Part 3 out of 3
but so great was the strange domination of this woman still over
him, that he felt compelled to assert his superiority. She fixed
her eyes upon him.
"And Miss Faulkner took your message?" she said slowly. "Don't
deny it! No one else could have passed through our lines; and you
gave her a safe conduct through yours. Yes, I might have known it.
And this was the creature they sent me for an ally and confidant!"
For an instant Brant felt the sting of this enforced contrast
between the two women. But he only said,--
"You forget that I did not know you were the spy, nor do I believe
that she suspected you were my wife."
"Why should she?" she said almost fiercely. "I am known among
these people only by the name of Benham---my maiden name. Yes!--
you can take me out, and shoot me under that name, without
disgracing yours. Nobody will know that the Southern spy was the
wife of the Northern general! You see, I have thought even of
"And thinking of that," said Brant slowly, "you have put yourself--
I will not say in my power, for you are in the power of any man in
this camp who may know you, or even hear you speak. Well, let us
understand each other plainly. I do not know how great a sacrifice
your devotion to your cause demands of you; I do know what it seems
to demand of me. Hear me, then! I will do my best to protect you,
and get you safely away from here; but, failing that, I tell you
plainly that I shall blow out your brains and my own together."
She knew that he would do it. Yet her eyes suddenly beamed with a
new and awakening light; she put back her hair again, and half
raised herself upon the pillow, to gaze at his dark, set face.
"And as I shall let no other life but ours be periled in this
affair," he went on quietly, "and will accompany you myself in some
disguise beyond the lines, we will together take the risks--or the
bullets of the sentries that may save us both all further trouble.
An hour or two more will settle that. Until then your weak
condition will excuse you from any disturbance or intrusion here.
The mulatto woman you have sometimes personated may be still in
this house; I will appoint her to attend you. I suppose you can
trust her, for you must personate her again, and escape in her
clothes, while she takes your place in this room as my prisoner."
Her voice had changed suddenly; it was no longer bitter and
stridulous, but low and thrilling as he had heard her call to him
that night in the patio of Robles. He turned quickly. She was
leaning from the bed--her thin, white hands stretched appealingly
"Let us go together, Clarence," she said eagerly. "Let us leave
this horrible place--these wicked, cruel people--forever. Come
with me! Come with me to my people--to my own faith--to my own
house--which shall be yours! Come with me to defend it with your
good sword, Clarence, against those vile invaders with whom you
have nothing in common, and who are the dirt under your feet. Yes,
yes! I know it!--I have done you wrong--I have lied to you when I
spoke against your skill and power. You are a hero--a born leader
of men! I know it! Have I not heard it from the men who have
fought against you, and yet admired and understood you, ay, better
than your own?--gallant men, Clarence, soldiers bred who did not
know what you were to me nor how proud I was of you even while I
hated you? Come with me! Think what we would do together--with
one faith--one cause--one ambition! Think, Clarence, there is no
limit you might not attain! We are no niggards of our rewards and
honors--we have no hireling votes to truckle to--we know our
friends! Even I--Clarence--I"--there was a strange pathos in the
sudden humility that seemed to overcome her--"I have had my reward
and known my power. I have been sent abroad, in the confidence of
the highest--to the highest. Don't turn from me. I am offering
you no bribe, Clarence, only your deserts. Come with me. Leave
these curs behind, and live the hero that you are!"
He turned his blazing eyes upon her.
"If you were a man"--he began passionately, then stopped.
"No! I am only a woman and must fight in a woman's way," she
interrupted bitterly. "Yes! I intreat, I implore, I wheedle, I
flatter, I fawn, I lie! I creep where you stand upright, and pass
through doors to which you would not bow. You wear your blazon of
honor on your shoulder; I hide mine in a slave's gown. And yet I
have worked and striven and suffered! Listen, Clarence," her voice
again sank to its appealing minor,--"I know what you men call
'honor,' that which makes you cling to a merely spoken word, or an
empty oath. Well, let that pass! I am weary; I have done my share
of this work, you have done yours. Let us both fly; let us leave
the fight to those who shall come after us, and let us go together
to some distant land where the sounds of these guns or the blood of
our brothers no longer cry out to us for vengeance! There are
those living here--I have met them, Clarence," she went on
hurriedly, "who think it wrong to lift up fratricidal hands in the
struggle, yet who cannot live under the Northern yoke. They are,"
her voice hesitated, "good men and women--they are respected--they
"Recreants and slaves, before whom you, spy as you are--stand a
queen!" broke in Brant, passionately. He stopped and turned
towards the window. After a pause he came back again towards the
bed--paused again and then said in a lower voice--"Four years ago,
Alice, in the patio of our house at Robles, I might have listened
to this proposal, and--I tremble to think--I might have accepted
it! I loved you; I was as weak, as selfish, as unreflecting, my
life was as purposeless--but for you--as the creatures you speak
of. But give me now, at least, the credit of a devotion to my
cause equal to your own--a credit which I have never denied you!
For the night that you left me, I awoke to a sense of my own
worthlessness and degradation--perhaps I have even to thank you for
that awakening--and I realized the bitter truth. But that night I
found my true vocation--my purpose, my manhood"--
A bitter laugh came from the pillow on which she had languidly
"I believe I left you with Mrs. Hooker--spare me the details."
The blood rushed to Brant's face and then receded as suddenly.
"You left me with Captain Pinckney, who had tempted you, and whom I
killed!" he said furiously.
They were both staring savagely at each other. Suddenly he said,
"Hush!" and sprang towards the door, as the sound of hurried
footsteps echoed along the passage. But he was too late; it was
thrown open to the officer of the guard, who appeared, standing on
"Two Confederate officers arrested hovering around our pickets.
They demand to see you."
Before Brant could interpose, two men in riding cloaks of
Confederate gray stepped into the room with a jaunty and self-
"Not DEMAND, general," said the foremost, a tall, distinguished-
looking man, lifting his hand with a graceful deprecating air. "In
fact, too sorry to bother you with an affair of no importance
except to ourselves. A bit of after-dinner bravado brought us in
contact with your pickets, and, of course, we had to take the
consequences. Served us right, and we were lucky not to have got a
bullet through us. Gad! I'm afraid my men would have been less
discreet! I am Colonel Lagrange, of the 5th Tennessee; my young
friend here is Captain Faulkner, of the 1st Kentucky. Some excuse
for a youngster like him--none for me! I"--
He stopped, for his eyes suddenly fell upon the bed and its
occupant. Both he and his companion started. But to the natural,
unaffected dismay of a gentleman who had unwittingly intruded upon
a lady's bedchamber, Brant's quick eye saw a more disastrous
concern superadded. Colonel Lagrange was quick to recover himself,
as they both removed their caps.
"A thousand pardons," he said, hurriedly stepping backwards to the
door. "But I hardly need say to a fellow-officer, general, that we
had no idea of making so gross an intrusion! We heard some cock-
and-bull story of your being occupied--cross-questioning an escaped
or escaping nigger--or we should never have forced ourselves upon
Brant glanced quickly at his wife. Her face had apparently become
rigid on the entrance of the two men; her eyes were coldly fixed
upon the ceiling. He bowed formally, and, with a wave of his hand
towards the door, said,--
"I will hear your story below, gentleman."
He followed them from the room, stopped to quietly turn the key in
the lock, and then motioned them to precede him down the staircase.
Not a word was exchanged till they had reached the lower landing
and Brant's private room. Dismissing his subaltern and orderly
with a sign, Brant turned towards his prisoners. The jaunty ease,
but not the self-possession, had gone from Lagrange's face; the
eyes of Captain Faulkner were fixed on his older companion with a
half-humorous look of perplexity.
"I am afraid I can only repeat, general, that our foolhardy freak
has put us in collision with your sentries," said Lagrange, with a
slight hauteur, that replaced his former jauntiness; "and we were
very properly made prisoners. If you will accept my parole, I have
no doubt our commander will proceed to exchange a couple of gallant
fellows of yours, whom I have had the honor of meeting within our
own lines, and whom you must miss probably more than I fear our
superiors miss us."
"Whatever brought you here, gentlemen," said Brant drily, "I am
glad, for your sakes, that you are in uniform, although it does
not, unfortunately, relieve me of an unpleasant duty."
"I don't think I understand you," returned Lagrange, coldly.
"If you had not been in uniform, you would probably have been shot
down as spies, without the trouble of capture," said Brant quietly.
"Do you mean to imply, sir"--began Lagrange sternly.
"I mean to say that the existence of a Confederate spy between this
camp and the division headquarters is sufficiently well known to us
to justify the strongest action."
"And pray, how can that affect us?" said Lagrange haughtily.
"I need not inform so old a soldier as Colonel Lagrange that the
aiding, abetting, and even receiving information from a spy or
traitor within one's lines is an equally dangerous service."
"Perhaps you would like to satisfy yourself, General," said Colonel
Lagrange, with an ironical laugh. "Pray do not hesitate on account
of our uniform. Search us if you like."
"Not on entering my lines, Colonel," replied Brant, with quiet
Lagrange's cheek flushed. But he recovered himself quickly, and
with a formal bow said,--
"You will, then, perhaps, let us know your pleasure?"
