all papers, letters,
and documents to him. He then beckoned one of the detail towards
him. "Take that to the provost marshal at once. Well, Captain,"
he added calmly, as the officer again approached him, "what do you
"Only this, sir," returned the captain, with a half smile, producing
a small photograph. "I suppose it was overlooked, too."
He handed it to Brant.
There was a sudden fixing of his commanding officer's eyes, but his
face did not otherwise change.
"It's the usual find, General. Always a photograph! But this time
a handsome woman!"
"Very," said Clarence Brant quietly. It was the portrait of his
Nevertheless, so complete was his control of voice and manner that,
as he rode on to his quarters, no one would have dreamed that
General Brant had just looked upon the likeness of the wife from
whom he had parted in anger four years ago. Still less would they
have suspected the strange fear that came upon him that in some way
she was connected with the treachery he had just discovered. He
had heard from her only once, and then through her late husband's
lawyer, in regard to her Californian property, and believed that
she had gone to her relations in Alabama, where she had identified
herself with the Southern cause, even to the sacrifice of her
private fortune. He had heard her name mentioned in the Southern
press as a fascinating society leader, and even coadjutrix of
Southern politicians,--but he had no reason to believe that she had
taken so active or so desperate a part in the struggle. He tried
to think that his uneasiness sprang from his recollection of the
previous treachery of Captain Pinckney, and the part that she had
played in the Californian conspiracy, although he had long since
acquitted her of the betrayal of any nearer trust. But there was a
fateful similarity in the two cases. There was no doubt that this
Lieutenant Wainwright was a traitor in the camp,--that he had
succumbed to the usual sophistry of his class in regard to his
superior allegiance to his native State. But was there the
inducement of another emotion, or was the photograph only the
souvenir of a fascinating priestess of rebellion, whom the dead man
had met? There was perhaps less of feeling than scorn in the first
suggestion, but he was nevertheless relieved when the provost
marshal found no other incriminating papers in Wainwright's
effects. Nor did he reveal to the division general the finding of
the photograph. It was sufficient to disclose the work of the
traitor without adding what might be a clue to his wife's
participation in it, near or remote. There was risk enough in the
former course,--which his duty made imperative. He hardly dared to
think of the past day's slaughter, which--there was no doubt now--
had been due to the previous work of the spy, and how his brigade
had been selected--by the irony of Fate--to suffer for and yet
retrieve it. If she had had a hand in this wicked plot, ought he
to spare her? Or was his destiny and hers to be thus monstrously
Luckily, however, the expiation of the chief offender and the
timely discovery of his papers enabled the division commander to
keep the affair discreetly silent, and to enjoin equal secrecy on
the part of Brant. The latter, however, did not relax his
vigilance, and after the advance the next day he made a minute
inspection of the ground he was to occupy, its approaches and
connections with the outlying country, and the rebel lines;
increased the stringency of picket and sentry regulations, and
exercised a rigid surveillance of non-combatants and civilians
within the lines, even to the lowest canteener or camp follower.
Then he turned his attention to the house he was to occupy as his
It was a fine specimen of the old colonial planter's house, with
its broad veranda, its great detached offices and negro quarters,
and had, thus far, escaped the ravages and billeting of the war.
It had been occupied by its owner up to a few days before the
engagement, and so great had been the confidence of the enemy in
their success that it had been used as the Confederate headquarters
on the morning of the decisive battle. Jasmine and rose, unstained
by the sulphur of gunpowder, twined around its ruined columns and
half hid the recessed windows; the careless flower garden was still
in its unkempt and unplucked luxuriance; the courtyard before the
stables alone showed marks of the late military occupancy, and was
pulverized by the uneasy horse-hoofs of the waiting staff. But the
mingled impress of barbaric prodigality with patriarchal simplicity
was still there in the domestic arrangements of a race who lived on
half equal familiarity with strangers and their own servants.
The negro servants still remained, with a certain cat-like fidelity
to the place, and adapted themselves to the Northern invaders with
a childlike enjoyment of the novelty of change. Brant, nevertheless,
looked them over with an experienced eye, and satisfied himself of
their trustworthiness; there was the usual number of "boys,"
gray-haired and grizzled in body service, and the "mammys" and
"aunties" of the kitchen. There were two or three rooms in the wing
which still contained private articles, pictures and souvenirs of
the family, and a "young lady's" boudoir, which Brant, with
characteristic delicacy, kept carefully isolated and intact from his
military household, and accessible only to the family servants. The
room he had selected for himself was nearest it,--a small, plainly
furnished apartment, with an almost conventual simplicity in its
cold, white walls and draperies, and the narrow, nun-like bed. It
struck him that it might have belonged to some prim elder daughter
or maiden aunt, who had acted as housekeeper, as it commanded the
wing and servants' offices, with easy access to the central hall.
There followed a week of inactivity in which Brant felt a singular
resemblance in this Southern mansion to the old casa at Robles.
The afternoon shadows of the deep verandas recalled the old
monastic gloom of the Spanish house, which even the presence of a
lounging officer or waiting orderly could not entirely dissipate,
and the scent of the rose and jasmine from his windows overcame him
with sad memories. He began to chafe under this inaction, and long
again for the excitement of the march and bivouac, in which, for
the past four years, he had buried his past.
He was sitting one afternoon alone before his reports and
dispatches, when this influence seemed so strong that he half
impulsively laid them aside to indulge in along reverie. He was
recalling his last day at Robles, the early morning duel with
Pinckney, the return to San Francisco, and the sudden resolution
which sent him that day across the continent to offer his services
to the Government. He remembered his delay in the Western town,
where a volunteer regiment was being recruited, his entrance into
it as a private, his rapid selection, through the force of his
sheer devotion and intelligent concentration, to the captaincy of
his company; his swift promotion on hard-fought fields to the head
of the regiment, and the singular success that had followed his
resistless energy, which left him no time to think of anything but
his duty. The sudden intrusion of his wife upon his career now,
even in this accidental and perhaps innocent way, had seriously
The shadows were growing heavier and deeper, it lacked only a few
moments of the sunset bugle, when he was recalled to himself by
that singular instinctive consciousness, common to humanity, of
being intently looked at. He turned quickly,--the door behind him
closed softly. He rose and slipped into the hall. The tall figure
of a woman was going down the passage. She was erect and graceful;
but, as she turned towards the door leading to the offices, he
distinctly saw the gaudily turbaned head and black silhouette of a
negress. Nevertheless, he halted a moment at the door of the next
"See who that woman is who has just passed, Mr. Martin. She
doesn't seem to belong to the house."
The young officer rose, put on his cap, and departed. In a few
moments he returned.
"Was she tall, sir, of a good figure, and very straight?"
"She is a servant of our neighbors, the Manlys, who occasionally
visits the servants here. A mulatto, I think."
Brant reflected. Many of the mulattoes and negresses were of good
figure, and the habit of carrying burdens on their heads gave them
a singularly erect carriage.
The lieutenant looked at his chief.
"Have you any orders to give concerning her, General?"
"No," said Brant, after a moment's pause, and turned away.
The officer smiled. It seemed a good story to tell at mess of this
human weakness of his handsome, reserved, and ascetic-looking
A few mornings afterwards Brant was interrupted over his reports by
the almost abrupt entrance of the officer of the day. His face was
flushed, and it was evident that only the presence of his superior
restrained his excitement. He held a paper in his hand.
"A lady presents this order and pass from Washington, countersigned
by the division general."
"Yes, sir, she is dressed as such. But she has not only declined
the most ordinary civilities and courtesies we have offered her,
but she has insulted Mr. Martin and myself grossly, and demands to
be shown to you--alone."
Brant took the paper. It was a special order from the President,
passing Miss Matilda Faulkner through the Federal lines to visit
her uncle's home, known as "Gray Oaks," now held and occupied as
the headquarters of Brant's Brigade, in order to arrange for the
preservation and disposal of certain family effects and private
property that still remained there, or to take and carry away such
property; and invoking all necessary aid and assistance from the
United States forces in such occupancy. It was countersigned by
the division commander. It was perfectly regular and of undoubted
authenticity. He had heard of passes of this kind,--the terror of
the army,--issued in Washington under some strange controlling
influence and against military protest; but he did not let his
subordinate see the uneasiness with which it filled him.
"Show her in," he said quietly.
But she had already entered, brushing scornfully past the officer,
and drawing her skirt aside, as if contaminated: a very pretty
Southern girl, scornful and red-lipped, clad in a gray riding-
habit, and still carrying her riding-whip clenched ominously in her
slim, gauntleted hand!
"You have my permit in your hand," she said brusquely, hardly
raising her eyes to Brant. "I suppose it's all straight enough,--
and even if it isn't, I don't reckon to be kept waiting with those
"Your 'permit' is 'straight' enough, Miss Faulkner," said Brant,
slowly reading her name from the document before him. "But, as it
does not seem to include permission to insult my officers, you will
perhaps allow them first to retire."
He made a sign to the officer, who passed out of the door.