"My DUTY, Colonel, is to keep you both close prisoners here until I
have an opportunity to forward you to the division commander, with
a report of the circumstances of your arrest. That I propose to
do. How soon I may have that opportunity, or if I am ever to have
it," continued Brant, fixing his clear eyes significantly on
Lagrange, "depends upon the chances of war, which you probably
understand as well as I do."
"We should never think of making any calculation on the action of
an officer of such infinite resources as General Brant," said
"You will, no doubt, have an opportunity of stating your own case
to the division commander," continued Brant, with an unmoved face.
"And," he continued, turning for the first time to Captain
Faulkner, "when you tell the commander what I believe to be the
fact--from your name and resemblance--that you are a relation of
the young lady who for the last three weeks has been an inmate of
this house under a pass from Washington, you will, I have no doubt,
favorably explain your own propinquity to my lines."
"My sister Tilly!" said the young officer impulsively. "But she is
no longer here. She passed through the lines back to Washington
yesterday. No," he added, with a light laugh, "I'm afraid that
excuse won't count for to-day."
A sudden frown upon the face of the elder officer, added to the
perfect ingenuousness of Faulkner's speech, satisfied Brant that he
had not only elicited the truth, but that Miss Faulkner had been
successful. But he was sincere in his suggestion that her
relationship to the young officer would incline the division
commander to look leniently upon his fault, for he was conscious of
a singular satisfaction in thus being able to serve her. Of the
real object of the two men before him he had no doubt. They were
"the friends" of his wife, who were waiting for her outside the
lines! Chance alone had saved her from being arrested with them,
with the consequent exposure of her treachery before his own men,
who, as yet, had no proof of her guilt, nor any suspicion of her
actual identity. Meanwhile his own chance of conveying her with
safety beyond his lines was not affected by the incident; the
prisoners dare not reveal what they knew of her, and it was with a
grim triumph that he thought of compassing her escape without their
aid. Nothing of this, however, was visible in his face, which the
younger man watched with a kind of boyish curiosity, while Colonel
Lagrange regarded the ceiling with a politely repressed yawn. "I
regret," concluded Brant, as he summoned the officer of the guard,
"that I shall have to deprive you of each other's company during
the time you are here; but I shall see that you, separately, want
for nothing in your confinement."
"If this is with a view to separate interrogatory, general, I can
retire now," said Lagrange, rising, with ironical politeness.
"I believe I have all the information I require," returned Brant,
with undisturbed composure. Giving the necessary orders to his
subaltern, he acknowledged with equal calm the formal salutes of
the two prisoners as they were led away, and returned quickly to
his bedroom above. He paused instinctively for a moment before the
closed door, and listened. There was no sound from within. He
unlocked the door, and opened it.
So quiet was the interior that for an instant, without glancing at
the bed, he cast a quick look at the window, which, till then, he
had forgotten, and which he remembered gave upon the veranda roof.
But it was still closed, and as he approached the bed, he saw his
wife still lying there, in the attitude in which he had left her.
But her eyes were ringed, and slightly filmed, as if with recent
It was perhaps this circumstance that softened his voice, still
harsh with command, as he said,--
"I suppose you knew those two men?"
"And that I have put it out of their power to help you?"
There was something so strangely submissive in her voice that he
again looked suspiciously at her. But he was shocked to see that
she was quite pale now, and that the fire had gone out of her dark
"Then I may tell you what is my plan to save you. But, first, you
must find this mulatto woman who has acted as your double."
"She is here."
"How do you know it?" he asked, in quick suspicion.
"She was not to leave this place until she knew I was safe within
our lines. I have some friends who are faithful to me." After a
pause she added, "She has been here already."
He looked at her, startled. "Impossible--I"--
"You locked the door. Yes! but she has a second key. And even if
she had not, there is another entrance from that closet. You do
not know this house: you have been here two weeks; I spent two
years of my life, as a girl, in this room."
An indescribable sensation came over him; he remembered how he had
felt when he first occupied it; this was followed by a keen sense
of shame on reflecting that he had been, ever since, but a helpless
puppet in the power of his enemies, and that she could have escaped
if she would, even now.
"Perhaps," he said grimly, "you have already arranged your plans?"
She looked at him with a singular reproachfulness even in her
"I have only told her to be ready to change clothes with me and
help me color my face and hands at the time appointed. I have left
the rest to you."
"Then this is my plan. I have changed only a detail. You and she
must both leave this house at the same time, by different exits,
but one of them must be private--and unknown to my men. Do you
know of such a one?"
"Yes," she said, "in the rear of the negro quarters."
"Good," he replied, "that will be your way out. She will leave
here, publicly, through the parade, armed with a pass from me. She
will be overhauled and challenged by the first sentry near the
guardhouse, below the wall. She will be subjected to some delay
and scrutiny, which she will, however, be able to pass better than
you would. This will create the momentary diversion that we
require. In the mean time, you will have left the house by the
rear, and you will then keep in the shadow of the hedge until you
can drop down along the Run, where it empties into the swamp.
That," he continued, fixing his keen eyes upon her, "is the one
weak point in the position of this place that is neither overlooked
nor defended. But perhaps," he added again grimly, "you already
"It is the marsh where the flowers grow, near the path where you
met Miss Faulkner. I had crossed the marsh to give her a letter,"
she said slowly.
A bitter smile came over Brant's face, but passed as quickly.
"Enough," he said quietly, "I will meet you beside the Run, and
cross the marsh with you until you are within hailing distance of
your lines. I will be in plain clothes, Alice," he went on slowly,
"for it will not be the commander of this force who accompanies
you, but your husband, and, without disgracing his uniform, he will
drop to your level; for the instant he passes his own lines, in
disguise, he will become, like you, a spy, and amenable to its
Her eyes seemed suddenly to leap up to his with that strange look
of awakening and enthusiasm which he had noted before. And in its
complete prepossession of all her instincts she rose from the bed,
unheeding her bared arms and shoulders and loosened hair, and stood
upright before him. For an instant husband and wife regarded each
other as unreservedly as in their own chamber at Robles.
"When shall I go?"
He glanced through the window already growing lighter with the
coming dawn. The relief would pass in a few moments; the time
"At once," he said. "I will send Rose to you."
But his wife had already passed into the closet, and was tapping
upon some inner door. He heard the sound of hinges turning and the
rustling of garments. She reappeared, holding the curtains of the
closet together with her hand, and said,--
"Go! When she comes to your office for the pass, you will know
that I have gone."
He turned away.
"Stop!" she said faintly.
He turned back. Her expression had again changed. Her face was
deadly pale; a strange tremor seemed to have taken possession of
her. Her hands dropped from the curtain. Her beautiful arms moved
slightly forward; it seemed to him that she would in the next
moment have extended them towards him. But even then she said
hurriedly, "Go! Go!" and slipped again behind the curtains.
He quickly descended the stairs as the sound of trampling feet on
the road, and the hurried word of command, announced the return of
the scouting party. The officer had little report to make beyond
the fact that a morning mist, creeping along the valley, prevented
any further observation, and bade fair to interrupt their own
communications with the camp. Everything was quiet in the west,
although the enemy's lines along the ridge seemed to have receded.
Brant had listened impatiently, for a new idea had seized him.
Hooker was of the party, and was the one man in whom he could
partly confide, and obtain a disguise. He at once made his way to
the commissary wagons--one of which he knew Hooker used as a tent.
Hastily telling him that he wished to visit the pickets without
recognition, he induced him to lend him his slouched hat and frock
coat, leaving with him his own distinguishing tunic, hat, and
sword. He resisted the belt and pistols which Hooker would have
forced upon him. As he left the wagon he was amusedly conscious
that his old companion was characteristically examining the
garments he had left behind with mingled admiration and envy. But
he did not know, as he slipped out of the camp, that Mr. Hooker was
quietly trying them on, before a broken mirror in the wagon-head!
The gray light of that summer morning was already so strong that,
to avoid detection, he quickly dropped into the shadow of the gully
that sloped towards the Run. The hot mist which the scouts had
seen was now lying like a tranquil sea between him and the pickets
of the enemy's rear-guard, which it seemed to submerge, and was
clinging in moist tenuous swathes--like drawn-out cotton wool--
along the ridge, half obliterating its face. From the valley in
the rear it was already stealing in a thin white line up the slope
like the advance of a ghostly column, with a stealthiness that, in
spite of himself, touched him with superstitious significance. A
warm perfume, languid and treacherous--as from the swamp magnolia--
seemed to rise from the half-hidden marsh. An ominous silence,
that appeared to be a part of this veiling of all things under the
clear opal-tinted sky above, was so little like the hush of rest
and peace, that he half-yearned for the outburst of musketry and
tumult of attack that might dispel it. All that he had ever heard
or dreamed of the insidious South, with its languid subtleties of
climate and of race, seemed to encompass him here.
But the next moment he saw the figure he was waiting for stealing
towards him from the shadow of the gulley beneath the negro
Even in that uncertain light there was no mistaking the tall
figure, the gaudily striped clinging gown and turbaned head. And
then a strange revulsion of feeling, quite characteristic of the
emotional side of his singular temperament, overcame him. He was
taking leave of his wife--the dream of his youth--perhaps forever!