As it closed, he went on, in a gentle but coldly unimpassioned
"I perceive you are a Southern lady, and therefore I need not
remind you that it is not considered good form to treat even the
slaves of those one does not like uncivilly, and I must, therefore,
ask you to keep your active animosity for myself."
The young girl lifted her eyes. She had evidently not expected to
meet a man so young, so handsome, so refined, and so coldly
invincible in manner. Still less was she prepared for that kind of
antagonism. In keeping up her preconcerted attitude towards the
"Northern hireling," she had been met with official brusqueness,
contemptuous silence, or aggrieved indignation,--but nothing so
exasperating as this. She even fancied that this elegant but
sardonic-looking soldier was mocking her. She bit her red lip,
but, with a scornful gesture of her riding-whip, said,--
"I reckon that your knowledge of Southern ladies is, for certain
reasons, not very extensive."
"Pardon me; I have had the honor of marrying one."
Apparently more exasperated than before, she turned upon him
"You say my pass is all right. Then I presume I may attend to the
business that brought me here."
"Certainly; but you will forgive me if I imagined that an
expression of contempt for your hosts was a part of it."
He rang a bell on the table. It was responded to by an orderly.
"Send all the household servants here."
The room was presently filled with the dusky faces of the negro
retainers. Here and there was the gleaming of white teeth, but a
majority of the assembly wore the true negro serious acceptance of
the importance of "an occasion." One or two even affected an
official and soldierly bearing. And, as he fully expected, there
were several glances of significant recognition of the stranger.
"You will give," said Brant sternly, "every aid and attention to
the wants of this young lady, who is here to represent the
interests of your old master. As she will be entirely dependent
upon you in all things connected with her visit here, see to it
that she does not have to complain to me of any inattention,--or be
obliged to ask for other assistance."
As Miss Faulkner, albeit a trifle paler in the cheek, but as
scornful as ever, was about to follow the servants from the room,
Brant stopped her, with a coldly courteous gesture.
"You will understand, therefore, Miss Faulkner, that you have your
wish, and that you will not be exposed to any contact with the
members of my military family, nor they with you."
"Am I then to be a prisoner in this house--and under a free pass of
your--President?" she said indignantly.
"By no means! You are free to come and go, and see whom you
please. I have no power to control your actions. But I have the
power to control theirs."
She swept furiously from the room.
"That is quite enough to fill her with a desire to flirt with every
man here," said Brant to himself, with a faint smile; "but I fancy
they have had a taste enough of her quality."
Nevertheless he sat down and wrote a few lines to the division
commander, pointing out that he had already placed the owner's
private property under strict surveillance, that it was cared for
and perfectly preserved by the household servants, and that the
pass was evidently obtained as a subterfuge.
To this he received a formal reply, regretting that the authorities
at Washington still found it necessary to put this kind of risk and
burden on the army in the field, but that the order emanated from
the highest authority, and must be strictly obeyed. At the bottom
of the page was a characteristic line in pencil in the general's
own hand--"Not the kind that is dangerous."
A flush mounted Brant's cheeks, as if it contained not only a
hidden, but a personal significance. He had thought of his own
Singularly enough, a day or two later, at dinner, the conversation
turned upon the intense sectional feeling of Southern women,
probably induced by their late experiences. Brant, at the head of
the table, in his habitual abstraction, was scarcely following the
somewhat excited diction of Colonel Strangeways, one of his staff.
"No, sir," reiterated that indignant warrior, "take my word for it!
A Southern woman isn't to be trusted on this point, whether as a
sister, sweetheart, or wife. And when she is trusted, she's bound
to get the better of the man in any of those relations!"
The dead silence that followed, the ominous joggle of a glass at
the speaker's elbow, the quick, sympathetic glance that Brant
instinctively felt was directed at his own face, and the abrupt
change of subject, could not but arrest his attention, even if he
had overlooked the speech. His face, however, betrayed nothing.
It had never, however, occurred to him before that his family
affairs might be known--neither had he ever thought of keeping them
a secret. It seemed so purely a personal and private misfortune,
that he had never dreamed of its having any public interest. And
even now he was a little ashamed of what he believed was his
sensitiveness to mere conventional criticism, which, with the
instinct of a proud man, he had despised.
He was not far wrong in his sardonic intuition of the effect of his
prohibition upon Miss Faulkner's feelings. Certainly that young
lady, when not engaged in her mysterious occupation of arranging
her uncle's effects, occasionally was seen in the garden, and in
the woods beyond. Although her presence was the signal for the
"oblique" of any lounging "shoulder strap," or the vacant "front"
of a posted sentry, she seemed to regard their occasional proximity
with less active disfavor. Once, when she had mounted the wall to
gather a magnolia blossom, the chair by which she had ascended
rolled over, leaving her on the wall. At a signal from the guard-
room, two sappers and miners appeared carrying a scaling-ladder,
which they placed silently against the wall, and as silently
withdrew. On another occasion, the same spirited young lady, whom
Brant was satisfied would have probably imperiled her life under
fire in devotion to her cause, was brought ignominiously to bay in
the field by that most appalling of domestic animals, the wandering
and untrammeled cow! Brant could not help smiling as he heard the
quick, harsh call to "Turn out, guard," saw the men march stolidly
with fixed bayonets to the vicinity of the affrighted animal, who
fled, leaving the fair stranger to walk shamefacedly to the house.
He was surprised, however, that she should have halted before his
door, and with tremulous indignation, said,--
"I thank you, sir, for your chivalrousness in turning a defenseless
woman into ridicule."
"I regret, Miss Faulkner," began Brant gravely, "that you should
believe that I am able to control the advances of farmyard cattle
as easily as"-- But he stopped, as he saw that the angry flash of
her blue eyes, as she darted past him, was set in tears. A little
remorseful on the following day, he added a word to his ordinary
cap-lifting when she went by, but she retained a reproachful
silence. Later in the day, he received from her servant a
respectful request for an interview, and was relieved to find that
she entered his presence with no trace of her former aggression,
but rather with the resignation of a deeply injured, yet not
entirely unforgiving, woman.
"I thought," she began coldly, "that I ought to inform you that I
would probably be able to conclude my business here by the day
after to-morrow, and that you would then be relieved of my
presence. I am aware--indeed," she added, bitterly, "I could
scarcely help perceiving, that it has been an exceedingly irksome
"I trust," began Brant coldly, "that no gentleman of my command
She interrupted him quickly, with a return of her former manner,
and a passionate sweep of the hand.
"Do you suppose for a moment that I am speaking--that I am even
thinking--of them? What are they to me?"
"Thank you. I am glad to know that they are nothing; and that I
may now trust that you have consulted my wishes, and have reserved
your animosity solely for me," returned Brant quietly. "That being
so, I see no reason for your hurrying your departure in the least."
She rose instantly.
"I have," she said slowly, controlling herself with a slight
effort, "found some one who will take my duty off my hands. She is
a servant of one of your neighbors,--who is an old friend of my
uncle's. The woman is familiar with the house, and our private
property. I will give her full instructions to act for me, and
even an authorization in writing, if you prefer it. She is already
in the habit of coming here; but her visits will give you very
little trouble. And, as she is a slave, or, as you call it, I
believe, a chattel, she will be already quite accustomed to the
treatment which her class are in the habit of receiving from
Without waiting to perceive the effect of her Parthian shot, she
swept proudly out of the room.
"I wonder what she means," mused Brant, as her quick step died away
in the passage. "One thing is certain,--a woman like that is
altogether too impulsive for a spy."
Later, in the twilight, he saw her walking in the garden. There
was a figure at her side. A little curious, he examined it more
closely from his window. It was already familiar to him,--the
erect, shapely form of his neighbor's servant. A thoughtful look
passed over his face as he muttered,--"So this is to be her
Called to a general council of officers at divisional headquarters
the next day, Brant had little time for further speculation
regarding his strange guest, but a remark from the division
commander, that he preferred to commit the general plan of a
movement then under discussion to their memories rather than to
written orders in the ordinary routine, seemed to show that his
chief still suspected the existence of a spy. He, therefore, told
him of his late interview with Miss Faulkner, and her probable
withdrawal in favor of a mulatto neighbor. The division commander
received the information with indifference.
"They're much too clever to employ a hussy like that, who shows her
hand at every turn, either as a spy or a messenger of spies,--and
the mulattoes are too stupid, to say nothing of their probable
fidelity to us. No, General, if we are watched, it is by an eagle,
and not a mocking-bird. Miss Faulkner has nothing worse about her
than her tongue; and there isn't the nigger blood in the whole South
that would risk a noose for her, or for any of their masters or
It was, therefore, perhaps, with some mitigation of his usual
critical severity that he saw her walking before him alone in the
lane as he rode home to quarters. She was apparently lost in a
half-impatient, half-moody reverie, which even the trotting hoof-
beats of his own and his orderly's horse had not disturbed. From
time to time she struck the myrtle hedge beside her with the head
of a large flower which hung by its stalk from her listless hands,
or held it to her face as if to inhale its perfume. Dismissing his
orderly by a side path, he rode gently forward, but, to his
surprise, without turning, or seeming to be aware of his presence,
she quickened her pace, and even appeared to look from side to side
for some avenue of escape. If only to mend matters, he was obliged
to ride quickly forward to her side, where he threw himself from
his horse, flung the reins on his arm, and began to walk beside
her. She at first turned a slightly flushed cheek away from him,
and then looked up with a purely simulated start of surprise.
"I am afraid," he said gently, "that I am the first to break my own
orders in regard to any intrusion on your privacy. But I wanted to
ask you if I could give you any aid whatever in the change you
think of making."
He was quite sincere,--had been touched by her manifest disturbance,
and, despite his masculine relentlessness of criticism, he had an
intuition of feminine suffering that was in itself feminine.
"Meaning, that you are in a hurry to get rid of me," she said
curtly, without raising her eyes.
"Meaning that I only wish to expedite a business which I think is
unpleasant to you, but which I believe you have undertaken from
The scant expression of a reserved nature is sometimes more
attractive to women than the most fluent vivacity. Possibly there
was also a melancholy grace in this sardonic soldier's manner that
affected her, for she looked up, and said impulsively,--
"You think so?"
But he met her eager eyes with some surprise.
"I certainly do," he replied more coldly. "I can imagine your
feelings on finding your uncle's home in the possession of your
enemies, and your presence under the family roof only a sufferance.
I can hardly believe it a pleasure to you, or a task you would have
accepted for yourself alone."
"But," she said, turning towards him wickedly, "what if I did it
only to excite my revenge; what if I knew it would give me courage
to incite my people to carry war into your own homes; to make you
of the North feel as I feel, and taste our bitterness?"
"I could easily understand that, too," he returned, with listless
coldness, "although I don't admit that revenge is an unmixed
pleasure, even to a woman."
"A woman!" she repeated indignantly. "There is no sex in a war
"You are spoiling your flower," he said quietly. "It is very
pretty, and a native one, too; not an invader, or even transplanted.
May I look at it?"
She hesitated, half recoiling for an instant, and her hand
trembled. Then, suddenly and abruptly she said, with a hysteric
little laugh, "Take it, then," and almost thrust it in his hand.
It certainly was a pretty flower, not unlike a lily in appearance,
with a bell-like cup and long anthers covered with a fine pollen,
like red dust. As he lifted it to his face, to inhale its perfume,
she uttered a slight cry, and snatched it from his hand.
"There!" she said, with the same nervous laugh. "I knew you would;
I ought to have warned you. The pollen comes off so easily, and
leaves a stain. And you've got some on your cheek. Look!" she
continued, taking her handkerchief from her pocket and wiping his
cheek; "see there!" The delicate cambric showed a blood-red
"It grows in a swamp," she continued, in the same excited strain;
"we call it dragon's teeth,--like the kind that was sown in the
story, you know. We children used to find it, and then paint our
faces and lips with it. We called it our rouge. I was almost
tempted to try it again when I found it just now. It took me back
so to the old times."
Following her odd manner rather than her words, as she turned her
face towards him suddenly, Brant was inclined to think that she had
tried it already, so scarlet was her cheek. But it presently paled
again under his cold scrutiny.
"You must miss the old times," he said calmly. "I am afraid you
found very little of them left, except in these flowers."
"And hardly these," she said bitterly. "Your troops had found a
way through the marsh, and had trampled down the bushes."
Brant's brow clouded. He remembered that the brook, which had run
red during the fight, had lost itself in this marsh. It did not
increase his liking for this beautiful but blindly vicious animal
at his side, and even his momentary pity for her was fading fast.
She was incorrigible. They walked on for a few moments in silence.
"You said," she began at last, in a gentler and even hesitating
voice, "that your wife was a Southern woman."
He checked an irritated start with difficulty.
"I believe I did," he said coldly, as if he regretted it.
"And of course you taught her YOUR gospel,--the gospel according to
St. Lincoln. Oh, I know," she went on hurriedly, as if conscious
of his irritation and seeking to allay it. "She was a woman and
loved you, and thought with your thoughts and saw only with your
eyes. Yes, that's the way with us,--I suppose we all do it!" she
"She had her own opinions," said Brant briefly, as he recovered
Nevertheless, his manner so decidedly closed all further discussion
that there was nothing left for the young girl but silence. But it
was broken by her in a few moments in her old contemptuous voice
"Pray don't trouble yourself to accompany me any further, General
Brant. Unless, of course, you are afraid I may come across some of
your--your soldiers. I promise you I won't eat them."
"I am afraid you must suffer my company a little longer, Miss
Faulkner, on account of those same soldiers," returned Brant
gravely. "You may not know that this road, in which I find you,
takes you through a cordon of pickets. If you were alone you would
be stopped, questioned, and, failing to give the password, you
would be detained, sent to the guard-house, and"--he stopped, and
fixed his eyes on her keenly as he added, "and searched."
"You would not dare to search a woman!" she said indignantly,
although her flush gave way to a slight pallor.
"You said just now that there should be no sex in a war like this,"
returned Brant carelessly, but without abating his scrutinizing
"Then it IS war?" she said quickly, with a white, significant face.
His look of scrutiny turned to one of puzzled wonder. But at the
same moment there was the flash of a bayonet in the hedge, a voice
called "Halt!" and a soldier stepped into the road.
General Brant advanced, met the salute of the picket with a few
formal words, and then turned towards his fair companion, as
another soldier and a sergeant joined the group.
"Miss Faulkner is new to the camp, took the wrong turning, and was
unwittingly leaving the lines when I joined her." He fixed his
eyes intently on her now colorless face, but she did not return his
look. "You will show her the shortest way to quarters," he
continued, to the sergeant, "and should she at any time again lose
her way, you will again conduct her home,--but without detaining or
He lifted his cap, remounted his horse, and rode away, as the young
girl, with a proud, indifferent step, moved down the road with the
sergeant. A mounted officer passed him and saluted,--it was one of
his own staff. From some strange instinct, he knew that he had
witnessed the scene, and from some equally strange intuition he was
annoyed by it. But he continued his way, visiting one or two
outposts, and returned by a long detour to his quarters. As he
stepped upon the veranda he saw Miss Faulkner at the bottom of the
garden talking with some one across the hedge. By the aid of his
glass he could recognize the shapely figure of the mulatto woman
which he had seen before. But by its aid he also discovered that
she was carrying a flower exactly like the one which Miss Faulkner
still held in her hand. Had she been with Miss Faulkner in the
lane, and if so, why had she disappeared when he came up? Impelled
by something stronger than mere curiosity, he walked quickly down
the garden, but she evidently had noticed him, for she as quickly
disappeared. Not caring to meet Miss Faulkner again, he retraced
his steps, resolving that he would, on the first opportunity,
personally examine and interrogate this new visitor. For if she
were to take Miss Faulkner's place in a subordinate capacity, this
precaution was clearly within his rights.
He re-entered his room and seated himself at his desk before the
dispatches, orders, and reports awaiting him. He found himself,
however, working half mechanically, and recurring to his late
interview with Miss Faulkner in the lane. If she had any
inclination to act the spy, or to use her position here as a means
of communicating with the enemy's lines, he thought he had
thoroughly frightened her. Nevertheless, now, for the first time,
he was inclined to accept his chief's opinion of her. She was not
only too clumsy and inexperienced, but she totally lacked the self-
restraint of a spy. Her nervous agitation in the lane was due to
something more disturbing than his mere possible intrusion upon her
confidences with the mulatto. The significance of her question,
"Then it IS war?" was at best a threat, and that implied hesitation.
He recalled her strange allusion to his wife; was it merely the
outcome of his own foolish confession on their first interview, or
was it a concealed ironical taunt? Being satisfied, however, that
she was not likely to imperil his public duty in any way, he was
angry with himself for speculating further. But, although he still
felt towards her the same antagonism she had at first provoked, he
was conscious that she was beginning to exercise a strange
fascination over him.
Dismissing her at last with an effort, he finished his work and
then rose, and unlocking a closet, took out a small dispatch-box,
to which he intended to intrust a few more important orders and
memoranda. As he opened it with a key on his watch-chain, he was
struck with a faint perfume that seemed to come from it,--a perfume
that he remembered. Was it the smell of the flower that Miss
Faulkner carried, or the scent of the handkerchief with which she
had wiped his cheek, or a mingling of both? Or was he under some
spell to think of that wretched girl, and her witch-like flower?
He leaned over the box and suddenly started. Upon the outer
covering of a dispatch was a singular blood-red streak! He examined
it closely,--it was the powdery stain of the lily pollen,--exactly
as he had seen it on her handkerchief.
There could be no mistake. He passed his finger over the stain; he
could still feel the slippery, infinitesimal powder of the pollen.
It was not there when he had closed the box that morning; it was
impossible that it should be there unless the box had been opened
in his absence. He re-examined the contents of the box; the papers
were all there. More than that, they were papers of no importance
except to him personally; contained no plans nor key to any
military secret; he had been far too wise to intrust any to the
accidents of this alien house. The prying intruder, whoever it
was, had gained nothing! But there was unmistakably the attempt!
And the existence of a would-be spy within the purlieus of the
house was equally clear.
He called an officer from the next room.