It should be no parting in anger as at Robles; it should be with a
tenderness that would blot out their past in their separate
memories--God knows! it might even be that a parting at that moment
was a joining of them in eternity. In his momentary exaltation it
even struck him that it was a duty, no less sacred, no less
unselfish than the one to which he had devoted his life. The light
was growing stronger; he could hear voices in the nearest picket
line, and the sound of a cough in the invading mist. He made a
hurried sign to the on-coming figure to follow him, ran ahead, and
halted at last in the cover of a hackmatack bush. Still gazing
forward over the marsh, he stealthily held out his hand behind him
as the rustling skirt came nearer. At last his hand was touched--
but even at that touch he started and turned quickly.
It was not his wife, but Rose!--her mulatto double! Her face was
rigid with fright, her beady eyes staring in their china sockets,
her white teeth chattering. Yet she would have spoken.
"Hush!" he said, clutching her hand, in a fierce whisper. "Not a
She was holding something white in her fingers; he snatched it
quickly. It was a note from his wife--not in the disguised hand of
her first warning, but in one that he remembered as if it were a
voice from their past.
"Forgive me for disobeying you to save you from capture, disgrace,
or death--which would have come to you where you were going! I
have taken Rose's pass. You need not fear that your honor will
suffer by it, for if I am stopped I shall confess that I took it
from her. Think no more of me, Clarence, but only of yourself.
You are in danger."
He crushed the letter in his hand.
"Tell me," he said in a fierce whisper, seizing her arm, "and speak
low. When did you leave her?"
"Sho'ly just now!" gasped the frightened woman.
He flung her aside. There might be still time to overtake and save
her before she reached the picket lines. He ran up the gully, and
out on to the slope towards the first guard-post. But a familiar
challenge reached his ear, and his heart stopped beating.
"Who goes there?"
There was a pause, a rattle of arms voices--another pause--and
Brant stood breathlessly listening. Then the voice rose again
slowly and clearly: "Pass the mulatto woman!"
Thank God! she was saved! But the thought had scarcely crossed his
mind before it seemed to him that a blinding crackle of sparks
burst out along the whole slope below the wall, a characteristic
yell which he knew too well rang in his ears, and an undulating
line of dusty figures came leaping like gray wolves out of the mist
upon his pickets. He heard the shouts of his men falling back as
they fired; the harsh commands of a few officers hurrying to their
posts, and knew that he had been hopelessly surprised and surrounded!
He ran forward among his disorganized men. To his consternation no
one seemed to heed him! Then the remembrance of his disguise
flashed upon him. But he had only time to throw away his hat and
snatch a sword from a falling lieutenant, before a scorching flash
seemed to pass before his eyes and burn through his hair, and he
dropped like a log beside his subaltern.
. . . . . .
An aching under the bandage around his head where a spent bullet
had grazed his scalp, and the sound of impossible voices in his
ears were all he knew as he struggled slowly back to consciousness
again. Even then it still seemed a delusion,--for he was lying on
a cot in his own hospital, yet with officers of the division staff
around him, and the division commander himself standing by his
side, and regarding him with an air of grave but not unkindly
concern. But the wounded man felt instinctively that it was not
the effect of his physical condition, and a sense of shame came
suddenly over him, which was not dissipated by his superior's
words. For, motioning the others aside, the major-general leaned
over his cot, and said,--
"Until a few moments ago, the report was that you had been captured
in the first rush of the rear-guard which we were rolling up for
your attack, and when you were picked up, just now, in plain
clothes on the slope, you were not recognized. The one thing
seemed to be as improbable as the other," he added significantly.
The miserable truth flashed across Brant's mind. Hooker must have
been captured in his clothes--perhaps in some extravagant sally--
and had not been recognized in the confusion by his own officers.
Nevertheless, he raised his eyes to his superior.
"You got my note?"
The general's brow darkened.
"Yes," he said slowly, "but finding you thus unprepared--I had been
thinking just now that you had been deceived by that woman--or by
others--and that it was a clumsy forgery." He stopped, and seeing
the hopeless bewilderment in the face of the wounded man, added
more kindly: "But we will not talk of that in your present
condition. The doctor says a few hours will put you straight
again. Get strong, for I want you to lose no time--for your own
sake--to report yourself at Washington."
"Report myself--at Washington!" repeated Brant slowly.
"That was last night's order," said the commander, with military
curtness. Then he burst out: "I don't understand it, Brant! I
believe you have been misunderstood, misrepresented, perhaps
maligned and I shall make it MY business to see the thing through--
but those are the Department orders. And for the present--I am
sorry to say you are relieved of your command."
He turned away, and Brant closed his eyes. With them it seemed to
him that he closed his career. No one would ever understand his
explanation--even had he been tempted to give one, and he knew he
never would. Everything was over now! Even this wretched bullet
had not struck him fairly, and culminated his fate as it might!
For an instant, he recalled his wife's last offer to fly with him
beyond the seas--beyond this cruel injustice--but even as he
recalled it, he knew that flight meant the worst of all--a half-
confession! But she had escaped! Thank God for that! Again and
again in his hopeless perplexity this comfort returned to him,--he
had saved her; he had done his duty. And harping upon this in his
strange fatalism, it at last seemed to him that this was for what
he had lived--for what he had suffered--for what he had fitly ended
his career. Perhaps it was left for him now to pass his remaining
years in forgotten exile--even as his father had--his father!--his
breath came quickly at the thought--God knows! perhaps as
wrongfully accused! It may have been a Providence that she had
borne him no child, to whom this dreadful heritage could be again
There was something of this strange and fateful resignation in his
face, a few hours later, when he was able to be helped again into
the saddle. But he could see in the eyes of the few comrades who
commiseratingly took leave of him, a vague, half-repressed awe of
some indefinite weakness in the man, that mingled with their
heartfelt parting with a gallant soldier. Yet even this touched
him no longer. He cast a glance at the house and the room where he
had parted from her, at the slope from which she had passed--and
And then, as his figure disappeared down the road, the restrained
commentary of wonder, surmise, and criticism broke out:--
"It must have been something mighty bad, for the old man, who
swears by him, looked rather troubled. And it was deuced queer,
you know, this changing clothes with somebody, just before this
"Nonsense! It's something away back of that! Didn't you hear the
old man say that the orders for him to report himself came from
Washington LAST NIGHT? No!"--the speaker lowered his voice--
"Strangeways says that he had regularly sold himself out to one of
them d----d secesh woman spies! It's the old Marc Antony business
"Now I think of it," said a younger subaltern, "he did seem
mightily taken with one of those quadroons or mulattoes he issued
orders against. I suppose that was a blind for us! I remember the
first day he saw her; he was regularly keen to know all about her."
Major Curtis gave a short laugh.
"That mulatto, Martin, was a white woman, burnt-corked! She was
trying to get through the lines last night, and fell off a wall or
got a knock on the head from a sentry's carbine. When she was
brought in, Doctor Simmons set to washing the blood off her face;
the cork came off and the whole thing came out. Brant hushed it
up--and the woman, too--in his own quarters! It's supposed now
that she got away somehow in the rush!"
"It goes further back than that, gentlemen," said the adjutant
authoritatively. "They say his wife was a howling secessionist,
four years ago, in California, was mixed up in a conspiracy, and he
had to leave on account of it. Look how thick he and that Miss
Faulkner became, before he helped HER off!"
"That's your jealousy, Tommy; she knew he was, by all odds, the
biggest man here, and a good deal more, too, and you had no show!"
In the laugh that followed, it would seem that Brant's eulogy had
been spoken and forgotten. But as Lieutenant Martin was turning
away, a lingering corporal touched his cap.
"You were speaking of those prowling mulattoes, sir. You know the
general passed one out this morning."
"So I have heard."
"I reckon she didn't get very far. It was just at the time that we
were driven in by their first fire, and I think she got her share
of it, too. Do you mind walking this way, sir!"
The lieutenant did not mind, although he rather languidly followed.
When they had reached the top of the gully, the corporal pointed to
what seemed to be a bit of striped calico hanging on a thorn bush
in the ravine.
"That's her," said the corporal. "I know the dress; I was on guard
when she was passed. The searchers, who were picking up our men,
haven't got to her yet; but she ain't moved or stirred these two
hours. Would you like to go down and see her?"
The lieutenant hesitated. He was young, and slightly fastidious as
to unnecessary unpleasantness. He believed he would wait until the
searchers brought her up, when the corporal might call him.
The mist came up gloriously from the swamp like a golden halo. And
as Clarence Brant, already forgotten, rode moodily through it
towards Washington, hugging to his heart the solitary comfort of
his great sacrifice, his wife, Alice Brant, for whom he had made
it, was lying in the ravine, dead and uncared for. Perhaps it was
part of the inconsistency of her sex that she was pierced with the
bullets of those she had loved, and was wearing the garments of the
race that she had wronged.
It was sunset of a hot day at Washington. Even at that hour the
broad avenues, which diverged from the Capitol like the rays of
another sun, were fierce and glittering. The sterile distances
between glowed more cruelly than ever, and pedestrians, keeping in
the scant shade, hesitated on the curbstones before plunging into
the Sahara-like waste of crossings. The city seemed deserted.
Even that vast army of contractors, speculators, place-hunters, and
lobbyists, which hung on the heels of the other army, and had
turned this pacific camp of the nation into a battlefield of
ignoble conflict and contention--more disastrous than the one to
the South--had slunk into their holes in hotel back bedrooms, in
shady barrooms, or in the negro quarters of Georgetown, as if the
majestic, white-robed Goddess enthroned upon the dome of the
Capitol had at last descended among them and was smiting to right
and left with the flat and flash of her insufferable sword.
Into this stifling atmosphere of greed and corruption Clarence
Brant stepped from the shadow of the War Department. For the last
three weeks he had haunted its ante-rooms and audience-chambers, in
the vain hope of righting himself before his superiors, who were
content, without formulating charges against him, to keep him in
this disgrace of inaction and the anxiety of suspense. Unable to
ascertain the details of the accusation, and conscious of his own
secret, he was debarred the last resort of demanding a court-
martial, which he knew could only exonerate him by the exposure of
the guilt of his wife, whom he still hoped had safely escaped. His
division commander, in active operations in the field, had no time
to help him at Washington. Elbowed aside by greedy contractors,
forestalled by selfish politicians, and disdaining the ordinary
method of influence, he had no friend to turn to. In his few years
of campaigning he had lost his instinct of diplomacy, without
acquiring a soldier's bluntness.
The nearly level rays of the sun forced him at last to turn aside
into one of the openings of a large building--a famous caravansary
of that hotel-haunted capital, and he presently found himself in
the luxurious bar-room, fragrant with mint, and cool with ice-slabs
piled symmetrically on its marble counters. A few groups of men
were seeking coolness at small tables with glasses before them and
palm-leaf fans in their hands, but a larger and noisier assemblage
was collected before the bar, where a man, collarless and in his
shirt-sleeves, with his back to the counter, was pretentiously
addressing them. Brant, who had moodily dropped into a chair in
the corner, after ordering a cooling drink as an excuse for his
temporary refuge from the stifling street, half-regretted his
enforced participation in their conviviality. But a sudden
lowering of the speaker's voice into a note of gloomy significance
seemed familiar to him. He glanced at him quickly, from the shadow
of his corner. He was not mistaken--it was Jim Hooker!
For the first time in his life, Brant wished to evade him. In the
days of his own prosperity his heart had always gone out towards
this old companion of his boyhood; in his present humiliation his
presence jarred upon him. He would have slipped away, but to do so
he would have had to pass before the counter again, and Hooker,
with the self-consciousness of a story-teller, had an eye on his
audience. Brant, with a palm-leaf fan before his face, was obliged
"Yes, gentlemen," said Hooker, examining his glass dramatically,
"when a man's been cooped up in a Rebel prison, with a death line
before him that he's obliged to cross every time he wants a square
drink, it seems sort of like a dream of his boyhood to be standin'
here comf'ble before his liquor, alongside o' white men once more.
And when he knows he's bin put to all that trouble jest to save the
reputation of another man, and the secrets of a few high and mighty
ones, it's almost enough to make his liquor go agin him." He
stopped theatrically, seemed to choke emotionally over his brandy
squash, but with a pause of dramatic determination finally dashed
it down. "No, gentlemen," he continued gloomily, "I don't say what
I'm back in Washington FOR--I don't say what I've been sayin' to
myself when I've bin picking the weevils outer my biscuits in Libby
Prison--but ef you don't see some pretty big men in the War
Department obliged to climb down in the next few days, my name
ain't Jim Hooker, of Hooker, Meacham & Co., Army Beef Contractors,
and the man who saved the fight at Gray Oaks!"
The smile of satisfaction that went around his audience--an audience
quick to seize the weakness of any performance--might have startled
a vanity less oblivious than Hooker's; but it only aroused Brant's
indignation and pity, and made his position still more intolerable.
But Hooker, scornfully expectorating a thin stream of tobacco juice
against the spittoon, remained for an instant gloomily silent.
"Tell us about the fight again," said a smiling auditor.
Hooker looked around the room with a certain dark suspiciousness,
and then, in an affected lower voice, which his theatrical
experience made perfectly audible, went on:--
"It ain't much to speak of, and if it wasn't for the principle of
the thing, I wouldn't be talking. A man who's seen Injin fightin'
don't go much on this here West Point fightin' by rule-of-three--
but that ain't here or there! Well, I'd bin out a-scoutin'--just
to help the boys along, and I was sittin' in my wagon about
daybreak, when along comes a brigadier-general, and he looks into
the wagon flap. I oughter to tell you first, gentlemen, that every
minit he was expecting an attack--but he didn't let on a hint of it
to me. 'How are you, Jim?' said he. 'How are you, general?' said
I. 'Would you mind lendin' me your coat and hat?' says he. 'I've
got a little game here with our pickets, and I don't want to be
recognized.' 'Anything to oblige, general,' said I, and with that
I strips off my coat and hat, and he peels and puts them on.
'Nearly the same figure, Jim,' he says, lookin' at me, 'suppose you
try on my things and see.' With that he hands me his coat--full
uniform, by G-d!--with the little gold cords and laces and the
epaulettes with a star, and I puts it on--quite innocent-like. And
then he says, handin' me his sword and belt, 'Same inches round the
waist, I reckon,' and I puts that on too. 'You may as well keep
'em on till I come back,' says he, 'for it's mighty damp and
malarious at this time around the swamp.' And with that he lights
out. Well, gentlemen, I hadn't sat there five minutes before Bang!
bang! rattle! rattle! kershiz! and I hears a yell. I steps out of
the wagon; everything's quite dark, but the rattle goes on. Then
along trots an orderly, leadin' a horse. 'Mount, general,' he
says, 'we're attacked--the rear-guard's on us!'"
He paused, looked round his audience, and then in a lower voice,
"I ain't a fool, an' in that minute a man's brain works at high
pressure, and I saw it all! I saw the little game of the brigadier
to skunk away in my clothes and leave me to be captured in his.
But I ain't a dog neither, and I mounted that horse, gentlemen, and
lit out to where the men were formin'! I didn't dare to speak,
lest they should know me, but I waved my sword, and by G-d! they
followed me! And the next minit we was in the thick of it. I had
my hat as full of holes as that ice strainer; I had a dozen bullets
through my coat, the fringe of my epaulettes was shot away, but I
kept the boys at their work--and we stopped 'em! Stopped 'em,
gentlemen, until we heard the bugles of the rest of our division,
that all this time had been rolling that blasted rear-guard over on
us! And it saved the fight; but the next minute the Johnny Rebs
made a last dash and cut me off--and there I was--by G-d, a
prisoner! Me that had saved the fight!"
A ripple of ironical applause went round as Hooker gloomily drained
his glass, and then held up his hand in scornful deprecation.
"I said I was a prisoner, gentlemen," he went on bitterly; "but
that ain't all! I asked to see Johnston, told him what I had done,
and demanded to be exchanged for a general officer. He said, 'You
be d----d.' I then sent word to the division commander-in-chief,
and told him how I had saved Gray Oaks when his brigadier ran away,
and he said, 'You be d----d.' I've bin 'You be d----d' from the
lowest non-com. to the commander-in-chief, and when I was at last
exchanged, I was exchanged, gentlemen, for two mules and a broken
wagon. But I'm here, gentlemen--as I was thar!"
"Why don't you see the President about it?" asked a bystander, in
Mr. Hooker stared contemptuously at the suggestion, and expectorated
his scornful dissent.
"Not much!" he said. "But I'm going to see the man that carries
him and his Cabinet in his breeches-pocket--Senator Boompointer."
"Boompointer's a big man," continued his auditor doubtfully. "Do
you know him?"
"Know him?" Mr. Hooker laughed a bitter, sardonic laugh. "Well,
gentlemen, I ain't the kind o' man to go in for family influence;
but," he added, with gloomy elevation, "considering he's an
intimate relation of mine, BY MARRIAGE, I should say I did."
Brant heard no more; the facing around of his old companion towards
the bar gave him that opportunity of escaping he had been waiting
for. The defection of Hooker and his peculiar inventions were too
characteristic of him to excite surprise, and, although they no
longer awakened his good-humored tolerance, they were powerless to
affect him in his greater trouble. Only one thing he learned--that
Hooker knew nothing of his wife being in camp as a spy--the
incident would have been too tempting to have escaped his dramatic
embellishment. And the allusion to Senator Boompointer, monstrous
as it seemed in Hooker's mouth, gave him a grim temptation. He had
heard of Boompointer's wonderful power; he believed that Susy would
and could help him--Clarence--whether she did or did not help
Hooker. But the next moment he dismissed the idea, with a flushing
cheek. How low had he already sunk, even to think of it!
It had been once or twice in his mind to seek the President, and,
under a promise of secrecy, reveal a part of his story. He had
heard many anecdotes of his goodness of heart and generous
tolerance of all things, but with this was joined--so said
contemporaneous history--a flippancy of speech and a brutality of
directness from which Clarence's sensibility shrank. Would he see
anything in his wife but a common spy on his army; would he see
anything in him but the weak victim, like many others, of a
scheming woman? Stories current in camp and Congress of the way
that this grim humorist had, with an apposite anecdote or a rugged
illustration, brushed away the most delicate sentiment or the
subtlest poetry, even as he had exposed the sham of Puritanic
morality or of Epicurean ethics. Brant had even solicited an
audience, but had retired awkwardly, and with his confidence
unspoken, before the dark, humorous eyes, that seemed almost too
tolerant of his grievance. He had been to levees, and his heart
had sunk equally before the vulgar crowd, who seemed to regard this
man as their own buffoon, and the pompousness of position, learning
and dignity, which he seemed to delight to shake and disturb.