"Has any one been here since my absence?"
"Has any one passed through the hall?"
He had fully anticipated the answer, as the subaltern replied,
"Only the women servants."
He re-entered the room. Closing the door, he again carefully
examined the box, his table, the papers upon it, the chair before
it, and even the Chinese matting on the floor, for any further
indication of the pollen. It hardly seemed possible that any one
could have entered the room with the flower in their hand without
scattering some of the tell-tale dust elsewhere; it was too large a
flower to be worn on the breast or in the hair. Again, no one
would have dared to linger there long enough to have made an
examination of the box, with an officer in the next room, and the
sergeant passing. The box had been removed, and the examination
An idea seized him. Miss Faulkner was still absent, the mulatto
had apparently gone home. He quickly mounted the staircase, but
instead of entering his room, turned suddenly aside into the wing
which had been reserved. The first door yielded as he turned its
knob gently and entered a room which he at once recognized as the
"young lady's boudoir." But the dusty and draped furniture had
been rearranged and uncovered, and the apartment bore every sign of
present use. Yet, although there was unmistakable evidence of its
being used by a person of taste and refinement, he was surprised to
see that the garments hanging in an open press were such as were
used by negro servants, and that a gaudy handkerchief such as
housemaids used for turbans was lying on the pretty silk coverlet.
He did not linger over these details, but cast a rapid glance round
the room. Then his eyes became fixed on a fanciful writing-desk,
which stood by the window. For, in a handsome vase placed on its
level top, and drooping on a portfolio below, hung a cluster of the
very flowers that Miss Faulkner had carried!
It seemed plain to Brant that the dispatch-box had been conveyed
here and opened for security on this desk, and in the hurry of
examining the papers the flower had been jostled and the fallen
grains of pollen overlooked by the spy. There were one or two
freckles of red on the desk, which made this accident appear the
more probable. But he was equally struck by another circumstance.
The desk stood immediately before the window. As he glanced
mechanically from it, he was surprised to see that it commanded an
extensive view of the slope below the eminence on which the house
stood, even beyond his furthest line of pickets. The vase of
flowers, each of which was nearly as large as a magnolia blossom,
and striking in color, occupied a central position before it, and
no doubt could be quite distinctly seen from a distance. From this
circumstance he could not resist the strong impression that this
fateful and extraordinary blossom, carried by Miss Faulkner and the
mulatto, and so strikingly "in evidence" at the window, was in some
way a signal. Obeying an impulse which he was conscious had a half
superstitious foundation, he carefully lifted the vase from its
position before the window, and placed it on a side table. Then he
cautiously slipped from the room.
But he could not easily shake off the perplexity which the
occurrence had caused, although he was satisfied that it was
fraught with no military or strategic danger to his command, and
that the unknown spy had obtained no information whatever. Yet he
was forced to admit to himself that he was more concerned in his
attempts to justify the conduct of Miss Faulkner with this later
revelation. It was quite possible that the dispatch-box had been
purloined by some one else during her absence from the house, as
the presence of the mulatto servant in his room would have been
less suspicious than hers. There was really little evidence to
connect Miss Faulkner with the actual outrage,--rather might not
the real spy have taken advantage of her visit here, to throw
suspicion upon her? He remembered her singular manner,--the
strange inconsistency with which she had forced this flower upon
him. She would hardly have done so had she been conscious of its
having so serious an import. Yet, what was the secret of her
manifest agitation? A sudden inspiration flashed across his mind;
a smile came upon his lips. She was in love! The enemy's line
contained some sighing Strephon of a young subaltern with whom she
was in communication, and for whom she had undertaken this quest.
The flower was their language of correspondence, no doubt. It
explained also the young girl's animosity against the younger
officers,--his adversaries; against himself,--their commander. He
had previously wondered why, if she were indeed a spy, she had not
chosen, upon some equally specious order from Washington, the
headquarters of the division commander, whose secrets were more
valuable. This was explained by the fact that she was nearer the
lines and her lover in her present abode. He had no idea that he
was making excuses for her,--he believed himself only just. The
recollection of what she had said of the power of love, albeit it
had hurt him cruelly at the time, was now clearer to him, and even
seemed to mitigate her offense. She would be here but a day or two
longer; he could afford to wait without interrogating her.
But as to the real intruder, spy or thief,--that was another
affair, and quickly settled. He gave an order to the officer of
the day peremptorily forbidding the entrance of alien servants or
slaves within the precincts of the headquarters. Any one thus
trespassing was to be brought before him. The officer looked
surprised, he even fancied disappointed. The graces of the mulatto
woman's figure had evidently not been thrown away upon his
An hour or two later, when he was mounting his horse for a round of
inspection, he was surprised to see Miss Faulkner, accompanied by
the mulatto woman, running hurriedly to the house. He had
forgotten his late order until he saw the latter halted by the
sentries, but the young girl came flying on, regardless of her
companion. Her skirt was held in one hand, her straw hat had
fallen back in her flight, and was caught only by a ribbon around
her swelling throat, and her loosened hair lay in a black rippled
loop on one shoulder. For an instant Brant thought that she was
seeking him in indignation at his order, but a second look at her
set face, eager eyes, and parted scarlet lips, showed him that she
had not even noticed him in the concentration of her purpose. She
swept by him into the hall, he heard the swish of her skirt and
rapid feet on the stairs,--she was gone. What had happened, or was
this another of her moods?
But he was called to himself by the apparition of a corporal
standing before him, with the mulatto woman,--the first capture
under his order. She was tall, well-formed, but unmistakably
showing the negro type, even in her small features. Her black eyes
were excited, but unintelligent; her manner dogged, but with the
obstinacy of half-conscious stupidity. Brant felt not only
disappointed, but had a singular impression that she was not the
same woman that he had first seen. Yet there was the tall,
graceful figure, the dark profile, and the turbaned head that he
had once followed down the passage by his room.
Her story was as stupidly simple. She had known "Missy" from a
chile! She had just traipsed over to see her that afternoon; they
were walking together when the sojers stopped her. She had never
been stopped before, even by "the patter rollers."* Her old massa
(Manly) had gib leaf to go see Miss Tilly, and hadn't said nuffin
about no "orders."
* i. e., patrols,--a civic home-guard in the South that kept
surveillance of slaves.
More annoyed than he cared to confess, Brant briefly dismissed her
with a warning. As he cantered down the slope the view of the
distant pickets recalled the window in the wing, and he turned in
his saddle to look at it. There it was--the largest and most
dominant window in that part of the building--and within it, a
distinct and vivid object almost filling the opening, was the vase
of flowers, which he had a few hours ago removed, RESTORED TO
ITS ORIGINAL POSITION! He smiled. The hurried entrance and
consternation of Miss Faulkner were now fully explained. He had
interrupted some impassioned message, perhaps even countermanded
some affectionate rendezvous beyond the lines. And it seemed to
settle the fact that it was she who had done the signaling! But
would not this also make her cognizant of the taking of the
dispatch-box? He reflected, however, that the room was apparently
occupied by the mulatto woman--he remembered the calico dresses and
turban on the bed--and it was possible that Miss Faulkner had only
visited it for the purpose of signaling to her lover. Although
this circumstance did not tend to make his mind easier, it was,
however, presently diverted by a new arrival and a strange
As he rode through the camp a group of officers congregated before
a large mess tent appeared to be highly amused by the conversation--
half monologue and half harangue of a singular-looking individual
who stood in the centre. He wore a "slouch" hat, to the band of
which he had imparted a military air by the addition of a gold
cord, but the brim was caught up at the side in a peculiarly
theatrical and highly artificial fashion. A heavy cavalry sabre
depended from a broad-buckled belt under his black frock coat, with
the addition of two revolvers--minus their holsters--stuck on
either side of the buckle, after the style of a stage smuggler. A
pair of long enameled leather riding boots, with the tops turned
deeply over, as if they had once done duty for the representative
of a cavalier, completed his extraordinary equipment. The group
were so absorbed in him that they did not perceive the approach of
their chief and his orderly; and Brant, with a sign to the latter,
halted only a few paces from this central figure. His speech was a
singular mingling of high-flown and exalted epithets, with inexact
pronunciation and occasional lapses of Western slang.
"Well, I ain't purtendin' to any stratutegical smartness, and I
didn't gradooate at West Point as one of those Apocryphal
Engineers; I don't do much talking about 'flank' movements or
'recognizances in force' or 'Ekellon skirmishing,' but when it
comes down to square Ingin fightin', I reckon I kin have my say.
There are men who don't know the Army Contractor," he added darkly,
"who mebbe have heard of 'Red Jim.' I don't mention names,
gentlemen, but only the other day a man that you all know says to
me, 'If I only knew what you do about scoutin' I wouldn't be
wanting for information as I do.' I ain't goin' to say who it was,
or break any confidences between gentlemen by saying how many stars
he had on his shoulder strap; but he was a man who knew what he was
saying. And I say agin, gentlemen, that the curse of the Northern
Army is the want of proper scoutin'. What was it caused Bull's
Run?--Want o' scoutin'. What was it rolled up Pope?--Want o'
scoutin'. What caused the slaughter at the Wilderness?--Want o'
scoutin'--Ingin scoutin'! Why, only the other day, gentlemen, I
was approached to know what I'd take to organize a scoutin' force.