One afternoon, a few days later, in sheer listlessness of purpose,
he found himself again at the White House. The President was
giving audience to a deputation of fanatics, who, with a pathetic
simplicity almost equal to his own pathetic tolerance, were urging
upon this ruler of millions the policy of an insignificant score,
and Brant listened to his patient, practical response of facts and
logic, clothed in simple but sinewy English, up to the inevitable
climax of humorous illustration, which the young brigadier could
now see was necessary to relieve the grimness of his refusal. For
the first time Brant felt the courage to address him, and resolved
to wait until the deputation retired. As they left the gallery he
lingered in the ante-room for the President to appear. But, as he
did not come, afraid of losing his chances, he returned to the
gallery. Alone in his privacy and shadow, the man he had just left
was standing by a column, in motionless abstraction, looking over
the distant garden. But the kindly, humorous face was almost
tragic with an intensity of weariness! Every line of those strong,
rustic features was relaxed under a burden which even the long,
lank, angular figure--overgrown and unfinished as his own West--
seemed to be distorted in its efforts to adjust itself to; while
the dark, deep-set eyes were abstracted with the vague prescience
of the prophet and the martyr. Shocked at that sudden change,
Brant felt his cheek burn with shame. And he was about to break
upon that wearied man's unbending; he was about to add his petty
burden to the shoulders of this Western Atlas. He drew back
silently, and descended the stairs.
But before he had left the house, while mingling with the crowd in
one of the larger rooms, he saw the President reappear beside an
important, prosperous-looking figure, on whom the kindly giant was
now smiling with humorous toleration. He noticed the divided
attention of the crowd; the name of Senator Boompointer was upon
every lip; he was nearly face to face with that famous dispenser of
place and preferment--this second husband of Susy! An indescribable
feeling--half cynical, half fateful--came over him. He would not
have been surprised to see Jim Hooker join the throng, which now
seemed to him to even dwarf the lonely central figure that had so
lately touched him! He wanted to escape it all!
But his fate brought him to the entrance at the same moment that
Boompointer was leaving it, and that distinguished man brushed
hastily by him as a gorgeous carriage, drawn by two spirited
horses, and driven by a resplendent negro coachman, dashed up.
It was the Boompointer carriage.
A fashionably-dressed, pretty woman, who, in style, bearing,
opulent contentment, and ingenuous self-consciousness, was in
perfect keeping with the slight ostentation of the equipage, was
its only occupant. As Boompointer stepped into the vehicle, her
blue eyes fell for an instant on Brant. A happy, childlike pink
flush came into her cheeks, and a violet ray of recognition and
mischief darted from her eyes to his. For it was Susy.
When Brant returned to his hotel there was an augmented respect in
the voice of the clerk as he handed him a note with the remark that
it had been left by Senator Boompointer's coachman. He had no
difficulty in recognizing Susy's peculiarly Brobdingnagian school-
"Kla'uns, I call it real mean! I believe you just HOPED I wouldn't
know you. If you're a bit like your old self you'll come right off
here--this very night! I've got a big party on--but we can talk
somewhere between the acts! Haven't I growed? Tell me! And my!
what a gloomy swell the young brigadier is! The carriage will come
for you--so you have no excuse."
The effect of this childish note upon Brant was strangely out of
proportion to its triviality. But then it was Susy's very
triviality--so expressive of her characteristic irresponsibility--
which had always affected him at such moments. Again, as at
Robles, he felt it react against his own ethics. Was she not right
in her delightful materialism? Was she not happier than if she had
been consistently true to Mrs. Peyton, to the convent, to the
episode of her theatrical career, to Jim Hooker--even to himself?
And did he conscientiously believe that Hooker or himself had
suffered from her inconsistency? No! From all that he had heard,
she was a suitable helpmate to the senator, in her social
attractiveness, her charming ostentations, her engaging vanity that
disarmed suspicion, and her lack of responsibility even in her
partisanship. Nobody ever dared to hold the senator responsible
for her promises, even while enjoying the fellowship of both, and
it is said that the worthy man singularly profited by it. Looking
upon the invitation as a possible distraction to his gloomy
thoughts, Brant resolved to go.
The moon was high as the carriage whirled him out of the still
stifling avenues towards the Soldiers' Home--a sylvan suburb
frequented by cabinet ministers and the President--where the good
Senator had "decreed," like Kubla Khan, "a stately pleasure dome,"
to entertain his friends and partisans. As they approached the
house, the trembling light like fireflies through the leaves, the
warm silence broken only by a military band playing a drowsy waltz
on the veranda, and the heavy odors of jessamine in the air,
thrilled Brant with a sense of shame as he thought of his old
comrades in the field. But this was presently dissipated by the
uniforms that met him in the hall, with the presence of some of his
distinguished superiors. At the head of the stairs, with a
circling background of the shining crosses and ribbons of the
diplomatic corps, stood Susy--her bare arms and neck glittering
with diamonds, her face radiant with childlike vivacity. A
significant pressure of her little glove as he made his bow seemed
to be his only welcome, but a moment later she caught his arm.
"You've yet to know HIM," she said in a half whisper; "he thinks a
good deal of himself--just like Jim. But he makes others believe
it, and that's where poor Jim slipped up." She paused before the
man thus characteristically disposed of, and presented Brant. It
was the man he had seen before--material, capable, dogmatic. A
glance from his shrewd eyes--accustomed to the weighing of men's
weaknesses and ambitions--and a few hurried phrases, apparently
satisfied him that Brant was not just then important or available
to him, and the two men, a moment later, drifted easily apart.
Brant sauntered listlessly through the crowded rooms, half
remorsefully conscious that he had taken some irrevocable step, and
none the less assured by the presence of two or three reporters and
correspondents who were dogging his steps, or the glance of two or
three pretty women whose curiosity had evidently been aroused by
the singular abstraction of this handsome, distinguished, but
sardonic-looking officer. But the next moment he was genuinely
A tall young woman had just glided into the centre of the room with
an indolent yet supple gracefulness that seemed familiar to him. A
change in her position suddenly revealed her face. It was Miss
Faulkner. Previously he had known her only in the riding habit of
Confederate gray which she had at first affected, or in the light
muslin morning dress she had worn at Gray Oaks. It seemed to him,
to-night, that the studied elegance of her full dress became her
still more; that the pretty willfulness of her chin and shoulders
was chastened and modified by the pearls round her fair throat.
Suddenly their eyes met; her face paled visibly; he fancied that
she almost leaned against her companion for support; then she met
his glance again with a face into which the color had as suddenly
rushed, but with eyes that seemed to be appealing to him even to
the point of pain and fright. Brant was not conceited; he could
see that the girl's agitation was not the effect of any mere
personal influence in his recognition, but of something else. He
turned hastily away; when he looked around again she was gone.
Nevertheless he felt filled with a vague irritation. Did she think
him such a fool as to imperil her safety by openly recognizing her
without her consent? Did she think that he would dare to presume
upon the service she had done him? Or, more outrageous thought,
had she heard of his disgrace, known its cause, and feared that he
would drag her into a disclosure to save himself? No, no; she
could not think that! She had perhaps regretted what she had done
in a freak of girlish chivalry; she had returned to her old
feelings and partisanship; she was only startled at meeting the
single witness of her folly. Well, she need not fear! He would as
studiously avoid her hereafter, and she should know it. And yet--
yes, there was a "yet." For he could not forget--indeed, in the
past three weeks it had been more often before him than he cared to
think--that she was the one human being who had been capable of a
great act of self-sacrifice for him--her enemy, her accuser, the
man who had scarcely treated her civilly. He was ashamed to
remember now that this thought had occurred to him at the bedside
of his wife--at the hour of her escape--even on the fatal slope on
which he had been struck down. And now this fond illusion must go
with the rest--the girl who had served him so loyally was ashamed
of it! A bitter smile crossed his face.
"Well, I don't wonder! Here are all the women asking me who is
that good-looking Mephistopheles, with the burning eyes, who is
prowling around my rooms as if searching for a victim. Why, you're
smiling for all the world like poor Jim when he used to do the Red
Susy's voice--and illustration--recalled him to himself.
"Furious I may be," he said with a gentler smile, although his eyes
still glittered, "furious that I have to wait until the one woman I
came to see--the one woman I have not seen for so long, while these
puppets have been nightly dancing before her--can give me a few
moments from them, to talk of the old days."
In his reaction he was quite sincere, although he felt a slight
sense of remorse as he saw the quick, faint color rise, as in those
old days, even through the to-night's powder of her cheek.
"That's like the old Kla'uns," she said, with a slight pressure of
his arm, "but we will not have a chance to speak until later. When
they are nearly all gone, you'll take me to get a little refreshment,
and we'll have a chat in the conservatory. But you must drop that
awfully wicked look and make yourself generally agreeable to those
women until then."
It was, perhaps, part of this reaction which enabled him to obey
his hostess' commands with a certain recklessness that, however,
seemed to be in keeping with the previous Satanic reputation he had
all unconsciously achieved. The women listened to the cynical
flippancy of this good-looking soldier with an undisguised
admiration which in turn excited curiosity and envy from his own
sex. He saw the whispered questioning, the lifted eyebrows,
scornful shrugging of shoulders--and knew that the story of his
disgrace was in the air. But I fear this only excited him to
further recklessness and triumph. Once he thought he recognized
Miss Faulkner's figure at a distance, and even fancied that she had
been watching him; but he only redoubled his attentions to the fair
woman beside him, and looked no more.