And what did I say?--'No, General; it ain't because I represent one
of the largest Army Beef Contracts in this country,' says I. 'It
ain't because I belong, so to speak, to the "Sinews of War;" but
because I'd want about ten thousand trained Ingins from the
Reservations!' And the regular West Point, high-toned, scientific
inkybus that weighs so heavily on our army don't see it--and won't
have it! Then Sherman, he sez to me"--
But here a roar of laughter interrupted him, and in the cross fire
of sarcastic interrogations that began Brant saw, with relief, a
chance of escape. For in the voice, manner, and, above all, the
characteristic temperament of the stranger, he had recognized his
old playmate and the husband of Susy,--the redoubtable Jim Hooker!
There was no mistaking that gloomy audacity; that mysterious
significance; that magnificent lying. But even at that moment
Clarence Brant's heart had gone out, with all his old loyalty of
feeling, towards his old companion. He knew that a public
recognition of him then and there would plunge Hooker into
confusion; he felt keenly the ironical plaudits and laughter of his
officers over the manifest weakness and vanity of the ex-teamster,
ex-rancher, ex-actor, and husband of his old girl sweetheart, and
would have spared him the knowledge that he had overheard it.
Turning hastily to the orderly, he bade him bring the stranger to
his headquarters, and rode away unperceived.
He had heard enough, however, to account for his presence there,
and the singular chance that had brought them again together. He
was evidently one of those large civil contractors of supplies whom
the Government was obliged to employ, who visited the camp half
officially, and whom the army alternately depended upon and abused.
Brant had dealt with his underlings in the Commissariat, and even
now remembered that he had heard he was coming, but had overlooked
the significance of his name. But how he came to leave his
theatrical profession, how he had attained a position which implied
a command of considerable capital--for many of the contractors had
already amassed large fortunes--and what had become of Susy and her
ambitions in this radical change of circumstances, were things
still to be learned. In his own changed conditions he had seldom
thought of her; it was with a strange feeling of irritation and
half responsibility that he now recalled their last interview and
the emotion to which he had yielded.
He had not long to wait. He had scarcely regained the quarters at
his own private office before he heard the step of the orderly upon
the veranda and the trailing clank of Hooker's sabre. He did not
know, however, that Hooker, without recognizing his name, had
received the message as a personal tribute, and had left his
sarcastic companions triumphantly, with the air of going to a
confidential interview, to which his well-known military criticism
had entitled him. It was with a bearing of gloomy importance and
his characteristic, sullen, sidelong glance that he entered the
apartment and did not look up until Brant had signaled the orderly
to withdraw, and closed the door behind him. And then he recognized
his old boyish companion--the preferred favorite of fortune!
For a moment he gasped with astonishment. For a moment gloomy
incredulity, suspicion, delight, pride, admiration, even affection,
struggled for mastery in his sullen, staring eyes and open,
twitching mouth. For here was Clarence Brant, handsomer than ever,
more superior than ever, in the majesty of uniform and authority
which fitted him--the younger man--by reason of his four years of
active service, with the careless ease and bearing of the veteran!
Here was the hero whose name was already so famous that the mere
coincidence of it with that of the modest civilian he had known
would have struck him as preposterous. Yet here he was--supreme,
and dazzling--surrounded by the pomp and circumstance of war--into
whose reserved presence he, Jim Hooker, had been ushered with the
formality of challenge, saluting, and presented bayonets!
Luckily, Brant had taken advantage of his first gratified
ejaculation to shake him warmly by the hand, and then, with both
hands laid familiarly on his shoulder, force him down into a chair.
Luckily, for by that time Jim Hooker had, with characteristic
gloominess, found time to taste the pangs of envy--an envy the more
keen since, in spite of his success as a peaceful contractor, he
had always secretly longed for military display and distinction.
He looked at the man who had achieved it, as he firmly believed, by
sheer luck and accident, and his eyes darkened. Then, with
characteristic weakness and vanity, he began to resist his first
impressions of Clarence's superiority, and to air his own
importance. He leaned heavily back in the chair in which he had
been thus genially forced, drew off his gauntlet and attempted to
thrust it through his belt, as he had seen Brant do, but failed on
account of his pistols already occupying that position, dropped it,
got his sword between his legs in attempting to pick it up, and
then leaned back again, with half-closed eyes serenely indifferent
of his old companion's smiling face.
"I reckon," he began slowly, with a slightly patronizing air, "that
we'd have met, sooner or later, at Washington, or at Grant's
headquarters, for Hooker, Meacham & Co. go everywhere, and are
about as well known as major-generals, to say nothin'," he went on,
with a sidelong glance at Brant's shoulder-straps, "of brigadiers;
and it's rather strange--only, of course, you're kind of fresh in
the service--that you ain't heard of me afore."
"But I'm very glad to hear of you now, Jim," said Brant, smiling,
"and from your own lips--which I am also delighted to find," he
added mischievously, "are still as frankly communicative on that
topic as of old. But I congratulate you, old fellow, on your good
fortune. When did you leave the stage?"
Mr. Hooker frowned slightly.
"I never was really on the stage, you know," he said, waving his
hand with assumed negligence. "Only went on to please my wife.
Mrs. Hooker wouldn't act with vulgar professionals, don't you see!
I was really manager most of the time, and lessee of the theatre.
Went East when the war broke out, to offer my sword and knowledge
of Ingin fightin' to Uncle Sam! Drifted into a big pork contract
at St. Louis, with Fremont. Been at it ever since. Offered a
commission in the reg'lar service lots o' times. Refused."
"Why?" asked Brant demurely.
"Too much West Point starch around to suit ME," returned Hooker
darkly. "And too many spies!"
"Spies?" echoed Brant abstractedly, with a momentary reminiscence
of Miss Faulkner.
"Yes, spies," continued Hooker, with dogged mystery. "One half of
Washington is watching t'other half, and, from the President's wife
down, most of the women are secesh!"
Brant suddenly fixed his keen eyes on his guest. But the next
moment he reflected that this was only Jim Hooker's usual speech,
and possessed no ulterior significance. He smiled again, and said,
"And how is Mrs. Hooker?"
Mr. Hooker fixed his eyes on the ceiling, rose, and pretended to
look out of the window; then, taking his seat again by the table,
as if fronting an imaginary audience, and pulling slowly at his
gauntlets after the usual theatrical indication of perfect
"There ain't any!"
"Good heavens!" said Brant, with genuine emotion. "I beg your
pardon. Really, I"--
"Mrs. Hooker and me are divorced," continued Hooker, slightly
changing his attitude, and leaning heavily on his sabre, with his
eyes still on his fanciful audience. "There was, you understand"--
lightly tossing his gauntlet aside--"incompatibility of temper--
He uttered a low, bitter, scornful laugh, which, however, produced
the distinct impression in Brant's mind that up to that moment he
had never had the slightest feeling in the matter whatever.
"You seemed to be on such good terms with each other!" murmured
"Seemed!" said Hooker bitterly, glancing sardonically at an ideal
second row in the pit before him, "yes--seemed! There were other
differences, social and political. You understand that; you have
suffered, too." He reached out his hand and pressed Brant's, in
heavy effusiveness. "But," he continued haughtily, lightly tossing
his glove again, "we are also men of the world; we let that pass."
And it was possible that he found the strain of his present
attitude too great, for he changed to an easier position.
"But," said Brant curiously, "I always thought that Mrs. Hooker was
intensely Union and Northern?"
"Put on!" said Hooker, in his natural voice.
"But you remember the incident of the flag?" persisted Brant.
"Mrs. Hooker was always an actress," said Hooker significantly.
"But," he added cheerfully, "Mrs. Hooker is now the wife of Senator
Boompointer, one of the wealthiest and most powerful Republicans in
Washington--carries the patronage of the whole West in his vest
"Yet, if she is not a Republican, why did she"--began Brant.
"For a purpose," replied Hooker darkly. "But," he added again,
with greater cheerfulness, "she belongs to the very elite of
Washington society. Goes to all the foreign ambassadors' balls,
and is a power at the White House. Her picture is in all the
first-class illustrated papers."
The singular but unmistakable pride of the man in the importance of
the wife from whom he was divorced, and for whom he did not care,
would have offended Brant's delicacy, or at least have excited his
ridicule, but for the reason that he was more deeply stung by
Hooker's allusion to his own wife and his degrading similitude of
their two conditions. But he dismissed the former as part of
Hooker's invincible and still boyish extravagance, and the latter
as part of his equally characteristic assumption. Perhaps he was
conscious, too, notwithstanding the lapse of years and the
condonation of separation and forgetfulness, that he deserved
little delicacy from the hands of Susy's husband. Nevertheless, he
dreaded to hear him speak again of her; and the fear was realized
in a question.
"Does she know you are here?"
"Who?" said Brant curtly.
"Your wife. That is--I reckon she's your wife still, eh?"
"Yes; but I do not know what she knows," returned Brant quietly.