Yet he was glad when the guests began to drop off, the great
rooms thinned, and Susy, appearing on the arm of her husband,
coquettishly reminded him of his promise.
"For I want to talk to you of old times. General Brant," she went
on, turning explanatorily to Boompointer, "married my adopted
mother in California--at Robles, a dear old place where I spent
my earliest years. So, you see, we are sort of relations by
marriage," she added, with delightful naivete.
Hooker's own vainglorious allusion to his relations to the man
before him flashed across Brant's mind, but it left now only a
smile on his lips. He felt he had already become a part of the
irresponsible comedy played around him. Why should he resist, or
examine its ethics too closely? He offered his arm to Susy as they
descended the stairs, but, instead of pausing in the supper-room,
she simply passed through it with a significant pressure on his
arm, and, drawing aside a muslin curtain, stepped into the moonlit
conservatory. Behind the curtain there was a small rustic settee;
without releasing his arm she sat down, so that when he dropped
beside her, their hands met, and mutually clasped.
"Now, Kla'uns," she said, with a slight, comfortable shiver as she
nestled beside him, "it's a little like your chair down at old
Robles, isn't it?--tell me! And to think it's five years ago!
But, Kla'uns, what's the matter? You are changed," she said,
looking at his dark face in the moonlight, "or you have something
to tell me."
"And it's something dreadful, I know!" she said, wrinkling her
brows with a pretty terror. "Couldn't you pretend you had told it
to me, and let us go on just the same? Couldn't you, Kla'uns?
"I am afraid I couldn't," he said, with a sad smile.
"Is it about yourself, Kla'uns? You know," she went on with
cheerful rapidity, "I know everything about you--I always did, you
know--and I don't care, and never did care, and it don't, and never
did, make the slightest difference to me. So don't tell it, and
waste time, Kla'uns."
"It's not about me, but about my wife!" he said slowly.
Her expression changed slightly
"Oh, her!" she said after a pause. Then, half-resignedly, "Go on,
He began. He had a dozen times rehearsed to himself his miserable
story, always feeling it keenly, and even fearing that he might be
carried away by emotion or morbid sentiment in telling it to
another. But, to his astonishment, he found himself telling it
practically, calmly, almost cynically, to his old playmate,
repressing the half devotion and even tenderness that had governed
him, from the time that his wife, disguised as the mulatto woman,
had secretly watched him at his office, to the hour that he had
passed through the lines. He withheld only the incident of Miss
Faulkner's complicity and sacrifice.
"And she got away, after having kicked you out of your place,
Kla'uns?" said Susy, when he had ended.
Clarence stiffened beside her. But he felt he had gone too far to
quarrel with his confidante.
"She went away. I honestly believe we shall never meet again, or I
should not be telling you this!"
"Kla'uns," she said lightly, taking his hand again, "don't you
believe it! She won't let you go. You're one of those men that a
woman, when she's once hooked on to, won't let go of, even when she
believes she no longer loves him, or meets bigger and better men.
I reckon it's because you're so different from other men; maybe
there are so many different things about you to hook on to, and you
don't slip off as easily as the others. Now, if you were like old
Peyton, her first husband, or like poor Jim, or even my Boompointer,
you'd be all right! No, my boy, all we can do is to try to keep her
from getting at you here. I reckon she won't trust herself in
Washington again in a hurry."
"But I cannot stay here; my career is in the field."
"Your career is alongside o' me, honey--and Boompointer. But
nearer ME. We'll fix all that. I heard something about your being
in disgrace, but the story was that you were sweet on some secesh
girl down there, and neglected your business, Kla'uns. But, Lordy!
to think it was only your own wife! Never mind; we'll straighten
that out. We've had worse jobs than that on. Why, there was that
commissary who was buying up dead horses at one end of the field,
and selling them to the Government for mess beef at the other; and
there was that general who wouldn't make an attack when it rained;
and the other general--you know who I mean, Kla'uns--who wouldn't
invade the State where his sister lived; but we straightened them
out, somehow, and they were a heap worse than you. We'll get you a
position in the war department here, one of the bureau offices,
where you keep your rank and your uniform--you don't look bad in
it, Kla'uns--on better pay. And you'll come and see me, and we'll
talk over old times."
Brant felt his heart turn sick within him. But he was at her mercy
now! He said, with an effort,--
"But I've told you that my career--nay, my LIFE--now is in the
"Don't you be a fool, Kla'uns, and leave it there! You have done
your work of fighting--mighty good fighting, too,--and everybody
knows it. You've earned a change. Let others take your place."
He shuddered, as he remembered that his wife had made the same
appeal. Was he a fool then, and these two women--so totally unlike
in everything--right in this?
"Come, Kla'uns," said Susy, relapsing again against his shoulder.
"Now talk to me! You don't say what you think of me, of my home,
of my furniture, of my position--even of him! Tell me!"
"I find you well, prosperous, and happy," he said, with a faint
"Is that all? And how do I look?"
She turned her still youthful, mischievous face towards him in the
moonlight. The witchery of her blue eyes was still there as of
old, the same frank irresponsibility beamed from them; her parted
lips seemed to give him back the breath of his youth. He started,
but she did not.
It was her husband's voice.
"I quite forgot," the Senator went on, as he drew the curtain
aside, "that you are engaged with a friend; but Miss Faulkner is
waiting to say good-night, and I volunteered to find you."
"Tell her to wait a moment," said Susy, with an impatience that was
as undisguised as it was without embarrassment or confusion.
But Miss Faulkner, unconsciously following Mr. Boompointer, was
already upon them. For a moment the whole four were silent,
although perfectly composed. Senator Boompointer, unconscious of
any infelicity in his interruption, was calmly waiting. Clarence,
opposed suddenly to the young girl whom he believed was avoiding
his recognition, rose, coldly imperturbable. Miss Faulkner,
looking taller and more erect in the long folds of her satin cloak,
neither paled nor blushed, as she regarded Susy and Brant with a
smile of well-bred apology.
"I expect to leave Washington to-morrow, and may not be able to
call again," she said, "or I would not have so particularly pressed
a leave-taking upon you."
"I was talking with my old friend, General Brant," said Susy, more
by way of introduction than apology.
Brant bowed. For an instant the clear eyes of Miss Faulkner
slipped icily across his as she made him an old-fashioned Southern
courtesy, and, taking Susy's arm, she left the room. Brant did not
linger, but took leave of his host almost in the same breath. At
the front door a well-appointed carriage of one of the Legations
had just rolled into waiting. He looked back; he saw Miss
Faulkner, erect and looking like a bride in her gauzy draperies,
descending the stairs before the waiting servants. He felt his
heart beat strangely. He hesitated, recalled himself with an
effort, hurriedly stepped from the porch into the path, as he heard
the carriage door close behind him in the distance, and then felt
the dust from her horse's hoofs rise around him as she drove past
him and away.
Although Brant was convinced as soon as he left the house that he
could not accept anything from the Boompointer influence, and that
his interview with Susy was fruitless, he knew that he must
temporize. While he did not believe that his old playmate would
willingly betray him, he was uneasy when he thought of the vanity
and impulsiveness which might compromise him--or of a possible
jealousy that might seek revenge. Yet he had no reason to believe
that Susy's nature was jealous, or that she was likely to have any
cause; but the fact remained that Miss Faulkner's innocent
intrusion upon their tete-a-tete affected him more strongly than
anything else in his interview with Susy. Once out of the
atmosphere of that house, it struck him, too, that Miss Faulkner
was almost as much of an alien in it as himself. He wondered what
she had been doing there. Could it be possible that she was
obtaining information for the South? But he rejected the idea as
quickly as it had occurred to him. Perhaps there could be no
stronger proof of the unconscious influence the young girl already
had over him.
He remembered the liveries of the diplomatic carriage that had
borne her away, and ascertained without difficulty that her sister
had married one of the foreign ministers, and that she was a guest
in his house. But he was the more astonished to hear that she and
her sister were considered to be Southern Unionists--and were
greatly petted in governmental circles for their sacrificing
fidelity to the flag. His informant, an official in the State
Department, added that Miss Matilda might have been a good deal of
a madcap at the outbreak of the war--for the sisters had a brother
in the Confederate service--but that she had changed greatly, and,
indeed, within a month. "For," he added, "she was at the White
House for the first time last week, and they say the President
talked more to her than to any other woman."
The indescribable sensation with which this simple information
filled Brant startled him more than the news itself. Hope, joy,
fear, distrust, and despair, alternately distracted him. He
recalled Miss Faulkner's almost agonizing glance of appeal to him in
the drawing-room at Susy's, and it seemed to be equally consistent
with the truth of what he had just heard--or some monstrous
treachery and deceit of which she might be capable. Even now she
might be a secret emissary of some spy within the President's
family; she might have been in correspondence with some traitor in
the Boompointer clique, and her imploring glance only the result of
a fear of exposure. Or, again, she might have truly recanted after
her escapade at Gray Oaks, and feared only his recollection of her
as go-between of spies. And yet both of these presumptions were
inconsistent with her conduct in the conservatory. It seemed
impossible that this impulsive woman, capable of doing what he had
himself known her to do, and equally sensitive to the shame or joy
of such impulses, should be the same conventional woman of society
who had so coldly recognized and parted from him.
But this interval of doubt was transitory. The next day he
received a dispatch from the War Department, ordering him to report
himself for duty at once. With a beating heart he hurried to the
Secretary. But that official had merely left a memorandum with his
assistant directing General Brant to accompany some fresh levies to
a camp of "organization" near the front. Brant felt a chill of
disappointment. Duties of this kind had been left to dubious
regular army veterans, hurriedly displaced general officers, and
favored detrimentals. But if it was not restoration, it was no
longer inaction, and it was at least a release from Washington.
It was also evidently the result of some influence--but hardly that
of the Boompointers, for he knew that Susy wished to keep him at
the Capital. Was there another power at work to send him away from
Washington? His previous doubts returned. Nor were they dissipated
when the chief of the bureau placed a letter before him with the
remark that it had been entrusted to him by a lady with the request
that it should be delivered only into his own hands.
"She did not know your hotel address, but ascertained you were to
call here. She said it was of some importance. There is no mystery
about it, General," continued the official with a mischievous glance
at Brant's handsome, perplexed face, "although it's from a very
pretty woman--whom we all know."
"Mrs. Boompointer?" suggested Brant, with affected lightness.
It was a maladroit speech. The official's face darkened.
"We have not yet become a Postal Department for the Boompointers,
General," he said dryly, "however great their influence elsewhere.
It was from rather a different style of woman--Miss Faulkner. You
will receive your papers later at your hotel, and leave to-night."
Brant's unlucky slip was still potent enough to divert the official
attention, or he would have noticed the change in his visitor's
face, and the abruptness of his departure.
Once in the street, Brant tore off the envelope. But beneath it
was another, on which was written in a delicate, refined hand:
"Please do not open this until you reach your destination."
Then she knew he was going! And perhaps this was her influence?
All his suspicions again returned. She knew he was going near the
lines, and his very appointment, through her power, might be a plot
to serve her and the enemy! Was this letter, which she was
entrusting to him, the cover of some missive to her Southern
friends which she expected him to carry--perhaps as a return for
her own act of self-sacrifice? Was this the appeal she had been
making to his chivalry, his gratitude, his honor? The perspiration
stood in beads on his forehead. What defect lay hidden in his
nature that seemed to make him an easy victim of these intriguing
women? He had not even the excuse of gallantry; less susceptible
to the potencies of the sex than most men, he was still compelled
to bear that reputation. He remembered his coldness to Miss
Faulkner in the first days of their meeting, and her effect upon
his subalterns. Why had she selected him from among them--when she
could have modeled the others like wax to her purposes? Why? And
yet with the question came a possible answer that he hardly dared
to think of--that in its very vagueness seemed to fill him with a
stimulating thrill and hopefulness. He quickened his pace. He
would take the letter, and yet be master of himself when the time
came to open it.
That time came three days later, in his tent at Three Pines
Crossing. As he broke open the envelope, he was relieved to find
that it contained no other inclosure, and seemed intended only for
himself. It began abruptly:--
"When you read this, you will understand why I did not speak to you
when we met last night; why I even dreaded that you might speak to
me, knowing, as I did, what I ought to tell you at that place and
moment--something you could only know from me. I did not know you
were in Washington, although I knew you were relieved; I had no way
of seeing you or sending to you before, and I only came to Mrs.
Boompointer's party in the hope of hearing news of you.
"You know that my brother was captured by your pickets in company
with another officer. He thinks you suspected the truth--that he
and his friend were hovering near your lines to effect the escape
of the spy. But he says that, although they failed to help her,
she did escape, or was passed through the lines by your connivance.
He says that you seemed to know her, that from what Rose--the
mulatto woman--told him, you and she were evidently old friends.
I would not speak of this, nor intrude upon your private affairs,
only that I think you ought to know that I had no knowledge of it
when I was in your house, but believed her to be a stranger to you.
You gave me no intimation that you knew her, and I believed that
you were frank with me. But I should not speak of this at all--for
I believe that it would have made no difference to me in repairing
the wrong that I thought I had done you--only that, as I am forced
by circumstances to tell you the terrible ending of this story, you
ought to know it all.
"My brother wrote to me that the evening after you left, the
burying party picked up the body of what they believed to be a
mulatto woman lying on the slope. It was not Rose, but the body of
the very woman--the real and only spy--whom you had passed through
the lines. She was accidentally killed by the Confederates in the
first attack upon you, at daybreak. But only my brother and his
friend recognized her through her blackened face and disguise, and
on the plea that she was a servant of one of their friends, they
got permission from the division commander to take her away, and
she was buried by her friends and among her people in the little
cemetery of Three Pines Crossing, not far from where you have gone.
My brother thought that I ought to tell you this: it seems that he
and his friend had a strange sympathy for you in what they appear
to know or guess of your relations with that woman, and I think he
was touched by what he thought was your kindness and chivalry to
him on account of his sister. But I do not think he ever knew, or
will know, how great is the task that he has imposed upon me.
"You know now, do you not, WHY I did not speak to you when we
first met; it seemed so impossible to do it in an atmosphere and a
festivity that was so incongruous with the dreadful message I was
charged with. And when I had to meet you later--perhaps I may have
wronged you--but it seemed to me that you were so preoccupied and
interested with other things that I might perhaps only be wearying
you with something you cared little for, or perhaps already knew
and had quickly forgotten.
"I had been wanting to say something else to you when I had got rid
of my dreadful message. I do not know if you still care to hear
it. But you were once generous enough to think that I had done you
a service in bringing a letter to your commander. Although I know
better than anybody else the genuine devotion to your duty that
made you accept my poor service, from all that I can hear, you have
never had the credit of it. Will you not try me again? I am more
in favor here, and I might yet be more successful in showing your
superiors how true you have been to your trust, even if you have
little faith in your friend, Matilda Faulkner."
For a long time he remained motionless, with the letter in his
hand. Then he arose, ordered his horse, and galloped away.
There was little difficulty in finding the cemetery of Three Pines
Crossing--a hillside slope, hearsed with pine and cypress, and
starred with white crosses, that in the distance looked like
flowers. Still less was there in finding the newer marble shaft
among the older lichen-spotted slabs, which bore the simple words:
"Alice Benham, Martyr." A few Confederate soldiers, under still
plainer and newer wooden headstones, carved only with initials, lay
at her feet. Brant sank on his knees beside the grave, but he was
shocked to see that the base of the marble was stained with the red
pollen of the fateful lily, whose blossoms had been heaped upon her
mound, but whose fallen petals lay dark and sodden in decay.
How long he remained there he did not know. And then a solitary
bugle from the camp seemed to summon him, as it had once before
summoned him, and he went away--as he had gone before--to a
separation that he now knew was for all time.
Then followed a month of superintendence and drill, and the
infusing into the little camp under his instruction the spirit
which seemed to be passing out of his own life forever. Shut in by
alien hills on the borderland of the great struggle, from time to
time reports reached him of the bitter fighting, and almost
disastrous successes of his old division commander. Orders came
from Washington to hurry the preparation of his raw levies to the
field, and a faint hope sprang up in his mind. But following it
came another dispatch ordering his return to the Capital.
He reached it with neither hope nor fear--so benumbed had become
his spirit under this last trial, and what seemed to be now the
mockery of this last sacrifice to his wife. Though it was no
longer a question of her life and safety, he knew that he could
still preserve her memory from stain by keeping her secret, even
though its divulgings might clear his own. For that reason, he had
even hesitated to inform Susy of her death, in the fear that, in
her thoughtless irresponsibility and impulsiveness, she might be
tempted to use it in his favor. He had made his late appointment a
plea for her withholding any present efforts to assist him. He
even avoided the Boompointers' house, in what he believed was
partly a duty to the memory of his wife. But he saw no inconsistency
in occasionally extending his lonely walks to the vicinity of a
foreign Legation, or in being lifted with a certain expectation at
the sight of its liveries on the Avenue. There was a craving for
sympathy in his heart, which Miss Faulkner's letter had awakened.
Meantime, he had reported himself for duty at the War Department--
with little hope, however, in that formality. But he was surprised
the next day when the chief of the bureau informed him that his
claim was before the President.
"I was not aware that I had presented any claim," he said, a little
The bureau chief looked up with some surprise. This quiet,
patient, reserved man had puzzled him once or twice before.
"Perhaps I should say 'case,' General," he said, drily. "But the
personal interest of the highest executive in the land strikes me
as being desirable in anything."
"I only mean that I have obeyed the orders of the department in
reporting myself here, as I have done," said Brant, with less
feeling, but none the less firmness; "and I should imagine it was
not the duty of a soldier to question them. Which I fancy a
'claim' or a 'case' would imply."
He had no idea of taking this attitude before, but the
disappointments of the past month, added to this first official
notice of his disgrace, had brought forward that dogged, reckless,
yet half-scornful obstinacy that was part of his nature.
The official smiled.
"I suppose, then, you are waiting to hear from the President," he
"I am awaiting orders from the department," returned Brant quietly,
"but whether they originate in the President as commander-in-chief,
or not--it is not for me to inquire."
Even when he reached his hotel this half-savage indifference which
had taken the place of his former incertitude had not changed. It
seemed to him that he had reached the crisis of his life where he
was no longer a free agent, and could wait, superior alike to
effort or expectation. And it was with a merely dispassionate
curiosity that he found a note the next morning from the
President's private secretary, informing him that the President
would see him early that day.