He had regained his self-composure.
"Susy,--Mrs. Senator Boompointer, that is,"--said Hooker, with an
apparent dignity in his late wife's new title, "allowed that she'd
gone abroad on a secret mission from the Southern Confederacy to
them crowned heads over there. She was good at ropin' men in, you
know. Anyhow, Susy, afore she was Mrs. Boompointer, was dead set
on findin' out where she was, but never could. She seemed to drop
out of sight a year ago. Some said one thing, and some said
another. But you can bet your bottom dollar that Mrs. Senator
Boompointer, who knows how to pull all the wires in Washington,
will know, if any one does."
"But is Mrs. Boompointer really disaffected, and a Southern
sympathizer?" said Brant, "or is it only caprice or fashion?"
While speaking he had risen, with a half-abstracted face, and had
gone to the window, where he stood in a listening attitude.
Presently he opened the window, and stepped outside. Hooker
wonderingly followed him. One or two officers had already stepped
out of their rooms, and were standing upon the veranda; another had
halted in the path. Then one quickly re-entered the house,
reappeared with his cap and sword in his hand, and ran lightly
toward the guard-house. A slight crackling noise seemed to come
from beyond the garden wall.
"What's up?" said Hooker, with staring eyes.
The crackling suddenly became a long rattle. Brant re-entered the
room, and picked up his hat.
"You'll excuse me for a few moments."
A faint sound, soft yet full, and not unlike a bursting bubble,
made the house appear to leap elastically, like the rebound of a
"What's that?" gasped Hooker.
"Cannon, out of range!"
In another instant bugles were ringing through the camp, with the
hurrying hoofs of mounted officers and the trampling of forming
men. The house itself was almost deserted. Although the single
cannon-shot had been enough to show that it was no mere skirmishing
of pickets, Brant still did not believe in any serious attack of
the enemy. His position, as in the previous engagement, had no
strategic importance to them; they were no doubt only making a
feint against it to conceal some advance upon the centre of the
army two miles away. Satisfied that he was in easy supporting
distance of his division commander, he extended his line along the
ridge, ready to fall back in that direction, while retarding their
advance and masking the position of his own chief. He gave a few
orders necessary to the probable abandonment of the house, and then
returned to it. Shot and shell were already dropping in the field
below. A thin ridge of blue haze showed the line of skirmish fire.
A small conical, white cloud, like a bursting cotton-pod, revealed
an open battery in the willow-fringed meadow. Yet the pastoral
peacefulness of the house was unchanged. The afternoon sun lay
softly on its deep verandas; the pot pourri incense of fallen rose-
leaves haunted it still.
He entered his room through the French window on the veranda, when
the door leading from the passage was suddenly flung open, and Miss
Faulkner swept quickly inside, closed the door behind her, and
leaned back against it, panting and breathless.
Clarence was startled, and for a moment ashamed. He had suddenly
realized that in the excitement he had entirely forgotten her and
the dangers to which she might be exposed. She had probably heard
the firing, her womanly fears had been awakened; she had come to
him for protection. But as he turned towards her with a reassuring
smile, he was shocked to see that her agitation and pallor were far
beyond any physical cause. She motioned him desperately to shut
the window by which he had entered, and said, with white lips,--
"I must speak with you alone!"
"Certainly. But there is no immediate danger to you even here--and
I can soon put you beyond the reach of any possible harm."
"Harm--to me! God! if it were only that!"
He stared at her uneasily.
"Listen," she said gaspingly, "listen to me! Then hate, despise
me--kill me if you will. For you are betrayed and ruined--cut off
and surrounded! It has been helped on by me, but I swear to you
the blow did not come from MY hand. I would have saved you. God
only knows how it happened--it was Fate!"
In an instant Brant saw the whole truth instinctively and clearly.
But with the revelation came the usual calmness and perfect self-
possession which never yet had failed him in any emergency. With
the sound of the increasing cannonade and its shifting position
made clearer to his ears, the view of his whole threatened position
spread out like a map before his eyes, the swift calculation of the
time his men could hold the ridge in his mind--even a hurried
estimate of the precious moments he could give to the wretched
woman before him--he even then, gravely and gently, led her to a
chair and said in a calm voice,--
"That is not enough! Speak slowly, plainly. I must know
everything. How and in what way have you betrayed me?"
She looked at him imploringly--reassured, yet awed by his
"You won't believe me; you cannot believe me! for I do not even
know. I have taken and exchanged letters--whose contents I never
saw--between the Confederates and a spy who comes to this house,
but who is far away by this time. I did it because I thought you
hated and despised me because I thought it was my duty to help my
cause--because you said it was 'war' between us--but I never spied
on you. I swear it."
"Then how do you know of this attack?" he said calmly.
She brightened, half timidly, half hopefully.
"There is a window in the wing of this house that overlooks the
slope near the Confederate lines. There was a signal placed in it--
not by me--but I know it meant that as long as it was there the
plot, whatever it was, was not ripe, and that no attack would be
made on you as long as it was visible. That much I know,--that
much the spy had to tell me, for we both had to guard that room in
turns. I wanted to keep this dreadful thing off--until"--her voice
trembled, "until," she added hurriedly, seeing his calm eyes were
reading her very soul, "until I went away--and for that purpose I
withheld some of the letters that were given me. But this morning,
while I was away from the house, I looked back and saw that the
signal was no longer there. Some one had changed it. I ran back,
but I was too late--God help me!--as you see."
The truth flashed upon Brant. It was his own hand that had
precipitated the attack. But a larger truth came to him now, like
a dazzling inspiration. If he had thus precipitated the attack
before they were ready, there was a chance that it was imperfect,
and there was still hope. But there was no trace of this visible
in his face as he fixed his eyes calmly on hers, although his
pulses were halting in expectancy as he said--
"Then the spy had suspected you, and changed it."
"Oh, no," she said eagerly, "for the spy was with me and was
frightened too. We both ran back together--you remember--she was
stopped by the patrol!"
She checked herself suddenly, but too late. Her cheeks blazed, her
head sank, with the foolish identification of the spy into which
her eagerness had betrayed her.
But Brant appeared not to notice it. He was, in fact, puzzling his
brain to conceive what information the stupid mulatto woman could
have obtained here. His strength, his position was no secret to
the enemy--there was nothing to gain from him. She must have been,
like the trembling, eager woman before him, a mere tool of others.
"Did this woman live here?" he said.
"No," she said. "She lived with the Manlys, but had friends whom
she visited at your general's headquarters."
With difficulty Brant suppressed a start. It was clear to him now.
The information had been obtained at the division headquarters, and
passed through his camp as being nearest the Confederate lines.
But what was the information--and what movement had he precipitated?
It was clear that this woman did not know. He looked at her keenly.
A sudden explosion shook the house,--a drift of smoke passed the
window,--a shell had burst in the garden.
She had been gazing at him despairingly, wistfully--but did not
blanch or start.
An idea took possession of him. He approached her, and took her
cold hand. A half-smile parted her pale lips.
"You have courage--you have devotion," he said gravely. "I believe
you regret the step you have taken. If you could undo what you
have done, even at peril to yourself, dare you do it?"
"Yes," she said breathlessly.
"You are known to the enemy. If I am surrounded, you could pass
through their lines unquestioned?"
"Yes," she said eagerly.
"A note from me would pass you again through the pickets of our
headquarters. But you would bear a note to the general that no
eyes but his must see. It would not implicate you or yours; would
only be a word of warning."
"And you," she said quickly, "would be saved! They would come to
your assistance! You would not then be taken?"
He smiled gently.
He sat down and wrote hurriedly.
"This," he said, handing her a slip of paper, "is a pass. You will
use it beyond your own lines. This note," he continued, handing
her a sealed envelope, "is for the general. No one else must see
it or know of it--not even your lover, should you meet him!"
"My lover!" she said indignantly, with a flash of her old savagery;
"what do you mean? I have no lover!"
Brant glanced at her flushed face.
"I thought," he said quietly, "that there was some one you cared
for in yonder lines--some one you wrote to. It would have been an
He stopped, as her face paled again, and her hands dropped heavily
at her side.
"Good God!--you thought that, too! You thought that I would
sacrifice you for another man!"
"Pardon me," said Brant quickly. "I was foolish. But whether your
lover is a man or a cause, you have shown a woman's devotion. And,
in repairing your fault, you are showing more than a woman's
To his surprise, the color had again mounted her pretty cheeks, and
even a flash of mischief shone in her blue eyes.
"It would have been an excuse," she murmured, "yes--to save a man,
surely!" Then she said quickly, "I will go. At once! I am
"One moment," he said gravely. "Although this pass and an escort
insure your probable safe conduct, this is 'war' and danger! You
are still a spy! Are you ready to go?"
"I am," she said proudly, tossing back a braid of her fallen hair.
Yet a moment after she hesitated. Then she said, in a lower voice,
"Are you ready to forgive?"
"In either case," he said, touched by her manner; "and God speed
He extended his hand, and left a slight pressure on her cold
fingers. But they slipped quickly from his grasp, and she turned
away with a heightened color.
He stepped to the door. One or two aides-de-camp, withheld by his
order against intrusion, were waiting eagerly with reports. The
horse of a mounted field officer was pawing the garden turf. The
officers stared at the young girl.
"Take Miss Faulkner, with a flag, to some safe point of the enemy's
line. She is a non-combatant of their own, and will receive their
He had scarcely exchanged a dozen words with the aides-de-camp
before the field officer hurriedly entered. Taking Brant aside, he
"Pardon me, General; but there is a strong feeling among the men
that this attack is the result of some information obtained by the
enemy. You must know that the woman you have just given a
safeguard to is suspected, and the men are indignant."
"The more reason why she should be conveyed beyond any consequences
of their folly, Major," said Brant frigidly, "and I look to you for
her safe convoy. There is nothing in this attack to show that the
enemy has received any information regarding us. But I would
suggest that it would be better to see that my orders are carried
out regarding the slaves and non-combatants who are passing our
lines from divisional headquarters, where valuable information may
be obtained, than in the surveillance of a testy and outspoken
An angry flush crossed the major's cheek as he saluted and fell
back, and Brant turned to the aide-de-camp. The news was grave.
The column of the enemy was moving against the ridge--it was no
longer possible to hold it--and the brigade was cut off from its
communication with the divisional headquarters, although as yet no
combined movement was made against it. Brant's secret fears that
it was an intended impact against the centre were confirmed. Would
his communication to the divisional commander pass through the
attacking column in time?
Yet one thing puzzled him. The enemy, after forcing his flank, had
shown no disposition, even with their overwhelming force, to turn
aside and crush him. He could easily have fallen back, when it was
possible to hold the ridge no longer, without pursuit. His other
flank and rear were not threatened, as they might have been, by the
division of so large an attacking column, which was moving steadily
on towards the ridge. It was this fact that seemed to show a
failure or imperfection in the enemy's plan. It was possible that
his precipitation of the attack by the changed signal had been the
cause of it. Doubtless some provision had been made to attack him
in flank and rear, but in the unexpected hurry of the onset it had
to be abandoned. He could still save himself, as his officers
knew; but his conviction that he might yet be able to support his
divisional commander by holding his position doggedly, but coolly
awaiting his opportunity, was strong. More than that, it was his
temperament and instinct.
Harrying them in flank and rear, contesting the ground inch by
inch, and holding his own against the artillery sent to dislodge
him, or the outriding cavalry that, circling round, swept through
his open ranks, he saw his files melt away beside this steady
current without flinching.
Yet all along the fateful ridge--now obscured and confused with
thin crossing smoke-drifts from file-firing, like partly rubbed-out
slate-pencil marks; or else, when cleared of those drifts,
presenting only an indistinguishable map of zigzag lines of
straggling wagons and horses, unintelligible to any eye but his--
the singular magnetism of the chief was felt everywhere: whether it
was shown in the quick closing in of resistance to some sharper
onset of the enemy or the more dogged stand of inaction under fire,
his power was always dominant. A word or two of comprehensive
direction sent through an aide-de-camp, or the sudden relief of his
dark, watchful, composed face uplifted above a line of bayonets,
never failed in their magic. Like all born leaders, he seemed in
these emergencies to hold a charmed life--infecting his followers
with a like disbelief in death; men dropped to right and left of
him with serene assurance in their ghastly faces or a cry of life
and confidence in their last gasp. Stragglers fell in and closed
up under his passing glance; a hopeless, inextricable wrangle
around an overturned caisson, at a turn of the road, resolved
itself into an orderly, quiet, deliberate clearing away of the
impediment before the significant waiting of that dark, silent
Yet under this imperturbable mask he was keenly conscious of
everything; in that apparent concentration there was a sharpening
of all his senses and his impressibility: he saw the first trace of
doubt or alarm in the face of a subaltern to whom he was giving an
order; the first touch of sluggishness in a re-forming line; the
more significant clumsiness of a living evolution that he knew was
clogged by the dead bodies of comrades; the ominous silence of a
breastwork; the awful inertia of some rigidly kneeling files
beyond, which still kept their form but never would move again; the
melting away of skirmish points; the sudden gaps here and there;
the sickening incurving of what a moment before had been a straight
line--all these he saw in all their fatal significance. But even
at this moment, coming upon a hasty barricade of overset commissary
wagons, he stopped to glance at a familiar figure he had seen but
an hour ago, who now seemed to be commanding a group of collected
stragglers and camp followers. Mounted on a wheel, with a revolver
in each hand and a bowie knife between his teeth--theatrical even
in his paroxysm of undoubted courage--glared Jim Hooker. And
Clarence Brant, with the whole responsibility of the field on his
shoulders, even at that desperate moment, found himself recalling a
vivid picture of the actor Hooker personating the character of "Red
Dick" in "Rosalie, the Prairie Flower," as he had seen him in a
California theatre five years before.
It wanted still an hour of the darkness that would probably close
the fight of that day. Could he hold out, keeping his offensive
position so long? A hasty council with his officers showed him
that the weakness of their position had already infected them.
They reminded him that his line of retreat was still open--that in
the course of the night the enemy, although still pressing towards
the division centre, might yet turn and outflank him--or that their
strangely delayed supports might come up before morning. Brant's
glass, however, remained fixed on the main column, still pursuing
its way along the ridge. It struck him suddenly, however, that the
steady current had stopped, spread out along the crest on both
sides, and was now at right angles with its previous course. There
had been a check! The next moment the thunder of guns along the
whole horizon, and the rising cloud of smoke, revealed a line of
battle. The division centre was engaged. The opportunity he had
longed for had come--the desperate chance to throw himself on their
rear and cut his way through to the division--but it had come too
late! He looked at his shattered ranks--scarce a regiment remained.
Even as a demonstration, the attack would fail against the enemy's
superior numbers. Nothing clearly was left to him now but to remain
where he was--within supporting distance, and await the issue of the
fight beyond. He was putting up his glass, when the dull boom of
cannon in the extreme western limit of the horizon attracted his
attention. By the still gleaming sky he could see a long gray line
stealing up from the valley from the distant rear of the headquarters
to join the main column. They were the missing supports! His heart
leaped. He held the key of the mystery now. The one imperfect
detail of the enemy's plan was before him. The supports, coming
later from the west, had only seen the second signal from the
window--when Miss Faulkner had replaced the vase--and had avoided
his position. It was impossible to limit the effect of this
blunder. If the young girl who had thus saved him had reached the
division commander with his message in time, he might be forewarned,
and even profit by it. His own position would be less precarious,
as the enemy, already engaged in front, would be unable to recover
their position in the rear and correct the blunder. The bulk of
their column had already streamed past him. If defeated, there was
always the danger that it might be rolled back upon him--but he
conjectured that the division commander would attempt to prevent the
junction of the supports with the main column by breaking between
them, crowding them from the ridge, and joining him. As the last
stragglers of the rear guard swept by, Brant's bugles were already
recalling the skirmishers. He redoubled his pickets, and resolved
to wait and watch.
And there was the more painful duty of looking after the wounded
and the dead. The larger rooms of the headquarters had already
been used as a hospital. Passing from cot to cot, recognizing in
the faces now drawn with agony, or staring in vacant unconsciousness,
the features that he had seen only a few hours before flushed with
enthusiasm and excitement, something of his old doubting, questioning
nature returned. Was there no way but this? How far was HE--moving
among them unscathed and uninjured-- responsible?
And if not he--who then? His mind went back bitterly to the old
days of the conspiracy--to the inception of that struggle which was
bearing such ghastly fruit. He thought of his traitorous wife,
until he felt his cheeks tingle, and he was fain to avert his eyes
from those of his prostrate comrades, in a strange fear that, with
the clairvoyance of dying men, they should read his secret.
It was past midnight when, without undressing, he threw himself
upon his bed in the little convent-like cell to snatch a few
moments of sleep. Its spotless, peaceful walls and draperies
affected him strangely, as if he had brought into its immaculate
serenity the sanguine stain of war. He was awakened suddenly from
a deep slumber by an indefinite sense of alarm. His first thought
was that he had been summoned to repel an attack. He sat up and
listened; everything was silent except the measured tread of the
sentry on the gravel walk below. But the door was open. He sprang
to his feet and slipped into the gallery in time to see the tall
figure of a woman glide before the last moonlit window at its
farthest end. He could not see her face--but the characteristic
turbaned head of the negro race was plainly visible.
He did not care to follow her or even to alarm the guard. If it
were the spy or one of her emissaries, she was powerless now to do
any harm, and under his late orders and the rigorous vigilance of
his sentinels she could not leave the lines--or, indeed, the house.
She probably knew this as well as he did; it was, therefore, no
doubt only an accidental intrusion of one of the servants. He
re-entered the room, and stood for a few moments by the window,
looking over the moonlit ridge. The sounds of distant cannon had
long since ceased. Wide awake, and refreshed by the keen morning
air, which alone of all created things seemed to have shaken the
burden of the dreadful yesterday from its dewy wings, he turned
away and lit a candle on the table. As he was rebuckling his sword
belt he saw a piece of paper lying on the foot of the bed from
which he had just risen. Taking it to the candle, he read in a
roughly scrawled hand:
"You are asleep when you should be on the march. You have no time
to lose. Before daybreak the supports of the column you have been
foolishly resisting will be upon you.--From one who would save YOU,
but hates your cause."