A few hours later he was ushered through the public rooms of the
White House to a more secluded part of the household. The
messenger stopped before a modest door and knocked. It was opened
by a tall figure--the President himself. He reached out a long arm
to Brant, who stood hesitatingly on the threshold, grasped his
hand, and led him into the room. It had a single, large,
elaborately draped window and a handsome medallioned carpet, which
contrasted with the otherwise almost appalling simplicity of the
furniture. A single plain angular desk, with a blotting pad and a
few sheets of large foolscap upon it, a waste-paper basket and four
plain armchairs, completed the interior with a contrast as simple
and homely as its long-limbed, black-coated occupant. Releasing
the hand of the general to shut a door which opened into another
apartment, the President shoved an armchair towards him and sank
somewhat wearily into another before the desk. But only for a
moment; the long shambling limbs did not seem to adjust themselves
easily to the chair; the high narrow shoulders drooped to find a
more comfortable lounging attitude, shifted from side to side, and
the long legs moved dispersedly. Yet the face that was turned
towards Brant was humorous and tranquil.
"I was told I should have to send for you if I wished to see you,"
he said smilingly.
Already mollified, and perhaps again falling under the previous
influence of this singular man, Brant began somewhat hesitatingly
But the President checked him gently,--
"You don't understand. It was something new to my experience here
to find an able-bodied American citizen with an honest genuine
grievance who had to have it drawn from him like a decayed tooth.
But you have been here before. I seem to remember your face."
Brant's reserve had gone. He admitted that he had twice sought an
"You dodged the dentist! That was wrong." As Brant made a slight
movement of deprecation the President continued: "I understand!
Not from fear of giving pain to yourself but to others. I don't
know that THAT is right, either. A certain amount of pain must be
suffered in this world--even by one's enemies. Well, I have looked
into your case, General Brant." He took up a piece of paper from
his desk, scrawled with two or three notes in pencil. "I think
this is the way it stands. You were commanding a position at Gray
Oaks when information was received by the department that, either
through neglect or complicity, spies were passing through your
lines. There was no attempt to prove your neglect; your orders,
the facts of your personal care and precaution, were all before the
department. But it was also shown that your wife, from whom you
were only temporarily separated, was a notorious secessionist;
that, before the war, you yourself were suspected, and that,
therefore, you were quite capable of evading your own orders, which
you may have only given as a blind. On this information you were
relieved by the department of your command. Later on it was
discovered that the spy was none other than your own wife,
disguised as a mulatto; that, after her arrest by your own
soldiers, you connived at her escape--and this was considered
conclusive proof of--well, let us say--your treachery."
"But I did not know it was my wife until she was arrested," said
The President knitted his eyebrows humorously.
"Don't let us travel out of the record, General. You're as bad as
the department. The question was one of your personal treachery,
but you need not accept the fact that you were justly removed
because your wife was a spy. Now, General, I am an old lawyer, and
I don't mind telling you that in Illinois we wouldn't hang a yellow
dog on that evidence before the department. But when I was asked
to look into the matter by your friends, I discovered something of
more importance to you. I had been trying to find a scrap of
evidence that would justify the presumption that you had sent
information to the enemy. I found that it was based upon the fact
of the enemy being in possession of knowledge at the first battle
at Gray Oaks, which could only have been obtained from our side,
and which led to a Federal disaster; that you, however, retrieved
by your gallantry. I then asked the secretary if he was prepared
to show that you had sent the information with that view, or that
you had been overtaken by a tardy sense of repentance. He preferred
to consider my suggestion as humorous. But the inquiry led to my
further discovery that the only treasonable correspondence actually
in evidence was found upon the body of a trusted Federal officer,
and had been forwarded to the division commander. But there was no
record of it in the case."
"Why, I forwarded it myself," said Brant eagerly.
"So the division commander writes," said the President, smiling,
"and he forwarded it to the department. But it was suppressed in
some way. Have you any enemies, General Brant?"
"Not that I know of."
"Then you probably have. You are young and successful. Think of
the hundred other officers who naturally believe themselves better
than you are, and haven't a traitorous wife. Still, the department
may have made an example of you for the benefit of the only man who
couldn't profit by it."
"Might it not have been, sir, that this suppression was for the
good report of the service--as the chief offender was dead?"
"I am glad to hear you say so, General, for it is the argument I
have used successfully in behalf of your wife."
"Then you know it all, sir?" said Brant after a gloomy pause.
"All, I think. Come, General, you seemed just now to be uncertain
about your enemies. Let me assure you, you need not be so in
regard to your friends."
"I dare to hope I have found one, sir," said Brant with almost
"Oh, not me!" said the President, with a laugh of deprecation.
"Some one much more potent."
"May I know his name, Mr. President?"
"No, for it is a woman. You were nearly ruined by one, General. I
suppose it's quite right that you should be saved by one. And, of
"A woman!" echoed Brant.
"Yes; one who was willing to confess herself a worse spy than your
wife--a double traitor--to save you! Upon my word, General, I
don't know if the department was far wrong; a man with such an
alternately unsettling and convincing effect upon a woman's highest
political convictions should be under some restraint. Luckily the
department knows nothing of it."
"Nor would any one else have known from me," said Brant eagerly.
"I trust that she did not think--that you, sir, did not for an
instant believe that I"--
"Oh dear, no! Nobody would have believed you! It was her free
confidence to me. That was what made the affair so difficult to
handle. For even her bringing your dispatch to the division
commander looked bad for you; and you know he even doubted its
"Does she--does Miss Faulkner know the spy was my wife?" hesitated
The President twisted himself in his chair, so as to regard Brant
more gravely with his deep-set eyes, and then thoughtfully rubbed
"Don't let us travel out of the record, General," he said after a
pause. But as the color surged into Brant's cheek he raised his
eyes to the ceiling, and said, in half-humorous recollection,--
"No, I think THAT fact was first gathered from your other friend--
"Hooker!" said Brant, indignantly; "did he come here?"
"Pray don't destroy my faith in Mr. Hooker, General," said the
President, in half-weary, half-humorous deprecation. "Don't tell
me that any of his inventions are TRUE! Leave me at least that
magnificent liar--the one perfectly intelligible witness you have.
For from the time that he first appeared here with a grievance and
a claim for a commission, he has been an unspeakable joy to me and
a convincing testimony to you. Other witnesses have been partisans
and prejudiced; Mr. Hooker was frankly true to himself. How else
should I have known of the care you took to disguise yourself, save
the honor of your uniform, and run the risk of being shot as an
unknown spy at your wife's side, except from his magnificent
version of HIS part in it? How else should I have known the story
of your discovery of the Californian conspiracy, except from his
supreme portrayal of it, with himself as the hero? No, you must
not forget to thank Mr. Hooker when you meet him. Miss Faulkner is
at present more accessible; she is calling on some members of my
family in the next room. Shall I leave you with her?"
Brant rose with a pale face and a quickly throbbing heart as the
President, glancing at the clock, untwisted himself from the chair,
and shook himself out full length, and rose gradually to his feet.
"Your wish for active service is granted, General Brant," he said
slowly, "and you will at once rejoin your old division commander,
who is now at the head of the Tenth Army Corps. But," he said,
after a deliberate pause, "there are certain rules and regulations
of your service that even I cannot, with decent respect to your
department, override. You will, therefore, understand that you
cannot rejoin the army in your former position."
The slight flush that came to Brant's cheek quickly passed. And
there was only the unmistakable sparkle of renewed youth in his
frank eyes as he said--
"Let me go to the front again, Mr. President, and I care not HOW."
The President smiled, and, laying his heavy hand on Brant's
shoulder, pushed him gently towards the door of the inner room.
"I was only about to say," he added, as he opened the door, "that
it would be necessary for you to rejoin your promoted commander as
a major-general. And," he continued, lifting his voice, as he
gently pushed his guest into the room, "he hasn't even thanked me
for it, Miss Faulkner!"
The door closed behind him, and he stood for a moment dazed, and
still hearing the distant voice of the President, in the room he
had just quitted, now welcoming a new visitor. But the room before
him, opening into a conservatory, was empty, save for a single
figure that turned, half timidly, half mischievously, towards him.
The same quick, sympathetic glance was in both their faces; the
same timid, happy look in both their eyes. He moved quickly to her
"Then you knew that--that--woman was my wife?" he said, hurriedly,
as he grasped her hand.
She cast a half-appealing look at his face--a half-frightened one
around the room and at the open door beyond.
"Let us," she said faintly, "go into the conservatory."
. . . . . .
It is but a few years ago that the veracious chronicler of these
pages moved with a wondering crowd of sightseers in the gardens of
the White House. The war cloud had long since lifted and vanished;
the Potomac flowed peacefully by and on to where once lay the broad
plantation of a great Confederate leader--now a national cemetery
that had gathered the soldier dead of both sections side by side in
equal rest and honor--and the great goddess once more looked down
serenely from the dome of the white Capitol. The chronicler's
attention was attracted by an erect, handsome soldierly-looking
man, with a beard and moustache slightly streaked with gray,
pointing out the various objects of interest to a boy of twelve or
fourteen at his side.
"Yes; although, as I told you, this house belongs only to the
President of the United States and his family," said the gentleman,
smilingly, "in that little conservatory I proposed to your mother."
"Oh! Clarence, how can you!" said the lady, reprovingly, "you know
it was LONG after that!"