A smile of scorn passed his lips. The handwriting was unknown and
evidently disguised. The purport of the message had not alarmed
him; but suddenly a suspicion flashed upon him--that it came from
Miss Faulkner! She had failed in her attempt to pass through the
enemy's lines--or she had never tried to. She had deceived him--or
had thought better of her chivalrous impulse, and now sought to
mitigate her second treachery by this second warning. And he had
let her messenger escape him!
He hurriedly descended the stairs. The sound of voices was
approaching him. He halted, and recognized the faces of the
brigade surgeon and one of his aides-de-camp.
"We were hesitating whether to disturb you, general, but it may be
an affair of some importance. Under your orders a negro woman was
just now challenged stealing out of the lines. Attempting to
escape, she was chased, there was a struggle and scramble over the
wall, and she fell, striking her head. She was brought into the
"Very good. I will see her," said Brant, with a feeling of relief.
"One moment, general. We thought you would perhaps prefer to see
her alone," said the surgeon, "for when I endeavored to bring her
to, and was sponging her face and head to discover her injuries,
her color came off! She was a white woman--stained and disguised
as a mulatto."
For an instant Brant's heart sank. It was Miss Faulkner.
"Did you recognize her?" he said, glancing from the one to the
other. "Have you seen her here before?"
"No, sir," replied the aide-de-camp. "But she seemed to be quite a
superior woman--a lady, I should say."
Brant breathed more freely.
"Where is she now?" he asked.
"In the guardhouse. We thought it better not to bring her into
hospital, among the men, until we had your orders."
"You have done well," returned Brant gravely. "And you will keep
this to yourselves for the present; but see that she is brought
here quietly and with as little publicity as possible. Put her in
my room above, which I give up to her and any necessary attendant.
But you will look carefully after her, doctor,"--he turned to the
surgeon,--"and when she recovers consciousness let me know."
He moved away. Although attaching little importance to the
mysterious message, whether sent by Miss Faulkner or emanating from
the stranger herself, which, he reasoned, was based only upon a
knowledge of the original plan of attack, he nevertheless quickly
dispatched a small scouting party in the direction from which the
attack might come, with orders to fall back and report at once.
With a certain half irony of recollection he had selected Jim
Hooker to accompany the party as a volunteer. This done, he
returned to the gallery. The surgeon met him at the door.
"The indications of concussion are passing away," he said, "but she
seems to be suffering from the exhaustion following some great
nervous excitement. You may go in--she may rally from it at any
With the artificial step and mysterious hush of the ordinary
visitor to a sick bed, Brant entered the room. But some instinct
greater than this common expression of humanity held him suddenly
in awe. The room seemed no longer his--it had slipped back into
that austere conventual privacy which had first impressed him. Yet
he hesitated; another strange suggestion--it seemed almost a vague
recollection--overcame him like some lingering perfume, far off and
pathetic, in its dying familiarity. He turned his eyes almost
timidly towards the bed. The coverlet was drawn up near the throat
of the figure to replace the striped cotton gown stained with blood
and dust, which had been hurriedly torn off and thrown on a chair.
The pale face, cleansed of blood and disguising color, the long
hair, still damp from the surgeon's sponge, lay rigidly back on the
pillow. Suddenly this man of steady nerve uttered a faint cry,
and, with a face as white as the upturned one before him, fell on
his knees beside the bed. For the face that lay there was his
Yes, hers! But the beautiful hair that she had gloried in--the
hair that in his youth he had thought had once fallen like a
benediction on his shoulder--was streaked with gray along the blue-
veined hollows of the temples; the orbits of those clear eyes,
beneath their delicately arched brows, were ringed with days of
suffering; only the clear-cut profile, even to the delicate
imperiousness of lips and nostril, was still there in all its
beauty. The coverlet had slipped from her shoulder; its familiar
cold contour startled him. He remembered how, in their early
married days, he had felt the sanctity of that Diana-like
revelation, and the still nymph-like austerity which clung to this
strange, childless woman. He even fancied that he breathed again
the subtle characteristic perfume of the laces, embroideries, and
delicate enwrappings in her chamber at Robles. Perhaps it was the
intensity of his gaze--perhaps it was the magnetism of his
presence--but her lips parted with a half sigh, half moan. Her
head, although her eyes were still closed, turned on the pillow
instinctively towards him. He rose from his knees. Her eyes
opened slowly. As the first glare of wonderment cleared from them,
they met him--in the old antagonism of spirit. Yet her first
gesture was a pathetic feminine movement with both hands to arrange
her straggling hair. It brought her white fingers, cleaned of
their disguising stains, as a sudden revelation to her of what had
happened; she instantly slipped them back under the coverlet again.
Brant did not speak, but with folded arms stood gazing upon her.
And it was her voice that first broke the silence.
"You have recognized me? Well, I suppose you know all," she said,
with a weak half-defiance.
He bowed his head. He felt as yet he could not trust his voice,
and envied her her own.
"I may sit up, mayn't I?" She managed, by sheer force of will, to
struggle to a sitting posture. Then, as the coverlet slipped from
the bare shoulder, she said, as she drew it, with a shiver of
disgust, around her again,--
"I forgot that you strip women, you Northern soldiers! But I
forgot, too," she added, with a sarcastic smile, "that you are also
my husband, and I am in your room."
The contemptuous significance of her speech dispelled the last
lingering remnant of Brant's dream. In a voice as dry as her own,
"I am afraid you will now have to remember only that I am a
Northern general, and you a Southern spy."
"So be it," she said gravely. Then impulsively, "But I have not
spied on YOU."
Yet, the next moment, she bit her lips as if the expression had
unwittingly escaped her; and with a reckless shrug of her shoulders
she lay back on her pillow.
"It matters not," said Brant coldly. "You have used this house and
those within it to forward your designs. It is not your fault that
you found nothing in the dispatch-box you opened."
She stared at him quickly; then shrugged her shoulders again.
"I might have known she was false to me," she said bitterly, "and
that you would wheedle her soul away as you have others. Well, she
betrayed me! For what?"
A flush passed over Brant's face. But with an effort he contained
"It was the flower that betrayed you! The flower whose red dust
fell in the box when you opened it on the desk by the window in
yonder room--the flower that stood in the window as a signal--the
flower I myself removed, and so spoiled the miserable plot that
your friends concocted."
A look of mingled terror and awe came into her face.
"YOU changed the signal!" she repeated dazedly; then, in a lower
voice, "that accounts for it all!" But the next moment she turned
again fiercely upon him. "And you mean to tell me that she didn't
help you--that she didn't sell me--your wife--to you for--for what
was it? A look--a kiss!"
"I mean to say that she did not know the signal was changed, and
that she herself restored it to its place. It is no fault of hers
nor yours that I am not here a prisoner."
She passed her thin hand dazedly across her forehead.
"I see," she muttered. Then again bursting out passionately, she
said--"Fool! you never would have been touched! Do you think that
Lee would have gone for you, with higher game in your division
commander? No! Those supports were a feint to draw him to your
assistance while our main column broke his centre. Yes, you may
stare at me, Clarence Brant. You are a good lawyer--they say a
dashing fighter, too. I never thought you a coward, even in your
irresolution; but you are fighting with men drilled in the art of
war and strategy when you were a boy outcast on the plains." She
stopped, closed her eyes, and then added, wearily--"But that was
yesterday--to-day, who knows? All may be changed. The supports
may still attack you. That was why I stopped to write you that
note an hour ago, when I believed I should be leaving here for
ever. Yes, I did it!" she went on, with half-wearied, half-dogged
determination. "You may as well know all. I had arranged to fly.
Your pickets were to be drawn by friends of mine, who were waiting
for me beyond your lines. Well, I lingered here when I saw you
arrive--lingered to write you that note. And--I was too late!"
But Brant had been watching her varying expression, her kindling
eye, her strange masculine grasp of military knowledge, her
soldierly phraseology, all so new to her, that he scarcely heeded
the feminine ending of her speech. It seemed to him no longer the
Diana of his youthful fancy, but some Pallas Athene, who now looked
up at him from the pillow. He had never before fully believed in
her unselfish devotion to the cause until now, when it seemed to
have almost unsexed her. In his wildest comprehension of her he
had never dreamed her a Joan of Arc, and yet hers was the face
which might have confronted him, exalted and inspired, on the
battlefield itself. He recalled himself with an effort.
"I thank you for your would-be warning," he said more gently, if
not so tenderly, "and God knows I wish your flight had been
successful. But even your warning is unnecessary, for the supports
had already come up; they had followed the second signal, and
diverged to engage our division on the left, leaving me alone. And
their ruse of drawing our commander to assist me would not have
been successful, as I had suspected it, and sent a message to him
that I wanted no help."
It was the truth; it was the sole purport of the note he had sent
through Miss Faulkner. He would not have disclosed his sacrifice;